Introduction: Who influenced who? Which side of the Atlantic is more relevant in the music industry? Billy Parker takes a look...
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Article by: Billy Parker
Legend has it that nearly 30 years ago Grand Funk Railroad was partying hard with members of the British group Humble Pie. As one pint led to another, the topic of music escalated into a full blown heated argument over who rocked better, UK or USA? Pie, smug in pointing out the obvious, ran through a parade of examples from the invasion, a list of the present day supergroups, Stones, Zeppelin, Who, and of course The Beatles. Railroad quickly countered "Big deal! Who were all of their influences? Where did they learn their material? Chuck Berry, Little Richard, a host of blues musicians and of course Elvis, that's who!" The climatic moment came when Don Brewer (GFR's drummer) finished his rant and rave rebuttal about domestic pioneers by standing up and screaming at the top of his lungs "We're an American Band! We're an American Band!"
Written by Brewer (and produced by Todd Rundgren) the song would prove to be their biggest hit to date. The album by the same name would reach number 2 and the single a number 1 hit in the summer of 73 where it has remained a staple of classic rock airplay ever since.
Oh, those transatlantic hops infested quarrels! Elvis vs. Beatles, morning coffee vs. afternoon tea, Monty Python vs. National Lampoon, Oxford vs. Harvard, James Bond vs. er, um, O.K. so they got the coolest spy.
But rarely has a brews brouhaha by self-indulgent musicians in a Cajun barroom (the incident took place in Baton Rouge) so succinctly traced the path of a generation of music.
Although countless books and documentaries have been written on the subject, you can sum up the major domino effect for Rock & Roll on the back of a Bud Light. Delta blues prove biggest inspiration for all early American Rock & Roll Icons whom in turn influence biggest names in Rock during 1960s, early seventies commercial explosion. That's it, three steps! As easy as a 1-5-4 R&R chord progression.
You know the names. Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and others begin grass roots for Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and others.
By the middle of the seventies the biggest names in the history of modern day rock were from across the Atlantic. Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Who, Elton, Clapton, Pink Floyd, Humble Pie (just kidding).
Every one of these bands list American musicians as major influences. As Tom Petty put it, "Rock & Roll can really be brought down to just 6 or 7 people."
As the decades go by the waves from the initial rock ripple become blurred. In April of last year a British act failed to be on the American Billboard charts for the first time in almost 40 years. But believe it or not their biggest chart percentage was not in the 60's, but in 1986 controlling 32% of the chart. Maybe it all started when Ford bought Jaguar.
Narrowing the whole Rock & Roll experience to just between The States and The Kingdom is a myopic gesture. Canada, (Rush, Guess Who) Australia (AC/DC, Bee Gees) are just a few examples of the global magnitude and popularity the most commercially successful music ever recorded has become.
The irony is the beginning can be traced back so easily to it's origin. And barroom patrons have been arguing about it ever since.
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