Something Similar to Alan Parsons Project (Pt. 3)

In addition to what Dad posted, here are some albums I think are similar to the Alan Parsons Project’s I Robot.

1. Jean Michel Jarre, Oxygene. Oxygene, released in 1976, is more electronic and less rock than I Robot, and it’s not exactly a concept album, but it has a similar sound and sensibility.

2. and 3. Pink Floyd, Animals and The Wall. Pretty much any Pink Floyd album from the 1970s is as close to Alan Parsons as you can get. In fact, Alan Parsons was an engineer for Dark Side of the Moon, so he probably influenced the sound for that album and was influenced by Pink Floyd’s sound. Like I Robot, both Animals and The Wall were concept albums and were also sort of funky.

4. The Who, Tommy. Tommy‘s sound is different than I Robot‘s because it was made in the late 1960s, but both are concept albums about an anguished protagonist and both have lots of good songs.

5. The Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food. This isn’t a concept album, but it reminds me of I Robot because it, also, seems to be a mix of new wave, electronic, classic rock, funk and disco. Actually, pretty much anything by the Talking Heads in the late 70s would qualify.

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Tragedy On The Ohio River

Thirty years ago, 11 people were killed trying to watch The Who perform in concert in Cincinnati.  The 11 were among 18,000 people with tickets to the event, and they were crushed, trampled, or suffocated in the concertgoers’ mad rush to claim the best seats for a performance by one of the premier rock bands of all time.  Amazingly, the concert promoters did not sell tickets with assigned seat numbers.  It was first come, first served for seats, and the crush of people trying to sit up close led to one of the worst concert disasters in American music history.

The Who concert tragedy occurred when I was in college, in the prime of my rock concert attendance days.  It was one of those events that shook your world view and made you pause for a moment.  I’ve never had a problem being in a big crowd, and I’ve felt the awesomely powerful surge as a mass of people move forward in unison.  It’s a real adrenalin rush.  The Who concert deaths made me realize that if I fell or was pressed against the wall, the crowd would not stop or falter — and then, being young, I went ahead and attended the concert or sporting event anyway.

My guess is that most young people have never heard of the deaths at Riverfront Colisseum.  As I have aged, however, my perspective on the tragedy has changed.  I feel I know how the parents of the young people who died must have felt as they watched their teenager or college student leave that evening for a fun night at a music show — and then later found out that their sons and daughters had died senselessly and needlessly.  Those are the kinds of stories that make every parent feel sick, and sad, and hopeful that they never have to receive such horrific news.

The facility is no longer called Riverfront Colisseum.   There is nothing to commemorate the event at that location, and Cincinnati no doubt would prefer to forget a tragic event that is seen as a civic black eye.  As the linked article indicates, however, some of the survivors of the dead are trying to place a memorial at the location.  It seems appropriate.

American artists, British bands

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry

There are eight Americans and two Brits in the top ten of Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest artists of all time

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

(not a definitive list, but useful for illustrating my point). What’s strange is that all the Americans entries are individuals, while the British entries are for bands. Going down the list, it’s pretty much the same, with a few exceptions. Marvin Gaye, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison for the Americans, the Clash and the Who for the British.

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra

Elvis

Elvis

It’s not a fluke. Anyone who’s listened to pop music from the past fifty years has probably noticed that America’s best contributions come in the forms of individuals, while British ones come in the form of bands. None of the “best American bands” we’ve discussed so far are as influential, in my opinion, as Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson. Many of America’s best bands have been dominated by a single member – Nirvana by Kurt Cobain, the Beach Boys by Brian Wilson, the Doors by Jim Morrison – while Britain’s best bands traditionally derive their brilliance from collaboration (or compromise) – the Beatles from Lennon and McCartney, the Rolling Stones from Jagger and Richards, etc.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

The “American artists, British bands” rule applies too consistently to be dismissed as coincidence. Why is it this way?

Maybe it has something to do with America’s culture of individualism. The republican ideal of a man free to work to improve his own life has, perhaps, helped create the image of the American singer-songwriter

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

who blazes his own path through music. This explanation strikes me as too idealistic, however.

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen

It could have something to do with America’s celebrity culture. Americans love creating personas for public figures. Maybe individual artists, with songs reflecting their own personality and values, resonate more with the American people. With more popularity, they are more likely to have successful careers that allow them more creativity. In fact, nearly all the great American musicians have personas like this. Sinatra was classy, Elvis wild but respectful, Springsteen working-class, Madonna sexual, etc. We even give them nicknames like “the Boss” and “the King.”

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson

Prince

Prince

Another likely explanation is that, for whatever reason, America started a tradition of successful singer-songwriters that musicians imitated throughout the years. The great musicians whose pictures are in this post might have been following the model set by Chuck Berry and Little Richard, jazz greats like Miles Davis, or country legends like Woody Guthrie. In Britain, aspiring musicians would be more likely to follow the example of their country’s legends, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Jay-Z

Jay-Z

In the past thirty years rap has dominated American popular music. More than any other genre, rap is all about individualism. I wonder if this is continuing the same tradition. After all, rappers do tend to have well-known personas (usually involving a huge ego).

Edited to add: Time to Vote for your choice for Best American Band!

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake