The X, Y, And Z’s of Rock – Top 100

sir-rocknuts-500Finally. Our trip through the alphabet of the “100 Best” has reached an end. This is the last of the commentary on the nearly-famous Rocknuts Top 100 list. Unfazed by feedback (and overwhelmed by the three-four positive reviews…), Sir Rocknuts meanders over the finish line with the quest to publish his shallow and cursory comments on each of the artists in the top 100 list plus the “also-rans”; now dealing in the letters X and Y and Z. Check here for the whole list of the hundred top artists or groups plus twenty-nine “runners up” (could have gone either way) plus another hundred or so rock musicians that “the mainstream would consider” or “artists not fully appreciated”.

Again, the list is alphabetical and not in some sort of order from best to worst. Each “Top 100” qualifier has at least two songs to which you can link that demonstrates a sampling of their wares and each of the runners-up has one song. Some get a lot more discussion than others and we can’t really always explain why.

We started at the very beginning – with commentary on A through W already out there in the universe somewhere. Now, let’s go on from there and see the prose and the cons of X’s and Y’s and Z’s….

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Others the mainstream would consider: X – LA’s original punkers, introducing us to the raw celebrity talents of John Doe and Exene Cervenka and their unusual harmonies; produced and aided by Ray Manzarek of The Doors…XTC – Most of their career was as a studio band of “advanced” new wave music penned by Andy Partridge to their own eager niche of fans…

Artists not fully appreciated: None


97. Yes

(1968 – depends on who you talk to) Yes took their highly polished art rock sounds and added cosmic lyrics and meandering melodies to become one of the premier prog groups of their time (mostly the 1970’s). For some (like me), the inclusion of Rick Wakeman on keyboards became their signature sound although Steve Howe’s brilliant guitar pieces were certainly, uh, noteworthy. The Roger Dean album covers were as big a part of the group for many years as the music those albums contained. Twenty-one of the albums later, many band changes (they had as many as eight playing live at one point) and sounding like a tribute band of itself, the original fabulist sounds and lyrics don’t imbue new fans with the excitement of the original band…

98. Neil Young


(1966 – ) Young is in the pantheon of the greatest singers/players/composers of all time, up there with Dylan and Lennon and McCartney and the rare-air pantheon. He has played almost every style of rock (country and metal and noise and synth-pop and some genres that defy easy description…) and done each as well as any other. The fountain of creativity continues to flow with great live stuff and new tunes that often seem endless as he jams on, oblivious to musical conventions and arbitrary borders. He started as an electric folk guy, penned a batch of hits for Buffalo Springfield, hit superstardom through his intermittent bandings together with Crosby Stills and Nash and became justifiably bigger yet on his own. Great reedy high vocals, bizarrely satisfying lead guitar and folky piano are all signature sounds of the Young musical juggernaut. He is a wanderer, never satisfied and his musical idiosyncrasies (with and without Crazy Horse, his “house band”…) left the rest of us more sated than him, it seems.



(1963-1968) More famous for having Eric Clapton then Jeff Beck and then Jimmy Page as their successive lead guitarists, the group should also rightfully be known for Keith Relf’s terrific 1960’s vocals and songs. The Yardbirds originally started with big hits from covers (“For Your Love” caused Clapton to leave to go back to the blues…) that also included “The Train Kept A-Rollin” and “Heart Full of Soul”. They then composed their own paean to psychedilia that ushered in an era: “Shapes of Things”, which ironically also ushered in the era of Jeff Beck solo-ing and Jimmy Page going on to form Led Zeppelin. Pretty good pedigree, in all. The Yardbirds were forerunners of paramount musical forms (including the long instrumental jams) of the sixties…

Others the mainstream would consider: None

Artists not fully appreciated: Yo La Tengo – They started as music critics and then became critics’ darlings as musicians, following their indie interpretation of the Velvet Underground vibe and whatever pop music they decided to reinterpret. The husband/wife team of Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley has an encyclopedic musical background and gets off on performing pop-up concerts of entire albums of other groups’ material. Their own stuff tends to be indie and a little derivative (Soft Boys, Kinks, etc.) but always with a Yo La Tengo flair…


99. Warren Zevon

(1969-2003) Zevon blessed us with great rock and pop with his world-weary irony and a bent sense of humor. He wrote songs for many others before he established his own live and recording presence; that included The Turtles, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and etcetera. He then went on a rampage of success and lived the “hard” rocker’s life which led to the typical issues of rehab, reformation and an early death. But before his ride was here, Zevon bestowed upon his fans a waterfall of great original tunes and original ways of playing that tune-age live. He loved to sing about his hometown (LA) and to show a sensitive poetic side. One critic summed him up with: “Few of rock & roll’s great misanthropes were as talented, as charming, or as committed to their cynicism as Warren Zevon.” The fact that he could put those great wry thoughts into such catchy tunes is something that will certainly be missed…

100. Zombies (Rod Argent)

(1961 – 1968; 1969 – ) The Zombies were far greater than the minimal adulation they received in their time and Rod Argent was one of the original masters of his instrument (keyboards). Argent wrote the big hits (“She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No”) and added a jazzy vibe with organ and electric piano (Mellotron) that was unique in the day – the early 60’s. He went on to form the group (Argent) which had later success and a harder rock sound (“Hold Your Head Up” and “God Gave Rock and Roll To You”) that was more progressive than his early stuff. He was his own British invasion, one that got heavier as it went.


Frank Zappa

(1966-1992) The mother of all eccentric rock, along with Captain Beefheart, who – amazingly – went to high school with Frank. Zappa was a prodigal talent who could conduct an orchestra or write songs like “We’re Only In It For the Money” and “Uncle Meat”. A little irreverent (!), he was also a purist who liked to dabble in record engineering production and film direction on an equally large ambitious scale. Frank lost a few of us when he veered off into jazz rock and then purely classical music, conducting his own orchestras with original compositions. His early highly satirical and “hybrid rock” style left some gasping for breath but the schtick was enormously musical and creative. Zappa died young leaving a massive archive of songs and compositions.

Others the mainstream would consider: ZZ Top – The ultimate juggernaut of boogie blues and roots rock, no one seemed to have more fun playing music than ZZ Top unless it was their fans listening to it. Billy Gibbons and the band have been together now for forty years in a visual musical feast that seems perfectly built for music videos, an idiom in which they excelled.

Artists not fully appreciated: None

Photo credit: “Neil Young 2008 Firenze 02” by Andrea BarsantiSpirit Road. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Acknowledgments and some outright thefts: When I tired of using hackneyed expressions and all-too-similar sentiments, I raided the following for their phrases and comments: “Yeah Yeah Yeah” by Bob Stanley, “Music: What Happened?” by Scott Miller, the” 2001 Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll” edited by Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski as well as copious liner notes from vinyl albums and CD’s, going-where-I-was kicked on Wikipedia and the way-excellent comprehensive music site…

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