From the moment I first heard "Damned If I Do" on the radio when I was 14, I was hooked. "Turn of a Friendly Card," was one of the first album purchases I made that would properly reflect my musical taste in adulthood. Eye in the Sky is their most famous song (and not just because of the Chicago Bulls using "Sirius"), but I've been buying their albums from I Robot to Gaudi and everything in between for decades. The man in the title of the group is a studio genius, someone who connects the Beatles to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" because he worked on both.
The Beatles aren't here simply because they were before my time. You can't choose the era where you are from. I came of musical age when stadium rock and new wave was king. Because of that, music from Blondie and a bunch of post-punk bands makes incredible sense to me. It is what I think music is supposed to sound and act like. Blondie is the only musical group I've ever sketched, a poster-sized re-creation of their "Best of Blondie" cover hung on the massive bulletin board in my bedroom. It was the first indication to a lot of people that I could draw.
One of the greatest album debuts of all-time, the 1978 self-titled Cars LP is one of those "perfect-from-start-to-finish" albums that will never bore me. That album and their next four are the soundtrack to my teenage years. Thanks to "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and a way-too-cool girl I worked with who considered The Cars gods -- oh and those MTV videos -- I'm forever a fan. Plus they were damn good.
Another masterfully produced album from one of the epic groups of my childhood. When I first met my wife, I found out shortly after that her favorite group was Fleetwood Mac. Of course it was! Everyone thought they were cool. Everyone wanted to be them. Their songs were always interesting and anytime they put out an album -- which wasn't enough -- it was a must-buy.
Jefferson Airplane is one of the greatest bands of the psychedelic era, but that music just doesn't do a lot for me, it's too "of its time" for my taste. Jefferson Starship I like quite a bit though. It's amazing how they could transform from psychedelic to driving rock, mellow rock and, of course, that pop rock from the mid '80s. Damn Chameleons. Red Octopus is the sweet spot. "Miracles," "Play On Love," are beautiful. They have so many great singers in that band.
The big-voiced wild woman fronting nu country rock's Lone Justice in the mid-1980s, Maria McKee become known as one of the best songwriters around, who wrote one of the biggest songs in the UK in the early 1990s. But the mind-blowing aspect for me is that she wrote one of my favorite songs of the mid-80s and I had no idea she'd dun it. I still love those old Lone Justice records even though they're long forgotten.
I was a closet fan of OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) through 1983-85 thanks to listening to a British-based countdown show that aired on my local radio station. OMD is the very definition of synth-pop, they were electronic innovators. They put out some of the most melodic songs of their time. "If You Leave" might make the top 10 on that list. Might.
By the time I bought a Pretenders album, half of the band was gone due to drug addiction. That's what made "Learning To Crawl" so fitting and so popular. I probably should have displayed that 1983 album. But I went with the LP with "Brass In Pocket" on it because that's the moment I first heard Chrissie Hynde's voice.
If The Cars were the soundtrack to my high school years, REM was the same for my college years. REM is literally the background music to a couple of the biggest moments in my college life. (This song in particular). Before REM broke free of its indie-darling status with "Out of Time," I had collected more cassettes of this band than any other -- "Murmur," "Fables of the Reconstruction," "Reckoning," "Life's Rich Pageant," even "Dead Letter Office". Those were the days.
The most difficult letter to whittle down to one group. Any one of the runners-up could be No. 1 and probably should. But I am thinking of the thrill I felt when hearing Simple Minds for the first time. Then came "Once Upon a Time" and there's a reason one of the last LPs I purchased in the '80s was Simple Minds. I've scolded myself in the past for liking what some people call a "U2-copycat," but then I heard "See The Lights" for the first time in decades recently and I just don't care.
I remember a specific moment in college when I was working in food service for the dining hall. In the summer, they would send a couple of the workers outside to cook hotdogs for student customers. It would be just me and this girl named Kathy. Sometimes this dude who I thought was weird would hang out with us because he liked Kathy. He would do stuff like hum the soundtrack to "Stop Making Sense" and that was the moment that I realized that the Talking Heads were more than "Burning Down the House".
I've been a member of the U2 army for a long time. Way before it became cool to hate on U2, I would listen to "The Unforgettable Fire" in the quiet of my bedroom secure in the knowledge that I was probably the only one in my town who knew who the band was and what that sound was. They have made some of the greatest songs of my generation.
Until now, my choices have looked very, very White. What can I say? Even my choice here doesn't change things. I'm a white dude who was already 21 years old before rap hit the mainstream. But Stevie Wonder crosses all genres and races. Maybe the biggest musical genius of the last 50 years who doesn't get the praise reserved for legends like Prince and Bowie (probably because he's still alive). This song amazes me still.
The darlings of the LA punk scene in the early '80s, X transformed into rockabilly artists by the time I picked up "See How We Are" in 1987. I just listened to it for the first time in quite awhile and I love it much more than I did then (Hey, baby, it's the 4th of July). You might know singer Exene Cervenka's voice from the movie "Major League," as X's remake of "Wild Thing" was used as Rick Vaughn's theme song in the movie. I didn't know for years that it was X singing that song because really all you heard was the "wild thing" part. The entire song is great fun.
I admittedly am not a big progressive rock fan. I like some of it, but I just don't have time for a song that take up one whole side of the record. I like my songs bite-size for the most part, or at least under five minutes. Yes is the opposite of that. But they're fun and interesting and their lyrics make zero sense. My favorite Yes album is an '80s Yes album, sorry prog fans. That video, tho.