Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Biggest Rock Band in the World

So summer is gone, the festival season over, and which band ruled?

Well for me it was the Australian Pink Floyd Show, who played a sublime set in at Cropredy where the rain made the lasers sparkle. Definitely the best band I've ever seen featuring a giant inflatable kangaroo.

However for the rest of the UK it was Thrash legends Metallica that dominated, playing Glastonbury and Knebworth. They also toured Poland and a few other places, and thanks to a gig last year in the Antarctic they entered the Guinness Book of Records as the only band to have toured all seven continents. Crowd surfing in the Antarctic is probably difficult.

It wasn't entirely clear what the Glastonbury audience made of thrash anthems such as For Whom The Bell Tolls, but they were certainly a hit with the critics. It was a pretty big year for a band that has had quite a few big years and confirmed that they are indeed The Biggest Rock Band in the World.

And in rock this is important. Jazz may have survived the last fifty years in dingy clubs and Folk has been a cottage industry as long as I've been alive, but Rock just has to have a Biggest Rock Band in the World.

It's an important accolade, awarded not just for popularity, earning power, critical acclaim and all that, but also for cars in swimming pools, TVs out of windows and other assorted mayhem. Indeed, excess all areas is pretty much essential if you are indeed to be The Biggest. And that's a funny thing about Rock too. Just as avowed Communists can turn a blind eye to wealth inequalities in football  those of us who declare war on Bankers bonuses just find it funny when Fleetwood Mac admit to blowing $3 million in three years but not being able to remember what on.

Size matters

The first Biggest Band in the World was probably the Beatles, then it was the Rolling Stones then possibly The Who as the Sixties ended. 

For most of the Seventies The was Led Zeppelin, although Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and The Eagles gave them a run for their money. Punk shook things up a bit, but by the end of the decade Pink Floyd were sitting pretty at the top of the heap thanks to The Wall.

Business as usual returned in the Eighties with Queen, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and others all doing their best to live up to the accolade, however by the decade's end there was clearly only one band in town who could walk the walk and talk the talk, Guns 'n' Roses.

In the Nineties Guns 'n' Roses descended into silliness and the decade was dominated internationally by U2 and REM, Nirvana and the grunge in the USA and Oasis and Britpop in the UK.

Then the Noughties...well, that's were it all gets a bit hazy. Did we still have a Biggest Rock Band in the World? Surely it couldn't be..Limp Biskit?

Satan calling

Meanwhile Thrash had been doing its own thing. Thrash took the attitude and angry lyrics of the California hardcore punk scene, spliced in the dress code and guitar hero riffs of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and played it all at 90mph to a double bass drum. Metallica were pioneers of the sound and were part of the Big Four of Thrash.

I remember their fans turning up for Thrash Hour at the start of the rock disco I used to help run in Leicester. Skinny teenagers who'd lied about their age to get in and who'd persuaded their mums to sew '666' into the back of their denim jackets. I was a skinny teenager myself at the time, but my mum had sewn Led Zeppelin's The Hermit onto my jacket indicating that I am deep and spiritual and not afraid of Blues and Folk influences in my music...and also that she didn't approve of that Satanic imagery on clothing.

These days Thrash has spawned more sub-genres than there used to be punters at our Thrash Hour and is listened to by aging bikers, scary Scandinavians and political rebels in Iran, where it is an underground protest music against the Mullahs, apparently.

But in 1990 Metallica transcended the genre - or sold out, depending on your point of view - with a untitled album known variously as 'Metallica' or 'The Black Album' and containing such tracks as Enter Sandman, Wherever I May Roam and the first Thrash ballad Nothing Else Matters.

Releasing an album with no cover art has been pretty much their only Spinal Tappism and, touring like it was going out of fashion, they started to popular with former Led Zep fans like me and eventually from the wider music community.

They played Donnington when it was Donnington and again when it was Download. Having headlined the big festivals across music it was only a matter of time before they came to Worthy Farm.

The result was a fantastic show which, if nothing else, postponed further moaning from the likes of me about the state of Rock.

As long as we have a Biggest Rock Band in the World then The Death of Rock has not happened. So keep thrashing please Metallica, at least until someone comes along to take your crown.

Talking of which, The Black Keys tour Europe next year....

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