For those of you who are mentally retarded or have been living in a coma on the surface of the sun for the last forty years, Led Zeppelin is an utterly kick ass rock band that dominated the 1970’s, and rocked so fucking hard that groupies are still walking funny to this very day. Seriously, rock and roll scientists at the Institute For Killer Riffs And Blown Minds estimate that if every Zeppelin fan on Earth were to play Communication Breakdown at top volume simultaneously, the resulting blast would tear a hole in the fabric of spacetime, ending the universe as we know it. And that would still be less intense than seeing them play live.
Needless to say, all other bands are mere pretenders to the title of Rock Gods. But rather than continue to sing the praises of Led Zeppelin (instead preferring to save this for my upcoming book, “Fuck You, Led Zeppelin Rules”), let us compare Led Zeppelin to some lesser bands. Please note that I do not dislike any of the following bands, it’s just that it’s like comparing a serviceable Honda Accord to a Lamborghini with a trunk full of double necked guitars, drugs, and loose chicks.
The Beatles – The Beatles are the most commonly named “best group of all time” other than Led Zeppelin.
Notable Accomplishments: Making millions of teenage girls do that shrieking thing they do when they see a friend they haven’t seen in a long time; Ordered Charles Manson to kill a bunch of people; Somehow got people to love a song that ends with 28 minutes of “naaa-naaa-na-nanana-naaaa-nanana-naaaa”.
Why They’re Good: The almost single-handedly created the rock band as we know it today. Before the Beatles, everyone had Pat Boone posters on their walls and huffed freshly mimeographed test papers for a buzz. After the Beatles, everyone grew their hair down to their knees and dropped acid in doses so large that people not only forgave all the filler in the White Album, but thought it was pretty good.
Why They’re Not As Good As Zeppelin: Paul McCartney, talented as he was, kinda had a vagina when it came to writing rock songs. It was almost as if you took a good rock band and then threw in Jewel just to see what would happen. “Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play.” Yeah, I guess so, Miss. Now if you don’t mind, the fucking playoffs are on.
John Lennon was cool until he started running around nude and shrieking with Orientals. George Harrison was an incredible guitarist who learned how to write great rock songs, and so the Beatles limited him to 2 or 3 per album so we could listen to Golden Slumbers. Thanks, guys. And studies have shown that the Beatles would have been no different if they had replaced Ringo Starr with a ham sandwich.
The Who – The Who are a classic rock band best known for their mega-selling album, Tommy.
Notable Accomplishments: Married the thrill of rock and roll with the yawn inducing boredom of opera; Managed to continue touring after every founding member had died of an overdose; Wrote a classic song for television crime drama CSI: Miami consisting entirely of the following lyrics, “YEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
Why They’re Good: Who’s Next is a stellar rock album, and a perfect example of what bands should aim for when in the studio. Track after track of blistering rock played loud and well. Also, Keith Moon played drums like a six-armed alien from planet Fuckyeah.
Why They’re Not As Good As Led Zeppelin: Pete Townshend. You can ignore his idiotic public interviews and statements (although if you do, don’t ignore the one where he claims to be a woman), and although I don’t understand why people would do this, I guess you can also ignore the fact that he was caught purchasing child pornography. Seriously. He claimed he was “doing research”. Uh-huh. Try this line the next time you get caught playing with yourself and see how believable that is.
But what you can’t ignore is the fact that Pete Towshend was batshit insanely in love with the dreaded “concept album” (cue scary music). After Tommy, he attempted a reprise with Lifehouse, which was so fucked up and incomprehensible that he finally admitted that even he didn’t know what it was about. They stripped away the bullshit, and Who’s Next was the result. Yet he somehow never quite figured out that the retarded concepts he kept coming up with got in the way with what little good music he had left in him. Hey, Pete, here’s a concept for you: A bunch of good, loud, rocking songs that are held together by the fact that no one has to listen to you screech some bullshit narrative about a crippled kid while enjoying them. That, by the way, is called a rock album.
Pink Floyd – Pink Floyd are known for popularizing a genre known as space rock.
Notable Accomplishments: Making 14 year old suburban kids think life is so horribly painful; Having a founding member so profoundly fucked up on drugs that a 10 mile area around his cemetery plot is designated a toxic danger zone; Writing a song consisting entirely of an awesome explosion, which my college roommate and I played at top volume at 3:00 AM, convincing everyone else in the building that the apocalypse was at hand.
Why They’re Good: One of the few rock bands able to pull off 13 minute songs while never losing sight of the melody or veering off into oddball musical tangents. Also, holy shit, have you ever listened to Dark Side of the Moon while on mushrooms and nitrous oxide?
Why They’re Not As Good As Led Zeppelin: Something about ascending the ladder of rock stardom forces some people to impose some sort of deeper meaning on their work. If the Who dabbled in concept albums, then Pink Floyd guzzled the concept album Kool-Aid by the barrel full. Listen to any random song on The Wall or The Final Cut. Now listen to a random five minute snippet of the Military Channel. Now tell me the difference between the two. Yeah, Roger, we get it. War sucks and can fuck your head up.
Also, the whole lawsuit thing in the 80’s and 90’s got pretty old. And it’s hard to fit, “David Gilmour presents Pink Floyd Without Roger Waters, Featuring the Music of Pink Floyd, But Not Anything Roger Wrote” on a marquee.
The Grateful Dead – The Dead were a legendary West Coast jam band popular in four different decades.
Notable Accomplishments: Somehow making following a band on tour carry more of a stigma than it had previously; Marrying country, folk, rock, acid, and a total lack of basic hygiene and turning it into a sound all their own; Introducing bad acid trips to kids in rural Iowa.
Why They’re Good: At their best, the Grateful Dead reintroduced classic Americana songs to a new generation, while updating them with rock flourishes and extended jams. That was cool. Plus, they made it possible to get drugs in bulk quantities every summer if you were lucky enough to have them play shows nearby.
Why They’re Not As Good As Led Zeppelin: Comparing the Grateful Dead to Led Zeppelin is like comparing Oreos to Bazookas. They’re too different to compare and contrast in any meaningful way. So, being creatures of modern day society, let’s resort to violence. Anyone who honestly thinks that John Bonham couldn’t have killed, raped, and/or skullfucked every member, spouse, or roadie associated with the Dead while in the middle of a 78 hour drinking contest involving heroin and Everclear, please raise your hand. Anyone? Anyone?
Also, it’s hard to claim the status of Rock God when your music could just as easily have been played on a rocking chair on the porch. Led Zeppelin, on the other hand, could only be properly appreciated while playing on a burning Viking ship festooned with the bodies of all the women they violated before lunch.
Bruce Springsteen – “The Boss” is known for his workmanlike concerts and songs that inspire middle class America.
Notable Accomplishments: Successfully associating an anti-American song (Born in the USA) with American patriotism; Providing employment for Clarence Clemons; Making my asshole boss in high school somehow come across as more douchey when he showed up at work on his way to a Bruce Springsteen concert dressed in pressed jeans, a white t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and a folded baseball cap in his back pocket. Yeah, Steve Coren, I’m talking about you!
Why He’s Good: He eschews flash and hype for a simpler method of songwriting and puts his all into every show. I mean, Bruce knows you just paid $400 for a good seat and you have to look at Clarence Clemons and Steven Van Zandt a lot of the time, so he’s gonna make it up to you by pulling some random chick out of the crowd and forcing her to dance to Dancing In The Dark while everyone compares her to Courtney Cox (wait till the end) and decides that looks-wise, she resembles Courtney Cox less than she does a buttplug in a dumpster. Thanks, Boss!
Why He’s Not As Good As Led Zeppelin: If Robert Plant gargled razor blades with a chaser of battery acid, he’d still sound better than Bruce Springsteen, who apparently prepares for studio sessions by swallowing small woodland creatures. Seriously dude, have you considered a lozenge?
Also, The Boss’ lyrics are all too often predictable. Anyone can write a classic Bruce Springsteen lyric. Simply describe what you did in the first couple of hours during the day, sandwich in a chorus that mentions old model automobiles, a slightly out of fashion woman’s name, and perhaps the fact that your house has been foreclosed on, then describe what you did the last couple of hours during the day. Repeat chorus, sax solo, guitar solo, sax solo, play live for three and a half hours. Remember, I get 10% of your earnings.
The Doors – An incendiary yet provocative late 60’s band that progressed from being an oddball arty band to a mean and muscular blues band.
Notable Accomplishments: Informed lead singer’s mother that he would enjoy having sexual intercourse with her; Lead singer exposed himself to a crowd in Miami, directly resulting in every lewd act to ever occur in Southern Florida; Wrote songs that allow carnival organ players to believe that they too have a shot someday (they don’t).
Why They’re Good: More than any other band, the Doors embodied paradox. A drunken, buffoonish loudmouth was considered a poet; a simple four piece band (without a bassist) could plunge a love song into a madhouse nightmare of profundity and despair; and Ray Manzarek could star in a rock band instead of playing Take Me Out To The Ball Game at minor league games. Plus they wrote songs about waking up and drinking beer.
Why They’re Not As Good As Led Zeppelin: Besides the fact that it’s hard to claim the number one spot in rock band history after you drunkenly wet your pants on stage (and yeah, Fergie, that goes for you too), when the rest of your band resembles a nerd, a serial killer, and someone who just stuck his junk in a wall socket, you’re at a huge disadvantage to start with. Throw in marathon slurred diatribes aimed at the very people who paid good money to see you after you spent said money on booze and narcotics, and it’s even tougher. Become the subject of an Oliver Stone movie, and you’re shit out of luck.
The Rest – I could go on, but I’m running low on beer, so I’ll cut to the chase:
The Rolling Stones – Do not qualify as a rock band since they technically predate music itself.
U2 – Contemporary band best known for having 1,000 songs that go “chinga-chinga-chinga-chinga-chinga-chinga-chinga-chinga”, and employing the Pope on vocals.
Metallica – Lords of Heavy Metal, they are responsible for fooling people into thinking sped up Bach-riffs are original. Also recorded St. Anger.
Rush – Canadian
Black Sabbath – The original Heavy Metal band, now associated with Alzheimer’s, reality TV, and octogenarians that throw devil’s horn salutes.
Styx, Journey, Foreigner, et al. – Get the fuck out of here.
The Black Crowes – Shampoo, guys. Also, invest in a calendar.
Everyone New – If you honestly believe Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, Coldplay or any of this ilk belong on the list, I’d like to cordially invite you over to my house so I can kick you in the vagina.