Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Who Keeps Score?

Who is the most successful New Mexico artist or band ever? Keep in mind that I asked "who is the most successful" not the best, the results may surprise you.  Of course it's all subject to conjecture, speculation and a matter of personal taste. With this and fairness in mind I tried to develop a criteria for ranking the artists. 1. Recorded on a nationally dist. label (could you buy their music somewhere other than Bow Wow Records) 2. Toured nationally or internationally (did they ever play outside Albuquerque or Santa Fe) 3. Recognition (Did anyone know of them outside the state) 4. You Tube hits (successful artists and bands put out videos) 5. Influence (did they have any lasting influence on the current local scene) 6. Origins (they had to have started right here in New Mexico) 7. Sales (I tried to factor in album and single sales as much as possible, but those figures are not readily available for all bands) The Muttz will receive honorable mention for their appearance on Ed McMahon's Star Search, which in my opinion, they tanked due to poor song selection.

Updated:   Originally posted on 04/11/11, and there have been some changes Dave Hernandez is no longer a member of The Shins, leaving James Mercer as the only musician on the band with a New Mexico connection. Fast Heart Mart no longer resides in Albuquerque and no one local band or musician has splashed onto the national scene since I wrote this. 

Beirut's (Zach Condon) last album "The Rip Tide" met with resounding indifference and faded away like an old soldier. The list stands unchanged, despite the efforts of a couple of musicians who lobbied for inclusion, (one insisted that he should be ranked #1) This project was not certified by Billboard or MTV,  it was meant to be informative and fun, so have fun with it. 

1.   Lorenzo Antonio 
Albuquerque born and bred, He's the son of Tiny Morrie and nephew of Al Hurricane. He started singing in 1982 and is better known in Mexico and Latin America than his home state. He's sold millions of cd's, earning him several platinum and gold records.
2.   The Fireballs w/ Jimmy Gilmer 
Sold millions on national labels (Atco,Dot) recorded for Norm Petty, they are still the  only New Mexico based band to score a #1 hit single (Sugar Shack) They had two million selling singles (Sugar Shack & Bottle of Wine) plus they still get airplay after fifty three years.
3.   The Shins 
They brought national recognition to the Albuquerque scene, but their success was bittersweet as James Mercer distanced himself from New Mexico as fast as he could. Dave Hernandez (?) and Mercer are the only remaining members with New Mexico ties.
4.   Sparx
 Lorenzo Antonio's younger sisters can't match their brothers success, but they're no slouches either. These ladies have sold well over a million cd's, packed dance halls and arenas, plus their videos were a fixture on Spanish television for years.
5.   Brokencyde  
They must be moving product, otherwise they would be long gone. I have to give them credit for being the first local band to reach some level of stardom almost entirely through digital sales. The number of views they've racked up on You Tube (if the numbers aren't manipulated)  are monstrous.  

6.   Beirut
 Zach Condon's next album will be crucial, there's very little momentum left over from the group's fast start. March of the Zapotecs could be compared to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, in that it drove away more fans than it created.
7.   Femme Fatale
They sold 250,000 copies of their debut album, scored a couple of moderate singles (Fallin' in and Out of Love, Waiting For the Big One) and then dropped out of sight just as fast. Their videos were in heavy rotation on MTV, back when that still mattered.
8.   The Eyeliners
 Albuquerque's three chord wonders, grew into a radio friendly sound, but it didn't matter, success still eluded them. They did however, get Joan Jett to appear in one of their videos. They recently called it quits, it must get harder to be a riot girrl once you start pushing forty.
9.   Hazeldine
There have been plenty of local bands that deserved fame, none more so than Hazeldine. They were the complete package, a mix of rock and alt-country, tied together by the powerful vocals of Shawn Barton and Tonya Lamm. They got lost in the shuffle when their label was bought out.
10. The Rondelles
Deceptively popular, really hit their stride once they left Albuquerque for Washington D.C.  They never shied away from the studio, banging out several albums of tuneful and complex pop punk ditties that  sound like a stripped down version of The B-52's. 

11.  Scared of Chaka
Some people only know them as the band Dave Hernandez was in before The Shins. However, this was a hard working band that toured relentlessly and recorded prolifically. Their overall body of work as well as their legacy still holds up.
12. The Handsome Family
This husband and wife duo put Gothic country on the map. The stark instrumentation combined with Brett's deep voice and Rennie's dark lyrics, makes them irresistible.  Rennie Sparks is a truly talented artist, writer and lyricist. Hands down, the best act currently active in the Duke City.
13.  Fast Heart Mart
His busking, constant touring, three very good albums and some creative music videos, have made him the most recognizable musician in town. Martin's music is complex with subtle textures and his unique style of tuning his guitar results in a sound unlike anyone else.
14.  Eric McFadden (Angry Babies, Liar, Eric McFadden Trio)

There was a time when McFadden and The Angry Babies, with their regular gig at The Bird of Paradise, were the local scene. Eric McFadden has been absent from Albuquerque for a while, but he still has his local fans who remember those sloppy drunk shows.
 15. The Strawberry Zots
Signed by a major label (RCA) their window closed quickly, RCA dropped them after just one album. They were goofy and fun live, but played it straight in the studio. They were a retro-60's band, that was serious about their music, which sucked all the fun out of it.