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Here is something I found on Live 8 by writer Trent McMartin



After watching the Live 8 concerts last

month I was startled to notice the lack of

American rock bands performing the event. I

thought to myself they must have either turned

down the invitation, couldn't fit on to any of the

already full bills or there really are not any

significant, with the exception of a few, American

rock bands in mainstream music today. Linkin Park

and the Dave Matthews Band performed in

Philadelphia, Velvet Revolver in London and

Audioslave and Green Day played Berlin. These are

all current high selling American rock acts but

the headliners of the day were the U.K. acts like

Pink Floyd, U2, The Who, and Coldplay.


The debate between American rock and British rock

has been going on since The Beatles appeared on

the Ed Sullivan show for the first time over 40

years ago. U.K. writer Neil McCormick of The Daily

Telegraph recently wrote an article entitled "Why

British Bands Are the Best at Being Big." giving

his take on the British vs. American argument. In

the article McCormick stated "The history of rock

can be viewed as a kind of cultural interplay

between the US and the UK, with fantastic bands

from both sides of the pond influencing and

interacting with one another, often with an impact

far outreaching their sales."


In the 1960's, the U.K. had The Beatles, The

Rolling Stones, The Who and many other British

Invasion acts while the States had The Byrds, The

Beach Boys, and The Doors. Into the seventies and

the birth of stadium rock, the U.K boasted such

stadium fillers as Queen, Pink Floyd and Led

Zeppelin as well as punk rockers The Sex Pistols.

The Americans returned the favour with Aersomith,

KISS, The Eagles and their greatest punk band The



Aerosmith is sometimes called the greatest

American band off all-time having been around for

over thirty years experiencing success that only a

select few American rock acts experience.

Concerning Aerosmith's title of being America's

greatest rock band McCormick asked the question,

"Is that really the best America can do?" In the

recent Rolling Stone "Immortals" edition where

artists write about legendary rock and roll

performers of the past and present; current Velvet

Revolver guitarist Slash wrote "Aerosmith had an

aggressive, psychotic, drugged-out vibe, but at

the same time they had a Stones-y blues thing

going on. There was just nothing cooler than

Aerosmith coming out of America at that point.

What else was there? Foghat."


But it must be pointed out that America has had

its share of solo performers that rival the best

of the British bands. Artists such as Bob Dylan,

Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Presley, Marvin

Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry,

Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and many

more are equally if not greater than any act to

come out of the U.K.


Last year MSNBC released their version of the top

10 best rock bands ever putting the Beatles number

one followed by The Stones at number two and U2

and three. Out of the top ten, five were from the

U.K. (including U2 who are from Ireland), four

from the U.S. and one from Jamaica. The top

American act was the Grateful Dead who were more

of a live touring act than a hit making, sales

driven band. The Dead only had one top forty song

in their career (1987's Touch of Grey). The Velvet

Underground was next in which producer/musician

Brian Eno was quoted as saying "not many people

bought the Velvet's albums when they were

originally released, but everyone who did formed a

band". Which is true. The Velvet Underground and

Lou Reed were the forerunners of New York noise

rock and punk music.


In one of their many "greatest" lists over the

years, Rolling Stone's Top 500 Greatest Albums

featured six albums coming from U.K. artists in

the top ten, three of which came from The Beatles.

Only one American band had an entry in the top

ten, that being The Beach Boys' 1966 classic Pet

Sounds. The top ten went as follows: 1.) Sgt.

Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles, 2.)

Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys, 3.) Revolver, The

Beatles, 4.) Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan, 5.)

Rubber Soul, The Beatles, 6.) What's Going On,

Marvin Gaye, 7.) Exile on Main Street, The Rolling

Stones, 8.) London Calling, The Clash, 9.) Blonde

on Blonde, Bob Dylan, 10.) The Beatles ("The White

Album"), The Beatles.


Not to be outdone, Spin magazine recently released

a 20th anniversary issue declaring Radiohead's OK

Computer the top album of the past twenty years.

The disc finished ahead of Public Enemy's It Takes

a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Nirvana's

Nevermind. And a few years ago The Beatles ranked

number one on Spin's list of the top fifty

greatest bands of all-time followed by The Ramones

from the U.S.


American mainstream rock music may not have had as

many celebrated rock bands as the British over the

years but America's underground and indie scene

has always been an excellent source of talent and

innovation. In the late 80's and early 90's

Nirvana single handily took alternative indie rock

to the mainstream exposing a wealth of quality

acts that before would have been left to toil in

obscurity in the underground. Great American rock

acts such as The Red hot Chilli Peppers, Rage

Against the Machine, REM, Tool, Soundgarden, Sonic

Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots,

Pavement, Mudhoney, Fugazi, Alice in Chains,

Jane's Addiction, The Pixies and many more were

born out of the seedy clubs all to gain commercial

and critical success over the next decade or so.

These acts easily rivalled the best to come out of

Britain in the late 80's and 90's like The Smiths,

My Bloody Valentine, The Stone Roses, Radiohead,

Blur, Pulp, and Oasis.


Currently British band Coldplay have the number

one album in the U.S. selling 737,000 copies of X

& Y in its first week in the U.S. The album has

registered the second biggest selling first week

sales in the U.S. this year, topped only by 50

Cent's The Massacre, which sold a whopping million

in its first week. X & Y also went straight to

number one on the UK albums charts, becoming the

second biggest first week seller in British chart

history, behind Oasis' 1997 album Be Here Now.


And the debate rages on with Neil McCormick adding

fuel to the fire saying, "American pop culture may

dominate the worldwide media, but when it comes to

truly universal rock music, British bands are

still in a league of their own, superior to their

American counterparts in almost every respect."

That seems to be a preconceived assessment of the

situation especially since McCormick is from the

U.K. But after watching Live 8, the unofficial

sequel to 1985's Live Aid, you can't help but

think in some regards McCormick was right. Because

even though there were many emotional moments

during the concerts and many American acts

performed brilliantly, it seemed the U.K. acts

really led the way again as they did twenty years




Trent McMartin


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  • 2 months later...

Yes - the only contemporary American music which is truly global nowadays is the black music. There's far too much emphasis on R&B/rap, which I can only take in small doses! ;)


How many CURRENT U.S. rock bands could do stadium tours worldwide as the likes of U2 and Coldplay do??

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Yes - the only contemporary American music which is truly global nowadays is the black music. There's far too much emphasis on R&B/rap, which I can only take in small doses! ;)


How many CURRENT U.S. rock bands could do stadium tours worldwide as the likes of U2 and Coldplay do??


This is a good question.....well,Green Day are really famous at the moment.....but I don't know if they are able to fill whole stadiums!

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