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Popless Week 22: Drugs...The Anti-Drug

After 17 years of professional music-reviewing, Noel Murray is taking time off from all new music, and is revisiting his record collection in alphabetical order, to take stock of what he's amassed, and consider what he still needs.

There's a reason why people talk about "sex and dugs and rock 'n' roll" and not, say, "sex and candy and rock 'n' roll." It's not just that the right drugs in the right amounts can help unlock some musicians' creativity; it's also that those compelled to play rock music in public often crave outside-the-mainstream communal experiences. Even those who don't use drugs can certainly understand the appeal of being let into a network of suppliers and fellow users, with whom you can share common jokes and common experiences. Becoming a drug user is a lot like becoming a musician, in that you enter a special club with its own store of knowledge and understanding.

Or so I assume. Because I have a terrible confession to make: My name is Noel Murray, and I'm not a drug addict. I'll take that even further. I've never really done drugs at all.

I mean, if you count alcohol as a drug, then yeah… from roughly age 19 to 25, I spent at least one night a week getting drunk with my friends. (Though since then I've mainly been a "one drink with dinner" guy.) I also had one very strange night of Robitussin abuse back in high school, and three experiences with marijuana, only one of which actually had any effect on me. (For those who don't smoke cigarettes, smoking pot ain't easy.) But coke, speed, acid, meth? If I'd even wanted to try any of that stuff when I was younger, I wouldn't have known where to go or who to ask. And I sure don't know now.

I have no idea whether my situation is common or not. Most of my friends have more drug experience than I do, though few of them—as near as I can tell—have used or are using as regularly as the media depicts. For a time there, it seemed like there was scarcely a TV show or movie that didn't show pot-smoking as a routine part of middle American life—and that's not even counting the stoner comedies. Books like Eric Schlosser's Reefer Madness note how aggressively the government pursues marijuana growers, dealers and smokers, but in the movies, middle-class couples often smoke pot the way my wife and I pour ourselves a glass of wine at the end of a long day. Either Hollywood is making too-broad assumptions about drug use among the mainstream, or a staggeringly large number of Americans are willing to risk their ass for grass.

Let me be clear about one thing: I've heard all the arguments for and against legalizing marijuana, and I definitely come down in favor of legalization. (I'm iffier on harder drugs, though I support some limited decriminalization.) But if marijuana were readily available, I wouldn't be any more inclined to partake. And that makes me be a bad hipster, since the term partly refers to those who stay au courant with music and drugs. I want pot legalized, but I don't necessarily want to hang around with anyone who's been smoking it.

The problem is that the worst advocates for drug use are people who use drugs. For all the reasoned arguments about smoking marijuana versus drinking alcohol, when I go to parties where people are drinking beer or wine or cocktails, they generally don't behave extraordinarily differently than they would in any other context. But nearly every time I run into a friend who's been smoking pot, I find them borderline incomprehensible. And pushy. I've met a lot of people who find out I've had minimal experience with marijuana and immediately they say they want to get me high. I understand that they're trying to be nice, and I don't begrudge them for that. But the stigma attached to not being a stoner helps me understand a little better why some people hate going to arthouse cinemas or independent record stores, where they might encounter folks with little interest in those who don't share their values.

The way the marijuana culture presents itself in the media doesn't do the cause any favors ether. I remember watching Ron Mann's documentary Grass at SXSW with an audience of "pot-enthusiastic" Austinites, and while they'd laugh derisively at the footage from ludicrous anti-marijuana propaganda films, they'd also laugh knowingly at strikingly similar footage from stoner comedies. There's kind of a double standard there. When the anti-drug lobby shows how messed-up people get on dope, it's hysteria. When Cheech & Chong do it, it's hysterical.

When it comes to music, I appreciate what drugs has done for me, just by virtue of guiding some musicians I love to visions both beautiful and terrible. But I also decry what drugs have taken away from me—and not only in terms of lives lost to overdose or other drug-related fatalities. There are musicians out there who come to love their drugs more than their art, and soon find that can't keep it together long enough to record those amazing revelations that drugs have inspired. And I'm not just talking about heroin or cocaine, either. I've known quite a few folks who—as my ex-rocker wife puts it—have their proportion of "getting high time" to "practice time" out of whack. Their music gets lazier, they lose their edge, and eventually listening to their records becomes like the equivalent of meeting one of my stoned friends at a party and trying to make sense of what they're babbling about.

So as much as I love the idea of rock 'n' roll as a communal experience, there are some rooms in that commune that I'm just not going enter. And most likely, there's some music that I'll never fully understand. That's a trade-off I'm willing to accept, though I admit that there are times—when I'm listening to an especially out-there jam or dopey joke—that I feel the lack.


Pieces Of The Puzzle

John Coltrane

Years Of Operation 1946-67

Fits Between Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young

Personal Correspondence Through a series of happy accidents, my first serious stab at jazz fandom corresponded with my discovery of John Coltrane, and since I haven't really continued my jazz education beyond an intense two-year buying spree back in college, Coltrane remains both my favorite jazz musician and the one I own the most albums by. (Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk run a close second and third.) Right around my junior year of college, the record store in the mall where I worked set up a bin of cut-rate jazz CDs from Blue Note and Atlantic, and on lunch break I'd head over and pick through it, typically buying one CD a week. One of the first discs I bought was Coltrane's Giant Steps, primarily because The Jody Grind used to cover "Mr. PC." (My research methods were unscientific—for the most part I bought CDs by artists mentioned in the song "Jazz Thing," off the Mo' Better Blues soundtrack.) Coltrane hooked me right away, largely because the sound of his horn—so boldly melodic and loud—was what I'd always imagined jazz should sound like. Whether feeling his way through a mood piece, stretching out for a more abstract improvisation, or delivering something compact and jaunty, Coltrane played with a conversational assurance (and he let pianist McCoy Tyner have his say too, which I appreciated). He used his horn to describe a wealth of life experiences, from joy to pride to shame to sorrow to spiritual renewal.

Enduring presence? For years I clung to Giant Steps, Coltrane's Sound and Coltrane Plays The Blues as my model for both Coltrane and jazz in general, and considered his classic A Love Supreme to be the point at which jazz started to get a little too free for me. But when A Love Supreme was reissued a few years back—and Ashley Kahn's book about the album was released—I revisited the record and found it speaking to me in a much clearer voice. At some point I'm going to return to jazz and try to stretch out beyond the biggest, most obvious names. But I don't know that I'll ever be able to keep from comparing everything I hear to Coltrane.

John Denver

Years Of Operation 1969-97 (solo)

Fits Between Dan Fogelberg and Anne Murray

Personal Correspondence John Denver was such a ubiquitous presence on TV in the '70s that I began to think of him almost as a fictional character, like Kermit The Frog or Jimmy Carter. Denver was all over the radio too, with openly sentimental, scrubbed-clean songs about mountains, ranches, romantic love and sunshine. (There were rarely any clouds in the Denver sky.) The TV version of Denver was always likable and trustworthy, though his music is so clean and airless that it's been known to induce mild headaches. His songs are best heard one at a time, so the smooth warble, lilting melodies and heavily feathered orchestration can be appreciated as an expression of an ideal. Denver the man is in harmony with the feelings and places he sung about, and exposure to his pristine take on life and music can be restorative—though you should probably make sure you stay properly hydrated.

Enduring presence? About a decade ago, Mark Kozelek put together a John Denver tribute album designed to show how versatile and beautiful Denver's best songs are. And Kozelek is absolutely right. Songs like "Fly Away," "Calypso," "Matthew" and "Back Home Again" are absolutely gorgeous and more accomplished than some might give them credit for. Yet there's also something unreal about them, as though they dropped from the rafters like so much fake snow. My tolerance for Denver is roughly equal to my tolerance for reruns of old '70s variety shows. They're all an important part of my personal pop culture history, but I prefer fleeting glimpses to long looks.


John Lennon

Years Of Operation 1970-80 (solo)

Fits Between Gene Vincent and Elton John

Personal Correspondence As a Beatles fan pretty much since birth, I recognized the significance of John Lennon's death when it happened; I was 10, and my mom called home from some event she'd been attending to tell me the news. And yet I wouldn't say I was devastated back then, because Lennon hadn't been much of a presence as a solo artist in the years leading up to his murder—not like Paul McCartney, whom I preferred at the time. I didn't even pick up Double Fantasy until almost a decade after Lennon's death, although I did buy Milk & Honey when it came out. (I have an embarrassing memory of sitting next to my stepfather at a mall food court and opening up the gatefold Milk & Honey cover to see John and Yoko in a naked embrace. I quickly snapped the album shut, then realized that my stepfather had been looking over my shoulder, and that pretending the picture was something to be ashamed of wouldn't come off so well. So I coolly turned the record over and pretended to be fascinated by the song titles, before finally opening the cover back up and admiring the picture for a few seconds, like the mature 13-year-old I was.) Probably the turning point in my Lennon appreciation was checking a copy of his final Playboy interview—published in paperback—out of my public library, reading his reminiscences about The Beatles and his solo career, and starting to see Lennon as confused and flawed in the best possible ways. I asked my high school English teacher to record Plastic Ono Band for me, on a tape with Van Morrison's Astral Weeks on the other side, and though my teacher didn't really like either album—he preferred Imagine and Moondance—he complied, and I had the unforgettable experience of being shaken up by the concluding one-two punch of "God" and "My Mummy's Dead" from Plastic Ono Band, and then being healed by "Astral Weeks." These days I find Plastic Ono Band—and indeed much of John Lennon's solo career—to be almost too awkwardly open. But I also understand that Lennon was struggling to be true to himself, and that his attempts to overcome his inhibitions and his cynicism—and to record the results—are a large part of why he's so beloved.

Enduring presence? Is Lennon maybe a teensy bit overrated as a solo artist? I think so. As I wrote in a review of the Acoustic collection four years ago, "Around the time of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Lennon and McCartney began to diverge, with the former increasingly pursuing avant-garde expression as a way of purging pain, and the latter getting poppier and poppier until his facility with hummable hooks became a sort of cheap party trick. Still, over time, McCartney's methods proved more productive. Lennon explored his dark places fruitfully on two stellar post-Beatles solo albums (Plastic Ono Band and Imagine), and then his edge dulled." That said, even though there's far more Lennon chaff in his solo years than in his Beatles years, the wheat that's there is pretty impressive. And to fully "get" Lennon, you have to consume it all.

John Mellencamp

Years Of Operation 1976-present

Fits Between Bob Seger and Steve Earle

Personal Correspondence I've seen John Mellencamp live twice: once at an indoor arena on the Scarecrow tour, when he was still ending each show with a badass 15-minute medley of garage-rock covers, and once at an amphitheater on The Lonesome Jubilee tour, when he had a fiddle player and an accordionist to flesh out his more trad-minded new direction. (Shortly before The Lonesome Jubilee came out, my friend Rob had a dream about going to a Mellencamp concert and hearing a weird set of country-cajun songs that the dream-Mellencamp said were "from my new album, Boho Bayou." When Rob and I first listened to Lonesome Jubilee together, after the first couple songs he turned to me and said, "Damn…it's Boho Bayou!") It's safe to say that I bought the Mellencamp myth in a big way in the mid-'80s, appreciating how he'd made himself over from the cartoonish post-Springsteen greaser of "Jack And Diane" and "Ain't Even Done With The Night" to the socially committed heartland rocker of Uh-Huh and Scarecrow (propelled by the booming sound of one of the best rock drummers of all time, Kenny Aronoff). The new-model Mellencamp peaked with 1989's Big Daddy, where he dropped some of the arena-rock polish for a set of songs with a more rough-hewn, front-porch/practice-space quality. That album contains some of his best work, steering away from the anthemic and towards the subtle and complex. But from the '90s on, Mellencamp has been good for only one or two good songs per record (if that), and he's taken his socially conscious persona so seriously that he's become increasingly boring. As much as I like the stretch of albums from Uh-Huh to Big Daddy, I've found in my old age that I dig Top 40 fodder like "I Need A Lover" and "This Time" just as much. Something Mellencamp said in an interview in the late '80s sticks with me. After pontificating about some political or musical subject, Mellencamp deflated himself, joking, "Then again, I'm the same asshole that wrote 'Hurts So Good.'" Exactly, John.

Enduring presence? What disappoints me most about Mellencamp's decline is that it may have worked against the enduring reputation of his best records. The other day, in conjunction with a potential Inventory topic, more than one A.V. Club writer tried to tell me that "R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A." doesn't rock. Lousy hipsters.

Johnny Cash

Years Of Operation 1955-2003

Fits Between Tex Ritter and Bob Dylan

Personal Correspondence Like John Denver, Johnny Cash was such a part of the American entertainment landscape when I was growing up that it was hard to distinguish the dumpy, gravel-voiced figure on talk shows and variety shows (and one memorable Columbo) from the man who recorded timeless classics like "Walk The Line" and "Ring Of Fire." I started digging deeper into Cash in high school, beginning with a copy of At Folsom Prison, and Cash has gradually become one of those performers of whom I'm fully in awe, wowed by his sincerity, curiosity, decency and passion. In my review last year of The Best Of The Johnny Cash TV Show 1969-1971 DVD set, I wrote, "He was a consummate entertainer, but never slick. When Cash stepped in front of the camera to introduce his guest stars, it was clear he honestly liked them, and between 1969 and 1971, Cash showcased the likes of Bob Dylan, Carl Perkins, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Chet Atkins, and Eric Clapton. He taped the shows at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, and made each episode like a trip inside his head, through his love of trains, his compassion for Native Americans, his Christian faith, his tangled family ties, his memories of old country songs, and every pill he ever took. Cash never presented himself as a healed man; he was always broken but trying harder, and he was always inviting others to try along with him."

Enduring presence? To some extent, Cash reminds me of my dad, who was also bearish in physique and prone to tell stories about railroads and old-time country stars. What I like best about Cash is that even though he had a showman's instinct, I never got the sense that he was ever singing any less than what he believed was the truth. It was a complicated truth, but it was as Cash understood it.

Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers

Years Of Operation 1970-present

Fits Between The Velvet Underground and Adam Green

Personal Correspondence When I got my first non-business e-mail account in 1999, I experimented with a number of different quotes in my signature, but within a year, I'd settled on "don't feel so alone with the radio on," and that's been my sign off ever since. To me, "Roadrunner" is just about the perfect rock 'n' roll song: It's got the driving beat, the sing-along lyrics, Richman getting so deep into the moment that he's practically babbling, and the backing singers coming in to keep him on track. Plus, it's a song about driving through the suburban night and blasting rock 'n' roll on the radio, which means it's a song about one of my Top 10 favorite things to do in life. I would've liked to have picked a lesser-known Richman song as my sample track, but I just couldn't (although I did switch it up a little by picking a different take). I'm fine with the turn towards the goofy and über-boyish that Richman made after the first Modern Lovers album, and as someone with kids, I can tell you it's nice to have songs like "I'm A Little Airplane" and "Abominable Snowman In The Market" out there in the universe. But that first record, The Modern Lovers—with its somewhat darker, groovier songs about jealousy, loss, and feeling displaced in a world of hippie decadence—is as resonant as it is fun, and it'll always be my favorite.

Enduring presence? The story of Jonathan Richman is the story of the triumph of the amateur, about an eager young Velvet Underground fan who found a group of musicians willing to back his quirky, doggedly un-hip songs. He's a hero to anyone with an idiosyncratic worldview and a love of the simple and tuneful.

Stray Tracks

From the fringes of the collection, a few songs to share….

John Barry, "Midnight Cowboy"

Barry's had a distinguished career a movie composer, but I don't know that he's ever topped this note-perfect theme to arguably the most melancholy Best Picture winner ever. Not only does "Midnight Cowboy" fit alongside the movie's memorable use of the Fred Neill tune "Everybody's Talkin'" (as sung by Harry Nilsson), but it also works with the movie's more decadent Village rock music, and it evokes the Hollywood westerns that Midnight Cowboy subtly debunks. It's a beautiful, beautiful song.

John Cale, "Big White Cloud"

I interviewed Cale four years ago, and found him a gruff but engaging guy, with an unusual approach to music that balances spontaneity with the deeply intellectualized. Since leaving The Velvet Underground, Cale's recorded songs and albums in a variety of styles, hardly limiting himself to VU's dreamy minimalism. This song, from his 1970 LP Vintage Violence, is typical of his "pastoral period," though in the context of his '60s work and the edgier turns Cale took later in the '70s, it's hard to imagine where Cale's head was at when he wrote and recorded something this sweet and dreamy.

John Hiatt, "Your Dad Did"

Hiatt's Bring The Family came out when I was a senior in high school, just as I was starting to appreciate what I considered "mature" rock 'n' roll: songs about settling down, pining for home, coming to grips with parental legacies, whatnot. Prior to the release of that record, Hiatt had been kind of a cult hero among Nashville singer-songwriter aficionados. He'd released a slew of records in styles ranging from country to semi-new wave, and he'd been covered by a line-up of rock and country heavyweights, but he'd never quite broken out as a solo artist. Bring The Family brought him a new level of critical and commercial success—and one massive hit, "Have A Little Faith In Me"—but since then he's worked his way back down to "for aficionados only" status. And to be honest, I've come back around on Hiatt's brand of roots-rock, which I find a little too foursquare and pleased with itself. That said, this is a fine little song, with a final line that still moves me. With Father's Day coming up, this one's for all the dads.


John Lee Hooker, "Boogie Chillen"

Hooker has that "pitch-black night, shack in the swamp" sound that blues musicians and dilettantes alike have been struggling to evoke for decades. This is the kind of blues music that I've always liked best: the kind that has the aroma of smoke and whiskey and sweat and aged wood. If I had an electric guitar and a tiny amp, I'd probably try to play a song that sounded just like this too.

John Legend, "Where Did My Baby Go"

I don't think Legend's yet lived up to his capabilities, but there's a lot I like about him: his voice, for one, and his connection to multiple musical traditions. Or maybe I just like him because when I spoke to him for another publication two years ago, he was a winning interview subject, with a lot to say about growing up a prodigy, winning a Grammy, studying up on Bacharach, and working with hip-hop artists. (Note to my AVC editors: Consider a Legend interview when his new album comes out later this year; you won't be sorry.) Legend's in that class of musicians who seems to care deeply about learning as much as he can so that he can improve his craft and his art. He knows what he's doing, and as a listener, it can be a comfort to be around performers like that.

John Phillips, "Let It Bleed, Genevieve"

After The Mamas & The Papas dissolved, Phillips threw himself body and soul into that Topanga Canyon "Cosmic Americana" sound, writing folk-influenced songs drawing on country, Dixieland and cabaret. This song, from the weirdly wonderful John, The Wolf King Of L.A., combines the sounds of an earlier time with a character sketch so personal that you'd almost have to be Phillips to completely grasp what he's singing about.

John Waite, "Missing You"

I'm not sure what to make of Waite's career arc, which led him from power-pop favorites The Babys to arena-rock pluggers Bad English, with a brief stopover as a straightforward '80s pop icon. Waite's one of those "have voice, will travel" guys, willing to let himself be molded by industry players with persuasive financial portfolios. Whatever his motivations, "Missing You" is still fine Top 40 fare, co-written and co-produced by Waite, and memorably performed.

Johnnie Ray, "Cry"

Speaking of classic pop songs, here's one from 1951, in the immediate pre-rock era. Ray recorded a number of winning pop tunes in the '50s, all sung in that big, slightly untamed voice. But he made his first and strongest impression with "Cry," an invitation to emotional release that holds listeners in its spell from the moment Ray starts singing to the moment he gives us permission to bawl.

Johnny Irion, "Short Leash"

Writing about Irion's album Ex Tempore last year, I said, "The vocal and stylistic similarities between Johnny Irion and Neil Young circa Harvest might be hard for some listeners to get over, but it would be a mistake to think of Irion's album as a slavish copy, or even an homage. It's a wholly original set of songs, recorded in an early-'70s country-rock style, emphasizing live, collaborative performance with subtle orchestral overlays. Granted, Irion isn't as direct a songwriter as Young, but he does put a personal stamp on Ex Tempore, which is full of songs about mistakes catching up to people and dreams slipping away. 'Ex tempore' is a legal term, describing an immediate judgment, delivered 'at the time.' The title describes the theme of the record, in which the music hovers in the air like a past not quite left behind." This song exemplifies what I was trying to say. It's retro-leaning and deeply yearning, and seems to pass a judgment on Irion's musical and personal preoccupations.

Johnny Mathis, "Chances Are"

When I was a kid there used to be a commercial on late night TV for one of those "music of your life"-type treasuries, which was my first exposure to a lot of pre-rock pop music. The songs were presented in a blitz of short snippets in order to fit as much as possible into a minute, so for years I couldn't think of "Chances Are" without imagining the rest of the commercial. ("Chances aaaaare / He'll have to go / Just a-walkin' in the raaaain / Only yoooooou.") I also grew up with during the nostalgia booms of the '70s and '80s—American Graffiti, Happy Days, Diner, The Stray Cats, etc.—so before I'd even heard a note of Mathis' music, I was aware of him as the soundtrack to '50s make-out sessions. Listening to this swoonily romantic standard, I can understand why that was. One minute in and I'm ready to start necking.

Johnny Pearson, "Superstars"

Oh boy, it's Saturday afternoon in 1975! Who will win the swimming competition? Which baseball player is the best bowler? Will Kyle Rote Jr. be on this episode? Let's watch!

Johnny Thunders, "Great Big Kiss"

In some ways, Thunders and most of the other proto-punks were rock classicists, striving to bring their favorite music back to its raw roots, while still writing fully formed songs with memorable verses, choruses and bridges. Sometimes the results came out sloppy because that was the best they could do, and sometimes sloppiness was part of the concept. In Thunders case, he was frequently trying to take listeners inside his head, where they'd find a jumble of staticky AM radio broadcasts and primal need.

Johnny Williams, "Breaking Point"

Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Burr, "You Can't Blame Me"

Here's a pair of winners from the Eccentric Soul series, taking two different approaches to R&B;, each thrilling in their own way. Williams is in the James Brown mold, aiming for frenzy. JHT&B;, on the other hand, are much cooler in style, but not necessarily more laid back. They've got a lament to share, and they've chosen to contrast desperation with music that's smooth and insinuating. Both songs, in their way, are about making excuses for what happens when a man gets pushed too far by the object of his desire.

Jon Auer, "You Used To Drive Me Around"

Most of Posies co-founder Jon Auer's 2006 solo album Songs From The Year Of Our Demise is serviceable but undistinguished indie-pop, lightly orchestrated and quickly forgettable. This song though—a dreamy seven-minute reminiscence that advances and retreats with sublime purpse—is one of those that makes it worth slogging through disc after disc of just-okay music. Every now and then, while punching past songs that few are likely to care about decades hence, I find a song that I wish more people could hear, before it gets buried for good. Today I give "You Used To Drive Me Around" what might be its last chance to find an audience.

Jon Brion, "Phone Call"

I once described Jon Brion's approach to songwriting and production as the "life's a goddamn carnival" method, though this snippet from his lovely Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind soundtrack shows that he has some other weapons in his arsenal. I'm an admirer of Brion's, though from what I've read about him, I'd probably appreciate him more if I could see one of his free-ranging live shows at Largo in L.A. I always get the sense with Brion that there's so much more that he knows and could share with us, if only he had the time and inclination. Maybe someday.

Jonathan Hoffman, "Guess I'll Have To Write My Own"

It's been a few weeks since I asked you to endure one of the excruciatingly bad singer-songwriter anthems that used to fill my mailbox. This one is typical of the "things aren't what they used to be, but hey, at least I'm still here" genre, and it raises a lot of questions. Like, why is Hoffman lamenting the death of rock 'n' roll in a coffeehouse folk song? And what exactly is his beef with these hip-hoppers and their newfangled "music?" And does he really think that this song is the new classic the world has been waiting for?

Regrettably unremarked upon: John Doe, John Fahey, John Vanderslice, John Wesley Harding, John Williams, Johnnie Taylor, Johnny Dowd, Johnny Mercer, Johnny Nash, Jon Langford and Jon Rauhouse

Also listened to: Joe Marc's Brother, Joel Gibb, Joel RL Phelps & The Downer Trio, Joey Jefferson Band, Joey Ramone, The Joggers, John Austin, John Brannen, John Brown's Body, John Bustine, John Danley, John Davis, John Dufhilo, John Flynn, John Francis, John Gorky, John Gregory & His Orchestra, John LaMonica, John Maus, John Mayer, John McCutcheon, John McEntire, John Parish, John Ralston, John Scofield Trio, John T. Baker, John Wilkes Booze, John's Children, Johnatan Rice, Johnnie Osbourne, Johnny Adams, Johnny Bragg, The Johnny Burnette Trio, Johnny Bush, Johnny Dollar, Johnny Jones & The King Casuals, Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, Johnny Maddox, Johnny Marr & The Healers, Johnny Morisette, Johnny Osbourne, The Johnny Otis Show, Johnny Pate & Adam Wade, Johnny Society, Johnny Soul, Johnossi, The Johnson Mountain Boys, Johnson Sisters, Jolie Holland, Jon Cutler, Jon Dee Graham, Jon Lucien, Jon Rauhouse and Jon T. Howard

Next week: From Joni Mitchell to Kate Bush, plus a few words on gender