Readers' Poll: The Best American Rock Band Ever — R.E.M. Vs. Guns N' Roses

by Guitar World Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2015 at 7:43am

When Labor Day came and went earlier this month, it reminded us of the American labor movement and the contributions American workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the good ol' U.S. of A.

However, since we're Guitar World people, we couldn't help but apply those sentiments to music and the American people who made and make it—bands!

This, in turn, led to thoughts and theories about the greatest American band of all time, which led us to our latest readers' poll—the Best American Rock Band Ever! Yes, the gangs from Guitar World and Sweetwater want to get GW readers—you people!—involved as we attempt to crown the Best American Rock Band Ever!

Although we had thousands of bands to choose from, we decided to narrow things down to 32, which is perfect for a month's worth of intense—and fun (it's supposed to be fun, people!) matchups. All the bands were carefully selected by Guitar World's editorial staff.

Note that this poll includes current bands and bands that disappeared into the woodwork years ago. Also, if you're wondering why the Jimi Hendrix Experience aren't on this list, they weren't an American band. Hendrix was American, but he's not a band. Band of Gypsys were American, but they simply didn't make the cut based on the music released under the "Band of Gypsys" moniker. It's one of many tough sacrifices we had to make along the way. Speaking of which, be sure to read "How the Bracket Was Compiled" at the bottom of this story.

Anyway, here are our 32 American bands, which are presented in alphabetical order. You also can check out the entire 32-band bracket below.

Aerosmith, Alice In Chains, the Allman Brothers Band, the Beach Boys, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Doors, Eagles, Foo Fighters, Grateful Dead, Green Day, Guns N' Roses, Heart, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Queens of the Stone Age, Ramones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., Soundgarden, Steely Dan, Steve Miller Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Styx, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Van Halen, the White Stripes and ZZ Top.

Enjoy our Best American Rock Band Ever Poll, which is sponsored by Sweetwater!

Today's Matchup


For 30 years, few rock bands could hold a candle to Athens, Georgia’s R.E.M. in terms of sheer innovation. From the introverted jangly and mysterious college rock of their early days to the brilliant melancholy of 1992’s Automatic for the People to the tightly coiled glam rock of 1994’s Monster, no band could as consistently and triumphantly reinvent themselves as R.E.M. did. Anchored by the extraordinary rhythm section of Mike Mills on bass and Bill Berry on drums, Peter Buck was allowed to craft a criminally underappreciated body of work on the guitar while Michael Stipe was allowed to explore the outer reaches of his poetic lyricism.

Guns N' Roses

Armed with the hedonistic showmanship of hair metal, towering, stadium-sized hooks and the primal aggression of punk, Guns N’ Roses defined the post-hair metal, pre-grunge period of rock. Their debut, Appetite for Destruction, remains one of the most successful debut LPs in history and rock’s definitive late-Eighties blockbuster. Led by powerful voice of Axl Rose and the astounding chops of Slash, Guns N’ Roses singlehandedly altered the face of rock music. Their impact was incalculable, and it shows in the enduring popularity of their early work.

Vote Now!

Guitar World's Best American Rock Band Ever: R.E.M. Vs. Guns N' Roses

Behold the Latest Bracket!

Baby Cecil

How the Bracket Was Compiled

Here's how the bracket was—very unscientifically—compiled.

We drew the artists' names out of a hat (It was, in fact, a smelly Quebec Nordiques baseball cap) to help us create our bracket, which is available for your viewing pleasure below. Obviously, none of these of bands are ranked or come from a previously compiled list, so we chose purely random matchups to have as little impact as possible on the final outcome. We're actually pretty pleased with the way the bracket turned out.

Remember that, as with any poll, genre might occasionally clash against genre, so you'll just need to decide which artist has (or has had) the most to offer within his/their genre, perhaps which one has or had more natural talent or technical skill, which one had the biggest influence on other live acts, etc.

As always, you can vote only once per matchup (once per device, that is), and we'll be posting match-ups pretty much every day of the month, sometimes more than once per day, just to give you an early warning.

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