TMX Posted September 3, 2005 Share Posted September 3, 2005 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 Ramones. 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 ago. Trent McMartin http://www.antimusic.com/lowdown/ Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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