We’re An American Band

Photo from cdn.funcheap.com/

Photo from cdn.funcheap.com/

Let’s face it, America is known for individualism.  Most of our musical juggernauts are solo artists like Elvis Presley, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, etc.  Meanwhile, the Mt. Rushmore of great rock groups are filled with British monsters like the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin and The Who.  We’re selfish Americans.  Sharing groupies is for those Commie Brits!  In the spirit of American unity this Fourth of July, here’s a list of the top ten American groups that made a mainstream splash on the Billboard charts.  Don’t get cocky though, England.  Other than Elton John and David Bowie, your next best solo artist is Aveda Hair Salon trainee Rod Stewart.

The Beach Boys were an early influence on "Where's Waldo?" Photo from rickcyge.com/

The Beach Boys were an early influence on “Where’s Waldo?” Photo from rickcyge.com

  1. The Beach BoysWith 80 charting singles worldwide and 36 #1 singles in America alone, the Beach Boys are the only American powerhouse that can rank up there with the British bands.  And they absolutely deserve to be in the conversation with the Beatles and Stones.  Even then, they are possibly the dorkiest rock stars in the history of the world.  They look like the most successful wedding party band ever.  Although they did just as many drugs as Keith Richards, hung out with Charles Manson and had all kinds of crazy mental rock & roll freakouts, they still wore those damn pin-striped shirts, tried to rap with the Fat Boys and unleashed Kokomo on the world.  Even in their 20s, the Beach Boys looked like somebody’s narc dad. “The kids dress like candy canes, right?” Nothing but love and respect for the Boys, but let’s face it: Our #1 band are freaking dweebs.

"Uh Tom, your one-hitter is getting a bit conspicuous." Photo from inthestudio.net

“Uh Tom, your one-hitter is getting a bit conspicuous.” Photo from inthestudio.net

  1. Creedence Clearwater RevivalCreedence was so damn good.  They kicked out classics faster than a White Castle Slider propelling itself out of your body, including three stellar albums in ONE YEAR.  But still, is Creedence in the conversation for greatest band of all time?  Unfortunately, no.  If the Beatles and Stones are Jaguars and Rolls Royces, then Creedence is a really strong, reliable Ford F150.  It’ll get you where you need to go, and for a long time, but you don’t take it on dates and it might have deer urine in it.  Also, Creedence Clearwater REVISITED is really embarrassing.  That’s like if Radiohead broke-up and reformed without Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood and called themselves Radionoggin.

That tragic time Cheap Trick got stuck on a fly-strip. Photo from assets.rollingstone.com/

That tragic time Cheap Trick got stuck on a fly-strip. Photo from assets.rollingstone.com/

  1. Cheap Trick Cheap Trick were the American Beatles.  They wrote pop gems with an edge that stick in your head for weeks.  But whereas the Beatles had four clearly defined personalities, Cheap Trick only had three out of four. They had a dork/punk, a dork/accountant and two pretty boys.  Maybe if Tom Petersson had dressed like a genie or gotten a face tattoo he would have stood out more.  Instead, he came off just like Rock & Roll Guy #2.  Regardless of this small complaint, they had some huge hits and even had a big comeback in the late 80s with “The Flame”, but anybody claiming that Cheap Trick deserves to be on the Mt. Rushmore of all-time great rock bands probably also thinks that “Bleach” is Nirvana’s best album.

"Hey, if you three can just step back a LITTLE bit more into the dark, that'd be great." Photo from nikoraffaele.altervista.org/

“Hey, if you three can just step back a LITTLE bit more into the dark, that’d be great.” Photo from nikoraffaele.altervista.org

  1. The Doors The Doors were and remain extremely popular, as well as wildly divisive.  It seems that almost no one has a neutral opinion on them. They’re either the greatest band the world has ever seen or a complete joke lead by an underwear model and three guys you’d find working at the post office.  The truth is that they’re somewhere in between.  Songs like “Break On Through”, “The End” and “Light My Fire” are undeniable.  But man, their bad songs are atrocious.  Towards the end they sounded like a very white blues band lead by a fat open mic poet reading Mad Libs.  You can make a really killer 12 song compilation of Doors hits, but a band can’t be considered one of the very best if their filler is comparable to being stuck at an Old Country Buffett with an 8th grade poetry teacher.  

Lars is wondering where he left his forehead hair.  Photo from postmediacanadadotcom.files.wordpress.com

Lars is wondering where he left his forehead hair. Photo from postmediacanadadotcom.files.wordpress.com

  1. Metallica Here’s where the list really starts to take a dive.  Metallica were great.  They changed the face of metal.  But if you list the greatest British bands, you could go about 15 deep before you start having to make apologies.  Metallica has aged like the Picture of Dorian Grey, if the picture was displayed on Itunes and not hidden away in an attic.  Metallica put out three undisputed metal classics, one half-classic, one insanely popular & controversial breakthrough and then a parade of embarrassments that would make Weezer blush.  They put out an album that sounds like Lars Ulrich is playing a popcorn tin and then collaborated with Lou Reed on a project so bad that people talk about it in hushed tones.  Kids are picking the Youtube “Light yourself on fire” challenge before having to listen to “Lulu”.  Yeah, the Stones petered out too.  But at least they picked a formula to suck with.  Metallica seems to be throwing a dart against wall of ideas.  “Okay, now let’s do a Bob Seeger cover, now let’s pretend to be a band with only $30 to record, now let’s make guitars out of circus carousel horses and record in Atlantis.”

Steven Tyler going for that lucrative Cruella de Vill/Pirates Of The Caribbean/slap bracelet crossover market. Photo from i.telegraph.co.uk/

Steven Tyler going for that lucrative Cruella de Vill/Pirates Of The Caribbean/slap bracelet crossover market. Photo from i.telegraph.co.uk

  1. Aerosmith If you have to put scarves on your mic-stand to appear more interesting, you’re not a very great band.  55 year old women will take great exception to this, but Aerosmith should have stopped about 35 years ago.  They are the American Led Zeppelin, if Led Zeppelin dressed like an Avon Lady and refused to leave your door.  Their only #1 hit was from a Ben Affleck movie and wasn’t even written by them.  Still, if you’re listing American bands, you have to mention them. Like how in American history you have to mention Japanese internment camps.  

FILE - In this Sunday, April 1, 2012 file photo, from left, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley, of the musical group KISS, arrive at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. KISS will perform at the NHL game at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25, 2014. The NHL said Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 that the rock band will play during the pregame festivities and first intermission of the Stadium Series game between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)

“Wait…ACM means ‘American Country Music’ awards? I thought it meant ‘Awesome Cat Man’! Damnit, Gene!” Photo from thenypost.files.wordpress.com

  1. KISSSee what I’m getting at?  Freaking KISS made the list!  England’s killing us here.  KISS accidentally wrote a couple good songs, but mostly they just paved the way for the Insane Clown Posse.  Their collected STD count outnumbers their classic song contribution.   “Beth” is the song that plays on the elevator to Hell.  They’re the only people in the world who have taken off their Cirque du Soleil make-up and everybody collectively went “Oh Jesus!  Put it back on!”

Rare photo of Nirvana with their short-lived second guitarist, Charles Barkley. Photo by madmuseum.org/

Rare photo of Nirvana with their short-lived second guitarist, Charles Barkley. Photo by madmuseum.org

  1. Nirvana Nirvana deserves to be on this list.  Not since the British Invasion had a band changed the face of music so completely overnight.  It’s not hard to imagine copycat bands like Candlebox about to go into the studio covered from head to toe in spandex and Maybelline freaking out once they heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  “Oh crap!  It’s over!  Quick, gimme that flannel!  Does anybody know how to shave a soul-patch!?  Put those boas in the garbage before Pearl Jam sees them!  Let’s get moody!”

Lynyrd Skynyrd's current line-up. Photo from s80.photobucket.com/user/Tolep8nt

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s current line-up. Photo from s80.photobucket.com/user/Tolep8nt

  1. Lynyrd Skynard Skynard is your drunk, racist uncle at the family reunion.  You can’t really kick him out but you really try to avoid him if at all possible.  Some people would put Skynard at #1 for American bands.  Those people also think Barack Obama is the Ayatollah of Iran and make moonshine in their pig trough.

Axl narrowly missed out on the role of Apollo Creed in Rocky IV. Photo from xahlee.org/

Axl narrowly missed out on the role of Apollo Creed in Rocky IV. Photo from xahlee.org

  1. Guns ‘N Roses“Appetite For Destruction” may be the greatest debut album of all-time.  It gets a little sketchy after that.  “Use Your Illusion I & II” is hard rock’s “White Album”, but it’s never a good sign when listening to “Revolution #9” is preferable over Axl doing a rap-rock industrial song about whatever it is that damn song is about. They were truly rock stars, though.  They caused riots and wore lots of biker shorts.  Unfortunately, fans keep waiting for an original line-up return that isn’t going to happen, like a Harold Camping rapture party that keeps getting moved back.

Honorable mention – Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM, Allman Brothers, Byrds, ZZ Top, The Partridge Family, The Village People, Warrant.

Use Your Discretion – The Guns ‘N Roses Conundrum

Photo from deviantart.net

Photo from deviantart.net

Guns ‘N Roses’ “Appetite For Destruction” is unquestionably one of the greatest debut albums of all time.  I was in fourth grade when that beast came out and I’d blast “It’s So Easy” and NWA’s “Fuck Tha Police” in the park on a boombox (when nobody was around) and think I was Bruce Willis.  (Bruce Willis was the baddest person 4th grade Mike Brody could think of.)  I didn’t have a clue what “turn around bitch I got a use for you” meant and I really identified more with Weird Al Yankovic’s extended polka parody jams, but screw it.  CLASSIC ALBUM.

Guns ‘N Roses’ next official album(s), “Use Your Illusion I & II” is a whole ‘nother story.  What in the good god was happening here?  This behemoth brings up memories of previous double and triple albums that really should have been one, like the Beatles’ self-titled (better known as the “White Album”) and The Clash’s so-you-thought-we-were-good “Sandinista”.  The major difference is you could actually cut those two into a real album.  Try doing it with Use Your Illusion.  It’s impossible!  There’s two many ten minute long epic ballads squished with rockers that should have been three minutes long but ended up being six just so Axl could go “Eye-eee-eye-ee-eye-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” or “YOWZA!” at the end of all of them.  WTF, Axl?  There’s a 100% zero chance I would like this if it came out today, but the fact is it came out in 1991 and I was wearing a lot of denim.  My judgment wasn’t exactly razor sharp.

So screw Frankensteining this bitch into one album.  It can’t be done.  Instead I’m going to listen to all 30 songs from both parts and rank them from “best” to “affront to humankind”.  The links on a song mean there’s a video for it, which I strongly suggest watching.

1) “You Could Be Mine” – I used to blast this (and Soul Asylum’s “Somebody To Shove”) in my room while getting ready for B-team basketball practice in 9th grade.  Let me tell you, nothing gets you pumped for not getting playing time, even in practice, like the lines “With your bitch-slap rappin’ and your cocaine tongue…”  This is also from that wonderful time when bands would just splice in clips of a movie into the video with no continuity whatsoever so they could be on a soundtrack.  Axl’s crotch!  Eddie Furlong!  Axl’s crotch!  Arnold givin’ a thumbs up!  Arnold’s computer-eye zoomin’ in on Axl’s crotch!

2) “Don’t Cry” – I loved the video back in the day, but watching it today brings up many, many questions.  1)  If you’re going to go walking through a freezing tundra-land, why are you wearing a daisy-duke pirate costume?  2) How did Slash manage to drive a car off a cliff but jump out in time to grab his guitar and take his shirt off?  3)  How is he getting home?  4)  Why is Axl super stoked to see his hands shaking at the psychiatrists like it’s a fancy card trick?  5)  Why does he look like a tiny, naked, muscle-less Incredible Hulk making shadow-birds in the afterlife? 6)  How are any of these scenes even remotely connected?  7) Where’s Izzy?

3) “November Rain” – Axl gets married and then she dies without explanation.  It takes ten fucking minutes to tell that story.

4) “Coma” – This is far and away the best non-single on the album and is a pure delight on the psychosis scale.  Axl’s in a coma and astral projects to some ice-beach (did he bring the pirate suit?!) and at the same time, some weird demon/devil voice is telling the doctors to “zap the son-of-a-bitch again” with the electric paddles.  But wait, Axl doesn’t want to come back because his girlfriend’s complaining that all he wants is sex, sex, sex, all the time!  Ya know?!

5) “Estranged” – This was my emo jam as a 7th grader.  “When you’re talkin to yourself. And nobody’s home.  ALONE!”  Yeah, that never happened, because I was 13 and living with my parents.  This video is important for being coo-coo even by Axl’s standards.  There’s not a shrink alive who could make heads or tails of this mess.  It starts with an actual text definition of the word “illusion”.  Then Axl showers with his clothes on and has the SWAT team called on him for some reason.  The SWAT team doesn’t actually do anything to him and then he’s on stage at a concert.  Then people in all white take him (also wearing all white, but with the word “DEEP” on his chest) into a limo to go to a jet literally filled with water and dolphins.  You know, as you do!  Then he goes to a bar where the jet dolphins follow him through billboards (I’M NOT FUCKING MAKING THIS SHIT UP!  CLICK THE VIDEO ON THE LINK!), then he jumps off a battleship that he somehow got on and some roadie tries really half-assedly to save him from a nearby but not-too-close dingie.  MORE DOLPHINS!  When did Axl become a frumpy-dumpy Ren Fest girl?  Then MOTHERFUCKING SLASH RISES FROM THE WATER LIKE AN ABE LINCOLN JESUS (which is pretty bad-ass, actually).  Cut to the next day when a helicopter saves a not-actually-drowned Axl who’s still in the water (fuck you, roadie!) and then Axl looks wistfully into the bleachers while a solitary white signature Axl shoe sinks to the bottom of the ocean and a text definition for “disillusion” flashes on the screen.  And if you don’t believe me about this next part, fucking watch the goddamn video: IT ENDS WITH AXL ON HIS COUCH GRINNING WHILE A MOTHERFUCKING DOLPHIN WEARING EITHER A PLAID TOWEL OR AXL’S SHIRT CLICKS HAPPILY NEXT TO HIM.  WHAT IN THE NAME OF HOLY FUCK JUST HAPPENED!!!

6) “Civil War” – Christ, how do we follow that one?  It took me roughly twenty years to figure out that the opening audio monologue was a part from “Cool Hand Luke” and not just a typical Looney Tunes soliloquy of Axl’s.  “What we got here…is a FAILURE…to COMMUNICATE”.  Extra points to Axl for ruining an otherwise poignant song about war and class division by randomly bleeting out “Ain’t that fresh!”

7) “Dead Horse” – Honestly, this was the dark horse (no pun intended) song of the album.  Really catchy.  The video is pretty straight-forward concert footage but the song is notable for having what 13-year-old Mike Brody thought was the most profound line of all time: “I’m a son-of-a-gun and a gun-of-a-son.”  MIND. BLOWN.

8) “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – I didn’t know who Bob Dylan was when I first heard this song.  And when I finally did, I was shocked to find out that the original version was over three minutes shorter, didn’t have background singers or a segment in the middle where a guy calls someone and leaves a message that says “You just better start sniffin’ your own rank subjugation jack, ’cause it’s just you against your tattered libido, the bank and the mortician forever man and it wouldn’t be luck if you got out of life alive.”  You taking notes, Zimmerman!?  THAT’S poetry!

9) “Get In The Ring” – I don’t know if this even qualifies as a song so much as angry liner notes with guitars and yelling over it.  You think music doesn’t influence kids?  I had a kid throw a basketball at my head in 7th grade and scream the lyrics of this song at me: “What are you pissed off cuz your dad gets more pussy than you?  Fuck you.  Suck my fuckin’ dick!”  “Yeah, I’m in 7th grade. EVERYBODY gets more pussy than me.  Inanimate objects get more pussy than me and they will for years.  I know because I’m telling this story from the future.”

10) “Live And Let Die” – Why not cover a Wings song, Axl?  Why not.

11) “Don’t Damn Me” – This song literally starts with Mr. Rose making the sound that Wile E Coyote makes when he gets hit on the head with a frying pan.  I can’t decide if that loses it points or gains it.

12) “You Ain’t The First” – Nobody taught more hairless pre-pubescent kids how to be misogynistic than Axl Rose.  He’s the Michael Jordan of future trashy Indianans.

13) “Shotgun Blues” – “Ooooh, you want a confrontation. I’ll give you every fuckin’ chance. With your verbal masturbation. Me…I just like to dance!”  Did Axl just challenge someone to a dance-off?  CHA-LLENGE!

14) “Right Next Door To Hell” – This is the cut-off point.  This is where the songs go from pretty okay to pretty bland, soon to be followed by “Did a drunk manatee make this?” This particular song is alright, but was a lousy choice to lead-off UYI #1.  Like starting a wedding proposal with a fart.  Probably for the better, considering how those end up for Axl.  (The marriages, not the farts.  I don’t know how his farts go but I’m guessing they’re over ten minutes long.)

15) “Yesterdays” – This one has a video too, but they were getting pretty lazy by this point.  It was like their 12th single and not a DOLPHIN TO BE FOUND!

16) “Perfect Crime” – A TWO MINUTE SONG!!!  Did Axl huff too much paint in his Hakeem Olajuwon K-Mart specials and forget to finish it?

17) “Garden Of Eden” – “Garden Of Eden” is like “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” if Michael Stipe was more like Charles Manson and kept getting forced to make videos.  I think the “Blair Witch Project” cost more to make than this one.

18) “Locomotive” – This fucking lizard-turd of a song is 8:42 long.

19) “Bad Apples” – Jesus fucking Christ this is getting hard to stomach.  Who in the hell was letting Axl do all of this?  I have 11 more to go!  I’m actually listening to all these!  Not one person was like “Hey Axl, we don’t have to put ALL 30 songs we wrote on.  I think ten or twelve is fine.” No, all of Axl’s songs are like soccer mom kids.  Everybody gets a trophy!  No losers!

20) “So Fine” – This sounds like “Don’t Cry” if it had diarrhea.

21) “Pretty Tied Up” – I’m fairly certain this song is about kidnapping and torture.  YAWN.

22) “Back Off Bitch” – I will cough up $100 to anyone that can prove they’ve listened to this song on purpose between the dates 1993 and June 28, 2014.

23) “The Garden” – It’s like “The Garden Of Eden” without a video and less of a point.  I will say it is mildly fun to hear Axl groan “BYE-BYE” like a sad ten-year-old to a pony he didn’t get to ride.

24) “Double Talking Jive” – Axl, nobody’s going to believe you’re a gansta if you wear cut-off jean shorts, okay?

25) “Bad Obsession” – “I called my mother, she’s just a cunt now.”  That’s a line that Axl Rose wrote on purpose and put into a song.

26) “Breakdown” I’m not even sure if I listened to this song when it was new.

27) “Dust N Bones” Yeah, great idea.  Make the second song on the first disc a five-minute IZZY song.

28) “14 Years” Yeah, great idea.  Make the second song on the second disc a four-and-a-half-minute IZZY song.

29) “Don’t Cry” (Alt. Lyrics)  “You know, I really didn’t understand life until that second, alternate-lyrics version of ‘Don’t Cry’ where he said ‘Eh’ instead of ‘Uh’.”  You pompous, ginger-headed, biker-shorts wearing idiot.

30) “My World” – Do you know how bad a song has to be to be the worst song on Use Your Illusion?  THE WORST FUCKING SONG EVER WRITTEN!  Where to start? The opening line is literally written in the lyrics as “You wan’da step into my world”.  It sounds like Weird Al doing a parody of Nine Inch Nails trying to rap, as written by Vanilla Ice.  If that’s not bad enough, throw in some super awkward chants “Do it! Do it! Do it!” by Axl that sounds like he’s either killing himself, masturbating or both.  I think I’d rather listen to Limp Bizkit fronted by Shaquille O’Neal after he ate a whole Thanksgiving dinner.