Music/Popular Culture

Tournament of Rock – Legends: U2 vs Neil Young

Results: I know. It’s only rock & roll. But I like it. So, too, do our voters, although it was a pretty good race from wire to wire. The numbers: #2 The Rolling Stones 54%; #3 David Bowie 46%. The Stones move on to the Great Eight.

Up next, our search for the greatest band of all time takes you to the Red Rocks region. In the red corner, a band that’s had the same lineup since day one. In the blue corner, an artist who has established his greatness in three different incarnations. Get your thinking caps on, kiddies.

#1 U2: Listen #5 Neil Young: Listen

<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=””>trends</a&gt;)</span><br />

Polls close tomorrow morning.

The updated bracket looks like this:

Image credit: Time and Rock God Cred.

41 replies »

  1. In U2, we have a serendipitous and long-lasting team of artists who combine consummate musicianship, excellent songwriting and what seems like true social consciousness to produce great music, immense popular and critical success and an enormous influence on pop culture and music.

    In Neil Young, we have consummate musicianship, excellent songwriting and unquestionable social consciousness, both solo and as part of a team. He has sought out and pushed his own boundaries, created great and idiosyncratic (in the best sense of the word) music, enjoyed immense critical and popular success (transposition purposeful), pissed off rednecks everywhere and influenced musicians from widely disparate genres and generations.

    Lots of bands sound kind of like crappy U2. No one sounds like Neil Young, crappy or otherwise. I don’t know what that means, if anything.

    Tough one.

  2. Also, just because I haven’t seen it mentioned (may have missed it), are we allowed to take fuckability into account when voting? Because I’d do just about anything 64-year-old Neil even hinted at, but I wouldn’t touch Bono at his prime with a ten-foot strap-on.

    Clarification, please.

  3. “I hope Neil Young will remember
    A Southern man don’t need him around, anyhow …”

    Nice effin’ lyrics, Skynyrd.

  4. Here we have a boomer icon against a Gen-X icon. We know how those have worked out in previous rounds. I’m not saying the rest of y’all are old, but….

  5. I still don’t know why U2 has made it this far. They are a joke. Please everyone, let’s do the right thing and get rid of them. I’m from GA and have skynyrd tattoos and would rather see Neil go on. Come on, pretty please.

  6. When I first went to TN for college I got a little schooling from the folks. In my first week I was working out in the gym and they had their classic rock station going throughout the sound system. This guy was doing some curls and I was working on triceps and the song “Southern Man” came on. He stopped mid set and said, in a rather pissed off manner, “What does he know about the south!” A few days later I learned that southerners hate Catholics too. So that was my introduction to the south.

    I think U2 is actually way better here. This was actually one of the easiest pods. Plus I’m probably one of the only ones here to drive through Joshua Tree National Forest while listening to “Joshua Tree”

  7. Darrell:

    Some white Southerners hate Catholics. My father was one, and my mother wasn’t exactly a hater, but was a strong disliker. On the other hand, some white Southerners hate Jews, and my family certainly didn’t. If anything, there was strong admiration. The South has a number of regions that vary a bit on the prejudice front. Maybe the only common thread is hatred of African Americans by white Southerners. But hatred of other religions/races can vary quite a bit from place to place. For instance, I heard no bad things said about Hispanics where I grew up, but I hear a lot of racism aimed at them when I go back there these days. That’s because there are now Hispanics in the area, and there were none when I was a kid. At least, that’s a reasonable explanation for the phenomenon, I think.

  8. As usual, I’m reminded that I’m not a standard Xer. I remember driving through Joshua Tree Nat’l Forest thinking “God, I hate that fucking album”.

  9. I don’t remember much of the drive at all. But I named my right breast Joshua – does that count?

  10. Coming to this late and missed the voting (damn). Thought it would have been a LITTLE closer! The Irish boys have my vote. And Ann, I’m glad you don’t want Bono, ’cause I do. Only I’d prefer he grow his hair out again.

    • Why would you be stunned? I’d have been stunned if they’d won.

      Let’s face it, U2 is one of two bands that have defined Gen X (Nirvana being the other). And it’s hard to think of two bands that have engendered more irrational hatefests (I recall that pompous gasbag Andy Rooney dancing on Cobain’s grave when he died, for instance, and I promise you I’ll be be just as magnanimous when this mortal coil is finally relieved of the burden he represents). We can argue the details until the cows come home, but I’m reminded of Howe & Strauss’ 13th Gen. X was the least wanted, most aborted, most abandoned generation in American history, and to pretend that these larger macrodynamics play no role in the culture’s relationship to the artists of the era is to be naive.

      It doesn’t help, of course, that X often seems to loathe itself as badly as everybody else does.

      So yeah, I’m arguing that the reception of U2 and other Xer bands here is at least partially a function of a corrosive generational context. Not entirely, of course, but this is part of it.

  11. This has to be the most disappointing moments for me in this whole thing. I know I threw a fit when The Doors lost, but I wasn’t really surprised at that. Here, I’m really surprised at how wide the margin is.

    As another note: So far in the sweet sixteen, groups have been beating solo artists. UNTIL IT’S GEN-X AGAINST A BOOMER.

  12. I have a lot of respect for a ton of boomer bands, but it’s kind or weird how the same doesn’t happen in reverse. Is it the “music isn’t like it use to be syndrome” that happens to most people as they get older. I got to say that that’s happened to me in the last few years with popular music at least. Do our musical experience peak in high school and college? I find this is actually starting to happen with video games as well. Super Mario 3 and Tecmo Super Bowl are the two greatest games ever, and no one can convince me other wise. I know Neil has a huge fan base, and has made some great music, and as much as I rag on U2 they are just miles ahead of Neil here.

  13. I hear you Sam. I mean, there’s BOUND to be a prejudice towards the bands that were big when we were in our formative years. How could it be otherwise? But I think there may be another thing at work here, but it’s just a guess on my part.

    The boomers lived in an era when rock was extremely experimental, so many of the artists that emerged during that time influenced other artists and etc. I love Bruce Springsteen, for instance, but I remember seeing him as a warm up band along about 1972/73 or so. His most popular period was a bit after the time when I was most influenced by popular music. Springsteen is a great artist, but I find little that’s entirely new in his work. Affecting, yes. But I can hear the origins of his work in earlier artists.

    I mean, I think there’s a reason that Homer, Shakespeare, and Dante are still arguably the greatest poets in their respective languages. They didn’t start from scratch. There were those who went before them. But they did manage to be the first to put it all together in a way that bespoke genius and colored later poetic efforts to this day.

  14. I have a lot of respect for a ton of boomer bands, but it’s kind or weird how the same doesn’t happen in reverse.

    Pre. Fucking. Cisely. That’s my point. I don’t want to paint Boomers with a broad bruch because there are so many exceptions to the rule, especially in this forum. But there ARE broad, collective macrodynamics and trends, and it’s not controversial to say that X has never gotten much respect. Think back – remember when it became popular to refer to Xers as “slackers”? Well, let’s illustrate a point with that. We were slackers because we weren’t doing anything with our lives. Those kinds of stereotypes failed to take into account just how badly the economy had us fucked – trust me, Xers desperately wanted to be doing a lot with their lives. Finally the dotcom boom came around and many of us did.

    Flash forward. Right now you have an emerging generation of Millennials who are probably more fucked economically that even we were. And trust me, while they work hard and some of them make waves, collectively they’re every bit as guilty of the slacker label as we were. This isn’t to say that they’re slackers – they aren’t. But X wasn’t, either.

    But you don’t hear that accusation with them, do you? Nope. Because after the “bad Xer” gen along came the precious cargo Mill gen, with cocooning Boomer parents and Volvo wagons and Baby on Board stickers. Some people might be thinking “there goes Sam again,” but I assure, these things are all related.

    I’m damned happy that struggling young Millennials today don’t have to endure the unfair stigmas that were laid on Xers, and in time I expect their artists to be far more respected than ours.

    Is it the “music isn’t like it use to be syndrome” that happens to most people as they get older.

    That’s a reality that transcends generations, so to some degree, sure. Boomers heard it from their elders, too. But that’s not all of it, by a long shot.

    I got to say that that’s happened to me in the last few years with popular music at least.

    You know, my thirst for new music has never waned, and my collection runneth over with very talented Millennial artists. If I live to be a hundred I expect I’ll be as avid a consumer of young kids’ music as I am today.

  15. Exactly, JS. Genius stands on the shoulders of the geniuses who came before. Is U2 greater than The Beatles? If so, it’s because, in large part, of the influence of The Fabs themselves (and Dylan, and Hendrix, and scores of others). If U2 isn’t, some band WILL be some day, and when it happens it will be a band that has learned from history.

    I begrudge all these great Boomer bands nothing. I have their records, I’ve played them to death, and let’s not forget who was responsible for putting them in the ToR and seeding them so highly.

    I just wish the respect train ran both ways, you know?

  16. Music DID degenerate somewhat from my sister’s teenage years (she’s a middle boomer) to mine (I’m a late boomer). Her day included most of bands in the finals here. By my teenage years, the Beatles were gone and the bands that were the most popular had names like “Three Dog Night,” “The Eagles,” “America,” and “Bread.” Within a few more years, disco took over the airwaves to the point that the Rolling Stones did a tune with a disco beat, and then claimed that it had been engineered by their producer and they didn’t know about the disco thing.

    There were a few rays of sunshine. Springsteen fought disco off somewhat and Elton John was putting out a lot of musically interesting stuff. There were some bands that are now considered minor like Bad Company, the James Gang, Little Feat, and a few others that were doing good work but, frankly, it wasn’t in the same league as the bands of the 60s, overall.

    And, Sam, really, the vitriol our parents had for our music was off the charts compared to anything the Xers heard from boomers. I mean, some of the 50s boomers were getting arrested just for attending Rock ‘n Roll concerts.

  17. “You know, my thirst for new music has never waned, and my collection runneth over with very talented Millennial artists. If I live to be a hundred I expect I’ll be as avid a consumer of young kids’ music as I am today”

    The internet makes it great to find new music and sites like Pandora actually got me into some bands that have been around for a while that I never heard of. However I was referring to popular music on radio. This is how I discovered 80% of the music I love today. It’s really hard to find good tunes on a modern rock station in the states. Lucky for my IF I do turn on the raido, I can get some cool Toronto stations.

  18. Well, back to my poet analogy, Sam. I respect the HELL our of Ezra Pound, but I couldn’t bring myself to rank him higher than Shakespeare. I think modern playwrights have a much, much better grasp of narrative structure than Shakespeare did, but I couldn’t possibly rank them ahead of him. I mean, Tom Stoppard greater than Shakespeare? I just couldn’t bring myself to do that, even though Stoppard is better at moving a play along because he has 350 years of other playwrights learning from Will’s mistakes.

    I love U2. I have driven thousands of miles with U2 belting from my car’s stereo. But they are hurt by not being first. No their fault, but them’s the breaks. Comparing Young and U2 is a little bizarre, anyway. Young is easily the superior lyricist, but his music doesn’t drive like U2’s. I don’t get affected by Young’s music the way I do by U2’s. But, then, Young engages my brain more than U2 does. And, of course, there’s the issue the solo artist with an acoustic guitar (usually) against an electrified band. It’s a bit like comparing Beethoven to Elvis.

    Hard to do.

  19. JS: “Music DID degenerate somewhat from my sister’s teenage years (she’s a middle boomer) to mine (I’m a late boomer)…”

    No doubt. This is why Punk, New Wave and the early days of what would become ’80s Synthpop were so important and so vital. Those late Boomer artists really woke up the front edge of Gen X.

    “And, Sam, really, the vitriol our parents had for our music was off the charts compared to anything the Xers heard from boomers. I mean, some of the 50s boomers were getting arrested just for attending Rock ‘n Roll concerts.”

    True generally, although my case was a little different. I was raised by grandparents who’d grown up through the Depression. To some extent I guess they’d given, but I assure you, I heard “turn that racket DOWN!” every time I cranked my stereo up to 2. My father (late Silent Gen) was probably worse, but I didn’t have to deal with him much. For him, music ended with Elvis (Presley, not Costello).

    Darrell: “However I was referring to popular music on radio…”

    Sweet Jebus – radio is about making sure you DON’T find good bands. Canadian stations are better, but even they leave much to be desired….

  20. JS: Later doesn’t automatically mean better, of course. Some artists can’t begin to reach the shoulders of them giants, let alone stand on them.

    Brian: Ah. I never saw the linkage from the stats. I know U2 had a decent lead when I went to bed the other night, then in the morning NY had just exploded. So that explains it.

  21. Is it the “music isn’t like it use to be syndrome” that happens to most people as they get older?

    Maybe it’s simply that some Xers are a) aware of and familiar with music which existed before their own formative years, b) capable of appreciating the aesthetic value and cultural impact of a wide variety of artistic genres, including musical ones, and c) able to differentiate between “I got laid to this so it rocks” from a pretty clearly-defined set of criteria for this particular decision-making process.

    I’m not saying that’s how you in particular are judging, but I will say I’ve seen a LOT of this in the comments so far, as well as some pretty narrow (and I suspect uninformed) views of rock in the twentieth century. Personally, I haven’t voted on these contests if I’m not familiar with a good chunk of both artists’ oeuvres.

    JS, Neil Young affects me far, far more deeply on an emotional level than U2 ever has (although they do get me sometimes), and most of his songs that hit me hardest were released before I hit fifth grade… and I didn’t hear them until long after that. Funny, huh?

  22. Brian, I suspect something similar has happened on a lot of these pods. There have been several where I woke up the next morning to see the votes had flipped. :-/

  23. Yup. The Church damned near beat Clapton for this reason. This is how Los Lobos beat Steely Dan. And U2 would likely have been gone in the Great 48.

  24. You are only counting IPs once right? Also there are ip randomizers out there if people really cared.

  25. The issue isn’t people voting more than once. It’s lots of people who are fans passing around the word.

    I’d be fine with that if they’d stick around and chat a little….

  26. Not even a contest. Neil Young is a talent 10-fold beyond that of U2. And remember, the question is not whether he is a better guitar player than The Edge (which, I imagine, is sub-consciously a big reason behind some folks’ choice with a U2 vote here… you can’t help but feel the main element behind all U2’s great songs are The Edge’s unique “pedal-laden” riffs), but rather which artist’s body of work embodies more artistic/creative qualities. That’s what we’re really asking. Not who’s a better singer: Neil or Bono. It’s individual songs and overall body of work. Even beyond social awareness (which Bono fans have to feel they have in their corner as well – although my personal opinion is that Neil has made more of an impact here… Bono has probably simply made more headlines), Neil has cross-pollenated genres (U2 cannot pull off the folk thing, but Neil without question pulls off as heavy of a rock sound as U2), touched and made believers out of as many if not more generations of listeners from the 60s through today), and is undeniably more of a talent with a pen than Bono, with his lyrics and rhyme-schemes finding no bounds (personal stories, fictional tales, descriptive “picture-painting” lyricism, broad conceptual pieces, etc). It simply is not a fair question in my opinion. I believe a great song is great because of lyrics FIRST and FOREMOST. Followed by hook & melody. Sorry, it’s my strong belief. Now obviously it’s the most revered artist who can combine brilliance in both. The record industry itself backs this up, rewarding a song’s lyricist with at least half of gross all financial compensation (not including Pub residuals), then dividing the rest between everyone who had a hand in writing the music. And I believe fans as well back this up, with Pop Culture today still continually recognizing timeless talents the likes of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, etc etc… artists who will theoretically live well beyond their death. Whereas artists who create mostly in the musical realm rather the lyrical (and genres that promote/showcase the same) will tend to find themselves left out of the embedding into our social psyche years after their gone. They’ll tend to be forgotten, as most things.

    Now… this is not to say U2 falls into this latter category, or that there is no emotion in Bono’s lyrics. U2 is actually an extremely passionate band, very moving music and good lyrics. But most of what I like about U2 is the passion behind that electric guitar and Bono’s wail! Not necessarily everything he says. And no, I do not believe they can stand up against Neil Young and everything he’s created.

    Good thing they’re probably all friends in real life anyway, ha! I like U2. They are the band who actually made me want to be a performer. But Neil’s songs have made me want to continue through the long haul.