The desire to rank British bands was born during a conversation.
The discussion centered around the evolution of various bands in the modern era. In a chicken-or-the-egg style debate, key common denominators were found.
The connection between American pop/music and British pop/rock music is akin to exchange of energy. Both sides of the Atlantic have provided the other with influence and ideas.
The generational back and forth has provided a lot of classic albums and sensational careers. This week we will count down our take on the Top 50 British Bands.
The volume of which has been so sensational that a lot of great artists did not make this list.
It’s time for Salute to pay tribute for the artistic strides made across the pond.
The United Kingdom has something to say.
# 50 The Cult
Formed in 1983 under the moniker Death Cult after co-founder vocalist Ian Astbury spent time in his previous outfit Southern Death Cult, The Cult has made a living by swimming in some pretty deep waters.
There are a variety of different brands of Cult fans.
The goth-inspired alternative s latched on when they dropped the multi-layered classic Love.
Fueled by the single “She Sells Sanctuary,” the quarter came through as The Cure on steroids.
They upped the ante by switching gears on Electric, when they teased metallic flavors by jiving with bikers and their established fanbase.
Led by one of rock’s most overlooked frontmen in Astbury, and guitarist Billy Duffy, they went full on arena-rock with Sonic Temple.
What made and continues to make them special is their ability to absorb a variety of styles and themes and transform them into something that is recognizable as their own.
Still riding strong on the strength of their last LP Hidden City, they are still operating at the peak of their powers.
#49 The Damned
As a punk band that was formed in 1976, The Damned was there for a critical part of musical history.
They can truly call themselves first generation punks.
Though they have never been as revered as some of their peers, as commercially viable as the bands they influenced or critics darlings, The Damned are required listening.
Their debut Damned Damned Damned is an adrenalized masterpiece that put them in play to do what they do best.
Singer Dave Vanian, guitarist Brian James, bassist (eventually guitarist) Captain Sensible, and drummer Rat Scabies secured their position by putting together a furious live show.
They engineered a classic in the often-covered “New Rose,” but it was the stage where they cut their teeth.
Pretty much since day one, their history has been a tumultuous one. Parting ways after only their second album Music for Pleasure, they kissed and made up not long after for a string of albums that carried them through the 80’s.
Vanian told Louder Than War that their Black LP was instrumental to their development.
“I love it because it’s the album where we started to change and evolve into The Damned we really were, “Vanian said. “The first album was brilliant but it was Brian’s album. By the time we got to The Black Album we had all realized our song-writing strengths and where we were going. It all came together so well, we were pushing boundaries and it was a very exciting time.”
True to their nature, the band underwent lineup changes, broke up, regrouped and carries on to this day…with an amended lineup.
Somewhere between the animated-phenomenon The Banana Splits, Japanese anime and dubbed influenced alternative rock lies Gorillaz.
The brainchild of artist Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn (more on him later this week), the project revolves around the fictional band of 2-D (vocals, keys), Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitar) and Russel Hobbs (drums).
Their records often feature notable features yet its featureless tracks like “Clint Eastwood” which make up the bulk of their staples.
Obviously Albarn plays the role of musical director while Hewlett controls their visual output. Each piece is as integral as the other.
Success has been easy to come by as right out of the gate their debut LP went seven-times platinum in 2001.
Albarn and Hewlett met through Albarn’s previous guitarist Graham Coxson. The pair conceived Gorillaz while sharing a flat as a response to MTV’s lack of quality programming.
They quickly moved beyond simply being something that existed to provide commentary.
On their first effort they worked with Dan the Automator in addition to Del the Funky Homosapien, and Kid Koala.
In between their debut and their most recent collection Humanz, there have been sold-out shows which double as multimedia presentations, awards and loads of fans-only exclusives.
The project does not get enough credit for its innovation. Their apps and websites provide immersive worlds that are easy to get lost in.
Falling somewhere between a gaming and animated experience, these affairs not only market Gorillaz, they serve to add another arm to their legend.
#47 The Buzzcocks
As the story goes, during the height of the punk rock movement in the U.K., Bolton-based musicians Pete Shelley (songwriter/guitarist) and Howard Devoto (lead vocals) were looking to start a band, when they saw the Sex Pistols perform in 1976.
The only problem was, they were missing a bassist, when a chance encounter with the band’s manager, Malcolm McLaren, introduced them to Steve Diggle, who became an essential part of the lineup in 1977, after Devoto left the band and Shelley became the principal songwriter for the group.
The Buzzcocks, who famously took their name from an witty headline in Time Out magazine, were major influences in the Manchester music scene during punk-rock’s second wave and were major players in the independent record label movement.
They’re perhaps most well-known for the pop-punk classic, “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve),” a song that has been covered by several artists, including: David Gilmour, Elton John, Fine Young Cannibals, Thursday, Peter Hook, Robert Plant and Pete Yorn.
Apart from their music, their name bled over into mainstream culture when it was hybridized with the Sex Pistols album title to create the title of the long-running UK comedy TV panel game show, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, which ran for 28 seasons from 1996 to 2015.
The Swindon understated legends kept it going from 1972-2006. The 34-year run yielded a lot of artistic achievements which often surpassed singles such as “Dear God” and Mayor of Simpleton.”
A stew that consisted of pop, rock new wave and slightly punkish elements, XTC was ran by songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding.
Bassist/ vocalist Moulding started XTC with drummer Terry Chambers and they in turn reeled in Partridge to round out the band on guitars and vocals.
Five years into their run, keyboardist Barry Andrews came on board and their sound and identity took shape.
What kept XTC interesting was a laundry list of off-beat arrangements and quirky lyrics which relied heavily on political jabs and sarcasm.
A peer once commented that at their best was the ‘ultimate inside joke. The problem was that they’re the only ones that get most of them.’
While that may be true with some of their earlier output, they is no denying that efforts such as 1986’s Skylarking were accessible.
So much so that they managed to shake their cult status for a second and segue way into MTV staples.
Sadly, Partridge and Moulding ended their longstanding relationship in the bitterest way possible bringing an end to an extremely impressive run.
Squeeze often gets lumped in with the new wave movement. Yet the majority of their output while creative is rooted in groove-based pop.
Made up of deeply fluid bass-lines, rock solid drumming, signature keys/organs and timeless hooks, their catalog reaches across many demographics.
The songwriting tandem of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook is responsible for “Cool for Cats” “Tempted”, “Black Coffee in Bed” and “Hourglass.”
Getting out of the gate in 1974, they’ve refused to rest on past achievements as a simple legacy act.
Throughout several breakups and eventual reunions, their brand was never out-of-sight
Their latest record The Knowledge was preceded by 2015’s Cradle to the Grave, proving that while they are cool with yesterday, Squeeze is still for the most part at the top of their game.
In 2015, Tilbrook told The Telegraph that settling is not an option.
“With writing, I felt conscious that if we didn’t do something really great then there’s no point,” said Tilbrook. “Competing with your own past is hard enough anyway, because people have memories associated with those songs. It took us a long time to get back to where we were.”
The future still looks bright.
#44 The Eurythmics
Before the Eurythmics… there were The Tourists, an English power-pop collective created in the late-1970s, when David A. Stewart (guitar) and the late-Peet Coombes encountered Scottish singer-songwriter Annie Lennox, who had just dropped out of the Royal Academy of Music to pursue her career as a pop musician.
Despite minor success on the charts, they were notably unpopular with critics. This, along with lingering personal tensions, ultimately led Coombes and bassist Eddie Chin to pursue their own project, while Lennox and Stewart were free to pursue an experimental music partnership.
The Eurythmics would achieve worldwide acclaim with their second album, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). They continued to put out a number of hit records through the ‘80’s until they split-up in 1990 to pursue successful solo careers. Stewart continued to work as a highly sought-after producer while Lennox went on to release her multi-platinum debut album, Diva, in 1992.
After more than a decade apart, Coombes untimely death would bring them back together 1999, when they recorded their ninth album, Peace. They later reunited in 2005 to release, “I got a life” a single for their Ultimate Collection compilation.
They were also nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, earlier this year.
Before becoming the electronic music super-duo, Underworld, musicians Karl Hyde and Rick Smith of Cardiff, Wales, started by performing with acts like the electro-clash group, The Screen Gemz and the new wave-synth-pop group Freur.
They later changed their name after working with movie director Clive Barker, on the soundtrack for his 1985 mutant-based horror film, Underworld.
The group first signed to Sire Records in 1988, when they released their debut album, Underneath the Radar, but would keep performing with the same style of new wave sound until the early 1990’s when they broke into their more progressive “MK2” phase.
Their fourth studio album, Second Toughest in the Infants, was released in 1996 and is still considered a staple among fans of early breakbeat techno music.
They are perhaps best recognized for their song “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” which was released as a B-Side in 1996 and was prominently featured in Danny Boyle’s Academy Award nominated film, Trainspotting.
#42 Echo & Bunnymen
Before creating Echo and the Bunnymen, frontman Ian McCulloch spent a short stint in a short-lived project called The Crucial Three, which also gave way to such Liverpool musicians Julian Cope of The Teardrop Explodes and Pete Wylie of Wham!
After the band broke up, he teamed up with guitarist Will Sergeant and bass player Les Pattinson to create Echo and the Bunnymen. Their debut single, “The Pictures on My Wall” was released on Zoo Records in May 1979, and was later featured on their debut album, Crocodiles, along with the lead single, “Rescue.”
By 1982 the band had achieved mainstream success with their new wave hits “The Back of Love” followed by their first Top 10 hit “The Cutter” from their third studio album, Porcupine. They continued to have success throughout the ‘80s with such hits as “Lips Like Sugar,” “The Killing Moon,” “Bedbugs and Ballyhoo,” and their most popular mainstream single, “Bring on the Dancing Horses,” featured in the John Hughes classic “Pretty in Pink.”
#41 Pet Shop Boys
With over 50 million records sold, it’s safe to say that the Pet Shop Boys are a global phenomenon. The Guinness Book of Records seems to agree with them as they certified them as the most successful duo in UK music history.
The pair of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe has reeled in 42 Top 30 singles that include the smash “West End Girls” and the snarky “What Have I Done To Deserve This?”
With that much success comes a gaudy list of awards and nominations.
But how deep is their influence? USA Today’s App.Com detailed the laundry list of headliners that has been inspired by them.
It’s not surprising that the Pet Shop Boys have influenced a number of significant recording artists. But it may be surprising that Axl Rose is a big Pet Shop Boys fan. He once admitted that Guns N’ Roses took a page out of the Pet Shop Boys playbook when making the lush “November Rain.’’
Chris Martin of Coldplay and Brandon Flowers of the Killers noted that Pet Shop Boys had an impact, while each were coming of age as musicians.
“There’s no doubt that the Pet Shop Boys were an influence,” Flowers said. “There really was no (act) like them when they formed. I’m a big fan.”
So besides their first level contribution, the Pet Shop Boys are inspiring the artists that are inspiring the next generation.
That’s pretty dope.
Tomorrow Salute returns with 40-31