Mount Rockmore

In the music industry, artists are often honoured late in their careers with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  However, to the criticism of many, they’ve let in a number of artists (such as Madonna, or practically any hip-hop artists) that people don’t deem to “rock”, leaving many to conclude the hall has become somewhat diluted.

So that got me thinking: What would be the ultimate way to honour famous rock musicians?  A monument!  Since it is rock music, let’s make it out of rock.  How about a Rock Rushmore?  No, a Mount Rockmore!

For those who are unaware, Mount Rushmore is a landmark in South Dakota depicting the busts of four Presidents of the United States of notable importance.  As an ignorant Canadian who hasn’t brushed up on their history, I couldn’t begin to tell you all the little nuanced reasoning that went into each man’s selection.  From what little I read, I learned the artist who designed it (Gutzom Borglum) chose the presidents himself.  I’ll take as much artistic freedom myself, though I highly doubt I’d find anybody willing to cough up the land for such an endeavour.

Before starting this blog, I attempted to make a Youtube series where I focused solely on music discussion, but I came to realize while editing a video that I hate watching myself talk, and my voice is about as sleep-inducing as white noise.  While somewhat of a silly concept, this topic would have made up the first video.  It seemed like a fun enough concept that I thought could lead to interesting discussion or debate.

Now let me get on with my selections.  To take away some of the suspense a little, here are a few honorable mentions.

The Beatles

They’re The Fab Four, so it’s hard to leave any of them out. So I’ll settle it by leaving all of them out. Maybe you can mash up their faces into one so they don’t take up too much space, but that would probably just confuse people.

Elvis Presley

He may be The So-Called King Of Rock and Roll, but I never really got his appeal.  He seemed kind of cool when I was little kid, but back then I also thought that about Pee Wee Herman and Ernest P. Worrel.  Time changes a man’s mind is all I’m sayin’!

Freddie Mercury

Easily one of the best rock singers of all-time. He was right on the borderline for me.  A great showman with a voice that could move you to tears.  Many an artist spend their careers trying to right a song as majestic as Bohemian Rhapsody, but fail.

Angus Young

If only for his rather rare status as both a band member and mascot rolled into one.  If AC/DC were hard pressed for an album cover, they could throw him on there, and it could still sell like hot cakes.

James Brown

Highly imitated, but never duplicated.  Set the bar high with his intense level of showmanship, and you can’t get much funkier than him even today.

Bob Dylan

I’ve heard that it’s illegal in eighteen states to form a rock band without covering at least one Dylan tune.

Frank Zappa

Introduced many avant-garde concepts to a mainstream audience, and assembled some of the most talented musicians within a rock music context.  Plus, he fought vocally against the PMRC and music censorship.

Chuck Berry

Most music fans should know by now that he just recently passed away. Though I’m not as familiar with his work as I should be aside from a few songs, I have to mention him out of respect for one of the world’s first rock stars. A true innovator, despite Marty McFly’s attempt to steal his thunder.

There’s so many more that I can mention, so I’ll just get to my first pick.

Mick Jagger

mickjagger-310

He was one of the first rock stars that I remember having some exposure to, so that probably has a lot to do with my selection.  I remember by my aunt being really into the Stones, and had this huge black and white head-shot of him hanging up in her house.  I think it hung in the bathroom, which I found weirdly comforting for some reason.  Additionally, my parents saw them during their Voodoo Lounge tour, so that album was in my childhood rotation as well as some of their more popular material.

When I see Mick Jagger, I think of him as a prototypical classic rock star.  He just has this swagger about him delivered through a confident, cool, and somewhat posh-sounding British accent.  I may be confusing parts of his character with some of the members of Spinal Tap or Austin Powers, but when I think of how he publicly presented himself, he exuded a combination of charm, sexuality, a bit of an ego, and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.  Gladly, it didn’t take long to find interview footage to back some of this up.  Another key trait was that he always had a beautiful woman on his arm, which alone can inspire in it’s own way.

As part of The Rolling Stones, he’s an early inspiration to those modern musicians of advanced age.  The band has been the butt of jokes for years for sticking to it at an old age.  Their late-80s tour was jokingly referred to as the Steel Wheelchairs tour, and most of the band was only in their mid-forties.  Nowadays, it’s seemingly rare for an established band to quit (permanently) before they hit 50 as long as people are showing up to their concerts.  They were one of the leading examples out there saying rock and roll doesn’t have a retirement age, and Mick’s the one out there front and centre, pouting those signature lips of his.

He’s no doubt a songwriting talent (paired with “Glimmer Twin” Keith Richards), with an unmistakable voice that could handle the rockers, blues tunes, and the ballads with equal authenticity.  He’s still a ball of energy whenever he hits the stage, and seems to genuinely love what he’s doing, maybe more now than ever.

And as much as it pains me to say it, he’s my only selection that’s still with us today.  Which leads me into pick No. 2…

Jimi Hendrix

jimi

I feel like he’s the one on here that needs the least defending, but I’ll go ahead with my explanation.

I felt that this list needed someone primarily known for playing a musical instrument, so I figure with Jimi, you can’t go wrong.  It’s difficult to argue against him being the most iconic guitar player ever.  He’s in many guitar player’s top five, and he has seemed to inspire pretty much any type of musician through any genre to some degree.  Hendrix is as synonymous with the guitar as John Coltrane is with the sax.

It’s hard to say whether it was him or Eric Clapton would be called rock’s first big guitar hero, but Jimi certainly was a more revolutionary entertainer.  His passionate performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” would become the template for every guitarist who performed it prior to sporting events.  He didn’t invent all of his guitar moves, but he gets credit for popularizing many of them.  Picking the strings with his teeth, playing behind his back, and even the iconic, Who-esque spectacle lighting of his guitar on fire at the Montery Pop Festival are among his most notable stunts.

He wrote many classic rock hits in such a short span, “Little Wing”, “Voodoo Child”, “Purple Haze”, “Fire”, “Foxy Lady”, “Manic Depression”, “The Wind Cries Mary”, and I’m likely leaving off a few obvious ones.  And then there’s his more famous than the original “All Along The Watchtower”, a great example of making a cover song his own, and it continues to get more airplay than Bob Dylan’s version.  To top it all off, he could sing them pretty well too, and had some interesting lyrics, even if occasionally misheard.  “Excuse me while I kiss this guy” would’ve been quite ahead of it’s time.

And I’m not a superstitious guy or anything, but I feel it’s almost mandatory I include one member of the infamous 27 club on this list.  Going off that list from memory, I think he had the biggest impact of all of them in the long run.  You could arguably make a case for Kurt Cobain, but as famous as he was at his peak, he was certainly a more polarizing figure.

David Bowie

bowie

I view David Bowie as the rock star who helped elevate the genre into more of an art form, or at least the best representative of this to the general public.  This arm form was not solely in stretching out musically, but he did well to market himself on a visual level.  Some people may not know his music, but they would recognize him.  Like many my age, his role in the movie Labyrinth was my introduction to him.  Perhaps his acting career many have little to do with the music he produced, but it just gave a better picture of the artist’s desire to express himself through different mediums (he also painted).

Bowie never seemed content to just ride out a sound for a given time period.  He’ll find different collaborators constantly (Mick Ronson, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Reeve Gabrels, etc.) to help him realize his vision.  Aside from possibly his Ziggy Stardust era, where he held that sound and band for around four albums, he’d tweak the band or producer frequently enough to keep things fresh.  Even if you watch his A Reality Tour DVD, while he may be playing a good chunk of his “hits”, he surrounds himself with musicians that have the ability to inject a freshness into the material while leaving the spirit of their original recorded versions in tact.

A sign of a good artist is that you could ask five different people for their favourite Bowie album and you’ll have five different answers. You may not like every musical direction he took (his work with Tin Machine, for instance, doesn’t always get much praise), but at least he was willing to take chances.  He did this right up to the end of his life, with many people saying his swansong Blackstar was his best album in decades.

On that note, Bowie seemed to be one of the old guard of rock stars out there that people genuinely still looked forward to his releases towards the end of his career.  Had he not ceased touring in 2004, I don’t believe fans would be showing up expecting the hits.  I know that if I had the opportunity to see him live, I certainly wouldn’t have run off to the to the beer line if he played tracks from more recent albums like Heathen or Outside.

Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister

lemmy

Lemmy, I feel, can check off a number of boxes within the spectrum of rock.  His brand of music, with copious amounts of speed and aggression, married the newly-emerging punk rock of the mid-70s with the heavier brand of rock that arose in the late-60s (soon dubbed metal) when he founded Motorhead.  In the process, he united two types of music fans, both of which were often viewed as outcasts in an era when disco and ballad-saturated arena rock was dominating the airwaves.

There are many people who only know of Motorhead through the song “Ace of Spades” so he’s sort of a one-hit wonder, but still recognize Lemmy as a god among men.  That’s a big part of what makes him a legend.  He gained notoriety on his own terms with little to no compromise musically, churning out album after album of hard hitting rock and not a ton of variance.  In that regard, he’s sort of the yin to Bowie’s yang (or is it the other way round?).

Though parents may not like their children admiring long-haired rockers, he set a good example for them by showing that hard work can pay off.  Much of his early music career included serving as a roadie for bands (including The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Nice), then spending some time with Hawkwind before doing his own thing by being the main man in Motorhead.  Not exactly that job in a law firm you parents hoped for, but a decent paycheque nonetheless.

The man just brought it to the people, an absolute road warrior that performed until he couldn’t any longer.  I saw Motorhead twice live, including at Riotfest Toronto in 2015 parked right in front of the stage.  I believe it was his final Toronto show as he was dealing with health issues on a consistent basis.  It looked like he could barely move, and guitarist Phil Campbell was doing a good portion of the crowd work, but he still performed his ass off, was in good humour when he spoke, and the crowd was absolutely loving it.

A good point to end on is that he may seem like a rough dude from the exterior, but by most accounts was a very warm and welcoming man, a major factor of what makes him highly respected by musical peers even outside the hard rock circle.  That being said, if Mount Rockmore was to include arms, Lemmy would still be the one flashing the middle finger.

——

Now, with the magic of my horrific photo editing skills, I present my Mount Rockmore:

Rushmore_Final

I think I’ve included a pretty good balance of musicians with diverse contributions to rock, but of course I don’t expect you all to agree with me. So how did I do? What would your four choices be? Would you keep any of my choices? Would you go in an entirely different direction? Or, if you want to push it further and add a fifth guy to the mountain like Deep Purple did on their iconic In Rock album cover, there’s plenty of room on Lemmy’s mole to squeeze that person on.

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