So I keep referring to my bands bucket list when I write about things I’ve been up to. Today I wanted to go back and explain what it is.
You are probably aware that a bucket list is usually something written by people of all ages to ensure that they get to do all the things they’ve dreamed of doing in life – all the things they want to do before they “kick the bucket,” to coin a term.
In my case, that would be my ever-dwindling 30-list and my currently being written 40-list, which are the things I want to do before I reach age 30 and age 40, respectively. It would probably not surprise you, then, to know that, when I was eighteen, I started this whole thing by writing a 20-list, a set of things I wanted to do before I turned 20.
The Bands Bucket List is very separate. My age-lists are really more a set of things I feel would be achievements, accomplishments, or that I have some control over. Things you can get with work and dedication. They are lists of things that are within my power to make happen, however unique the circumstances would need to be for the achievement to be made.
The reason I don’t include bands on my 30-list and 40-list is because anyone can buy a ticket and travel to a gig. Yes, some bands only tour in their homeland of Japan or The Faroe Islands, but by and large, live music is a capitalist, class dependent commodity (ooh er) that anyone with time and money can engage in. For that reason I don’t think it’s an achievement to see The Who or Lynyrd Skynyrd, in the same sense that it would be an achievement to climb a mountain or get a master’s degree. It would certainly be an achievement to play in a band, an honour that I have never been privy to (flutes tend to get stuck with orchestras rather than popular music bands, and ukuleles are the sonorous pariah unwanted in most ensembles), but seeing a band? I am responsible for quality control of my lists and I decided it would cheapen the accomplishment of a PhD or climbing Everest to liken them with going to Download Festival (sorry, Download, it’s not that I don’t think your wonderful, but you are very easy).
I did need to keep track of a large set of data though, to make it possible to organize, and as I was spending more and more time on the internet typing different band names into Google, I thought I needed a spreadsheet. I do love a good spreadsheet.
So I wrote them all down in alphabetical order, every band I could think of who, if their members died in a plane crash and they ceased to exist, I would feel like I’d missed out if I had neglected to attend them. I know I won’t see all of them, but I wanted to make a concerted effort to see as many as I could while I could.
The list doesn’t distinguish between bands who have been apart for 30 years and those who are still coherent, it does separate out individual artists who are known to currently have a solo career and also link them to the band they used to be in (so, for example, the entry for David Gilmour states “Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd” and Roger Waters’ entry is “Roger Waters/Pink Floyd”) ensuring that the musical genius that spawned the bands are placed to be seen even when they can’t be in the same room as one another. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are another example, where their entries are “Jimmy Page/Led Zeppelin” and “Robert Plant/Led Zeppelin” respectively. Either entry can be ticked off once the required people have been seen, so if I’d seen Jimmy Page, it would then be at my discretion whether I decided the performance was sufficient to tick off Led Zeppelin, or whether I also wanted to see Robert Plant first. I have ticked Guns n Roses off because I’ve seen Slash, and his performance with Myles Kennedy would be sufficient to tick off Guns n Roses (although GnR weren’t on my list) even though I haven’t seen Axl Rose and the band he’s put together when he kept the name Guns N Roses.
This list, and the ticking off part especially, has raised two very interesting dilemmas facing the modern music fan of older bands: To what extent does the name of the band matter if none of the original members survive, and what actually counts as having seen a band?
The naming question is difficult. So for example, there’s only one founder member of Lynyrd Skynyrd left in the band, but when I went to see them you could tell straight away that it didn’t matter. Trying to define a band as who they were when they first signed on the dotted line of that fateful first record deal in the 1960s is a constrained and counterproductive way of going about things. Take Pink Floyd again – guitarist Dave Gilmour wasn’t even in the original line-up, but for many people, he IS Pink Floyd, moreso than any other member. Likewise, I need to be cautious about letting too many things be defined as the correct band. It gets to a point where the only member of a band worth seeing is the drummer, and unless it’s Ringo Starr or Keith Moon, you might as well go and see a tribute band and tick off the real thing. It’s false. So somewhere between these two polarized opinions lies the way forward.
With The Who it was easy – the lead singer/guitarist and the lead guitarist are both still knocking around, the drummer is Ringo Starr’s son, and the bassist is an excellent session musician. Hearing them play, you can tell they’re the real deal not some tribute band which have learned their songs meticulously to the letter and never deviate from the script. They had the spark of Who-ness that made them Who-lesome. I make no apologies for the wordplay. Not all wordplay is a pun.
With Guns N Roses it would have been harder, since Axl kept the band name but is the only remaining member. Seeing Slash play was such a jaw-droppingly stirring experience that I decided there was no way any replacement guitarist could ever possibly outdo him, unless Axl had hired Hendrix or Jimmy Page (which he hasn’t, which is a good job because Hendrix is dead and in either case, they’d want to play like themselves so you’d not get the same result). It’s all a matter of style and substance. Tribute bands and lesser replacement musicians can copy the style but have no substance. Replacement musicians who are greater than the original will have substance but a differing style. It takes a rare genius to walk the line between these two and still come out on top. So I ticked off Guns N Roses.
The second dilemma is also one that I could spend years obsessing over if I wanted to: How much of a band counts as “having seen” a band. Here are my criteria:
1. It has to be live.
2. I had to be close enough to see and hear the band, not just watch the video screen, because that defeats the point.
3. I have to have heard the actual band play at least one full song.
4. Televised appearances are lovely, but there is so much loss of quality and atmosphere that they can’t possibly count, and the same goes for Youtube and other ways of seeing them. For example, I watched the Pink Floyd Live 8 performance live on the BBC as it happened less than 20 miles from where I was sat (2 days after my mother had tried to kill me resulting in my being removed and never returning home, and 5 days before the 7/7 bombings), but it doesn’t count as having seen them, even though it had a profound and evelasting impact on the course of my life after that moment and probably stopped me killing myself. That bit where they played “Wish You Were Here” and dedicated it to Syd had me in tears.
5. It doesn’t matter what they play: If I wanted to hear a specific song I could buy and listen to the proper recording studio version. That’s not what I’m looking for in my quest to see these bands.
Then there’s the single criterion for removal from the list: If there are no living members of a band or if a solo artist dies, they are taken off the list. Here is the list so far, there are currently 60 entries, and things are always being added:
For planning purposes, only the bands in white/orange matter: The ones in pale grey are supposed to be ones who are just not touring at all, so they’re discounted from planning purposes (but breakups/reunions etc are so fickle that I don’t exclude reunion tours until the last member has kicked the bucket). The ones in dark grey are ones I’ve now seen. The ones in lime green are currently not attainable due to either dates, cost, or some other factor of sheer preposterous awkwardness that makes them unachievable such as announcing on the day of sale, selling out in 10 minutes and placing ridiculous resale criteria on the tickets, that only means that WHEN the tickets are resold, they’re triple the price they would have been so the resellers make even more money. The ones in lime green are generally ones I’ve written off for this year.
So that’s my bands bucket list. What do you think? Who would be on yours?