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Growing up as a football fan I’ve often sacrificed the back page of a school exercise book for the formation of my dream eleven football team. Many a debate has been had over the years about who should be in the line-up and it still continues to this day. Realistically, it’s not something we will ever have a definitive answer to, but it’s always fun to dream up magical midfield combinations in your head and live in a fantasy world where Gerrard and Lampard do in fact play well together. It’s also a sure-fire way to spark heated debates with your pals and the easiest way to split generations, with your grandparent’s team looking a bit England '66 heavy while your own is more of a Premier League all-stars showing.
As much as I love a football debate, and mainly winding up Man United fans, this is neither the time nor the place. What if, however, we take the same principle and apply it to music? The band to end all bands – a star line-up of musicians coming together to form the greatest super group ever known to man. As with the football dream team, it is likely to cause arguments as everyone has very different tastes, genres and styles – but at the risk of opening myself up to intense criticism, I thought I’d have a go myself and offer an open invitation for you to do the same. The formation I will be using is as follows: lead guitar, bass, drums, keys, singer, producer/DJ, songwriter, and I’ll open up a spot called ‘other’ in case having an accordion or something tickles your fancy.
Lead Guitar – Jimi Hendrix
I’m sure Brian May will be devastated, but even he has in the past conceded that Hendrix is the best. Coming out of rock and roll in the 50s, the guitar had been famously used in a fairly conservative way – strumming rhythmically through a selection of familiar chords. Hendrix didn’t seem to think that way – getting wails, screams and roars from his guitar, sometimes all at the same time. He used the instrument in a way that at the time was unique and has paved the way for a lot of electric guitar playing today. He provided so many iconic guitar moments too – the shredding of the US national anthem at Woodstock to protest the Vietnam war or the iconic intro to ‘Voodoo Child’. Having Hendrix in your band would mean that your guitar could be as wild and creative as you can imagine. He was also a fine vocalist so could provide back-up and harmonies wherever necessary!
Bass – Paul McCartney
Often the most under-appreciated part of the band, it is a lot more difficult to pick an all-star bassist than it is a lead guitarist – however, Paul offers a strong showing. Known more for his singing, writing, piano, guitar and just about everything else there is no doubting that Paul McCartney is one of the most talented musicians of the last 100 years, but his bass playing isn’t really what he was known for. He did however play this role for The Beatles, and they did alright so he must have been good! It would feel wrong to put together an all-star band and not include this pioneer of the British Invasion era of pop. Paul’s talents in just about every other spot in the band present him as a great addition as a versatile team player.
Drums – Phil Collins
Another versatile inclusion, but an icon of drumming nonetheless. The biggest compliment I can pay Phil Collins is that despite years of record sales, acclaim and adoration he is still underrated. Whilst you may know Phill Collins for some cheesy 80s pop tunes or that bit from ‘In The Air Tonight’ the man is an absolute genius. Having read his autobiography, it becomes apparent that there was a thirty year period starting somewhere in the 70s where just about every piece of successful music had Phil’s stamp on it, whether as a producer, singer, pianist or drummer. The man started playing prog rock with Genesis, made a successful solo career in pop and then in his later years decided to pull together some of the best jazz musicians in the world and drum in his own swing band. The man is a musical genius and one of the most gifted drummers of all time. I also love his singing - whilst less iconic than his drumming, ballads like ‘Against All Odds’ demand high levels of vocal power and skill and he made them look easy. If you’ve got a spare moment, I’d recommend watching his performance of ‘In The Air Tonight’ at Knebworth in which the man perches himself on the edge of the stage and sings to hundreds of thousands of people, before taking a leisurely stroll up to his kit sitting down just in time for the iconic fill. Cool as they come.
Keys – Duke Ellington
This was a tough one, but it was really only a matter of time before I injected some jazz into the line-up. Duke Ellington is one of the the greats of jazz piano and a quick listen to his laidback yet technical solo at the start of 'Take the A Train' should have you convinced. If his piano playing wasn't enough for you he was also the leader of his own swing band, widely recognised as one of the greatest of all time and iconic for a more laidback swing feel than other bands were offering at the time. He is truly a great and can offer his skills as both a pianist and a leader into my dream band. A special mention goes out to Scott Joplin, the pioneer of ragtime piano, who was my number two pick. You may think you've not heard of him but go on YouTube and listen to his music, particularly 'Maple Leaf Rag' and 'The Entertainer', I guarantee you've heard those!
Singer – Elvis Presley & Hannah Reid
Speaking of lead vocals – the spot with the most candidates and that will likely cause the most debate. I did have to cheat and put two in, but I feel a male and a female would offer more range and depth to the group. I think Elvis speaks for himself. A beautiful man with a beautiful voice and one of the most naturally gifted performers of all time. The king of rock and roll can tenderly vibrato his way through a powerful ballad as well as he can blow away fast rock and roll tunes. Elvis’ voice remains unmatched to this day and his natural charisma makes him the perfect front man. An icon of mine for as long as I can remember, this really wasn’t a tough choice, despite how many legendary male vocalists there are. After putting so many legends in the band it felt time to include something more modern. This is an inclusion that for me comes from pure talent and voice alone rather than status. It would have been easy to throw Adele in there, and don’t get me wrong she has a superb voice, but in music today, in my opinion, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who sings as beautifully as Hannah Reid. The vocalist for London Grammar, Hannah’s voice is absolutely haunting. I’m a big fan of the group but it was Hannah’s voice that drew me in. I explicitly remember hearing it for the first time and being blown away, such was the ineffable quality of her sound. A big call to make for such a highly contested spot, but I’m very happy with my decision.
Producer/DJ – Dr Dre
This is a tough call. Dr Dre is an absolute legend, his contribution to rap music stems from the 80s and since then everything he has touched has turned to gold. From producing hits with N.W.A to rapping on them himself, to discovering and producing for up and coming artists such as Eminem and 50 Cent, and even starting his own headphone company. The man is a true legend and his eye for detail, sample selection and experience all give him more than enough on his CV to warrant an inclusion. My main concern now is considering how the group would come together. Having worked mainly in rap and hip hop music it’s tough to see how Dre would work with this particular band I have concocted, but I’d be interested to find out.
Songwriter – Bob Dylan
This really is a tough one – and considering the songwriting talent already scattered throughout the group we could have left this spot vacant. Bob Dylan is a perfect fit for me though. A prolific songwriter and an unrivalled lyricist, Dylan has often been described as more of a poet than a performer, and has even won poetry awards for his songs. His musical talent was never what made him great, but we’ve already got plenty of that in the line-up, so I’m happy for Bob to sit with a pen writing verses before passing them on to the rest of the band.
Other – Saxophone – Leo Pellegrino
This is my band and I was always going to include a saxophone. Leo Pellegrino really is one of a kind; the bouncing baritone player of ‘Too Many Zooz’ fame is a unique performer - and I don’t just mean his outfits. Underneath all the dancing and funky basslines you can tell that Leo is an extremely technically adept saxophone player and having seen various pieces of his work is equally as effective in a jazz or swing setting as he is in a funk or dance tune. He can also make some really weird and wonderful noises that he somehow seamlessly fits into his music. I implore you to watch his performance of ‘Moanin’ at the BBC Proms 2017. Letting Leo loose in the middle of a song for a sax solo is bound to produce some insane results and his natural charisma and dancing make him as entertaining as anyone. He would be the unique cherry on top of my dream band line-up. I was also tempted by Lindsey Stirling, whose unique style of music puts her incredible violin playing at the front and centre of EDM and dubstep songs.
So that's my line-up - interesting to say the least, but full of great talent. I would be intrigued to see how the egos would fare in a band made up almost exclusively of stars used to having their own names in lights. How would Bob feel being asked not to sing? How would Phil feel being pushed back to the drum kit? How would Jimi and Paul feel standing back whilst Elvis and Hannah share the spotlight on centre stage? Based on talent alone though, even excluding the reputations of these artists, I think we could be looking at one of the best bands of all time, in my humble opinion obviously. I'm sure you've been scoffing all the way through this at some of my selections so I'll open up the floor for you to have a go yourself, it's a lot tougher than you think!
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