American Bandstand

During the past few weeks, in the aftermath of the announcement of the Dodge-Aerosmith partnership, I’ve been talking to a number of people, particularly those in advertising and PR, about the arrangement. The ages of the people ranged across an entire generation, from 23 to 50. The question I was interested in getting an answer to was not so much about whether the setup is actually beneficial to the two firms (let’s not kid ourselves about Chrysler being a “firm” and Aerosmith a “band”), but this:

What is the quintessential American band?

This is not the same as asking:

What is the best American band?

This has to be a widely known group. It has to be a group that is still performing in some essential lineup.

What is to the U.S. what the Who and the Stones are to the U.K.?

I threw out the Beach Boys as a possibility, although when I think of it, it is in the context of “Pet Sounds,” not in the context of what the group has become, as in a small-town church carnival-playing band doing abominations like “Kokomo.” That got negative reactions across the board. (Don’t tell Cameron Crowe.)

Another possibility was Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band. Which got somewhat better reception. . .although the 23-year-old, who actually said that she was an Aerosmith fan and thought the Dodge tie-up was a good idea (and she works at the ad agency for a DCX cross-town rival), commented that while people know Springsteen, the E-Streeters are not as well known: but then I asked who, beyond Tyler and Perry, are members of Aerosmith—a question she could not answer, yet she rolled out with 3 members of the E-Street Band, including that guy who is on “The Sopranos.” (I wonder if that’s how Little Steven will be remembered—which leads to a digressive question as to why all the young rappers are now known as “Lil'” this and that? Lil’ Kim makes a Barbie doll look like a Gumby with a wig: nothing lil’ about Kim.)

Anyway, that idea didn’t go over with much acceptance.

Quite frankly, people threw out names (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, for example) that didn’t quite cut it. And it seemed to come back to Aerosmith.

So I throw it out to all of you: What is the quintessential American rock band? (And no, Grand Funk Railroad is not it, as they sang “We’re an American band.” We’re looking for the.)

9 thoughts on “American Bandstand”

  1. Simple: The Eagles. (And yes, by comparison to the quintissential British bands, we Americans suck.)

    But the issue is more one of bands v. singer/songwriters. I would say that Dylan is *our* “quintessential” though he is not a band.

  2. Are you guys crazy? America’s quintessential band is, of course, America! And they’re ripe for an automobile tie-in. Just picture the elegant styling, commanding power and reliability of *insert boring car*. All of this mumbo jumbo as Ventura Highway plays in the background. Not only is America cacthy and completely nonoffensive, they’re a cheap knockoff of CSNY. Perfect for the American luxury lines.

  3. Defining thee American band is defining America, the good, the bad, and the ugly…The Replacements. Say no more.

  4. Elvis! Don’t forget that he didn’t write and perform all those songs alone. I submit that, celebrity status aside, his catalog constitutes the greatest work of an american rock band ever.

    Second fiddle would have to be Jimmy Hendricks.

    If none of you accept either of those as a “band”, then I’ll also pony up with Neil Young……shit! He’s not technicaly a band either.

    How about Micheal Jack……..

    Ok, I’ve got it……The Clash!

  5. Let’s face it, America doesn’t have anything close to the Rolling Stones or The Who. That said, the US have always been the innovators of music–jazz, blues, rock, rap, punk, etc. To find the quintessential American bands, I think you have to look at different genres. Otherwise you’ll only come up with afforementioned crap like the Eagles and the Dead.

    What about Public Enemy? They’ve only been around since 1986, so perhaps they’re automatically disqualified. But they were solely responsibe for changing the sound of rap–both musically and lyrically–forever. They also heavily influenced industrial, dance, rock, and mainstream pop ( Madonna’s Justify Your Love, for instance).

    I’d also like to suggest the Ramones, although this would’ve been a better entry 4 months ago (before Joey died). The Ramones are widely credited for inventing punk rock, inspiring hundreds–perhaps thousands–of bands around the world. They released 18 albums during their 20+ year career. Sure, they weren’t all great. But let’s not forget the Rolling Stones during their mid-eighties “Stray Cat Shuffle” phase!)

    Sonic Youth is also wildly influential. Certainly the quintessential indy rock band. The Pixies, Pavement, Stereolab, My Bloody Valentine, and countless other bands owe a hell of a lot to Sonic Youth. But, it’s true, the vast majority of people over 40 have never heard of them (unless you include members of the band).

    The US clearly doesn’t have a Who or the Stones to call their own. We just paved the way for both of them. Not too shabby.

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