This was originally published at essays & effluvia, an early non finance blog I was experimenting with back in December 2003.


Here’s an odd little conversation starter from the office this week: Who is/was the greatest American Rock ‘n Roll band?

Before you answer, understand the masturbatory parameters of this debate:

Rule 1: Only U.S. groups
Thus, we eliminate the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and the rest of the Brits who followed: Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes and Dire Straits, amongst others. You can argue about the order of this list, but it don’t matter — none can apply for the job.

Rule 2: Only bands, not solo artists
That eliminated Bruce Springsteen and a host of other rock stars. (I argued that the E Street Band counts as a band, but I eventually had to acknowledge that they are essentially a backing group).

The three qualifications for our list were:  1) Body of Work; 2) Influence; and 3) Live performance.

My colleague had narrowed his list down to 3 bands: The Eagles, Van Halen and the Beach Boys. I mostly disagreed. My choices were: Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Steely Dan, Talking Heads and R.E.M. (And though they are not a choice of mine, I can also see how some people would put the Grateful Dead into the mix; The same thought applies to Nirvana, but even less so).

Here are my choices, and then my colleagues (which I mostly challenged):

My nominations for the Greatest American Rock and Roll Band are:

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Consistently one of the most underated bands in U.S. musical history. Hugely influential, tremendous body of work. Where as most Beach Boy songs sound somewhat dated, CCR still sounds fresh and relevant today. Listen to the songs Fortunate Son, Green River or Run through the Jungle. Any of these could be credibly performed by many popular bands today (at least the ones that have chops).


The biggest issue with choosing CCR is that John Fogarty, their singer/songwriter/guitarist has such a substantial body of solo work, its sometimes hard to separate the two. Its also true that CCR was essentially Fogarty, so perhaps they only quasi-qualify as a Band. Upon reflection, I will admit that CCR is specific to a certain era, and while some may find they are somewhat dated  — I think they still rock the house.


The Doors:   You have to include The Doors in this list. They were a quintessential late 60′s/early 70′s band. Their first album makes all kinds of lists: Best albums of the ’60s, best debut album.


Their body of work was abbreviated due to Jim Morrison’s untimely death. Had they gone the distance, or even just another 5 years, they would have been a lock for the top slot. Despite their relatively short run, they still made the short list. But as matter of choice, I base my list on actual performance, not unrealized potential. So put The Doors into the top 5, and move on.


Steely Dan: Precise musicianship and song writing, effortlessly crossing boundaries into pop and jazz. An enormous body of work, known for its depth as well as breadth. One of the great things about Dan is that you can grab any CD of theirs, and play it straight thru. There ain’t much in the way of filler here.


Criticisms: Not the most raucous live bands you’ve ever seen. Too cerebral for some, while others find their work cold or distant. I think they’re great, but then again I like Dread Zeppelin, which some find unlistenable . . .


Talking Heads: Here’s where we start to get religious. You either ‘got’ and loved the T. Heads in the ’80s, or you didn’t, in which case you were probably a disco loving jerk — but lets not start with the name calling so soon, ok?


The Heads were enormously influential on so many bands that followed them. Their layered soundscapes of rythm and percussion still resonate today. Although their earlier work sounds very much tied to the early era of punk (when listened to today), and their latter stylizings are, well, very stylized. “Little Creatures,” which was a fun album when released, comes across a bit corny today. But their middle work reveals a powerful and innovative band: “Fear of Music” and “Remain in Light” are masterpieces; “Speaking In Tongues” still sounds great. The marvelously stripped down “Stop Making Sense” foreshadowed MTV unplugged by nearly a decade.

I understand that the Heads were somewhat inaccessible; its rock and roll, but not what some people think of as pure rock (like CCR); if you think Steely Dan is cerebral, Eno and Byrne drove the Heads intellectually light years ahead of their time. Still, if you’re looking for collaborative American genius, this is it.


R.E.M.: I guess we saved the best for last. An incredibly rich and varied body of work. Groundbreaking; Revitalizing. Just as rock n roll was becoming irrelevant, R.E.M. snatched it back with avengeance. Beautifully constructed melodies and lyrics, driving guitars, a thoughtful presence throughout.



Murmur, Life’s Rich Pageant, Document and Reckoning are a murder’s row of releases.

I can’t find much to dislike about this choice, except some of their lesser, later work; Also, not everyone appreciates the occasional mandolin. Some of the much later albums lack some of the original creative spark.


My colleague’s choices:

The Eagles: A fairly inspired choice which I might have overlooked. Over the course of more than 20 years, they have produced a widely appreciated catalogue of music covering a broad swath of styles, from country to rock. They have also adapted well to a few key line up changes.

Two strikes against them: First, I think of them as more influenced by other bands, rather than influencing others. One would hope that the greatest American Rock n Roll band was ‘inspirational.’


The other strike? I saw the Eagles live, and it was a yawner. Very boring to watch 5 motionless guys spread out across a stage. Hell, Tenacious D puts on a better show. If you can’t light it up live, than you simply cannot be named the “Greatest American Rock and Roll Band.” Period.


Van Halen:  Now, here’s a band that certainly knows how to kick it live (“kick it with a tasty groove” as JB would say).  They have an extensive catalogue, with many great songs.


Very little in the way of criticism of this choice, but here goes: Perhaps they are too well known for their covers, rather than their own work. Non hard core Van Halen fans know their versions of the Kinks “You Really Got Me” and Roy Orbison’s “(Oh) Pretty Woman.” That cuts both ways, and while it kinda takes some of the blush off the rose for some, I don’t have a problem with it; but I do understand the argument that we would prefer the greatest band in the land to be best known for their own body of work. I would certainly choose VH over, say Aerosmith, because of the body of work. But they don’t strike me as THE seminal USA rock n roll band.

Random VH note: I saw them open for Black Sabbath in 1979, and they simply blew Ozzie and friends off the stage. Kick ass performance.


Beach Boys:  There’s no doubt that the Beach Boys were very influential. “Pet Sounds” is widely credited with influencing the Beatles to do a concept album of their own: Sgt. Peppers.


However, they are so narrowly genre specific — “Surf Music” — that its hard to call them fully representative of American Rock ‘n Roll.  You can try making the same argument about Van Halen, but “Hard Rock” is so much broader of a genre than the narrow field the Beach Boys tilled. An interesting choice, but does not make the final cut. Let’s just call them top five, and leave it at that.


Got an opinion on music? Agree or disagreee with these choices? Let me know by submitting a comment below — I’ll waive my usual requirement and even allow anonymous postings . . .

Final thoughts:  There are plenty of other bands one could include on this list, but most fail to make the final cut for a variety of reasons. CSNY were too narrow, Red Hot Chili Peppers, who have a large of body of work are also in the running.


While we are talking about Music, be sure to check out the industry commentary: Music Sales Rise on Aggressive Discounting, Price Competition and an Improving Economy


UPDATE:  March 14, 2004  9:07am
Just came across this September 2003 UK Guardian Unlimited article, “The 40 greatest US bands today” (part I and part II)

The Guardian’s approach doesn’t use our framework –they allow solo acts, which of course changes the entire dynamic. Regardless, its a good read.


UPDATE II: December 24, 2005 11:07am

John Fogerty is back at Fantasy records, his old label. The new owners and Fogerty buried the hatchet, and he released “The Long Road Home: The Ultimate John Fogerty-Creedence Collection.”

Now, you can see the full catalogue of both CCR and  Fogerty. Only problem is, it makes CCR look like a Fogerty backing band!

UPDATE III: January 6, 2013 11:07 am

The original post had 100s of comments — I have no idea how long I am going to keep the essays & effluvia blog, so if I can find a way to port those comments to this discussion I will. (It can be done manually but would take forever)


Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

396 Responses to “Greatest American Rock and Roll Band?”

  1. These 5 are my list: Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Steely Dan, Talking Heads and R.E.M

    Whats yours?

  2. spooz says:

    I agree with your choices, but would add Pearl Jam.

  3. chomen says:

    Those are “rock” bands. Rock and roll is a little bit different in its purest form. I like Gene Vincent and The Blue Caps. You gotta get that LP with “Be Bop A Lulu” on it. Whole thing is other worldly. Whatever band was backing Del Shannon on “Runaway” was great. Buddy Holly and the Crickets were the best rock and roll band from Texas — close second would be The Sir Douglas Quintet if only for “She’s About A Mover.” I would want to include the Kingsmen for “Louie Louie” and the LP it’s on, including “Jolly Green Giant” and other wonders of the era. The Standells from Boston with “Dirty Water” or whatever it was called — rock and roll purity, Barry.

  4. catman says:

    A few comments. Lebowski hated the fucking Eagles. They were severely overworked by radio america. The Heads and Creedence took simple changes and made them work. Steely Dan the sparkle of your china the shine of your japan – wordplays about dinnerware – we are not worthy. I like Little Feat,even long after Lowell died, they made great music.

  5. chartist says:

    I have to remove the Beach Boys and insert Journey, the hottest band in the first half of the 1980s….I also have to remove the Talking Heads, who I really like, and insert Pearl Jam. The rest, I agree with.


    BR: I loved “Wheel in the Sky” — saw that tour . . .

  6. dumdedumdum says:

    I like Creedence as a choice — over their recordings a lot of American genres are covered. I would add one of my favorite bands, Los Lobos, who have provided consistently thoughtful, interesting and quality music for three decades, and continue to do so.

  7. tvslam says:

    How about ZZ Top? Same 3 guys, same 3 chords rockin’ the house for 40 years.

  8. wileycoyote says:

    Am I crazy to say I think the Dead should be included here?

  9. Slash says:

    Jane’s Addiction
    The Black Crowes
    Guns N Roses

    Can’t argue with Creedence or Steely Dan, though. Or Van Halen.

  10. wileycoyote says:

    oops. just re-read the post. Interesting hoe underwhelmed I am with the names.

  11. godot10 says:

    Other Candidates:

    1) The Roots
    2) Wilco
    3) Velvet Underground
    4) The Flying Burrito Brothers (without Gram Parsons, there would be no Eagles).
    5) Sly and the Family Stone

  12. wileycoyote says:

    Replacements would probably be way up the list, but were pretty influential. If I had to pick one, I think I’d take Mr Morrison and the Doors.

  13. chartist says:

    When we get some opinions from south of the Mason-Dixon line, expect a lot of votes for Lynyrd Skynryd.

  14. MidlifeNocrisis says:

    CSO does rock ‘n roll?? ROFL

    Because the Beatles, Led Zep, Pink Floyd and Yes are not in contention…

    …I have to go with Talking Heads, a close second would be R.E.M. I can’t count how many times I’ve rocked to Burning Down the House by Talking Heads. Gets my heart rate up every time.

  15. Frilton Miedman says:

    I’m around the same age as BR, but I feel more recent bands after the 70′s are ignored, namely Nirvana, STP Rage Against the Machine,and Alice in Chains, and RadioHead.

    I like them for the fact that they came at the tail end of late 80′s – early 90′s predictably melodic “glam” metal, kept the edge but gave mainstream Rock interesting new texture & unpredictable dissonance.

  16. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Velvet Underground. The Ramones. Van Halen. Steely Dan. Three Dog Night. Kiss.

  17. bubbles says:

    What about KISS?

  18. chartist says:

    Doors are my favorite band hands down…..Every song was a hit, imo. There aren’t many American bands who can say that: Talking Heads, Beach Boys, CCR, Eagles, Steeley Dan, VH, Journey.

  19. casman says:

    Got to agree w Lebowski about the Eagles and just about anything from the Album Oriented Rock era such as Journey.

    The Velvet Underground captures the essence of rock-n-roll…. anger, angst, and certainly some over-medication, with great guitar riffs, a unique sound, and a huge influence on innumerable bands that followed.

  20. chartist says:

    KISS, are you serious? Even if I just smoked a giant fatty, I wouldn’t nominate Kiss……

  21. Brooks Gracie says:

    Pretty obvious–you only missed the one band that more people have actually paid money to see than any of the other top two bands combined, and has had more shows and a longer run than any other band period.

    You never heard of the Grateful Dead? Sure, they also play bluegrass, folk, acid rock (which they invented), old time country and jazz. So, they are versatile. Try not to hold it against them.

    My list:

    1. The Dead
    2. The Doors
    3. Pearl Jam

    The rest are up to you, since you eliminated Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, etc.

    Personally, put Miles Davis at no. 2 if you allowed cross-genre music.

  22. casman says:

    Wilco is easily the best band in the U.S. at this time, and the Grateful Dead certainly belong on the list.

  23. david_12321 says:

    Three dog night. If you want a song that has meaning today; Stop Children. What’s that sound? Everybody look around. What’s that god da#ned banker doing now?

  24. algernon32 says:

    I’ll take Southern Rock genre for $50 Barry.
    Oh! The Daily Double!

    Smooth as Jack Daniels single barrel…
    Little Feat:

    Engineer boots, Randall knives and knucklehead Harleys…
    Molly Hatchet:

  25. Julia Chestnut says:

    Just one? One? Damn – kind of a Sophie’s choice.

    I guess I’d have to go with REM. “Begin the Begin” is genius, along with the rest of the “Life’s Rich Pageant” album. CCR is awesome – I have been rocking that stuff since 8 track. And somehow Talking Heads managed to be innovative musically, but still have a sound that is instantly recognizable. But REM has such breadth, and I’m a sucker for intelligent lyrics. Most all of the other Americans I would nominate are solo acts or “and band.” I think that CSN (and Y, sometimes) also qualifies – some of their oeuvre is truly groundbreaking, and their material does move with the times. The songwriting was first rate.

    True BANDS I agree: I tend to be hooked on Brits.

  26. JasonR says:

    Sonic Youth. They basically established what became “alternative” rock and influenced numerous bands like Nirvana. “Murray Street” and “Sonic Nurse” are two of my favorite albums ever, and those followed classics like “Dirty” and “Experimental Jet Set.” Probably the best guitar band ever.

  27. Julia Chestnut says:

    Hey, what about Rush? They should at least be in the mix.


    BR: Canadian!

  28. chartist says:

    I’ll tell you, at the risk of going down the Springsteen path, I have to say Blonde covered a lot of ground….Call Me is a fav.

  29. chartist says:

    David, I’ve had a few beers but your lyrics aren’t three dog night, they’re Buffalo Springfield….A great song too!

  30. MidlifeNocrisis says:

    Rush is great… but they are from Canada, not the US.

  31. Duff Clarity says:

    If you mean rock rather than rock and roll, then it is the Velvets, the Stooges, and the Ramones.

    CCR, the Doors, the Eagles, Van Halen, and the Beach Boys aren’t rock. They’re pop. The Talking Heads aren’t rock, they’re disco. REM aren’t rock, they’re EZ Listening.

    Not that there is anything wrong with pop or disco.

  32. godot10 says:


    Rush is Canadian.

  33. CTMike says:

    I don’t think any of these qualify, but I think they deserve mention in the conservation.

    -The Band: 4/5 Canadian, but Levon Helm was American. Robbie Robertson (Canadian) probably the most prominent member. Bonus points because they toured with Dylan in ’66. Underrated.

    -Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Probably disqualified as with Springsteen and E Street Band.

    -If we’re expanding the definition of “rock” ala the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Public Enemy deserves a mention.

  34. Julia Chestnut says:

    DOH! Of course Rush are Canadian. Totally forgot. Kind of like I never think about AC/DC being Australians.

  35. Dogfish says:

    CCR and The Doors are great choices.

    On my list of contenders:

    Operation Ivy
    Bad Brains
    Guns n Roses

  36. jbegan says:

    Stage performance, body of work and influence? I’d say Aerosmith. Tyler-Perry, the toxic twins, “Toys in the Attic” and mashups with lots of others, rappers, rockers and even Johnny Depp … And who could ever forget the MTV videos starring an underage Alicia Silverstone… Not to mention providing the theme music for that awful movie Armageddon? Yep. Aerosmith is the essence of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.

  37. Dogfish says:

    Also, +1 for RATM and Talking Heads

  38. Dogfish says:

    “Aerosmith is the essence of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.”

    GG Allin.

  39. Dogfish says:

    Wish I could edit posts, I forgot to put Korn on my list.

  40. Dogfish says:

    and Tool.

  41. Slash says:

    Doh, how could I forget the Foo Fighters?

    Nothing wrong with Nirvana and I do think Nirvana was quite influential, but I prefer Foo Fighters. They’re awesome.

  42. rcumming says:

    Agree with multiple comments. Velvet Underground a lock (may be the most covered American band ever) and Grateful Dead a lock for top 5 (at the least). GD are a lock for top 5 band from any country (you have not listened enough if you dispute this). No one like them. Surprised not more votes for Nirvana. No order: GD, Velvet Underground, Doors, Nirvana and Bob Dylan (I know-but so effing good that he makes the list as a band to himself)

    Close behind- Beach Boys, Talking Heads, Guns and Roses

  43. Dogfish says:

    and Faith No More.

  44. rcumming says:

    Aerosmith not my cup of tea but a see the point if someone puts them in

  45. streeteye says:

    deserve mention: The Grateful Dead, The Band … forgot about their Canadian roots… but I’ll appropriate them based on Levon Helm, recording at Woodstock, backing up Bob Dylan, and The Last Waltz at Winterland.

    Here’s to you, Richard Manuel, Levon, Robbie, Rick, and Garth

  46. Dogfish says:

    Also, if we are going to include REM I feel like we have to put Smashing Pumpkins on the table, too.

    Mother Love Bone could be on the table as well…

    Too many good ones to choose…

  47. mns3dhm says:

    Nirvana. Kurt Cobain changed the direction of rock and roll at a time it really need a swift kick in the ass. Too bad he was unable to deal with everything that came after.

  48. steelhead says:

    1. Doors
    2. Beach Boys
    3. Eagles
    4. Talking Heads
    5. CCR

  49. Dogfish says:

    also, Black Flag

  50. graubart says:

    Since I posted these comments via Twitter, thought that I’d add them here as well.

    My choice for #1 would be the Ramones. Pure American kick-ass rock & roll. And did surf rock better than the Beach Boys ever did.

    Of the ones on your list, I’d put the Talking Heads at the top.

    Others on my list would be the Velvet Underground and the Replacements. I realize neither had the longevity to top this list but they’d be at the top of mine.

    As for “traditional” rock and roll, I’d probably lean towards Aerosmith.

  51. pereubu77 says:

    Okay, I’ll play. How about:

    The Residents
    Iggy and the Stooges
    The Allman Brothers
    Pere Ubu

    Would agree with above who suggested Sonic Youth. Also Talking Heads and the Doors, of course.

  52. kelly p says:

    1. Allman Brothers with Duane
    2. Allman Brothers without Duane
    3. ZZ Top
    4. Mothers Finest
    5. Lynyrd Skynrd

  53. leeward says:

    gotta borrow a few radio terms:
    there’s cume….total number of different listeners over a measured time
    there’s share…the percent of all people listening to music (of all different media in this case)
    there’s ratings (for a particular period or moment) a lot like bps in money speak but ratings achieved over time include a lot of duplicated fan hours

    If you’re adding in all those repeat CD spins at home and in the car then all of those bands have a claim to rare air. But when you spin out live attendance and aggregate tickets sold, you get a very different picture over a generation. How many times did you see Floyd or Petty back in the day? You are just getting to know the depth of the Dead’s music after a half dozen shows. Add the fact that you look forward to hearing a favorite sung in a way you do not recognize at first and the experience just can’t be compared to the album culture. I still spin the great old classic discs often but when I hear a poor recording of a show I went to years ago, it’s even better.

  54. kangarouge says:

    Strange how thin the overall list is, given that rock n roll is an American invention. None of these bands comes close to Beatles, Stones, Floyd, Kinks etc. Yet for solo artists the U.S. wins easily – Dylan, Springsteen, Simon etc.
    Why, I wonder?
    One correction – Pet Sounds did NOT spur the Beatles to create Sgt Pepper, which was released before Pet Sounds. In fact, although Brian Wilson had already finished putting the album together when Sgt P came out, he cried when he heard it, exclaiming “Now everyone will think I was copying the Beatles….’


    BR: The Beatles have said that Pet Sounds was a major influence on their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Paul McCartney has repeatedly named it as one of his favorite albums

  55. orvil tootenbacher says:

    The Dead? Come on. Weak output of crap material. The biggest emperor-has-no-clothes musical sham ever. In no regard or criteria do the Dead belong in this conversation. Phu leez.


    BR: Thank you!

  56. Dogfish says:

    and Red Hot Chili Peppers

  57. orvil tootenbacher says:

    Husker Du and Pixies are far more prolific and influential that most of the old peoples’ mentions here.

    And what’s the deal with “live performance” being so significance? Live performances should follow rockumenteries and band movies in their importance.

  58. chartist says:

    I’m not sayin this is a top band, but if we’re lookin at influential bands beyond the the Ramones & Nirvana, then I have to mention a personal fav: The Offspring.

  59. curmudgeonmchermit says:

    I’m adding my voice to the Velvet Underground crowd…

    …and I’m upping the ante with 13th Floor Elevators. No one said you had to be the best known to be the best. 13th Floor Elevators were an influential Texas supergroup who released their first album in 1966 (The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators). According to Wikipedia, “The November 1966 album title is purported to be the first use of the word ‘psychedelic’ in reference to the music within.” The Haight Ashbury and British psychedelic rock scenes owe them a lot. That means everyone from the Dead to Jefferson Airplane to Arthur Brown.

    Now Arthur Brown… he had one of the best organists (Vincent Crane).

  60. jonathonkav says:

    Its the Pixies.

  61. hue says:

    You have to go to a Dead show to get the Dead, I know people who have been to hundreds.

    I’ve seen Bob Dylan and Tom Petty live with the Dead, as well as Bruce Hornsby

    Another Canadian band, Barenaked Ladies

  62. swag says:

    Pussy Galore.

    All of their albums were brilliant, but 1987′s “Right Now!” distilled Rock and Roll to its very essence.

    The four-song sequence of

    “Fuck You, Man’
    “White People”
    “New Breed”

    is the best rock and roll ever sequenced on album.

    Jon Spencer is a fucking genius, and Pussy Galore’s finale, “Historia de la Musica Rock” laid the foundations for his next project, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

    All others must fall.

  63. chartist says:

    Thank you BR for adding on to the Dead post…..I mean really, if there was no pot, would there really be a Grateful Dead? I nominate the Dead as the most overrated band of all time.

  64. chartist says:

    Alright, here’s a real brain teaser, who’s the better lyricist: Springsteen or Neil Young?

  65. jonathonkav says:

    The inclusion of the Eagles and the Beach Boys is strange – neither is even a rock band, never mind rock & roll. In addition Van Halen making the list due to body of work is a bit rich given that its crap work.

    Much more worthy of inclusion are Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Green Day and the Chillis who were saviours to a rock scene which had become a joke led by the likes of Van Halen.

  66. Bob A says:

    everybody has their favorites and some people here obviously did more drugs than others.

    but it would be interesting to see some more objective evidence like gross revenue, albums sold etc although i’m pretty sure that wouldn’t sway anyone’s personal pick.

  67. swag says:

    Nobody has mentioned the Cramps?

  68. swag says:


  69. Ian says:

    Opinions of a musical curmudgeon follow. Be forewarned.

    If we limit things to the choices provided, then CCR without a doubt. Talking Heads? Still like ‘em, but too new york-artsy-pretentious. REM? I never understood the appeal. They have a bare handful of listenable songs, and they’ve all been played to death. Plus, they suffer from the “cringe worthy lyrics” problem. The Doors? Quite possibly the most overrated band ever.

    I’d add Nirvana to the list if only because they made pop music interesting again during a time when it wasn’t, and they proved that Alternative pop didn’t _have_ to suck. If we are allowed to include 90′s and later indie rock – and I’m not at all sure we should be – then Sleater-Kinney is an obvious addition.

  70. Duff Clarity says:

    “it would be interesting to see some more objective evidence like gross revenue”

    Is McDonald’s the greatest restaurant of all time?

  71. chartist says:

    Jonathonkav, I think you’re falling into the trap of recency….I am about 5 years older than BR so I at least understand where he’s coming from with his list….I know BR has a fetish for the Heads, as do I, but putting them on this list is a reach….I’d put Blonde on this list ahead of the Heads except for the Springsteen rule.


    BR: Do you really want to compare Blondie with the Talking Heads?

  72. Dogfish says:

    What the qualifications are is a good question and possibly just as subjective as this list. I personally wouldn’t factor in gross revenue nor albums sold very much in my definition of greatest. Range and influence are bigger factors for me.

  73. chartist says:

    Sorry Swag, but even if I ingore good advice and do the brown acid, I can’t put one-hit-wonder, Iggy Pop on the list.

  74. Jbones2 says:

    I haven’t seen anyone suggest Green Day … I dont think they’re number 1 or 2 or 3, but could argue 4 or 5. At least two top albums (Dookie and American Idiot). American Idiot could be one of the best records of the 2000-’10 decade. Didnt they produce a play of American Idiot too? Influential, solid body or work, good/critically acclaimed song writing … moved from punk to rock

  75. j_s_askey says:

    This may already have been suggested, but in case not, may I posit that the Velvet Underground deserves this award.

    The award must go to a band with output during the ‘album’ dominated era rather than the ‘singles’ era, so groups producing rock ‘n roll during the 1950′s are by definition not really candidates.

    The British invasion produced the first two supergroups of the rock era (Beatles and the Rolling Stones). America tended to answer with groups like the Beach Boys and the Byrds. Both produced lasting catalogs of great music but I would venture to say that their influence tended to be very limited.

    The Velvet Underground, on the other hand, came from a very different place. They were doing their own thing in the face of the British (and psychedelic music) onslaught. Their initial body of work did not burn up the charts, but based on the number of times Lou Reed/VU songs have been covered by other bands, their influence was the most widespread of the early American album oriented bands.

    The punk/New Wave and glam rock movements owe a distinct debt to the style of the Velvets, each of which spawned its own secondary wave of imitators across generational boundaries.

    The Velvet Underground started a ripple in popular music, the effects of which became much greater than the nominal popular appeal their material originally received.

  76. Dogfish says:

    On one hand, I can’t believe how many people are mentioning the Dead… but then, on the other hand, I’m just glad nobody has mentioned Phish.

  77. bubbles says:

    @ Chartist,

    The Doors?

    You must be smoking a fatty, cuz you didn’t read the qualifications:

    1) Body of Work; 2) Influence; and 3) Live performance.

    The Doors live performances SUCKED unless you consider Jim Morrison exposing himself or an obscenity-laced tirade as an awesome live performance and he was always too F’d up to perform well.

    KISS live performances on the other hand at the time were second to none and greatly influenced concerts going forward as did their big hair and make-up which was copied by a lot of 80′s rock bands.

    So KISS has at least 2 out of the 3 qualifications whereas the Doors might have at best 1 of the 3 (Body of Work), but IMHO that sucks too!

  78. eliz says:

    The Byrds would be on my list.

  79. chartist says:

    BR, this could be the beer talking, but Blondie crossed so many musical genres. Okay, it’s not testosterone laden but hey, ABBA was the hottest band world-wide in the 1970s!..

  80. godot10 says:

    Nirvana and Pearl Jam are entirely derivative of Husker Du and the Replacements. The Chili Peppers are derivative of Gang of Four.

    Originality and innovation should be an important criterion in evaluating “best of” anything.

  81. DiggidyDan says:


  82. Crocodile Chuck says:

    ALERT: out of compliance with BR’s ground rules


    this one record blows away any disc by any of the bands above (and any of the musicians above alive at the time would unanimously agree):

  83. Biffah Bacon says:

    Stooges, Ramones, Cramps.

    What’s interesting to me is what is considered by some folks as “rock and roll” vs. the other categories, whether you use radio categories (AOR, Adult Contemporary, Lite Jazz, etc.) or in-scene typologies (hardcore, ska, deth metul, black metal, no wave, whatever). A lot of the list makers are not really rock and roll as such. Eagles were country folk, Steely Dan were jazzbos, Journey was AOR pop once they got that mullet guy singing for them.

    Stooges, Ramones, and Cramps were just gut level material. The Cramps throb, and you’ll ooze. Straight path to the revolution that made white kids listen to black music in the late 1940s to early fifties.

  84. chartist says:

    Bubbles, we all agree that Jim Morrison was too drunk to perform well and died way too early. His performances had great attendance, but sucked due to his drunkiness……But c’mon man, Morrison added SEX to the front man position….When you talk sex appeal and all it adds to music marketing, you have to say Morrison was a pioneer!

  85. curmudgeonmchermit says:

    A playlist of 13th Floor Elevators original mono recordings I found on YouTube. Sounds better than any version that has been released since. Try it on 720p!

  86. DiggidyDan says:

    Also, I can’t believe nobody mentioned Metallica. A bit heavy, but should be in the top 10 at least for influence.

  87. Dogfish says:

    The Stooges wouldn’t be much without Iggy, so to me that is basically a solo act, and thus E Street Band should be included in this discussion.

    That said, if we are including such bands, I would put Link Wray and his Ray Men above either one, and all of the ones I mentioned.

  88. swag says:

    @Chartist – The story of Morrison exposing himself has long been discredited. It did not happen. Your other points may be valid.

  89. Charles says:

    Not. Even. Close.

    The Greatest Ever: The Ramones

    Runner up: Iggy & The Stooges.

  90. chartist says:

    Southern rock is a whole genre unto itself. I have a list of favs like Molly Hatchet, Buffalo Springfield and of course Lynyrd Skynyrd. Greg Allmon just seemed adequate at best.

  91. swag says:

    @The Stooges wouldn’t be much without Iggy, so to me that is basically a solo act, and thus E Street Band should be included in this discussion.

    An absurd assertion. Iggy didn’t compose the music to “No Fun”, “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “Loose”, “Dirt”, “Little Doll”, etc. That was a band.

    Point well taken on Link and his Ray Men, however.

    If anybody influenced the White Stripes more than Pussy Galore, I would like to know who. The early White Stripes were a complete Pussy Galore rip-off.

    Going by the three (dubious) criteria laid out in the OP, it would be difficult to top the Velvet Underground or Iggy and the Stooges.

    Still, I stand by my pick of Pussy Galore as the Greatest, with the Cramps and the Stooges right up there – I have my own criterion: the power of the music and its adherence to the tradition of rock and roll.

    The Eagles and Steely Dan? Get the fuck out!

  92. mobellus says:

    So above I saw Pearl Jam, Los Lobos, The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, & Fugazi mentioned – yeah, that sounds pretty good to me.

  93. debtodd007 says:

    How does Aerosmith not figure into this discussion.

  94. TheAcsMan says:

    Have seen Springsteen about 20 times. most recently about a month ago,. Taveled 3000 miles to see him with some friends, trying to recreate our concert trips from 35 years ago, before someone died.

    Can’t agree that E Street is just a back-up band, I suppose the Rolling Stones (if eligible) would fall into the same category, but the rules are the rules.

    I saw the Talking Heads and The Ramones at The Rat in Boston, maybe 1977 or 1978. Two of the best bands ever. Great lyrics, music and showmanship.

  95. contrabandista13 says:

    Greatest American Band..? “The Doors”. no ifs and or buts.. They were “Americana” as much as the “Mustang”.. Come’n give me a motherfu#$ing break…!

  96. dvdpenn says:

    Aerosmith has held the title before. They get my vote, easy.

  97. Ny Stock Guy says:

    On opposite ends of the spectrum I would nominate the Grateful Dead for sheer longevity, and the Ramones for sheer amount of influence on almost every white band that followed. Aside from the fact that they both made some amazing, if amazingly different, rock music.