Monday, October 18, 2010

On the mountainside


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.


Hopfrog said...

First off, you wouldn't need all the Pumpkins, just Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin. Chamberlin is an outstanding drummer and Corgan actually laid down all the bass and guitar tracks on at least their first album (maybe more) because the bassist and lead guitarist could not play what he had written and time was running out on the studio rental. Don't poo poo the Pumpkins, give them a listen, some really quality stuff.

Secondly, I'll keep with the 4 individuals format established by Mt. Rushmore.

In no particular order:

Lennon and McCartney. Sorry, can't have one without the other in my book. When John was asked if Ringo is the best drummer in the world, John jokingly replied "He's not even the best drummer in The Beatles". The best drummer he was referring to was Paul. Ringo was certainly one of the most underrated drummers (have a listen to Rain) and Paul would be the first to tell you with all sincerity that Ringo was a better drummer, but that joke speaks volumes about Paul's musicianship. While John was the master wordsmith, Paul was the maestro of the group. Paul's music and John's lyrics, perfection. Paul even picked up the bass because no one else in the group was willing to do learn it.

Geez, those two were no brainers, now I'm struggling. Hendrix, BB, Peart, Gilmour, Entwistle, Clapton, Brian Wilson, all kinds of name popping in the noggin.

Gonna go with my gut and put Jimi up there too. It was either him, BB, or Clapton. Tough call, but Jimi could play some really complicated stuff and was so innovative and far ahead of his time as an electric guitarist that I gotta give him the edge. Musically though, thats a 3 way tie.

For the last spot, after thinking about those names I rattled off some more, its easy for me. Neil Peart. Widely regarded as the best drummer to walk this earth, I think he is also one of the greatest lyricists of our time. He pretty much wrote the lyrics for just about every Rush song and just search YYZ on youku or youtube to witness his chops at their best. Great stuff.

Cool topic, wish I was debating this over drinks.

Froog said...

Thanks for joining in, Hopfrog.

I say nothing against The Pumpkins (because I know nothing about them); but Ruby herself admitted that they weren't really in the pantheon of true greatness, just special to her. I should indeed check them out sometime.

I feel, if I'm focusing on individuals rather than bands, I should restrict myself to one key individual from each band. And I think there is a problem with McCartney that so much of his post-Beatles stuff is a bit of an embarrassment - I expect them to be playing Mull of Kintyre in the ante-rooms of Hell.

I recognise that Peart is a remarkable drummer, but I could just never get into Rush. And even amongst their fans, it seems to me, they are often more admired than actually enjoyed - one of those bands that are amazingly gosh-darned musically clever but really hard to listen to. Amongst rock drummers, John Bonham is top of the heap for me - although people like Ginger Baker, Stewart Copeland, Mitch Mitchell and Mick Fleetwood would get a look-in too. And maybe Cozy Powell. And Phil Selway.

For guitarists - after Hendrix - Jimmy Page, Peter Green, Angus Young, Billy Gibbons, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dave Gilmour, Brian May, Mark Knopfler... not enough room on the mountain!

I love BB King, but I don't think he really counts as rock'n'roll. Among the early progenitors, I think you'd have to include Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and Scotty Moore.

Clapton.... well, a great blues guitarist, but, as with Paul McCartney, he carries a certain taint for having produced so much middle-of-the-road crap over the last forty years. With the exception of Layla and the Edge Of Darkness soundtrack, I fear it's been all downhill for our Eric since Cream, and thus he wouldn't make it into a top four or five for me. Oooh - controversial??

Hopfrog said...

Haha, blues is rock-n-roll man. All rock and roll can be traced back to Robert Johnson selling his soul down at the crossroads. Delta Blues, love that stuff.

I proudly play all that Wings post Beatles Macca stuff. An embarrassment? Well, scept all that give my regards to Broadstreet crap, that was an embarassment to humanity, but moreso visually than musically.

I can assure you that we Rush fans do actually enjoy the music and don't dutifully listen because they are fantastically skilled musicians. Granted, its not catchy stuff and the lyrics and music can be weighty, but after reading your entry I promptly got on youtube and was watching some of their instrumental stuff in concert and yes... enjoying it.

Couldn't agree more on Clapton and Cream. Those were his best years, I agree. The problem with being as prolific as Clapton and McCartney is that you can't always knock 'em out of the park with every at bat. Granted they both suffer from bouts of mediocrity, but filtering out the waste, some brilliant stuff from both.

Gary said...

I might go for Lennon AND McCartney - indivisible in my mind for the Beatles songbook.

And maybe Brian Wilson and Jerry Garcia over Mick Jagger.

Bands - it gets too hard. I need to think some more.

Hopfrog said...

Oh I'm with Gary. Forgot about Jerry, but yeah, JG or BW > MJ. I like Mick, but the only Mt. Rushmore of mine he makes it on is my Mt. Rushmore of tambourine players. Hmmm.... Mick, Davy Jones, Roger Daltry, and Stevie Nick... Lock it in, final answer!

Froog said...

Ha - a tambourine players' Mount Rushmore! Like it, HF.

However I would say that Jagger might also make it as a harmonica player. And as a vocalist, of course (not a great voice, but a great stylist and an amazingly charismatic stage presence). And as a dancer - or a mover - on stage. And as a songwriter.

In my BIG FOUR I was trying to cover the bases: singer, songwriter, musician, and performer. Jagger arguably gets in as all four, but mainly the latter.

Froog said...

I'm glad you enjoy Rush on that visceral level, HF, but I stick to my original suggestion that it's a little hard to do so.

I recall the Man In Black telling me that there was a similar problem with Phish (another band of whom I know very little): impressive on an intellectual level, but not so visceral in appeal.

I feel much the same about all of the later Radiohead.

Froog said...

Gary, I love Brian Wilson, but - at the risk of being CONTROVERSIAL again! - I find it a bit hard to take The Beach Boys all that seriously.

The name itself is a handicap! And they're really more pop than rock. That whole 'surf music' thing from which they sprung is... irresistibly catchy but ultimately very trivial - especially in the lyrics. They're basically a proto-boy band - albeit a phenomenally talented one (esp. Brian!).

I don't know much Grateful Dead. I don't think their music really crossed over to England. Or, if it did in the '60s, it didn't establish a lasting place for itself. I can't think of anyone I've ever known in the UK (and I've known lots of big music lovers, with HUGE record collections) who owned a Grateful Dead album. On that basis alone, I'd be inclined to dispute JG's right to a place in the front rank. I know he's HUGE with the people that love him - practically deified in San Francisco - but his reach is limited.

Ruby said...

Firstly, I am in no way embarrassed by Smashing Pumpkins!!! Where on earth did you get that idea? I just said they're not in the same league as Lennon, Hendrix and others. But they were very influential on my teenage years. I think they started my love of song lyrics,, I actually got top of my year 12 english class for my analysis of Billy's lyrics on Mellon Collie.

I have to agree with Hopfrog though, James and D'arcy are good musicians, but it really was the Billy show. I'm sure he would have laid down the drum track as well, if Jimmy had not been such an awesome drummer!

As for the whole Lennon v McCartney debate, they are both very different musicians and the Beatles would not have been what they were without their partnership. McCartney I will agree is excellent on a guitar, bass or drums, but his post Beatles stuff is shite. Lennon may not be so musically talented, but it's his lyrics that I love, on Beatles songs and his own. And I agree with you Froog that Mull of Kintyre would surely be playing in hell, luckily I don't believe in it, so I wont have to suffer there!

I actually didn't intend this to be a rock thing either, you can include anything that influenced you. So I expected Tom Waits to be up there for you Froog, and maybe someone classical as well?

So here are my final four: Smashing Pumpkins, John Lennon, Eric Clapton & Jeff Buckley. All four very influential on certain parts of my life and my musical tastes overall.

Close runner's up: Jimi Hendrix, Ben Harper, Pink Floyd

Hopfrog, if you're in the 'Jing and want to carry on the topic over a drink or two, pop into Froog's local sometime!

Froog said...

HF, on definitions....

'Derived from' is not 'equals'.

We might say that...

Rock'n'roll IS (in essence) the blues

but that's not the same as....

the blues IS rock'nroll.

It's not.

Froog said...

Ruby, if Macca is disqualified by his "forty years of shite", how does Clapton still make the cut for you?

Ruby said...

Macca would never be up there, without Lennon he is nothing but shite. Whereas Lennon post-Beatles is possibly better than Beatles era.

Clapton may not have done much recently, but his old stuff is great and it's what I grew up listening to (my Dad was and still is a huge fan). If he came to China now, I would go to see him.

BTW, in doing my research for tonight's Tommy Emmanuel show, I noticed he's been voted Best Acoustic Guitarist in the World twice in Guitar Player magazine! And he has a song called Ruby's Eyes.
Please, please let there be no Chinese elevator music backing track!!

Froog said...

Ah, those Guitar Player magazine readers, what do they know?!

We're going with the best acoustic guitar player in the world, aren't we?

Froog said...

Ruby, it just gets WAY too complicated if you try to cover all musical genres at once.

Yes, I had shivers-down-the-spine, life-changing moments when I first heard Jascha Heifetz playing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto... or Alfred Brendel playing the Emperor Concerto.... or Artur Rubinstein playing Chopin.... or Joshua Rifkin playing Joplin... or Aldo Ciccolini playing Satie... or Julian Bream playing Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez... or Eric Hill playing Granados' guitar pieces... or...

But that could go on forever. And there's no way to compare it to rock'n'roll. Or jazz. Or blues. Or country.

We need a mountain for each.

Froog said...

Actually, so we don't use up every available cliff-face in the world...

and so we don't get too self-conscious about having to justify our choices to millions of sightseers each year...

what I propose is that we envisage a Mt-Rushmore-like mural - maybe 10m high, sculpted out of styrofoam.

Hopfrog said...

Fun thread, would absolutely love to swing by the Jing and have conversations like this over drinks. My plan was to head over to China next year and teach for a spell (yes, yes, I know) but its been put on hold, but who knows, maybe someday if your all still in the mainland in a year or two, I'd love to swing by and maybe take a good run at the trivia title as well.

Where to begin. Yes, blues/rock, in their modern incarnations, they are two different beasts and you clearly said Mt. Rushmore of rock. But hey, I love working in the whole Robert Johnson crossroads thing into a music conversation. Robert Plant actually has a jar of dirt from the crossroads located in, I believe, Mississippi.

Come on Froog, this whole cover all the bases, "performer", angle is a sad attempt to defend putting someone on the mountain who clearly does not belong. He is a lead singer and you don't even seem to feel confident that he would make it up there for his singing. Performer, ok, he makes it up there as a performer, but I think its a feeble defense. Putting the man on Mt. friggin Rushmore for his.... gyrations?

The Beach Boys, give Pet Sounds a listen, they went away from that whole surf sound during their career, but hey, they got stuck with the name and the stigma.

Ugh, running out of time, but I need about 30 minutes to try and defuse the Macca bashing. I'll try it in 5.

Post Beatles shite? Have you listened to that Plastic Ono band crap? I'll take Macca's Wings over that tripe any day.

Trivia: Who is the only Beatle without a #1 hit, post Beatles. Hint: Its not Ringo.

I think John is a phenomenal talent and songwriting aside, one of the greatest singers to grace the mics, but I'd also argue that Lennon and the Beatles would have been shite without Macca either. All John wanted to do was write songs and sing over a half a dozen chords. An exaggeration yes, but without George and Paul, the Beatles do not get to the next level musically.

Ugh, more to say but duty calls.

Hopfrog said...

Let me amend my trivia question lest I come off an an ethnocentric American with a faulty query. When pressed for time I tend to write in a Kerouacesque fashion and don't necessarily double check my facts, and in this matter, I worded the question wrong.

It should have been which Beatle has the fewest #1 solo hits on the US charts. Its John. He had only one #1 hit, "Whatever Gets You Through the Night", and its actually a duet. Love that song though.

Froog said...

I'm sure Ruby will only take that as evidence of the poverty of musical taste Stateside, HF!

Froog said...

And I stand by Jagger.

If you're talking about carving people on to a mountainside, they have to be iconic. And Jagger is, in a way that very few people are. Even people who aren't really into The Stones have a lot of respect for him; even people who aren't into rock music at all have heard of him - and recognise him.

But for the extraordinary achievement of The Beatles, I think The Rolling Stones would be universally recognised as the No. 1 band in the history of rock music. As it is, they're a close second. And it's Mick more than anyone else who put them there; he's the leader, the figurehead, the 'face' of the band - however you split the songwriting credits with Keef.

The big arguments start around the No. 3 spot: should it be Led Zeppelin or Queen, Pink Floyd or The Who, The Band or The Eagles, The Beach Boys or The Grateful Dead... or AC/DC... or U2... or Radioihead??

But The Rolling Stones are way out there on their own in the 2nd spot, and that's why Mick Jagger is on the mountain next to John Lennon.

Froog said...

Inspired typo back there - Radi-Oi!-Head.... cover band doing back-to-basics punk makeovers of Thom and the boys' more abstruse 'Kid A' type stuff? Yes, I think I'd like to here that.

Froog said...

'Here'?! 'Hear', of course. What is happening to my brain??

Hopfrog said...

Oooh, The Stones a clear 2, absolutely not, but were certainly getting into that "different strokes for different folks" realm.

The 2 is a debate between Floyd, The Who, and Zep. The Stones? I don't think you'll get too much support for them at 2. But they are certainly in the running for like... 4 or 5.

Interesting bit about The Stones/Beatles. They were actually quite good friends (hence the "good guys" shirt on the Sgt Pepper cover). The Stones, before they were big, were in a bar with Paul and John and had asked them to write a song for them. Paul and John had a ditty lying around called "I Wanna Be Your Man", which they though was a throwaway and gave to Mick and the boys. I believe it was their first big hit and the rest is history.

Hopfrog said...

"were, we're"... dangit, I do it too.

Froog said...

Oh, HF - where to start?

I think the more interesting debate, perhaps, is Beatles vs Stones.

Whilst we all enjoy and admire the Beatles, they tend - these days, anyway - to be more the sort of thing that you go back to in middle age, rather than the sort of thing that gets to you in your teens or early twenties when you're really passionate about rock'n'roll (used in its more general sense!). They're just not as edgy as The Stones, and their tunes are just too goddarned pretty. They're more 'pop' than 'rock'. In the UK, at least by the early or mid '70s, they were mostly being played on BBC Radio 2 (Radio 1 is the proper rock channel, whereas Radio 2 is more 'easy listening'); while The Stones continued for many years to be a staple of Radio 1.

And their ubiquity got kind of irritating. You didn't need to buy any Beatles albums because they were on the radio all the time!

It was conspicuous that amongst my friends at high school and university, I don't think a single one of us owned a Beatles album - not even one of the 'best of' anthologies. But almost everyone had at least a little bit of The Stones.

The Beatles, I feel, are sui generis, unique - standing outside the general realm of 'rock music'. They might inspire people to want to try to write great songs, but they don't inspire you to want to form a band of your own.... and I don't think they really inspire you with a love of rock music. The Stones do.

Froog said...

And I wasn't talking about 'best' or 'personal favourite' - but 'place in history'.

In terms of pure musical ability, I guess Led Zep (and probably also The Who) trounce The Stones in every department - vocals, drums, bass, guitar. And I absolute adore Pink Floyd - would take them (and numerous other bands too) way ahead of The Stones as a purely personal pick.

'Rock' music has developed over the years, split off into different side streams, and come to encompass other comparable forms of music that were not part of its original tradition (e.g., reggae and hip-hop). But the most basic form of rock - the original and best - was created in the 1960s. Those were astonishingly vibrant times: the variety and quality of stuff that was being produced has not come close to being rivalled in any subsequent decade, I don't think. So, if your "Mt Rushmore" is going to be composed of people who've had a seminal impact on the development of the music, I think you've got to go all the way back to those remarkable beginnings.

The real Mount Rushmore features the 1st, 3rd, and 16th Presidents of the United States. Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President, is always the one who seems to stand out as not 'fitting' in this company - because too recent (regardless of how you might assess his worth as a man or a President). Even today, more than a hundred years after the end of his term, and 80 years since they started carving him on the side of the mountain, he still jars as the one slightly 'out of place' with the others - and probably, I think, always will. That's why I feel the 'Mt Rushmore' concept for picking the greatest rock stars really has to go back to the most iconic figures from the very earliest days of the music.

So, perhaps The Stones have somewhat of an unfair advantage in being one of the very first bands to make an impact in this genre. And perhaps their sheer longevity has given them a boost too (their song catalogue now dwarfs that of Lennon/McCartney or anyone else in volume; and I think it dwarfs just about anyone except Lennon/McCartney in quality - come on, Page/Plant, Pete Townsend... are you serious??).

Perhaps The Stones were never quite as big in the US as they were in the UK (and everywhere else in the world). And perhaps the memory of their heyday is becoming dimmed now by the passage of time and the huge number of new bands coming on the scene - especially for the younger generation of music fans. And perhaps too their longevity has worked against them in some ways - outstaying their welcome, undermining their credibility, obscuring the glory of their peak output in the 60s and early 70s with the decades of comparative mediocrity which have followed.

But..... where I come from, there really is no debate. The Rolling Stones stand at the head of the rock music tradition: they are the No. 2 band - and the No. 1 rock band - in history.

Hopfrog said...

I think when we get to this level there are few differences across the pond. The Stones were and are massive here.

I think your spot on with the Teddy out of place argument, unrelated, but wanted to give you a nod for that. By that argument then, Elvis knocks Mick off as a performer.

Stones/Beatles... no debate... you had it right the first time. Sometimes something is so good that people just want to rebel against it. The #2 spot is the debate, The Stones #1 Rock Band in history? You've clearly hit that Japanese Single Malt a bit too much already. Nothing pop or happy about much of the Beatles' studio work from Sgt Pepper, White Album, to Abbey Road, nothing much that is pop in there at all.

I like the Stones, I don't really wanna bash em, so I'll just leave it at this: You clearly like them more than I do.

Froog said...

The Beatles get a lot darker and weirder in their later years, but not really rockier.

And, as I said, I don't think this is about simple merit, or how much either of us may like any given band - it's about impact, recognition, achieving that 'icon' status.

I nominated my 'Big Four' for Mount Rushmore essentially on the basis of fame. Often these artists' fame rests on reasons not exclusively to do with their music or their talent, but in general I think sheer fame IS a pretty good reflection of musical quality and talent. What these guys all have is a universal level of recognition: even people who don't particularly like them still acknowledge their importance, and give them some respect. Hell, even people who don't like rock music and seldom or never listen to any know who these guys are. That's a very rare and special level of fame to attain.

OK, yes, Elvis has that same iconic status - but as I said in the original post, I treat the '50s as 'pre-rock' or 'proto-rock' (Elvis may still have been putting out some good stuff in the '60s, and into the '70s, but he was essentially a '50s artist; and I was focusing on the '6os for my list).

Dylan has it too, but I feel he's a little too far outside of the mainstream to have been that much of an influence on anyone else following. And I happen to think that he's VASTLY overrated as a lyricist (so, a little bit of personal preference colouring my choice there, admittedly).

I suppose Jim Morrison arguably does; but again, I feel that he is severely overrated, and certainly not on a par with my 'Big 4' (and Elvis and Dylan and McCartney).

As I observed earlier, I don't think Jerry Garcia makes it into this sort of company because of the rather more limited reach of his music; outside of the Deadhead faithful, he's all but forgotten now, I fear (and never did have much of a following in the UK). I'd say Brian Wilson has a stronger claim than Jerry, but the intermittency of his musical output and his reclusiveness count against him: a lot of people enjoy his music, but very few actually know what he looks like! You can't really be an icon without being a known 'face' as well as a 'name'.

Freddie Mercury, I would say, has that kind of iconic status too, but.... he came along just a little too late to be considered for "Mount Rushmore" status.

David Bowie and Elton John, I guess, also achieved something like that level of universal recognition in the '70s; so did Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen in the '80s; and arguably, I suppose, Kurt Cobain in the '90s (though that's really more to do with the martyrdom than the music, isn't it?).

I don't know that there's anyone else you could make out much of an argument for...

Froog said...

I think the shortfall in the reach of the music, the failure to achieve universality of recognition also works against most of the other bands we've discussed on here, HF - The Who and Zeppelin and so on. These are bands that are appreciated by serious music-lovers, revered by their fans, but... not that widely known amongst the general populace.

That was true even in my childhood. Whilst The Beatles continued to get a huge amount of radio airplay even after their break-up, The Stones were remaining fairly active, and Pink Floyd were only just coming into their prime in the '70s, Zeppelin and The Who rapidly faded from memory once they stopped producing new music (and were kind of 'rediscovered' in a '60s nostalgia wave in the early '80s); they were bands that I scarcely ever heard when I was growing up.

Froog said...

By the by, Hopfrog, Ruby and I have recently revived the Grand Prix thread over on Froogville (she only just got around to watching the DVD I lent her a month ago!). Please drop by there again.

(I suspect we could be on the brink of initiating a "Mount Rushmore of Formula 1 drivers" debate!!)

Hopfrog said...

Thanks for the heads up, I've just posted to the other thread as well.

Revolution, Helter Skelter, Get Back, Do it in the Road, Back in the USSR, Come Together, She came in through tBW, The End, One after 909, Walrus..... all from the studio era that I feel firmly cement The Beatles as 'also' a rock band. I could list a ton of mellow Stones songs that would also indicate they weren't purely a rock band.

Based on popularity, numeric impact, and iconic status then Elvis is up there and not Mick as a performer. You did say: "That's why I feel the 'Mt Rushmore' concept for picking the greatest rock stars really has to go back to the most iconic figures from the very earliest days of the music."

Forget the original request for 'our personal Mt. Rushmore', we've clearly gone into a debate about the Mt. Rushmore of rock n roll history for mass acceptance (which I feel it should have been, its hard to debate personal tastes) and it is not limited to one decade.

My revised mountain:

Elvis. One of modern rock's founding fathers. The man was censored and often filmed only from the waist up for his 'performing', if that doesn't define rock n roll performance, nothing does.

Lennon and McCartney. You simply cannot have one without the other, and while rock has gotten 'harsher sounding' over the years, I personally don't think its up for debate that Elvis and the Beatles were rock and roll artists in their eras.

Clapton. Jimi wasn't around long enough to attain the iconic status that Clapton has over the years. Clapton took blues playing, amped it up, and turned it into rock.

I think I could confidently chisel that mountain out and unveil it for the world to see. I think I would be highly apprehensive at the public unveiling if, once the curtain fell, Mick's puckered lips were up there, alongside 3 of those icons. I'd be checking over my shoulder, afraid that the crowd would be doubled over in laughter.

Hopfrog said...

Quickly, I don't want to come off as I am laughing at Mick being on your personal Rushmore. I can see that. I just feel since we are getting into pretty clearly defined criteria, that this is how the public would receive it.

Froog said...

Yeah, you may have a point about Mick appearing a little risible at times. But Elvis too descended into self-parody, well before 'the Vegas years'.

I nominated Mick as representative of The Stones, and I think they are - and always will be - one of the most iconic... the most iconic of the early rock bands.

Part of his problem is that he's lived too long. There's inevitably a tendency these days to mock him (and the rest of the band) for still trying to strut their stuff like they did when they were youngsters. (Though I caught them live in Shanghai a few years ago, and, oh man, they can still do it! Whatever monkey gland potion those boys are taking, it really works!)

Dying young adds a huge amount of romance to your aura, and boosts your 'place in history' by several (perhaps undeserved) points. Quitting at your peak is probably a pretty good move too.

You wonder if Jimi and Janis would have become a curiosity, an embarrassment, a freakshow if they'd lived to old age and still continued to make music. Somehow I think not.

Froog said...

And while I have the highest regard for Eric Clapton, I don't think you could take any other rock guitarist ahead of Jimi Hendrix.

I don't think Eric would.

Hendrix did more in his 4 years of glory than Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page have in 45.

Froog said...

OK, there was one icon I missed in that overview back there - Marley.

Maybe some would prefer to exclude reggae from the umbrella concept of 'rock', but he's definitely the only other figure in post-1970 popular music who could rival the 'instant recognition/massive influence' standing of Lennon, Hendrix, Presley.

Froog said...

And I'm starting to feel a little guilty about having 'disowned' Blondie and Abba as "guilty teenage pleasures".

There was a reason why they were the two biggest bands in the world at the end of the 1970s - and it wasn't just the sexy singers. It was the music: they both produced a lot of really, really good songs.

I'm not sure they'd quite get on to a Mt Rushmore of bands, or of songwriting - but they are not to be scoffed at.