Liquor Giants

After playing mutant swamp-blues-rockabilly guitar with the Gun Club in the early ’80s, Ward Dotson embarked on a less contrived musical course as guitarist, main writer and de facto leader of the Pontiac Brothers, a quartet of unlikely heroes whose Stonesy tunes — even their record company described the Orange County, California band as Stones-influenced,…

Devo

When the new wave floodgates opened in the mid-’70s, all sorts of strange things flowed out. From Akron, Ohio came five neurotic overachievers (the Mothersbaugh and Casale brothers on guitars and bass, plus drummer Alan Myers) armed with an ambitious and effective robotic sound, and a carefully contrived (but intentionally inarticulate) theory about the de-evolutionary…

Stooges

Noble philosopher and drooling idiot, transcendent shaman and earthbound sucker, Iggy Pop is in many ways the ultimate embodiment of rock’n’roll. While a similar claim can be made for artists from the Stones to the Clash to the Ramones to Half Japanese, the beast born James Jewel Osterberg is a walking, talking one-man melodrama, reflecting…

Zantees

As proprietors of the reliably terrific Norton label (home of Hasil Adkins and countless Link Wray reissues) and the estimable if infrequent Kicks fanzine, Brooklyn’s Billy Miller and (onetime Cramps skin-beater) Miriam Linna have built their deep-rooted affinity for trashy, primitive rock’n’roll and R&B into a mini-empire. As frontman and drummer, respectively, of New York’s…

Rockpile

Rockpile, the top-rank rock’n’roll group Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds formed in the late ’70s, played on solo records by both men and backed each on tours. A year before breaking up, the quartet — which also included drummer Terry Williams and guitarist Billy Bremner — had its sole moment in the vinyl spotlight and…

Ramones

Although it took the Ramones 20 years to decide they’d had enough — the band retired after doing Lollapalooza as a farewell tour in 1996 — the group will eternally have the legacy of the first three albums of a prolific and frequently great career. The undisputed punk-pop classics that form the group’s must-own triptych…

Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground marked a turning point in rock history. After the release of The Velvet Underground & Nico, knowing the power of which it was capable, the music could never be as innocent, as unselfconscious as before. The band’s first album may have come on a bit cute with its Andy Warhol-designed banana cover…

Lounge Lizards

Despite some interesting personnel in their initial lineup and a memorable debut album, New York’s Lounge Lizards will never be remembered as anything more than an interesting footnote in rock’s history. This has less to do with the “fake jazz” label they took for themselves than with the purely social nature of their rock connection:…

Joe "King" Carrasco and El Molino

Austin’s Joe “King” Carrasco (né Teutsch) grew up in the Lone Star state under the spell of Tex-Mex border music. El Molino, his first band, straddled this tradition (with horns and marimba) and rock (with Doug Sahm’s keyboard player, Augie Meyers, and songs like “Rock Esta Noche”). El Molino’s only album (reissued a decade later…

Fingerprintz

It’s difficult to categorize Fingerprintz, which may explain why the group never garnered a large following. The primitively recorded first album occupies a dark, throbbing zone of bobbing pop and wry-to-bizarre lyrics (“Punchy Judy,” “Beam Me Up Scotty”). Leader/guitarist Jimme O’Neill’s Scottish accent and offbeat songwriting combine to chilling effect on the crime-obsessed narratives “Fingerprince”…

Public Image Ltd.

The Sex Pistols were a tough act to follow, even for Johnny Rotten. After that band’s entropic dissolution, Rotten reclaimed his civilian surname, Lydon, and started Public Image Ltd., supposedly more a way of life than a mere band, “rock” or otherwise. The first of PiL’s many lineups featured Keith Levene (guitar), Jah Wobble (bass)…

B-52’s

Just when new wave seemed to be bottoming out, along came Athens, Georgia’s B-52’s to rev it back up again, with distinctive junk-store ’60s visuals (Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson’s bouffant wigs — “B-52’s” in Southern regional slang) and stark, highly danceable songs with appropriately surreal kitsch lyrics. The B-52’s’ wacky sense of humor made…

Tom Tom Club

Formed as a lighthearted family side project to Talking Heads by the band’s rhythm section — bassist Tina Weymouth and her husband, drummer Chris Frantz — the beat-happening Tom Tom Club got off to a great start with the debut album, which contains two irresistibly infectious dance tracks, “Wordy Rappinghood” and “Genius of Love.” Weymouth…

MC5

Formed in and around John Sinclair’s White Panther Party, the Motor City 5’s enduring relevance lies less in the Detroit quintet’s music (the in-concert Kick Out the Jams sounds closer to early-’70s heavy metal than anything else) and more in the political attitudes behind that music; “Kick Out the Jams” and “Motor City Is Burning”…

Maureen (Moe) Tucker

Unlike her more accomplished and ambitious fellow pioneers in the Velvet Underground, drummer Maureen (Moe) Tucker never became an international rock star or a distinguished new music composer. But neither did she go quietly into the history books. Instead, after a decade-long parenting hiatus, the New Jersey native launched a solo career founded on pretty…

Hasil Adkins

Granted that rockabilly is a musical form with few rules, Hasil Adkins still comes on like a crazed lunatic; by comparison, Gene Vincent resembles Herbert von Karajan. Then again, West Virginian Adkins has rarely played by the rules. His recordings — the bulk of them dating from the late ’50s/early ’60s — are homemade one-man-band…

Stray Cats

Disenchanted with modern new wave, Brian Setzer bagged his trendy New York group, the Bloodless Pharaohs (documented with two songs on the New York-centric 2 X 5 compilation), to form a rockabilly trio and abandon Long Island for London. There, the Stray Cats wowed ’em with exotic American appeal, spearheading a rockabilly revival that naturally…

Robert Gordon with Link Wray

Singer Robert Gordon made one of the sharpest volte-faces in musical memory when he left New York pseudo-punkers Tuff Darts to reappear as a freeze-dried ’50s rocker, complete with sideburns, pompadour, a songbook of Sun Records oldies and authentic guitar icon Link Wray in tow. Superficial trappings aside, Gordon’s strongest asset is his magnificent voice…

Nico

A fashion model and bit player in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, German native Christa Paffgen was dubbed Nico and plunged into the maelstrom of rock when Andy Warhol introduced her to the Velvet Underground, which she then joined as its femme fatale singer. Chelsea Girl, her maiden voyage on a solo musical career, is of…

Bow Wow Wow

Bow Wow Wow may have been easily dismissed by some as rock entrepreneur Malcolm McLaren’s cynical creation, but the band deserved better. Combining musicians lured away from Adam and the Ants (with whom McLaren had briefly worked) with 15-year-old singer Annabella Lwin, the ever-provocative McLaren formed the band, launching their career via a 45, “C-30,…