Sunday, February 11, 2018

Playing The Game

When I was in high school, my buddies and I used to play a game where we would create super bands made up of all the best of the best musicians from groups we listened to. There were plenty of bands that had Rush's Neil Peart sitting behind the drum kit. There were a lot of votes for Queen's Brian May on lead guitar. There were a few quiet voices advocating for Peter Frampton, but they were quickly dismissed. Bass was a bit of a head scratcher for most of us, so we let the rhythm section fill up with Geddy Lee, leaving the band a little Rush-heavy. Vocals were a tough one, since we would have to admit to listening to the words, but Bohemian Rhapsody tipped the scales toward Freddie Mercury. This Rush/Queen hybrid withstood plenty of arguments from fans of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and later, Asia. My suggestion of simply inviting all four original members of Cheap Trick to represent the best of the best was politely put down with a shrug. When I started playing this game in college, I started hearing a lot about Robert Fripp and Klaus Nomi. Stewart Copeland became my go-to percussionist, and David Bowie was my frontman. Even now I find myself imagining a supergroup comprised of all the Top Guns, past present and future.

Then it occurs to me: Never once in all those permutations did I list a Beatle. Why not? Probably because I have always considered them an entity in and of themselves. The idea that they would appear in any other form has since been made easier by numerous All-Star Bands led by Ringo, and Wings. These are faces etched in stone. These are Gods who first tickled my ears to what rock and roll might be.

They are also, according to Quincy Jones, "the worst musicians in the world." In a recent torrent of interviews, Mister Jones has been slagging any and all who might once have been or could be part of the musical firmament. My initial reaction was to leap to the lads' defense. Then I realized that Quincy was just playing the game. He had a slightly different approach, but he was just playing the game. No matter that one of the bass line from Day Tripper is one of the most recognized in pop music, and that the four of them with help from George Martin redefined the recording process. They were not the best of the best. Until they played as one. Turns out, that really is the test.

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