- The Beach Boys? Brilliance in composition, harmonizing and studio wizardry does not make the Beach Boys a rock n' roll band. The Beatles were an ass-kicking bar band before Epstein put them in suits, Jagger-Richards bonded over old blues records and Dylan wanted to join Little Richard. Brian Wilson wanted to be in the Four Freshman. No knock on his well-established genius, his band just lacks rock cred.
- The Funk Brothers? It's no compliment to these masters to claim that they, and not the singers and the songs (um, Smokey Robinson anyone?), were what made Motown the Sound of Young America.
- CCR? Too few great years, with their awe-inducing run of singles lasting between 1969-1971.
- The Velvet Underground? Their intensely adventurous, frequently beautiful body of work is wounded by art-school self-indulgence.
- The Ramones? Would get my X on the ballot straight off but since they didn't develop terribly well and really only upset the status quo's apple cart once (while the Beatles did that a few times) they lose some points.
- The Grateful Dead? Fuck. Off.
Yes, Hüsker Dü's so-called creative arc was more imperfect than the Beatles. In fact, they had no hits, no support from the music industry and no media presence. But that was the fate of most Great American Rock Bands of the eighties, from the Bad Brains to the Replacements to the Pixies. Unlike the sixties, it was a terrible time to be great, at least if you played guitar and wrote your own rock n' roll songs without dominant keyboard parts. So Hüsker Dü accomplished one of the most wild, sustained creative streaks in American music almost entirely under their own power.
With Hüsker Dü, you had Bob Mould and Grant Hart, two fantastic song-writers locked in an epic struggle between each other and their addictions, churning out glorious pop songs and sprawling conceptual double albums at an incredible pace, all of which redefined what constitutes rock n' roll. While Land Speed Record is definitely no Meet the Beatles, Zen Arcade might be the White Album AND Sgt Pepper's combined, thus allowing New Day Rising and Flip your Wig to be their double whammy like Rubber Soul and Revolver. A stretch perhaps, but well worth considering.
Let's consider an example shall we? Listen to the distorted, ringing folk-rock put-down that is, "Makes No Sense At All" followed by the pulverizing but sweet cover of the "Mary Tyler Moore Theme" and deny that Hüsker Dü are anything less than a Great American Rock Band.
MRML Readers: Who do you believe is the Great American Rock Band?
(Here's one interesting answer from over at My Own Pirate Radio)