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What’s the Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever? (Part 1)

It’s the type of debate everyone has an opinion on – and might even lead to a nosebleed for those really passionate about the subject. Still the question remains: What’s the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band ever?


The Rolling Stones 2006 concert “The Bigger Bang Tour,” the most profitable music tour ever.

Before we answer the question, let’s first define the terms:

Hey, We’re Talking Rock ‘n’ Roll Here!
Don’t be fooled: Rock ‘n’ Roll music is not the same thing as Rock, which is an umbrella term that covers many musical sub-genres. On the other hand, Rock ‘n’ Roll refers to the “original recipe” that occurred when Rhythm & Blues was first mixed with Country. To be precise, Rock ‘n’ Roll is typically 12-bar Chicago Blues, but accelerated and amplified through electric instruments.

The emphasis in Rock ‘n’ Roll is on the beat and that important sense of rhythm is exactly what separates it from Rock music. Put another way, the main musician in Rock is the electric guitarist. The primary player in Rock ‘n’ Roll had better be the drummer…or you should get your money back immediately (because the band probably sucks).

Groups vs. Performers
While we’re defining terms, we should be specific about the type of musical outfit. Remember, we’re talking about Rock ‘n’ Roll bands—not solo performers. A band is a specific type of musical unit, and one that depends on the personalities and interaction of its members. Granted, Elvis Presley almost always had an ace band supporting his vocals, but he’s known as a solo performer. So, for our purposes, we won’t be considering individual performers. (Sorry, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, etc.)


Sure, The Beatles were fantastic…but some of the band’s music is more Pop than Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Why Not <INSERT NAME OF YOUR FAVORITE BAND HERE> Instead?
If our original question had been “What is the favorite all-time Rock band?” the answer would be simple: The Beatles, which has been embraced by each successive generation of music fans since the 60s and which has sold more albums than any other musical act, according to industry estimates. But that wasn’t our question.

We want to pinpoint the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band of all time. And while The Beatles started out playing Rock ‘n’ Roll music, as its career progressed, the band routinely ventured away from Rock ‘n’ Roll and into other sounds (some of them quite experimental). It’s probably more accurate to consider The Beatles the greatest Pop-Rock band of all time, because its sound almost always had a soft melodic edge. Similarly, if we were selecting the greatest Rock band of all time, we might choose a group whose sound carried more sheer electric power, like The Who or Led Zeppelin.

The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever 
Okay, enough discussion. The greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band ever is…ta-daaa!…The Rolling Stones.


The original line-up of “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band Ever,” circa 1965: (front row) Mick Jagger, Brian Jones; (middle) Bill Wyman; (back row) Charlie Watts, Keith (Captain Jack Sparrow’s father) Richards.

The Debate Rages On
Music lovers root for their favorite bands like sports fans supporting their preferred team. Emotions can run high, because music is precious to nearly everybody. No wonder so many young people want to learn music production and join the recording industry.

What do you think is the greatest band of all time? Stick around for Part Two of our series – we lay out the evidence that proves our claim: The Rolling Stones is the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band of all time.

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posted by Phill Powell in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

Greatest Music Videos of All Time

Using music and video together as a medium to tell a story can be a very powerful tool for communicating a message. Today filmmakers and musicians add Hollywood visual effects and other fancy tricks to make music videos have impact, but the pioneers of the format used their imaginations to push music videos to all new heights:

Artist: Bob Dylan
Song: “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1965/1967)

Bob Dylan, the Voice of His Generation, trying not to look bored in the groundbreaking music video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” (The bearded guy to the left is poet Allen Ginsberg, author of the Beat classic “Howl.”)

How It Changed Music Videos: It was the first modern music video built around an artistic concept. The primitive black-and-white film was made to promote the song – the video was initially created for the 1967 D.A. Pennebaker documentary “Don’t Look Back,” which shadowed Dylan as he toured England during 1965.

It’s a pretty simple idea really, but one that has struck a chord with several generations of rock audiences. A guy stands in an alley holding a stack of cue cards. The audio from a rambunctious folk rock song starts to blast, each line of which is a non-stop barrage of hipster verbiage (example: “Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine/I’m on the pavement thinking about the government”).

As the video progresses, the guy in it, rock poet Bob Dylan, drops each cue card after its corresponding piece of lyric has been sung in the audio. Dylan does not sing or perform the song. In fact, he shows no particular emotion, except mild irritation and boredom. When he runs out of cue cards, he just walks out of the camera frame, leaving puzzled audiences to try and figure out what it all meant.

Artist: Michael Jackson
Song: “Thriller” (1984)

With Quincy Jones-produced rhythms and Michael Jackson as a zombie, “Thriller” proved to be a genuine media event.

How It Changed Music Videos: By 1984, MTV had taken over control of the music industry; at this point, a new album or single had to have a top-notch video. Michael Jackson took the challenge and ran with it, making this first single song video epic from what would become the decade’s biggest album.

Jackson brought on film director John Landis to oversee the project. Landis was already a Hollywood power-player, having directed “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” “Trading Places,” “The Blues Brothers,” and “An American Werewolf in London” before tackling “Thriller.” For the video he was given a half-million dollar budget.

Jackson made multiple music videos to promote several tracks, but the “Thriller” music video was more than just a regular video, adding eight minutes of additional narrative to the song’s six-minute length. Thematically, “Thriller” was a G-rated creep show with a disco beat and which featured a vocal cameo by Hollywood horror legend Vincent Price.

The video was so popular that MTV was eventually airing the 14-minute video twice per hour. Jackson was hailed as a creative genius for his own remarkable dancing, as well as arranging the zombie choreography.

The video helped propel sales of the “Thriller” album to 110 million units worldwide, making it the best-selling album of all time. Never again would either Jackson or the music video be so big.

Artist: Nirvana
Song: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)

Grunge started here…with deliberately low production standards.

How It Changed Music Videos: As the 80s progressed, video production techniques improved. Inspired by the massive success of “Thriller,” the trend toward lavishly produced videos continued. But not every musical act wanted to create an ultra-slick music video. Enter Seattle’s Nirvana in the early 90s, with a Punk-like desire to avoid seeming to be “corporate.”

So when the first Grunge band of note got ready to produce a music video for the breakout hit from its powerhouse album Nevermind, it had definite ideas about what it wanted. For its director, the band selected first-timer Samuel Bayer…specifically because he didn’t have much experience. Kurt Cobain (accurately) assumed Bayer would be technically inept and the resulting footage would have a raw, undisciplined quality.

The song became a major Alternative anthem and the music video a smashing success. Nirvana won numerous MTV Music Awards in 1992 and the Guinness Book of Records considers the video the most played music video on MTV Europe. In 2001, VH1 named it the fourth-greatest music video of all time.

Artist: Beastie Boys
Song: “Sabotage” (1994)

“Sabotage,” a loud and abrasive triumph of threat-screaming rage, was paired with the hilarious visual concept of the opening credits of a (fake) 70s police show.

How It Changed Music Videos: Part cop-show homage, part rock/rap blaster, the Beastie Boys’ greatest video was 100 percent pure fun.

The Beastie Boys were always highly creative when it came to making music videos. But the group’s signature music-video moment was directed by genius director Spike Jonze, who took a one-chord shouter from the “Ill Communication” album and turned it into music-video gold.

An instant classic upon release, the “Sabotage” music video was nominated in five different categories at the 1994 MTV Music Awards, yet took home no awards. However, fifteen years later, when the new category of “Best Video (That Should Have Won a Moonman)” was introduced, the very first recipient was “Sabotage.”

Artist: Johnny Cash
Song: “Hurt” (2003)

“Hurt” is a song about reaching conclusions and sifting through all of what has come before.

How It Changed Music Videos: Plenty of “serious” music videos have attempted to make a statement, but none more powerful than this stark goodbye from the Man in Black. Nobody expected the most powerful music video of its year to feature the great Johnny Cash, then working in his sixth decade as a recording artist. But then, nobody had expected Cash to make one of the biggest musical comebacks of all time during the 90s, suddenly becoming wildly popular with fans young enough to be his grandchildren.

For the music video, director Mark Romanek used extensive footage and photographs from throughout Cash’s life, which were contrasted with footage of the 71-year-old man. Cash was weak and facing a range of health problems at the time.

The combination of music and visual images made the “Hurt” video one of the most powerful music-video experiences ever. The video received the 2004 Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video and was listed as CMT’s top video for 2003 as well as the Number One greatest country music video for the following year.

In July 2011 New Music Express named it the best video of all time. Sadly, Cash himself didn’t get to see the video’s massive success; the Man in Black passed away seven months after the video was produced.

Make Your Own Landmark Videos
Music videos represent a perfect intersection between two wonderful art forms – but bringing the two together requires talent to create a quality video. It takes training, too, and learning how to make a music video is the perfect place to start. If you want to learn music & video production you need hands-on training in digital audio, music and beat production, and filmmaking skills, too. Once you have a good grasp of those things, you can take your idea and turn it into an award-winning and groundbreaking music video.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Music Production,Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

Music Legends: Dick Clark

It was the place to be and he made it all happen. For 47 years, pop music’s television home was “American Bandstand” and the gentleman who hosted the long-running program was Dick Clark, who passed away yesterday at the age of 82.


Often called “America’s oldest teenager,” Clark was still in his twenties when he first took “American Bandstand” to a national audience.

Clark was many things besides the cheerful, unflappable host of “Bandstand.” A one-man media empire, Clark worked as if he were single-handedly trying to create enough programs to fill an entire network. He concepted and hosted game shows such as “The $10,000 Pyramid,” (which eventually morphed into “The $100,000 Pyramid”) and award shows like the “American Music Awards,” not to mention “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve,” which became an essential component of holiday festivities. He wasn’t into learning music production, but he dabbled in film production and appeared on camera in a couple of theatrical roles.


A one-man production dynamo, Clark also founded the American Music Awards, several of which were won by his friend, Michael Jackson. Clark had first introduced the nation to The Jackson Five on “Bandstand” in 1970.

But Clark will always be most closely associated with “Bandstand,” which at first was just another televised teenage dance party broadcast from a Philadelphia TV station. (At that time, most American cities large enough to have a television station had some type of similar program.) Clark’s triumph was to convince the ABC network to carry “Bandstand” as part of its national line-up. By 1957, the program was being run coast-to-coast and well on its way to becoming a national institution.


This was how “Bandstand” first looked. Constant dancing and interviews with the teen dancers. One popular feature: Rate-A-Record. (Sample interview response: “It had a good beat and it was easy to dance to. I give it an 85.”)

Stars on 45
Who appeared on “American Bandstand”? A better question is who didn’t. Pop icons such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Beach Boys, Prince, Chuck Berry, The Bee Gees, Stevie Wonder, KISS and James Brown all made the scene.

And as pop music evolved through the years, “Bandstand” worked to keep up with all the changes. When Motown began to dominate pop charts in the 60s, acts like Marvin Gaye and The Supremes appeared on the show. As the 70s Disco craze grew, artists such as Donna Summer and K.C. & The Sunshine Band were showcased. When Punk gave way to New Wave, “Bandstand” remained hip enough to feature emerging bands like Blondie and DEVO.

During the 80s, “Bandstand” brought national exposure to the first generation of Rap artists (including Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys and LL Cool J.), as well as to classic Rock bands of the day (e.g., Talking Heads, R.E.M.). And while it’s true that the program tended to focus on pop music’s softer sounds, the show did plenty to introduce audiences to hard Rock. If not, why would rockers like Aerosmith, The Doors and Steely Dan have bothered to appear?


By the 80s, music had changed plenty. Here Clark interviews Run-D.M.C., one of the first Rap acts to make it big.

“American Bandstand” finally left the airwaves in 1989, but that didn’t stop Clark from staying busy. Neither did a traumatic 2004 stroke that partially impaired his ability to speak. Clark remained the host of his New Year’s Eve show, although he finally shared hosting responsibilities with “American Idol’s” Ryan Seacrest.


Dick Clark bravely continued to host “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” after a serious stroke partially slurred his speech.

Clark (who was born in Bronxville, New York) was thrice married and had three grown children—not to mention an extended family of millions of television viewers who both liked and respected him. At the end of each broadcast of “American Bandstand,” Dick Clark would stand at his podium, always smiling and impeccably dressed in suit and tie, while dancing teenagers continued to whirl around him. He’d invite us back next week, say “So long” and always give a casual salute.

Right back at ya, Mr. Clark… 

The Music Legends series pays tributes to influential artists (in this case, music personalities) and styles of music. If you have an artist or type of music you’d like us to showcase, let us know via the comments.

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posted by Phill Powell in Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments