Hannibal V Constantine (hannibalv) wrote,
Hannibal V Constantine

So bdar hit me with a challenge today.

This question came up on an acquaintance's blog, and it would be right up your alley: A hundred years from now, say you're teaching a class on music of the twentieth century. Name the top eight BANDS (he excluded solo artists at this time) that make your course syllabus.


Arranged in (roughly) chronological order:The Carter Family

Recorded most of the great American folk songs and laid the foundation for country music. If I'm teaching this course, I also use their by-marriage connection to take a couple of weeks to talk about Johnny Cash. Additionally, the popularity of the Carters helped to spread the concept of recorded music into the home. (Possible alternates to fill a similar role: Hank Williams and the Drifting Cowboys, Bob Willis and The Texas Playboys, The Tennessee Three)

Duke Ellington & his Orchestra

Jazz, jazz, jazz. Can't talk about the 20th Century without it, and Ellington was the longest-reigning, most important bandleader of the time. Recorded with nearly everyone. (Possible alternate: Count Basie Orchestra)

The NBC Symphony Orchestra

Under the baton of Arturo Toscanini (the greatest conductor who ever lived, bar none), brought classical music into homes for over fifteen years. Toscanini assembled the best of the best of the best, and it was evident in the music. Somewhere around here Ihave a CD of the NBC Symphony Orchestra playing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony; if their rendition of the fourth movement doesn't bring you to at least goosebumps, if not tears, you are most likely dead. (Possible alternates: none--no one else ever connected quite as well.)

The Beatles

The easiest name to come up with and the first I thought of when compiling this list (PE was the second). Chuck Klosterman, when putting together a list of bands that were neither overrated nor underrated, said EDITED TO CORRECT THIS QUOTE
4. The Beatles: The Beatles are generally seen as the single most important rock band of all time, allegedly because they wrote all the best songs. Since both of these suppositions are true, the Beatles are rated properly by everyone.
And that seems about right. As a fun experiment if you want to see how discerning your friends are, ask them which they think is better: "Revolver" or "Sgt. Pepper's". Newer conventional wisdom holds that "Revolver" is actually the more accomplished work. (Speaking for myself, I'm more of a White Album guy.) (Possible alternates: None. See Klosterman above. Trying to teach 20th Century music without mentioning the Beatles would be like trying to teach 20th Century history without mentioning the United States.)

The Wailers

Arguably the most obscure choice on this list, the Wailers serve as our entree into the rising force that world music became in the second half of the 20th Century. The Wailers featured both Bob Marley and Peter Tosh and helped develop reggae into a viable commercial and artistic force. I once heard Marley referred to as the first real celebrity from the Third World, and it fits. (Possible alternate: not actually a band, but Fela Kuti was less a man than a force of nature.)

The Velvet Underground

A potentially controversial choice, as they were never terribly popular, but they were unspeakably influential. Iggy Pop happens because of the VU. The New York Dolls happen because of the VU. The Ramones happen because of the VU. David Bowie happens because of the VU, and so on, and so on. Even a band like Nirvana can be traced back to the Velvet Underground through several layers of filters. Read Please Kill Me if you don't believe me. (Possible alternates: The Ramones, The Stooges, Nirvana)

Black Sabbath

Led Zeppelin can go fuck themselves. The rise of heavy metal begins with Sabbath. (Sorry, I stepped away for three minutes to listen to "Paranoid" again.) Arguably the first band to really want to sound scary, Sabbath paved the way for everyone from Metallica to System of a Down to Mastodon. (Possible alternates: Led Zeppelin, Metallica)

Public Enemy

Not the first, perhaps, but the best. Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X and the rest were the inital group to seize on what hip-hop could be and were at the vanguard of a revolution in music which continues to reverberate to this day. Maybe, just maybe, 100 years from now when I'm teaching this class, the biggest argument won't be "Revolver" vs. "Pet Sounds" vs. "Sgt. Pepper's", but "Revolver" vs. "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" vs. "Nevermind". (Possible alternates: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., N.W.A.)

Argue away.
Tags: argument starters

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