Our music-expert friends over at Weeping Elvis have two must-read Independence Day pieces. The first is a surefire good time: the perfect Fourth of July mix tape (for real, check it). The second, excerpted here, is a list of the 25 best American bands of all-time, just in time for the holiday.
On one hand, you’ve got The Beatles. And The Stones. The Kinks. Led Zeppelin. The Clash. The Who. The Sex Pistols. U2. Pink Floyd. Radiohead. Thin Lizzy. Oasis. Muse.
On the other hand, you’ve got Elvis Presley. Howlin’ Wolf. Chuck Berry. Muddy Waters. Roy Orbison. James Brown. Bob Dylan. Otis Redding. Bruce Springsteen. Prince. Michael Jackson. Beck.
What’s the difference? You don’t have to be Lester Bangs to ascertain that the first category consists of all bands; the second, all individuals. But look a little closer, and think geographically: the first category consists of all British or Irish rock icons. And the second category is as American as Apple Pie. Or Daniel Boone. Or Davy Crockett.
Why are many (if not most) of the greatest bands in the rock canon all British, while most of the individual icons are American?
What does it say about the respective characters of those two nations? Is that frontier brand of rugged individualism so innate within the American spirit that it manifests itself even in our music? From Louis Armstrong to Robert Johnson to Janis Joplin, the history of American music has largely been that of the individual. Even when individuals are paired with great bands, it’s often the name of the individual that proceeds the ampersand (Buddy Holly & The Crickets. James Brown & The Famous Flames. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Bruce & The E Street Band. Sly & The Family Stone).
And that got the Editorial Board here at Weeping Elvis thinking about the exceptions to the “all the great rock bands are British” rule… in other words, who exactly are the greatest American bands?
The result of this anthropological inquiry is the list that follows: Weeping Elvis’ Top 25 list of the greatest American rock and roll bands.
To republish a partial list would be a disservice, so just click on over to Weeping Elvis to read their methodology and see all 25 bands. It’s a huge win.