By Steven Keehner
As one of my last articles, I decided to once again write about my first love: music. But rather than review bands that could take over the music scene, I’m going full “me” mode and discussing my PERSONAL Top Five Bands of All Time!
5. Foo Fighters
If you asked me what the best thing to come out of the iconic rock band Nirvana was, I would tell you Foo Fighters. Although the Seattle-based band has recently gained a reputation as a “Dad-rock band,” the impact Foo Fighters has had on the genre of rock is undeniable.
Foo Fighters was initially created as a one-man project by former Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl, following the death of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain. Grohl decided that the best way to move forward from the loss of his close friend was to go back into making music. By making this decision, he ended up creating an even greater band than Nirvana, in my opinion. The band took previous rock sounds and cranked it up to 100, creating a heavy, yet radio friendly sound that very few bands since have been able to carry out.
I’d argue that the band’s first three albums: Foo Fighters, The Colour and The Shape, and There is Nothing Left to Lose were the strongest first three albums for any band ever. While the band’s first album is significantly different from the latter two, featuring a much heavier, metal-esque sound, it doesn’t take away from it being fantastic.
But once we discovered the band’s second album, The Colour and The Shape, this is when things got special for the band; this album is a masterpiece. If there was one thing I want you to listen to from this list, it should be this album. It tells a brilliant story of a man who is scared of the world around him. Following a quiet intro, the album jumps back and forth between chaotic and melodic songs that are placed in just the right order to allow for the music to flow together gracefully. You’ll hear classic songs such as: “Monkey Wrench,” “Everlong,” and “My Hero,” all of which have helped the band turn into the stars that they are today. The album ends on a bang with “New Way Home,” which ties together the album’s “story.” The man we are introduced to in the beginning is screaming about no longer being scared because he’s found a way home. Whether it was intentional of Dave Grohl or not, it’s brilliant. The album goes through every emotion possible; it would be hard for somebody not to find a song he or she likes on this album.
There is Nothing Left to Lose was also fantastic, most bands would’ve loved to release it as their own, but it never lived up to the hype around the band’s first two albums. It sounded like a rehash of The Colour and The Shape. It carried some unique elements, but nothing compared to the previous effort. This is my main issue with Foo Fighters: despite the brilliant first three albums, they never came anywhere close to reaching the heights they did in the 90s. While we have heard amazing songs like “The Pretender,” “Best of You,” and “All My Life,” they have never released another complete album like the first three. I understand that writing 10+ great songs is difficult, but because they never really got back to the place they once were, they only come in 5th on my list.
Best Songs: “Everlong,” “The Pretender,” and “Times Like These (Acoustic)”
Best Album: The Colour and The Shape
4. The Smiths
Our next band hails from the great city of Manchester, where despite being together for only six years, their influence on music is undeniable. Formed in 1982 by four working class kids, they immediately had a vision of being a voice “to allow the ordinary folk of the world to show their faces.” Hence, the reason why they chose such a generic name in The Smiths. But despite the ordinary name, it is very difficult to call the music they made anything but extraordinary.
Led by the most unique lead singer ever, Steven Morrissey (who usually goes by Morrissey), and one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard, Johnny Marr, The Smiths carried a certain charm and swagger about them whenever they performed music, and that made them very hard to dislike.
Morrissey is what Frank Sinatra would’ve probably sounded like if he were into punk; Morrissey’s unique voice and his tendency to break out into dance already made him a unique lead singer, but as a known vegetarian and an open Asexual, Morrissey creates for a very interesting and controversial figure.
While The Smiths’ music may initially seem like any other pop band’s music from the 80s, it’s not until you begin to dissect the lyrics and the music itself that you realize just how brilliant they actually were. Themes of love, war, and hatred are displayed beautifully through Morrissey’s lyrics, which is why despite the band’s short tenure, they carried, and still do carry, such a large cult-esque following.
To sum the band up in one word, I would say “progressive.” They managed to combine a variety of genres such as dance-pop and punk to create a sound that is their own. Johnny Marr would even tune his guitar specifically to meet Morrissey’s vocal pitch, which made the music work. One study even found that The Smiths used over 1,100 different words throughout their first three albums, which just shows how crafted each song is.
Because of the impact The Smiths had, they inspired an entire generation of British bands that would later follow them in the 90s, many of whom cited The Smiths as an influence, like Noel Gallagher, who said, “When The Jam split, the Smiths started, and I totally went for them.” Between their look, sound, and unique charm, they’ve earned the number four spot on my Top 5!
Best Songs: “This Charming Man,” “The Queen is Dead,” and “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”
Best Album: The Smiths
3. The Beatles
We continue my Top Five list with The Most Important Band Ever: The Beatles. It would be very hard now, 47 years after the band’s break-up, to argue against its reputation as the most iconic and influential group ever. Very few bands have had the power to not only create a change within music, but a change within society as well. If you don’t believe me, look at your favorite artists’ influences; if The Beatles aren’t one of them, I’d be surprised.
Musically, it would be impossible to point to just one specific attribute that makes The Beatles so great, but perhaps that’s what made them so legendary. Whether it’s the psychedelic theme in “Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds,” the iconic outro in “Hey Jude,” or personable lyrics in “A Little Help From My Friends,” The Beatles have managed to create music that will never be forgotten.
Despite the band being active for only 10 years, they managed to do more in that time than any other group could ever dream. The Beatles took the up-tempo and happy spirited music of the 1950’s, twisted it into something of their own, and once other bands began attempting to recreate this sound, they evolved into something even greater. They experimented with sounds that couldn’t even have been imagined at that time.
Every member of the band was also fantastical in his role. Whether it was John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, or George Harrison, they all had a job to perform, and they did so excellently. This can be seen following the band’s breakup, when all four went on to have very successful solo careers.
Personally, The Beatles have changed for the better. From the first time I ever listened to the band in Mrs. Haglund’s 4th grade class to now, my love for music and life can be traced back to these four musicians. I even chose my confirmation name after The Beatles (Jude) and my dog is also named after a Beatles song (Lucy). With all of these factors combined, it would be impossible for me not to include The Fab Four on my Top Five Bands of All Time.
Best Songs: “Hey Jude,” “A Day in The Life,” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends”
Besr Album: Abbey Road
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers
For number two on my Top Five list, we head back to the United States to look at the Los Angeles legends, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Despite the number of lineup changes over the year, the band has continued to reinvent themselves time and time again to ensure that whatever they are working on sounds different from anything prior.
RHCP was formed in 1983 to be a one-night only band, when a club they often went to needed a band to perform, but it quickly evolved into something very special. Although the band struggled to perform very early on, at least commercially, the music certainly wasn’t the issue. The unique combination of punk and funk is incredible to listen to for the first time, but when you throw Anthony Kiedis’ “wild” lyrics and rapping ability, it can’t even really be given a name at that point; it simply became the Chili Peppers’ sound.
But as mentioned earlier, the band’s line-up and sound often changed. This would first be seen in action when guitarist and best friend of lead singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea, Hillel Slovak, died due to a drug overdose. But rather than just giving up there, the band decided to continue. But with drummer Jack Irons also leaving due to Slovak’s death, it left RHCP in a very difficult situation. They would eventually find drummer Chad Smith and guitarist John Frusciante. They would now have the core line-up that would allow them to become one of the greatest bands ever.
What Chad Smith brought to the band was the perfect connection for bassist Flea, who is considered to be one of the greatest bassists ever. Any person familiar with the bass knows that it all starts with a good drummer who allows for both the bassist and drummer to thrive; that’s exactly what Chad Smith attributed. Even now in 2017, Smith and Flea still work perfectly.
But John Frusciante brought something that nobody on this list can even come close to bringing: passion. Along with being the best guitarist of the last 30 years, Frusciante brings such a powerful feeling of emotion when performing that it almost feels like he’s playing his music specifically for the listener. With his Jimi Hendrix inspired playing style, RHCP were able to evolve and become a brilliant band in all aspects.
When RHCP released Blood Sugar Sex Magik in 1991, the entire rock genre in the United States would be flipped on its head. Along with it being a very long album (17 tracks!), it all sounded fresh. Every song had the right to be there, and to call any song filler would be an insult to the legacy that this album has established in the Alternative Rock scene. But to classify this album as any one specific genre would be wrong; you can find traces of metal, funk, punk, rap, and psychedelic evident throughout BSSM.
Frusciante would leave following this album due to not being able to handle his newfound fame. Jane’s Addiction guitarist, Dave Navarro, would replace him. He would also transition the band into a “Dark Ages” era, where despite the music they made still being good, it wasn’t the same. Fortunately for the band, Frusciante would rejoin in 1998 and with their 1999 album Californication, the band would cement their legacy as one of rock’s all-time greats. And this wouldn’t be the end for them; they would go on to release two more fantastic albums: By The Way and Stadium Arcadium, which would add to an already impressive resume.
As time passed, Frusciante got tired of the “band life,” and left for the second time. It was widely expected that the band would break up at this point. But instead, they got guitarist Josh Klinghoffer to replace him. Two albums later the band from Los Angeles continues to create and innovate the rock scene, and for that reason, they are number two on my countdown.
Best Songs: “Under the Bridge” and “Californication”
Best Album: Blood Sugar Sex Magik
For anybody who knows me personally, this may be the most expected band on the entire list. Once you get me talking about Oasis, it’s almost impossible to make me stop; never in my life has a band inspired me, as a person and a musician, as much as Oasis has. Despite being considered a one-hit wonder here in the United States, I can assure you that Oasis was much more than just “Wonderwall.”
To really understand what Oasis was about, you need to know two names: guitarist/singer Noel Gallagher and lead singer Liam Gallagher. They were the heart of the band and all its music. The two brothers grew up in Manchester with a working family, which included an abusive father. Through music, Noel managed to escape the troubles he faced at home, and, eventually, he turned his love of music into a career, while Liam just found himself in trouble more often than not. When Noel found out that Liam had formed his own band, and that he would be singing, Noel took no hesitation in offering his talents, only if he was given the ability to write all of the band’s songs. Liam’s group, then known as The Rain, happily accepted. This decision would start an 18-year journey of great music and big egos.
When Oasis released their first album, Definitely Maybe, in 1994, they immediately burst onto the music scene in the UK, becoming one of the biggest bands in the entire country within a few months. Oasis was the yin to the yang of Nirvana in the early 90s. Noel himself actually talked about this when discussing the song “Live Forever.” He revealed, “At the time, it was written in the middle of grunge and all that, and I remember Nirvana had a tune called ‘I Hate Myself and Want to Die’, and I was like… ‘Well, I’m not… having that.’ As much as I… like him [Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain] and all that…, I’m not having that. I can’t have people like that coming over here… saying that they hate themselves and they wanna die. That’s… rubbish. Kids don’t need to be hearing that nonsense.” This quote sums up both of the Gallagher brothers; they both had monster egos, but their passion for their music was unmatched.
The band was heavily influenced by The Beatles. This could be seen by the sounds they were producing; Liam Gallagher would even jokingly claim that he was the reincarnation of John Lennon (and to be fair, he even looked like him at some points). Although they sounded like The Beatles, they also added a punk sound that made them unique. This noise would become the basis for Britpop, a genre that dominated Europe and South America throughout the 90s. Oasis would also develop their rivalry with Blur, another British rock band that was also popular during this time. This rivalry would dominate British media for the entire decade: Oasis vs. Blur. Working Class vs. Middle Class. North vs South. The two bands would go back and forth with one another, constantly trying to outdo the other.
The band would strike gold again with their legendary 1995 album, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? This album, much like The Colour and The Shape, is a near masterpiece; it features so many fantastic songs like “Wonderwall,” “Some Might Say,” and my favorite song ever: “Champagne Supernova.” This arena rock sound would become iconic with the band; great guitar riffs, catchy choruses, and just an overall fun sound would become the essential Oasis sound.
Oasis would continue to dominate the music world, and you could easily argue that they were the biggest band in the world throughout 1995 and 1996. While they didn’t exactly dominate in the United States, they were the biggest band everywhere else, and they still have a huge following to this day. Oasis would go on to release many fantastic albums in the following years, including; The Masterplan, Be Here Now, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, Heathen Chemistry, Don’t Believe The Truth, and finally, Dig Out Your Soul.
One issue the band always had was maintaining the egos of both Gallagher brothers, and, unfortunately, they couldn’t get along any longer. In 2009, following a dressing room incident, Noel quit the band and Oasis was finished, just like that. Noel would continue with a solo career, and Liam would form Beady Eye with the remaining members of Oasis. While Beady Eye didn’t work out, they did produce some great, fun-sounding music. Liam Gallagher just recently announced his intentions to begin his solo career, which should be interesting.
Noel Gallagher just knew how to write incredible songs, and he did it time and time again throughout his tenure in Oasis. Liam Gallagher was a stunning lead singer; he had everything one needs to be a great frontman: the voice, the look, the attitude; everything!
Despite the consistent arguing amongst Oasis fans even to this day, it’s impossible to say which brother was more important to the band. Without Liam or Noel, there wouldn’t be Oasis. It wouldn’t be the same. To quote the band themselves, they simply sounded “Mega.” The band was just a group of working class guys from Manchester who loved to play music and who became legends in the process; if that isn’t what rock is all about, then I don’t know what is.
Best Songs: “Champagne Supernova,” “Wonderwall,” and “Cigarettes and Alcohol”
Best Album: (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?