All the best bands are British; British music is derivative


Here’s what I’ve been mulling over. When we think of the Great Rock Bands (capitals included for a reason), I think most people think British bands. They’ve got the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Radiohead, the Clash, the Cure, and my God, the list goes on and on. America? Well, we’ve got…please don’t say Aerosmith.

(An aside: It seems that the Great American Artists (again with the capitals, sheesh) are all “solo artists,” singer-songwriters with either a regular or rotating band. Bob Dylan (he had THE Band, among others), Tom Petty (Hearthbreakers), and Bruce Springsteen (the E Street Band) jump to mind as some of our greats.)

Ok, back to it. All the British bands I named: they started out playing American music. The Beatles & Zep & Black Sabbath, they played the blues. The Blues are American. The Clash, the Sex Pistols, they played punk. Punk is American. (Which reminds me, I guess the Ramones can count as one of our greats, but the Clash, really, are far more interesting, IMHO).

So, A) Do you agree? B) Why the hell hasn’t America had a great, all time great band on par with these folks? Does it tie into the aside? (see it’s there for a reason) and C) I know this is fairly subjective. But let’s get to it.

(mods, I put it here in GD, but if it must be moved on over to CS, that makes sense too)

And yes, I’d agree that all these Bands only began as basic Blues or Punk bands, then moved into something more interesting. But any of their first albums, I think, testify to the argument in the OP

A) Hell yes all the great bands are British.

B) Well, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Credence Clearwater Revival, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills and Nash (and Young), The Eagles, and Steely Dan were no slouches either.

C) What was C again? Something about American bands having a front man along the Bruce Springsteen/Tom Petty line. Hmmmm. Have to think about that one.

Cafe Society,


I’ll give you Credence & the Beach Boys. Buffalo Springfield though? Not in the pantheon. The Eagles & Doors shouldn’t be (IMnotsoHO) and Steely Dan…nah.

The early British rock bands were derivative of American music because rock and roll was invented in the U.S. If they hadn’t been derivative of American rock and roll, they wouldn’t have been rock bands. As for the later ones, well, the U.S. has a population that’s five times as large as the U.K. (and the amount of rock and roll in the two countries is about on the same proportion as the population), so it’s five times as likely that any particular style of rock will be invented in the U.S., so it’s five times as likely that a band will be imitating an American style.

Reading the above posts convinces me that The Stones must be from South America or maybe Asia.

The world’s greatest rock & roll band, the Rolling Stones studied the American Blues. Keith Richards got busted in Fordyce, Arkansas.

The Band was Canadian with the exception of Arkansan Levon Helm.

The best bands are therefore Arkansans. :slight_smile:

B.) Certainly on par with some of the BBs mentioned were VanHalen, ZZ Top, The Allman Bros Band. There’s Hendrix, Reed, Zappa, Montrose…

It can go either way. Sometimes the British can put a different twist on American music.

Consider punk. The Ramones brought punk to the UK, but all the UK punk bands took a different approach than any of the American ones.
But really it’s just a generalization, and I don’t know how true it is. Someone could say the same thing about white people: our music is derivative of music made by black people, but all the great musicians are white. Of course, the exceptions to that start springing to mind really fast.

I’m not saying anyone here is racist, or likening the viewpoint about British music to racism, it was just a thought about generalizations.

Absolutely true, but American kids weren’t playing or listening to them at the time. They were borrowing from the original musicians, so it’s a step closer to originality than the Americans who later borrowed the British version of the blues. :wink:

Why hasn’t America had a band on par with those groups in terms of fame? Just circumstances, I think. Most of these bands got big in the late '60s and early '70s. Being from the same country as the Beatles didn’t make you instantly famous, but it probably gave you a boost and it made it more likely you were playing in the style that was popular at the time. British folk music may have a certain melodic quality that influences British rock and pop music, making it more pleasing to audiences over here. And let’s not underestimate the importance of being canonized by Baby Boomers. The list of “Great Bands” is basically unchanging and not up for criticism at this late date. Doesn’t matter how much you think they suck, you’re all but banned from saying that the Beatles-Doors-Zep-Floyd-Who cadre sucks. It’s a pop culture fact that they were all great. :rolleyes:

The Grateful Dead haven’t been mentioned yet. I can take or leave them, but they probably belong on the American version of this list and they don’t fit the OPs formula.

Disagree: ZZ Top were style over substance, VanHalen was cheese, and the Allman Bros., I do enjoy, but I don’t think you can put them on par with any of those great British bands, neither musically nor as an influential force. Hendrix, Zappa, Reed, Montrose are solo, which brings me to what I maybe should’ve asked: Why do the great American artists insist on being referred to as solo artists?

I blew it on the Stones, too. Drat.

I can’t deny that this argument was, well, instrinsically flawed, being that it’s 1) heinously subjective and 2) I wasn’t alive when these bands were releasing their best stuff. I was putting it out there as a talking point and hoping to find an American band that trumped my OP. The Dead were a good claim, but, they’re just not my favorite. It’s undeniable they were incredibly influential and successful, so maybe they’re the first real exception I see.

(and by “this argument” I meant mine. And all my band claims are obviously subjective & should not be taken as me thinking I know who’s good & who isn’t, I’m just going on stature, which I think BBs have and guys like the Allman Bros. just don’t. At least not on the same level)

You know, Birdmonster, if you’re going to reply to anyone’s post that states, “Oh, wait, you forgot to mention this great band, which happens to be American” with “That band’s not great,” then we need to know what your real thesis is. Are you arguing that all the great bands are British, or are you arguing that all your favorite bands are British. If you’re saying the first thing, then surely our opinions are just as valid as yours. If you’re saying the second thing, then there’s nothing to argue about. Your favorite bands are your favorite bands, and nothing we can say is relevant to your thesis. Perhaps if the problem is that you haven’t listened to much rock and roll we can suggest other bands for you to listen to. But it appears to me that that isn’t true. You’ve listened to a lot of rock and made up your mind about what the great bands are. You’re entitled to your opinion. So are we.

Note that my post was a simul-post with Birdmonster’s last two posts.

Wendell: See my last post. I don’t mean to come off that way—apologize if I did. I’m trying to categorize bands by how they are viewed by our culture as a whole, not my personal preferences, which are often suspect at best.

The British Bands I named, I guess, just seem to be trumpetted, not by me but by most music fans as the all-time greats, and I don’t recall seeing too many American bands on lists such as this:

Sly & the Family Stone are on there (weird?) and the Dead & Ramones, but in the top five, four are British. Was just trying to get some feedback on why we think that might be…

Duly noted. I checked the timing of yours and figured as much. I’m not going for grand arbiter status, just a consensus of sorts.

::rubs hands together::
I’ll take that argument. None of the following is supposed to be a lecture. Just consider it my explanation.

Do they have the name recognition? Admittedly no. The definitive Allmans lineup lasted 2 1/2 years, and Duane Allman was gone about five months after their major classic (At Fillmore East) came out. They did get to be the biggest band in the county a couple of years later and do some of the first stadium tours, but at that point they were almost coasting on the momentum of the original band.
There isn’t much sense in comparing them to the Beatles or Floyd. They weren’t about pop songcraft. They didn’t sell many albums in Duane Allman’s lifetime; their first two albums weren’t heard by many non-music critics and At Fillmore East went platinum two weeks before Duane died. They did what they did on the strength of their live act. What they did was fuse the blues, jazz and soul music - along with some Latin and country influences - into a unique whole, and bring the improvisation of jazz together with the intensity of the blues in a way that no other rock band did. Cream and Led Zeppelin could play the same song for 20 minutes, but I’m talking about the difference between playing together and just being self-indulgent. The Grateful Dead could jam for half an hour, but no other band could create Mountain Jam or In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. I don’t think any other band could move from mood to mood within the same song the way the Allmans do in the live version of Whipping Post. Is that the same as going from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “Eleanor Rigby” to “A Day in the Life?” No, and it’s not supposed to be. It’s still a hell of an achievement.

And in terms of influence, let’s look at it this way: the Blues is not just American music, it is Southern American music. Dickey Betts once quipped that the term “Southern rock” is redundant because all rock is Southern. The Allmans inspired a ton of Southern bands (like Lynyrd Skynyrd and many other groups I don’t bother with because the Allmans did it better anyway ;)), and they helped make Southern culture part of mainstream American culture. They helped prove that a band didn’t need to go to L.A. or New York to make it big, and they never lost touch with their roots - although they also didn’t turn into a redneck novelty act, as many later bands did. And although it’s a minor point, they were also an integrated band in the American South in the late 1960s.

I don’t know. Ask Peter Frampton. :wink:

The Beach Boys and CCR were both “bands” completely dominated by one person’s artistic vision. The OP is talking about Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, Strummer/Jones…bands with more balanced creative input (and tension). The only great American band to really embody that (that I can think of right now) is Aerosmith.