Amy and I sat down last night and reminisced about a number of things, including being kids in the '70s. Growing up together in suburban Pennsylvania, we heard a lot of the same music, and it was striking to us how similar our tastes were, even though we didn't meet until we were in high school in the '80s.
'70s Bands Amy Liked That I Didn't
ABBA, Bread, Carly Simon, Carole King, Elton John, Jackson Browne, Meatloaf, Rod Stewart, Simon & Garfunkel, The Bee Gees, The Grateful Dead, The Police
(I liked a few tracks by these artists, but I was never really into them like she was.)
'70s Bands I Liked That Amy Didn't
Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, Bob Dylan, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, R.E.O. Speedwagon, Rush, Stevie Wonder, Supertramp, The Buzzcocks, Thin Lizzy, Yes
(I suspect gender might be a factor here.)
'70s Bands We Both Liked
AC/DC, Blondie, Bob Seger, Boston, Bruce Springsteen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, Heart, Joan Jett, Journey, Led Zeppelin, Linda Ronstadt, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young, Pat Benatar, Patti Smith, Sex Pistols, Steely Dan, Talking Heads, The Cars, The Clash, The Eagles, The Kinks, The Pretenders, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Van Halen
(We didn't hear some of these artists until high school, although I remember talking with friends in elementary school about the Sex Pistols, presumably in '77 or early '78. The rumor was that they puked onstage, and we were totally fascinated by that.)
'70s Bands Neither of Us Liked
Billy Joel, Black Sabbath, Chicago, Dire Straits, Electric Light Orchestra, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Jefferson Starship, Jethro Tull, Joni Mitchell, King Crimson, KISS, Pink Floyd, Santana, The Allman Brothers, The Band, The Doobie Brothers, The Scorpions, Traffic
(I went through periods of liking a few of these artists--Billy Joel, King Crimson--but ultimately came to dislike them pretty thoroughly.)
Photo by Fashionby He.
According to Last.fm, these are the artists I listened to most frequently in 2014:
1. Whiskeytown (352 plays)
2. The Front Bottoms (349)
3. Ryan Adams (313)
4. Future Islands (239)
5. John Coltrane (223)
6. Sean Hayes (217)
7. Bon Iver (211)
8. Nat King Cole (191)
9. TIE Mulatu Astatke and the George Wallington Quintet (188 each)
I've been using Last.fm to track my listening habits since May 2005, and as of today it's captured 105,170 plays. It covers iTunes plays at home, as well as iPod plays from my car and workouts. It doesn't cover Pandora plays at home, which we listen to often, so there's certainly plenty of data not being captured. That said, Amy usually puts on Pandora, and I usually put on iTunes, so the Last.fm data is a reasonably accurate reflection of my personal listening habits.
Coltrane (1,207 plays and #4 on my overall Last.fm list) is obviously one of my favorite artists ever, the man most responsible for my love of jazz, and I listened to him even more than usual in 2014 after discovering The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings. If I had to listen to just one box set for all time, this would be it.
Bon Iver (1,069, #6) is also an all-time favorite, but in a very different way. Miles Davis is #1 on my all time list (1,378 plays), but I also have 130 songs of his in my iTunes collection, while I only have 26 Bon Iver songs. Almost every one of them is a gem that holds deep personal meaning for me. I thought I'd tire of Bon Iver after a few years, as I do with most pop artists, but it hasn't happened yet.
Sean Hayes (717, #12) is sneaking into this bracket. He's hard to categorize--which is probably one reason why he's fairly obscure--but he sings about relationships, sex and the struggles of adulthood in a way that's both heartening and heartbreaking. (2012's Before We Turn to Dust is a great introduction to his work.)
And then there are the artists I become intensely infatuated with who rise to the top of an annual list like this but probably won't be here next year, like the Front Bottoms (360, #76) and Future Islands (239, #124). They're very different bands. The Front Bottoms make slightly nerdy, bouncy guitar pop that occasionally has a harder edge. This January 2014 concert on Long Island shows them at their best, with a joyous crowd singing along to every track and stage divers being careful not to hurt anyone (unlike the knuckleheads at the punk shows of my youth.) I'm too old to actually go to a show like this these days, but it's nice to know that they still take place. (This acoustic NPR set from 2013 makes it easier to absorb the lyrics.)
Future Islands makes new-wavey synth pop that relies heavily on the unexpected charisma of frontman Samuel T. Herring. He looks like a suburban middle manager who got lost on his way to the office park and wound up onstage. Then he starts singing and dancing, and it's like Richard Burton imitating Pee Wee Herman fronting New Order, with occasional death metal growls for added emphasis. They broke out in 2014 with this amazing performance of Seasons (Waiting on You) on Letterman. This short set in-studio at KEXP in Seattle is also great, and here they are on Austin City Limits.
I'm not sure what to make of last year's interest in Whiskeytown (483 plays, #38 all-time) and Ryan Adams (316, #91). I'm in love with almost everything the late, great Whiskeytown recorded, and Everything I Do (Miss You), is guaranteed to reduce me to a puddle, especially if Amy's around. Adams led Whiskeytown, of course, but his solo work is more varied as he's stretched himself as an artist. Some of it I love, some not so much.
Nat King Cole (191, #156 all-time) is primarily remembered today as a smooth singer, but we really got into him last year after Amy discovered how gifted he was as a pianist on 1956's After Midnight and the Instrumental Classics compilation. I respect Cole's singing, although I'm not passionate about it, but I expect I'll keep listening to his instrumental work.
When I saw Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers years ago I was so entranced by the music that I bought the soundtrack immediately. It's a great collection overall, but the standouts are four Ethiopian jazz-pop songs, three by Mulatu Astatke and one by Dengue Fever. Visiting my brother Matt last year I learned that there's an entire series of discs dedicated to that music, Éthiopiques. I picked up Volume 4, which focuses on Mulatu Astatke, as well as a compilation, The Very Best of Éthiopiques. Unreal. I may not listen to it as intensely as I did in 2014, but there are days when I can just put this music on and listen to it over and over again.
And George Wallington (312, #95 overall) was an Italian (born Giacinto Figlia) who came to the U.S. with his family as an infant and became one of the greatest bop pianists of the 1940s and '50s. (In 1960 he suddently stopped playing music and moved to Florida to work in his family's air-conditioning business. He began playing again 24 years later and recorded one more album in 1985 before he died in 1993 at age 68.) I've listened to him for years--I first got interested in him when I learned that Donald Byrd was in his quintet--but I really got into him in 2014 after discovering The Prestidigitator and especially the Complete Live at the Cafe Bohemia set. Late '50s/early '60s bop is probably the music I listen to most often at home, and Wallington is a master of the form.