My occasional partner-in-crime (and in gig-going) Ruby did a post on Beijing Daze the weekend before last noting the occasion of John Lennon's birthday (it would have been his 70th, had he lived). And she used that as an opportunity to float an idea we've been kicking around down at the bar for a while - who would be on your personal "Mount Rushmore" of rock music, the four (or so) figures you have found more inspiring than anyone else?
Now, Ruby wanted to make this strictly a 'personal impact' selection - hence her somewhat embarrassed nomination of The Smashing Pumpkins. I've got two quibbles with that (without getting into a critique of The Smashing Pumpkins, a band of whom I have heard, but never - knowingly - heard). The first is that, if you picture transposing your selections on to the real Mount Rushmore monument, there's only enough space for 4 faces there (maybe 5 or 6, at a push; we've all seen Photoshop gags where there are one or two interlopers alongside the familiar US Presidents). There really isn't room for a whole band. Although, of course, it has been done....
(And I'd forgotten that there was this jokey variation on the back cover of the album. But hang about - there are only 4 bums here; whose rear is missing??)
Well, perhaps there is just about room for one whole band (The Beatles, of course, have a strong claim), but... that wouldn't really leave space for anyone else.
My greater objection is that if you're talking about such a one-off and very public - and, well, yes, monumental - celebration of favourite musicians... that does rather lead you towards wanting to come up with choices that you can justify to, and that will find acceptance with, most other reasonable music-lovers out there... rather than the guilty pleasures of your teenage years (I love Blondie and Abba but I would never in a million years suggest carving them on Mount Rushmore!). I mean, if Rolling Stone magazine, say, was conducting a worldwide poll on this topic, and was going to draw one selection at random to actually be immortalized by being carved in a cliff-face somewhere... I think you'd want to try to identify the artists or bands who'd indisputably had an impact on everyone, not just on you; the people who'd left an indelible influence on the development of the music.
But even that gets pretty tough. As I commented on Ruby's original post, after more than 50 years of rock’n'roll, it’s becoming difficult to choose between the different eras. If you’re limited to just four choices, I feel I’d have to approach it decade by decade.
I think real rock as we know it – more underground and iconoclastic, more experimental, but cleaving closer to its roots in the blues – didn’t really get going until the 1960s; its '50s precursors were fun, some of them great, but a bit too poppy.
If you just look at the '60s, I think the 'Top 4' are pretty damned obvious: Hendrix, Joplin, Lennon, and Jagger. I suppose some might argue for McCartney (or Morrison?!) to sneak in there instead of Jagger, but that’s it for me.
It you go back to the '50s, it’s got to be Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash (I've noted on here before that Kid Rock has said Cash should be added to the actual Mount Rushmore).
I would have loved to have found a place in there for Freddie Mercury, but I feel that (as with Michael Jackson and a few others) he was a remarkable solo talent, unique, unrepeatable – but he hasn’t really been that influential on anyone else following. Most female vocalists at some point in their careers have a stab at emoting like Janis (or at least wish that they could); all guitarists try to play like Jimi; all great stage performers get compared to Jagger; and all songwriters wish they could write songs like Lennon.
And I realise that I have probably enraged a sizeable proportion of the classic rock-loving populace by omitting Dylan from that quartet - but it's quite deliberate, and I'll stand by it. Put 'em up, put 'em up. I'll fight you with one arm tied behind my back.
Ah, and then of course you could have separate 'Top 4s' for guitarists... and drummers.... The challenge is neverending!!!
[If I were going for Ruby's approach of "never mind their place in rock'n'roll history, just choose the ones that got closest to your heart, for whatever reason", I'd say Tom Waits way ahead of anyone else; and then maybe Freddie Mercury.... and Dave Gilmour.... and possibly Brian May as well as Freddie (huge Queen fan in my youth!).... and perhaps Joe Jackson too (much the best British singer-songwriter of my generation, I feel). If we can somehow find a way to cram a set of whole bands on the mountain - Queen, The Boomtown Rats, Pink Floyd, and The Pogues.]
I have spoken. Do your worst.