With the nostalgia-laden Independence Rock Festival, or I-rock as it was popularly known, due to make its return in November, social media is teeming with stories of past experiences of watching concerts live in its original home. , the legendary but now defunct Rang Bhavan in South Mumbai. And the conversation invariably turned to memorable performances and original compositions by Indian bands, old and new.
In keeping with the mood, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most iconic original English rock songs recorded by Indian bands. Some of them have been concert favorites or have appeared on music channels. Missing from the list are the compositions of talented bands that flourished during the early Indian rock efflorescence, a period that began in the late 1960s and lasted until the 1980s. Like so much other music created in an era devoid of broadcast and Youtube, their compositions are either lost or thrown into the private collections of aging rock fans of that era.
In this sense, this collection of songs is not the most complete. We would expand, over a period of time, the list to 25 or even 50 Greatest Indian Rock Songs. If you as a reader would like to send us your suggestion, you are more than welcome. He will make the effort a community project.
The songs here have been listed in approximate chronological order of their release or live performance.
1. High – The Tale of the White Knight
The album The White Knight’s Tale was composed by Kolkata-based Dilip Balakrishnan in 1971. It was inspired by the works of writer Lewis Carroll. He later formed the popular band High with drummer Nondon Bagchi, bassist Lew Hilt and guitarist Adi Irani (later replaced by Subir Chatterjee). Balakrishnan died in 1990. There are no studio recordings of the album, but to mark 50 years since its creation last year, Hilt and Bagchi put together a disc featuring remastered versions of the song. from domestic archives. The title track is in two parts – the introduction and the main piece – and the album is available on streaming platforms. High was one of two Kolkata bands to make waves in the 1970s, the other being Shiva, led by PC Mukherjee.
2. Rock Machine/Indus Creed – “Rock N’ Roll Renegade”
Ever since Rock Machine’s (later renamed Indus Creed) 1988 debut album, this has remained an Indian rocker’s favourite. Uday Benegal’s voice is in top form, and the guitars of Mahesh Tinaikar and Jayesh Gandhi add to the energy, as well as the keyboards of Zubin Balaporia. The line, “I’m a rock n’ roll renegade, and I gave up the standard for music, hope I never get tired, you know I never wanna lose it” became a favorite. The official video, directed by Mahesh Mathai in the form of a live concert, also featured bassist Mark Selwyn and drummer Mark Menezes. The band went on to have other huge hits like “Pretty Child”, “Trapped” and “Fireflies”.
3. Gary Lawyer – “Nights on Fire“
This song was both a concert favorite and a video sensation. Released in 1992, the video featuring Gary Lawyer and model Anu Kottoor aired five times a day on MTV during its heyday. It was part of the album Saregama India The other side of dawn, and besides Lawyer’s clean vocals, was known for his incisive guitar lines. In the shows, people would sing along with the lines: “You set my nights on fire, blazing red heat, you set my nights on fire, I’m caught in a sultry tune, and I’m lost and found a hundred times a day”. The song was again released on the 2008 compilation album Nights On Fire: The Best Of Gary Lawyer.
4. Agni – “Kashmir”
Formed in 1985 by rhythm guitarist Pravin Bell, vocalist Bharath Swamy and bassist Juggie, Agni had his signature song in “Kashmir” with the lines: “And when I think of all the times past, she has only lost Till the End of His Life, Can You Turn Back, Give Peace a Chance, Give Me Back This Land of Mine It was featured on the 1993 album Virgo Music Dance of the wind with the fire. The band suffered a major setback in 1995, when Juggie and their manager Mandy were killed in a traffic accident. They returned with a new line-up featuring vocalist Uday Iyer on vocals three years later.
5. Millenium – “Twist of Fate”
One of India’s earliest metal bands, Millennium was formed in Bengaluru in 1988, with vocalist Vehrnon Ibrahim at the helm. Despite some line-up changes, the band was popular on the campus circuit due to their covers of Iron Maiden and the song “Peace Just In Heaven”. The song “Twist Of Fate” is taken from the band’s self-titled album released in 1995. Composed by Sunil Jaiswal with lyrics by Vehrnon, it was a favorite on most rock shows. The band went on hiatus for a while, but returned as the opening act for Megadeth in 2008.
6. Parikrama – “But it rained“
Although they first rose to prominence as a cover band, New Delhi-based Parikrama had many original hits like ‘Tears Of The Wizard’, ‘Vaporize’ and ‘One’. Their most popular creation is “But It Rained”, which is inspired by kidnappings in Kashmir. Singer Nitin Malik is in top form as he begins, “Wrapped in polythene stashed safely in my mind, a quick goodbye maybe or just a passing smile; The clouds are all beside me to see through all the good times, maybe he will come back, make up for lost time”. The song was first released in 1996, but a remastered version was released as a tribute to guitarist Sonam Sherpa, who died in 2020. The new version, titled “But It Rained (For Sonam)”, has extra time to play Sherpa. a guitar solo.
7. Brahma – The dead don’t die
Formed in 1993, Brahma were at the forefront of the Indian thrash metal scene. Vocalist Devraj Sanyal, now big boss of Universal Music India & South Asia, had a powerful voice and good stage presence. ‘The Dead Don’t Die’, about the afterlife, is from the band’s 2002 album reborn. John Ferns’ guitar playing, Vincent Thevor’s bass and Cyrus Gorimar’s drums added to the beauty of the song.
8 Thermal and a Quarter – “Paper Puli”
Bengaluru band Thermal And A Quarter turned 25 last year, with vocalist-guitarist Bruce Lee Mani and drummer Rajeev Rajagopalan still there. They have often been dubbed “Bangalore rock”, as many songs were inspired by the city. “Paper Puli” is from their third album Plan B, released in 2008. It was inspired by a journalist who came to ‘interview’ them but ended up talking more than the musicians. The song begins with a quote from Frank Zappa about rock journalism. Mani’s scat intro and funky guitar lines give this song an edge. The lyrics, filled with sarcasm, are: “Aren’t we all in the same game, you need a rag to write, and I need one to shine my guitar, but tell me if I really have to talk to you. .”
9. Motherjane – “Broken”
Formed in 1996, the Kochi group Motherjane released their debut album crazy biography in 2001. Their second album Maktub, released in 2008, cemented their position as one of India’s top progressive rock bands, with tracks like “Fields Of Sound”, “Chasing The Sun” and “Broken”. Influenced by both progressive rock and Carnatic music, “Broken” remains a fan favorite. Vocalist Suraj Mani and guitarist Baiju Dharmajan, who both eventually quit, shone on this track, which begins with the lines: “We were all broken, shattered, left speechless with unspoken regrets; We have all loved and lost, we have been abandoned, we have repented of our deepest trust”. The band, now led by Niranj Suresh, released their album 111 this May, and the track “Awoke” received a warm reception.
10. Pentagram – Nocturne
Led by vocalist Vishal Dadlani, Pentagram were one of the most popular bands of the two decades beginning in the mid-1990s. They first tasted success with their debut album We don’t listen with Plus Music in 1996. Starting out in rock and the alternative space, he changed the sound to include more electronics over the years. Dadlani of course enjoyed even greater success as a member of the hit Hindi film music duo Vishal-Shekhar. The track “Nocturne” from the 2011 album Pentagram Bloodywood, gives a taste of their vintage sound. He talks about insomnia in Mumbai and how the noise of the city permeates the mind even when it’s quiet. The video for the song was directed by drummer Shiraz Bhattacharya. Later the band recorded a new version for MTV Unplugged.