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Music? Now that's what I call a sound lunchtime debate


John Lennon

John Lennon

So much of the meaning of life can be read through Kraftwerk

So much of the meaning of life can be read through Kraftwerk

The Hives are the greatest rock and roll band around today... and they're Swedish

The Hives are the greatest rock and roll band around today... and they're Swedish

Kevin Winter


John Lennon

Me and a friend on holiday in Cornwall. A lunchtime pub, perhaps too many drinks. Conversation on work? A bit. Women? A little bit more. Music? Now you're talking. Here follows some of the main topics with difficulty of debate ratings.

Lennon versus McCartney (****). Conventional hipster wisdom has it that Lennon wins by a mile. Attitude, lifestyle and, of course, early infamous martyr-style death add into this, but is it really true?

Didn't McCartney actually write the better songs (Sgt Pepper's, Hey Jude, Yesterday) and hasn't Macca really suffered in this debate because he's hung around too long singing daft stuff about frogs and appearing nightly on television with hydraulically raised, but independently operating, eyebrows, elongated vowels and purple hair? Had 'working-class' hero Lennon lived, would he not have been hauled over the coals for asking us to "imagine" there's "no possessions", while playing a grand piano in a bloody great house? See also full-length fur coats.

The best rock and roll band around today (***). Those who have but a tenuous grip on history's greatest art form might plump for easy options like the Stones or U2.

Others would try to revive Led Zep and their bacchanalian excesses. Forget the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, the Zep story is the real thing when it comes to mixing nihilism with hedonism.

But we must keep to the criteria. It's really quite simple. The Hives are the greatest rock and roll band around today... and they're Swedish. Everyone knows that. (Sample Tick Tick Boom or anything on third album Tyrannosaurus Hives.)

Mainstream success (**). Like trees that fall in the middle of the rainforest, many great bands and artists sold no records, broke up after one album and were mourned by seven people.

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Even relatively successful bands who should dominate the globe have to look on as One Direction and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (the alternative band for people who don't like music) stride the globe as their own star falls.

In 2006, a band called Clap Your Hands Say Yeah released a debut album of breathtaking innovation and deadly tunes.

Yet I saw them live this year and there were 10 of us fans down the front and about 150 insouciant young things at the back. We were right and they were wrong. (See also Edwyn Collins, Euros Childs, Gruf Rhys.)

Going solo (***). It is an immutable law of music that great band does not equal subsequent solo glory. Take the strange case of Jack White. His band White Stripes was effectively him with sister/wife (go online for clarification) Meg on drums.

Jack was the force behind the White Stripes and they were magnificent, the only duo who could headline the main stage at Glasto and hold 70,000 people spellbound.

Since Meg decided she'd had enough, his side projects, like the Raconteurs and his own solo career, have all gone a bit meat and potatoes. (See also David Byrne of Talking Heads. Freddie Mercury circa Mr Bad Guy.)

So much of the meaning of life can be read through Kraftwerk (**). The teutonic robot men obviously formed one of the most influential bands ever, right? We have fun, fun fun on the autobahn is almost Shakespearean and that's before we hit the heights of I programme my home computer, beam myself into the future.

Too little space to celebrate their greatness here, but it's also the Ralf Hutter/Florian Schneider partnership that scintillates.

So obsessed with road cycling did they become (see Tour De France, 2003) that they effectively ended their partnership of genius over accusations concerning the theft of a bike pump. (Sample Computer Love, Europe Endless [German import if possible]).

Musical DNA (*). Just as the great stallion Sadlers Wells is responsible for some of the fastest racehorses of all time, so with the Velvet Underground in music.

In fact anything in the last 35 years that hasn't dabbled its toe in the Velvet's gene pool is really not worth bothering about.

Debut album the Velvet Underground and Nico, produced by Andy Warhol, released a staggering 45 years ago, is as astonishingly fresh, anarchic and cutting edge now as it was then.

Unheralded in 1967, the word seminal was subsequently invented for them.

No band interviewed in the NME over the last few decades can avoid name-checking them. It's the law. (See also Orange Juice, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, The Strokes, Sex Pistols.)

Why don't women obsess about these things as much as us (*****). Don't go there!

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