As was the case with the Bands List, this is not really that comprehensive, but is useful as window into my soul. This is also not alphabetical, rather the order in which I wrote them down before going to find a relevant YouTube video. That tells you two things: how often said artist is thought about, plus how they fit into my life. The first five happened without any real pause, too, after that came a bit of a struggle. This ten, however, are about as solid a slice of my psyche as you are likely to get.
The day we lost him, suddenly and without warning, completely altered my trajectory. For so long, this was the individual whom defined not only the freedom of expression, but the rightness in difference. It was perfectly okay to suffer, non-conform, celebrate your sexuality with whoever the fuck you wanted and just exist as yourself. Blackstar remains perhaps the most powerful album I have ever heard, knowing as we do now that he made it as the last contribution to his existence on the planet. There is not a day I don’t think about him, and that was true before too. A part of me is willingly his, until I too draw my last breath.
This one was hard too, but in a different way, because here was a musician who never really gave as much as Bowie did, yet was clearly far more talented. I’d have loved to have seen him in his 60’s, and how the music would have further been redefined and altered by experience, but there was no warning. This was not a man expecting to pass as Bowie was, and nobody as a result was really prepared for what’s happened. The fact there’s acres of unreleased material is a bonus, but the legal arguments already show that this man’s legacy was tainted. If you won’t dance to his music, I think you must also be deceased.
Here’s the first curve-ball, but it is a significant crack into my personal left field when you hit it. This man introduced me to swing, big bands and jazz, and for this alone he has to be included in the list: all of these musical forms are vitally important in able to grasp how modern music not only has developed, but how it continues to evolve. His untimely demise, of course, carries its own air of mystery and romance, and was enough to significantly alter the existence of several generations of my family. This is the music of my formative years, and remains very close to my heart.
Oh, lordy. This woman was me, for a very long time. I became her, pretended Hounds of Love was made by me and The Ninth Wave (the second side of that album) had its own video, in my head. To see her recreate her version of this live was quite possibly the best musical experience I will ever have, and… well, it was worth the wait, the cash and the pain of having to reconcile a version of my past with her reality. The later stuff never touched me as much, but this is unbelievably intimate music, and she is a fucking genius.
Second curve, but not the only composer in the list. Seeing him perform his stuff live (including my favourite ever piece of Bond music, the pre-title sequence to Tomorrow Never Dies) left me on an emotional high that literally lasted for weeks. I watched his score to Casino Royale be performed with the film at the Royal Albert Hall and it was a reminder, were it ever needed, just how important film score are in my life. From Tron in the early 80’s to the raft of current themes on a (very well used) Spotify playlist, having other people’s music to write your words to is a very productive combination.
Everything after Ray of Light is bobbins, with the exception of that one where she samples ABBA. The entire back catalogue pre-that is untouchable, and don’t you dare try, okay?
This particular song is the best it gets for me, the most relatable image she ever produced.
Elton, frankly, is the one of the most talented musicians this country has ever produced. To anyone who came to him from about the 1980’s onwards that talent had sublimated from his early lyrical brilliance in the 1970’s. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is an album I’d urge everybody to listen to, at least once, and yes, you’ll recognise the song that came to be synonymous with the Princess of Wales. Except, of course, it was written for Marilyn Monroe, who was the tragic heroine of an era that seems a very, very long time ago. Tonight, from Blue Moves (1976) may be the single most beautiful song performed with an orchestra you will ever hear in your lifetime. A genius.
PS: James Newton-Howard was an original part of John’s touring band. So now you know.
My love of American music, especially classical, is considerable. I could have picked any number of composers, but honestly Gershwin is the only one that can consistently move me to tears. he was a genius, and will remain so for centuries after his passing. This is a particularly good rendition of the piece that Hollywood made a whole musical around.
A woman who has reinvented herself as many times as Madonna, but whose musical pedigree has most certainly improved with age. Impossible Princess is, quite simply, one of the most perfect pop music albums ever made, there’s not a duff track on it. She looks considerably better at 50 than I did, too, and this is a woman who has survived breast cancer. If you’ve never sampled her back catalogue, go listen to it all, including the time when she was Jason Donovan’s partner in pop.
There’s a bunch of people who could take this last spot: Jean-Michel Jarre, Jon Hopkins… a load of solo electronica artists who don’t sing, but just do the accompaniment. Terje is the #1 choice again thanks to It’s Album Time which again, does not have a duff track on it. You have to love someone who can still do that format justice when everybody else is making their music last less than five minutes tops. I’d particularly recommend Oh Joy, Which is totally and utterly guaranteed to lift my spirits after a bad day. Glorious.