SeedSing is filled with music lovers. We can not agree on who is the best band from the States. The Greatest American Band Debate will be a regular feature where we discuss and compare bands who started in the good old USA. If you have any suggestions of bands we should debate Contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm a lover of all music.
All music except for jazz and new age country that is. People often pose the question to me, "Who's the best band"? There is any number of answers to give. Some may say The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, etcetera. The one thing you may have noticed in those answers is, those are all bands from overseas. Mainly the United Kingdom. Why no American bands? Is it because most great American musicians are solo artists? We have Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Robert Johnson, BB King, Miles Davis and Woody Guthrie just to name a few. And before I get yelled at online, I don't count Janis Joplin's backing band, The Holding Company, or Bob Dylan playing with The Band(who are all Canadian except for Levon Helm) as great American bands. They're very good, but not great.
So, let's break it down. Who is the greatest American band? Do they come from the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's or 2000's? Is there even an American band that can hold a card to the great bands from overseas? I don't know that for sure, but I'm going to throw out a lot of great American bands today and we can all decide together.
Let's take the 50's. One band that comes to mind for me is The Crickets. You may know them as Buddy Holly and the Crickets. The Crickets played on some of the greatest songs in the history of music and were just as important to Buddy Holly's music as Buddy Holly was. Some people may put The Crickets into The Holding Company category, but go back and listen to some of their stuff and you will see how influential they were on modern day rock and roll.
In the 60's, we got some more psychedelic rock bands from America, but I'm not too crazy about some of these bands. First, we have The Doors. I am not a fan of the Doors, but they were hugely popular and definitely put their stamp on rock music. Jim Morrison was fine as a poet and songwriter, albeit super overrated in my opinion, but his band was really pretty good. They just had an unfortunate choice in picking their lead singer and were stuck with Jim Morrison. Then there's the Beach Boys. I CANNOT stand the Beach Boys. They made crappy pop music and are an abomination to rock and roll. That being said, they are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a lot of people not only like the Beach Boys, they love them. Their fans will also defend Brian Wilson to the heavens, no matter how difficult of a person he is to work and deal with. My favorite American bad from the sixties, by far, is Creedance Clearwater Revival. Their brand of rock music, mixed with blues and soul is undeniably great. They've had a ton of hits and a ton of fans, are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and John Fogerty is still making pretty good music as a solo artist.
The 70's brought along a lot of great talent to American rock and roll. We got the Eagles, Aerosmith, ZZ Top and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Each one is great in their own right, and in the case of Aerosmith and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers they are still making music. In Tom Petty's case, he is still making great music. Many people might even say that The Eagles are the greatest American rock band of all time. I disagree. The 70's did put out some great music from all corners. We also got KISS, the Ramones and Sly and the Family Stone. Another band from the 70's that people love is Grateful Dead. Not me though. In my opinion, they are a jam band that has no structure to their jams. I don't want to hear one song that's usually three and a half minutes long turn into a 30 minute song. no thanks. My older brothers will be pretty upset at me for trashing the Grateful Dead, but I just don't like them. When it comes to 70's American bands, it gets no better than the Allman Brothers Band. They played great songs with a beautiful mixture of rock and blues. Robert Johnson introduced me to the blues and Son House introduced me to slide guitar, but the Allman Brothers made slide guitar and rock/blues music cool. They are not just one of the best American bands, they're one of the greatest bands of all time period.
The 80's changed what rock music could be in America. Bands like Heart and The Runaways showed that girls can rock just as hard as guys. Blondie blended all different types of music, and did it very well. And yes, Blondie is the band name, Debbie Harry is their lead singer's name. But, when it comes to 80's rock bands in America, the Talking Heads are the greatest. David Byrne is a genius and still making fantastic music. The Talking Heads were innovators and way ahead of their time. They tried so many different things with their music and, more times than not, hit it out of the park.
The 90's brought on the grunge era in American rock music. We got great bands like Green Day, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. Each band is great in it's own way. Green Day brought back punk/pop music. Soundgarden brought back the psychedelic rock from the 60's and 70's and Pearl Jam was dark a brooding. A very cool version of emo. Then came Nirvana. Kurt Cobain was a musical genius. Especially as a lyricist. His lyrics are profound and prolific. He died way too young and became way too famous too fast. His two band mates, Kris Novaselic and Dave Grohl were excellent. Most people know Dave Grohl and all the work he's doing right now and Kris Novaselic has played bass for many different bands. When it comes to 90's American rock for me, it gets no better than Weezer. I love Weezer. Rivers Cuomo is a great writer and very excellent, very underrated guitar player. Their first album, "The Blue Album" is a work of art. Then, they released "Pinkerton" which is just as good and maybe even a bit better than "The Blue Album" Weezer is awesome.
Which brings me to the 2000's. Time will have to tell with this era. It's only been 15 years and these bands still need a bit more seasoning. That being said, there are some bands on their way to greatness for sure. The White Stripes could've been on their way if they were still making music. Jack White has also become an unfavorable character and a shell of his former self as a musician. He's also a well known asshole too. Bands like the Black Keys and TV on the Radio still need time, but in the Black Keys case, they are well on their way. There are other bands such as, Alabama Shakes and The Shins, but like I said earlier. Time will tell.
See, in this long piece I couldn't single out just one American band. There's a lot to choose from and if I was told that I had to name one right now, I'd pick the Black Keys, strictly because they're my favorite band. I didn't even touch on rap groups and yes, rap groups can be considered great American bands. I'll leave that for a future piece. So people out there reading this, let me know which American bands are great in your eyes. Who did I leave out or who did I bash that you like. Or, do you agree with me. Leave a comment and until later, keep listening to good rock and roll music.
Be it American rock or otherwise.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the co-host of the X-Millennial Man Podcast. He is eager to write another 1000 words on music. Follow him on twitter @tykulik