Bono’s Top 10 List: Give Him Beatles, Bee Gees and Public Enemy

The Los Angeles Times (1998-09-29)

The U2 singer limits his choices to bands and warns that his list is “far from definitive.”

1. The Punk Rock Album: (The Sex Pistols had the best singles, but I’ll choose) the Ramones’ “Leave Home”
“Edge and Larry were 14, Adam and myself were 16, when, after an argument about the arrangement of our own songs, we conned an Irish national TV producer that we had written ‘Glad to See You’ and ‘I Remember You’ [from that album] . . . We got the TV show, switched the songs back to our own. . . . Fame and good fortune soon followed . . . viva la Ramone.”

2. The Hip-Hop Album: Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet”
“Hip-hop is the most important movement in music since the Beatles. . . . PE guested with us in L.A.”

3. The Only-White-Folks-Doing-This category: the Beastie Boys’ “Check Your Head”
“White rap’s ‘White Album.’ “

4. Great Wordy Album: Patti Smith Group’s “Horses” and the Waterboys’ “This Is the Sea”
“In rock, the word ‘poet’ gets thrown around a lot. Not here. . . . I feel the same about ‘redemption.’ “

5. The Haircuts-So-Bad-They-Were-Ignored-for-Years category: the Bee Gees’ “Best of the Bee Gees”
“Tunes and more tunes. It must have hurt to know you were that great and yet not to be taken as seriously as say . . . progressive rock!”

6. The Seminal Album slot: The Pixies’ “Doolittle”
“Could have been ‘The Velvet Underground’ or the Buzzcocks’ ‘Another Music in a Different Kitchen.’ . . . I’ll chose ‘Doolittle,’ a big influence on Nirvana. . . . The Pixies invented the high drama chorus-verse gear shift that was such a hallmark of ‘grunge.’ Frank Black has a scream to wake the dead . . . slashing songs, but not his wrist . . . paranoia without the self-pity. And humor. . . .”

7. Girls in Groups: “The Pretenders” and Hole’s “Live Through This”
“The Pretenders: tough-minded, tender-hearted. ‘Brass in Pocket’ was the single of the year. Hole: advanced guitar sounds, a sense of pop to match her man’s but a better album than ‘In Utero,’ up there with ‘Nevermind.’ Both women give a lesson in how to hold an electric guitar.”

8. The Calls-to-Mind-a-Location Album: The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” and R.E.M.‘s “Automatic for the People”
“Beach Boys: If I close my eyes, I can see Brian Wilson’s sand pit, the West Coast, the dad, the drugs, the genius. Joy is the hardest thing to pull off . . . in life, in art, in movies (Steven Spielberg), in music (Sly & the Family Stone). The Beach Boys overcame the obstacle of major chords sounding trite. “R.E.M.: Normally you can see the sun shining in their songs. I’ve never been to Athens, Ga., but here it’s raining. This blurred melancholia features the greatest country crooner never to make a country record. Here R.E.M. are a co-op, a four-legged table, a real band in that everyone’s voice is heard (this is more difficult than you think). R.E.M. have pulled off the impossible, a giant group that doesn’t appear so. . . . Standout tunes.”

9. The One-Person-Writes-the-Tune-but-It-Wouldn’t-Be-the-Same-Without-the-Band scenario: The Who’s “Live at Leeds,” the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” and Oasis’ “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”

10. The Best-Pop-Group-in-the-World category: the Beatles’ “White Album.”
“This category is opposed to the Best Rock Group category, which would have to be the Clash’s ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ (it’s the only band U2 would not go on after . . .) or the Rolling Stones’ masterpiece ‘Exile on Main Street.’ The Stones have the songs and were much better live, but in the studio . . . the ‘White Album’ is the one. I know it’s all over the shop. . . . It’s a blueprint for us at U2 HQ . . . experimental pop, metal soul, the blues. It’s all there, but it
would mean nothing if you didn’t care about the group and I guess I still do.”

“(P.S: If there was a ‘black’ album category, I would choose Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Pretty Hate Machine.’ I know drama is achieved easily when painting in black, and gothic is the flared trousers of the ’90s, but something much more extraordinary is going on here.”

Copyright 1998 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved

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