Introduce us to a lesser-known band which nevertheless had a significant influence on music

Or, of course, a musician, a singer, a songwriter etc.

The sort of thing I mean: back in the day, MC5 would have been a good example. When I was 18, say, they were almost unknown. But it turns out they were major figures in what was happening at that time - an important proto-punk band. Deservedly recognized, now, of course.

But there must others out there that remain little known, despite their noteworthy contribution - large or small - to music. So introduce us to a little known band - with a video, of course - and explain why they are musically significant.

I’ll kick things off with Deaf School - they burned bright, very briefly, in the late '70s - here they are performing Taxi! Their particular significance, however, is that they allowed Liverpool to reawaken musically. Without Deaf School there might have been no Frankie Goes To Hollywood, for example. As Holly Johnson put it:


Deaf School revitalised Liverpool as a breeding-ground for bands. That’s why they’re important. So: who else deserves some credit?

What have you got?


I’m down.

DC Hardcore progenitors Minor Threat. Formed in 1980 in Washington DC they only released one full-length album, Out of Step. But it was a thunderingly good punk LP. That, along with some 7" EPs gave them some sound influence on the growing DC hardcore movement.

But where they really had an impact was in forming Dischord Records - also based in Washington. Dischord - formed by the two main guys in Minor Threat - influenced and released music by Government Issue, Rites of Spring, Grey Matter, Jawbox, Shudder to Think and even Fugazi.

But where they really slipped on in is in supporting the band Scream. That’s the band Dave Grohl was in before leaving to join Nirvana. So there’s at least some influence there that changed the course of 90s alternative. And, of course, gave us our ongoing 90s alt-dad figure in the role Grohl appears to be enjoying as we all age.

But check out that Minor Threat album. It’s still as punchy and good now as when I was playing it on my college station all those decades ago.

I’ll nominate James Carr, one of the greatest Southern Soul singers ever, IMHO on a level with the great Otis Redding, but mostly forgotten by history. Everybody knows “The Dark End Of The Street” because it’s one of the greatest Soul standards ever and has spawned a number of impressive covers (Aretha Franklin, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Ry Cooder), but few know that Carr’s version was the original recording. He had some other minor hits, like “Pouring Water On A Drowning Man”, but never really broke through. First reason is that he never recorded for Stax, but for the minor Memphis label Goldwax (though he recorded with Stax staff musicians) and thus hadn’t much label support. And he struggled all his life with mental illness which made touring and performing very difficult. But check out his Goldwax material, it’s all fantastic and on the same level as the best Stax output.

The Bonzo Dog Band may not have been a significant influence on music, but it was a major influence on comedy and especially Monty Python.

I like this choice because it chimes well with what was almost the band I included in the OP - Scritti Politti. I don’t know how well they are remembered now (apparently they had a biggish US hit single, according to wiki). But their most significant contribution was much earlier, their first single in the UK, Skank Bloc Bologna (1978). Or, to be more specific, the cover to the single. This was the prototypical do-it-yourself record and, very deliberately, the cover detailed all of the steps involved in creating the single, including the suppliers and service providers they had used, and the costs involved, eg:

They simply demystified the process of doing it yourself, the approach which came to characterise the explosion of new bands and new recordings of the post-punk period. In a nutshell, that record cover went a long way towards making the New Wave (as we called it back then) possible. Anyone willing to take a punt was able to make the record they wanted to make. It was great.


Without Venom, heavy metal as it exists today would never have happened. They were a direct and massive influence on Slayer, Metallica, Exodus, and many many more bands that eventually created thrash, which led to death metal. They influenced grindcore bands, punk rock bands, black metal bands and more.

They are singularly responsible for so-called Satanic lyrics and imagery in metal, as well as coining the term Black Metal. Their shitty production style even became an influence on how black metal sounds.

Like the Ramones, it would be almost impossible to overstate the influence that Venom has had on metal.

Venom - Welcome To Hell (album playlist)

Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, China White, etal. Little known punk bands from the late 70s and early 80s that paved the trail for more commercial punk bands.

The Sonics. Everything you love about Garage, Punk, and Grunge grew out of the Sonics. Heck, even Jimi Hendrix wanted to sit in with the Sonics. (They told him to “Get lost!”.)

The Witch

I have a new found admiration for you Mr Chance

I never heard of them before your post, but they were okay. Except for the young Howard Hesseman-looking guy talking into a microphone; he’s gotta go.

I am not sure of their importance due to helping the Liverpool scene if that scene didn’t produce many bands afterwards. Frankie Goes to Hollywood is not enough. Flock of Seagulls? Echo and the Bunnymen? All three together isn’t enough, to me, but maybe you are a lot more New Wavy than I am. Or less MTV-American.

Hey! That was a reply to the OP, but it doesn’t look like it on my screen!

I listened to my 7" of Jawbox’s Tools & Chrome while I read Jonathan’s post.

Does it help that their guitarist Clive Langer went on to produce (with Alan Winstanley) music by many other bands including Madness, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, and They Might Be Giants?

Yes it does! Also, I read only your OP before posting and since then, I see that the posts are generally in line with your example.

Alex Chilton and Big Star. Not household names, but they had an outsized influence on other bands, perhaps most notably R.E.M. and The Replacements.


I was about five years to young for those guys - maybe 6-7, really. But while they were doing their thing I was hanging at Skip Groff’s Yesterday and Today records in Rockville and learning, learning, learning.

I got to hear a lot of great music in my mid-teens, though. So I got that going for me.

Which is nice.

Nirvana (the '60s British psychedelic band, not the grunge band from Washington) is almost completely unknown these days, but their album The Story of Simon Simopath is possibly the earliest example of what would come to be known a few years later as “rock opera”.

For jazz I would say the Luis Russell Orchestra. Russell took over a band that had been led by King Oliver and completely transformed the sound. He brought in Red Allen on trumpet, replaced the tuba player with Pops Foster on bass, and introduced swing.

Here the orchestra plays It’s Tight Like That in January of 1929, before Russell made the changes.

Here they play Feeling the Spirit in September of 1929, after Russell made the changes.

I think Vanilla Fudge might qualify - they are known in Rock Music circles but hardly known outside them.

Their music pre-dated stuff such as Deep Purple, Humble Pie and you can feel their influence right through to Led Zepellin.

It’s their long almost operatic slow heavy beats with keyboards style that was widely adopted and modified.

This is their best known number, but it does represent their style reasonably - perhaps a bit poppy but you get the point