Best Decade Debate

“Which was the most important decade for Rock And Roll?”  This question was posed to me the other day and it kind of baked my noodle, got me thinking, you know?

Let’s just take a few minutes and see if we can come up with an answer to that question.

It would take too much time and effort to list all of the historically relevant and important albums that were released each decade, so I thought I’d just list the bands that released their debut album during each 10 year cycle, and leave it at that. Most bands released their undisputed “masterpieces” during the decade of their inception anyway, so in my opinion the logic is sound enough.

1950’s
Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Miles Davis.

Although most artists released singles and not proper albums (most were compilations) back in the 1950’s, each of these mentioned artists were formidable talents and were extremely influential. But, as far as numbers go, this decade was lacking.

1960’s
The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, James Brown, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, The Who, Leonard Cohen, The Kinks, Frank Zappa, Simon and Garfunkel, The Yardbirds, Buffalo Springfield, Love, Moby Grape, Cream, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Velvet Underground, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, CCR, Grateful Dead, Big Brother And The Holding Company, The Small Faces, The Band, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Crosby Stills Nash, Flying Burrito Brothers (Gram Parsons), Nick Drake, Led Zeppelin, MC5, The Stooges, The Temptations, Santana, Strevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, Sly And The Family Stone.

From folk to psycedelia to hard rock, this decade seemed to have it all. As a matter of fact this decade seemed to start it all, too.  I think it’s safe to say that  the ‘60’s enjoyed the greatest ‘burst’ of creativity out of all the decades, but did it release the best music? Read on…

1970’s
Black Sabbath, John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney’s solo stuff, Soft Machine, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, Jim Croce, Jethro Tull, Marvin Gaye, The Bee Gees, YES, Carole King, Isaac Hayes, The Allman Brothers, Elton John, John Prine, Funkadelic/ Parliament, Flamin’ Groovies, T-Rex, David Bowie, Randy Newman, Big Star, Steely Dan, Lou Reed solo stuff, Iggy Pop, The Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Paul Simon solo stuff, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, WAR, Bob Marley, The Clash, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Genesis, ZZ Top, New York Dolls, The Stranglers, Kraftwerk, Queen, Supertramp, 10CC, NEU!, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Tom Petty, The Modern Lovers, KISS, RUSH, Billy Joel, ELO, Wire, Talking Heads, Blondie, Television, The Jam, Buzzcocks, Van Halen, The Cars, Dire Straits, The Police, AC/DC, The B-52,s, Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Cheap Trick, The Specials, Motorhead, Nick Lowe.

The ‘70’s were a little self indulgent, but loaded with great musicianship and flamboyant showmanship! When folks talk about ‘Classic Riock’ they are usually referring to the ‘70’s. A lot of soft rock dreck that is currently en vogue once again (Dawes, Fleet Foxes, etc.), but a LOT of really great records. The age of the album.

1980’s
Adam Ant, Cramps, Dead Kennedys, The Cure, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, Simple Minds, Killing Joke, New Order, English Beat, The Pretenders, OMD, Psychedelic Furs, Black Flag, Bauhaus, ABC, Madness, Orange Juice, Violent Femmes, R.E.M., The The, The Blue Nile, U2, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Replacements, Lloyd Cole, Tears For Fears, The Fall, Mekons, The Pogues, Kate Bush, Jesus And Mary Chain, Beastie Boys, Metallica, Talk Talk, Billy Bragg, Sonic Youth, Bad Brains, XTC, Dinosaur Jr., The Cult, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Sisters Of Mercy, Guns ‘n’Roses, Butthole Surfers, Husker Du, Waterboys, Fishbone, Mudhoney, Pop Will Eat Itself, Happy Mondays, Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, American Music Club, Janes Addiction, Public Enemy, Faith No More, Madonna, INXS, The Stone Roses, Primal Scream, Fugazi, N.W.A, Art Of Noise, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, The Flaming Lips, Nick Cave, Housemartins, Love and Rockets, Prefab Sprout, Renegade Soundwave, Stephen Duffy.

The 1980’s were/are unfairly dismissed as a rotten wasteland for music. How can you say that about a decade that birthed the Smiths? Since I grew up in the ‘80’s it remains my sentimental favorite, but was it the best?

1990’s
The Shamen, The LA’s, The Black Crowes, Ride, Nirvana, Ice-T, Pearl Jam, The KLF, Massive Attack, Teenage Fan club, Pavement, Morrissey solo stuff, Rage Against The Machine, Lemonheads, Spiritualized, Alice In Chains, Suede, Blur, Oasis, Paul Weller solo stuff, Smashing Pumpkins, Grant Lee Buffalo, Jamiroquai, Bjork, The Orb, Boo Radleys, Sebadoh, Portishead, Jeff Buckley, Nine Inch Nails, Chemical Brothers, Green Day, Prodigy, Foo Fighters, Supergrass, Radiohead, The Verve, Leftfield, Super Furry Animals, Stereolab, Beck, Belle and Sebastian, Wilco, Eels, Son Volt, The Charlatans, Underworld, Daft Punk, Mercury Rev, Queens Of The Sone Age, AIR, Lambchop White Stripes, Kings Of Leon, The Beta Band, Ben Folds Five, Of Montreal, Grandaddy.

Starting to slow down a notch or two on the creativity, but the 90’s still produced some excellent bands, and some interesting ‘movemenents’. If I was judging this based on great albums the ‘90’s would win by a landslide.

2000’s
Ryan Adams, Goldfrapp, M Ward, Gorillaz, The Strokes, Gotan Project, Royksopp, Doves, The Hives, The Vines, Carbon/ Silicon, Iron and Wine, Mars Volta, Scissor Sisters, Arcade Fire, Franz Ferdinand, N.E.R.D., The Libertines, The Streets, A3, Aqueduct, Arctic Monkees, Band Of Horses, Broken Social Scene, The Clientelle, The Go Team, Trans Am, Golden Bear, Great Lake Swimmers, Handsome Furs, Hot Chip, Jack Johnson, Kasabian, LCD Soundsystem, Caribou, Midlake, Muse, My Morning Jacket, The National, New Pornographers, Panda Bear, Rooney, Secret Machines, Black Mountain, Shout Out Louds, Stars, Willowz.

The ‘00’s saw a resurgence of sorts with many excellent, talented bands who have yet to reach their full potential. Only time will tell.

So let me ask you again: “Which was the best decade for Rock And Roll?”

I think the answer is, “It depends who you ask.” After looking at this list again, I gotta tell ya, I haven’t a clue. Whatever was playing when you were growing up is bound to be your favorite decade for music, I think. It’s when you’re at your most susceptible and when you’re forging those lifelong friendships through the mutual appreciation of alcohol, girls/ boys and…music.

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