Back in 1964, with the release of "A Hard Day's Night", the Beatles became the the first Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Band in the World. They weren't a vocal group with an anonymous backup band, they wrote their own songs. It set the template for pretty much every band that followed. It's disputable as to how long the Beatles held that title, I'd argue that the honor moved to the Rolling Stones in December 1969 when they released "Let It Bleed", but these things aren't written in stone.
Did Led Zeppelin or The Who ever officially wear that mantle? Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band? The Clash? Talking Heads? The Police?
U2 pretty clearly held the title during the mid-to-late '80s. But did Nirvana take it from them? Or did R.E.M? Or did Pearl Jam? Or did Radiohead? Or did Public Enemy? Does Public Enemy count?
It's the stuff of endless barroom banter, but I'm more interested in who the current Greatest Rock 'N' Roll Band in the World is. Is there one? Or is the very notion of that title an anachronism?
Raw stats never were much of a guide in determining the Greatest Band. Def Leppard sold plenty of albums once upon a time. Greatest Band? I don't think so. It's also not how many Enormodomes you can fill. Nor is it that modern measure of how many downloads you get. Otherwise we'd have to pay homage to Coldplay ... and I'll have none of that.
The Greatest Band in the World is the one that can churn out a string of must-have records, discs that demand repeat listening, that stand out as distinct and inspire waves of bands behind them. Who's making the music that matters?
It's hard to say these days because so little does matter. The radio penetration of anything new is extremely limited thanks to Balkanized radio formats, which seek to keep playing something that sounds like the last thing rather than embrace the new.
Yet there are some bands that have been enjoying very good decades. The Hives, The White Stripes and Arcade Fire (not necessarily in that order) leap to mind. Is it one of those we'll point to when we look back on the aughts in another ten years? Do they even get into the argument?
I'm curious as to what others think on this subject.