American music v British music

The recent glut of versus threads, plus hearing the epic “Blue Monday” on the radio this morning left me curious about this question.

We have had some warm up bouts, such as Elton v Billy Joel, and Beatles v S+G, but lets stop faffing about.

Do the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who, Elton John, The Rolling stones, Clapton, Oasis, New Order, Stone Roses, The Smiths and the Housemartins collectively mean that British bands are better than Elvis and Chris Brown?

Nope, most of those you mentioned are merely derivative of American music. They’re only imitating their betters.

It’s a silly question. I went with the UK, but there have been plenty of great US musical artists and plenty of mediocre British ones. I tend to prefer British artists, but I also like a lot of Americans, too.

Would you like me to add a “Hooray for everybody” option?

While it is true that the US invented rock 'n roll, the British refined it. Under The Beatles, it became much more lyrical and literate, and it was only then that American acts started writing more than just throwaway ditties, as was formerly done for them pre-1964. It all became much more serious, but the majority of those writing such lyrics in the US were from the folk music world first (Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Ochs), and it would take a couple of years for mainstream rock to catch up. From about 1967 onward, both were writing better lyrics and things have been running pretty well neck and neck since then.

I definitely think about this, but haven’t found a way to capture how I feel about it that doesn’t seem like a gross overgeneralization that doesn’t help…

But The Beatles, Stones, Zep, The Who, Pink Floyd - it really is amazing how strong the UK bands were, starting in the 60’s and really persisting to this day, given that the musical form originated in the US and there are far more folks here in the US to choose from…

I think the inclusion of the Housemartins on that list is perhaps a little example of what you Earthlings call “humour”, but I do genuinely prefer them to Elvis. So that’s Hull 1, USA 0, as far as I’m concerned.

Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly - everything else is derivative.

I voted thinking you meant for all periods of music, in which case America wins handily. I mean, the fact is that pre-1964, the top British composer was Henry Purcell, who might rank in the top-5 of his period (Baroque). Before 1964, America gave us Jazz, RnR, Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, Robert Johnson, Gershwin, Joplin… the list goes on.

OTOH, if you’re limiting yourself to popular music, post-1963, then it’s probably the Brits.

IMHO, of course.

I’ll agree there are great American bands and great UK bands. But when you consider the population of the US has been between four and five times that of the UK during what we’d consider the rock era, the UK has been punching far above its weight.

And I’d also make the argument that while over the past twenty years or so the UK to some extent has been very receptive to music from the US, the opposite hasn’t always been true. I’ve been thinking about this lately a lot–for example, one of our local bands, Mercury Rev, has had several Top 40 albums in the UK (and their 1998 album Deserter’s Songs was NME’s #1 album of the year), so even some of the smaller names from the US have made it in the UK. But if you ask most fans here in the US about mid-90’s British music, all you’ll usually hear is “Blur, Oasis, and Radiohead (and maybe Pulp but only for “Common People”)”. The mid-90’s were an incredible era in British rock and pop music, second maybe to the 60’s in depth and impact.

It was humour yes, but I really am a big Housemartins fan. Its the Paul Heaton factor perhaps, as I am also a big Beautiful South fan. Very underappreciated lyrically.

“Its like the heartbreak hotel, with the heartbreak but nowhere to stay…”
Paul Simon would be proud of that lyric.

The Housemartins never got the credit they deserve. :frowning:

Brits made critical contributions in at least three separate veins or stages of the development of rock and pop music. But all three were extrapolations of things that had already started in America, and all three were then further expanded upon back in America. Moreover, before, during and after these stages, there were also a slew of other things going on in American music that Brits had little or nothing to do with.

I give Brits credit for their roles, but American music has just always (in the recorded era) had more dimensions.

This poll is probably better phrased as “Where are you from?”

This is not even debatable to me. Despite loving many British bands (eight of my top ten rock albums are British artists, although my number one is American), I had to go with American music, for creating blues, rock, jazz, country, and hip hop music (and other popular forms I’m omitting. Of course, these forms also had some Old World influences in them, but for the most part they were created in the US as distinct forms). Most popular music today has American music as its progenitor. While I do think the British are particularly strong in certain genres, overall, I find American music far more diverse, interesting, and ground-breaking over the history of recorded music.

I don’t think so. My interpretation of the poll results and comments so far is that there are a number of Americans here who are voting for British music.

I’m reminded of something Mick Jagger said about the Stones’ first American tour, when he would introduce songs as being “by the great Muddy Waters” and the like, and it finally dawned on him that the American white kids, by and large, had no idea who Muddy Waters was.

The US invented pop music.

The Commonwealth did some really interesting stuff with it. Ska/Dub/Reggae, Beatles-style almost theater music, then again, Gershwin was American…

If this was about techno, I could mount an argument that the Dutch were more influential than the British. All in all, I’m not voting.

Of course, ska, reggae and dub were invented by Jamaicans.

Britain is the musical-style cover nation.


Jamaica. Not exactly British (but still more or less a colony until the 60s), much less American. Early Ska was very definitely influenced a lot by 50s Rhythm & Blues.

I would argue that the musical influences that produced ska were R & B and Big Band, which were completely American.