On a recent episode of the music show Sound Opinions from National Public Radio, the two hosts discussed the topic of literal one man bands. Jim Rogatis and Greg Kot defined the term as recording artists who have played every instrument on at least one of their albums, a list including some very impressive names.
The most well-known among the choices of Rogatis was Mike Oldfield, who hit the top ten with the title track from the Tubular Bells album. Much of its success was due to its being used as the theme song to the movie thriller The Exorcist, which starred a young Linda Blair as a child possessed by the devil. Also on his list was Emmitt Rhodes, who played every instrument on his self-titled album.
Co-host Kot mentioned two artists who, because of consistent chart toppers in the Seventies, are even better known than Oldfield and Rhodes. Stevie Wonder played every single note on his highly acclaimed Innervisions album, while Todd Rundgren handled all of the instrumentation on Something Anything with its huge hits “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light.”
Unfortunately, the two hosts omitted one very famous name, which certainly deserves to be on the list. Sonny Bono played all of the instruments on his 1967 album Inner Views, which ended up being the only solo record he ever released.
Also left out was Beck, whose album from earlier this year Colors includes him as the only musician. The record has received much critical acclaim, and it has appeared on many lists of the best albums of this year.
A related list could be created that would include true one man bands, individual artists who refer to themselves as a distinct group. Like the ones mentioned above, all of the following play every instrument on their albums.
Toro Y Moi
The one member of this alternative rock band is Chaz Bundick, whose breakthrough 2015 album What For featured the quite impressive single “Empty Nesters.”
Kevin Parker is the man behind this alternative rock band, whose albums Innerspeaker and Lonerism have been among the best of the current decade.
Soul Mining, the debut album from 1982, was recorded solely by Matt Johnson. He did manage to gather a band for the second album, Infected.
Electronic rock sensation Adam Young had several Top Ten hits, including “Hello Seattle” and “Fireflies”, on his debut album Ocean Eyes.
Tallest Man On Earth
Saras Per Kristian Matsson hails from Sweden, where he has drawn comparisons to Bob Dylan because of the Shallow Graves album from 2008.