Friday, June 7, 2013

Will history judge The Grateful Dead to be a better band than The Beatles?

The Beatles did their best work in the studio.  Over a few prolific years, they produced a recorded output that has stood the test of time.  The Grateful Dead did their best work on the stage.  From the late 60's to the early 90's, the Grateful Dead reinvented their growing repertoire of songs on a nightly basis in front of a live audience.
The Beatles
Where you stand on the spectrum as to which band was "better" may hinge upon which skill set you find to be more worthy of adoration, but music critics have generally considered The Beatles to be the top dogs when it comes to rock n' roll.  A recent article by Steven Hyden suggests that this outlook might be changing.
The Grateful Dead
The topic of Hyden's article begins with the question of whether or not Phish is a great band.  In making the case for yes they are the author uses the reasoning that “Phish presented an alternative model in which memorable live experiences mean at least as much as iconic songs, and high-grossing tours measure an artist's reach as well as chart-topping albums do.  This is how Phish is good.  It could soon be how all music is good.”

"It could soon be how all music is good" is an interesting statement.  Hyden also offers an opinion as to why history could rate the Dead over the Beatles as the best rock band ever.  He says “Let's say it's 50 years in the future, and you're trying to figure out how and why pop music has arrived at its present permutation. Let's also say that recorded music still exists, but no longer as a product that artists attempt to sell. Like other forms of devalued currency, recordings have flooded the market to the point of virtual worthlessness. But music fans are still willing to pay to hear a version of a song that doesn't exist yet, and will only ever exist once. 

Because of this economic development, bands spend a lot less time making albums and devote the majority of their energy to honing their live shows. Over time, people gradually stop talking about fixed versions of songs and begin evaluating bands on their ability to perform and refresh their body of work. This creates a new paradigm for how we talk about music — pop historians start rating the Dead over the Beatles as the best rock band ever. Music is perceived less like film and more like theater or sports — as a venue for live events that lose their essential appeal if they're not viewed in the moment.”

Compelling.  Granted, I didn't need this convincing to know which band was better.

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