Beatles, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin Vs Nirvana, The Beach Boys, The Velvet Underground – the debate of whether the US or UK has produced the greatest bands has raged on for many a year. But what if we distill this question by factoring in size of population, as often seen in judging great sporting nations, or evaluating economies, then what is the greatest nation on Earth? Which nation has the greatest Gross Musical Product per capita?
Well, obviously Britain. At times the list of my favourite bands has been weighted in favour of American artists, but never so much as the country’s population is weighted against the UK’s. I’m fairly sure only the most isolated Americans (or people who’s music taste is limited to one or two genres, like country, hip-hop or Uzbek shoe gaze) could possibly say different . If anyone can suggest another country, I’d like to hear about it…
But what if we were to concentrate this further, to within the UK? England, right? All the greatest bands, as mentioned above, plus there’s the Stones, the Sex Pistols, Joy Division, Blur… I could go on, for a very long time.
So what have Wales got? Manic Street Preachers, admittedly, made one and a half good albums. Stereophonics have probably got enough decent material to put one listenable album together (none of it has been recorded since 1999 mind). Feeder have some tunes, I even liked Funeral For A Friend’s first album (anyone who hasn’t Busted-jumped to Juneau is not qualified to argue against this). But then Catatonia, Lost Prophets and Tom Jones cancel all that hard work out. And really, Gold Against the Soul sort of self-cancelled out the Manics.
Northern Ireland: Ash and the Undertones, instantly erased by Snow Patrol.
So that leaves Scotland as contenders. Mogwai, Boards of Canada, Biffy Clyro, Frightened Rabbit, Franz Ferdinand, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura, The Twilight Sad, Idlewild, Seafood, Jesus and the Mary Chain, The Skids… how many people live in Scotland?! Currently according to the BBC, it’s 5,062,011. That’s almost one great band PER PERSON, a ratio of 1:1!* Wales have a population of 2.9 million, and only 1.2 great bands, so that makes their ratio 1:2,416,666.
So you might have noticed I may be being slightly biased here, and you might (if you’re really clever) have assimilated that my name probably indicates some kind of Scottish heritage. But seriously, let’s consider a country that has a similar population to Scotland, Finland. How many great Finnish bands do you know? More than the Scottish bands listed above? No. Nowhere near. Actually I can’t name one, sorry, world music guilt setting in…
Any other nations punching above their music to population weight? Sweden? Iceland? Sweden have Sounds Like Violence, The Hives, but a population of 9 mill. Iceland have Sigur Ros, Jakobinarina, Bjork, and a population of around 300,000. It’s good. It’s very good. But it’s still a ratio of 1:100,000, that’s 100,000 times worse than Scotland.
* Not scientifically calculated