Top 10 Male Singers (of all time..sort of.)

I frequently have internal battles with myself about my favourite songs and records of all time. I place them into categories to make it easier, such as Favourite Debut Record of All Time to BEST SONG EVER PART 1 OF 100. Stuff like that you know? But earlier, I managed to come up with a solid list of my favourite male singers of all time. I basically narrowed it down to singers that were around before I was born because if I did recent ones, I’d firmly place Brandon Welchez from Crocodiles as my number 1. Maybe I’ll do a list for that.

So, I’m going to attempt to list my favourite male singers of all time (that existed before I was born..I was born in ’86. The golden era of Hip Hop.) Of course I may change my mind at some point, but hopefully I won’t fret and lose sleep over this. I’m a born worrier; but I keep it well hidden. Obviously I’ve just admitted to it, so it’s not a secret. Oh well.

10. David Johansen (New York Dolls.) I hate that I’ve had to put this in order because I want to jumble it all around. However, the love I have for David Johansen goes beyond him being my number 10. What I love about him is his flamboyant style and distinctive drawl. I remember my mum playing their first record round the house when I was younger. I didn’t know it was the Dolls but I was hooked on Jet Boy. I probably used to sing it, and get the words mixed up. Nothing has changed. Into my teenage years, I saw a copy of their debut record at my uncle’s. I was drawn to the cover, and I always stand by it being my favourite album cover ever. The sheer beauty of it just drew me in straight away. Utterly gorgeous. So, what is it about David Johansen that makes me adore him? I think he’s one of the best front-men of all time. His charisma and charm just leaves you in awe. The way he moves makes you want to emulate him in a dramatic fashion. He’s one of a kind, and undoubtedly inspired so many to express themselves in a way no one else dared to do so.

9. Townes Van Zandt. My love for Townes started only a few years ago, and it wasn’t his voice that got me hooked. Before I even heard his voice, I read his lyrics. His lyrics were that of a troubled soul. You couldn’t help but connect with him, yet at the same time feel uncomfortable that you connected with his words. Then when you heard his voice, you TRULY got all the pain. Some singers become actors and don’t believe in what they do. Some just want the money. With the likes of Townes, you could tell that music was everything to him. His life was dependant on making music. It didn’t really matter how the listener felt; he just needed to get it all out. We all need an outlet, music is one of the most powerful ones. Townes possessed a unique voice that no matter what, just sounded so vulnerable. He didn’t have to put on an act; everything about him was truthful. At times some of his songs became too painful to listen to, but at best- you just knew someone else understood some of the perils of every day life.

8. Nick Cave. Some singers you remember falling in love with, because it just stays with you for the rest of time. Nick Cave is a prime example of that. My gran used to look after me when I was younger, before I went to primary school. Before chewed up and spat out my soul. Or you know, before I ate paint and sobbed before swimming lessons. My uncle used to live with her in this house, and I always remembered going to his room when he was at work and staring at a poster of Nick Cave on one of the walls in his room. I’d stare at it in utter awe. I don’t know what my toddler mind was thinking, but it was fixated on this person. I felt like I was looking at something untouchable. I guess I knew of Nick Cave’s genius before I even heard his voice or read his lyrics. Fast forward to about 10 years old and I’m hearing Into My Arms and Henry Lee on MTV. Something was happening in my mind. I knew exactly what it was. I knew what I wanted to be. A writer. I wanted to write words like this; but the thing is, no one can write like Nick Cave. The man is a genius. Sure enough his vocals may not be to everyone’s taste, but his lyrics…I fail to find a song that anyone couldn’t relate to. Everything about him just makes you want to expand your mind and explore other worlds.

7. Leonard Cohen. One of the greatest writers of all time regardless of genre. Leonard Cohen and Morrissey were the two song-writers that truly made me care about words. Poets such as Poe and Rimbaud got me hooked on words too. But these two singers just made me see everything in the world in a different way. The darkness and love and romance of everything around us was made clearer by them. Leonard Cohen for me just creates a different world. A world that is free of everything but full of questions. I think that’s a good way to live. It’s hard to live that way, but it gets you through. I always place Leonard Cohen as a poet before anything else, but his voice is so powerful. Some may seek singers that hit high notes and have a stupid range. I don’t want that. I want you to sing in a way that makes me feel like you are telling a story to my soul. Leonard Cohen does this, and so much more. I’ve many reasons as to why I adore him, that’s just one of them. I don’t think I could put the rest into words to be honest.

6. Otis Redding. I’ve found a pattern in the singers I love; they all basically sing songs about loss and pain. I’m a cheerful soul. Of all the Soul singers in the world that have existed, it was Otis Redding that I truly found a life-long love for. Everything about his voice makes you wish you were around when he was starting out. Imagine being one of the first to have heard his voice all those decades ago. His sad songs could break the hardest of hearts, but his joyful songs could bring tears of happiness to your eyes. He had the power to make you feel every single word he sang. He died far too young, everyone knows that. And I also think most know that Otis, although he had a short career, he was truly one of the best. I’ve got a bit of an issue with the term “Soul” music because all music should come from there and you should feel music right in your soul, but regardless- Otis oozed more soul than most.

5. Joey Ramone. No idea how to get into writing about Joey because let’s face it- he possessed the greatest voice in Punk. The way he towered over the mic stand. Pulling it to and fro like a man under a spell made you want to start something of your own. Easily one of the most distinctive voices of all time. His voice was like no other. His stage presence has obviously been an inspiration to many over the years. From how he stood to how he dressed. He wasn’t just part of a band, he was part of a movement that fuelled the souls of so many lost people. Myself included, and also justifies why I was born in the wrong era. To be in New York in the 70s would have been perfect. What do we have now? Of course we do have wonderful things, but imagine being part of one of the most powerful movements in music (and possibly society.) One of my most prized possession are my Ramones records. I rarely play them as I don’t want to ruin them; but when I do, I can truly hear all they stood for. Joey was the voice for so many, and you know what, he still is.

4. Lou Reed. I’m going to try keep this as short as possible because I truly have no issues with writing a massive essay about my love for Lou Reed. However all I want to say and could say about him has been said before. Again, this is another genius my uncle got me into. He got me into Velvet Underground then after he saw my love for them he told me to listen to Transformer. Is Transformer one of the best records made? Damn right it is. Wagon Wheel is one of my favourites for sure. I just love Lou’s style of writing. He’s a genuine story-teller who takes you into the underworld of all around you. You think all you see is all that exists, then you listen to a Lou Reed song and it’s like you fall into a different world. Something quite dark, wonderful and weird. You never want out of it. I think, once you listen to Lou- that’s it for life. Once you give yourself over to his words, you feel part of something that no one or nothing could tear you from. You even forgive him for that Lulu record because Transformer exists.

3. Scott Walker. I guess like most I have already mentioned, Scott Walker is an acquired taste. His debut record is by far one of the greatest records ever made. My Death is probably my favourite Scott Walker song, you know, with me being a ray of sunshine and all that. But in all seriousness, my love for Scott Walker came from of course, The Walker Brothers. His solo work is just a work of art. Every record is a masterpiece. You really cannot deny that he’s a genius. The way his mind works, the way he writes, the way he sings- he’s just out of this world. He’s an enigma, for sure. I cannot wait for his new record to come out in December. Every record of his sounds entirely different from the last; but they always remain timeless and as important as each other. To have a career that reads like that is rare, and something that should be treasured.

2. Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart.) A strange soul who made even stranger music. Safe As Milk changed a LOT for me. I think it honestly changed how I listened to music, and the ways it affected me. It opened up my mind. What did Trout Mask Replica do? Well, it freaked me out in the most pleasurable way for sure. I think it is one of the weirdest records I’ve ever heard.  I loved the way his mind worked. From his songs to his paintings- everything about him just oozed freedom and creativity. The two go hand in hand, but not many can make them work as perfect as Don Van Vliet did. He was a rare spirit that made you feel so free. When you listen to Safe As Milk, whether the first time around or if you’re a new fan, everything about it just gives you something you are never going to get again. I guess you can only get it from a Beefheart record. Certain musicians give you certain feelings, I think what Beefheart gave you is something that goes beyond words you know. I’ve tried so many times to pick a favourite song by Captain Beefheart, but instead I’ve narrowed it down to a moment. It’s when he says, “A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast ‘n bulbous, got me?” at the start of Pachuco Cadaver. No idea what it means, but it’s wonderfully strange.

Okay so for Number 1 I just couldn’t decide. Bob Dylan or Morrissey. I can’t choose. There’s no way I can do that. So, joint first place are Bobby and Morrissey. So I’m going to keep it brief.

1. Bob Dylan. Where do you begin when attempting to write about your love for someone so inspiring? I have my mum to thank for my obsession with this man. I’m proud of my Dylan tattoo on the back of my neck. It’s of a song that guided me through hell and back. Through hell some more, and back again. His words provide guidance through life- the good and the bad. It is like he is reassuring you every step of the way. My mum used to sing Forever Young to me when I was a baby before I went to sleep. His music is perfect for long train journeys or just walking around on your own. He makes you feel okay with whatever is going on. You stare out to all you see with his words echoing delicately in your ear, and you’re to restart/carry on. I hold Blonde on Blonde very dear to my heart, and I think it is possibly my favourite Dylan record. But with so many, I think it is hard to choose a solid favourite yet it seems to always be the one I go to for various reasons.

1.Morrissey. I’ve always declared Morrissey as being the one true love of my life. Mainly because his words/songs have been there when I thought I had nothing else. Speedway has been the song that sums up my life for the most part, as does Alma Matters. Everyday Is Like Sunday fully describes where I unfortunately live. I could honestly write an essay about every Morrissey song and still feel I had more to say. His words are a safety net and a force of hope to guide you through. He manages to release every unwanted and wanted feeling you have ever had, and will have had. Dismiss him as a moody sod all you want; but maybe you are scared to see yourself in his words. Seeing him live..every single time feels like a healing process. For some reason, every time before I have seen him- something shit has gone on in my life, and I’ve seen him and it all feels okay. His music goes beyond just being music, and I know every Morrissey fan feels like that. He’s not someone you just stick on as background music. He’s the soundtrack to all you do. He’s someone I don’t think I could actually sit and listen to with. It’s a very personal experience, mainly because I relate to a vast majority of his lyrics. I just adore everything about him, he’s the reason as to why lyrics are so important to me. I wear my Morrissey tattoo on my arm with unconditional love and pride. He changed my life and saved my life; that’s why he’s my number 1.

Nick Cave.

“Now the scaffold is high and eternity is near. She stood in the crowd but shed not a tear. But sometimes at night when the cold winds moan, in a long black veil she cries on my bones.”

I was very very young when I first became aware of Nick Cave. I used to spend a lot of time sitting in my uncle’s room at my gran’s. Staring at the guitar, the records, the books and the faces on the wall. The faces that later in my life, became the faces that became more than just a band. More than just a face on the wall. I am writing this with no sense of what I want to get out of it, let alone what I want to put into it. All I love about Nick Cave cannot be put into some silly article I have decided to write. Only a fragment of what I feel towards his music and all it means to me will be exposed. The rest is, as ever, kept in my heart. That’s the safest place for anything to be stored. You control what you let out, and what you let in. You know, it sure is hard to meet fellow fans of Nick Cave. It’s alright though, I know you’re out there. Listening to him. Letting him spew out exactly how you feel. You feel less alone don’t you?

So, I first became aware of Nick Cave at a tender age. I used to spend a lot of time at my gran’s house, whilst my mum worked. I’d make up games, listen to music, read, be read to, go for walks- happy and healthy, for the most part. This was all before I went to school. This was all before I was subjected to subjects that meant nothing to me. I think all along, I just wanted to sit and listen to music. Nothing has really changed. I doubt it ever will. I remember constantly asking my uncle about Nick Cave. I was drawn in immediately to this poster he had of him on his wall. I remember going upstairs sometimes just to stare at this poster. I was in awe, and I think part of me sort of had the idea that later in life- this man would be summing up how I feel towards most things. This man would be responsible for my obsession with words, poetry, love, life, death and the darkness. I’m not right about much in life, but I was right about this.

As I got older, certain songs became more than just  pieces of music. I will always regard Henry Lee as my favourite love based song of all time. I’m not much of a singer, but if I had a girlfriend I would make Henry Lee our song- I’d probably try persuade the poor girl to sing it along with me. In public and in private. Thing is, they’d have to love Nick Cave. So far, no luck! I’m not waiting around for it to happen. Some things just happen when they are supposed to don’t they. You can control the volume of the song you play, but you cannot control those you let in.

Nick Cave made me feel less alone with how I see the world, all around me and how I view myself. He also made me want to be a poet. I grew up on Patti Smith, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez- this is all where my love for words came from. As I got older, I realised my mum had a huge love for Nick Cave too. At this point, it was firmly instilled in me that I had to do something with words. Thing is, with all the notebooks I have filled with songs and poems- I think only two people have ever read what I have written down. I like to think I have improved as I got older. I love words that are dark and create a really tense atmosphere. I love songs like this too. Nick Cave is pretty much the God of all of this. Without him, I probably wouldn’t venture towards the dark side of literature as much.

Writing should be like a healing process, and also finding a part of you. Much like listening to music. I guess this is why I love Nick Cave so much. I love his solo work, Grinderman, The Birthday Part, The Bad Seeds- everything he has ever done, and continues to do is just perfect in my eyes. The passion in his voice makes every word he drawls out just land a place firmly in your heart. Fuck. It goes beyond the heart and soul. Sometimes, a musician gives you a way of life with their art you know? I hold this opinion on a few musicians such as Patti Smith, Ramones, Morrissey, The Kills and Warpaint. There is something about them all that prove comfort in a world that seems to thrive off bad vibes and back stabbing. I want no part in it, which is why I keep my headphones in.

There’s a strong sense of peace and wonder in his words. You think you’re forever lost, then you listen to a Nick Cave and it is like, “I am home. I am free.” It doesn’t matter which song that makes you feel this way because, well, they will ALL make you feel this way. Nick Cave makes you feel like he is your spirit animal, ya dig? It is like he drags out every ugly and unnamed feeling you have ever felt. But he makes it less daunting and less of a chore to feel. I’ve never really sat down and spoke with anyone about Nick Cave. If I had a bucketlist, that’d probably be on it to be honest. Simple means to lead to lasting pleasures. I think? I’m not sure. I like complicated and intense at times. But I’ll settle for a cup of tea. Make it strong.

I haven’t chosen certain songs or lyrics to mention as honestly, I just cannot do it. Pretty much every word Nick Cave has ever written down means the world to me, and more so it is impossible to list even, say five songs. I mean you’ve got songs like Into My Arms that make you want to sing it to the person you are really foolishly fond of. Then you have songs like The Moon Is In The Gutter that just makes you feel less horrific with yourself. Then you have Stranger Than Kindness and Long Black Veil which are etched upon your heart. It is just impossible. He’s not just someone you casually listen to. He is someone who is part of you. He’s left such an impact within your life that you honestly feel a bit sick thinking about life without his words. How awful that would be.

So there you have it. Another annoying ramble from myself   as to why I love, adore, respect and admire Nick Cave. I don’t even think I have conveyed it well enough. I don’t even think this is any good- but that doesn’t matter. It’s come from the heart, and that’s the best any of us can ever do.

“The moon is in the gutter. And the stars wash down the sink. I am the king of the blues, I scrape the clay off my shoes. And wade down the gutter and the moon.”

Be kind.