When Screaming Trees visited the UK on the ‘Dust’ tour in 1996, it was very much a cause for celebration. Having already pulled out of that year’s Reading Festival line up and now having another hugely successful album under their collective belt, it was no wonder that fans absolutely joyous at their long-overdue return. In addition, ‘Dust’ was arguably their finest work to date. With its heavy elements counterbalanced by huge swathes of dark psychedelia and prominent use of mellotron, it was almost as if their retro sound had come full circle and harked back to the 60s inspired parts of albums like ‘Invisible Lantern’, but it also had the benefit of much stronger song writing.
In terms of rock stars, Meat Loaf was unique. A larger than life character whose best music took in elements of hard rock, light opera, pop and prog to create a musical theatre that became the soundtrack for a generation of fans in the late 70s and beyond. So much of Meat’s greatness was enhanced by his collaborators, of course, and when working with Jim Steinman, members of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and Roy Bittan of Springsteen’s E Street Band on the world dominating ‘Bat Out of Hell’ album, he was a genuine force of nature.
When Big Big Train appeared on the prog rock scene in the early 90s, they immediately set themselves apart from other new bands. Whereas other new arrivals seemed set on reworking things that were obviously derived from early Marillion or writing their own ‘Supper’s Ready’, Big Big Train were different. Their love of all things pastoral and a deep respect for the solo works of Anthony Phillips gave them a heart so much bigger than their would-be peers. With shifting line-ups came changes in sound, but the idea of “the song” always seemed to be key, but it wasn’t until the arrival of vocalist David Longdon in 2009 that they really broke into the big leagues.
For those not old enough to experience Bob Marley in his prime, UB40 provided a very important introduction into contemporary reggae music. Their earliest material, powered by massive basslines and even bigger social/political messages really got to the heart of early 80s Britain. Their first ten years, in particular, presented the work of a band that seemed almost infallible. They could shift from political anger, into 70s influenced dub, through to a deftly played cover tune without missing a beat. Their show from the Hammersmith Odeon in 1983 – still denied a DVD release – is a near perfect example of the early UB’s in full flight.
If you were a metal fan between 1999 and 2001, it almost became impossible to avoid Slipknot for a while. Their debut album gained the band a truckload of magazine coverage and around the turn of the millennium, they became a massive draw at festivals.