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The A-Z game

This isn't the first time that Chris from The Collector has coerced me into writing a music-themed post. Actually, I don't need any coercing. All it takes is music and an idea that appeals to me and then I'm all set to bore my readers!
Chris devoted a post to a rather simple topic: list your all-time favorite musical artist for each letter of the alphabet.
It was interesting to see who he chose. Being of a certain age, his choices were mostly from the '90s and turn-of-the-century. A couple of guys older than me included their choices in the comments and most of those were from the '60s or early '70s.
I'm going to be dead center in the middle.
As I've mentioned before, we form our musical tastes around the teenage years/early 20s and barely stray from it for the rest of our lives. I'm no different. I found a similarly-dated baseball card to go with each musical group I chose and the vast majority of those cards are from the '70s and '80s.
For the music visual, I chose an album that either reflects peak popularity for the music act or a special album for me.
As you can imagine, choosing one artist for some of these letters was very difficult.
But here they are. I'll try to be as brief as possible ... and fail miserably:
A: Alan Parsons Project

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.
Something interesting: Psychobabble
Runners-up: AC/DC, Abba, The Animals, ABC
B: Blondie

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.

Something interesting: Rip Her To Shreds
Runners-up: The Beatles, Boston, Pat Benatar, B-52s, Kate Bush
C: The Cars

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.
Something interesting: All Mixed Up 
Runners-up: Cranberries, Eric Clapton, Cowboy Junkies, Chicago, Concrete Blonde, Crowded House
D: Dire Straits
I first came across Dire Straits in 8th grade when "Sultans of Swing" was a hit. It seemed very different. Not much of a fan of it at the time, I became more and more intrigued as I discovered their albums. (Goodness me, goodness me, Industrial Disease). Brothers In Arms was their huge mainstream album with a couple of very big hits, but they're one of those bands best heard by listening to the LP from start to finish. It's the only way not to take Mark Knopfler for granted, which should never happen.
Something interesting: Lady Writer
Runner-up: Def Leppard, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran
E: Electric Light Orchestra
ELO is my all-time favorite band. It always will be. "Discovery" is no longer my favorite album, but my gracious, don't let 14-year-old me hear you say that. I adored that thing. I now prefer "New World Record" and "Out of the Blue," and I still like "Time" a lot. You may have noticed that I enjoy groups with high production standards. It was never intentional on my part, I just like sound. (P.S.: Yes, I know by choosing ELO and APP it's completely shameful I didn't pick the Beatles)
Something interesting: Laredo Tornado
Runners-up: Eurythmics
F: Fleetwood Mac
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.

Something interesting: Book Of Love
Runners-up: Foghat, The Fixx, Foo Fighters
G: Garbage

Another group with off-the-chart studio production. (I am trying to pick a card that goes with the year the album was released. Garbage's debut came out in '95 but I didn't hear their first hit until '96). I am on record as being a sucker for female-fronted bands and I stayed with Garbage through all of their turmoil, break up and rise from the dead. I maintain that "Bleed Like Me" is their best album, issued long after their so-called peak.

Something interesting: Battle In Me
Runners-up: Genesis, Greg Kihn Band
H: Heart 
(Getting these album pictures and baseball cards to line up side-by-side was a huge hassle and now you know why I didn't post yesterday).

By the time I got into Heart, their classic days were over. I don't turn up my nose on mid-1980s Heart like some '70s fans, do, but I do prefer their Dreamboat Annie-era. I can only imagine what it was like to see the Wilson sisters burst out on the scene with Crazy On You.
Something interesting: Rock n' Roll

Runners-up: Hall and Oates, Human League, Lauryn Hill, Hoodoo Gurus
My favorite INXS album is "Listen Like Thieves," the first record of theirs I purchased (actually it was a cassette). But I'm going with "Kick" in '88 as it was their biggest deal. Except for "Thieves," I find INXS albums kind of uneven, but the good songs are really, really, really good.
Something interesting: Don't Change
Runner-up: Billy Idol
J: Jefferson Starship
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.

Something interesting: Winds of Change
Runner-up: Joan Jett
K: The Killers
I was still a regular radio listener and video watcher when The Killers released "Somebody Told Me" and this group marks the last period (around 2004-07) in which I regularly bought CDs of current artists. Those days are sadly gone. Too bad, because I remember playing "All These Things That I've Done" (video still awesome) over and over in the car when I first heard it. There is nothing like new music of new artists.
Something interesting: Miss Atomic Bomb
Runner-up: Kansas, Khruangbin
L: Little River Band
As a teenager, the coolest band in the world was Led Zeppelin. The coolest boys in class loved them and I just didn't get it. They seemed a bit sinister to me. As the years went on, I grew to appreciate Zeppelin's genius, particularly Robert Plant, but I can't get rid of the person who went out and bought LRB's "First Under the Wire" for the first album purchase of his life. LRB doesn't hold up as well as Led Zeppelin but here we are. (Also, it's a shame what happened to the band).
Something interesting: It's Not a Wonder
Runners-up: Led Zeppelin, Gordon Lightfoot
M: Maria McKee

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.
Something interesting: Opelousas (Sweet Relief)
Runners-up: Marshall Tucker Band, Missing Persons, Moody Blues

N: New Order

Things move pretty fast when you're a teenager. One moment you're buying 45s of the Little River Band and Eddie Rabbitt and three years later you've moved on to 12-inch singles of New Order. Look at that awesome floppy disc design. I still have that thing. "Blue Monday" was the indicator that I had fully gone over the edge into new wave. Even three years after that song came out, I brought up the song and the group in a conversation and my college friends had zero idea who and what it was. But they all learned, as weird as it was.
Something interesting: Round and Round
Runners-up: No Doubt, Nazareth

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.

Something interesting: Statues
Runners-up: Oasis, Outlaws
P: Pretenders

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.
Something interesting: The Adultress
Runners-up: The Police, Tom Petty, Prince, Pet Shop Boys
Q: Queen
Honestly, I'm sick of Queen. Sick of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Are The Champions." Sick of "Who Wants To Live Forever" and "The Show Must Go On". But I am down with everything else. Their catalog is so vast that they can come up with an excruciating album like "Hot Space" and still one of its singles can be the marvelous "Under Pressure".
Something interesting: You and I
Runner-up: Queensryche

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.
Something interesting: King of the Road (P.S.: they were drunk)
Runners-up: Linda Ronstadt, Rush, Red Rider, Rilo Kiley
S: Simple Minds
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.
Something interesting: She's a River
Runners-up: Santana, Sade, Steely Dan, Supertramp, The Sounds, Smashing Pumpkins, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smithereens, Styx
T: Talking Heads

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".

Something interesting: Crosseyed and Painless
Runners-up: Tragically Hip, 10,000 Maniacs
U: U2

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.

Something interesting: Love Comes Tumbling
V: Van Halen
Van Halen was so big when I was in high school that to this day I know one of my former classmates only as "Van". If you had never seen a 50-year-old man cry before, that streak was probably broken when Edward Van Halen died last year. Before death metal and black metal and whatever horrid screaming the kids listen to now, Van Halen was by consensus the hardest and loudest rock most people knew (except for the Black Sabbath kids, of course). Van Halen was the theme to one of the best outdoor parties I ever attended because who else would it be?
Something interesting: Atomic Punk
Runners-up: Van Morrison, Veruca Salt
W: Stevie Wonder

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.
Something interesting: I Ain't Gonna Stand For It
Runners-up: Steve Winwood, Wings, Weezer
X: X

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.
Something interesting: I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
Y: Yes

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.
Something interesting: Dreamtime
Runners-up: The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs
Z: ZZ Top
Whether you're a fan of their dirty blues era of the '70s or the girls-and-guitars '80s era, there is plenty to like. The slickness got a little much in the mid-to-late '80s but there's so much other greatness.
Something interesting: Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers
OK, there you go. I made it. You made it. That was a lot of work. But maybe somebody found a cool new song in there. And that's what's fun about music.
Thanks for reading.


Great read...not bored at all. Music means different things to different people. That said, I have just about every album you posted. Good choices.
carlsonjok said…
You'll be happy to know that Lone Justice still gets occasional airplay on the Sirius XM station "Outlaw Country" I just heard "Shelter" the other day on a show hosted by....are you ready... Mojo Nixon.
John Bateman said…
Random Thoughts

1. A couple of years ago on his podcast Bill Simmons thought the Killers were going to become a Super Group but it never happened

2. I like that other New Order song

3. Van Halen with Sammy Hagar had some amazing videos and Song - Come on baby finish what you started, pound cake, best of both world - they were having great fun in those viddeos - underrated.

4. Who has been the greatest group of the 21th century - it is probably between Nickleback and Destiny Child.
Old Cards said…
Great choices. Some of my favorite groups. Although ZZ Top is an excellent choice and probably the best group on the list, can you name another group for the letter Z?
Brett Alan said…
I'm pretty sure I'm one of the people older than you that you mention, but I'm actually not older than you, or at least not much. (I was born in 1966.) I just like a lot of music from before and/or around the time I was born.

I should have picked Stevie Wonder over The Who. Although it's close; they're both great.
One day, probably after the school year is over I'm going to come back to this post and listen to every song linked here. A lot of these artists are among my favorites -- U2, Heart, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Van Halen (especially during the Van Hagar era). "Shelter" has been one of my favorite songs since it came out during my second year of college, but I've only recently started exploring Maria McKee's and Lone Justice's body of work. What a voice.
Mark Hoyle said…
Great post Greg. I like a lot of theee bands
Chris said…
I knew your post would be a lot more detailed than mine. Really enjoyed your take on the challenge. The Killers are one of my faves as well, and U@'s "The Unforgettable Fire" is such a fantastic album and an essential part of a great memory of my first girlfriend.

For some reason I never got into R.E.M. my older brother was the first person I knew with a CD collection and, aside from U2's "Achtung Baby" the only CD I had any interest in playing/borrowing was "Out Of Time" but it just didn't stick. "Monster" was more my taste, although even that only has about three songs I like. Perhaps I'll give "Automatic For The People" another try.
CinciCuse Bill said…
In keeping with baseball, I’d consider Fastball and The Outfield. 😊
Bulldog said…
Fun post and cards!
GCA said…
At least you have some of my same choices. I guess I'm way more into guitar solos than the other new wave fans that have posted their lists. Will have to put mine up if not just to represent the metal crowd.
bryan was here said…
What a fun read! I actually have quite a few of those albums. Mammagamma from Eye In The Sky is probably the best road trip song ever. I remember getting Brothers In Arms for my mum for her birthday that year.

I love that you have in the S's Sade, Steely Dan and Siouxsie and The Banshees! Those three are probably my favourite artists of all time. And Stevie Wonder's Innervisions is probably his Magnum Opus as far as his entire body of work is concerned.
Jafronius said…
Fun list, thanks for sharing.
Jon said…
Your list is the closest to my musical tastes that I've seen so far.