Rock and Roll Cage Match
Rock and Roll Cage Match: Music's Greatest Rivalries, Decided
Edited by Sean Manning
Three Rivers Press (2008)
Boxers vs. briefs? Coke vs. Pepsi? DVD vs. Blu-ray? Pfffft! In life, you have to choose which battles are really worth fighting for. And these water cooler spats are mere trifles compared to the contents of this book. No, as Rob Sheffield (Love Is a Mix Tape, Talking To Girls About Duran Duran) observes in his forward to this collection, "These writers have made the tough calls, and I am in awe, even when I think they are full of crap."
Tough calls like R.E.M. vs. U2, Phil Spector vs. Timbaland, The Smiths vs, The Cure, Whitney Houston vs. Mariah Carey, The Rolling Stones vs. The Velvet Underground, Jay-Z vs. Naz, Band Aid vs. USA for Africa, , Guided By Voices vs. Pavement, Phil Collins vs. Sting, Hall & Oates vs. Simon & Garfunkle, Blur vs. Oasis, Bernard Hermann vs. Ennio Morricone, Led Zeppelin vs. Black Sabbath, Abba vs. The Bee Gees, Radio vs. Coldplay, Van Halen vs. Van Hager, Patsy Kline vs. Kitty Wells, Bob Dylan vs. Bob Marley, Elton John vs. Billy Joel, The Four Tops vs. The temptations, Trent Reznor vs. Marilyn manson, Bruce Springsteen vs. Bon Jovi, Parliament vs. Funkadelic, John Lennon vs. Paul McCartney, Nirvana vs. Metallica, N.W.A. vs. Wu-Tang Clan, Devo vs. Kraftwerk, Britney Spears vs. Christina Aguilera, Michael Jackson vs. Prince, even The Album vs. The Single. No wonder Sheffield concludes that "The music will never die because pointless and ridiculous arguments like these help keep it alive."
As Chris Estey explained in his KEXP Radio blog, the genesis of this anthology can be traced to the “Band Vs. Band” Internet phenomenon of a few years back that was kick-started by Dan Kois’ “R.E.M. vs. U2″ posting on Slate in November 9, 2006 in reference to “Who Was The Best Rock Band of the 80s?” It appears here as the Ur cage match, the battle that “launched a thousand blog comments.” Actually, the whole cage match idea makes me think back to MTV's Celebrity Death Match series from the tail end of the '90s (am I dating myself with this archaic, pre-Millenial reference?)
I haven't read all the articles, but I'm enjoying what I've read so far - especially Michael Showalter's hilarious "Hall & Oates vs. Simon & Garfunkel." H & O win what Showalter says isn't even a "battle of the bands" but rather a battle of band vs. klatch; below are some excerpts that highlight what a fun read this non-essential time-killer truly is:
Klatch vs. Band
"Can we even call Simon & Garfunkel a 'band'? To me they are more of a 'team' or a 'pair' or perhaps a 'klatch.' They are a glee club minus the glee. Garfunkel doesn't even play any instruments! He sings harmonies and wears vests."
"Hey, Paul Simon! You're not off the hook, bub! Unless you're Ry Cooder, experimenting with third-world 'rhythms' is the absolute mark of having lost the thread...To me, 'inspired by tribal rhythms' is a euphemism for 'really rich and out of ideas."
The Kick-Ass Factor
"Now, obviously, if it were a fistfight, Hall & Oates would win in a landslide. Paul Simon is a hobbit and Garfunkel never takes his hands out of his pockets (so he would have to fight with his feet, but you can't hurt anyone by kicking them when you're wearing Wallabees). In fairness, Garfunkel could fight with his Afro, but Oates could defend against Garfunkel's Afro with his Afro, and counterpunch with his mustache. Garfunkel would have no defense against Oates's mustache."
"The Graduate was cool once, but so were trucker hats. Hall & Oates were never cool. That's the beauty of it.
"I will always remember Simon & Garfunkel as those dudes in black turtlenecks, pouting for the camera, trying so hard to look 'deep'; I will always remember Hall & Oates as the soundtrack of my youth. I will always remember Simon & Garfunkel for how good they thought they were; I will always remember Hall & Oates for how good I thought they were."