Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Best American "Rock" Bands Part 2

Before last weekend, I pointed out a list that Gibson Guitars created to get people fired up while the company showcased their version of the "50 Greatest American Rock Bands".  The full list is now reveled and you can see it here
I can argue with their list, but I can't argue with their guitars...

I don't want to re-hash my issues from the last post, I just want to take a moment to go over a few snubs that I am not surprised this company missed.  In thinking about this you need to take into account influence, longevity, popularity and a bunch of other stuff, but in the end it comes down to personal preference. Their list isn't horrible, it's also not great.   I decided to focus this post on 5 bands who I think need to be in the conversation, and two that were ranked waaay to low for my tastes.  Here are the 5 who should have been on the list or at least in the conversation, in no particular order:   

The text book definition of D.I.Y., and be default, America.  Fugazi consistently gets overlooked whenever these polls come out because they were so far removed from record companies/touring companies/agents/everything-really-wrong-with-rock-and-roll that they drop off the face of the music map.  It is a shame because their songs are vibrant, passionate, interesting and inspiring to a whole generation of punks and indie kids.  If you get a chance watch Instrument to see the band over 10 years grow and evolve from punk rockers to sound engineers (Here is my favorite clip from the movie)
they were always transforming (something the hardcore kids never fully embraced, hell they still want Minor Threat) and did it on their own terms.  The perfect American band who did it their own damn way and had 7 proper albums with not a bad one in the bunch.

The Beastie Boys.
Here we go with what is a "Rock" Band?  Unlike Public Enemy who I mentioned in the last post, the Beasties were LES Punks before they were ever hip hoppers.  Even if we put off to the side the fact that they opened up the world of hip-hop up to suburbia (which is huge!) the band still killed it in the punk realms:
with funky rock numbers:
tripped out instrumentals:
and wrote the best hard rock song of the whole 90's in "Sabotage"   

Adrock, Mike D and MCA gotta be talked about even if "rock" by Gibson's definition was only something they dabbled in.  

Jane's Addiction
Amongst a sea of hair metal in the mid 1980's there were really two groups who broke through.  One sold millions and got recognized on this list (Guns and Roses), the other may have been even more influential inspiring grunge in the decade to follow and creating one of the most important musical events in pop music history; Lollapalooza.  Jane's were really only mega for 2 albums (GnR really only had 3 huge ones) but their influence was as massive as their talent.  I agree GnR deserve to be on this list...but so do Jane's.

The Black Crowes
I would take Skynyrd right off the list and could easily replace them with The Black Crowes.  1990, a time when rock and roll radio was in a bit of a crisis, the Crowes released one of the most complete first albums in rock history with Shake Your Money Maker.  Since then they have had ups and downs, break ups and hiatuses but have developed into multifaceted band that takes as much from The Band as they do The Stones or The Allmans.  It is a shame that they are taking yet another break when I feel they are writing and playing the best they ever have.  Before The Frost  was one of the best albums of the last decade and I would love to see them capitalize on their success.

Parliament Funkadelic
They got Sly and the Family Stone up there...if that's the case P-Funk needs to get props.  Again the idea of what is a rock band may have kept them off, but only James Brown has been sampled more and half of these guys played with him too!  Also if Eddie Hazel isn't Rock, then nothing is...

There were many lineup switches, contract disputes and infighting but that P-Funk sound is unmistakable.  Going from JB's tight reign to George Clinton's free form freak out funk allowed the band to go in directions never before realized and influenced everyone to come after them with their funky stuff.  Truly American originals and worthy of recognition.

And finally 2 that made the list, but need to be in the top the least:

Sonic Youth.

Criminally underrated in all music circles, it is amazing how little respect they get.  Granted they are one of my personal favorites, but any band that has stayed virtually the same (besides adding Jim O'Rourke and Mark Ibold)  personal wise since they started out almost 30 years ago (!!!) and managed to not only stay relevant, but exciting and consistently improving, needs to get hyped.  SY were vital in bringing noise rock to the mainstream.  Forget how behind the scenes important they were in pushing acts like Nirvana, their music has ebbed and flowed all over the rock landscape and continues to kick major ass. 

Seventeen "official" studio releases as the band proper, their own spin-off label to further explore their sound jones', and countless side projects/solo releases have kept the band on the cutting edge of all music since 1981, influencing scores of indie/garage groups worldwide. With two of the best guitarists alive (who just happen to play Fenders...hmm), the coolest rock and roll couple, a dynamite drummer who keeps the whole thing from spinning out of control, Sonic Youth deserve their place amongst this countries greatest rockers, easily top 10. 

The Grateful Dead.
They are my answer to this question.  The are truly original, ground breakers in almost every sense, invented the jamband scene, the touring lifestyle for fans, hell invented their own world. If Fugazi was the ultimate DIY band for the 80's and 90's The Dead were their fore-bearers.  I have written a lot about The Grateful Dead on this site so I won't rehash it, just click that link, but they were truly American in all the styles of music they played (Jazz, Bluegrass, Country, Rock, Blues) did things their own frontiersmen way, created their own record company, didn't give a damn what anyone thought, sold fans tickets directly through the mail, became legends (which they never set out to do) and created some of the most timeless American Rock Music there is.  All that adds up to # 1 in my book. 

I will wrap this up, but just off the top of my head, 5 other bands I would argue should be included in the discussion:  Phish, Slayer, The Meters, Rage Against The Machine, Primus.

Again I can talk about this all day (and sometimes do) and have heard serious arguments on everyone from ZZ Top to NWA to Poison to Sleater-Kinney to Yes (?!?) as the greatest from people of all stripes; it is my favorite bar stool question to get debate flowing.  Feel free to comment and tell me how dumb my choices are...maybe one day I will make my own list up...Thanks for reading.  


  1. The Grateful Dead is the best American band of all time, followed by the Beach Boys and the Velvet Underground, in my humble opinion. Whoever said Yes is the beset American band of all time is clearly smoking crack.

  2. Funny you mention that about Yes...he truly may have was at Billymarks after all.