In sports they’re called “role players.” They’re the working class guys who play defense, dive for loose balls, get under the opponent’s skin, fight it out in the trenches. They’re not stars and they don’t make the big bucks or have lucrative endorsements or land supermodel wives. But without them you don’t win, period.
Music has role players, too. We tend to spend all our time talking about the charismatic lead singers and incendiary lead guitarists, but all the great bands also feature guys who stand off to the side, outside the limelight, and don’t really do anything except make the whole enterprise click. They seem not to be there for the fame or the glory so much as they are just because they love the music. Frequently you find them in the rhythm section, although not always, and when you look at the history of great bands all of a sudden being less great, you often don’t notice who isn’t there anymore.
I can’t imagine cranking out anything like a definitive 100 Greatest Anonymous Rock Role Players in History list, but I can certainly suggest a few worth considering. Read more
We all have our favorite artists and songs and albums. Even those of us who listen to a lot of different styles and have thousands of CDs in our collections undoubtedly have a few we keep coming back to more than others. While I have never really had this discussion with anyone, I imagine that there are all kinds of reasons why certain songs and collections draw us back.
The albums I have listened to the most would surprise most people, I suspect. Those who know me would probably think I’ve spun U2’s War or Unforgettable Fire the most, or REM’s Reckoning, or maybe one of the Police’s CDs. Maybe even something by Queen. And they’d be close, because I have in fact played the hell out of those albums. My original copy of A Night at the Opera – back in the days of the vinyl LP – was so worn I was expecting the needle to carve completely through the record at any moment.
Originally published June 20, 2004. Updated February 14, 2011.
For some time – a few years, to be honest – I’ve been trying to imagine how some artists get better with age (or at least retain the level of energy and creativity they exhibited when they were younger), while others go completely to hell. Peter Gabriel, Graham Parker, Van Morrison, Don Dixon, John Hiatt (and even Bowie, to a lesser extent) – these are people who you can still count on, even if you think that the old stuff was better. All of them have had high spots in recent years that at least nudge the 4-star mark, and you might justifiably nurture a sense that the next thing they release could turn out to be brilliant.
This column isn’t about those folks. No, this little list is dedicated to the First-to-Worst Club, a set of artists who once ruled, but somehow found a way to deteriorate as the years passed. In some cases – and these are the ones you’ll find at the top of the list – you have people or bands who went from legitimate greatness to breathtaking suckitude. In other cases you have people who simply lost their edge or were abandoned by their muse. They may not be forging new frontiers in suck, they’re just muddling along, mere shadows of their former selves.
So here it is – Lullaby Pit’s Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen list, with thanks to a few friends of the Pit who contributed suggestions and pointed out artists I had somehow overlooked (or repressed, as the case may be….) The criteria are subjective, as always, but fairly simple – who soared the highest, then fell the lowest?
1. Elton John Read more
There are all kinds of fun arguments to be had over which band is best or whether one’s taste is critically defensible (*cough*Brian used to listen to Madonna and Gloria Estefan*cough*) and, of course, my favorite – can we separate what we like from our critical faculties (that is, is your “favorite” list different from your “best” list)?
But there’s one sure measure of what music we really care about the most, for whatever reason, and that’s how much of our money we spend on it. So today’s TunesDay question is this: what artists do you own the most music from?
Feel free to answer however makes sense, and yes, we take into account the fact that you may own everything from a band that quit too soon. I have one of those myself. Here’s my list: Read more
The results of last week’s Name Those Bands contest are in. In first place we have … a disqualification, sorta. Our friend Ubertramp logged in with an impressive 47 of 53. Seriously, that’s pretty damned good. But he has disqualified himself because I’m the one who turned him onto most of these outstanding artists and he felt like he might as well be cheating under the circumstances.
Wow – sportsmanship. What a concept.
So our next highest scorer, and the official winner, is … Read more
Verily, we have arrived at the end of all culture. Perhaps predictably, the culprit is technology. Or, to be a bit more specific, the culprit is Microsoft, which has now infused the art of songwriting with the same kind of magic and warmth you’ve come to expect from Excel.
Microsoft is pitching software designed for you, no musical training required. You sing the words as best you can, and its Songsmith software supplies computer-matched musical accompaniment.
Words … fail. Read more
A lot of bands have released pretty good debut records, only to follow them up with less-than-spectacular careers. The rule used to be (before the FCC, the recording industry and the radio industry conspired to destroy all music) that you learned what you needed to know about a band with its third album. Given how things worked, you often saw a pattern that looked something like this:
- Debut: Band (or solo artist) has been on the road for awhile, writing and building an audience and developing as a creative and performing force. Read more