Music/Popular Culture

Tournament of Rock – Legends: the Jimi Hendrix pod

Results: It’s been a thoroughly disheartening few days for the favorites, as #9 Steely Dan becomes the third straight seed to bite the dust. The upstarts in this case are Los Lobos, who posted a comfortable win. The numbers: Los Lobos 59%; #9 Steely Dan 29%; Boston 5%; The Jesus and Mary Chain 5%; The Cult 3%; Sweet 0%. Los Lobos advance to the Great 48.

Our search for the greatest band of all time now moves to the head of the Fillmore region, where guitar legend Jimi Hendrix faces down another talent-laced band of challengers. Is the biggest upset of the tournament imminent?

<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 />

Polls close whenever I wake up and get logged on Saturday.

57 replies »

  1. If the Foo Fighters beat Jimi Hendrix I’m going to kick my dog. Hard.

    How could you put Jimi, Joy Division, and the Eagles in the same pod? Dang, dang, dang!

    I would have voted for Journey in other (weaker) pods, but they come in 4th here.

    Did I mention I’m a music omnivore?

    Basically though, I don’t see how I can vote for anyone but Hendrix as he has far and away the most influence of any of the competitors. And he just smokes as a super talent.

    • Well, yes. As you both note, there’s a lot of talent in this pod. And as you note, it still looks like it ought to be a slam-dunk for Jimi. But I’ve proven that I’m not very good at predicting voter behavior around here.

  2. This is one of the few times to date where I’d say the entire pod is worthy of consideration of Legend status. I realize that reflects more on me than the tournament, but this is a damn good pod.

    As much as I’d like to vote for Journey and The Eagles, and as deserving as The Pretenders are, this one has to go to Hendrix. Right?

  3. The Eagles are near the top of my faves list.

    …didn’t realise just how many bands I loved until this S & R Tournament.

  4. I’m love that you put The Eagles in the same pod as Hendrix. Goes some way to balance the Dead/Allmans mess–but not completely.

  5. Let me try and make a case for the Foos keeping in mind that almost certainly Dave Grohl will also be part of another band (hopefully 2) in this tournament. What I’m about to say may be sacrilegious to some, but I’m going to say it anyways. I think Dave Grhol may be this generation’s Clapton. No he can’t play guitar as smooth as Slowhand, but he’s been a part of 3 of the best rock albums in the last 20 years, all of which by different bands. Nevermind, The Colour and the Shape, and Songs for the Deaf were all great rock albums. He’s also been a part of several other lesser known bands, and lent his talents to some session work (according to a ton of engineers and produces he’s one of the best studio drummers around). He also gets mad respect by musicians.

    There’s no denying Hendrix’s talent, influence, and popularity, but sometimes I get the sense that a lot of people when asked “who’s influenced your guitar playing?” they just throw out Hendrix, and then go on about how awesome Voodoo Child is. Besides the Beatles, no other musician evokes this type of auto response like Jimmi. Personally “Castles Made Of Sand” is the best tune.

    I’m going to vote 1 part spite, and 2 parts personal preference on this one.

    Going with the Foos.

  6. Uber: “Starting”?

    D: You’ll get one more Grohl entry. QotSA would fall in that “too early to tell” category, although Songs for the Deaf is in fact a great record. The Foos are the only one where he was a creative driver, though. He was pretty much just the drummer for Nirvana and QotSA.

    As a side note, he was also the drummer for the Juliette and the Licks CD a couple of years ago. The Juliette was, believe it or not, Juliette Lewis. And it was really a very good disc – the drumming in particular was outstanding.

  7. Went with Journey. (Kidding. Hendrix, of course. His was the first rock concert I ever saw in the fall of 1967. It was like dropping acid without ingesting anything.)

  8. I’m going to take a cue from Brian Angliss on this one. I think Hendrix is the best, but I’m going to log a protest vote for Joy Division.

  9. Sam: I really dig QotSA, their albums usually take me a few listens to get into, but then I love them. They put on one of the best show’s I’ve been to in a while, and it was only 12 bucks. Grohl was more of a guest star on Songs for the Deaf, but he sure as hell puts or gets himself into the right musical situations.

  10. As much as I love Hendrix, I think that there are a lot of artists who have taken guitar work further after him. So I’m not voting Hendrix. As for who I AM voting, well, I’m still figuring that one out. I’m leaning toward the Pretenders or the Eagles at the moment.

  11. Brian – if you’re so damned good that lots of others use your influence to try and transcend you, doesn’t that alone make you even greater?

    • Actually, Jim and I bat this one back and forth. The argument is VERY true of the Fabs – in fact, I think it’s one of the best arguments for their greatness. At the same time, it opens the door to the question of whether or not the truly great can be transcended.

      So what it might come down to is this. If I argue that U2 has in ways surpassed The Beatles, but that this was accomplished because of The Beatles, who am I really arguing in favor of?

      • Can the originator of something, without whom that something would not exist, be transcended? After all, we might not know what we know about the nature of the universe had Galileo not turned his telescope skyward. But does that negate the transcendence of the Hubble Space Telescope, an instrument that is almost immeasurably better than Galileo’s telescope in every way imaginable? Does the Hubble’s magnificence just elevate Galileo’s small telescope further, or does it eclipse it in its entirety?

        As an engineer and scientist, I’m comfortable with the idea that all progress occurs because we stand upon the shoulders of all those who have come before us, and that our shoulders will in turn be stood upon.

        But now we’re into philosophy and possibly psychology and sociology as much as attempting (theoretically) critical analysis of music.

  12. This one song speaks of Jimi’s craftsmanship and all around elegance.

    Other guitarists may have surpassed Jimi but nobody has surpassed Chet Atkins.

  13. Yes, Brian, there are giants with shoulders in the art world, too. And this is one of the great philosophical questions that we have to kick around.

    • But in the end, it’s an unanswerable question that will come down to personal opinion, and so I don’t actually find it all that interesting. I’m personally of the opinion that someone who transcends a previous great artist or scientist or philosopher or whatever is the greater of the two. If you’re not, that’s fine – I’m not even going to try to convince you that you’re wrong, because based on your own personal criteria, you’re not.

      I’d much rather explain why I think someone is great/greater/greatest and then move on. Arguing over opinion is intellectual masturbation, and most of the time I don’t find that particularly satisfying.

      Arguing over fact or interpretation of fact, however – that’s much more satisfying. The problem is that there are precious few facts, in the mathematical or scientific sense, when it comes to greatness in art.

  14. Personal opinion. Here we go again.

    Let’s dispense with the idea of “opinion.” As it is too often used, it renders everything ubiquitously relative. It pretends that all opinions are equal. And worst of all, it demeans all non-“objective” faculties as less valid.

    No, debates over whether Band A is better than Band B aren’t science. There’s no formula. But informed minds can and must use refined subjective means in their search for truth (both capital and lower case).

    So if you’d like to argue that YOUR opinion is of no greater value than that of the average 14 year-old screaming Jonas Brothers fangirl, go right ahead. But leave me out of it.

    I’ve spent decades trying to learn how to think, and I’ve discovered that those tools which serve me so well when evaluating the merit of a philosophical premise also work when I’m critiquing music.

    • You may not like the word “opinion” due to the connotations it has for you, but your personal dislike of it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still accurate. No, not all opinions are equal. Educated opinions should be, and usually are, given more weight than uneducated opinions. But how do you define “educated” vs. “uneducated”? Can you, using objective measures that don’t rely upon mutually agreed upon negotiated criteria? Without objective facts to support or undermine a claim (logical fallacies, for example), one educated opinion is not inherently more right or wrong than another educated opinion.

      Here’s a relevant example. Let’s assume for a moment that you and Jim are equally knowledgeable when it comes to music and that you’re both able to critique music equally well. Let’s assume that one of you says that U2 is greater than the Beatles for XYZ reasons while the other of you says the exact opposite for ABC reasons. Both of your arguments are logically sound and factually accurate insofar as they can be given we’re talking about art (you could, for example, devise criteria to determine the relative technical expertise of the music played by U2 and the Beatles, or calculate the amount of information contained in they lyrics and agree that “more information equals better”, or estimate emotional impact by the size of crowds at shows or by the number of stalkers each of the bands had at their peak).

      How do you two determine which of you is right? Is it even possible to determine which of you is right? As an outside observer to your argument, how would I determine which of you is right? Ultimately it will come down to a subjective judgment on my part as to which of your arguments I agree with more. And it’s my subjective judgment, my opinion, which of the arguments will win me over. There is no way to objectively win such a disagreement, since there are insufficient facts on which to base an objective argument.

      It’s my contention that the U2/Beatles argument I describe above is inherently unwinnable, and I further propose that it’s fundamentally impossible to determine if one of you is right and the other is wrong. In a sense, you’re both right and both wrong at the same time.

      If you want to talk about physical reality – facts, probability, science, mathematics – then arguments can be won or lost based on objective criteria that are independent of the individuals or social contracts involved in the argument. Art in any of its varied forms doesn’t work that way.

      • One more point I failed to mention above – Having an argument based on subjective criteria that reaches a subjective conclusion is fine. These types of arguments are probably 99.9% of the arguments everyone has all the time. But just because the criteria are culturally defined doesn’t make the criteria any less subjective. And “educated opinion” is a subjective, culturally defined criteria. Just as the majority is always sane, so to is the majority’s opinion on art always subjectively “right.”

        To use your Jonas Brothers example, if our culture viewed screaming 14 year old fangirls as the epitome of rock and roll greatness and devalued logic and “educated opinion,’ then the Jonas Brothers could, in fact, be defined as greater than U2.

        You cannot escape your culture.

        • Brian, doesn’t making these arguments make you feel bad about yourself?

          About half the brain sits in the non-objective hemisphere, and while I’m a HUGE fan of reason and the pursuit of fact (a point I’ve been known to make when complaining about the dumbass state of American culture), I’m also not so dumb as to dismiss the importance of creative thought and the essential role of beauty and subjective in human life. I have no problems with “opinion,” properly understood. But the important thing is “informed.” Your argument goes in service of those who would dumb us down and diminish the importance that the non-rational (not IRrational) plays in our ability to KNOW.

          No, Brian, these kinds of arguments cannot bring us to an objective, “factual” verdict on who the “best” band is. But where did the idea come from that a thing is only worth pursuing if it can lead us to an unarguable fact? That’s the silliest proposition I’ve heard all day and the only joy I take in this is watching the contortions you’re having to inflict on yourself to make it.

          Carry on if you like. But we see a lot of each other. And what’s going to be even more fun is when I start flogging you with your own arguments every time I catch you engaging in something you’re treating as meaningful despite its lack of any possible objective resolution.

          Damn, this is gonna be a ball…. 🙂

  15. I’m so thankful that you’ve included the Foo Fighters alone, and not Nirvana. If you had included Nirvana, Hendrix, the Pretenders, and Joy Division on the same pod, my head would probably explode. But I could care less about Foo Fighters, so I’m only a little upset that I have to vote against the Pretenders and Joy Division.

  16. How does pointing out that nearly everything we do is subjective serve those who would dumb us down? Explaining how culture defines what matters collectively, and pointing out that culture is a subjective structure, is something that most people don’t think about, and so I see my exposition on this to be quite the opposite, actually.

    And looking at what I wrote, I don’t see where I said that subjective was fundamentally worse than objective – fundamentally different, yes, but not worse. My lack of interest in having debates that definitionally can’t be won doesn’t mean that all subjective debates are as such. Within a given cultural context, subjective arguments can and will in fact be won and lost all the time.

    Look at it this way – there are four possible combinations of subjective and objective: objective arguments over objective topics, subjective arguments over objective topics, objective arguments over subjective topics, and subjective arguments over subjective topics.

    The vast majority of arguments people will have on a day-to-day basis are subjective-subjective. Anything dealing with business, economics, politics, art, and so on falls into this category. Even most engineering falls into this category, because there’s usually a nearly infinite number of right ways and wrong ways to do something. It’s only a subset of truly unanswerable questions in this category that I’m just not willing to deal with, Sam – not the entire category. Not all questions are of this nature, but the “can an art form transcend it’s creator” is one.

    Scientists work, or at least endeavor to work, with objective-objective. Water exists objectively no matter what you call it, for example, or how much you might delude yourself into thinking it doesn’t. Most objective-objective arguments are based on physical reality in some way.

    Subjective arguments on objective topics are a subset of objective-objective because they will always turn into an objective-objective eventually. Making a “I feel that you’re wrong about X” subjective argument always loses to an objective “X is this way” fact. You can deny that water is wet subjectively, but nothing changes the fact that water makes things wet in sufficient quantities.

    And objective arguments on subjective topics simply don’t exist.

    Ultimately, if I can agree with the culturally-defined context of a subjective topic, and you and I or whomever else I’m debating can agree on the nature of the debate, then there’s nothing to say that I can’t argue over subjective topics and find meaning therein. It’s ultimately my own subjective decisions that define whether something is meaningful to me, and I can always choose to change my mind.

    • Brian: Here’s the problem – let’s look at this: My lack of interest in having debates that definitionally can’t be won doesn’t mean that all subjective debates are as such. Within a given cultural context, subjective arguments can and will in fact be won and lost all the time.

      What you’re essentially arguing is that the purpose of debate is to “win” or reach a conclusion/verdict that is ostensibly “proven.” That view is the product of a Houyhnhnm mindset. For me, though, debate is about advancing the level of the argument and teaching yourself and others to think. At the end of THIS process, for instance, we won’t “know” who the best band is, and I couldn’t care less. However, if we’re doing our jobs, we WILL have increased the knowledge in the system. Which means that the next time somebody cranks up the argument, if they find this one they’ll be able to debate more intelligently, and their conclusions may be more satisfying than ours.

      Standing on the shoulders of giants only works if those giants have worked to be as tall as they can be. Maybe some day down the road a definitive answer does emerge as a function of this iterative subjective process.

      Retro: If you’ve been watching past results, though, you KNEW Joy Division wasn’t going to get the respect it deserves.

      Lex and Ubertramp: Bite me. Twice.

      wufnik: Okay, smart guy. Map out the lineage that explains how Skinny Puppy and Rammstein are footnotes to Dylan, Elvis and The Beatles…. >:)

      • I had to look up “Houyhnhnm” given that I’ve never read Gulliver’s Travels (Wikipedia is a wonderful thing). My last comment on this, at least for now.

        Life in all its breadth and depth only has meaning because we, collectively and individually, give life meaning. This is true in general, and true specifically about arguing over music.

  17. You guys have much too much time on your hands. Remember Whitehead’s quote about all of European philosophy being a series of footnotes to Plato? Everything in rock the past four and a half decades has been a series of footnotes to Elvis, the Beatles, and Dylan. That doesn’t diminish the greatness of anything that followed–it just puts it in its proper context. I would agree that U2, in many respects, is a better band than the Beatles ever were. That wouldn’t capture the whole story, though.

  18. Hey ‘Tramp, what you goin’ do on that blog on your screen?
    Hey ‘Tramp, I said what you goin’ do on that blog on your screen?
    I’m slowin’ down to taunt my friend Slammy
    I caught him suckin’ the life outta Jimi

    Yeah, I’m gonna taunt my friend Slammy
    You know I caught him suckin the life outta Jimi
    And that ain’t too cool…


  19. Purple words all in this blog
    Lately Slammy can’t see through the fog
    Actin’ elitist, and he’s startin’ to whine
    ‘scuse me while I write this line
    Purple words all on this page
    In his tower thinkin’ he’s a sage
    Is he happy or in misery?
    What ever it is, that doc just can’t break free


  20. This could have been avoided if the pod were all guitarists, like Hendrix, who led or lead bands in their name. To wit:

    Jeff Beck (in another pod), Richard Thompson, and Stevie Ray Vaughan (another personal favorite).

    While on the subject of guitarists, another favorite of mine is Alan Holdsworth. He first became famous in one of my favorite bands, UK. Alas, UK is unlikely to be seeded.

    Also unlikely to appear is Public Image. Its first guitarist was another favorite of mine — Keith Levene, still working today. He’s the guy who was quoted as saying (something to the effect of): “When I first heard the Edge, I thought I was listening to myself.”

    As you can imagine, I don’t think U2 deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the Beatles. Over the years, as I’ve met younger people unimpressed with either the Beatles or Hendrix, it’s occured to me they might have to be filed under “You hadda be there.”

    But some of Hendrix and the Beatles’ respective achievements I didn’t appreciate until much older, separated from the time when they were recorded and released.

  21. My turn to bloviate (not really)

    Jimi Hendrix – hands down, the best guitarist ever. It’s funny to me that when people talk about psychedelic rock, he doesn’t get more mention. He incorporated it so cleanly that it wasn’t schtick with him; it was part of his sound. Sure, bands did reverse reverb and backmasked tracks before Hendrix, but Hendrix did it WELL. Prior to him, it was a studio curiosity. He made it musical. In a few short years, he transformed the way the guitar was played. When you think about what would have been had Jimi not died, it’s easy to picture a ’70s rock landscape that is much brighter than the one we had. To me, that’s a hallmark of a legend.

    Joy Division – As Dr. Slammy has pointed out, how many of the current crop of indie bands HAVEN’T been influenced by Joy Division? Half of them sound like cheap imitations. The other half sound like expensive ones. They did what they did in two short years, with two albums. After Ian Curtis’s death, the remaining members did the impossible: they made dance music cool again. After the recent demise of disco, I didn’t think that was possible. Not quite sure I can call them legends. Where would they have been had Ian Curtis lived? You can’t help but think they would have gotten as tired as Morrissey.

    Journey – the cream of the crop of butt rock. Neil Schon is a really good guitarist. They made some great songs. They’re not legends.

    Foo Fighters – It’s a shame that Dave Grohl has to live with the spectre of Kurt Cobain the way he does. FF is a really great band, but always seems to hit a snag on the way to sustaining greatness or nearing legendary status.

    The Pretenders – the blueprint for how to go from edgy to disposable pop in a graceful way. Again, really great, but not quite the stuff of legend.

    The Eagles – they force us to ponder the question “can you be the sound of a generation and yet still be utterly disposable?” Perhaps Bobcat Goldthwaite said it best when he referred to the ’70s as “the lowest fucking cultural point ever on the planet”. I grew up on the Eagles. I will probably never make an mp3 playlist without them. Yet, somehow they leave me feeling hollow when I try to think of them as legends. Perhaps it’s the Kiss-eque way in which HenleyFryCorp has no problem jettisoning members who no longer fit their heavy rotation image or who ask for a better cut from their live proceeds. As Joe Walsh said “I fucking hate those guys unless I’m drunk”.

  22. how many of the current crop of indie bands HAVEN’T been influenced by Joy Division? Half of them sound like cheap imitations. The other half sound like expensive ones.

    Good one, Fikshun. Yeah, they were great.

  23. sam–not to all three. just has to be one of the three. Don’t know Rammstein, but SP is easy–Elvis–>Jerry Lee Lewis–>Little Feat–> Skinny Puppy. That work?

  24. The Eagles should have had their own pod. They soared high upon the air currents and produced one of the best selling albums ever in music history.

    I am gutted.

  25. fijshun said about The Eagles: “Yet, somehow they leave me feeling hollow when I try to think of them as legends. ”


    This almost excuses your vote against Hendrix….No, wait, NOTHING could excuse voting against Hendrix….. 😉

  26. Well, there are easier ways to get to SP, I admit–Beatles to Lothar and the Hand People to United States of America (terrible group, but hugely influential) to whatever electronica you want next. I just like keyboards.