I have always been curious to whittle down the top American Rock Bands to a handful, well two handfuls. I originally thought it would be easy because I didn’t anticipate there would all that many to choose from. I printed out a list of American Rock Bands and it was much longer than expected. I did not include any groups before 1960 when the Beach Boys started and the Beatles were not far behind. It’s also when I became riveted to the new sound. Hip-hop and recent pop were not included as I’m staying totally with rock ‘n roll. Here’s my list and I hope to get somewhere between 5% – 100% agreement from my blog friends.
10. Foo Fighters – Who knew that drummer Dave Grohl from Nirvana was actually a remarkable singer/songwriter/musician until the Foo Fighters emerged. We all thought it was all Kurt Cobain. He has continued to grow and become the frontman for a very talented group that is probably one of the biggest rock acts in the world now. Seeing them live is a treat as I found out when they opened for The Police Reunion Tour ( Police totally sucked) but the Foo Fighters were brilliant.
9. Talking Heads – Rose from the 70’s new wave movement with songs that spoke of alienation and paranoia. Frontman David Byrne was a genius and geek at the same time and the group had art-rock vibe that would have made Andy Warhol proud. They were an intellect band, if there is such a thing, and the lyrics were actually worth listening to. One of my personal favorites.
8. Allman Brothers – They were Southern rock personified. Unfortunately I’m not a big southern rock fan but I recognize this group opened the door for many more groups of the same genre. This was rootsy America and some of their songs like Whipping Post and Midnight Rider are classics. Biggest problem this group had was staying alive. Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle crash in ’71 and he and still alive Dickey Betts were a classic guitar team that mixed blues, jazz, and rock. The bassist died the next year in a motorcycle accident also. They loved to do the long jams, which some love and some not so much. Great live band.
7. The Greatful Dead – This band was most fittingly born in San Francisco and was there for it all, psychedelia, blues, long jams, drugs, and death…the Dead seemed to live in their own universe. Behind it all was the guitarmanship of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. They released over 130 albums. They were the first band that I had heard of that had traveling groupies following them on tour to every show. It would be tough for new generation to relate to them but they were an icon of the San Francisco movement which drew thousands if not millions of disenchanted kids. What a long strange trip it was…
6. The Ramones – Joey, Johhny, Dee Dee and Tommy, The Ramones, were one of the most important bands of the time, especially if your from the East Coast ( Queens, NY) where they rose to God-like status … out here in LA, not as much. The band was a major influence in the punk rock movement. They kept it simple…guitar, bass and drums played loud, fast with reckless abandon…it was rock to the core. If you’ve been to a sporting event in the last ten years you have probably heard one ( or part) of their songs.
5. The Eagles- People love the Eagles, myself not included, but they were the most successful bands of the 70’s. They had a LA vibe and took country-rock to an all time high. I think the country part is what I didn’t enjoy as much as others. Don Henley and Glenn Frey were fantastic song writers…you just need to listen to Hotel California for a taste. They are still widely popular and are opening the totally refurbished Fabulous Forum with 6 sold-out performances in Jan’14. Date Music.
4. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Love these guys. A rare group that makes the list with a big name followed by and the Heartbreakers. The Heartbreakers consist of Mike Campbell (guitar), Benmont Trent (keys) and Ron Blair (bass) and have remained relatively unchanged since the group was formed in 1976 and are still playing. Although from Florida, Petty has become an LA transplant and some of his songs revolve around The Valley. His music is described as Heartland Rock, much like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger and John Cougar Mellencamp. Petty’s voice is immediately noticeable and some of their hits like American Girl, Breakdown, Learning to Fly and my favorite Don’t Come Around Here No More ( great video, Alice in Wonderland) are classics. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are one of the world’s best selling bands with 80 million records sold.
3. Green Day – I go against all critics, rock authorities, and dee-jays with this pick, this high, but Green Day rocks and rocks hard. They are a rare bunch these days with the growth of POP music. I first heard Dookie ( world’s best selling punk rock album ever) in ’94 and was hooked. Just a hard driving sound with lyrics questioning the government, teen angst all meant to be played loud. Green Day held onto the 3-chord punk rock sound well past the 90’s as the success of American Idiot proved in 2004. When I just want heart pumpning rock and I’m not going classic, Green Day is my first choice. I’ll never understand why the critics continue to beat on them.
2. The Beach Boys – Formed in 1961 the band’s early hits were the stuff of So. California dreams – girls, cars, sunshine and surf. They and Jan And Dean were the first records I bought. All was good driving Colorado Blvd. with the Beach Boys rockin’ until 1963-’64 when The Beatles invaded and pushed the Beach Boys into the back seat. They moved into more heady stuff behind mastermind ( and space cadet) Brian Wilson. Good Vibrations was a Wilson classic and still considered one of rock’s greatest songs. The Beach boys were fun and very local which was perfect for cruising on a summer night. They celebrated 50-years in 2011.
1. Nirvana – Nirvana ushered in a whole new sound when we needed it the most. The grunge sound of the Northwest put Hairspray Metal out to pasture, thank you. In an instant the door was thrown open for a new generation of kids to put on their flannel shirts and start their own garage bands. Cobain became a more mature songwriter even as his personal life grew bleaker. Dave Grohl proved to be one of the greatest drummers in rock and a proven songwriter . The bass player, Krist Novoselic was the lovable dork who counterbalanced Corbain’s tortured genius. Nirvana was on top for only three years when Kurt ended it all, but there music continues to resonate to this day. Nirvana changed music almost overnight and I will always have them on my playlist with Nevermind on top.