Often, I receive several of my usual emails that pertain to charting albums (and singles) in both the US and the UK.  While there are some similarities in choices by both sides of the Atlantic, there are more differences.

Growing up as a younger kid, I was always fascinated by the UK markets, simply because it seemed as if the music there was cutting edge.  It always felt, with some exceptions, that the US would soon be latching on to what was current in the UK.  But that’s my fix.  And I admit to having a bias.

Over the years, as I grew up, I adored the UK music world.  In the US, it was NYC.  I always looked to them to find the music that would fascinate me more than others.  Admittedly, this is something that reflects my own personal musical tastes and unlikely to reflect others in the same way that it does mine.  Personal taste, y’all!

But, I’m also not alone in this practice.  It would seem that more engaged music fans really do pay close attention to the music they love and the regions they originate from.  When Nirvana arrived, Seattle became a bright spot on the musical map.  When R.E.M. broke out, that region blipped.  Blues installed spotlights on Chicago, and the Delta regions.  It would seem that some places actually foster a kind of musical climate that appeals to some people more than others.  Right now, it seems that Austin, TX is a centrality for the Psychedelic Rock resurgence.

But, this article is centered on the relevancy of either the UK or the US as a viable music market of note.  My opinion is this:  As I (still) pay close attention to charting music, the UK seems to point out to me a lot of bands that I adopt as favorites.  And because of this, I hold close the opinion that the UK is more relevant than the US.  The US, I believe is engaged primarily in the Pop markets, with independent bands a follow-up for those that care.

As an aside, a quick visit to the excellent UK website, SuperDeluxeEdition will unveil many Special Edition reissues of great old music, which denotes a respect for those revered titles.  The US-based, The Second Disc, will also spotlight such UK reissues.  The US markets very rarely initiate such gems, choosing instead, to let the UK create the sets, and then release US versions of the UK reissues.

So, the question here (despite the intention of my rambling post) is this:  Where do you feel musical relevance is most located?  The US or the UK?


By MARowe

7 thoughts on “Musical Relevance in the US and UK”
  1. I think “relevance” is a nebulous concept. To record companies the definition of relevance may be “whatever sells”. To fans like us (aging baby-boomers) the definition entirely different. I subscribe to the UK magazine “Classic Rock Magazine” so I really do hear about a lot of bands from the UK that I would otherwise never hear about. What is amazing is that I also hear about US bands in that magazine that a US magazine like “Rolling Stone” won’t ever mention. Ultimately it gets into age, demographics and taste. Some would argue that music that appeals to those over 40 isn’t ever relevant (LOL).

    I also find it interesting that there are bands that are/were big in the UK that really don’t register in the US; The Darkness, Joe Bonamassa, Status Quo, Slade (to name a few). I am sure there are lots of fans in the US but none of these bands are held in the same level of esteem in the US as in the UK. Conversely I’ve alway been surprised how polarizing The Beatles are amongst serious rock fans in the UK. In the US they are consistently considered one of the best rock bands ever. In the UK many fans look at them as a pop band and negative comments are common. Once again, my only source for these observations is “Classic Rock Mag”. (I will add that the depth and volume of CRM’s new release reviews puts RS’s to shame).

    To get back to your question, I can’t really say I think the UK or the US has more musical relevance. (Perhaps if I lived over there for a few years I could make a judgement). I can say that there have been periods where I thought the scale was tipped to the UK side and other periods where I thought the scale was tipped to the US side. In fact, I feel that both country’s music scene plays off of the other and it can not be simplified to the point where you can say one is more relevant than the other.

    There, is that answer wishy-washy enough for you?

    1. As always, Bill, your answers are great, fun to read. And at the risk of shocking Beatles fans, I think the Beatles to be an excellent Pop band, nothing more, even as I enjoyed their later years more. I feel the Stones were much, much bett..(owww!)

  2. There are definitely bands in the UK that don’t really make an impact in the US, but I think that, with the internet, people will find the music that they want wherever it is produced. Whether music is relevant or not isn’t an issue.

    On a side note, I lived in the UK from 1978 to 1980 while I was a teen. I can remember hearing “Fat-Bottomed Girls” by Queen on the radio followed immediately by James Cagney’s version of “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Tastes over there can be quite eclectic – during that time I was introduced to Queen, Kate Bush, and Pink Floyd.

  3. In Canada, we always been straddling the borders between the US and Britain. We have been lucky enough to have, for example, our Amazon.ca to be more in line with the British one at times. In any event, I relevance comes down to what type of music you are into. I tend to seek out the Prog/Progressive/Art Rock long song type of bands, and Britain and the EU have always been more accepting of that form of music. So my radar tends to hunt there for stuff. That’s not to say that there aren’t great bands in North America of that genre too – it’s just they are higher profile “over there”. In an interview on CBC radio yesterday, Geddy Lee of Rush was asked who were the band’s biggest influences when they started out. He said, without a doubt, the British bands that were re-inventing American blues into rock, especially Cream. I think that says a lot toward this discussion.
    And I can’t let this go, Matt, and I know there will be others. There is no doubt that the Beatles were a “Pop” band to start – everyone was competing for chart spaces back then. But remember that the Beatles, right from the get go, wanted to have their albums NOT include their singles – they wanted those to be separate mainly for artistic reasons. It was only in North America that they got butchered because of wonky and some would say underhanded contract work by Capitol records. How you could call the Beatles strictly a Pop band starting with Rubber Soul confounds me. Also remember that the driving force behind the Stones in the mid 60s was Brian Jones’ constant attempt to be better than the Beatles, which in my opinion, they never were at that stage. The Beatles ended in 1969, the Stones were on a different path then, but listen again to side 2 of Abbey Road and then imagine what could have been.

    1. I’m sorry, Bob. While I realize the things you said are true, I never could really “adore” them THROUGH Rubber Soul. I gained a tolerance of Sgt Pepper (because I had to) from my 7th grade teacher playing it non-stop during the “quiet” part of class. I enjoy Magical Mystery Tour (I know, a collection), and Abbey Road. But it’s the final collection, Let It Be that I actually love. But get this…I LOVE John Lennon. All his solo stuff. The Beatles, had they remained intact, would have ruled in my book. Still, I loved Stones from the get-go. Maybe I’m crazy…

  4. I’m a little late to this topic but I have to say for me personally the UK is where most of the relevent trends start but they also seem to be looking for the next “big thing” more often as well so the trends shift more quickly there. I do however think that this has less to do with talent that it does with smaller population and public media.

    If you’re a UK band and you rise to the top of the UK charts via the approved BBC playlists and you wind up on BBC TV shows as a result airplay you will then likely get the attention of the world markets and be poised to do well there.

    A US band however has to establish itself in a region that may actually be larger than the whole of the UK and then hope to gain national exposure in a country that is many times the size and population of the UK. You have to have pretty significant resources behind you to mount an excursion from a place like New York to play a few club dates in a place as far away as Los Angeles so it takes a little more effort here in the US I’d say.

    As for the never-ending “who’s better” debate of Beatles vs Stones – I’ll stay out that except to say that to me they’re like air and water. I need them both equally.

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