WHO IS THE GREATEST AMERICAN ROCK BAND?
First of all this is a trick question. There are no great American rock bands. They’re all from the UK. In no particular order: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, U2, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, any of these groups are arguably better then the best America has to offer. So what is America great at? Solo acts: Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson (I know Michael is not even close to a rock band, but he is greatest pop star ever so he must be mentioned and for that fact Madonna should probably be mentioned as well because she is the second greatest pop star ever).
Many people (my friend John Conrad included) would say that the greatest American rock band ever is Aerosmith. But that is wrong. They are arguably the most American rock band ever. They’ve starred in Superbowl halftime shows with Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake; not to mention Wayne’s World 2; they’ve made the soundtrack to a movie with Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, and Steve Buscemi; Aerosmith even has their own Guitar Hero video game. What’s more American then that?
But are they great? They were good for a long time. They are the Karl Malone of rock bands. They have all the stats but they’re too easy to forget.
Which is why the answer to this question is Nirvana. I’m not stating that you should or shouldn’t listen to them, I’m just giving you a cultural fact. And you can’t even really debate this (what are you going to tell me Journey was a greater band?). And there are three primary reasons for their greatness.
1) They Defined An Entire Music Movement
Grunge, alternative, call it whatever you want, but when Smells Like Teen Spirit showed up in 1991 it changed everything. From the music video in that old musty gym, to their appearance on SNL, to all of the alternative bands from Seattle that followed—Kurt, Dave, and the funky looking bass guitar player changed the face of music.
2) Cobain’s Death
Again legendary. It’s been debated, books have been written and movies have been made but it was tragic to loose such a talent. Still, I’ve often wondered what would have happened if he wouldn’t have died so young. I’d like to think great things. But who knows, maybe they would have become Pearl Jam making a string of good albums until they finally scored a Sean Penn movie. After all, Nirvana only had one great album, Nevermind. However, my real guess is Nirvana would have followed a career path closer to Guns N’ Roses.
3) The Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl’s band must be talked about when talking about Nirvana’s legacy. And The Foo cements Nirvana as the greatest American rock band ever. Even though, in so many ways the Foo is a better band but mostly Wayne Campbell sums up the Nirvanna Foo relationship with this brillant Star Trek analogy. “They’re a lot like Star Trek: The Next Generation. In many ways, they’re superior but will never be as recognized as the original.” I cannot believe that’s my second Wayne’s World mention today.
This blog is dedicated to my friend Chris Londino. He’s lives in Dallas and asked me a year and a half ago what the answer to this question was. Now you know Chris. If you have other pop culture questions you want me answer feel free to comment below and let me know.