All right, all right, all right! Glad to see the lively discussion going on about this topic.
In the past several weeks, I've put much thought into this. And I have decided that it is unfair to compare music then from now. When we think of music from the '60s and '70s, the really memorable bands are the first to come to mind. Right now, we won't know what the music of '90s and '00s will be remembered for until several decades from now.
But that's a cop-out.
If I really had to compare, here is what I would say ...
First off, the Beatles are off limits. The Beatles are too good for lists or comparisons. I very seriously doubt another band will have the same impact on popular music in my lifetime.
Time warps people's perceptions. Everybody loves to look back with this sense of false nostalgia.
One thing worth noting about the Beatles -- Rubber Soul and each of the subsequent albums sold far fewer copies than their previous, pop-focused records.
Oh, and Kind of Blue, the Miles Davis album regarded as one of the best and most influential jazz records in the history of the genre, took more than 30 years to reach gold status (more than 500,000 copies sold), according to the book Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece.
Back in the day, we had Eric Clapton, a blues guitarist who found mainstream success in the '70s with rock music. Yes, Cream were a hugely influential psychedelic blues rock trio. But they did not make Clapton a household name. He will be remembered as one of the best blues rock guitarists of his generation. Here is video proof.
Today, we have John Mayer, a blues guitarist who found mainstream success in the '00s with pop music. Yes, Mayer's live blues trio has the potential to be influential. But we won't know the extent of that until some years from now. Either way, there's no denying -- he will be remembered as one of the best guitarists of his generation. Here is video proof.
Back in the day, we had Pink Floyd, an innovative, experimental rock group who found mainstream success in the '70s. They sold out large concert venues, and their concerts had remarkable light shows and special effects. Here is video proof.
Today, we have Radiohead, an innovative, experimental rock group who found mainstream success in the '90s. They sell out large concert venues, and their concerts have remarkable light shows and special effects. Here is video proof.
Obviously, I can't offer comparisons like this for every genre, because that would take weeks and probably bore you to death. But these were the first two that came to mind.
And for those of you whining about my exclusion of the '80s -- that was a weird time for music. It gets its own blog post. Just not now.
So no, it's not fair to compare today's music with the music from past decades. Apples and oranges. But there were people doing remarkable things with music then, and there are people doing remarkable things with music now.