We ran a rather lighthearted feature earlier this week about endearingly silly hair metal bands, one of which was the enduringly awesome Hanoi Rocks. At the time, we noted that despite inspiring many of the bands who’d rule the Sunset Strip in the 1980s, Hanoi Rocks had already broken up by the time hair metal went global. This got us thinking about how often this pattern has been repeated over the years — it’s not always the bands who are the first to play a new sound who enjoy that sound’s success. And in a happy coincidence, there’s a new album by one such band — Seattle proto-grunge pioneers Melvins — out this week, so it seems a fine time to explore the idea further.
Influenced: Nirvana (and grunge in general)
Kurt Cobain’s quote about Nirvana trying to rip off the Pixies with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has been done to death over the years, but if there’s any band who can really be cited as an influence on Nirvana’s early years, it’s the Melvins, who formed in 1983 and were hugely influential on the many northwestern bands who’d eventually become household names around the world. True story: Cobain used to be a Melvins roadie.
OK, Oasis probably aren’t anyone’s favorite band in 2012, but still, it’s interesting to trace their evolution back to a previous generation of Manchester bands. The Stone Roses are an obvious influence, but really, it all starts with the now largely forgotten Inspiral Carpets. As with Cobain, there’s a roadie connection here — Noel Gallagher was their roadie in the late ’80s, and when they turned him down when he auditioned to be their frontman, obviously decided he’d be better off starting his own band.
Influenced: Sonic Youth
There’s a fascinating quote from avant garde manly man Branca in David Browne’s Sonic Youth book Goodbye 20th Century. “Sonic Youth gave [people] what I had, but sugarcoated it,” he says of the band’s early days, while Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo were still playing in his electric guitar orchestra. “They knew I’d come up with all these incredibly cool sounds that could be used in the context of a rock song. At the time I wasn’t going to do that.” Branca isn’t sniping at Sonic Youth — “I loved their candy-coated version of my music,” he later tells Browne — but we can’t help but detect perhaps just the tiniest hint of a cutting edge in that quote.
Influenced: electronic music, generally
The early days of electronic music are a fascinating subject, and you could choose any number of electronic pioneers for this slot. But while early luminaries worked with the music as an austere, classical exercise (Karlheinz Stockhausen, for instance) or for soundtracking purposes (the BBC Radiophonic Workshop), Simeon and Danny Taylor were incorporating early oscillators and homemade proto-synthesizers into psychedelic rock. In doing so, they created the idea of electronic music as pop music, paving the way for a whole galaxy of sounds in the decades to come.
Influenced: every falsetto-singing wetbag out there, sadly
Years ago, Mojo ran a feature about Led Zeppelin that led with the tagline, “Responsible for heavy metal, but not to blame.” You could say the same thing about Jeff Buckley and the wave of “sensitive” stadium bilge that washed over the music industry throughout the 2000s — his influence can be felt in everyone from mega-successful bands like Coldplay to also-rans like Keane, Starsailor (who took their name from an album by Jeff’s father Tim), Snow Patrol, Athlete, etc etc. None of this makes Grace any less great, but it’s a bad business nonetheless.
You’d never believe it if you didn’t know it was true, but Tupac Shakur really was in Digital Underground early in his career, performing mainly as a dancer and roadie, but occasionally working the mic, too. And yes, there is footage of him performing with the group — annoyingly, we can’t embed this video, but if you’ve ever wanted to see Tupac do the Humpty Dance, then click right here (that’s him in the red).
The Birthday Party
Influenced: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Karen O is the star of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs show, but it’s Nick Zinner’s remarkable guitar playing that really creates the band’s sound. Zinner’s touchstones are many and varied, but as you can see from the clip above, he’s pretty open about who his biggest influence was: The Birthday Party’s Rowland S. Howard. When you think about it, you can certainly see the similarities — two guitarists with hugely recognizable styles, who created a sound big enough to fill out an entire band on their own. Touchingly, the band dedicated a song to Howard at their Melbourne show after hearing of his death — he was due to be their support act but pulled out due to ill health.
Influenced: Franz Ferdinand
Longtime readers may recall us discussing the Franz/Orange Juice connection a while back, but there are few more direct lines of influence to be drawn in music than that between Alex Kapranos et al and their fellow Glaswegians and post-punk pioneers Orange Juice. To their credit, Franz Ferdinand have always been pretty open about their influences, and to theirs Orange Juice have been admirably gracious about the fact that it was another band who made a fortune out of a sound that they basically invented.
There must be something with post-punk acolytes and paying very explicit “homage” to their influences, because Elastica’s “Connection” sounded very, very much like Wire’s “Three Girl Rhumba” (above). Wire weren’t as magnanimous about the whole thing as Orange Juice, though — they sued Elastica, eventually settling out of court for an undisclosed sum.
The Velvet Underground
It was apparently Brian Eno who made the observation that The Velvet Underground and Nico barely sold any copies, but everyone who did buy it started a band. This has become one of the great music industry truisms over the years — but y’know what, there’s more than a little truth in it.