The next time you and your musically-conversational friends are a couple drinks into the night, ask them "What American band's influence and cultural impact is most equal to the Beatles?" or "Who are the American Beatles?" for short. Since the emphasis is on bands, Elvis is eliminated. Sorry ladies.
For a lot of people, there are a handful of candidates, but no clear winner. This is either good news that American music is so rife with excellence that its hard to choose "one band" to put up against the Beatles or bad news confirming that, since inventing rock & roll and pretty much owning that first decade, Americans have been outdone by the Brits on all fronts ever since.
Okay, the Beach Boys are the natural pick; they had a gob of huge hits, a genius in the band, an interestingly turbulent backstory, but do we really want to hold them up as America's equivalent of the Beatles? On the Cool-O-Meter, that's like holding Pat Boone up to Little Richard.
KISS were definitely cooler in their day, but do they really warrant such lofty status?
Like it or not, those goofy little squares in the Beach Boys, who never convinced anyone for one second that they knew the first thing about surfing, are the best America has to offer in more than half a decade of trying.
So, whose America's answer to the Stones, then? Aerosmith, never mind the ballpark resemblance of their singers and guitarists.
Still, America's Beach Boys and Aerosmith vs Britain's Beatles and Stones isn't even a close fight.
So what's a quick Top 5 Most Successful And Relevant Rock Bands look like?
#6 is Metallica....
Second tier is your typical gaggle of Eagles, Journey, Styx, Foreigner, REO, and Cheap Trick.
Below that, you've got the now-also-long-in-the-tooth Foo Fighters and Nickelback, a.k.a. the "next generation" of classic good-time stadium rockers.
So, where do Green Day and Nirvana go on this list?
The former punk band-turned-prom theme generators doesn't have the catalog or the concert pull to hang with the big boys. Nirvana made essentially one great album and one mediocre album that some argue has not aged well. Two albums.
Does that warrant putting Nirvana in front of Aerosmith on the All-Time list? How much do we penalize Aerosmith for becoming such willing puppets for the likes of Desmond Child and Diane lo these past thirty years?
Any talk of Nirvana most certainly leads to consideration of Seattle's "other" band Pearl Jam. Highest I can put them is second-tier with Journey and REO, but one could just as easily slot them below Foo Fighters and Nickelback. Granted, Pearl Jam's initial seismic impact had a monstrous influence on all the rock music that has followed. But do they bump Bon Jovi from the Top 5?
Wanna throw a little fuel on the fire? Let's talk R.E.M. already.
If you've been screaming their name since the start of this article, congratulations, you're ahead of the curve because I bet R.E.M. is a name that few people will mention, but when someone finally does, the rest of the room will indulge in a communal synchronized forehead slap.
Maybe on sales and touring (or a lack thereof), they fall short of the Top 10, but on influence alone, you immediately start looking for a way you can realistically wedge them into the Top 3.
In any musical discussion, the Grateful Dead are the proverbial turtle, singing "slow and steady wins the race". They have a devoted, verging on maniacal fan base that seems largely uninterested in the band's music, but there must be something said for their cultural impact. Even so, you don't want those guys anywhere near your Top 10 when going up against the Brits with their Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Small Faces, Deep Purple, Genesis, Yes.
Even if you consider Jimi Hendrix as a member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience - a group, thereby making him eligible for this discussion - you begin to like America's chances, but then you realize that, while Hendrix was American, the band itself was formed in Britain, thereby making that one more point for the Brits!
VERDICT: When it comes to rock, the Brits kick our asses. Their Top 10 lays waste to our entire field.