TunesDay: Who is your favorite band?

Last.FM tells us who we listen to the most. Isn’t that what “favorite” means?

We all have our favorite bands. Most of us probably have a lot of favorite bands, in fact, and if you’re like me, that honor has probably been held by different artists throughout your life. My first favorite, back when I was in junior high, was Elton John (the wonderful Captain Fantastic, still one of my all-time favorites, came out just as I was wrapping up 8th grade). Then, when I was a freshman, the radio exploded with this sound unlike anything I’d ever heard before, and at that point I became a rabid Queen fan.

When I hit college, I found myself in a fraternity filled with unrepentant music freaks. The range of our collective taste was matched only by the intensity of our passion for it. That said, it’s probably safe to say that the dominant strain of tuneage around the Wake Forest ΘX house from 1979-1984 was Punk/New Wave (and all its related iterations, like Ska, Power Pop, and whatever you choose to call the wack-ass art school avant-party-pop of bands like The B-52s). Later in that time frame we began hearing the emergence of “College Radio,” the movement that would establish itself as Alternative. Which is to say, this was where a lot of us first heard REM, INXS and U2.

My absolute, hands-down favorite band in college was The Police, although they were by no means the only act on the playlist. I loved Squeeze, Elvis Costello, The Ramones, The Cars, Joe Jackson, The Romantics and The Records, to name a few, and this was also about the time I discovered Rick Springfield, who remains my favorite Power Pop artist to this day. My suitemates probably never want to hear him again, though – when I want to I can play some shit to death.

After college, though, The Police were winding down just as U2 was staking claim to the title of Best Band in the World, and if you ask me today who my favorite band is, they’re the answer, even though they haven’t done anything especially noteworthy in over 20 years.

What do we actually mean when we say “favorite band”? Well, at one level it’s a purely subjective response, right? But I have also suggested, from time to time, that there might be a way to quantify “favorite.” To wit, your favorite band is the one you listen to the most.

Which brings me to Last.FM, the Web site that keeps track of what you listen to. Actually, it does a good bit more than that, but I love the charts section, which lets me review who I’ve been listening to – this week, this month, this year, or all time. Some times I surprise myself. For instance, I know I really like London Grammar, whom I recently discovered. But it was only a few minutes ago, when I looked at the chart for 2014, that I realized they’re #4 for the year so far. Have I spun that disc that many times? Apparently yes.

Reviewing the charts can also be the source of cognitive dissonance. Even guilt. As in, I love Band X – but I hardly ever listen to them. Do I not love them after all? Wait – I should listen to them more so I can get their score up to where it belongs. Yeah, I do this kind of thing to myself. It’s a sickness.

I thought it might be fun, this TunesDay, to trot our my Last.FM all-time chart and share it with you. And also to invite you to share yours with us.

Here’s mine, with comments to follow.

RANK ARTIST PLAYS
1 U2 1,703
2 The Birthday Massacre 1,293
3 Graham Parker 1,202
4 The Lost Patrol 1,149
5 Delerium 1,119
6 VAST 1,101
7 The Raveonettes 1,057
8 Don Dixon 1,037
9 Eels 972
10 Rick Springfield 958
11 The Killers 914
12 Enya 869
13 Space Team Electra 818
14 Pink Floyd 791
15 R.E.M. 779
16 Catherine Wheel 778
17 The Police 758
18 Van Morrison 734
19 Jets Overhead 694
20 Lush 678
21 Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings 660
22 Bob Mould 635
23 Lewis Taylor 613
24 Jag Star 611
25 Queen 604
26 Green Day 599
27 The Gaslight Anthem 591
28 Fiction 8 588
29 Rob Dickinson 558
30 M83 549
31 Goldfrapp 547
32 Lucky Soul 544
33 The Pains of Being Pure At Heart 534
34 Electric Six 505
35 Jeffrey Dean Foster 503
36 Warren Zevon 498
36 Shiny Toy Guns 498
38 Nothing Rhymes With Orange 496
39 IAMX 495
40 Adam Schmitt 493
41 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club 488
42 Superdrag 478
43 She & Him 463
44 raison d’être 450
45 Peter Gabriel 438
46 Fountains of Wayne 436
47 Fitz and the Tantrums 429
48 Fish 428
49 The Blueflowers 427
50 Dixie Chicks 417
50 The Clientele 417
52 Franz Ferdinand 411
53 Duffy 408
54 Death Cab for Cutie 406
55 Silversun Pickups 397
56 Garbage 395
57 Cheap Trick 385
58 She Wants Revenge 379
59 The Mary Onettes 371
60 Ladytron 366
60 The Outfield 366
62 Lily Allen 359
63 Mayer Hawthorne 357
64 David Bowie 356
65 Rabbit Velvet 354
66 Johnny Clegg and Savuka 352
67 Hail Social 349
68 New Order 342
68 Hooverphonic 342
70 Epsilon-Zero 340
71 Luke Haines 336
72 Nine Inch Nails 334
73 Elton John 332
74 Marah 329
75 Metric 327
76 Bruce Springsteen 322
77 Adam Marsland 321
78 The Sounds 313
78 The Stills 313
80 Sarah Nixey 309
81 The Good, the Bad & the Queen 307
82 Trespassers William 300
82 The Well Wishers 300
84 The National 299
85 Interpol 298
86 Sam Cooke 294
87 Nicole Atkins 289
88 Doco 287
88 Editors 287
90 The Soundtrack of Our Lives 286
91 The Cars 285
92 Imogen Heap 283
93 Amy Winehouse 281
94 The Flaws 280
95 Love Is Colder Than Death 278
95 Ryan Shaw 278
97 The Cult 272
98 Enigma 269
99 The Beatles 267
99 Apoptygma Berzerk 267

Last.FM has limitations, of course. For one thing, while it counts what I listen to on my computer as well as what I play on my iPod and iPhone, it has no way of accounting for it when I play CDs – as in, when I’m driving around in my truck. If it did, the numbers for U2, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Jason Isbell, The Raveonettes and The Killers would be higher. (I played the absolute shizzle out of the last Killers disc while driving around, so add 200 to the tally. Also, I have in my possession a copy of the forthcoming Jeffrey Dean Foster CD, and that’s 200-300 more for him, as well. Finally, I listen to music as I go to sleep, and most nights for the past year or three the CD of choice has been one of the two Raison d’Etre discs I own. So add another thousand to their total over the past five years, probably.)

And this is only since I signed up for Last.FM a few years ago, obviously. That Queen count would be thousands of plays higher if they had a time machine function that could go back and capture everything since I first got my hands on A Night at the Opera.

Also, Last.FM doesn’t add up bands and the solo artists that emerged from them. For instance, The Pinetops are just outside my top 100 with 255 plays. They were Foster’s band and if you add those numbers to Jeff’s solo work he shoots well inside the top 20.

So nothing’s perfect.

Anyway, that’s my Last.FM top 100. If you have an account there, feel free to share your own results and friend me while you’re at it.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

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5 thoughts on “TunesDay: Who is your favorite band?”

  1. Impressive list, Sam. Hope to explore some of those I’m not familiar with. Curious to find Delerium high on your list. They happen to be another incarnation of my all-time favorite band (though today I mostly listen to electronic music): the Canadian industrial band Frontline Assembly, whose latest album, Echogenetic, ranks among their best.

  2. Being a westerner, (ranch country) You might get a laugh out of this, Brooks and Dunn. (pardon the spelling. Have a nice day.

  3. I don’t have a Last.FM account that I know of, but I’m sure my tops would be U2, The Call Ashley Cleveland, and The Choir. Depends on what mood I’m in for the rest. I’ll go through a classic rock phase, The Who, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin (including Big Brother) would all rank pretty high. Then an alternative phase, Joy Division, INXS, REM, The Charlatans UK, The Feelies, Love and Rockers, The Rainmakers, and The Smithereens might all be up there. Or then I get into a classic country phase and Waylon, Willie, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Dolly Parton, and Johnny Cash rise up the list. Then I get a hankerin’ for the Blues, etc. etc.

  4. Russ: Delerium is FLA and Noise Unit and Synaesthesia and the gods know what else. A lot of people are in different bands, but nobody in history has ever BEEN as many bands as Fuller and Leeb.

    Hound: I go through phases, too. Sometimes I listen to a particular band at length for a week or two and sometimes it’s a genre, and this is when sifting through the monthly chart and comparing it to the overall can be fun.

  5. I know I’ve said I listen almost exclusively to classical music now, but that’s not strictly true. I listen to rock with great regularity. So my faves? Well The Beatles, of course. And I’ve just been through a Van Morrison phase. And now I’m really into power and jangle pop – Badfinger, Raspberrries, dBs, Todd, Big Star, and Left Banke right now (for those too young, they were called “chamber” or “Baroque” pop.

    During my Van phase I was also really into soul – lots of Motown, Stax, and Philly stuff along with Paul Weller, especially Style Council PW.

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