Our “posse” (Tom’s word for our family-like gathering) connects weekly at some randomly chosen (re: best bang-for-the-buck happy hour) neighborhood establishment. We catch up. We shoot the excrement. We tell stories. We laugh a lot.
My contribution is the conversation starting question if too much mundane was in our week or there’s a lag in storytelling or too much Trump talk. Sometimes they’re deep (“How does your significant other make you better?”). Sometimes not (“Your Favorite TV show as a kid…Go!”). It’s a gift. Questions requiring controversial and playful subjectivity work best.
Anyway, since many of us will be gathering in groups for the Independence Day holiday, I thought I’d provide a themed conversation jump-start for all of us.
The question before us today is, “Top 20 Greatest All-American Music Groups.” The caveats are as follows: They have to be a “group,” so obvious great solo acts like Elvis, Michael Jackson or Bob Dylan are not allowed. Second, every member must be an American, so acts like Fleetwood Mac are verboten. Third, your favorite group might not be the best group, so you’d better be prepared to make a case if you fire off Van Halen in your top 20.
1 & 1A: The Beach Boys, The Eagles–These bands have it all: recognizability, critical acclaim & longevity. I’d give the nod to The Beach Boys for the ability to sing along with. Best song: California Girls, Life in the Fast Lane.
2: Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band–Best song: Born to be Wild.
3: Credence Clearwater Revival–Best song: Fortunate Son
4: The Ramones–Don’t tell me they’re ranked too high here. They changed everything. Innovative and influential. Best song: Blitzkrieg Bop.
5: The Jackson Five–say what you want about Michael Jackson’s solo world, but as a group, they were amazing. Best song: A-B-C 1-2-3.
6: Nirvana–again, another band that changed everything. Best song: Come As You Are.
7: The Supremes–really tough call here with so many personnel changes, but no matter the original lineup carries enough weight, IMHO. Best song: You Can’t Hurry Love.
8: The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Much like the Boss, most people associate him as a solo, but he, too, had a band. Best song: All Along the Watchtower.
9: Simon & Garfunkel–hesitant to put a duo in here, but a duo is a band and they are big time. Best song: Mrs. Robinson.
10: The Grateful Dead–Another tough call as they don’t really have full-blow recongnizability but they are uniquely American, for sure. Best song: Truckin.’
11: Public Enemy–Maybe they should be ranked a bit higher but their political leanings alienated a lot of folks, even if they made them more endearing to me. Best song: Fight the Power.
12: The Doors–A little inaccessible to the masses but really, really good band. Best song: Light My Fire.
13: R.E.M.—quite possibly the most under-appreciated band on the list. Best song: Radio Free Europe.
14: The White Stripes–again, another duo, but Jack White needs to be on this list somewhere and this is my favorite of his bands. Best song: Hotel Yorba.
15: Aerosmith–longevity works for them here, for sure. I still think their earlier stuff is awesome. Best song: Same Old Song and Dance.
16: N.W.A.–I would’ve loved to see what would’ve happened if they’d been able to avoid the trappings and pitfalls associated with their success. Best song: (tie) Straight Outta Compton, F**k tha Police.
17: The Talking Heads–maybe video actually hurt this band because their music gets obscured by their presentation. Best song: Life During Wartime.
18: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers–I’ve seen him live so many times and when he just plays the hits it takes two hours. Again, most people associate him as a solo act but they are a band. Best song: Swingin’.
19: Pearl Jam–they’re not missing a beat as they get older. Best song: Alive.
20: Lynyrd Skynyrd–close call here with them & ZZ Top for the last slot, but Sweet Home Alabama & Free Bird trump LaGrange & Gimme All Your Lovin’.
Honorable Mention (in no particular order): The Byrds, Run-DMC, X, Cheap Trick, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Pretenders, Foo Fighters, Iggy Pop & the Stooges, Kiss, Blondie, Bill Haley & the Comets, Black Flag, The Everly Brothers, Metallica, Parliament Funkadelic, the Velvet Underground, Guns N Roses.
There’s mine…who are yours?