Rage Against The Machine – Ann Coulter hates them. Is there any better reason to love them? Their goal is to be the voice of marginalized people throughout the world through their music. Zach De La Rocha’s lyrics are powerful, and Tom Morello has found ways to play the guitar that most people would never dream was possible.
Favorite Song: Know Your Enemy
Favorite Lyric: “Terror’s the product ya push, Well I’m a truth addict, aw shit I got a head rush” (Vietnow)
Bonus Points: At Lollapalooza 1993, all four members of the band stood on the stage naked, with duct tape over their mouths, for 15 minutes to protest censorship.
Tom Petty – If you look up “American Rock” in any suitable encyclopedia, there will be a picture of Tom Petty’s aging mug in the margin. I heard a radio interview with Petty on NPR one time, and he said that in the 70’s he and his band (Mudcrutch, I think) drove from their home in Florida, to California to go to all the major studios with a cassette of their demo in hand. The record reps told them, “that’s not how it’s done,” but by the end of the trip, they had three offers, and they signed with Shelter Records to release their first album.
Favorite Song: Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Favorite Lyric: “As we celebrate mediocrity, All the boys upstairs want to see, How much you’ll pay for what you used to get for free” (The Last DJ)
Bonus Points: Tom Petty was a part of a supergroup called The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison. Petty was not originally supposed to be part of the group, but Harrison left his guitar at Petty’s house, so they invited him to jam with them.
Led Zeppelin – I actually like every song that Led Zeppelin has ever recorded. There is no other band that I can say that about. Allegedly, after Robert Plant finishes his tour with Alison Krauss, Led Zeppelin is going to reunite for a tour. I need to see that show live. If Stevie Ray Vaughan came back from the dead to play one last show, I would rather see Zeppelin.
Favorite Song: Dazed and Confused
Favorite Lyric: “I play for free, I play for me and I play a whole lot more” (The Ocean)
Bonus Points: Many of Led Zeppelin’s lyrics can be used as very direct pick-up lines. Examples: “I’m gonna give you every inch of my love,” “Shake for me girl, I wanna be your back door man,” “When you walk away, watch your honey drip, can’t keep away,” “Pretty baby, won’t you do me now”
Queen – If you care about rock vocals at all, Queen should be on your list. Just listen to their album, “A Night At The Opera”. Many of their songs were written with audience participation in mind, which accounts for the fact that you want to sing along every time you hear a Queen song.
Favorite Song: Somebody To Love
Favorite Lyric: “She’s a killer queen, Gunpowder, gelatin, Dynamite with a laser beam, Guaranteed to blow your mind… anytime” (Killer Queen)
Bonus Points: David Bowie once told Rolling Stone (in 1992) that he thought Freddie Mercury took theatrical performance further than any other rock musician. That’s quite an endorsement. Of course, there are also the mustache and the tights.
Jimi Hendrix – Hendrix experimented with all sorts of guitar and amp effects throughout his career and is responsible for many of the sounds that we hear in rock and blues music today. He had very large hands, which allowed him to fret bass notes with his thumb. He then used his other fingers to play melodies on the fret board. This gave him the ability to play lead and rhythm parts simultaneously.
Favorite Song: Red House
Favorite Lyric: “I’m not the only soul who’s accused of hit and run, Tire tracks all across your back, I can see you’ve had your fun” (Crosstown Traffic)
Bonus Points: Jimi Hendrix was one of the “Three J’s” (along with Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin) who all died within a year of each other at the age of 27. If I die at the age of 27, I would like for the group name to be revised to the “Four J’s”.
The Toadies – It seems like everybody who lives in Fort Worth loves the Toadies. Every time they perform around here, the tickets sell out in less than an hour. If they could get that kind of love everywhere, I bet they would organize a national tour.
Favorite Song: Tyler
Favorite Lyric: “You say hope, I say that’s where I’m goin’” (Away)
Bonus Points: Tyler is, by far, the catchiest song about rape ever recorded.
Elvis Costello – I’ve written before about why I love Elvis Costello. He is on the list because he is the cleverest singer-songwriter, in my opinion, ever.
Favorite Song: Watching The Detectives
Favorite Lyric: “Death wears a big hat, ‘cause he’s a big bloke” (Tokyo Storm Warning)
Bonus Points: “The Very Best Of Elvis Costello” is a 2-disc set with 42 tracks. He apparently could not decide which 20 songs were actually the very best. Maybe it should have been titled, “Some Songs By Elvis Costello That Are Pretty Good”.
Bob Marley – I enjoy reggae a lot, and Marley is obviously the best (or at least the most accessible) of the genre.
Favorite Song: One Love
Favorite Lyric: “Can we free the people with music?” (Trench Town)
Bonus Points: Bob Marley died of a soccer wound. His big toe was injured while playing soccer. Doctors later found a cancerous growth in the wound, but Marley refused amputation. The cancer spread to his brain and lungs, causing his death.
Vaya con Dios, amigos.