01 February 2009

The School of Rock

I do recommend the movie, "School of Rock," starring the generally hilarious Jack Black, but that's not what this post is about. It's basically a little stress relief in the midst of too many far more important things, and a bit of a break after finishing my fifteen hymnwriter biographies.

The recent release of Chinese Democracy, finally, has had me reminiscing and waxing nostalgic on my personal rock 'n' roll history. I've been fondly thinking back on the bands and records and songs that have more or less defined rock 'n' roll for me and set the standard by which I measure the rest of what's out there.

True to form, I've come up with a list. Since I like the number twenty-four, that's how long it is. Being entirely subjective, and of no eternal significance, there's no "wrong answer" here." I welcome comments from the peanut gallery, or peanuts in the comment gallery; readers may even post their own lists, if they like. It's only rock 'n' roll, but I like it.

Just a few more introductory remarks, and then I'll post my list of four-and-twenty rockers. I've not included anyone who wasn't around by the early 1990s, for all sorts of reasons that I won't bother to explain. I have included a number of folks from the 1960s and 70s, even though I didn't discover them for myself until the 80s. Some of these groups are simply unavoidable, because rock music wouldn't be what it is today without them. Others here probably wouldn't show up on someone else's list, but, as I say, this is a subjective exercise. I've included some bands that I'm not all that excited about, because I appreciate their contribution to the genre. Conversely, I've omitted some "obvious" choices, because I just don't care for them. The Boss, for example, should probably be counted here, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

So here's my School of Rock:

1. The Beatles

2. Led Zeppelin

3. Bon Jovi

4. Black Sabbath / Ozzy Osbourne

5. Def Leppard

6. Judas Priest

7. Guns 'n' Roses

8. Queen

9. Van Halen

10. Eric Clapton

11. The Rolling Stones

12. AC/DC

13. The Scorpions

14. Whitesnake

15. Cinderella

16. Quiet Riot

17. U2

18. Tesla

19. Aerosmith

20. Deep Purple

21. Metallica

22. Nirvana

23. KISS

24. Mötley Crüe

Which goes to show, perhaps, that I'm not quite the fuddy-duddy that some people think I am. Just don't put the rock band in the chancel! There I'm at home with Luther and Gerhardt, Nicolai and Heermann, and I wouldn't want it any other way. I'll explain why some other time.


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

If I didn't like the number 24 so well, I would probably have included: The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Pat Benater, and Boston.

Kurt Onken said...

Glad the Eagles, Boston, REO, and Styx made your "Honorable Mentions" list. But no Kansas? No Who? No Yes? (After those last two questions, this is starting to sound like an Abbott and Costello routine!)

Kurt Onken said...

By the way, "School of Rock" has become one of my favorites, simply because Jack Black is genius in that film.

Rev. Larry Beane said...

Dear Rick:

What a joy to see someone else who appreciates Cinderella. What great big-hair-and-spandex masters of the "power ballad"! They even sounded good live (I saw them open for someone, but can't remember which band).

I am saddened, however, that The Who didn't make the cut. But to each his own. I regret that I did not see Pink Floyd when I had the opportunity, though I did see AC/DC several times.

Back in the 80s, my friends and I (all suit-and-tie professional types) would hang out at the local metal club in Akron, Ohio, a dive called Ramon's, and goof off with our friends who played in a popular local cover band called "U.S. Metal." We would hang out backstage, hop up on stage with them and even sing sometimes. Doing this week after week probably explains why my hearing isn't what it should be sometimes.

But wouldn't you know it, that the singer from U.S. Metal ended up replacing Rob Halford as the lead singer of Judas Priest?

And, by way of trivia, the former lead singer of Killswitch Engage (Jesse Leach) is the son of Rev. Dr. Leroy Leach, an LCMS pastor and classmate of mine who serves in Yonkers, NY. Leroy also loves his metal heavy and loud, even though, like us, he keeps his rock and roll (and cigars and whiskey) out of the chancel.

I do miss the old 80s music. As Cinderella put it: "Don't know what you got till it's gone."

Rev. James Leistico said...

Two Aussie bands that deserve consideration are Midnight Oil and INXS.

Also, Oingo Boingo is often overlooked, being much more popular in California than out here in the midwest. Best known here for what a lot of fans consider one of their lesser pieces, Weird Science. As for influence, if you don't have Oingo Boingo, good chance Danny Elfman doesn't connect with Tim Burton - so say goodbye to the music from Batman, Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands - and even the theme to Dr. Scaer's favorite show, The Simpsons.

And how do you miss Elvis, or Pink Floyd? (Father Hollywood, you are right to regret you missed them. I saw them at the Rose Bowl from the nosebleeds for their farewell tour (Division Bell had just come out), and it was amazing.)

My wife would want me to suggest Eddie Money since you included REO Speedwagon.

I know he's not exactly in the School of Rock category, but Stevie Wonder deserves a mention if only for the number of times he's sampled by rappers.

Kurt, I actually did hear a redo (remake? parody?) of Who's on First done with band names - instead of a baseball game, they were talking about a concert... including The Who, Yes, and The Band. can't remember any of the other groups.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. I'll respond to some of those later, as my time permits.

For the time being, for the sake of completeness, I ought to mention, since the 1990s:

Hootie & the Blowfish, Daughtry, Nickelback, Good Charlotte, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Creed / Alter Bridge, The Goo Goo Dolls, Counting Crows, The Black Crowes, and Everclear.

Kurt Onken said...

James...I remember that parody, too. Tried to see if I could find it on the web last night, but to no avail. It's probably out there somewhere.

Moria said...

Whitesnake? Cinderella? Motley Crue? These are producers of the truly momentary, banal, self-parodying pop-rock that has happily been left to the dust-bin. Whatever genre they contribute to should be dismissed and forgotten. Omit them in favor of any other honorable mentions already named by you and others.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

To start with the most recent comment first: I've never really cared much for Motley Crue, but there's simply no denying the impact they had on rock music in the 1980s. They were around long enough to establish something of a legacy, like it or not(and I guess they've got a new record out now, along with a number of other older bands who seem to be attempting a comeback).

I disagree with you when it comes to Whitesnake and Cinderella. Whitesnake dovetails into the whole Deep Purple family tree, and at the point when they really hit their stride, they had some of the finest musicians in the business. There's no denying David Coverdale's voice, for one thing, but he also had some outstanding guitarists working with him.

It's a shame that Cinderella went in for the whole big hair and makeup image, because they were decent musicians, too. Some of their songs, especially on Long Cold Winter, are just great. Like Father Hollywood, LaRena and I actually got to see and hear Cinderella live, as the opening act for Jimmy Page (I think; or it might have been Judas Priest). "Bad Seamstress Blues" has one of the greatest opening licks of any rock song around.

But to each his own. Tastes in music are a funny thing. And some things simply come and go without leaving any lasting impression. There are bands, and records and songs, that I like immensely at one point, but they didn't really change anything for me; nor did they really change rock 'n' roll. Then there are bands, such as the one's I've listed, that either redefined the whole genre, or at least redefined something for me personally. For what it's worth.

Moria said...

Granted your point about David Coverdale. He did have a very capable voice. But his best album was his joint project with Jimmy Page.

Tastes are tastes, as you say, so maybe there's not much more for me to say. But quality music is quality music, even for popular music and rock 'n' roll. The Who, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin and many of these other bands are stilled played on the radio and still sell music. They're imaginative, innovative, and use complex musical theory and technique, besides having raw talent. But Cinderella, Whitesnake, and Motley Crue? I don't know. I just don't hear it.

Moria said...

OK, OK. I thought about it some more. Whitesnake isn't as bad as I was depicting them. They did write some catchy tunes.

Monkey Laughs said...

Cool list, Dad! I am especially a big fan of Bon Jovi, Black Sabbath/Ozzy, and Def Leppard, and after them probably The Beatles, Guns'n'Roses, AC/DC, U2, and Aerosmith. Overall I'm not a huge fan of Cinderella but I will say that Gypsy Road is probalby one of my favorite songs of all time! Led Zeppelin I've never quite been able to acquire as much of a taste for, for some reason, but I have to say that some of their songs are truly classic. Their contributions to the movie School of Rock, I think, were a major part of its greatness (in addition to Jack Black's impressive talents). One of these days (hopefully sooner than later) I may need to write a similar post of my own...

Lauriinnc said...

I am gasping out loud!
We really, really liked this movie as well and share musical tastes with you too! I won't bother with the details, but I guarantee dd#3 is going to laugh out loud when I tell her there is yet one more thing we have in common.

James said...

Where is Pearl Jam? What about The Ramones?

Cindy R. said...

Liturgical Lutherans ROCK! Fun post.

U2's The Joshua Tree was one of the first albums I ever bought, when, as a teenager, I joined the BMG music mail-order club for the first time. I don't know if my taste has always been as good since, but here are some of the groups that have been among my favorites over the years: BoDeans, Counting Crows, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Collective Soul, Gin Blossoms, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Candlebox, Goo Goo Dolls, R.E.M., Cranberries, Soul Asylum, Live, and Def Leppard. I was kind of embarrassed that I still like Def Leppard, but apparently I'm not the only one.

My husband once got me a "Monster Ballads" CD, which is great, as it contains all the songs I liked best by the rockin' hair bands. Makes a romantic Valentine's Day gift.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

I'm enjoying and appreciate all of the fun comments. I'm sorry that I've not been able to respond properly.

I recognize the contributions of The Who, and I've enjoyed some of their songs, but I've just never been able to get too excited about them. Ditto on Pink Floyd. Kansas I like, but I don't think they had the same kind of impact or influence that others did.

I love the story about U.S. Metal, Father Hollywood. I remember taking LaRena to see the movie they made about that fellow who took over for Rob Halford for a while. It wasn't one I'd take my children to see, but it was a hoot (almost in a Spinal Tap sort of way, though not by intention).

I'm grateful for some backup on the merits of Cinderella. Overall, I agree that they didn't change the world, nor even the map of rock 'n' roll, but I loved Long Cold Winter. They had more potential than they ever realized; moreso, I think, than many of the other 80s metal "hair bands." I could have added Great White, too, along similar lines.

Midnight Oil never really made a big splash on my soundscreen. I like INXS very much, and they could easily have found their way onto a longer list. Listen Like Thieves was a great record. And I'm always rooting for the Aussies, from Air Supply (don't laugh) to AC/DC, having lived down under for some of my growing up.

I'm not sure I've ever heard Oingo Boingo (I have heard of them). Elvis is important, no doubt, and I've enjoyed his music over the years, but he's never had the same impact on me as The Beatles, for example. And rock 'n' roll clearly moved well beyond Elvis before I was paying any attention.

Stevie Wonder I would put into some different sort of category. Pop rock, maybe? There's a whole slew of bands and performers along those lines: ABBA, ELO, Billy Joel, Elton John, etc. I like that genre, too, but it doesn't define "rock 'n' roll" for me. I suppose I'd put Eddie Money in that grouping, too, though I see your point about REO Speedwagon; sometimes the lines blur. REO seemed pretty rockish to me when Hi InFidelity was all the rage. Now, looking back, I think of them as more of a ballads band. Night Ranger would be another one along those lines. Yes and Rush never really rocked my world. The Ramones are fun, but, for whatever reason, they didn't catchy my ear or my interest.

I've enjoyed R.E.M. along the way, as well as some Collective Soul and Soul Asylum. Pearl Jam was never my cup of tea; nor most of the groups that followed in the wake of Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Part of that was timing. I wasn't listening to popular music of any kind for several years in the 90s. And most of the music I've enjoyed since then has been country. Go figure. I should blog about the different ways I appreciate rock on the one hand and country on the other.

Kurt Onken said...

Sorry, Rick, but I am laughing at Air Supply. I'm all out of love.

Unknown said...

Rev. Stuckwisch,

You must take a dive into the ineffable greatness of Dream Theater. While James LaBrie's vocals are sketchy, the rest of the band comprise musicians that have more than once been ranked the world's best at their respective crafts. Put that all together into one band and you have, without a doubt, the greatest progressive rock band to ever hit the stage.

About Allan said...

Great list Pastor.
I didn't know our tastes in music were so similar, though in retrospect, I suppose that it is somewhat inevitable since we are (about) the same age. And though I am probably suffering from some "stereotypical ignorance" (I HATE when that happens) I would have thought that you would dismiss many of these groups based on the lyrics/subject matters of their songs, specifically GnR (one of my all-time favs too). But I totally agree with your assessment that each of these bands made a contribution to making Rock and Roll what it is today.

Here are a few others that I liked, that didn't make your cut:
Skid Row, Pink Floyd, Warrant,the Black Crows, Billy Idol and Ronnie James Dio.

In the pop/rock category I listened to John (Cougar)Melloncamp, Bryan Adams, Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers,etc.

As far as bands post 1990, they seem to come and go, even more so than the 70's-80's, but here are a few I like:
Kid Rock, Hinder, Nickleback, Gavin Degraw, John Mayer, and Simple Plan.

Speaking of Nickleback, Melanie and I saw them opening up for Bon Jovi last summer at Soldier Field. AWESOME show, Bon Jovi STILL ROCKS!

Allan Fish

I would be interested in seeing a list of your favorite fictional writers. Something tells me we would have a lot in common there too.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Hey, Allan, great to hear from you. It certainly does sound like we've got some pretty similar tastes in music. I'm totally jealous that you and Melanie got to see Nickelback and Bon Jovi in concert. Wow! That had to be a great show. Bon Jovi has been a favorite of mine for decades now, and I really admire the way that he and his band have grown and matured with their music, without losing their creative energy.

The other bands you've listed have also been favorites of mine along the way, not all of them to the same degree. Skid Row and Warrant were pretty great in their day. John Cougar Mellencamp, Bryan Adams and Tom Petty were among my A-listers back in high school, too.

The latest Kid Rock record is great, but I haven't been too much into his music in the past. It's never seemed consistent to me, and I have to admit that heavy doses of profanity can turn me off pretty fast. I don't care for it, myself, especially when it's prevelant or gratuitous, and I don't like having it on around my younger children, in particular. But, as I say, Kid Rock's most recent record is outstanding. On a side note, I recently found out that he grew up in the same neighborhood as a good pastor friend of mine.

I really liked Gavin Degraw's first record, but I haven't caught his newer release. On the other hand, I only just recently discovered Simple Plan, and really like what I've heard, but haven't checked out their previous records.

Our literary tastes probably are similar, as you suggest, but I'm afraid I haven't had a lot of time for pleasure reading lately. Most of the fiction that I've read in recent years has been to my children (Harry Potter, etc.). One of my all-time favorite authors is Stephen R. Donaldson, especially his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I devoured those when I was in high school, and have read them twice more in the years since then. Awesome stuff. I'm keeping pace with the third trilogy in that series of books, anxiously awaiting the next one. I'll find time to read it, for old time's sake if nothing else.

Christopher, thanks for the heads up on Dream Theater. I've heard of them before, but I've never given them a good honest listen. On your advice, I'll check them out. Your description intrigues me.

It occurred to me today that I probably should have mentioned The Kinks somewhere along the way. They were solid and consistent for lots of years, and they turned out some great music.

Rev. James Leistico said...

going through my cd collection yesterday (I found out my 5 year old likes Collective Soul when they came on the radio on the way home from school), I realized a group had been left off to this point that must be mentioned - Lynyrd Skynyrd

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Oh, yes, I had thought of Lynyrd Skynyrd, too. Good stuff. And their offshoot, .38-Special, who were actually more prominent in my own listening back in the day.

Most recently, Van Zant is one of my favorite country acts, and they have their roots in Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38-Special. They belong to a number of artists (along with Montgomery Gentry, et al.) who straddle modern country and classic southern rock. Actually, the lines between various genres are constantly shifting and blurring; which is why I am intrigued by what it is that finally defines a particular genre of music.

Rev. James Leistico said...

another non-mention so far is the Beastie Boys. (I had also tried to post this earlier, but the internet was screwy, and I forgot to come back and do it later.) I see Kid Rock's earlier stuff as an outgrowth of Run DMC's "Walk this Way" (my first exposure to Aerosmith) and the Beasties (who I figure provided me with my first exposure to Led Zepplin, albeit through maybe three seconds of a sample.)

Monkey Laughs said...

Dad, I've been pretty intrigued by what defines genres lately as well. I think "country" has been growing quite a bit, to include a lot of things it hasn't traditionally. Still, everyone seems to just call it "country." "Rock," on the other hand, strangely seems to have become synonymous with "pop," or something, because artists like Jason Mraz and The Fray are apparently considered "Rock," while the sorts of things I considered rock have been divided into quite a large number of sub-genres I can't keep track of, including indie, progressive, hard, punk, emo, grunge, metal, classic, and several others. There's even a sub-sub-genre called "death metal" which a few of my friends at my old dorm liked, but I could barely stand to listen to, most of the time. I wonder if something similar will happen with country eventually. What do you think of it all? Maybe yet another blog post? ;-)

Past Elder said...

Man, can't stand any of that stuff!

Been around the whole history of rock. Started out as bad white covers of good black music, and devolved into bad white music.

Good news is, we get in church, sounds like we'll be OK!