In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “England and America are two countries divided by a common language”. Though they speak the same, they definitely don’t sound the same. Rock, therefore, has developed in these two countries very differently. The enduring question is if the two have more in common or are two worlds, separate and apart. Each rock fan has their opinion.
Who started rock and roll? Even the most hardcore British fan has to admit that it is an American invention. Early British bands like The Beatles got their start with covers of songs by Chuck Berry.
Another of the most iconic British bands ever, the Rolling Stones, had member Mick Jagger spending a large amount of time in America being influenced and borrowing the sound of the artists he befriended and spent time with. In modern times, an American artist or band often has to make it big in Britain before becoming internationally recognized. This was true for bands like Kings of Leon and The White Stripes. So at first glance, it seems like the story of rock and roll in the two countries are intertwined. However, when you look closer, there are differences.
When it comes to stadium rock and big bands, it seems that British bands are best at being big. British publication The Telegraph calls major American rock bands like Aerosmith lacking in art and heart. Even the American publication The Atlantic agrees, as the numbers of the best-selling bands of all time seem to prove that the biggest rock bands in the world are British.
Style vs substance
However, the Americans shouldn’t be counted out. There’s no doubt American culture is the dominant force worldwide in popular culture. Rock bands are no exception. Often American rock bands are built around a band leader that is also a solo artist. Examples are numerous, from Elvis Presley to Jimi Hendrix. So if pop culture reach and solo artist success matters, the Americans come out on top. Americans also know how to put on a show. So for audiences that like theatrics, big light shows, and fashion, American bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, famous for performing only in socks, are the best.
A British fan would argue, however, that the bands with the most universal reach, worldwide, are the ones from the UK. It’s also said that these UK bands bring more passion and substance to their music, while American bands are tamer, so they can appeal to more people.
The best of the two
A big sign of the divide between Britain and America is that there are no successful rock bands that have members from both sides of the Atlantic. It’s almost impossible to compare the two, so the best conclusion is to concede that both countries have their place. Rock may have started in the US, but it was perfected in Britain. The biggest solo artists are from America, while the Brits win the battle of the bands.