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All Time Greats – The Band Saga

Lisa Ward


‘Name your all time favourite band’

It seems like a simple question, but once you begin to pick away at the surface, you realise it’s actually quite complex. If you ask someone their favourite singer, the choices are fairly simple, you can plump for a solo artist, or select the front woman/man of a band. Either answer would suffice. Yet when asking about a favourite band, you’re opening up a whole can of worms.

For a start, solo artists rarely work without other musicians behind them. Whilst it may be credited to them, it’s rare that a musician performs or records, simply with their voice and a single instrument. Which in many senses, means they’re part of a band. Taking the other stance, there are a realm of bands, who are carried by the lead vocalist alone. Could you credibly plump for say Portishead, if you’d change that answer if Beth Gibbons weren’t on vocals? Surely if it’s Beth who carries the power of the band, then you’re actually only rating her?

Then there’s the pondering on the definition of a band, dictionary definitions limit their opinion on this to ‘a group of musicians who play as an ensemble’. Can you then, for example class the Indigo Girls as a band, even though in reality it’s more like two solo artists playing in conjunction? Does a band need specific elements, a drum kit for example, for them to warrant being classed as a band or does the fact that there’s more than one member means they automatically default to the band category?

Equally problematic is a band who’s line up continuously changes. The Beautiful South for example, have had a variety of members, yet have always been know under one collective umbrella. If you wanted to cite them as the best band on the planet, should you not really specify which line up you’re referring to? Or does it suffice simply to name them in all their varying formats?

It seems then, without specifying the specific ingredients for musicians being placed in the ‘band’ category, answering this question is almost as impossible as naming your all time favourite song. The power of music, lies in its diversity. In it’s ability to break rules and create emotional connections, based on a mood or memory. As someone who refuses to name a singular song as an all-time favourite, simply because it always varies with time and mood, then surely limiting my answer to one single band, is reducing a complex love affair, based on multiple factors down to a simplistic answer, which is equally likely to change?