Rock Debate: UK vs. US

date: 10/25/2013 category: features
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Rock Debate: UK vs. US
When it comes to rock domain, UK and the US are unarguably the two countries that have shaped not only the entire genre, but the whole rock culture and movement. Each had its own impact and areas it excelled in, but which one do you think is more important? We'll make a rundown of the impacts each country had in several key areas and leave it for you to to be the judge.


British Invasion and the Early Years of Rock

During the '60s, the Brits made their infamous invasion and for a while dominated the rock world. In the early '60, UK had The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who as arguably the three greatest rock bands of all time, but then topped it all off with such class acts as The Kinks, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Zombies and more. On the other side of Atlantic, US had only a handful of iconic representatives to back off the British, most notably Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys and The Byrds. But as the '60s rolled on, more artists began emerging, giving US a much needed backup. Specifically, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa proved that the US still has a lot to demonstrate, but the UK didn't exactly fall behind, not by a long shot. They now had Cream, Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After, Moody Blues, Procol Harum and several other worthy figures to carry on the fight.


When it comes to prog movement as a whole, the British might seem to be a clear winner. After all, when your roster of prog rock bands includes Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Emerson, Lake & Parker and others, you're kind of a shoo-in. But on the other hand, US had a major role in prog revival since the late '80s and the early '90s. Dream Theater, Symphony X, Tool, Mastodon, The Mars Volta, Periphery, Coheed And Cambria and many others garnered massive fanbases and in many ways keep the prog spirit alive these days.


The punk genre originated in the UK, so it doesn't come as much of a surprise that most of its iconic acts, such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash, are UK-based. Of course, there's the Ramones, but it's still fairly clear that the victory belongs to the Brits. If we were to spice it up with the new wave movement, UK would still emerge victorious - although Talking Heads are definitely one of the all time greats, The Police, Joy Division and The Cure are more than enough to do the trick for the UK.

Hard Rock

This one is very debatable, as it most definitely comes down to personal taste. So the Brits definitely kicked off the genre and stretched it to the heaviness limit where metal was born, but the US scene is definitely going strong as well. It might be best just to sum it up with a list of bands, and you make your own judgement. So the UK has Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Queen, Uriah Heep, Status Quo, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, as well as metal forefathers Black Sabbath, Motorhead and Judas Priest. On the other hand, US has Guns N' Roses, Aerosmith, Heart, Van Halen, Grand Funk Railroad, Stone Temple Pilots, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, KISS, Skid Row and others. So which side are you on?


The Roots

When it comes to the beginnings of rock genre and some of the proto-rock heroes, one could easily argue that the States take the cake. Blues originated in the US and so did rock 'n' roll, so if it's about who started it, which it isn't of course, US emerges as the clear winner. Whether it's the singing, guitar playing or just overall vibe and rock 'n' roll attitude, guys like Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Little Richard, Bill Haley and of course Elvis set the bar and entered the uncharted waters for generations to explore.


This one's actually highly debatable due to UK's crucial role in the very emergence of metal. Not only did the initial traces of metal appear in the work of British acts (although you could argue that the very first metal riff was the work of a US band Iron Butterfly and their "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" tune), but the ultimate metal greats such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Venom and Saxon, the genre's first definite representatives, were also British. However, many argue that US perfected metal, and if you look at the contributions from the likes of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Dio, Testament and many others, metal clearly thrived in the US. And it's not only that, but several other notable subgenres. US gave birth to death metal and nu metal, and if we add the predominant position of prog metal US bands, it's somewhat clear that US wins the race. You could still say it's all fairly arguable though.


Grunge is a pure American product that never really spawned many bands outside of US, or even Seattle area for that matter. Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Mudhoney, Melvins and others shaped the scene that exploded in the early '90s, giving US a clear advantage.

Southern Rock/Blues Rock

Another US brand to level it all out. You could say that while UK dominated the hard rock domain in the early to mid-'70s, US made their response with southern rock. Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band and others made a serious impact on the guitar world, fusing rock and blues in a unique manner. So that about wraps it up, although there are is of course an infinite number of nuances that might affect your preferences here. But in general, which side are you on? And also, since we're a guitar site, do you prefer your axemen from the US or UK. Let us know in the comments.
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