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Z is for Frank Zappa…

The King of Weird himself is my last of the alphabands posts…. for now…. Rememeber when i only started at ‘M’ with Mudhoney?…. Yeah, well it’s kinda like cheating…. So, i plan on doing ‘A’ through ‘L’….. sometime….. Gotta take a little break from them for the moment, but i will finish this project eventually…


This final #AlphaBands entry is waiting in the sky, he’d like to come and meet us but he thinks he’d blow our minds, Z for Ziggy Stardust

It feels good to close out this project with a portrait of an electrifying, paradigm crushing, human zeitgeist who harnessed the raw, strange and terrifying sexual power of music and changed the course of a generation of young people. In the early ‘70’s Bowie as Ziggy was making music obsessed with the future, with pushing us forward as a species, asking us to change fundamentally into something stranger and more beautiful than we’d ever seen on this planet. I feel the best music affects us this way, opens us up to a journey, changes us in some way, augments our reality. In this spirit, keep on rockin’, AlphaFriends. 


Z is for ZZ Top

When I was a kid the first little stereo I got for Christmas included ZZ Top’s Greatest Hits from my dad. This completed my then 3 cd collection of Snap, ZZ Top, and U2 Rattle and Hum. I think I had the Mortal Kombat “soundtrack” too.

The cartoon world of there music videos is as sexually progressive as Cyndi Lauper’s are. Women in She-Bop and Legs own their own sexuality and then achieve power instead of being timid mice. You compare these videos (which were seen as sexist at the time) to Blurred Lines and in these videos the women are 100% in charge, they make choices, they have agency, needs and desires and they are not to be screwed with. ZZ Top merely stands to the side and provides the awesome soundtrack.

Z is for ZZ Top, by Sam Wolk

My final submission is a little band from Texas formed in 1969.  I think I first heard of them, like many of my generation, when they achieved international super-stardom in 1983.  Their album from that year, Eliminator, is their most popular and well selling one to date.  

By 1983 they’d begun to completely change their sound from groovy, blues-inspired rock into more new-wave, synth-heavy radio rock.  They became common on MTV, with their tongue-in-cheek, sexy videos making the regular rotation.  I wasn’t very fond of ZZ Top back then, but that would change.

In my early teens when I was listening solely to classic rock after having been burned out on the other radio stations in DC, I was reintroduced to ZZ Top via their older work.  I found it very engaging.  They had some funky hooks, playful lyrics, and scorching guitar licks.  They were heavy!  I’d never thought of them as being so good, but damn was it some fine music.  
Jimi Hendrix went on the Tonight Show in the late 1960s and told Johnny Carson that Billy Gibbons, then of the band the Moving Sidewalks, would be the next big guitarist in rock.  Gibbons went on to form ZZ Top with bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard.  Their lineup has been constant since.


Y is for Neil Young….

Okay, so this may be the most obvious music post I’ve done. You may say it’s cliche, or whatever you wanna say. I could have dug deeper for someone who we know less about. I’m sure there are lots of musicians and bands that start with “Y”, but after thinking about it, i just said fuck it! Neil is easily one of the most influential music figures around, at least in my life. I have spent so much time listening to and debating this man. Stylistically, i pretty much learned how to play guitar from obsessing over him (not that I’m anywhere near his talent). He has had a profound affect on me. I’m Canadian after all (and most of our mega stars are a joke – Bieber, Nickelback, the list of bad musicians goes on….), I’m supposed to be this way. So quit beating around the bush. He’s the man, deal with it…


X is for X Ray Spex…

X Ray Spex was an english punk band that formed in 1976. Fronted by Poly Strene, the Spex were part of the first wave of british punks, and what stood them out (aside from Poly herself) was the fact that they had a saxophone as a prominent instrument. I don’t know as much about the Spex as some of my previous posts, but listening to them it’s easy to see how they solidified their place in music history. Loud and fast, i need more of this in my life. Their first single “Oh Bondage, Up Yours” is so effing good, i can’t believe i missed this growing up. Well there’s no time like the present, so if you need me, i’ll be the one with the stereo cranked at 11…


OH BONDAGE! UP YOURS! This/last week’s #AlphaBands entry is X for X-Ray Spex!

Poly Styrene started X-Ray Spex in 1976 after seeing the Sex Pistols do a set of covers in an empty music hall and so was on that first eccentric wave of Punk in the UK. While a lot of bands were dominoes set to tumble by the sneering vocals of Rotten and Company, Poly and X-Ray Spex are, to my ears, one of the few to take the newborn punk milieu and turn it into something more artful than angst. Compare Poly Styrene to her contemporaries at the time like Siouxsie Sioux and Debbie Harry to see just how fascinatingly avant-garde she was in every aspect of her personality. Anyhow, a great band. I especially like how the saxophone on most of the songs sounds like it came free in a box of Trix.     

Y is for Yes, by Sam Wolk

I don’t know what it is about British progressive rock that is so appealing.  Mostly because it doesn’t generally appeal to me.  It’s just not in my wheel house.  There is one exception, and that band is Yes.  Their three albums from 1971-1972 are in my collection.  I haven’t been that fond of their work before The Yes Album nor after Close To The Edge, but those two and the one they bookend, Fragile, are works of art.

The high, ethereal vocal sound of Jon Anderson, the finger-picking complexity of guitarist Steve Howe, the incomparable organ wizardry of Rick Wakeman and Tony Kaye, the thick, warm tones of bassist Chris Squire, and the jazzy drumbeats of Bill Bruford are, when put together, a wall of beautiful sound.   Their work on these three albums alone is a testament to their incredible collaborations.  They borrowed from their influences in jazz, classical, and blues to sculpt a singular style that is timeless.

The first album of theirs I owned was The Yes Album.  It’s a gem from start to finish.  Check it out here:
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