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A-List-Of-Yer Keys!

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John Piper | 15:19 UK time, Thursday, 20 May 2010


We haven't asked you to choose your keyboard favourites in the I'm in a Rock'n'Roll Band vote

In fact, the meat and two veg purists might contend that the keyboard is an unwelcome interloper into the classic vocals, guitar, bass, drums combination.

But in case anyone wants to consider what an ivories-tickling side order might bring to the main course of the Fantasy Band they have been assembling over the past few weeks, here are some suggestions.

Purely personal. Probably contentious. Just a bit of fun though - no need for anyone to get hot under the collar!

The 10 listed below are chosen for what they might bring to a band rather than on the basis of the fastness of their fingers.

First some notable omissions. No Wakeman and Emerson for me. Brilliant players without question, but could they integrate into a fantasy band line-up? I don't think so. The capes and knives would be out before you know it. These guys always end up being bigger than the band.

No Elton John or Ben Folds either. Great writers and stage performers and no one is doubting their technical ability - but would they be happy to camp out on the edge of stage behind a wall of keyboards and consoles while others hog the limelight? Of course not.

I'm ruling out Jools Holland too as he's been a band leader far longer than he was ever a sideman in Squeeze.

And would Tony Banks work in any band other than Genesis? I'm saying no. Just a bit of fun mind, remember.

Matt Bellamy and John Paul Jones also have a good shout for inclusion but they appear in other categories, so won't feature here.

So who's in?

1) Ray Manzarek
Not just the creator of maybe the most sophisticated top ten keyboard intro in history (fighting it out for my money with Party Fears Two by The Associates) but laying claim with his left hand for the bassist's job too.
Key Track - Light My Fire, The Doors

2) Dave Greenfield
His driving style would be a pulse-quickening boon to any band. Punks weren't supposed to be able to play this well.
Key Track - No More Heroes, The Stranglers

3) Brian Eno
Self-proclaimed non-musician, but one who would bring so much more to the party than mere keys-bothering. Any outfit featuring him would immediately become a 'Fantasy Band'.
Key Track - "Heroes", David Bowie

4) Steve Winwood
The 60s boy genius who went on to form Traffic and Blind Faith. His contributions to classic albums from acts as diverse as Marianne Faithfull to Paul Weller via Lou Reed show just how useful he could be to have around in any band.
Key Track - Gimme Some Lovin', Spencer Davis Group

5) Ian McLagan
Tasteful, classy and an integral part of two of Britain's greatest ever bands. Moddily psychedelic with The Small Faces; lopingly bar room with The Faces. Author of one of the most entertaining musical autobiographies ever, to boot.
Key Track - Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake, The Small Faces

6) Billy Preston
The one contender for title Fifth Beatle who actually got an equal playing credit on the label. And he played on Exile on Main Street too. Good enough for them - enough for me.
Key Track - Get Back, The Beatles

7) Jon Lord
A virtuoso, concerto writing, Hammond hammerer but a team player too. Happy to be hidden behind his kingdom of keys 'like a cocktail waiter ready to serve drinks at any time.'
Key Track - Hush, Deep Purple

8) Richard Wright
Considered. Soulful. And creator of some of the most uplifting music ever.
Key Track - The Great Gig in the Sky

9) Mike Barson
Are Madness a 'proper' rock'n'roll band? While the argument rages on, I'm putting him onto the list anyway. After all - it's only a bit of fun.
Key track - Grey Day, Madness (nothing flash but perfect for the song)

10) Nicky Hopkins
Nimbled fingered Zelig. Session man, yes - but what a career! Who, Stones, Kinks. Blimey!
Key track - Sympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones

So, that's my list. Who'd be in yours?

John Piper is the Series Producer of I'm In A Rock 'n' Roll Band

Related Posts
I'm in a Rock 'n' Roll Band - John writes baout making the series
What's Your Fantasy Rock 'n' Roll Band?

Related Links
I'm in a Rock 'n' Roll Band - video and votes


  • Comment number 1.

    I can't believe that RICK WAKEMAN is not on this list! He is definitely the best ever keyboard player in rock/pop.

    I also think that KEITH EMERSON should be on this shortlist.

  • Comment number 2.

    Rick Wakeman missing because he's not a band player? His contribution to Yes as a band member was outstanding, and he was playing with them for years.

  • Comment number 3.

    An almost obviously overlooked keyboard player is Spike Edney, often called the 5th member of Queen, who has also played with a wide variety of acts including leading his own all-star band, the SAS (Spike's All Stars).

    Less obvious but worthy of inclusion would be the likes of Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater/solo) and Derek Sherinian (Alice Cooper/Dream Theater/Planet X/Solo)

  • Comment number 4.

    I MUST disagree with Mr. Piper (and agree with crazeenick & meadow55) Rick Wakeman is definitely the BEST rock keyboard player.

    Also, I would not have Brian Eno in my list of top keyboard players, as he played the synthesizer, in my eyes not strictly a keyboard.

    My top 10 keyboard players are:

    1. Rick Wakeman (Yes, Strawbs, David Bowie)
    2. Keith Emerson (ELP, Nice)
    3. Jon Lord (Deep Purple)
    4. Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
    5. Richard Wright (Pink Floyd)
    6. Tony Banks (Genesis)
    7. Billy Preston
    8. Ian Underwood (The Mothers Of Invention)
    9. Steve Winwood (Traffic)
    10. Nicky Hopkins (Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck)

  • Comment number 5.

    Why either Rick Wakeman or Keith Emerson aren't included in the poll is beyond belief.

    The "These guys always end up being bigger than the band" quip really doesn't make any sense, least of all justify their non-inclusion. Whilst both have successful solo careers outside of their respective groups - Wakeman in particular has a plethora of sessions under his belt. Whether it's the piano on Cat Steven's 'Morning Has Broken' or the sweeping Mellotron on Bowie's 'Space Oddity' (to name but two) - it has been his playing that made the songs a whole.

    'Mike Barson' is on the above list though ? Oh, the humanity ...

    "And would Tony Banks work in any band other than Genesis?" - The same question could easily be put to the (late, great) Richard Wright.

    This being said, an extremely enjoyable series and kudos to all at BBC 2 for putting it together.

  • Comment number 6.


  • Comment number 7.

    Keith Emerson of The Nice and ELP, Rick Wright of Pink Floyd, Ian McDonald of King Crimson, Rick Wakeman from Yes and Strawbs, Thijs van Leer of Focus, Hugh Banton of Van Der Graaf Generator, Simon House of Hawkwind, Tim Blake of Gong... So many! Why not have a vote?

  • Comment number 8.

    Why no vote for keyboard player ?

    My list would include:
    1. Manfred Mann ( MM, Earth Band )
    2. Kieth Emerson ( Nice, ELP )
    3. Rick Wakeman ( Yes )
    4. Jon Lord ( Deep Purple, Whitesnake )
    5. Colin Towns ( Ian Gillan band )
    6. Rick Davies ( Supertramp )
    7. Don Airey ( Rainbow, ELO, Whitesnake, etc. )

  • Comment number 9.

    A big YES to Dave Greenfield being in the Top 10. He has defined The Stranglers' unique sound for many years and is a one-off character.

    In general I really enjoyed the series. What I can't understand is that The Stranglers don't get a mention (apart from No More Heroes being used in the last episode). They have been hugely influential and are still going strong after 36 years! Proof being a first appearance at Glastonbury this summer.

    As far as the voting is concerned: JJ Burnel not in the top 10 bass players? What a joke... There are thousands of bass players who would never have looked at the instrument if it had not been for him.

  • Comment number 10.

    @ No 9

    The whole series has been a bit of a joke, to be fair.
    Top 10s are always difficult to compile ( and - shock, horror - completely pointless ), so there will always be arguments about who should be there, and who shouldn't.
    But this entire series of shows has completely ignored some of the greatest rock musicians in history.
    A prime example would be Neil Peart of Rush not appearing in the drummers line-up. You can argue til you are blue in the face as to whether he's 'the best' or '3rd best' or '10th best' but to not have him at all ... is simply nonsense. Especially when you consider who is in the 'Top 10 Drummers you might have heard of.'

  • Comment number 11.

    God, there's so many great players that it makes it very difficult to minimise it all into a "Top 10", and let's face it, not everyone's tastes or favourite band will be featured.
    From a UK point of view, I would have liked to have seen PAUL CARRACK featured in the list of keyboard players. A solo artist in his own right and former member of SQUEEZE, Paul is equally at home on piano or Hammond organ. Great player. Another omission from the list is GEOFF DOWNES of ASIA. It's kinda criminal that he's not there at all.
    If we widen the scope to international players(is that allowed?), then there is GREG PHILLINGANES, who has played with everyone from Toto & Stevie Wonder to Clapton to Michael Jackson. And from a songwriting angle DAVID PAICH of TOTO would be in the any fantasy band.
    The debate goes on...................

  • Comment number 12.

    It is indeed remiss of the BBC not to have a vote in this category and furthermore I would go along with Stevie Robson who wishes to widen the scope to International players. If that were the case then my list would have to be.......(in no particular order)

    1. Tony Banks (Genesis)
    2. Richard Wright (Pink Floyd)
    3. Jon Lord (Deep Purple)
    4. Keith Emerson (ELP)
    5. Rick Wakeman (Yes)
    6. Roy Bittan and Danny Federici (E St. Band)
    7. Benjamin Montmorency (Benmont) Tench III (Heartbreakers)
    8. Guy Babylon (Elton John)
    9. Kerry Minnear (Gentle Giant)
    10.Reese Wynans (Double Trouble)

    I couldn't possibly have Roy Bittan without the late great Danny Federici or vice-versa, and while Reese Wynans may not be as big a name as most of the others, he played for arguably (in my opinion) the greatest rock guitarist who ever stepped on stage.........Stevie Ray Vaughan, and as such deserves to be recognised.

    My ultimate fantasy band....

    Singer..........Bruce Springsteen
    Guitar..........Nils Lofgren
    Bass............Gary Tallent
    Drums...........Max Weinberg
    Keyboards.......Roy Bittan
    Sax.............Clarence Clemons

    What's that, it already exists.........

  • Comment number 13.

    Jess Bailey who played keys with Spandau Ballet and Alison moyet among others is a very underrated player. I was also surprised there was no mention of Larry knechtel who was with bread and has countless hits as asession player to his credit. The bass players choice is a joke apart from Entwistle and Flea...what about Stanley Clarke, Jaco pastorius, Geddy lee and Mark King? No members of Toto were mentioned anywhere and yet they were often seen as a fantasy band due to all in there being very sought after session players as well. I agree with the earlier comment of surprise at Neil Peart being excluded in the drummers section and I would add Simon Phillips to that list as well..... Music is just SO individually subjective isn't it !!!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Complete nonsense of course. If you're disqualifying Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman, then I would throw out Freddy Mercury and Jimi Hendrix - they would dominate any band that they were in. If you want four/five journeymen that were in popular bands then fine but it'll sound bland and sell next to nothing. Travesty that Neil Peart, Carl Palmer and Chris Squire aren't in their respective categories - Mani and Tina Weymouth???? C'mon.
    I'm guessing the winners will be Mercury/Hendrix/Bonham and McCartney which would be fair but probably sound awful.

  • Comment number 15.

    Your list left out key players, (no pun intended), because in your opinion, they couldn't be team players. Dude, that's exactly what these guys have been proving themselves capable of for decades! Be serious! If Emerson & Wakeman are off the list, what's the point? Sorry, but at least half the guys on your list would lull me to sleep. I wouldn't want somebody on keys to just stand there & go with the flow. Every member of a dream team should be good enough to carry their own weight in a solo situation without becoming redundant. With that in mind & sheer talent, versatility & ability as my guidelines, my list is as follows:
    1.Keith Emerson-ELP
    2.Rick Wakeman-Yes
    3.Tony Banks-Genesis
    4.Mark Kelly-Marillion
    5.Thomas Dolby
    6.Kevin Moore-Dream Theater
    7.Kerry Livgren-Kansas
    8.Chris North-Ambrosia
    9.John Beck-It Bites
    10.David Paich-Toto
    Obviously, not everyone who deserves to be on this list is. Narrowed down to 10, here's my pick. By the way, the day keyboards are no longer considered justifiable as part of a GOOD rock band is the day I stop listening.

  • Comment number 16.

    Richard Wright for pushing the bounderies,

    Aso why is Dave Gilour not on the guitar list????

  • Comment number 17.

    To No 15. chrysalis2030
    Very well said. I couldn't agree with you more!

  • Comment number 18.

    I cann't believe that a keyboard player has not beenincluded. Out of the selection given then Jon Lord would be my choice, however I would have automatically included Rick Wakeman. It then starts to get more like a band with the inclusion off woodwind and brass players. All have there place, buta keyboard player I think is necessary. All the best hits have had a keyboard in it at some point.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm amazed that nobody has mentioned Dave Stewart (Egg, Hatfield & the North, National Health). He was the thinking man's prog rock keyboard player. Good technique plus a sense of humour, he wrote some great tunes that were 90% very hummable and then suddenly tripped you up with odd crazy notes that just didn't belong.

  • Comment number 20.

    My I start by saying that I've really enjoyed this series and think it's been reasonably varied with its choices for Top 10's considering each show is only an hour long... more shows like this me thinks!

    OK keyboard players... like a few on this page, I to am a little surprised by Mr Wakeman's absence, a very talented and funny man whom I'm proud to say I've met. I also think that Roy and Danni from the E-Street Band should've been included and although Brian Eno has made the Top 10, what about more synth players I say? They add as much to a track as anyone else!

    My Top 5 Keyboard players -
    5. Greg Allman (The Allman Bros. Band)
    4. Roy Bitten (E-Street Band)
    3. All of Kraftwerk
    2. Garth Hudson (The Band)
    1. Ray Manzarek (The Doors)

  • Comment number 21.

    John Lord without doubt. The guy is just a genius - check out Deep Purple's gig in Copenhagen in '72, when he plays I lose all sense of time and place.

  • Comment number 22.

    Why no Chick Corea? Has he been disqualified for playing more than 3 chords? I guess the same applies to Herbie Hancock.

  • Comment number 23.

    Surely Freddie Mercury deserves a mention?

  • Comment number 24.

    I am simply stunned that Jon Lord doesn't even get a mention for the top ten let alone not being the top keyboard player.

    Look at his back catalogue from Deep Purple onwards to his solo albums, including the Durham Miner's work a few years ago.

    Simply astonished that he's not considered amongst the best.

  • Comment number 25.

    Roger Hodgson
    Dreamer - and many other evocative keyboard sounds.

  • Comment number 26.

    Get a bit of Richard Wright (Pink Floyd) in there. Wonderful player and the band wouldn't have been the same without him. (Rest in peace)

  • Comment number 27.

    What No Wakeman !!! I have seen Rick perform several times at least both solo and with a band. He was the ultimate profrssional. He knows when to be the front man and when to be the team player. It seem very silly to exclude thye likes of Wakeman and the rest of the so called Prog/heavy Rock players as they are by and far the best examples of what a key board player should be.

  • Comment number 28.

    Everybody has their own opinion. Who's right or wrong doesn't come into it. You can't argue over taste. Taste - now what happened to Rory Gallacher, a fine guitarist if ever there was one? Why wasn't he mentioned? Oh yes, keyboards. It's got to be Jon Lord.

  • Comment number 29.

    Overall, I have been somewhat disappointed in the selections we have been offered and reflects the choice of "experts" selecting the band. Rock is not everyones choice of music but remains as popular now as it ever did with new bands coming through who owe their inspiration to legendary bands like Led Zeppelin.

    A few notable and sad omissions, where were:

    Cozy Powell, maybe the greatest and most forceful stick swiper ever.

    Brian May or Richie Blackmore, need I say more, where were they?

    Phil Lynott or Steve Harris, strong and charismatic leaders as well as great bass players.

    As a rock singer who will be remembered for soaring vocals on Rainbow Rising, I'm sad that Ronnie James Dio was not even featured.

    Here's my all time rock line up:

    Vocal - Freddie Mercury - without equal.
    Lead Guitar - Richie Blackmore.
    Drums - Cozy Powell - as a drummer too, he's my god.
    Bass - Gene Simmons
    Keyboards - Jon Lord.

    We could argue for days on who is the best, but we all love rock music.

  • Comment number 30.

    I couldn't agree more with Belgianmark's comments about The Stranglers. How come there's no mention of EITHER JJ Burnell or Dave Greenfield in the 'others' program??

  • Comment number 31.

    Ok, lets grind that axe first. I'll admit I'm a gigging pianist/keyboard player of many years so that's why I'm staggered that we didn't warrant our own programme. An interloper?! There are very few bands over the years who have not featured keys in some capacity, just as there have been very few bands that have not featured guitars, drums, bass and vocals. Keys are very much part of the mix.

    So who would I rate additional to ones not already mentioned? Lets add in Oscar Peterson, a genius, and shocking though the band were, John Beck of It Bites was also a good player. My personal favourite though is Keith Emerson but I probably agree with John Piper's reasons for not including him.

    I also agree with the decision not to include Rick Wakeman, but for different reasons. I'm sorry but I don't think he's that good. Very flash, but no soul, and the same could be said of Jools Holland (call that Boogie Woogie?!!).

    So there we are. Now make that programme!

  • Comment number 32.

    What about Leon Russell and where is the genius that is Garth Hudson?

  • Comment number 33.

    I must comment on your blog Mr. Braine.

    You call yourself a gigging pianist keyboard player of many years, but I reckon you must have been performing rather than listening.

    To say that Rick Wakeman is no good on the ivories, and has no soul, indicates to me that you haven't listened to much by Yes, or his solo output. If you had, then the only conclusion you could come to, as have a number of our fellow bloggers, is that "The Caped One" is far and away the best keyboard player the rock world has ever heard.

  • Comment number 34.

    Lets just start with 2 brutal truths:

    1. How bass & keys didn't get their own episodes is a complete farce!! why do an episode on each member & then the 5th episode on the band?!! it's that what the votes are supposed to do - design the dream band?

    2. How any poll for the greatest rock & roll ANYTHING was conducted by an institution as great as the BBC without an inclusion of PINK FLOYD I will never know - Gilmore's guitar talks to you - it cries to you & it screams at you, Waters Bass on Money?!!! c'mon!! Mason's drum beginning to TIME? Ricks... well in my opinion Rick's keys were the the mezmerising technicolor that weaved through the floyd catalogue like a dream sequence - the sum of the parts of the Floyd were as equally matched as Queen, Cream, Zep... you name it, certainly craps on the likes of Blur!! Coxon & James......please.

    I gigged for 10 years as a keyboard player for a rock band & to suggest that our kind along with the bass players are just 'others or enigma's' is pretty upsetting - how we got to share an episode with Bez will never compute with me.

    Bad bad BBC - fantastic concept but very poorly executed

  • Comment number 35.

    We all have our own particular favourites, although I don't agree with all of John Pipers selections, I do echo his choice of Ray Manzarek as one of the most creative keyboard players / musicians of that era. As others have already made the case for Paich, Wakeman and the other greats who were overlooked. It's fair to say that everyone would have at least one, if not more, alternative name on his or her all time list of ivory tinklers. Going back to the guitarist section, the most glaring omission is Peter Green. I think it was BB King who said - I've heard them all play, but the only one who gave me the shivers was Peter Green. Nuff said.

  • Comment number 36.

    In my book from this short list, it's got to be Jon Lord who slots perfectly into a band framework.

  • Comment number 37.

    Some classic suggestions - but no Rod Argent?

  • Comment number 38.

    Many many Great Keyboardists to choose from....
    So, not going for the obvious choices with my forgotten heroes top 5

    1) John 'Rabbit' Bundrick (Free,Back Street Crawler, The Who)
    2) Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep)
    3) Vincent Crane (Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster, Dexy's Midnight Runners)
    4) Nicky hopkins (sessions Who, Stones etc)
    5) Les Dawson (well you got to laugh)

  • Comment number 39.

    why has Richard Tandy of ELO been ignored???? my top ten in no particular order:-

    John Lord
    Rick Wakeman
    Gordon Giltrap
    Don Airey
    Richard Tandy
    Steve Winwood
    Keith Emerson
    Tony Banks
    Rick Davis
    Jools Holland

  • Comment number 40.

    Got to agree with MrBottomDollar; it actually smacks of extremely lazy journalism, or they only had a budget for six shows. Whichever way you look at it, to reduce the contribution of any keyboard artist within a band to the level of a half witted baboon like bez does beggar belief. What next, the Singing Nun being compared to Hendrix; or possibly Liberace to Chris Martin. Come to think of it I prefer Mark Yeates suggestion of Les Dawson. LoL.

  • Comment number 41.

    Mr Piper's thoughts in the header tell us all we need to know about why this series was such a poor piece of work and why so many music lovers are as confused as I am. I'm in a Rock and Roll band, or I'm not because I'm a keyboard player who doesn't belong, but hang on a minute, I am in, but only if I conform to some ill-advised notion as to a limitation being placed upon my abilities lest I dominate! Keith Emerson toured Japan in 1990 in a dream band called The Best, which featured John Entwistle by the way. He proved himself a superb accompanist who did not dominate in any way while still sparkling in his solos. Knives were not in evidence! This may well be supposed to be a bit of fun, but it's not much fun for the likes of Emerson et al to be consistently run down in almost every BBC music programme they are mentioned in. (By the likes of Lauren Laverne: Sorry love, I don't think so!) The ritual humiliation of people with virtuoso abilities seems to be some sort of BBC policy outside any genre but classical music, and what do we get instead? The championing of the 80s/90s Manchester scene AGAIN, clearly beloved of the production team and the panel members, all bar one or two of whom possess neither the necessary critical or cultural perspective to say anything of worth. Some freedom from bias and prejudice is clearly in order but also sadly lacking. New Order and Joy Division are not Rock and Roll, but the greatest and most successful Rock and Roll band in the World (AC/DC) don't qualify for a single nomination in their respective categories. Choose the right title next time please Mr Piper: "I'm in a band that we all thought were great when we were students, and so do all my mates so we'll make a programme about them, but better put one or two others in so it doesn't look too bad". Try fitting that into Radio Times.

  • Comment number 42.

    For Keyboards it has to be either Rick Wakeman or Jon Lord. I think Jon Lord edges it as Deep Purple are probably the only non-prog rock band where keyboards were an integral part of the sound.

    However may real comments concern the other votes where we are given a fixed list and no chance to comment (that I could see).

    How can the Who have entries for best drummer, bassist and lead guitar but not be on the list for best band?

    Regarding the drummers what about Cozy Powell. What other drummer can say they have released a drum solo that got to No 3 in the charts (Dance with the Devil). He played with some of the greatest rock bands including Rainbow and Black Sabbath. Ok in the vote I'd still probably go for Keith Moon but Cozy Powell was never even mentioned.

    And finally on the Bass Guitar List where was Steve Harris. Harris is the founder and main driving force behind Iron Maiden one of the most successful UK rock bands of the last 30 years. It seems odd that the program should feature Motorhead's Lemmy at some length but then barely mention Iron Maiden at all.


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