A wild-eyed alien materializes in my living room and asks me to recommend the
most inventive "rock" musicians from 1960-2000. While this unfortunately forces me to exclude most of my favorite music (see *, below), it clears the board for future discussions of more contemporary and less popular work by a broader array of artists working not just at the boundaries of but firmly within classical, jazz, avant-garde, folk, rap, post-rock, metal, and electronica/IDM.
The Olympians (with a recommended album to start, sorted by year of release):
1. The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), while still a unified band
2. The Velvet Underground - White Light, White Heat (1968), pure experiment
3. Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline (1969), poetry with orchestration
4. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (1969), while technically jazz fusion, reshaped rock forever
5. Jimi Hendrix - Band of Gypsys (1970), insert cliche about 'gone too soon'
6. Stevie Wonder - Talking Book (1972), unmatched musical genius
7. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here (1975), a call for innovation never answered
8. Talking Heads - Fear of Music (1979), truly there is no one like David Byrne
9. Laurie Anderson - Mister Heartbreak (1984), signature rock
10. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation (1988), a band that speaks in many tongues
11. The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin (1999), the first major label release is often the best
12. Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007), this seems like cheating but it is their best
Other Titans and Various Deities of 1960-2000s "Rock":
Os Mutantes, Prince, David Bowie, Frank Zappa (and the Mothers of Invention), The Pixies, The Who, The Beach Boys, The Band, Ray Charles, Elliot Smith, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley, Tom Waits, Kate Bush, Animal Collective, Aretha Franklin, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young (and Crosby Stills Nash & Young), Of Montreal, Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, Brian Eno (and Roxy Music, ambient music to be discussed at length later), The Grateful Dead, Pavement, The Kinks, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Smiths, Marvin Gaye, Can, Steely Dan, Herbie Hancock, The Police (and Sting), The Smiths, Sly and the Family Stone, Ray Charles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, James Brown, Elton John, Nirvana, Van Morrison, The Olivia Tremor Control, The Flying Burrito Brothers (and Gram's solo work).
To Be Discussed Later:
*above all Bjork... also, 21st century musicians: Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Beach House, Aphex Twin, Four Tet, Squarepusher, Autechre, Sigur Ros, The Mountain Goats, The Decemberists, and Belle and Sebastian. And composers in classical/jazz including Wagner, Debussy, Philip Glass, Antonio Carlos (Tom) Jobim, Charles Mingus, Steve Reich, John Luther Adams, Oliver Messiaen, and Duke Ellington.
Spotify Links to Olympus (Only work if you have a Spotify account, or search Youtube):