Rock Based 'Masters'
We do not like Jann Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone Magazine, here at Beacon of Speech. Not at all.
But luckily Wenner crossed the line yesterday and is going to get himself cancelled. What did he do? Apparently he wrote a book on Rock and Roll and interviewed 7 Rock 'Masters.' All seven were white males. When questioned about the lack of diversity of his chosen seven? According to Consequence of Sound 'Wenner justified the lack of diversity by arguing that Black and Female artists “just didn’t articulate at the level” of their white male peers.'
Editor's Note: Yikes!!! We do NOT share that opinion here at Beacon of Speech. You'll see our 7 below. But even if you felt the way that Wenner does, as a very seasoned member of the media, he should have known that he certainly couldn't have SAID THAT!
Who were Wenner's 7? (And our comments.)
Bono - Overrated
Bob Dylan - Vastly Overrated
Jerry Garcia - If you look up the most successful songwriters in the Grateful Dead, it almost universally comes up Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia. Why don't I know firsthand? Because the Grateful Dead mostly sucked. If, gun to my head, I had to name my favorite member of the Grateful Dead? Bob Weir.
Mick Jagger - Lead singer of an excellent band. Name one good original song in the last 40 years.
John Lennon - There were 4 geniuses who were members of the Beatles (5 if you count Billy Preston's late contributions.) Not within the Beatles, because the Lennon/McCartney songwriting duo may have been the greatest in Rock History, but if you weigh in collaborations and solo work, John Lennon falls to third in his own band. I cannot emphasize this enough, after watching the Get Back Documentary, I am more convinced than ever that Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles, then ruined, not inspired, John.
Bruce Springsteen - Listen, the Boss is awesome, on many different levels. He just didn't connect with me.
Pete Townsend - Beacon of Speech contributor Ted K does not allow us to speak ill of Pete Townsend.
Each one of artists that Wenner championed were Major Label heavyweights that are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They all played the Rock Business Game very well. They all, at one point in their careers, filled stadiums and drove rock radio formats. Were those seven in the seven greatest rock bands of all time?
If you surveyed a hundred rock musicians and asked them: What's the worst part of being a musician? I would estimate that 95% of them would say "the music business." His 7 masters mastered the music business.
If we wrote a book of the "Masters," this would be our 7.
Miles Davis - When Miles Davis recorded Kind of Blue, it was almost immediately acclaimed as one of the Greatest Jazz Albums of all Time. Miles Davis could have stopped recording new music all together and just toured on his hits. Don't forget, Kind of Blue was Davis' 33rd album. Instead Davis wanted to be bigger, he wanted to be a Rock Star. Electric Miles in the late 60's and early 70's was that Rock Star. A Rock Star that didn't have a platform playing his works, like FM Rock Stations. Bitches Brew takes a back seat to no Rock Album of that Era. Jazz Fusion, though judged positively today, really didn't have a home in Wenner's corporate Rock Structure of the 70's.
Go back and listen to On the Corner. That was the sound of the city. Jazz enthusiasts hated it because it strayed to far into the territory that inspired Rock.
Jello Biafra - The Dead Kennedys were one of the greatest punk bands of all time. After the band broke up, Biafra did collaborations across musical genres and garnered spoken word acclaim.
There is no more important voice in independent music than Jello Biafra through his microphone Alternative Tentacle Records, which is celebrating its 44th Anniversary this year.
Whether with the Nomeanso guys, the Melvins, the Ministry guys, or the Guantanamo School of Medicine, Biafra had the skills to lead bands in nearly any genre and excel. And what exactly was Lard? Industrial? Rock? Novelty?
Editor's Note II: When the Dead Kennedys broke up, the members still shared the label they created, Alternative Tentacles. The other Dead Kennedys showed their stripes when the tried to wrestle the masters from the Dead Kennedys vault, and not the label itself. They were worried about their revenue streams while Biafra held onto the label that gave a voice to over 100 bands, including two of my favorites, Alice Donut and Nomeansno.
Chuck D - I have come full circle on rap. If you trace Public Enemy's lineage, it goes directly back to James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. No one layered the complexities of being the figurative voice of a generation better than Chuck D, while using their literal voice as an instrument.
Public Enemy also rose up from the streets, they didn't get signed to a major label deal. My question would be: Did Def Jam make Public Enemy or did Public Enemy make Def Jam?
In a very circular way, I could argue Public Enemy sprang from the same roots as Rock, then, with Anthrax, helped expedite the rise of Nu Metal.
Mike Patton - Speaking of voice as an instrument, no one understand that assignment of range better than Patton. He fronted one of the popular bands of his generation in Faith No More, but also stayed continuously busy in experimental side projects such as Tomahawk, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, and Dead Cross. He was also the co-founder of the hugely influential Ipecac Records.
The Faith No More discography is great, but I chose one of the best songs from Patton's other deep cuts.
Aaron Turner - Forget the Big 4, no one has put out a deeper quality of metal, while actively spurning the mechanisms that run metal, than Aaron Turner. Isis was the best post-metal band of all time and Turner has continued to stay busy with solo projects and being a part of over a dozen bands. And he's the founder of Hydra Head Records.
During Covid, there was an underlying darkness in this country as a million people died while workers stepped over their corpses. No one captured that feeling better than Turner's supergroup Old Man Gloom. Certainly not a bunch of whiny celebrities singing Imagine, which brings us to....
Paul McCartney/George Harrison - Now I only chose them for effect because Wenner chose Lennon. The right answer is obviously Lennon/McCartney between 1960-1970.
But when the Beatles ended, who had the best discography? All Things Must Pass was probably the best solo album from any of them. Who had the best single? I would say it was Wings' Jet. Who had the best collaboration? You might say Paul and Michael Jackson, I would probably say the Traveling Wilburys. I just know it wasn't John and Yoko.
And don't forget, the Beatles started their own label, Apple. But instead of running it like a little indie label, they ran it with the veracious tenacity of a major label.
David Bowie - The other 6 that I chose were pioneers and genre-defying. If you held my feet to the fire and said, from his teen years to death, who defined Rock, re-defined it, and then continued to re-define it throughout their career?
That's easy. David Bowie. I am leaving it to Stacker for a more thorough history.
If my kid writes the same article in 10 years, you know who's going to be on that list? Trent Reznor.
"Fred Hunt, you're just as bad as Jann Wenner. Where are the ladies?"
Here's the problem, whether it be Debbie Harry, Kim Gordon, or Chrissie Hynde, they were extremely talented females who ran up against a machinery that was stacked against them. Gordon was probably the best at circumventing the system, but more with her band than on her own.
I still remember being a kid and watching Rapture, thinking that Blondie was the Coolest Girl in the World.
I tried to make my list with my ears and not my eyes. When people confronted Jann Wenner about his crappy list, he gave them a really bad answer. When people eventually confront me about my list, here's my response: "Listen, I'm not you, you're not me. I welcome you to make your own list and we'll have a spirited debate."
But Editor Fred gave Writer Fred a hard 9:00 pm deadline that just sailed right by. I want this story finished before it falls out of the news cycle.