TOP TRUMPS #1 – THE BEST ROCK BAND NEVER! BY PAUL LAIGHT
I was on holiday with my son playing Top Trumps. Well, we
didn’t take a holiday to play Top Trumps but we were on the plane
playing DC Superheroes and SpongeBob Squarepants Top Trumps and I had the idea of doing a Rock ‘N’ Roll supergroup top trumpy kind of thing. Who’s my favourite drummer, singer/front-person, bassist, keyboardist, lyricist, rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist? And why? Well here are my picks for what could be the greatest rock band that never existed. Of course, it’s highly subjective and on any given day I may go another way on some of these choices. If you agree or disagree let me know. Or don’t.
THE DRUMMER – KEITH MOON
The Who’s wild man of rock and roll was an all or nothing legendary figure that beat living hell out of the drums on some of the great rock tunes of our time. A sweaty, ferocious and fiery figure he lived by the booze and by god he died by it too. It was his attitude as much as his technical ability (not that I’m an expert on this) as he played with the Devil in his eyes and the sticks. Read the book Dear Boy – it’s a great read about a man who didn’t just raise hell but lowered heaven for us mere mortals too.
THE BASSIST – GARY “MANI” MOUNFIELD
Mani wasn’t just in ONE of my favouritest ever bands – he was in TWO: Mancunian baggy geniuses The Stone Roses and Scottish junkie rock ‘n’ rollas Primal Scream. He transformed both bands with a Cheshire Cat grin, Northern wit, all-round charisma and powerful playing. The Roses really took off after Mani joined them and their first album is one of the greatest debuts ever in my opinion. For the Scream he brought a dominant, driving energy to their punky-post-industrial-wasteland-blues. Fookin’ legend man!
RHYTHM GUITAR – JOHNNY MARR
Marr was the musical hurricane behind probably my favouritest band ever The Smiths. While Morrissey got the majority of the publicity with his daffodil-sway-dancing, provocative and poetic lyrics and barbed media-jousting tongue but Marr’s guitar sung like an angel on a series of classic albums notably: The Queen is Dead and Meat is Murder. He would go onto be a guitar-for-hire for bands such as: The The and The Cribs and recently released his debut solo album; which wasn’t that bad actually.
LEAD GUITAR – JIMI HENDRIX
Would anyone argue that Johnny Allen “Jimi” Hendrix was the greatest guitarist that ever lived and breathed? Perhaps fans of Slash? Or Jimmy Page? Or Clapton? Or many more? Anyway, he made the guitar sing like demon, and anyone who saw him live was very lucky as he died at such a young age. Hendrix bridged the gap between blues, psychedelia and rock fusing them in a thunderous mesh. And within a few short years he went from backing the Isley Brothers to headlining Woodstock. As well as creating some of the greatest rock and roll songs ever he was a pioneer, mastering feedback and popularizing the wah-wah pedal. Hendrix would be an incredible influence during his life and after he was gone. That’s why he’s my choice for lead guitar.
KEYBOARDIST – RAY MANZAREK
Maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t but I don’t think Manzarek gets the credit he deserves for his playing in 60s rock superstars The Doors. Of course, Jim Morrison was so charismatic that it’s often impossible to take your eyes off his performances, deep growling vocals and magnetic rock star looks. Indeed, it’s so easy to forget the bookish man sitting behind the organ providing the wall of sound in support of the drug-fuelled hell-raiser at The Door’s front of house. However, his rhythm (he also supplied bass), funky, sprawling, rock, pop, classical keyboard-tinkling spanned many different styles, genres and sounds giving the band their originality for the time. Morrison may have provided the cheekbones but Manzarek provided the backbone.
WORDS – MORRISSEY
I used to listen to The Smiths all the time when I was a teenager. Still do. People used to say to me that Morrissey was miserable, moaning and tuneless. Well, to me it was the complete opposite: uplifting, angry and poetic. He disliked much of life around him and gave short shrift to people who got him down. In my little room he spoke directly to my confused young mind providing a wonderful intelligence, dour Northern humour sprinkled with mordant wit and crafty word play. He wrote from the heart and the gut and most importantly the brain. His words often echo around my mind when I’m in certain situations and in my mind the greatest poet/lyricist ever.
SINGER – RICHARD ASHCROFT
This is the most interchangeable of choices. For a long time the front-of-the-band was held by Lizard King Jim Morrison. Then I considered Morrissey or even Freddie Mercury but the latter’s arguably too theatrical for me. Then I thought hmmm… Blondie would be a cracking choice or even Zak De La Rocha of Rage against the Machine; just to give the band something a bit different. Even Dolly Parton, who has a lot of front and sass was a consideration but I just couldn’t hear her singing Morrissey’s words. Bono, Bobby Gillespie, Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye, Liam Gallager, Robert Smith, Axel Rose and many more went through my mind and then just at time of writing I decided that Wigan-born-ecstasy-driven-poet-come-wizard Richard Ashcroft would be the man to bring this bastard home.
In The Verve Ashcroft’s angular looks and thousand-yard stare are just magnetic as he just throws every emotion into the ring when belting out a tune. Probably not the most gifted technically, yet, within that voice there is pain and sorrow. Plus a world-weary emotiveness within his visage; like a starving vampire desperate to die in the light. I went for him for emotion, feeling, energy and attitude. On any other day, as I say, it could’ve been another singer. But today it’s him.