Bob Irelan: Bands

photo by Amanda Hendrix


Physics teacher Bob Irelan is interviewed about his favorite bands. Irelan is very passionate about listening to his tunes.

1. The Clash

“The Clash, having been prompted by their manager Bernie Rhodes to ‘write about what affects you,’ did just that. The world they saw around themselves was gray and limited and barely functioning in their experience. Their version of early punk rock was an exercise in self-creation and living a free and creative life. Their music invited, indeed called for, a questioning of the ‘way things were.’ It was also a challenge to their audience in a way. They did not want to appear as rock stars to their fans, but as collaborators and instigators in the activity of freedom and creativity. The music in its anger and rejection and passion and its joy invited, invites, the listener to set out on their own experiment in creativity and freedom. Or not. And, especially live, the band is awesome, as many bootleg recordings attest.”

2. The Who

“Pete Townsend, the song writer for the Who, during the Who’s hey day, consistently wrote from the perspective of outsiders, of people who could not find their place in the conventional order, who did not find the limited possibilities open to them inviting or human possibilities. In doing so, he, and not just he of course, spoke to a very broad sense among youth of the ‘60s and early ‘70s who were searching for a more fulfilling course through life than they saw themselves did not offer any specific answers, of course, but it reflected and embodied and prompted asking questions and not simply acquiescing to the given. And, of course, their music, particularly live, was powerful and intense and passionate.”

3. Sleater-Kinney

“[Sleater-Kinney] came out of and carried on the riot girl movement. Three young women making great punk/rock music, propulsive, questioning, angry, insightful. They were feminists, of course, playing great music in a genre that was not exactly welcoming or respectful of women’s voices.”

The Worst: Hair Metal Bands

“Modern country, Lee Greenwood, Rush, Genesis, Boston, any hair metal band and the vast majority of rap fit that bill. My objection to something like hair metal is that the idea is these people are rock guys, and you are there to give them money. The genres are limiting. There’s these rules that musicians must follow to still be part of that genre, so the music becomes very mannered. There’s a certain style of drumming that’s always gonna be the same. There’s gotta be an electric guitar solo. You have to dress in a particular way, have long hair, do and say certain things. This strikes me as the antithesis of the invitation to freedom and creativity, both musically and humanly, that the bands I like embody.”