The Top Ten: Best Five-Year Band Runs In Music History

One of the best things about Pop Culture is that it is a petri dish for arguments. Athletes, politicians, movie stars… all of their value is pretty much in the eye of the beholder.

However, nothing normally grows more heated than evaluations of a musician’s legacy (mostly because arguments like that are the purview of pasty-faced men with too much time on their hands). How should you balance the lowlights with the highlights? Does a long, sad ending on the nostalgia circuit sully what came before (be careful, Bono and The Edge)? Is it better to burn out like the Sex Pistols or fade away like R.E.M.?

No matter where you stand on a band’s preferred life-span (me: as short as possible; The Dilemma: until he’s at least twice bought concert tickets for triple digits), the fact is that the bulk of a band’s prime music almost always comes over a small period of time. Solo performers are different… artists like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan can have peaks and valleys over decades. But the chemistry and cooperation needed to make a band function at its peak is invariably short-lived.

In order to test this theory, and to come up with another fun list, let’s take a look at the best five-year stretches for rock bands.

1.) The Beatles – 1965-1969
Rubber Soul
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles
Yellow Submarine
Abbey Road
Good Albums Outside That Run: 1 (A Hard Day’s Night)

I’m not partial to the “The Beatles were hands-down the best band ever” delusion, but holy shit. That they pretty much stuck to the five year peak is the only way they were clearly superior to The Rolling Stones, but it’s a doozy.

2.) The Rolling Stones – 1968-1972
Beggars Banquet
Let It Bleed
Get Yer Ya-Yas Out! (Live)
Sticky Fingers
Exile On Main Street
Good Albums Outside That Run: 2 (Aftermath, Between The Buttons)

The Marlon Brando to The Beatles’ James Dean. The bloated nostalgia machine that they’ve been running at least since Tattoo You (30 years ago!) makes it hard to see that underneath all that cellulite and botox are the remnants of the first truly cool rock band.

3.) The Stooges – 1969-1973
The Stooges
Fun House
Raw Power
Good Albums Outside That Run: 0

How to invent punk rock in five years. That a song like “1969” came out in 1969 is fucking mind-blowing.

4.) The Velvet Underground – 1967-1971
The Velvet Underground & Nico
White Light/White Heat
The Velvet Underground
Good Albums Outside That Run: 0

How to invent indie rock in five years. That a song like “Heroin” came out in 1967 is fucking mind-blowing.

5.) Nirvana – 1991-1995
In Utero
MTV Unplugged in New York (Live)
Good Albums Outside That Run: 1 (Bleach)

The most wistful entry on our five year list. Even if Nirvana inevitably ran out of gas, Kurt Cobain undoubtedly had some Lou Reed or John Lennon years in him.

6.) The Clash – 1977-1981
The Clash
Give ‘Em Enough Rope
London Calling
Good Albums Outside That Run: 0

Compared to the Sex Pistols, they were nostalgia-happy wankers.

7.) U2 – 1987-1991
The Joshua Tree
Rattle And Hum (Live)
Achtung Baby
Good Albums Outside That Run: 3 (Boy, War, The Unforgettable Fire)

As much as it hurts to have them above R.E.M. on this list, including the subpar Rattle and Hum no less, The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby can’t be ignored. Plus, Zoo TV is arguably the best tour in rock history (yeah, I know it started in ’92).

8.) R.E.M. – 1988-1992
Out Of Time
Automatic For The People
Good Albums Outside That Run: 6 (Murmur, Fables Of The Reconstruction, Life’s Rich Pageant, Document, Monster, New Adventures In Hi-Fi)

R.E.M. is the exception that proves the five-year rule. I went with the best stretch that includes Automatic, but there’s plenty of room for debate as to where the best window lies.

9.) Led Zeppelin – 1971-1975
Led Zeppelin IV
Houses Of The Holy
Physical Graffiti
Good Albums Outside That Run: 2 (Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II)

The end of their impressive run that started in 1969, right before The Song Remains The Same kicked off their bloated denouement.

10.) The Who – 1969-1973
Live At Leeds (Live)
Who’s Next
Good Albums Outside That Run: 0

Pretty much everything you need to know about The Who (good and bad) happened during these five years.



Filed under David Simon Cowell, Music Has AIDS

2 responses to “The Top Ten: Best Five-Year Band Runs In Music History

  1. Pingback: The Top Ten: End-Of-Album Songs | Pop Culture Has AIDS

  2. I humbly nominate the Pixies, ’87-’91:

    Come On Pilgrim
    Surfer Rosa
    Bossa Nova
    Trompe Le Monde

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