Tommy Keene

Tommy Keene Biography

From his start in the DC alternative scene in the early ‘80s through acclaimed releases for Geffen and then Matador in the ‘90s, Tommy Keene returns to the public eye with Crashing the Ether, his first studio album since 2002. Keene’s fans, many of them fellow musicians and critics, have long recognized that Tommy has written some of the best pop/rock tunes of his generation.

While we all know there's a fine line between "rock legend" and "cult figure," there is no doubt that [Tommy] Keene is one of America's greatest, unheralded songwriters. -- Rolling Stone

We couldn't agree more. Since he's one of our favorite unsung heroes, we asked Tommy for a list of his Top 10 favorite underrated bands...

1. Be Bop Deluxe/Bill Nelson
Though they put out five or six great albums, and Bill is an amazing guitar player from whom I copped many licks, this band never got recognized. Very melodic and spacey - sometimes prog, sometimes the dreaded “power pop.” Bill Nelson was also quite a poet!

2. Poco
They should have been bigger than The Eagles, with whom they shared two bass players. Mixing country/alt-rock with power pop, Poco (lead by Richie Furay, late of The Buffalo Springfield) never had a hit, although they did have the best rock pedal steel player ever: Rusty Young. No Depression fans take note!!

3. Grin/Nils Lofgren
Four albums in the early ‘70s failed to impress the U.S. market, but Nils still enjoys a nice following in the U.K. People know him best for his work with Neil Young and The Boss but the Grin records and his solo albums still entertain! Also another very influential guitar player for yours truly.

4. Sparks
Although they made it big in the U.K. and appeared on ABC's “In Concert” here in the States, they will probably be remembered as the band with the keyboard player who had a Hitler-esque mustache. That and the butchered cover of one of their best songs, "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us," by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Great songwriting and hilarious lyrics - I play them now for friends who reply, "Sorry, I never liked Queen."

5. 20/20
The best power pop band ever, if that genre really exists! Their first record on Epic, released in late ’79, is a classic -- great songs, vocals and production by Earle Mankey, who was in an early incarnation of Sparks.

6. Jellyfish
Fantastic combination of The Beach Boys, Cheap Trick, Badfinger …you name it. These guys had super hooks, songs and production. Plus, they were an awesome live band for anyone privileged enough to catch them.

7. Rory Gallagher
Ireland's favorite son, this guy was not only one of the best guitarists ever but a real sweet guy who got me into one of his shows in DC by explaining to the bouncer that I was his long-lost, 13-year-old cousin. His best record is the first live one, Rory Gallagher Live.

8. Flaming Groovies
Although Cyril Jordan wrote one of the best pop songs ever, "Shake Some Action," the stand-out album from these guys is Teenage Head featuring then-vocalist Roy Loney. If you like Exile on Main Street, check out this record, which also contains a fantastic cover of Randy Newman's "Have You Seen My Baby."

9. Milltown Brothers
Two great albums in the early '90s on A&M here in the States. These guys seem to have disappeared from the planet. Great live band too!

10. The dBs
Critical darlings who proved the point that even if John Rockwell at the New York Times heralds your debut album as one of the best of the year, you still might not be able to get arrested. Their first two records hold up to this day. A perfect Lennon/McCartney combination in songwriters Stamey/Holsapple, they should have been bigger than R.E.M., or at least Joe Jackson.

Tommy's new album Crashing the Ether is available in the ARTISTdirect Store.

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