America absolutely invented rock and roll. If you want to dispute that, history is against you. Evolved during the early 1940s, rock and roll smashed up the country’s most popular genres — blues, gospel, jazz, and country — into something kinetic, exciting, and new. Sure, America absolutely invented rock and roll, but it was perfected on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic. It was in Great Britain that rock and roll really found its legs and then soared to heights never thought possible. America might be able to lay claim to some of the genre’s most impressive performers past and present, but when compared to the unending tidal wave of talent coming out of Britain, even Jack White and Jimi Hendrix don’t add up to much of a defense. Even when you include the fact that Britain saddled the world with atrocities like U2 and Coldplay, their combined contribution to rock and roll is indisputably more important than America’s. Here are thirteen reasons why.
1. The Who Turned An Excruciating Art Form into Solid Rock Genius
Admit it, if you were born this side of 1900, you probably think that opera is a total waste of time, and if you do like it, you probably wear a monocle and attend galas. The last option is that you’re Roger Daltrey and you want to funnel your brand new sober perspective into a kaleidoscopic journey through a deaf guy’s life. And Tommy is just one album in a series of songs sung through the eyes of a litany of every day people interchangeably confused, angry, exhausted, elated, or turned on.
2. The Sex Pistols Turned Political Rage into a Musical Movement
When it comes down to sheer music released, the Sex Pistols shouldn’t actually have thrived in popular memory the way they did. Even after the death of bassist Sid Vicious, the band’s angry, distorted f*ck you to popular culture Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols helped kickstart the punk movement across the world.
3. The Beatles Are Probably the Greatest Band Ever to Walk the Planet
Anyone arguing? No? Okay, moving on.
4. Okay, Britain Gave Us Coldplay, But America is Responsible For Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit
Okay, so rap music is probably also partially to blame for the travesty that is trailer park residents who rap. The half-talented acts blend rote rock riffs with a grimy ode to white trash culture. The entire world is a worse place because these people exist, with their stained tank tops and total ruination of the fedora as a fashion accessory. And they’re all America’s fault.
5. The Truth That is Eric Clapton
The next time you suffer through a fifteen-minute jam session at a bar, you can righteously mutter some cuss words at the expense of one Eric Clapton . . . only don’t do that because Clapton is a freaking genius. Yes, I know, he’s a spindly, pasty British dude who is probably super polite to his mother. However, don’t count him out just because he’s a big dork. The man who’s played for bands like Cream and the Yardbirds, is known for his off-the-cuff play style and his lengthy improvisations. All the terrible guitar solos in the world are worth putting up with, because when Clapton jams, every note is a pleasure you never want to end.
6. Led Zeppelin Reached a Stratosphere of Rock Never Seen Again
Led Zeppelin is one of those bands that make you believe in God. The odds that four such astronomically talented musicians would be able to find each other, and then stand each other’s company long enough to collaborate is so unthinkable, you know it was divine providence. Largely considered the progenitors of heavy metal, Zeppelin revolutionized music as a whole during their time together. From its inimitable riffs to its trippy, Tolkien-inspired lyrics, never in history have a group of music nerds rocked harder.
7. Boy Bands … That’s America’s Fault
In all honesty, the first boy bands weren’t terrible. Jackson 5 is considered one of the first, but the real title of first boy band has to go to The Monkees, the band that was created by a company to sell stuff (seriously). Sure, they have a couple of good songs, but they were explicitly created and marketed as a means to market other crap, just like today’s endless stream of boy bands. And it’s American executives who are to blame for everything that’s come since.
8. Harness Your Inner Demon With a Little Black Sabbath
When the traditional blues rock thing didn’t work out for Tony Iommi, he had his band members reflect that disappointment with resonating minor chords and occult imagery. Combined with Ozzy Osbourne’s screeching vocals, Black Sabbath’s menacing discontent blazed new territory in heavy metal.
9. The Ramones: Undeniably Awesome, Indisputably Untalented
Hey, let’s talk about the Ramones, one of the most beloved rock bands in the world. And they are awesome, because they personify the grit and spastic aggression that the best rock music inspires. Here’s the thing though, the Ramones sucked. They knew like three chords, Joey wasn’t a great singer, and they were all gawky creeps. Was their music magically appealing? Somehow. But to say that they’re a “win” for American rock music is way off base.
10. The Rolling Stones, They’re Like Aerosmith, But Good
I’ll be blunt. Ninety percent of Aerosmith’s music is garbage and the other ten percent sounds like The Rolling Stones on a bad day. The Stones turned their love of blues rock into an almost unending stream of hits, that put a continuously finer point on their rock and roll spear. More than three decades after they were formed, these guys can still throw down some quality.
11. The Clash Are Smarter, Meaner, and Cooler Than You
Though they formed among the first wave of Britain’s punk rock revolution, the Clash distinguished themselves with their experimentation. Paired with their evocative political lyrics and their general air of “cut the bullsh*t” the Clash were once known as “The Only Band that Matters.” Seriously, it started as a promotional thing and then just became what they were called.
12. Where KISS Infused Spectacle Into Their Costumes, Queen Infused Spectacle Into Their Music
When it came to spectacle, no one quite did it like Queen, whose soaring anthems and exultant vocals put an incredible theatricality on display. In America, we got KISS, who dressed like demon clowns and played super-traditional rock music. Queen on the other hand, found ways to rock every genre from opera to folk, and always with a flare that couldn’t be touched.
13. David Bowie, a Rock and Roll Force of Nature
No single artist in the history of popular music has delivered a rock discography as nearly perfect as David Bowie. Though each of his outings was something experimental and new, each was rooted in a relatable sound that elevated the whole. Bowie was a rock god. He twisted the genre of rock and roll in his image, defining its sound at intervals throughout his career. Even on his final, contemplative album Blackstar, when suffering from the last, brutal stages of liver cancer, Bowie demonstrated the prowess of a rocker at the height of his power, not the end of his rope.
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