Music/Popular Culture

Tournament of Rock – Legends: the Rush pod

Results: #5 seed Graham Parker had a far easier time than anticipated, romping to a landslide defeat of a pod that seemed to underwhelm some of our commenters. The numbers: #5 Graham Parker 77%; Annie Lennox 11%; Roxy Music/Brian Ferry 6%; Emerson Lake & Palmer 3%; The Damned 3%. GP advances to the Great 48.

Our quest for the greatest band of all time now heads over to the Fillmore region, where art-metal legends from the Great White North entertain an eclectic and incredibly talented pack of competitors. Maybe this pod will get the crowd fired up…

If you’d be so kind, please click on the Listen links, then register your opinion in the poll below. Feel free to add a comment or two, as well, and if you have friends who love music, by all means let them know about our little tournament. Polls close at midnight Thursday.

<br /> <a href=”” mce_href=””>Which band/artist deserves to advance in the Tournament of Rock: Legends?</a><span style=”font-size:9px;” mce_style=”font-size:9px;”>(<a href=”” mce_href=””>polls</a>)</span><br />

37 replies »

  1. Winwood, no. But I don’t think Winwood rises to the level of Simon. Edmunds and Slade are blank slates to me – I have literally zero familiarity with either of them, which is actually one of my criteria when I’m voting (you don’t have to like that criteria, of course). I’ll give them both a listen since I may know the music but not the band/artist name, but I’m 95% sure that this will come down to Rush vs. Simon.

    My biggest problem right now is actually Simon and Garfunkel – are they really rock, or folk? Sure, there’s overlap between folk and rock, but S&G always struck me as much more folk than rock. Simon by himself is more rock than folk, IMO, and Graceland is one of the best albums I own.

    Simon or Rush – Rush or Simon….

  2. Graceland was rock? I thought it was an amalgam of South African styles, zydeco, etc. If folk isn’t rock, how is that rock?

    Or would it just be easier if you stopped painting yourself into corners?

    • Didn’t I say just I was struggling with Simon? And yes, if you can include Bob Marley as a rock musician, you could certainly include Simon/Simon and Garfunkel. More easily, in fact.

      To me, an admitted non-expert, folk music is related to rock, but is usually slower and less guitar and drum driven – it seems driven more by lyrics than music. Rock has always seemed to me to be more about the music than the lyrics. (This isn’t a criticism of either, BTW.) And while they’re related genres to my way of thinking, they’re still as separate (or not) as R&B and R&R are, or as synthpop and R&R are. Sort of parallel paths that intermingle a lot. I wouldn’t call James Taylor “rock,” or Lorenna McKennitt, or Clannad.

      Again, though, this is based on how I’ve thought about rock vs. folk, not necessarily on how critics think on the same subjects, or on how divisions between genres and splits from family trees are normally agreed upon.

  3. I really L.O.V.E. S & G.

    …and because I haven’t mentioned Bob in some time:

    “While innovations in rock music have often occurred in regional centers such as New York City; Kingston, Jamaica; and Liverpool, England, the influence of rock music is now felt worldwide.”

    Now just WHO was that doing his thing in Jamaica influenced by R & B, his time in America, Ska, his particular genius and his own heart.

  4. I ultimately went with Rush. Here’s my rationale, with a bit of a long-winded intro.

    I used to play trumpet in school band and orchestra, and I played for seven years. I was good enough that I made the state band once. I helped found a short-lived jazz/big band band my Junior year, so I have a reasonably good intuitive, if rusty at this point, understanding of music – how it goes together, what sounds good, how an oboe can interweave with a flute, and when a saxophone coming in at the right time can totally and utterly change the direction of a piece of music.

    Because I played trumpet and have some history playing jazz, big band music, and classical, I tend to love groups like Stray Cats, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, and Oingo Boingo. I also tend to find music that is musically complex and effectively uses multiple musical instruments (via synthesizers and/or lots of band members and/or multitrack studio recordings) to be far more impressive than broken down, simplified music. And simply put, it’s my opinion that Rush did this better than most of their prog rock contemporaries in the late 1970s.

    In addition, I greatly enjoy long form concept albums, something that Rush did more of than just about any of their contemporaries, although you could argue that Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull (two other great bands, BTW) did so more effectively for a radio audience. 2112 is a single 20 minute-long story, CygnusX-1/Hemispheres is a single 30 minute, two-part story split across two albums (A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres) that mixes mythology and science/science fiction together. Xanadu tells the story of a modern-day discoverer of the mythical land of everlasting life and his discovery of the downside of immortality.

    And I don’t know of any other rock group that has so effectively made science fiction (another of my loves) into music repeatedly, at least not until the much more recent development of various forms of electronica that tend to lend themselves to SF themes.

    However, I didn’t initially discover Rush from any of their long-form concept songs. I discovered Rush via the albums Moving Pictures, Signals, Grace Under Pressure, and Power Windows. Specifically the songs Tom Sawyer, Limelight, Subdivisions, Distant Early Warning, Red Sector A, The Big Money, Manhattan Project, and Mystic Rhythms. These songs were catchy, short enough for lots of radio play, and yet still told a story interwoven with music that was complex and aurally amazing. Manhattan Project is literally a brief history of the development of the atomic bomb set to music, and I literally can’t think of another major band that could have pulled it of.

    The first album I ever wore out the tape of and had to replace with my very first CD purchase after buying a portable CD player was Presto. The mix of musical styles present in the songs, and also on the next album Roll The Bones, illustrate just how accomplished Lee, Lifeson, and Peart are musically.

    One of the other things I listen for in my music is musicians who aren’t afraid of tackling social or political topics. Sometimes that means listening to the more in-your-face music of the Indigo Girls or Alannis Morisette or KMFDM, but Rush has been doing it almost since their inception with songs like Closer to the Heart, Hemispheres, Tom Sawyer, Subdivisions, and The Big Money. But they did it in a way that didn’t reduce their radio reach by antagonizing more casual listeners. And since at least Moving Pictures there’s been a couple of such songs on every Rush album that I’ve listened to.

    I’ll also explain briefly why I didn’t end up voting for Paul Simon/Simon and Garfunkel. It didn’t come down to the folk/rock thing that I figured it would. I’ve heard people describe S&G specifically as “the music of a generation” in much the same way that the Beatles are described. But the Beatles were the music of a generation for a huge portion of the globe, while S&G’s appeal has always seemed to me to be a much more regional thing – they were the music of a generation – for people living in the Northeast and around San Francisco. And as much as I enjoy Paul Simon, I think that his work after he and Art Garfunkel went their separate ways has only once been the equal of what they did together – the Graceland album. And finally, the reach of S&G and Paul Simon is limited somewhat by the fact that they didn’t produce as massive a body of work as Rush has.

    Staying power matters, and Rush has been actively making music for so long that I think you’d be hard pressed to find a band that wasn’t influenced in some way by Rush’s music. The same cannot be said, IMO, for Simon and Garfunkel/Paul Simon.

  5. The first time I heard S & G…South Africa. Followed me to the UK via Dad and friends. S & G were huge in the UK.

    Paul Simon – massive in the UK.

    The pod is excellent but boy S & G were out of this world good. To me they were better than anything in their time to come out of England, musically, ever.

  6. I like S+G, and they’re a huge influence with the singer song writer type of musicians. I don’t know if their catalog is as deep as others on this list though.

    Phish is the type of band that is tough to get into becasue I loath their fans so much (and yes I know that’s not fair). However I have to say they’re pretty damn talented, influential, and popular. If they were in a different pod they may get my vote.

    This was actually really easy for me. I went with Rush for a bunch of reasons. I’ll be the cop out and state the obvious; Their drummer is one of the best rock drummers of all time. I’m tempted to say the best, but since I’m not a drummer I’ll refrain. For sure he’s up there with Moon, Bonham, Copland, Baker, Carey.

  7. Well….seems things are going to be a little contentious in my house this pod.


  8. Would have voted for Slade if they’d been in another pod–one of the best live bands ever. Just didn’t get enough airplay in the US. They also wrote the only truly great Christmas rock and roll song. Graceland was a rip-off of Mannfred Mann’s Somewhere in Afrika, a far superior album. Mann was actually born in South Africa, so he was able to do much more interesting things with African music than Simon. What pod will Mann be in, I wonder? Simon also has a bad rap here in England for stealing Martin Carthy’s arrangement of Scarborough Fair. Went with Phish. Yes, the fans are annoying. So are Metallica fans. And don’t get me started on Queen fans. So what? They write interesting (if not always successful) songs, but more importantly, they’re musically ambitious songs. Besides, everyone here hates them so much, how can I resist?

  9. I was going to go with Rush, and listening to them again only confirmed that, untill I listened to Simon & Garfunkel. S&G/Simon ended up with my vote.

    Phish is usually either pretty good, OK, or “what in the world are they thinking?” Never have I thought them Great.

    Winwood is great, as is Traffic, but S&G and Rush are pretty tough competition.

    I’m sure Dave Edmunds has a place in Rock history, but top 48?

    I only remember one Slade song, a synth drenched 80s hit. Listening to the samples, I wasn’t impressed.

  10. I’m WAY more worried about what happens when we get out of the pods and into the regular tournament – I think that’ll be a whole lot nastier, with much more difficult decisions, than anything we’ve seen to date.

  11. I voted for Steve Winwood.

    This is a loaded pod – as Sam and I did a little revisionist history yesterday, I noted this to him.

    “This pod will start arguments,” I said. And so we see.

    Rush is a band that, despite their fantastic drummer (hell Getty and Alex are terrific, too) doesn’t quite surpass. I rank them #3 on the “all time power trio” list – after the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream . And sometimes the lyrics are – well – asinine….

    Slade – Love ‘em. Absolutely love ,em. But they never broke here. And if your only experience of Slade is that goddamed piece of drivel “Run, Run Away,” I feel truly sorry for you. Go find their early ’70’s work. You probably know one piece – Quiet Riot’s “Cum On Feel the Noiz.” That’s a cover of Slade…

    Paul Simon – While I do love Paul, Wufnik offers some valid, relevant criticisms. I don;t quite buy that “Somewhere in Afrika” is BETTER than “Graceland,” but Paul has been apt to “borrow” from world music without sufficient debt acknowledgment….

    Phish – Fuck Phish, The Dead, and all those damned noodlers. Play crisp 3-5 minute songs that start somewhere and end somewhere. Although I don’t hate “Fee…”

    Winwood has been making marvellous music since he was 16 years old – he can play every instrument known to man (have you heard his guitar chops? – he could have been a guitar hero a la Clapton, Page, or Beck) his writing skills are equal to Simon, and every band he plays with from Spencer Davis Group to Traffic to Blind Faith – is better because of him.

    Winwood is one of the truly great. He got my vote and he should have gotten yours.

    Now yell at me. 😉

  12. I don’t know, wufnik, “Somewhere in Afrika” is a good album but i don’t think it’s as good as Graceland. For one, there are a fair number of cover tunes. And for two, Simon’s “Graceland” is pretty much straight Township music with Simon lyrics over the top. (Gumboots is a cover of the Boyoyo Boys original instrumental.) And most of the musicians were S. African musicians.

    At least for me, Graceland opened the door to Township music…and it’s one of my favorite genres. The rhythmic guitar work, the drum lines, and the almost trance inducing vocal arrangements (helps to not understand the words). Love the stuff.

    But then i have to consider Simon’s time with Garfunkel and separate their influence from my tastes.

    Rush is hard to beat. Red Barchetta and all. And you throw Neil Peart in (i don’t know if he’s the best, Darrell, but he is up there).

    Winwood was something, but one of those people that i think of with other, bigger names making them sound a lot better.

    I’m going to have to go with Rush.

  13. Ok, i’ll yell at you, Jim. Crisp, 3-5 minute songs are fine…they also get really damned old after a while. I also want to hear musicians play. Anyone who knows how to play the instrument can learn a precisely written 3-5 minute song and play it in the studio with multiple repetitions to get it just right. Not nearly everyone can just play (a musical conversation with other musicians) and get it right on the first try with everyone watching.

    I want to hear musicians, not producers.

  14. Lex: Crisp 3-5 minute songs NEVER get old for many of us. All that “musical conversations” talk, whenever I hear it, is code for “jazz.” Now I’m not opposed to jazz. But you know what John Lennon said about it. 🙂

    And trust me, Lex. Plenty of us musicians who prefer crispness can play just fine right out of the box. It’s not that we can’t have those conversations – it’s that many times those conversations can get as tiresome – or more so – to us as 3-5 minute songs get to you….

  15. I’m with Jim. I love guys who can play as much as the next guy. But I’ve seen Phish live. And Spin Doctors (sort of jammish). And Col Bruce Hampton. And The Samples (who aren’t a jam band but think they are, which is worse). Some of the most boring moments of my life.

    I’ve also seen Big Head Todd, who plays his share of solos. But he works off of actual songs and it’s great when he does…..

  16. Jim – There’s no doubt that some of Rush’s stuff is pretty bad. The first, eponymous album sucks. I think I can count the number of times I’ve forced myself to listen to it on the fingers of one hand. And By Tor and the Snow Dog is nearly as bad. But there’s not a band out there I can think of with Rush’s staying power that didn’t have some dogs (pun intended) in their catalog.

    It’s interesting to me that, as much as I love long-form music like what Rush used to do (and that, along with The Who, has inspired more recent epic rock/concept albums from the likes of Green Day, Cruxshadows, and Celldweller, to name a few I own), I generally don’t like jam bands like Phish, with the Dead as the notable exception. To me the difference is the presence of a plot, a storyline in the music. 2112, Cygnus X-1/Hemispheres, Xanadu, etc. aren’t just fiddling around with music for the sake of playing bass, guitar, drums, and synth. Jam bands seem to play music for the sake of playing music, and I’d rather have some structure to a free flow of chords.

  17. Steve Winwood/Traffic/Spencer Davis by a nose.

    I love Rush. And for this pod, they win the rock award for ‘band for whom you could crush a beer can against your forehand while listening to’ … for whatever that’s worth. While it takes some panache to take some heat for doing yet another concept album (2112), and cred for trying to play your own song on Rock Band on video … dunno … they’ve just always struck me as the ‘play it safe’ rock band.

    They’ve always been great. Have they ever made a bad record? Sure, 2112 reads like a Bill & Ted screenplay now, but a cliche has to start life somewhere. “Grace Under Pressure” has to rank at the top for synth albums done by veteran arena rockers. But what can you say?

    Neil’s lyrics have been average at best, obnoxious at worst. While his drumming was influenced early by Keith Moon, he somehow became Keith’s antithesis. Striking only the centers of the drum heads; becoming a veritable human drum machine. His skill is unmatched; technically he is the best to ever play his instrument. And yet, I think former disco maven Nile Rodgers plays with more emotion than he does sometimes.

    With Geddy, his skill is dizzying. Vocals, bass, and keyboard pedals all at once? There may be a reason why St.Sanders hasn’t felt inclined to parody Rush yet.

    Of the three, Alex Lifeson is probably the most overrated. He’s very good. He can play in my band any day, but he’s far from great.

    Anyway, my point is that while Rush is technically very talented and while they’ve made a career of unimpeachable solid rock, year in/year out, there’s just something about Winwood’s grasp of the spirit of rock that makes me lean towards him.

    As for Paul Simon, I’ll blaspheme. There’s nothing he’s done that the Church hasn’t done better. Okay, their cover of “I Am a Rock” sucked, but if you’re looking for rock’s quiet introspection and self-assessment, Kilbey kicks Simon’s ass up and down the block.

    As for Edmunds and Phish, both good but not legendary. As for Slade … Slade? Slade?!?!

  18. I like it all. But what I really like is music that takes you someplace you’ve never been before, and back again. 3-5 minute songs rarely do that–that’s not their job. They codify, basically. It’s a marvelous structure, the 3-5 minutes song, and it’s been with us since the Troubadours (and perhaps even before).The basic structure seems to have some psychological grounding–we like this structure, it’s appealing, it’s comfortable, and it’s extraordinary what songwriters have been able to do with the structure over the centuries. Simon certainly fits in this category. What rock did was electrify it (thank you Les Paul)–but it didn’t change anything to the basic structure of the song, or its appeal. Genuine revolutionaries in song structure are rare. Mingus comes to mind here.

    Where I find it gets interesting (and others find it gets boring) is the improvization on that structure–I l ike to see what people can do with it. Can they really come up with something completely new? And, of course, they can–jazz showed the way, butt the electronics that rock brought in (and which were later brought back to jazz by Weather Report and the rest) was what really changed the direction of music the past fifrty years. The Dead excelled at this, as did the Allmans–there were moments in their concerts (some of which were caught on record) when you knew that you had been taken somplace completely new, just like Coltrane, or the early Weather Report, and then you wondered how you’d get back to China Cat Sunflower or whatever, and they often (but not always) did it flawlessly. It wan’t free improvization, like Dexter Gordon or someone like that–it was the search for balance between the structure of the song and the limits of improvization within that structure. In jazz, Mingus was consumed by this issue. Duane would go places that weren’t even on Clapton’s map (and still aren’t). Ditto Phish, although the moments are fewer. Winwood was (and still is, I imagine) a fine songwriter, but as an improviser, he’s really more along Clapton lines, rather than Garcia or Duane. Very talented, but content to remain within the guidelines. Which is why some of us will always go for a Dead or the Allmans or even Phish rather than a Rush or a Graham Parker. Obviously, lots of people feel the exact opposite.

    Lex–yes, there were covers on Afrika, but they were great covers–Nostradamus! I just thought Mann did a better job at taking African songs and working his music into them than Simon did. Simon’s songs were catchier–I thought Mann’s were more understanding. And certainly more political. And, of course, much better guitar work.

    Slade–obviously a problem since most people in the US have never heard of them. Track down their live album–about as good, basic, good old fashioned rock and roll that you’re ever goinig to hear. Nothing revolutionary–just music to make you feel good and get up and dance. And apropos of nothing at all, I was at the Levellers festival this past weekend, and Martin Carthy did a solo acoustic cover of Come On, Feel the Noise that just gave everyone chills. What pod will the Levellers be in?

    My, I do go on.

  19. Actually, i don’t know what John Lennon said about jazz because i’ve never bothered to listen much to what Lennon said 🙂 But i know that i like jazz and if i had to choose the Coltrane discography or one composed of 3-5 minute songs (say, the Beatles) to listen to exclusively for the rest of my life…i’d go with Coltrane in a heartbeat.

    Noodling for the sake of noodling gets old too. But i wasn’t the one who basically said that only 3-5 minute songs are worthwhile. Will Cream lose Jim’s vote because of the extended Spoonful they recorded? And did not Jim place the noodling Jimi Hendrix high up on a pedestal in this very thread?

  20. Okay, Lex, I’ll give this a shot:

    The Lennon quote is, (and remember I quote): “Jazz is shit music.” He was actually railing against the “trad jazz” clubs that kept out rockers like his band (btw, if you haven’t heard “Live at the BBC” by The Beatles, you owe yourself that pleasure. They play out of their minds – but then it’s all 3-5 minute tunes, so I don’t know… 😉 )

    I love Coltrane – for jazz. I love The Beatles – for rock. I love Slade – for what fikshun called music “you could crush a beer can against your head while listening to.” And laugh about it….

    Cream’s longish tunes (like “Spoonful”) are balanced by the 5 minute wonders like “SWLABR” and “Tales of Brave Ulysses.” And for every “3rd Stone from the Sun” by Hendrix there’s are many more gems like “Fire,” “Long Hot Summer Night,” or “Castles Made of Sand.”

    Finally, a few words about Dave Edmunds whom I accidentally left out of my previous comments. He is, like Nick Lowe, one of those heroes of the “pub rock” movement and a superb interpreter of old time rock and roll. (His covers of “I Hear You Knocking” and “Blue Monday” by Fats Domino, for instance, are magnificent). But, like Nick, he’s more important as a bridge/producer figure than as an influence/power in rock history….

  21. So then folk, blues and even a little country are acceptable crossovers to qualify as rock, but jazz is not?

    I think we might be experiencing the rationalization of personal taste…

  22. Oh boy, here we go. I wonder if Sam & Jim intended this tournament to d/evolve into a discussion of what defines rock or not. Surely they must have, given some of these pods. I feel like a dancing monkey.

    My $.02 is that straight jazz is not rock. What Winton Marsalis does is not rock. What Herbie Hancock does has strayed into rock on occasion.

    To me, rock is most directly descended of the blues to the point that it’s difficult for me to separate the two in any consistent way. With other music forms, it seems a little easier. Straight folk is not rock. What Bob Dylan and Paul Simon and others have done with it — fusing it with rock — makes it part of the rock spectrum. Straight Caribbean music is not rock. Adding guitars, organs, and turning it into Ska and Reggae makes those forms part of the rock spectrum. Various metal guitarists have proven that you can even make rock out of classical music. No music form is safe from the scourge of rock and that is beautiful.

    Rock is about youth culture. It’s about rebellion — big and small. It’s about the crazy notion that you can amplify a guitar or a keyboard by electrical means. It’s about how you can turn your stereo up a notch and everything just sounds a little better. The very word “stereo” is proof — the very thought that one speaker couldn’t get it done, but two might somehow be better. It’s about how you can dance to music; shaking your hips around and bringing up the hemline (or bringing down the belt line) in a way that may not even be provocative to other members of your generation but is somehow scandalous or obscene to the older generations. It’s about how you can stay out late after your curfew and, in the heat of the moment, the fun of doing so somehow makes it worth the grounding you’re going to get when you get home. It’s about rising up against a government that has forgotten its principles even though you have no rational hope to think you could change the world.

    Rock began as an uptempo offshoot of the blues. It has become an attitude; an uptempo modifier of everything in life.

  23. That wasn’t Sam and Jim’s intent. However, Sam and Jim are smart enough to know that it was going to happen, whether they intended it or not.

  24. For the record, i’m both happy and comfortable with a very broad definition of rock. Not only in general but particularly for this situation. And i agree with fikshun that it is the blend that’s important. In no way would i call John Coltrane rock, nor Peter Paul & Mary. But Miles’ Pangaea is pretty rock.

    More importantly, few of the voters/commenters are music critics. It must have been clear that a great deal of this would come down to taste (at least individual votes). I think that’s as it should be and brings some excitement that compiling a list of the 100 greatest rock bands never could.

    I was only pointing out that rationalizing personal taste does not make it authoritative. Nor does making very broad generalizations about this or that bands musical style mean that it’s true. Now i don’t think that the Dead were the greatest band ever, but a great many of their songs…even performed live…were of standard length and structure. Same can be said for Phish (who i’m not a fan of). What i read was that it’s not ok for some bands to play long jams but it is ok for others to do so. And i was invited to argue…i have a hard time passing that up.

    I’ve made statements like Jim’s and i’ll make some more. (Plus, saying that something i happen to like is shit doesn’t upset me since it’s not the same as saying i’m shit.) I hope others feel the same, because there are a couple of bands i’m waiting for…