Some choices I'm happy to see. I remember arguing with a music snob about Vital Signs back in the mid-eighties. I haven't listened to it and years and have no idea how well it held up, but I had it on constant rotation at the time.
I'll try a list. In no order at all, except as they come to me.
1. Springsteen. To me, this is what rock was meant to be. I remember when I first really stopped and listened to him when "Darkness on the Edge of Town" came out. I thought, wow, this is it. This is visceral. I spent the next several years proselytizing, then "Born in the USA" came out and ever since I've been telling people of a certain age that there's so much more.
2. ELO. I mentioned in another thread that their version of "Roll Over Beethoven" played between games of the Hal King doubleheader got me going. For whatever reason, I didn't really get deep into music until I was 15, and "Turn to Stone" had a quality to it that struck me. There was a darkness somewhere beneath the hooks. Afterward I learned to appreciate their often self-deprecating humor.
3, Split Enz. I went into this on another thread, too. Usually, Neil Finn did the pop stuff and Tim Finn the songs that were a bit disturbing. It's hard to name a single song that's a favorite, but "Dirty Creature" has to be on the list.
3. The Beatles. Period.
4. The Who. I learned to love Townsend's cheeky lyrics pretty early. Here's an early underrated masterpiece.
5. The Rolling Stones. Yeah, I had to put those three groups together. Although I've always liked listening to them, I think I only started realizing how good they were the last ten years.
6. Bob Dylan. Sorry, I'm one of those. I love wordplay and have even learned to like his voice.
7. Johnny Cash. Yeah, it's cool now to like him, but I've been listening to him since before I was born, and he's always been a favorite. Since we're in that era...
8. Roger Miller. One of my favorites growing up. He died too young, thanks to alcohol. Willie Nelson has some great stories about touring with him. These days, my favorite Roger Miller songs are the poignant ones.
btw, "Dang Me" can be sung to the tune of "Wonderwall".
9. The Avett Brothers. I'm reluctant to list current bands, but I've grown to love the Avetts the last few years. Great lyrics, songs presented in a way that's always a bit off kilter.
10. The Church. If you've heard of them, it probably hasn't been for a while. Their top US hit was "Under the Milky Way". My favorite album was the Bob Clearmountain produced "The Blurred Crusade" featuring the wonderful "Almost With You". They only perform acoustic these days because of some tinnitus issues. Should have been much bigger, but they had trouble getting along with each other and with producers.
And yeah, I like weird stuff.
fwiw, there are a lot of arguments about the meaning of this song, but I take it as someone asking a dying friend to wait so they can go together. Who knows, though. That was partially based on a mistaken lyric.
11. The Shins. Okay, another fairly recent band. Stuff that sticks with you while being a bit more subversive than you realize.
12. Dire Straits. Mark Knopfler may be my favorite guitarist.
13. CCR. For some reason I think of them and Dire Straits together. I grew tired of them for a while because of AOR overplay, but now that I dont listen to AOR anymore, they're back on the front lines. Include John Fogerty's solo stuff here as well. This is my favorite of his:
14. U2. I know there are some here who don't like them, but there aren't many bands who have been better, even if they haven't done anything particularly noteworthy in 20 years.
15. Tom Petty. Before he hit big, I was telling friends about him. When the Wilburys came along, it was a bit of a shock because the group was made up of my favorites.
16. The Animals. "Don't Let Me be Misunderstood" is brilliant, and I love listening to Eric Burden's voice.
17. David Bowie. To me, the whole new wave movement was a bunch of kids imitating David Bowie.
18. The Police/Sting. Lyrical complexity always gets me to pay attention, which brings me to
19. Al Stewart. Year of the Cat is great, but so were a ton of his other songs, such as "Life in Dark Water" "Soho (Needless to Say)" and "Eyes of Nostradamus". Always enjoyed his historical allusions.
20. I know I've forgotten so many, but I'm going to close with a group mentioned in the op: The Cars. btw, it is still hard for me not to picture Ric Ocasek singing when I hear "Just What I Needed".
I should have mentioned Cold Chisel, Roy Orbison, and Sam Cooke, but I didn't. And I'm sure Mumford and Sons will make the list as soon as they come out with enough albums to qualify.