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Quintessential American Band


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#1 aquagirl

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 12:55 PM

does America have a quintessential band? I've been debating this in my head for several months and am still not satisfied. England has the Beatles. Ireland has U2. Sweden, ABBA. Australia, AC-DC/INXS/The Bee Gees. etc. However, when it comes to thinking about American bands, the musicians that pop to mind immediately are solo artists, or at least artists that seem separate from their band (such as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, etc). Though Michael Jackson is probably one of -- if not the -- best known performers in the world, I don't really think it can be argued that the Jackson Five is the American equivalent of the Beatles.... So, is there a band that fits the bill? the requirements, i believe, are: 1 - multi-generational -- i.e., my mother has to at least know the band name, and the punks in high school have to as well. 2 - international -- for example, the Grateful Dead seem to almost fit the bill until i realised that people outside the US don't really know them. 3 - a band -- not like, Bruce .... and his band. They have to work as a unit. members can be replaced, but the group is more highly recognizable than it's parts. 4 - mainstream recognition -- of course, they have to be famous. 5 - American -- hell, they can be from anywhere, but they need to encompass/embody/whatever something american. at least, i think so. i suppose this one is optional. After going through these requirements, i wonder if indeed it is a cultural difference that makes solo performers far more famous than bands in the US. it's very interesting to compare british music to american music, especially in this aspect. So, what do you think? I have thought of some bands, but i am still not satisfied that i have answered my own question.... (and i can't believe i have to type 'the eagles'. =shudder= ) the best i can come up with: - Simon and Garfunkel - Carpenters - the Beach Boys - the Eagles - New Kids on the Block - CCR - Metallica - Pearl Jam - Nirvana - Rage Against the Machine (i think these don't count) (what a horrible list!!)

#2 Ent

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 01:54 PM

I don't know what the answer is, but it's a very good question. I wish you had posted this in "Music Discussion" as it would get a lot more responses. Hopefully more people will chime in with their thoughts.

#3 Magnus Malcolm

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 02:10 PM

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Good question. Definitely not Rage Against the Machine.

I dunno, out of the ones you listed, The Beach Boys are probably the safest choice. None of the bands I can think of really fit the bill though. Hailing from Georgia, lots of people around here would say Lynyrd Skynyrd. but...no.
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#4 M_Rots

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 08:17 PM

We don't need a defining band. We defined the music, itself.and it sure as fuck ain't The Carpenters.

#5 Meldrick Lewis

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 08:52 PM

CCR or GNR fit mostly REM's too oddball.

#6 Hans Christian Anderson

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 10:40 PM

i think this would be a great show/discussion, and i think REM is about as good of a candidate as any.

#7 Rob Gordon

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 10:42 PM

REM good....CCr good..but The Grateful Dead is the answer. Yeah and if talking band I won;'t bring up Bruce though he's a valid contender.
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#8 M_Rots

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 10:57 PM

You're a brave man, Trails. I can't think of a band more likely to be (wrongly) villified and slagged off on this board, especially in this topic.

#9 aquagirl

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 04:30 AM

i did think of the Grateful Dead. but, it doesn't really work. Apparently they are not that well known outside the country, and probably not that well known by the younger generation. the thing is, chances are it's not going to be a 'good' band. i mean, most aussies are probably not happy about the Bee Gees.... Regardless of how you feel about the Beatles, it's impossible to say they did not have a massive influence and huge popularity. Even Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones -- they would fit. brits have tons of huge bands, but the same can not be said of the US. it's just not in the culture/music business. or something. i could say The Doors or REM, but i don't think they fit either. Nirvana is too new and probably too passing. Pearl Jam? maybe, but not big enough, not mainstream enough. the Ramones? i hate to say it, but it's probably the freaking Carpenters. or Simon and Garfunkel. i just find this thoroughly depressing. thanks for all the feedback and for the suggestion to post this on the other board. will do! rock on

#10 aquagirl

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 04:59 AM

ok, topic now on Music Discussion board. please post your comments there. thanks!

#11 elcorazon

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 09:06 AM

The Byrds i dunno, they don't feel big enuff to me.
Allman Brothers hmmm. again seem a bit too regional or something
Velvet Underground definitely not mainstream enough
Van Halen I don't think so
The Band Canadian

The real answer might be twofold -

1. The diversity of this country and the multiculturalism make it difficult for any band to be such a defining "American" band. I mean, to compare our culture to England, Ireland or Sweden is kinda difficult.

2. The superstar nature of our media and our society may make the celebrity out of the musician that leads to the plethora of big "artists" who are either the big name or perform solo - Dylan, Springsteen, Prince, Madonna, Hendrix... ya gotta wonder if Townshend and Davies had been American artists, would they have been singer songwriter acts with bands playing behind them rather than the main songwriter of a great band.
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#12 Dead Billy

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 02:37 PM

If it weren't for the "band" part you could make a pretty strong argument for Hank Williams or Jay Z. It pretty much has to be 'Skynnrd, no other band unites gun rack and spice rack America thusly. REM don't score very high with gun rack. I think even Black America couldn't help but be moved by the big fat pop hooks in Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird, wasn't there an r&b take on Freebird that was a B96 type radio hit in the eighties? Rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, saved, sinners, college educated, University of GED, I think every one of those genre of Americans dabbles in That Smell to one degree or another. And whenever I hear the story about how Ronnie Van Zandt goaded the rest of bandmates into flying even though the pilot was coked up and a little drunk I can't help but be reminded of the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections...Aerosmith is probably a distant second.
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#13 aquagirl

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 07:03 PM

Dead Billy -- :) spice rack and gun rack united. well put! lynyrd skynyrd to the list then. aerosmith as well. so, do you think the Doors qualify then?

#14 aquagirl

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 07:34 PM

What about Crosby Stills Nash and Young? i know Young is canadian, but i don't think that's important, plus, still american. Ohio? still one of the most amazing american protest songs if you asked me. I believe this is a listing of most of the bands from the other thread, pretty much in order of popularity: - the Beach Boys - Grateful Dead - CCR - REM - The Ramones - Van Halen - the Eagles - The Band - Kiss - Metallica - Pearl Jam - The Doors - Talking Heads - lynyrd skynyrd - aerosmith

#15 Dead Billy

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 10:51 PM

Dead Billy --
:) spice rack and gun rack united. well put!

lynyrd skynyrd to the list then. aerosmith as well.

so, do you think the Doors qualify then?


Spice rack and gun rack is Bill Maher's old line, or at least one of his old writers...To my mind the quintessential American band would be a band composed of Americans that speaks with a quality voice to the largest possible cross section of America...Do the Doors have any sort of multi-cultural fan base? I suppose Nas did sample that one Doors tune.
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#16 aquagirl

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 11:49 PM

To my mind the quintessential American band would be a band composed of Americans that speaks with a quality voice to the largest possible cross section of America...Do the Doors have any sort of multi-cultural fan base? I suppose Nas did sample that one Doors tune.


yeah, that's the rub. i guess 'quintessential' may not be the right word. maybe there are two questions, which band is the most popular/well known at home and abroad/lasting, and which band best embodies american culture and people that is best embraced by its people. if that makes sense. i don't think that they are the same band. maybe the beatles satisfies both questions for England, but for some reason it seems to be more complicated for america. why is this? is it not possible to have a phenomenon band such as the Beatles? is america just too divided? perhaps rock got too sub-divided too early on to cater to the masses.

i think a factor may be that americans just don't play well with others. i mean, i think CSNY is a perfect example, actually when you look at their story. a bunch of egos together that couldn't bear the thought of a band continuing without them, like The Byrds, and therefor wanted to have their band name be just their names. this also allowed for them to go of and do their own thing. a band of strong individuals that really barely held together as a group, yet made really good music when the stars were properly aligned. it struck me as really american. plus, they do seem to bridge that folkier, softer sound and rock.

but, they're not a 'mega' band i suppose.

i mentioned The Doors because they seem to be one of the few bands that new generations continue to re-discover. One of the few old bands that they still make posters and shirts for. Like them or not, one can't deny their lasting influence and popularity. they have an aura to them, that quasi-legend, big rock band thing. Morrisson was definitely the face, but he was nothing without the rest of the band. the sum was larger than its parts. sampled in electronic music, and maybe hip-hop, a movie, something of a legend remains. or was fabricated. nobody else seems to agree, but to me they seem to encompass something bigger than the beach boys, but i don't know what it is exactly.... but i understand your point about them maybe not relating to a lot of groups within america.

then again, all these bands are made up of average white guys.
name one big band with women, black guys or any other minority. (please, i hope someone proves me totally wrong on this point. i'd love nothing more than to nominate Blondie and Public Enemy.)

#17 Dead Billy

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 07:51 AM

To my mind the quintessential American band would be a band composed of Americans that speaks with a quality voice to the largest possible cross section of America...Do the Doors have any sort of multi-cultural fan base? I suppose Nas did sample that one Doors tune.


yeah, that's the rub. i guess 'quintessential' may not be the right word. maybe there are two questions, which band is the most popular/well known at home and abroad/lasting, and which band best embodies american culture and people that is best embraced by its people. if that makes sense. i don't think that they are the same band. maybe the beatles satisfies both questions for England, but for some reason it seems to be more complicated for america. why is this? is it not possible to have a phenomenon band such as the Beatles? is america just too divided? perhaps rock got too sub-divided too early on to cater to the masses.

i think a factor may be that americans just don't play well with others. i mean, i think CSNY is a perfect example, actually when you look at their story. a bunch of egos together that couldn't bear the thought of a band continuing without them, like The Byrds, and therefor wanted to have their band name be just their names. this also allowed for them to go of and do their own thing. a band of strong individuals that really barely held together as a group, yet made really good music when the stars were properly aligned. it struck me as really american. plus, they do seem to bridge that folkier, softer sound and rock.

but, they're not a 'mega' band i suppose.

i mentioned The Doors because they seem to be one of the few bands that new generations continue to re-discover. One of the few old bands that they still make posters and shirts for. Like them or not, one can't deny their lasting influence and popularity. they have an aura to them, that quasi-legend, big rock band thing. Morrisson was definitely the face, but he was nothing without the rest of the band. the sum was larger than its parts. sampled in electronic music, and maybe hip-hop, a movie, something of a legend remains. or was fabricated. nobody else seems to agree, but to me they seem to encompass something bigger than the beach boys, but i don't know what it is exactly.... but i understand your point about them maybe not relating to a lot of groups within america.

then again, all these bands are made up of average white guys.
name one big band with women, black guys or any other minority. (please, i hope someone proves me totally wrong on this point. i'd love nothing more than to nominate Blondie and Public Enemy.)


I think it's ok if the band is composed of white guys so long as their audience isn't COMPLETELY milk. To this point all our Great White Fathers have been
well, white and fathers. The future will be different but for now.
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#18 Rad Monkey

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 01:41 PM

I'm gonna go with the ramones.


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#19 kirkbrew

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 09:05 PM

Really good point. You got me thinkin' REM - The biggest band in the world. Just ask Mike. I hate to say it, but Metallica are huge internationally. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Foo Fuckers and Pumpkins have significant international cache. EVERYONE knows the Beach Boys as well as S+G. The Brits like to go on about inventing punk (which is as much to brag about as having herpes), but without The Ramones, The Pistols and Clash would have not got off the ground. Eagles? Nah. I don't think they have international appeal. Same with The Dead. They did some Euro tours, but it was for the yanks to go on vacation. New Kids, N-Sync, BackButt Boys? I doubt anyone remembers them, so they don't count. The fact that they are not bands either... Village People??? I think that YMCA is our wedding song answer to The Chicken Dance.
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#20 Petition

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Posted 05 November 2008 - 12:52 PM

CCR was the first band that came to mind, probably because I am not much of a Beach Boys fan.
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