I am not a fighter. I am nothing like, say, Brad Pitt in Snatch. I cannot fight, nor do I wish too. But if I were a fighter, I would fight anyone who would disagree with the following statement:
All the best bands are British.
Oh, do you disagree? Look here, then, my shirt’s coming off right now! Intimidating tattoos clearly visible, cigarette dangling from corner of mouth, bare-knuckles up and ready.
Because seriously, all the best bands are British.
Here are the top five of all time. And this is a fact.
1) The Beatles
2) The Rolling Stones
3) Led Zeppelin
4) The Who
5) Pink Floyd
Look, I know you don’t agree. I don’t even necessarily agree. I’ve never much liked The Rolling Stones or The Who, for example. But these five are the best of all time. And here is why.
- They’ve been around in some form since the beginning of Rock Time, which is to say, the early-to-mid 1960s.
- They are still around now in some form, and still perform live occasionally (The Beatles excepted, though even Paul and Ringo reunite every so often). That’s 50 years people. That’s half a century. For as a long as there has been Rock Music, these bands have been doing it.
- Their songs are still featured on radio stations, at ballgames, in movies, and on tv shows. Movies have been made by them, about them, featuring them. Movies people still watch, rent, buy.
- Each of them has more than one album that is widely regarded as a masterpiece of the rock genre.
- Most of them have played a Super Bowl. The rest have refused the offer but filled other arenas in this decade, fifty years later.
In short, they are ubiquitous.
Yes, One Direction is ubiquitous, too. I know. They have been for months. When they have been for fifty years, we’ll consider them for something.
Don’t misunderstand. There’s certainly a place for the American band, as well. They come to your town. They help you party down. Metallica, The Eagles, Aerosmith, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Lynyrd Skynryd. Them’s ‘Merican! And them’s about the biggest names we have to throw up against those monsters from England, aren’t they? They are just not on the same playing field as those other blokes, are they? No, they really aren’t.
What’s interesting is there’s even a second tier of British rock where can be found lesser known but still ubiquitous folk who are pre-eminent in their sub-genres. These are bands that weren’t there at the beginning of Rock Time and may or may not still be around now, but definitely exude gravitas. Queen. Black Sabbath. Iron Maiden. Judas Priest. The Cure. The Clash. Australia can compete at this level with AC/DC, but that’s about it. Canada has Rush, and that’s about it. America has who? Megadeth maybe? Boston? Maybe. But there is no American equivalent for Queen, The Cure, or The Clash.
And remember, this is not about whether any one of us personally likes these bands. This is about their Place In History. Their Status. Their Gravitas.
Now if you want to talk solo artists, that’s different. The Brits can’t touch the likes of Elvis, Springsteen, or Dylan. Maybe they could trot out Elton John. Maybe. But America has always been about individual success, hasn’t it? The kid who comes from nothing and makes something of himself. That’s all well and good, but not as interesting as a group of kids finding the sculpture within the stone.
I realize I just lost most of you, so let me explain. Michelangelo once said, or at least I once read that he once said, that he didn’t “sculpt” anything. He just chipped away at the stone to uncover the sculpture that was already inside, waiting to come out.
That’s what the Great British Rock Bands did. Some of The Beatles songs have the feeling of not having been “written,” but having always been there, waiting to be recorded. A ten year old hearing them for the first time in 2014 can feel the same way about them as a ten year old did in 1984, or 1964. They are not a reflection of the time, like Justin Beiber. Or even Dylan or Springsteen. They are part of the space-time continuum. They resonate in our bones because they are wrought of the same stuff. Pink Floyd & Led Zeppelin, too. Can you listen to “The Great Gig in the Sky” or “When the Levee Breaks” and imagine them better or different? No. Because they were always there.
When it comes to rock, The British. Dominate.
Rock on, friends. Rock. On.