The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground were easily one of the greatest rock bands of the 1960s, though unlike the Beatles or the Stones they labored in relative obscurity. They weren't just ahead of the times, they helped create the future of rock music with their mix of primitive rock 'n' roll, complex avant-garde leanings, downtown narratives, and pure pop songcraft. They even wanted to top the charts, but they wanted to do it their way. Lou Reed may have been a Brill Building-esque tunesmith, but he was also interested in the tough hyper-realism of the New York literary underground and the wild sounds of Free Jazz. Conversely, John Cale may have been a classically trained Welshman who worked with John Cage, but he wanted to be in a rock 'n' roll band. Unfortunately, not even a high profile push from Andy Warhol nor the au courant ice queen whispers of Nico could break the band to the general public. Loaded (1970), their final album, features two great should've-been radio hits in "Sweet Jane" and "Rock & Roll." After the band called it quits the public slowly started catching on, and Lou Reed's solo work brought many of their songs to FM radio. VU's sound, style, and Reed's sometimes perverse lyrics and deadpan delivery became a major influence on the New York punk scene of the 1970s and the alternative and Indie Rock scenes of the '80s and '90s. Their influence is acknowledged by everyone from David Bowie and Roxy Music to R.E.M. and U2. Influences aside, their body of work only gets better with each passing year.