It’s time to declare winners in our “best American rock ‘n’ roll band” poll, and it ends in a three-way tie between Aerosmith, the Beach Boys, and the Doors. Other bands receiving votes were the Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Eagles, Steely Dan, and Van Halen.
In terms of hits on the blog, the most popular best American band posts have been, in descending order, Steely Dan, Pearl Jam, the Eagles, the Beach Boys, the Allman Brothers, the Doors, Rage Against the Machine, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the White Stripes, and R.E.M.
Thanks to everyone for voting on this crucial cultural question!
We’ve published a number of posts with our thoughts on the Best American Band, and we’ve given everyone time to think about that extraordinarily weighty issue. Now, it’s time for you to vote. We’ll check back in a week and declare a winner. Please, vote for just one of the candidates.
R.E.M. has had a long and distinguished career. The band clearly has its roots in the 1980s — and the early ’80s at that — but its stripped-down sound and lyrics reflected a sharp departure from the more frivolous songs of that decade. Many of R.E.M.’s more memorable songs have stories to tell and do so with an interesting, quiet intensity. So, Central Rain and (Don’t Go Back to) Rockville are good examples. At the same time, in other songs the band managed to combine humor and political commentary, such as in The End of the World as We Know It, Orange Crush, and Man on the Moon. And, of course, where would TV dramas be without Everybody Hurts being played at some crucial moment of character angst and self-awareness? I expect that song is one of the most oft-played in TV history.
Although the topics of R.E.M.’s songs are diverse, the band’s sound remains easily identifiable. Credit must be given to any group that had more than a decade of extraordinary success, managed to record songs that mention professional wrestling and soft drinks and feature a not-bad Elvis impression, and ultimately produced a very strong body of work over a series of albums. The faithful Ipod reflects the high quality of R.E.M.’s offerings, including songs like What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?, Radio Free Europe, Talk About the Passion, So, Central Rain, Fall on Me, The One I Love, It’s the End of the World as We Know It, Stand, Man on the Moon, and Orange Crush.
Oh, and one other thing — even if you don’t have the greatest vocal range or talent, you can still sing along to R.E.M. songs. I must commend a band that records in an accessible key.
Recently I’ve been listening to my “political songs” playlist on my Ipod. The only criterion for inclusion on the list is that the song has to have some kind of overt “political” message, as opposed to being about love, or cars, or some other song topic. I like the playlist because it has really good diversity of genres, artists, and even political viewpoints. The first 20 songs are as follows:
The Times They Are A-Changin’ — Bob Dylan New Millenium Homes — Rage Against The Machine What’s Going On — Marvin Gaye Ohio — Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Good People — Jack Johnson Revolution — The Beatles Capital G — Nine Inch Nails Tom Dooley — Kingston Trio Authority Song — John Mellencamp It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) — R.E.M. Pride (In The Name Of Love) — U2 Working Class Hero — John Lennon Born In The U.S.A. — Bruce Springsteen Why Don’t You Get A Job — The Offspring Redemption Day — Sheryl Crow Uneasy Rider — The Charlie Daniels Band Zombie — The Cranberries American Anthem — Norah Jones Things Goin’ On (Acoustic) — Lynyrd Skynyrd For What It’s Worth — Buffalo Springfield
If you’ve never heard it, Uneasy Rider is an absolute classic: