The USA versus England in rock debates

By Jeff Linville -

I was watching a YouTube video the other day when an interesting argument developed.

A sales rep from an American guitar amp company was calling on a music store in England.

They had a light-hearted debate over which country was more important to the history of rock. The amp salesman noted that all the classic instruments are American like the 1952 Fender Telecaster, the 1959 Gibson Les Paul and the 1963 Fender Stratocaster. That doesn’t even include Gretsch, Rickenbacker, PRS, G&L and the great acoustic guitars of Martin, Taylor, Guild and others.

The British store owner countered that those guitars were powered by amps by Marshall, Vox, Orange, Blackstar, Hiwatt, and Laney.

Of course, the U.S. does have a small number of amp makers like Fender, Mesa, Peavey, Ampeg and Carvin, so at least there are some USA options. England doesn’t have a single recognizable guitar brand.

Then the British guitarist there doing a gear demo spoke up and said that if you were looking at classic rock bands, then Great Britain would break the tie with all of their offerings.

That just sounded so ridiculous at first glance. When I think of classic rock — being that I’m a Southerner — I tend to think of great Southern Rock bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers.

I also think of (in no particular order) ZZ Top, the Doors, Van Halen, the Steve Miller Band, Kansas, the Marshall Tucker Band, .38 Special, Journey, Foreigner, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Heart, the Doobie Brothers, Molly Hatchet, the Grateful Dead, George Thorogood, Alice Cooper, America, Blue Oyster Cult, REO Speedwagon and the Eagles.

Are you kidding me? Anybody else in the world think they can top that list?

Well, okay, England does have a pretty impressive lineup.

This would include Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Queen, Cream, The Who, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Dire Straits, Def Leppard, Yes, Genesis, Electric Light Orchestra, Humble Pie, the Moody Blues, The Police, Whitesnake, Jethro Tull, Foghat, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Bad Company.

Some would argue that Fleetwood Mac is a British band because it first formed in England with British musicians. However, I would counter that the band didn’t make it big until it introduced some Americans in Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham.

One website tried to claim Jimi Hendrix for Britain because Hendrix moved to London in his early 20s and started his band there, but I’m not having any of that garbage. I didn’t try to claim Ozzy Osbourne, who has a home in Malibu.

With the lists as they are, picking a winner is no easy matter. Some of my all-time favorite songs come from bands on both sides of the Atlantic. Doing a quick count, I have more CDs from the American side.

However, if there was a counter on how many times a particular song played in my car, I think my most-heard tracks might lean toward the British side.

How do you compare such legendary songs? “Comfortably Numb” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Brothers in Arms” and “Stairway to Heaven” versus “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Down on the Corner” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Hotel California.”

It’s nearly impossible to choose, so of course tie goes to the USA, ha ha.

Besides, I had my teen years in the 1980s, and nobody did 80s hair bands like the U.S. of A.

Motley Crue, Poison, Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Cinderella, Warrant, Kiss, Van Halen, Great White, Ratt, Quiet Riot and Slaughter. Then right at the end of that era came Guns ‘n Roses with one of the greatest guitarist of all time.

About the only thing east of the Atlantic was Def Leppard — which become infinitely cooler when we saw the rig that Rick Allen had so he could play the drums with just one arm.

The country has a slight claim on rock legend AC/DC since the band had only one popular album with Bon Scott before English singer Brian Johnson stepped in for 35 years.

And at least with bands, the product doesn’t get outsourced to China (like many of the guitars and amps). No one is listening to Jon Bon Jovi performing words and music written by Chao Ping in Shanghai and imported into the U.S.

The best thing about compiling a list like this is that there is no loser. Listen to anyone here, and enjoy yourself.

By Jeff Linville

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

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