Trust the Gene Genie

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Just turn your head and think of the Queen

So I've been thinking about rock bands lately. It's not that strange. And it's better than spending my days wondering if Lindsay is keeping her nose clean.

But I was thinking about the pantheon of great classic rock bands -- you know, the groups and artisits that laid the foundation for modern rock bands. I'll place a few of them in convient list form -- it's not meant to be inclusive:

1. The Beatles
2. Led Zeppelin
3. The Who
4. The Rolling Stones
5. Bob Dylan
6. Pink Floyd
7. The Band

You look over that list and something stands out. The majority of these bands are British. I would argue that, while an American invention, rock is simply done better by the Brits. Now, it should be noted, and I think this gives exponetial depth to the arguement, that the great British rock bands from the 60s and early 70s -- with the exception of Pink Floyd -- we're listening to and trying to imitate American blues men like Muddy Water and John Lee Hooker.

The point I'm tryin to make is for some reason the British are simply better at Rock and I don't know why that is. Is it the accent? The Queen? The stiff upper lip? If you've got any answers, don't be afraid to share. But think about it, you're never going to win any debates trying to argue that Lynard Skynard is a better rock band than The Who.

And the same holds true today. From The Police to U2 (Ireland is technically part of the United Kingdom) to Radiohead to the Arctic Monkeys. What have we produced on this side of the pond? Bon Jovi and Creed, that's who. There are exceptions of course. Bob Dylan, probably the greatest songwriter of the last two or three generations. And then there were a handful of bands from Seatle in the early 90s who turned the music world on its head.

But what's interesting is that the Brits never copied the grunge sound. Their response was Oasis and Blur. That's facsintating on a lot of levels. So, that's your food for thought for the day. Chew on it.


Ian Balentine said...

I would argue that it's the lack of sunshine over there, but then again, that being the case, why has Canada done such a piss poor job at turning out great Rock bands?
I will make the arguement that the good 'ole US of A has done a better job at it than the UK since the late 90's: Flaming Lips, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, the Eels, Grandaddy, M Ward, LCD Soundsystem, etc etc. What have the brits done of worth lately? Keane? Kasabian (a band named after Charles Manson's gal--come on!), Oasis (not since '97, I'm afraid)? Don't get me wrong, I love the brits. My formative years were primarily soundtracked by british music and bands, such as Primal Scream, Boo Radleys, Blur, Oasis, Ride, Squeeze, XTC, and many more. But not lately. It's all pre-fab now. The formula goes like this: Angry big mouthed frontman--CHECK! Crazy, controversial name--CHECK! Big sweeping orchestra with soaring guitars--CHECK! Eyeliner--CHECK! HUGE first album--CHECK! Crappy second album--CHECK! Enter Drug rehab--CHECK! Crappy solo albums--CHECK! Reform for cash--CHECK! and so on.
Anyhew, I hope they get it back. I really do. But until then...

TheRobRogers said...

Rack him. Nice take, Ian.

Ian Balentine said...

oh, yeah: how could you leave off the Kinks? No brit pop movement (Blur, etc) were it not for them, you know...

ThomG said...

I blogged about this sometime back. I agree with you. I think it has to do with angst. It is hard to have angst when you live in the U.S., where there's a Starbucks on every corner. Ian, I'll give you the late 90s for U.S. rock, but there are new and good things coming out of The Empire: The View, Los Campesinos!, Carbon/Silicon, Super Furry Animals, The Libertines, ShitDisco and Pigeon Detectives. Give em a listen.

Ian said...

Ok Thom, here's my response: Super Furry Animals (of which I own their entire catalog) have been around simce 1993, hardly a new band. Carbon/ Silicon...hmnnn...Tony James and Mick Jones...while I still love the Clash and welcome anything by their ex-members, there is nothing new here, in my humble opinion of course. Mick did the rock/ dance thing with B.A.D. in the 80's and early 90's and did it quite well, but I think it's time he tried something a little different.
The Libertines I like (although they only lasted for 2 albums, right?), but they seemed to me to be a Clash for the new century.
I have not heard the rest of your list but will explore further upon your oh-so fine recommendation. You and I usually see eye to eye, so I'll trust you. Just two more quick points: The "Furries" are one of the grreatest bands in the last 30 years and ShitDisco is one very fine name for a band...


jimdyar said...

The key comment was: who were all those Brits looking to for inspiration -- American bluesmen. Clapton totally copying a guy like Freddie King. Maybe that's what gave the Brits an edge - they tended to know more immeadiately and viscerally where the real soul was. Who rocked harder than Chuck Berry? Who was cooler than Muddy or T-Bone? Dylan knew where to look (as well as understanding the entire context of what happens when country music collides with the blues). Who rocked harder (an absolutely blew the Brits out of their minds) than Jimi Hendrix? But what tradition did Jimi grow out of before he exploded with his own everlasting stamp?

Phil Fountain said...

Let's be honest guys, the reason the British were able to succeed with musical forms native to America was quite simple. They were white. Not just white, but limey white.
The racism exhibited by American radio in the 50's(radio being the only conduit to the music at the time) can't be denied.
Of course, the advent of rock and roll was instrumental in helping American society get over the race hurdle. Pre-teen white girls were rockin' out to Chuck Berry and Little Richard and nobody was going to stop them. No matter how much we pontificate on the "Art Of Rock" you can never lose sight of the fact that the entire idiom was wholly dependent on the embrace of suburban white girls.
White artists regurgitating our own music to us, though not approved of by Middle America, was far more palatable than having the leering and growling Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters in your living room.
Like the song says,
"The men don't know, but the little girls understand." -Back Door Man

Ian said...

Rack us all, Phil. You're spot on.

Stephanie B said...

I've been meaning to say that when I first saw this entry, I thought you were talking about Queen the group. And, it went along with everything that you were writing. British, good band (in my opinion). It wasn't until the end I realized you were talking about "THE Queen" Man, I'm stupid.

urpy said...

Well, stupid must run in the family because I remember making a similar comment to Rob.

urpy said...

How much longer do I have to turn my head and think of the queen????

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