Well, I’m bad at thinking of really specific T3’s that won’t piss anyone off, so that’s not what you’re getting. I think me and John have had the discussion that there just aren’t that as many prolific rock bands to come out of the U.S.A. as England, so here is a list of what I think are the best American rock bands that have ever existed.
Aerosmith have never strayed too far from their signature sound, raunchy blues-infused rock with a hint of blues. However, they do it better than anyone one else, as proved by lasting appeal over the decades. Their earlier stuff on classic albums like “Rocks” and “Toys and The Attic” is certainly what they’ve built their reputation on, but it’s also admirable to see a group that were able to reach the height of their success almost 20 years after they were formed.
With Greg Allman’s bluesman howl and Dickey Betts’ and Duane Allman’s dueling guitars, the original Allman’s lineup was a true force to be reckoned with. They are usually labeled as “Southern Rock”, but there’s no easy way of categorizing the way the Allman’s so effortlessly combined blues, country, rock, and jazz. Though they were never the same after Duane’s death, they stilled turned out great songs such as “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica”.
8. The Grateful Dead
Much like the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead were known for their unique blending of American music and for their impressive live shows. Though Jerry Garcia is the member most identified with the band, they wouldn’t be the same without each member. Each person brings their own style and influences to the melting pot of sound that were The Grateful Dead’s live shows. The Dead were also a band that showed a suprising amount a versatility on the fantastic country-influenced albums “American Beauty” and “Workingman’s Dead”.
By combining pop melodies with loud, fast, and distorted guitars, The Ramones created one of the most distinguishable sounds in rock and roll. I can’t imagine what it would be like to hear the first Ramones album in 1976 when the “dinosaur bands” were at the height of their fame; this was a band that showed that you didn’t have to be a wizard on guitar to be in a band. The Ramones have probably influenced punk rock more than any other American band, and kids will still be getting turned on to their music 30 years from now.
Hearing early Sly and The Family Stone songs like “Hot Fun in The Summer Time”, and “Everyday People” is basically music that you can’t help but have a smile on your face when listening to. There’s a vibrant energy that this band was able to convey, and with a radio friendly pop sheen to boot. Sly and the Family Stone weren’t only known for their terrific songs, but also their integrated band, which further expressed Sly’s undeniable message of unity.
Though they don’t really have the same name recognition as the other bands on this list, they’re just as important. You can’t even begin to talk about the Velvets without mentioning their incredible influence. With their first album, they basically planted the seed to what would become punk and alternative rock not to mention dozens of other subgenres and being a big influence to 3 of the bands on this list. But that’s not to mention their discography, with each one of their 4 classic albums, Lou Reed and co. were able to go in a completely different direction.
It’s really hard for me to believe The Doors were one of the most popular bands of their era, and I mean that in a good way. With Morrison’s dark lyrics and memerizing delivery, combined with Ray Manzerick’s brilliant keyboard work and Robbie Kreiger’s unique style of guitar playing The Doors were one of a kind. They were also one of the darkest bands to come out of the late-sixties psychedelic movement.
3. The Byrds
Though you wouldn’t think of it at first, the Byrds were probably one of the most important bands to come out of ‘60s. Roger McGuinn created an entirely new sound by adding guitars to the booming folk scene of the early ‘60s. You could also argue that “Eight Miles High” was America’s first introduction to the psychedelic music that would control the airwaves from then on. And if that wasn’t enough, they were the band that was the first of many bands to adopt a more down-home, countryish sound following the “Summer of Love” with the landmark album, “Sweetheart of The Rodeo”.
What can I say about Nirvana that hasn’t already been said? Kurt Cobain was the “voice of a generation” and a hell of a songwriter, but Dave Grohl and Krist Noveselic really helped bring the songs to life, and great rock songs certainly aren’t much if they don’t have a good band behind them. They’re simply the most important and influential band of our time, and they were the one band to make music that would have been thought of as “underground” to the pop charts.
1. The Beach Boys
The last three entries on the list were neck and neck for me, but this an obvious choice for me. The Beatles and The Stones are probably the only other bands that can match the amount of wildly popular singles the Beach Boys turned out from the early to mid-sixties. Also they had some of the best harmonies probably in any rock band ever. Of course, you can’t mention the Beach Boys without mentioning Brian Wilson, who basically rewrote the rules for what a rock and roll album can sound like with “Pet Sounds”. You can still hear the songs of The Beach Boys any time you turn on the radio or in any store, and I’m sure people will be soaking up those good vibrations for years to come.
Honorable Mentions: “The Eagles”, “Creedence Clearwater Revival”, “Parliament/Funkadelic”, “Lynyrd Synyrd”, “Van Halen”