9 thoughts on “The Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band of All Time

  1. The first thing’s first: How do we define “rock n’ roll.” Rock n’ roll can mean a lot different things, but for the purposes of this discussion I will define as pop-blues with a back beat. Think of 50’s and 60’s rock n’ roll, particularly played by white musicians–like the Rolling Stones. (“Pop blues” distinguishes it from from music by Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf in the 50s or 60s.)

    A part of me feels like the discussion could end right here. I do think the Rolling Stones’s music epitomizes rock n’ roll. I also think you could make a strong case that they play this type of rock n’ roll better than anyone else.

    But then why did I hesitate? I suspect part of the reason is that I thought of rock n’ roll more expansively, not limiting it to the narrow definition I’ve described. For example, I would be even more hesitant to call the Rolling Stones the best rock band–as “rock” feels like a broader category, one that could include groups like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Van Halen.

    This leads to another reason. When I think of rock n’ roll or rock, I think a kind of primal aggression, expressed through electric guitars, are close to the essence of rock or even rock n’ roll. With this in mind, the Stones don’t seem like the best rock n’ roll or rock band. In this context, I’d lean towards Zep, VH, AC/DC or even a group like the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

    Who would be some other groups? Off the top of my head, here are some groups that come to mind:

    The Who
    CCR
    Aerosmith
    Cheap Trick
    Los Lobos
    Prince
    Santana
    Black Sabbath
    Nirvana
    U2
    Queen
    The Beatles

    Who am I missing? I know I missing some names that should be on here.

    1. I may have to sit this one out except for a comment or two along the way, because I feel like you and I have been around and around on this topic a couple of ways generally (greatness vs. very goodness; who’s rock and roll and who’s not; rock vs. rock and roll) and one way specifically (the Rolling Stones themselves).

      However, this will be one of those comments. Looks like your topic is bands exclusive of solo artists. Is this correct? If so, it’s going to be fairly clean with bands like the Beatles and the Who, but super messy with bands like Santana, which, over the course of the band’s life, is 73 artists and these days is basically Carlos Santana and whoever’s playing with him. Which makes Santana the band really not different from Sting and whoever he’s playing with.

      One way Wikipedians handle part of this issue is to label different incarnations of the band “Mk I” and “Mk II.” The lineup most people consider the classic assemblage is “Mk IIa.” Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Roger Glover.

      The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which I cite only because it’s sorta relevant to the distinguishing thing, not because I think it has anything meaningful to say about greatness, inducted all members from Mk I, Mk IIa, and Mk III, so I guess its governing body thinks of this era of Deep Purple the greatest, or something.

      Anyway, some other bands you might consider:

      Fleetwood Mac
      Yes
      Rush
      Pink Floyd
      The Beach Boys
      Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
      Deep Purple
      The Kinks
      Daryl Hall and John Oates
      The Band
      The Grateful Dead
      Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
      The Eagles
      The Police
      Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
      Lynyrd Skynyrd
      Metallica
      R.E.M.
      Genesis
      Guns N’ Roses
      Heart
      Journey

      I’m guessing you can just eliminate a bunch of these right off, as I would do with your list.

    2. I may have to sit this one out except for a comment or two along the way, because I feel like you and I have been around and around on this topic

      Yeah, you’re right. I should just be content with choosing the Stones (but I’m still not totally at peace with that for some reason).

      Looks like your topic is bands exclusive of solo artists. Is this correct?

      No. I had Prince in there.

      If so, it’s going to be fairly clean with bands like the Beatles and the Who, but super messy with bands like Santana,…

      I hadn’t thought that far, but it’s a valid problem. My knee-jerk reaction is to just lump all the various side musicians together, or, as you allude to, point to a specific group of side musicians.

      Of your list, Deep Purple and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band intrigues me. I need to listen to more of their music. I should probably add The Kinks as well. (If they have a lot more music like “You Really Got Me,” I think they would be strong contenders.)

      I think Rush is a contender I missed as well.

      1. If you’re including solo artists, I’d at least give passing consideration to

        Bob Dylan
        Paul Simon
        Eric Clapton
        Elvis Presley
        Chuck Berry

        1. By the definition I’m using, I would exclude the first two.

          I also tend to penalize artists who make music outside of the definition as well. This hurts a group like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, or someone like Prince. (It might be more interesting to just hold up their music that falls within the definition I’m using. By this method, Led Zeppelin would leap-frog the Stones for me…although there is another problem–namely, I’m trying to distinguish between rock n’ roll and harder versions (e.g., heavy metal). I feel inclined to leave out AC/DC or Van Halen, but if I didn’t, I think I’d choose AC/DC as the greatest rock n’ roll band.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.