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Classic Rock Royalty


As part of my recovery program I'm told I need to admit I have an addiction so here goes.


I can't stop watching The Top Ten Revealed show on AXS TV.


Whew, that feels better. If you haven't seen this show you are missing one of the most interesting shows on TV. It involves revealing a list of top ten viewer choices for various topics or categories for each thirty minute episode. One show may be about best songs of 1984 and the next show will be about best opening guitar licks. Many different topics and many different choices. I don't always agree with their choices but I always learn something new.


Helping to explain a song or band that is the topic of the list are musicians, radio DJ's, music industry executives, comedians, celebrities, and others. They share inside information on a given topic at each stage of the list which helps us better understand how something happened or what was going on in the background at the time. It is a really interesting show and worth your time to check it out.


As a long time viewer I have noticed that there is a tiered level of classic rock royalty that is pretty apparent. You can hear it when other musicians talk about them. There is a level of reverence for certain bands that might surprise the average listener. While we all have our favorite bands or singers it is interesting to hear who other bands and singers find special.


The classic rock era is usually defined as music from 1964 - 2000ish. I think that is a little too broad and frankly if you listen to rock stars they agree. Most consider the classic rock era as 1964 to 1977. Basically from the Beatles to the start of disco. What I find interesting, and I hope you will too when you read this, is how small the top of this list of royalty is to bands. After the top two tiers the third level is only slightly longer and then it is pretty much everyone else after that.


So, based on simply my observation of how singers, musicians, and industry executives talk about them, and not my personal opinion, here is what I believe is the classic rock band royalty hierarchy. And just like the show I'm going to count down from the bottom to the top.

(L-R from the top left: Elton John, The Doors, The Kinks, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, AC/DC, Eric Clapton, Moody Blues)


I could have listed many others but my point is that the all others list is enormous. All have had major impacts on rock and music in general and you could make a case for many of them to be higher on this list. In many ways some of these bands/musicians might be on the top of some of the lists especially when talking about songwriters (Dylan), guitar players (Clapton), or The British Invasion (Kinks) but for the most part while their talents and contribution to classic rock are undeniable, they are really a part of the all other group.


As an interesting side story, I was on my way home, to LA, from Washington DC in the mid 1980's and we had a stop in Kansas City. This was back in the day when the Secret Service would not allow planes that could travel more than two hours fly out of Dulles so you needed to make at least on stop going cross country. Anyway, I had been upgraded to first class and the leg from DC to KC I was the only person in first class.


When we landed and they allowed the people that were exiting to leave and then boarded the new arriving passengers I was a bit taken back by the rather scary looking crew that boarded and filled up all the other first class seats. They looked like something the cat dragged in and I was a bit uncomfortable. The flight attendant was giving me the arched eyebrows herself as she was wondering who the hell were these people. It turns out they were members and "dates" of The Kinks who had a show in KC the night before and were returning home to LA themselves. This picture above of them is close to how they looked back then. But picture them unshaven and not dressed for the stage exactly.

(Pictured above from L - R from the top: Queen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kiss, Electric Light Orchestra, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.)


The third tier of bands/singers is this group above and you could add The Eagles, Heart and Aerosmith also. This collection is pretty revered by other bands and for good reason to be sure. All have had significant impact on music and have produced some of the best songs in the classic rock era. Whether it is their songwriting, musical talent, or moving the music world forward they are all near the top level of rock gods for other bands. It is interesting how so many of today's groups look at these bands and mention the influence they had on them as musicians.

(Pictured above from L-R from the top: The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys)


This is the second level but they are the elite of the classic rock era and when you see who is at the top you'll understand. All of these five bands have been undeniably the foundation of classic rock and are worshipped by other bands for their talent and perseverance. Four of the five are English bands that were either part of the British Invasion or came just after. If you watch bands today you will see and hear their influence all over the industry. They all created some of the most iconic music we have ever heard and they will be beloved for centuries to come. Not unlike we still marvel at music from Beethoven and Brahms, future kids will be saying the same things about the Stones and Led Zeppelin and the others. These bands would be at the top of the mountain if not for these guys.


Did you ever have any doubt that the top of the heap was going to be The Beatles? For seven years this band owned the world and many will say they changed the world forever. Even after they broke up they continued to make music history and influence others. When they came on the Ed Sullivan show on February 9, 1964 and the first chords of "All My Lovin'" rang out you knew everything was going to be different tomorrow.


It is obvious why bands and singers talk about them like they are gods but what blows my mind is how the average person talks about them in the same way. There has never been and will never be another event like The Beatles that will change the world s much as they have. If you were alive when they came on the scene then you know. If you weren't then nothing I could write here will give you the level of explosion there was then.


Most people in any given industry will give little if any acknowledgement to others within their industry. Everyone believes they are the best at what they do and only reserve begrudging nods to others if pressed and if the other person is a founder of an industry or a giant in it. The Beatles and the second tier of bands are different in that all of us recognize how without them we would never be anywhere close to where we are today. That is what makes them classic rock royalty.

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