Recent earthquakes in California were the catalyst for this post on Artists who shook things up. The team at By the Barricade brainstormed a quick list of bands that caused a stir in the music world either through innovation or controversy. Of course, once you create this type of list, there are always more considerations and some contention over whether or not a band or artist is worthy of inclusion. For music fans, bands and their songs provide the soundtrack for our lives and struggles. Though we are all unique, there are some standout artists and bands that bridge the gap between us. We present this brief list and welcome and look forward to readers suggesting other bands and telling us why they shook things up.
The material girl continues to blaze new ground and has offended a lot of people along the way. She could have her own set of top ten controversies and doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. Recently she was accused of being racist for calling her son the “N word” During her career, she has taken images from the Catholic Church and used them in perverse ways, uses sacred Hindu symbols of purity and chastity on herself, swears repeatedly during her guest appearance on David Letterman, simulates sex acts on stage and in videos and the list goes on. Madonna is as popular for what she does as she is a curiosity for who she will offend next.
9. Alice Cooper
Known as “The Godfather of Shock Rock,” Alice Cooper successfully combines elements of horror, vaudeville and rock music to create this unique look and sound. For five decades he developed his rock show as theater and in the industry he has helped shape the current look and sound of heavy metal. His live show is truly a ‘stage show’ in addition to a concert and features guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, boa constrictors, and baby dolls. Alice Cooper’s very goal is to shake up the audience.
Tough to describe and super controversial. This band epitomizes vulgarity, obscenity and tackles or attacks iconic pop culture all the while clad in outrageous costumes of “aliens.” They truly shook the world and we are saddened by the recent death of frontman, Dave Brockie, perhaps better known by his stage name, Oderus Urungus.
Known today as one of the “Big Four” of thrash metal acts (along with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax), Slayer is one of the most controversial of these bands due to the subjects it tackles through the music and imagery. Topics such as serial killers, Satanism, and anti-religion has not been popular through the years with the religious groups and the general public. Though the message may be controversial, the influence of Slayer on the thrash metal scene is unequaled. They have gained notoriety through some of the
bans and lawsuits brought about by the music. This same controversial music with its hardcore tempo and speed metal has been highly influential to other artists. Pantera, Slipknot, Lamb of God, System of a Down, and many more site Slayer as an influence musically, visually and lyrically.
6. Black Flag
Black Flag’s West Coast take on punk rock was drastically different from the Ramones in New York. While the Ramones were playing fast punk with friendly vocals, Black Flag was heavier and often slower. They drew from metal influences, favored dark lyrics, and are credited with launching hardcore punk. From the beginning, Black Flag promoted anti-conformism, anti-authoritarian messages and embodied a do-it-yourself method of music. They worked hard without the burden of a major record label dictating their course. Though they began in Hermosa Beach, CA, The Black Flag logo is probably the most recognized band emblem of punk rock. Frequently tattooed on fans throughout the decades, the band logo and band itself have become recognized as a symbol of the west coast punk movement even without band commercialization.
5. The Ramones
The definitive U.S. Punk Band. In 1974 these guys took the theme and tone of happy pop songs of the 50’s and 60’s and played them louder and harder. They wrote short, catchy, fast songs and developed a style that appealed to crowds then and now. The band members adopted a uniform look of long hair, leather jackets, T-shirts, torn jeans, and sneakers. This minimalist band fashion was a powerful influence on the New York punk scene of the 1970’s. Though they never achieved chart-topping commercial success, The Ramones performed over 2260 shows over the course of 22 years.
4. Michel Jackson
As a young star of the band, Jackson 5, then as a breakout solo artist, Michael Jackson literally got the world dancing. He not only crossed from his beginnings in the R&B genre but became The King of Pop. The ultimate performer combined dynamic vocals, meaningful lyrics with dynamic dance moves that truly started a trend. Michael’s voice came over the radio waves in hit after chart-topping hit, but his skill and total performance package were featured on the newly launched MTV. Michael’s music videos brought his signature dance moves (not to mention his fashion) into the homes of the world. It was not necessary to wait to see Michael live in concert, his talent was showcased through his music videos. Thriller was literally a short film and the dance featured has become a movement in itself. Though his musical influence was significant, Michael’s troubled personal life also dominated his presence in the media until his death.
For this band, timing was everything; the albumNevermind came right at the end of the era of hair metal when the generation was ready for a revolution in rock and roll. Nirvana, through this album, bought the sound of Seattle grunge rock to the public in a way no other band was able to replicate. Even Twenty years later, Nevermind is still popular, iconic, and as the lyrics of their song, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ claims, “Contagious.” The untimely and early death of lead singer, Kurt Kobain adds to the mystery, allure, and popularity of this band. Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl has also gone on to front the popular rock band, Foo Fighters, and remains in the limelight.
2. The Beatles
We would be remiss to leave off the iconic Beatles. There is no doubt that Beatlemania was a movement. Have you ever met a person who hasn’t heard of the Beatles? Love them or not, they were the band at the time who captured the media and the hearts of people worldwide. The Beatles defined pop culture of the sixties and were making their mark in a big way. Though their initial years of fame predate everyone on the By the Barricade Team, the Beatles are significant. During one week in 1964, they had 5 songs on the Billboard singles chart and have had more milestone successes of this magnitude during their career. Years after their chart-busting debut, their collection of number one songs released in 2000 entitled Onebecame the biggest selling album of the decade.
The last slot on this list of 10 is intentionally blank. Members of the By the Barricade team differed on who should make the cut and all had great justification for musicians and bands that had influence or controversy to shake things up. For a band to be memorable or significant they have done something unique and noteworthy. Who shook up your world? Share with other readers in the comment section below.
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