7. Chicago, Illinois, USA
Chicago’s post-war electric blues scene’s influence on rock ‘n’ roll music is almost impossible to quantify.
Nevertheless, it goes without saying that without the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, there would have been no Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin, or countless other blues-influenced bands that you can think of.
Chicago has also been important in the development of Jazz, with many artists moving from the original centre of New Orleans to the Windy city in the pre-war years. The legendary Miles Davis was also born in the State of Illinois.
Controversial noise-rockers Big Black came to underground prominence in Chicago in the mid 1980s. Their guitarist Steve Albini would become a hugely influential and respected figure in Chicago’s alternative scene, forming the bands Rapeman and Shellac as well as working as a recording engineer/producer on seminal albums by the likes of Slint, The Jesus Lizard, Nirvana and The Breeders. The outspoken Albini set up his Electrical Audio Studios in the city, and has recorded over 1000 bands and albums there to date.
The early 1990’s saw the rise of melodramatic art-rockers the Smashing Pumpkins, with the band becoming a worldwide success with multi-platinum selling albums Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. Liz Phair injected some oestrogen into the Chicago indie scene, her lo-fi début Exile In Guyville initially earning her strong critical notices which seemed to diminish with each new record.
And recent years have seen a rise in country-based rock and indie in the city, with Wilco thrilling fans and critics alike with their experimental roots-based rock.
House music first developed here too, which had some impact on the rise of electronica sampling rock ‘n’ roll bands.
Several influential record labels also started up in Chicago that deserve to be mentioned. Chess and Delmark, (famous for their blues and R&B releases), Bloodshot (primarily alt-country like Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown) Touch & Go (alternative rock and punk – has released much of Steve Albini’s output, The Jesus Lizard and Slint’s 1991 masterpiece Spiderland) and Drag City (Bill Callahan, Silver Jews, Scott Walker and many more) all playing their part to make Chicago our kind of town.
Associated acts: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Cheap Trick, The Jesus Lizard, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Son Volt, Naked Raygun, Big Black, Shellac, Tortoise, Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Urge Overkill, Mekons, OK Go, Ministry, Cap’n Jazz, Styx
Landmarks: Kingston Mines, Buddy Guy’s Legends, Electric Audio