I’ve lived long enough to confidently identify the bands that have maintained my loyalty despite sometimes testing my patience, making disagreeable musical and lineup choices, or currently existing as nostalgia acts. These musicians, with diverse and appealing personalities, have gifted recordings that continue to excite me even after decades of listens. Introductions to each of my top five favorite bands originated in my youth, likely amplifying their importance in my life by forming emotional attachments.
V. THE MONKEES
My childhood viewing of MTV’s The Monkees marathon in 1986 began my earliest band obsession. My parents were assistive by sharing The Monkees records they owned and listened to in the 1960s, and purchasing a few Rhino Records 20th anniversary vinyl reissues. My sister and I also bonded over our equal excitement for the musical primates. She liked Davy then, and later Micky, but the independent-minded Mike Nesmith has always been my most respected. His songwriting stood strong with the hired pros, allowing the actors to become a true band. Without his participation, I typically dismiss the group. The diversity of their songs allows accessibility to varied listeners, and keeps the albums distinguishable from each other. My sister, my wife, and I have seen The Monkees live twice, once in 2011 with Dolenz, Jones, and Tork, and once in 2012 with Dolenz, Nesmith, and Tork. My wife and I saw Nesmith’s band thrice in 2013. We are pleased to have met all the members sans Nesmith in 2011, with the late Davy Jones being the most friendly.
Favorite lineup: Nesmith / Jones / Dolenz / Tork
Favorite member: Mike Nesmith
Favorite album: Headquarters
Other recommended releases: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd., Instant Replay, More of the Monkees, Missing Links Vol. 1
Next release: The Monkees Complete TV Series on Blu-Ray and a new studio album, Good Times!
IV. DEAD KENNEDYS
In terms of songwriting, musical skills, trademark vocals, and unique lyrics, Jello Biafra’s former punk band hammered the competition. I first heard the DKs at a friend’s party when I was 14, necessitating a purchase of Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death within days. I did not quite understand the dated political references at the time, but the music was melodically fierce, largely thanks to guitarist East Bay Ray. Along with Minor Threat and punk-era Beastie Boys, DKs welcomed me to the wonderous world of punk. DKs are active with singer number four, but have chosen to not record new material. I have never seen them live, even though I had two chances. My wife and I met Biafra once in 1999.
Favorite lineup: Biafra / Ray / Fluoride / Ted
Favorite member: East Bay Ray
Favorite album: Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death
Other recommended releases: Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, Bedtime For Democracy, Plastic Surgery Disasters, In God We Trust, Inc.
Next release: ?
III. VAN HALEN
I like all eras of Van Halen and consider the David Lee Roth years to be the greatest musically and Sammy Hagar’s tenure the best vocally, but give Gary Cherone honorable mention for his futile efforts to sustain the fractured band in the late ’90s. For me, it’s all about Eddie, Alex, and Michael transcending the vocalists’ deficiencies to produce the finest American hard rock. Alex’s unifying, live drum sound, Michael’s “average guy” personality and crucial backing vocals, and Eddie’s fantastic varied compositions, have kept me listening since I was 13. Though I’ve had chances since the reunion with Roth, I have never seen VH live, nor have I met any members.
Favorite lineup: Hagar / Van Halen / Anthony / Van Halen
Favorite member: Michael Anthony
Favorite album: Fair Warning (with DLR), 5150 (with Hagar)
Other recommended releases: Women and Children First, F.U.C.K., A Different Kind of Truth
Next release: ?
Dirty Rotten Imbeciles’ superb crossover metal created an instant fan from the moment I was introduced by my friend, Mark. Our mutual like for their music furthered our friendship and led me to discover more metal and hardcore. The band has straightforward, fast, and identifiable riffs and vocals coupled with the one of the coolest logos. It has been twenty years since their last CD, Full Speed Ahead, with only a single MP3 demo, “Against Me,” dropped in 2004. Excitingly, now an EP is scheduled for upcoming release. Years ago, guitarist Spike was diagnosed with colon cancer, and has since been recovering. Fortunately, they tour regularly, which has allowed Mark and I to see and chat with the affable members multiple times.
Favorite lineup: Brecht / Cassidy /Harald O./ Rampy
Favorite member: Spike Cassidy
Favorite album: Thrash Zone
Other recommended releases: Four of a Kind, Live, Dealing With It, Full Speed Ahead
Next release: But Wait… There’s More!
I. ANTHRAX30 plus years of offering excellent speed and thrash metal, novelty rap jams, respectful covers, Pantera-lite groove rock, goofy senses of humor, dramatic lineup changes, and part-timing The Not Man in favor of the “pentathrax” have made Anthrax one of the most entertaining, unique, and frustrating metal bands, and I love them for it. I prefer their classic era, and barely tolerated the delays between the releases after 1998’s Vol. 8, but am proud of the comeback they achieved by becoming a musical amalgamation of all their styles, rightfully fronted by The Man himself, Joey Belladonna. Their logo is one of the finest in metal, and is part of what interested me in the band next to having enjoyed Scott Ian and Charlie Benante’s side project, S.O.D. A bonus for me: Anthrax expertly covered D.R.I.’s “Snap” and “I’d Rather Be Sleeping” as B-sides for their 1998 album Vol. 8: The Threat is Real. I’ve seen ‘Thrax multiple times live with various Ian and Benante-anchored lineups and have met most of the current and former members.
Favorite lineup: Belladonna / Ian / Spitz / Bello / Benante
Favorite member: Charlie Benante
Favorite album: Among the Living (with Belladonna), Sound of White Noise (with Bush)
Other recommended releases: Spreading the Disease, Worship Music, State of Euphoria, Persistence of Time
Next release: For All Kings