My good friend Cory submitted another great musical question to me the other day. If you could select any musicians- living or dead- to create a rock supergroup, who would you choose? The stipulation is that you only get four musicians: one vocalist, one guitarist, one drummer, and one wildcard. Here are my choices:
Vocalist: Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Them Crooked Vultures, Probot, Queens of the Stone Age, Tenacious D)
Guitarist: Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather)
Drummer: Keith Moon (The Who)
Wildcard: Freddie Mercury, lead vocals (Queen)
Here’s my thinking. When you’re creating a rock band, you don’t just get each person in isolation. It’s not, “Okay Dave, head into the studio and sing. Then go home until we call you to sing again.” You get each member as a full person, with all their talents, strengths, and weaknesses.
In this situation, I have four band members. My main goal is to make a group of four that would conceivably enjoy hanging out together, write great music, and not self-destruct. In order to be creative and write great music, each person needs to be as versatile as possible for a great diversity of music.
I chose Grohl for a few reasons. First of all, he is very highly respected by most musicians. He’s a longtime industry professional. He’s been in rock bands his entire adult life and knows the ropes. Therefore, he would be a stabilizing influence on the group. A great “culture” guy, as Kevin Pritchard would say.
Also, he would be into the whole “supergroup” concept. He’s in supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin). He also put together an all-star metal album called Probot and is an occasional member of Tenacious D. I think it’s safe to say that Grohl would be into the idea.
Finally, he is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for Foo Fighters, but he was also the drummer for Nirvana. He’s very versatile. In my dream rock supergroup, Grohl handles most of the vocal duties and plays rhythm guitar.
Jack White is one of the best guitarists in rock music today. In fact, he was profiled in a documentary about the history of the electric guitar called “It Might Get Loud” (alongside The Edge from U2 and Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin).
White is another who would be into the supergroup concept. He plays guitar in The Raconteurs alongside solo artist Brendan Benson and two members of The Greenhornes. He also plays drums in The Dead Weather with Alison Mosshart (The Kills and Discount), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age), and Jack Lawrence (The Greenhornes, The Raconteurs).
Also, Jack White is an excellent choice because my selected group has no bassist. He plays in The White Stripes alongside his drummer/ex-wife/sister/humanoid robot Meg White, and is used to playing guitar in a band without a bass.
Drummer Keith Moon of The Who was a lunatic. That fact has been roundly confirmed. He would put too many explosives in his drum kit, fill clear drums with goldfish, trash hotel rooms, drive Cadillacs into swimming pools, and throw explosives down toilets. He would drink a full bottle of champagne with cognac and amphetamines for breakfast. He would dress up as the pope and go to bars. He eventually died of a sedative overdose; six dissolved and killed him, but he had taken 32. Coincidentally enough, he was 32 years old.
So, why would you let that guy into a band when you’re trying to cultivate a culture of productivity? Well, nobody would accuse him of being boring. The other members of The Who had a lot of fun with Keith. Plus, I think we can afford to have one head case in the band. If you have two, you run the risk of them hanging out and infecting the others.
More importantly, he was one amazing drummer. Look at that “My Generation” video again. His semi-classical, semi-Animal style has been often imitated, never duplicated. He’s noted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the greatest rock drummers of all time. We need someone like that to back up the other three members of this group. When you have people as talented as Jack White and Dave Grohl in your band, you don’t need an amazing drummer. But it couldn’t hurt.
Finally, the wildcard. Sure, I could have picked a bassist. In fact, The Who’s own John Entwistle would have been a fantastic choice. There are all kinds of instruments that fit within the framework of ‘rock music.’ If I want this band to be an all-time great, though, I have to pick an instrument that is as unique as it is amazing.
If I want to make the greatest rock band ever and keep that versatility, the person I select has to be both legendary and multitalented. That’s why I’m going with Freddie Mercury of Queen. In addition to having one of the greatest voices in the history of rock music, Freddie could play piano and guitar (though he expressed a lack of confidence in both instruments). Although he was a great performer, he was introverted and quiet behind the scenes. For a band with two alpha males and one certified crazy person, someone who can take a backseat now and then would do wonders for group dynamics.
So, then, the question becomes: What do they sound like?
I envision a group that sounds like a mix of The Raconteurs’ classic rock sensibilities and Taking Back Sunday‘s double-vocalist attack. They can add piano-based songs (similar to Jack’s Mannequin, but harder). Their live shows would be legendary, with double- and triple-drum battles, double guitar solos, instrument-switching, and destroying equipment. Grohl would lead on vocals, but Freddie would lead on several songs as well (with the occasional Jack White appearance on vocals). Four guys storming the country, dominating crowds, selling out arenas and destroying hotel rooms. What more could you ask from a supergroup?
Who’s in your supergroup? What do they sound like?
Update: TK weighs in!
My supergroup would not be as bad-ass as CK’s but they would put together a few albums for the ages, then die of natural causes.
Vocalist: David Byrne
WHY? A versatile, experienced collaborator with an eye for the bigger picture of his artistic endeavors.
Guitar: Nels Cline (Wilco)
WHY? With powerhouse performers on vocals and bass, this band will need some non-flashy pure talent on guitar. Nels Cline is the perfect ‘blender’ – the guy who makes your band sound twice as good but gets half the attention.
Drums: John Stanier (Battles)
WHY? A talented, sometimes aggressive drummer who can bring a touch of jazz, prog, metal, or rock and roll depending on the context.
WHY? No, he would not sing, save for the occasional background harmony. He would do what he does best, which is play the bass.
What would they sound like? I don’t know, you tell me!
Filed under: ck | 2 Comments
Tags: battles, dave grohl, david byrne, dead weather, discount, foo fighters, freddie mercury, greenhornes, jack white, jack's mannequin, john stanier, keith moon, kevin pritchard, kills, led zeppelin, nels cline, nirvana, probot, queen, queens of the stone age, raconteurs, sting, taking back sunday, tenacious d, them crooked vultures, u2, white stripes, who, wilco