As featured in the 28 May issue of NME magazine, musicians pick their unsung idols....

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55Hair Police

They’re a noise band from Kentucky and they put out this record called ‘Constantly Terrified’. We played with them in Detroit… being onstage with Hair Police, it’s all about the drinking, being drunk, just thrashing out to that kind of music.

54Wolf Eyes

I always describe Wolf Eyes as being this conflagration of MC5, The Stooges and the history of noise music. They play as if they are the MC5 or The Stooges – the music’s inspired by noise music history. They’re like the first ‘noise’ band to come on like a rock’n’roll band.

53Violent Femmes

Their self-titled album was one of the very first records I considered all mine, rather than any of my older siblings’. It came out in 1983 and still sounds great. The band were these nerds who were punk, or violent toughs who were femmes, or aggressive musicians playing acoustics – it sounded so complicated and it blew open my ideas about maleness in rock. It was wussy and tough at the same time!

52John Callahan

He’s a quadriplegic political cartoonist from Portland, Oregon, but he put out this incredible LP in 2006. It feels strange and psychedelic. I was thinking about it a lot in terms of stuff I’ve done with Conor [Oberst] and M Ward. The lyrics are amazing. He just has a crazy way of looking at stuff.

51Arthur Lee

Leader of LA ’60s folk-rock troupe Love, Lee wrote almost all the songs, and even claimed he could play every instrument better than anyone else in the band. After two patchy albums, he conjured up 1967’s ‘Forever Changes’. His keening voice, sweeping strings, horns and acoustic guitar, should have made him a star, but instead Love simply fell apart. One of music’s ultimate cult heroes.

50Laura Nyro

I can’t really remember how I discovered her, but I think it was through a girlfriend. I just went WOW. It reminded me of Broadway. She was a street singer, and she was a white girl singing with all these black girls. She’s as pure a songwriter as I’ve ever heard. I’m just addicted to her stuff, everything from ‘Eli And The Thirteenth Confession’ to ‘New York Tendaberry’.


They’re probably the only band in the world that would cover Anti-Nowhere League and then also cover Sun Ra. They take their music right the way across the board. And they’re also huge fans of professional wrestling (laughs). At the time I got into them, I did not like professional wrestling at all – I really have to credit them for getting me into it!


Moondog was a blind street musician and poet prominent in the ’50s and ’60s. His father, when he was a child, took him to a Sun Dance, and this famously affected the way he viewed rhythm. He’d record songs in tropical bird sanctuaries or by the Hudson River, with the sound of the foghorns blaring in the background. He was hugely unconventional and original, and I love him.

47Arthur Russell

Never to be constricted by genre or expectation, Arthur’s compositions varied from disco to folk to avant-garde classical to minimalist cello drones. The albums ‘Calling Out Of Context’ and ‘Love Is Overtaking Me’ showcase his dexterous skills at their best. Hearing Arthur’s music for the first time was so profoundly influential, like a painter discovering a new colour to use on their canvas.


I read this alarmist right-wing book about cults in my school library, and there was a section on satanic cults. They had a whole chapter about Venom's ‘Black Metal’ LP. It quoted the lyrics to ‘Sacrifice’ about drinking a chalice of blood – and I remember thinking “This is so stupid and crazy.” I had to buy the album.

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