Radiohead

Here’s how you know you are old: You say, “I can’t give Radiohead a list, because I’m only doing acts that were around before 2000, and they’re only about 10 years old.” And then you find out that Radiohead released their first album in … 1993. That’s how you know you are old.

Radiohead AllMusic page

Queen

I suppose I should love the fact that such a big queen (pun entirely intended) became one of the biggest global superstars ever. But—”Bohemian Rhapsody” aside, because really, how can you hate something so ridiculously over-the-top?—I still can’t stand much of their music. On the plus side, they have enough hits that I don’t have to include “Radio Ga-Ga” on this list.

Queen AllMusic page

Punk

Believe it or not, when the Sex Pistols sang “God Save the Queen,” they were not being patriotic. It’s called irony. And in another ironic twist, tomorrow’s playlist is Queen—a band that I’m sure the original punk rockers would have bashed repeatedly over the head with their guitars, if given the chance.

Punk AllMusic page

Public Enemy

Because I am a shameless name-dropper, I will let everyone know that in my sophomore year of college, I lived across the hall from Alison Stewart, who later became a news correspondent for MTV and MSNBC, among others. She once gave me a tour of MTV Studios in New York, and also hosted an MTV event at a warehouse in Oakland—back when we had real warehouses, before they all got converted into lofts going for $2,000+ per month. When I walked into the party in this almost pitch-black, cavernous space, the DJ was blasting “Welcome to the Terrordome.” In that moment I honestly felt for the first time that music could bring about profound—if not necessarily peaceful— social change.

Public Enemy AllMusic page

Prog Rock

In the early days of rock, the definition of a great song was, “It has a good beat, and you can dance to it.” By the time the prog rockers came around, their definition was “It has 17 key and time signature changes, you need an Oxford unabridged dictionary and a Tolkien companion to decipher the lyrics, and you couldn’t dance to it if you had 135 legs.” Personally, I’d rather listen to the Miracles.

Prog Rock AllMusic page

Prince

His name is Prince. And he is funky.

(Plus: Of all the giants of 80s pop—Springsteen, Michael Jackson, etc.—Prince is by far my favorite. And not just because he made it safe for grown men to wear all purple.)

Prince AllMusic page

Pretenders

My friend and co-worker Lori was a dead ringer for Chrissie Hynde. Lori and I saw the Pretenders at the Tower Theater in Philly sometime around 1984. Lori also introduced me to Joy Division, New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, and others. Yeah, Lori was pretty cool.

Pretenders AllMusic page