Where to start with 9 legendary bands and artists
Listening to a legendary artist for the first time is daunting. Most of them have huge back catalogues, some of which are total duds. Where do you start?
Here are our recommendations for 9 legendary bands and artists. Share your recommendations in the comments!
Queen – Greatest Hits
Oh yeah, we’re going there.
There are many, many great tracks on Queen’s albums, but there’s no doubt that they saved their best work for their singles. If an alien landed on Earth and asked what all this fuss is about a bloke with a ‘tache and his curly haired mates, this is the album you’d give them. It’s back-to-back classics, from Bohemian Rhapsody to We Are The Champions.
The Smiths – The Queen is Dead
Even though Morrissey and Johnny Marr think Strangeways, Here We Come is the best Smiths album, we disagree.
The Queen is Dead captures all the best parts of the Mancunian miserablists, from the rock of Bigmouth Strikes Again and the bittersweet romanticism of There is a Light That Never Goes Out to the bleak I Know It’s Over and the jaunty Vicar in a Tutu.
Despite The Smiths reputation for being dour, The Queen is Dead sees Morrissey on fine form with his trademark wit.
David Bowie – Best of Bowie
Oh dear, another compilation.
To be fair, getting started with Bowie is difficult because he spanned so many different genres of music. Ziggy Stardust may be his most ‘accessible’ album but it doesn’t have much in common with Station to Station or the Berlin Trilogy.
So, we reckon the best approach is to pick this up and decide which albums to explore based on the songs you enjoy.
It’s not perfect admittedly: the Berlin Trilogy is afforded a measly 3 songs at the start of Disc 2, while Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust get 3 tracks each, but it’s the easiest way to explore most of the sounds of Bowie’s career.
The Doors – The Doors
Although People are Strange is arguably the better album, there’s no doubt The Doors is an easier listen. It features many of the band’s best known hits, including Break on Through (to the Other Side), The Crystal Ship, Light My Fire and The End, and is a perfect encapsulation of the band’s mix of blues and psychedelia.
The Beatles – Revolver
1 is the best starting point for a complete beginner to The Beatles but to be honest, no-one is a complete beginner – even if they don’t realise it. You’ve heard most of the songs on 1, even if it’s just subconsciously.
Revolver is a great place to start not just because it captures The Beatles towards the start of their more psychedelic period, but because it’s one of the greatest rock albums of all time. Taxman, Eleanor Rigby and the ultra-trippy Tomorrow Never Knows make this worth a listen alone.
The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed
40 Licks, the Stones’ greatest hits album, is a decent enough place to start but those looking for something beyond the hits should check out Let It Bleed. It’s bookended by two absolute classics in Gimme Shelter and You Can’t Always Get What You Want, with 7 hard-rocking bangers sandwiched in between.
Fun fact: the cake on the cover of Let It Bleed was prepared by none other than TV royalty Delia Smith.
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
There’s no real easy place to start with Pink Floyd. Their ambitious, sprawling prog epics require full attention and should be listened to in full rather than on a song-by-song basis. If we had to pick one, though, we’d go with Dark Side of the Moon.
Not only does it feature ‘hits’ (in the loosest sense of the term) Money and Time, but the structure of the album and the song lengths are easier for a non-prog fan to digest.
U2 – The Joshua Tree
U2 get a lot of stick these days, so it’s easy to forget that they’ve turned out quite a few great albums.
The Joshua Tree is possibly the best of them all and is the obvious place for a U2 newcomer to begin. If you don’t like the opening three tracks – Where The Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For and With or Without You – it’s not worth bothering with the rest of their back catalogue.
Radiohead – OK Computer
Like many of the bands in this post, Radiohead’s back catalogue can be roughly divided into distinct ‘periods’: the first two albums are straightforward guitar rock, while Kid A and Amnesiac are experimental. Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows return to their rock roots with some experimentation thrown in for good measure (In Rainbows is arguably their best album too).
The bridge between them all though is OK Computer, an experimental rock record that overflows with paranoia and angst. It features enough singalong anthems to keep fans of traditional rock happy while also hinting at the experimentation to come. Just check out Paranoid Android!