The Stones, Guns & Roses, Zep, The Who. Great BANDS right? What makes a great Rock And Roll band anyway? It ain’t that hard to figure. A great rhythm section is the slab foundation. Then you need the brick and mortar. That comes down to a charismatic lead singer and a gunslinger guitarist; and in epic bands, they they’re usually joined at the hip and have a special musical, telepathic and (sometimes) quasi-homoerotic bond. Disagree? Allow me to submit the following for your consideration….
Mick Jaggar and Keith Richard (The Stones);
Mick n’ Keef have been playing, writing and fighting in the same band for 50 years now. A dysfunctional marriage without the sex. Every song they produce is community property (Jaggar/Richard). They fight over money and who is whose best friend. Mick pulled a pout during the ‘Exile’ sessions when Keef started spending too much time with stud-muffin country rock pioneer Gram Parsons. Keef pissed and moaned when Mick left him at home to make his first solo album with Jeff Beck. Together they are a money spinning machine that transcends Mick’s inability to sing and the band’s fabled inconsistency. They are the prototype.
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
One of the hallmarks of the epic tag-team is that the band cannot exist without either partner. You could have Zep again with a deputy drummer. However, without Page or Plante it’s ‘no deal’. Like the Stones, the Zep songwriting is a co-op. On stage, they only have eyes for each other. As solo artists, Plante has survived well and Page has managed to stay gainfully employed. However, they will never escape the Zep legacy and will be dogged by reunion inquiries until they die.
Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend (The Who):
Even in his youth, Pete Townsend and his prominent proboscis were hard on the eyes. However, his musical genius was indisputable. Roger Daltry was the perfect hood ornament for the high-octane vehicle that was The Who. Daltry was not a writer (a good thing), yet was such a passionate and protective advocate of the brand that he engaged in fistfights with Townsend over the direction of the band (a good thing). Golden-god Daltry was a perfect foil and muse for Townsend. So much so, that when it came time to cast an actor for the movie version of the rock opera Tommy, Daltry was the only possible choice.
David Bowie and Mick Ronson (The Spiders From Mars):
Yes, I know, I know…..Bowie has been a successful solo artist for decades after his estrangement from the late Mick Ronson. However,Bowie established his brand after Ronson came on board, not before. Moreover, Bowie went mega in the role of Ziggy Stardust. Ziggy had a band. The band was The Spiders From Mars. Onstage, Ronson was Ziggy’s onstage foil and object of unrequited man-lust. In the studio, classically trained Ronson was indispensable as musical director, string arranger, guitarist and piano man. The grand trilogy of Bowie albums (Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane) bear Ronson’s indelible stamp. The drop-off in the quality of Bowie’s productions (post-Ronson) was within acceptable parameters, but still noticeable to discerning rock music fans.
Steven Tyler and Joe Perry (Aerosmith):
At least a few of the above musicians can claim some solo success outside their main-squeeze partnerships. Not so for Tyler and Perry. Solo efforts by both have been laughable and catastrophic. A union cut from the same homoerotic/dysfunctional cloth as Mick and Keef. Steve and Joe always end up back together in sickness and in health, for the career salvaging make-up album and tour. Their personal, studio and onstage chemistry is undeniable; and to hear Steven Tyler talk about it, kinda weird…..