The Velvet Underground
Lou Reed and John Cale, with Andy Warhol at the tiller – need we say more? One of the most critically acclaimed and influential alternative/experimental rock bands of all time, everybody from Sonic Youth to Kraftwerk kowtows to The Velvet Underground – and rightly so.
The New York Dolls
Well, the clue’s in the name. In just four years in the early 1970s, the Dolls mixed punk, rock and glam rock into a musical stew that fed future giants like KISS, Guns N’ Roses and Blondie.
Think new-wave and punk with a dash of disco, reggae and rap, throw in a rack of Grammy and Juno Awards and nominations, and you’ve got one of the most enduring NYC acts ever. Where would Madonna be without Debbie Harry?
This manic four-chord quartet from Queens were on the starters’ blocks for the punk-rock revolution, inspiring bands like The Clash, The Dead Kennedys and The Undertones. Blitzkrieg Bop, anyone?
Frontman David Byrne and producer Brian Eno led his New Wave posse to critical success right through the 1970s and into the 1990s. Also, Radiohead nicked their band name from a song on Talking Heads’ 1986 album, True Stories. True story!
One of the first hip-hop groups to make it big internationally, Public Enemy’s socially and politically charged lyrics changed the face of their genre – and they were the first band to releae MP3-only albums. Revolutionary!
The Wu-Tang Clan
Staten Island, Brooklyn and the Bronx can all lay claim to the Clan, a group that NME reckon are the greatest collection of rap lunatics to have ever walked the earth. Their influence doesn’t stop at music – they’re also all about sampling, rap personas and slang. Hell, they’ve even got their own video game.
Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock made seven platinum albums (or better) between 1986 and 2004, and in 2012 they became the third rap group ever to get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their 2006 album, To The Five Boroughs, is a tribute to New York City itself.
With their performance art aesthetic and idiosyncratic approach to guitars (they’ve been known to prep their instruments with a screw-driver) noise-rock band Sonic Youth have been a mainstay of the NYC scene since the early 1980s. Their avant-garde cool factor laid the groundwork to get the likes of Nirvana, Beck and Pearl Jam onto major labels. Now, that’s influence.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The 21st Century art-rock/garage-punk scene wouldn’t be much without the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their three albums are all over the Best Of lists, and vocals don’t get better than Karen O’s. Listen and swoon.
If there’s one thing this list shows it’s that New York’s boss when it comes to kickin’ tunes. But are there more we’ve missed? If so, don’t be shy. Let us know in the comments below.
Image credit: Humbert15