10. The Band
OK, technically The Band are four fifths Canadian, but their beautiful blend of US blues, folk and country with contemporary rock makes them the founding fathers and all-time finest exemplars of what we now call Americana. Comprising virtuoso yet innately soulful multi-instrumentalists Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson and the late Richie Manual, Rick Danko and Levon Helm (the only American), this was a definitive group; five extraordinary individual talents coming together to concoct a rich stew of music. In the late Sixties, they all lived and recorded together in a Woodstock house known as the Big Pink, underneath which jam sessions with Bob Dylan turned into the legendary Basement Tapes.
9. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
First inspired to form a band by The Beatles, Tom Petty has retained an anglophile bent that values smart, concise songwriting, preferring understatement to excess, and never straying too far from the classic virtues of verse, bridge, chorus. The Heartbreakers are a fantastic band with killer musicianship, sleek and energetic, who know when to hold back and when to really let rip. It took the dynamism of new wave to bring Petty into fashion but he has risen to become one of America’s most trusted performers, a rock ‘n’ roll hero of rare class, integrity and intelligence.
8. The Ramones
Possibly the least gifted band of musicians to be universally hailed as all-time greats. The Ramones played fast and loud, with a relentless, tom-tom dominated rhythm, buzzsaw guitars, basic melodies and repetitive lyrics. Most of their songs were indistinguishable from each other, a fact not helped by Joey Ramones’s peculiar enunciation, words strung together by syllables alone, all consonants jettisoned in the frenzy. The Ramones boiled rock music down to its very essence: leather jackets, ripped jeans, three chords and an attitude. Their first three stunning albums reset rock’s dial, serving as catalyst and inspiration for hundreds of emerging bands.