The Ultimate Classic Rock Showdown: British versus American Rock and Roll

I’ve had this idea in my head for a long time. What if I did a classic rock showdown: British versus American? It’s a big question up for debate: which country’s rock and roll was better? There are compelling arguments for each side. Rock and roll is an American invention, but musicians from all over the world tried their hand at it, shaping it, and their unique experiences and identities really making it something unique. You might prefer the British innovations in rock and roll. Or America’s response to those innovations. That’s the beautiful thing about music and art, you can’t appropriate it because it’s for all to enjoy and it doesn’t stay still. Art and music change and evolve and I think it’s thanks to the people of all walks of life who make it. Your life experiences and surroundings have an influence who you are and that will influence your work. I know that my own experiences shaped how I write and why I chose to write this entire blog focusing on the diversity of classic rock in the first place.

Now I don’t think I’d be the best judge of that as I have my biases, so why don’t I let my readers have their say? So I came up with 25 this or that questions and tried my best to do some direct comparisons to make this as fair and interesting as possible. I posted the polls on my Twitter and Instagram and got some interesting results and some differences. As this is my blog, I guess I’ll share my takes first, then we’ll analyse the other results!

As the Olympics are going on as I write this, why not have our own little Classic Rock Olympics? Who will come out on top? Keep reading if you want to find out!

My answers for the 25 This or Thats:

In this section I’ll share each question and then my justification. The answer I picked will be in bold. Just as a reminder, I love almost everything in classic rock, but I think I’m a traitor to my birth country. πŸ˜‚

Question 1: Venues: Marquee Club in the 60s or CBGB’s in the 70s?

I’m way more into 60s music than punk rock and I like London better than New York City, so I picked the Marquee Club.

Question 2: Neighbourhoods/scenes: Soho or Greenwich Village?

Once again, I’m very partial to London so I picked Soho. That’s where Carnaby Street is and a bunch of cool venues.

Question 3: Music festivals: Isle of Wight 1969 or Monterey 1967?

America wins this one. Weather is much better in California, you can’t deny that. Plus imagine getting to see Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Animals, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, and Laura Nyro!

Question 4: Genres: Prog Rock or Psychedelic Soul?

This is a tough one for me, I love both so much! Prog rock was something I was really into when I was in university. I would listen to Yes, Genesis, ELP, Rush, and Pink Floyd non-stop. I think prog rockers are masters of their craft when it comes to the instruments they play.

Question 5: Guitar destruction: Pete Townshend smashing guitars or Jimi Hendrix setting guitar on fire?

Pete may have smashed his guitar first, but I think Jimi setting his guitar on fire was even more badass.

Question 6: Homemade guitars: Brian May’s Red Special or Bo Diddley’s cigar box guitar?

Both really cool, but the Red Special is really something. Who would have thought that a fireplace would become that?

Question 7: Record breaking expensive rock songs: Bohemian Rhapsody or Good Vibrations?

I love both so much, but there’s nothing like headbanging to BoRhap, that song just has so many sounds in it and when people ask what genre it is the only answer is Yes.

Question 8: Long/crazy band names: Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich or Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen?

The first one is crazier to me. That is a tongue twister and sounds even less like a band name. Also can’t get “Legend of Xanadu” out of my head.

Question 9: Keyboard players: Keith Emerson or Ray Manzarek?

Keith Emerson played a piano that flipped in the air and stabbed organs and jumped on top of them. Enough said.

Question 10: Bands who covered Bob Dylan a lot: Manfred Mann or The Byrds?

Love you Manfred Mann, but The Byrds did it better. I love their psychedelic folk/jangle pop sound.

Question 11: Folk singers: Donovan or Bob Dylan?

Still to this day Bob Dylan intimidates me. I like Donovan’s voice better and I find his music more approachable.

Question 12: Acoustic folk guitarists: Bert Jansch or Leo Kottke?

Both amazing guitarists, but Leo Kottke… are you sure that’s just one guy playing? Still… No Bert Jansch means no Jimmy Page: just listen to “The Waggoner’s Lad”, Jimmy ripped that off in “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”

Question 13: 50s Revival groups: Showaddywaddy or Sha Na Na?

More familiar with Sha Na Na, but both are good! Pretty cool story behind Sha Na Na from a singing group at Columbia University to playing Woodstock to performing songs for the Grease soundtrack. Sha Na Na were also an influence on Showaddywaddy.

Question 14: Instrumental guitar groups: The Shadows or The Ventures?

The Shadows had Hank Marvin, who was a huge inspiration to all the British Invasion rock stars. “Apache” always sends shivers down my spine. The Ventures on the other hand were early proponents of fuzz guitar – just listen to “The 2000 Pound Bee” (from 1962!!! Before Hendrix and The Stones! Just inject that song into my veins), something I love a lot. Ultimately The Shadows win because of Hank Marvin’s guitar sound and also for their work as Cliff Richard’s backing band! Cliff and The Shadows really put Britain on the map when it came to rock and roll, that’s when it took off.

Question 15: Sibling rivalries: Ray & Dave Davies or Tom & John Fogerty?

Two of the craziest sibling rivalries in rock and roll. Both resulted in amazing music that’s still remembered to this day. The Fogertys were straight up cruel to each other. John refused to play the hits and was in court for plagiarising himself (???). Tom got AIDS from a blood transfusion and wanted to reunite with his brother and John didn’t care and refused to talk to him. Somehow The Kinks kept it together a little longer and made music for decades, although not always the most consistent in quality. And then it all stopped, at least with an album with a song that poked fun at their sibling rivalry. Meanwhile Ray and Dave would always fight, including the time when Ray stabbed Dave with a fork because Dave stole a chip from his plate (relatable). A reunion is a pipe dream all thanks to Ray stomping on Dave’s 50th birthday cake, but at least Ray and Dave talk once in a while, right?

Question 16: Garage/R&B/blues rock bands: The Pretty Things or The Chocolate Watchband?

Both awesome bands with cool lead singers. The Pretties had the long haired bisexual Phil May. The Chocolate Watchband had Mick Jagger soundalike and astronomer David Aguilar. The Chocolate Watchband had some great covers that rival the originals like “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” and “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”. But I’d have to give this one to The Pretties. Just listen to “Rosalyn” and “Don’t Bring Me Down” from 1964, rivals The Stones and honestly I think it’s edgier than what they were doing at the time. Albums wise, The Pretties had great albums with Get The Picture, SF Sorrow, and Parachute. More versatile IMO. Also who can forget the gay anthem “Defecting Grey”?

Question 17: Rock and Roll Trios: Cream or Jimi Hendrix Experience?

This was a special request question from a friend on Twitter and one of the toughest questions here. Ultimately though I pick Cream, even if I don’t like Eric Clapton or Ginger Baker as people. Bruce, Baker, and Clapton: all masters of their craft and the output was all amazing. Disraeli Gears will forever be a classic.

Question 18: Supergroups: Blind Faith or CSNY? (Yeah I know Graham Nash is British and Neil Young is Canadian)

Blind Faith didn’t record as much as CSN(Y), but they have a great lineup. CSN(Y) win for having a longer discography and also a really good discography.

Question 19: Glam rock solo artists: Marc Bolan or Lou Reed?

Both were great songwriters and performers, but I like Marc more. Love his style and his poetic songs.

Question 20: Hard rock bands: Deep Purple or Blue Oyster Cult?

Easily Purple. Mark I and II were amazing. Jon Lord’s keyboard playing is god tier. Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar playing rules. While the poppy Mark I stuff was good, hard rock Mark II with Ian Gillan’s voice took it to the next level.

Question 21: Glam rock bands: Roxy Music or New York Dolls?

I prefer Roxy Music. More versatile IMO.

Question 22: Punk bands: Clash or Ramones?

One of the hardest questions on the survey, but I pick The Clash because of how good they were to their fans by releasing long albums with lots of great songs, nor being afraid to get political, and their diversity in sound incorporating reggae, ska, and even disco and hip hop.

Question 23: Disco bands: Bee Gees or KC and the Sunshine Band?

The Bee Gees are one of the most talented pop bands. Wrote all their own material. Much more than a disco group too!

Question 24: Flashy prolific rock stars: Bowie or Prince?

Prince had the edge with the guitar skills, but Bowie’s concepts and characters were more interesting to me.

Question 25: 90s Genres: Britpop or Grunge?

Never liked grunge. Unpopular opinion in classic rock circles, but 60s music was my gateway to classic rock, especially The Beatles. I’ll die on this hill: Oasis were the best band of the 90s.

Brits easily won this one 19-6, but let’s see what my readers have to say.

Twitter Poll Winners

Here, I’ll list the winners and the percentage (rounded). In the case of a tie, I’ll put tie. You can see the results in this thread:

  1. Marquee Club – UK: 68%
  2. Soho – UK: 67%
  3. Isle of Wight & Monterey: Tie
  4. Prog Rock – UK: 52%
  5. Pete Townshend – UK: 52%
  6. Brian May’s Red Special – UK: 58%
  7. Bohemian Rhapsody – UK: 77%
  8. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich – UK: 89%
  9. Keith Emerson – UK: 58%
  10. Bert Jansch & Leo Kottke: Tie
  11. The Byrds – US: 80%
  12. Bob Dylan – US: 75%
  13. Showaddywaddy – UK: 67%
  14. The Shadows – UK: 56%
  15. Tom & John Fogerty – US: 60%
  16. The Pretty Things – UK: 80%
  17. Cream – UK: 56%
  18. Blind Faith & CSNY: Tie
  19. Marc Bolan – UK: 55%
  20. Deep Purple – UK: 100%
  21. Roxy Music – UK: 75%
  22. The Clash – UK: 75%
  23. Bee Gees & KC & The Sunshine Band: Tie
  24. Bowie – UK: 54%
  25. Britpop & Grunge: Tie

UK Wins: 17

US Wins: 3

Ties: 5

It’s a pretty clear win for the UK according to my Twitter survey, but will they still come out victorious on my Instagram? Some of these wins were quite close like prog rock being psychedelic soul, Pete Townshend beating Jimi Hendrix, Brian May’s Red Special winning over Bo Diddley’s cigar box guitar, The Shadows beating The Ventures, Cream beating the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Marc Bolan beating Lou Reed, and Bowie beating Prince.

Instagram Poll winners

I will be putting the poll results in an Instagram stories highlight on the @thediversityofclassicrock Instagram account. I decided to do the survey there instead of on my personal account, since it’s a blog thing, but maybe I would have gotten more responses on my personal account, oh well. The sample size of the poll is a bit over 100 votes. So with that said… Survey says…

  1. Marquee Club – UK: 51%
  2. Soho – UK: 53%
  3. Monterey – US: 72%
  4. Psychedelic Soul – US 58%
  5. Jimi Hendrix – US: 70%
  6. Bo Diddley’s Cigar Box Guitar – US: 54%
  7. Bohemian Rhapsody – UK: 58%
  8. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen – US: 56%
  9. Ray Manzarek – US: 58%
  10. The Byrds – US: 85%
  11. Donovan – UK: 51%
  12. Bert Jansch – UK: 60%
  13. Sha Na Na – US: 74%
  14. The Shadows – UK: 54%
  15. Ray & Dave Davies – UK: 74%
  16. The Pretty Things – UK: 80%
  17. Jimi Hendrix Experience – US (I know they were technically formed in the US but this question was a request): 63%
  18. CSNY – US: 76%
  19. Marc Bolan – UK: 64%
  20. Deep Purple – UK: 69%
  21. New York Dolls – US: 55%
  22. The Clash – UK: 54%
  23. Bee Gees – UK: 68%
  24. Bowie – UK: 77%
  25. Grunge – US: 55%

UK Wins: 13

US Wins: 12

A nail biter! Very close! I was on the edge of my seat checking the results for this one. Lots of close ones like Marquee vs CBGBs, Soho vs Greenwich Village, Red Special vs Cigar Box, Donovan vs Bob Dylan (really thought Bob Dylan would win but IG has a lot of Donovan fans!), and The Clash vs The Ramones. The US’s biggest wins were Monterey, Byrds, Sha Na Na, Jimi both times, and CSNY. The UK’s biggest wins were The Davies Brothers, Pretties, Deep Purple, and Bowie.

So a sweep for the UK, but in the end America was holding its own and proved a tough competitor.

Analysis and Thoughts

I think my Instagram followers tend to be younger than my Twitter followers and they’re way more into classic rock generally because my Instagram is all about classic rock and nothing else, while my Twitter isn’t exclusively classic rock content. I think my biggest surprises were how close it was between Monterey and IOW in the Twitter poll, Prog versus Psychedelic Soul in both, Townshend vs Hendrix in the Twitter poll, Showaddywaddy winning in the Twitter poll, and Donovan just beating Bob Dylan in the Instagram poll.

Overall, this has been a fun and interesting experiment and a break from the usual routine where I do a lot of research. I hope that you’ve had fun reading this and my thoughts and I invite you to share your thoughts below in the comments section. I really love hearing other people’s opinions and perspectives especially if they’re way different from my own.

Shoutout to Patrick and Jeffrey from Maryland for supporting the blog!

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