What do these three great rock bands: The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and The Ramones, all have in common? After all, they are considered to be coming from very different styles, and in certain instances, fans of one group might hate one of the other bands.
The one essential element that ties them all together is that they have a large body of great songs that stand the test of time. No matter the image, style, marketing, or controversy, it always comes down to the songs.
Jagger can rock a stadium, Bon Scott and Brian Johnson can shriek, and Joey Ramone once wore his iconic ripped jeans, leather jacket and sunglasses, but none of that matters too much in the end. Those things, in and of themselves, won’t sell records. It is always about the songs, and without great ones, an artist has essentially nothing.
Even though these groups embody different styles: The Stones (classic blues-based garage rock), AC/DC, (hard-edged blues-based rock with heavy metal elements), and The Ramones (punk), the sense of classic songwriting is still there, where immediacy, structure, melody, and hooks are present.
As a songwriter, I draw parallels between the writing of Rogers and Hammerstein to Jagger and Richards, because both teams created classic songs that have transcended generations, and still stand the test of time. With the Stones, songs from Satisfaction, to Brown Sugar, to Start Me Up still hold up today.
I remember Joey Ramone commenting that he drew upon the chants of the Bay City Rollers for some Ramones tunes. Even though the Ramones are considered punk, many of their best songs, such as Blitzkrieg Bop, Sheena Is a Punk Rocker, and I Wanna Be Sedated, are catchy, pop-oriented, and in the best sense, sing-songy.
AC/DC may have vocals that wail like a banshee, and loud assault-style guitars, but their best songs are catchy rock/pop anthems, like Back in Black, Highway to Hell, and You Shook Me All Night Long.
Musicians, producers, engineers, and even singers can be found, but the songs are the priceless gem stones that are the cornerstone of any artist’s career. In the instance of these three seemingly unrelated bands, they’ve got enough classics to fill more than an entire concert set.
As a songwriter, I have always said that one can never have enough great songs, and that the more that one can write, the better. With these bands, it’s clear what their songs have done for them and the millions of fans they have touched, and will continue to do so, beyond ever-changing styles and the publics’ fickle tastes, for generations to come.