Fantasy Rock Band

Just stare at that chart in all its trivial rock’n’roll glory.

As arbitrary as the chosen musicians and their corresponding “salaries” might be, and countless arguments can be made about who’s missing and who’s under/overpriced, I’m still fascinated by this! [We could make 5 or 10 different salary charts based on this same concept, but as you can see, @MattNorlander made this one, so credit to him and send him any of your complaints.]

A few things are keeping me from making a final decision on a line up. Should I just try to make the salary work under the $25 cap, or also consider how the styles/playing fits together? Just like in sports, perhaps more so, chemistry can be as important as talent. But, this is fantasy. I think it’s safe to assume we are getting each of these guys at their peak, and not current (and in some cases, dead) state. Is it a requirement of this pointless fictional game to spend the full $25? What about getting credit/points for spending less?

My day is shot.

One inherent flaw is the idea of strictly defining the guitarists as either “Lead” or “Rhythm” guitarists. Sure, guys like Keith Richards and Neil Young are more known for riffage than shredding, but that’s not all they can do. Jimmy Page is listed as Rhythm but I’m pretty sure he’s capable of playing Lead. On the flipside, the top Lead Guitarist is Jimi Hendrix, but he’s more than capable of playing a Rhythm role as well. Same for George Harrison (listed as the cheapest “Lead” option, perhaps because we often think of him as a peaceful strum-along type).

So that leads (LEADS, see what I did there?) to more questions: should I pick 2 very versatile guitarists so they each fill both rhythm and lead duties? Or go for a more defined rhythm-lead combo? We’ll play with some lineup options later, but thought it should be noted that the guitar slots are tougher to define than Drums or Bass.

“Frontman” seems easily defined, but there’s some basic flaws with that slot too. Are women eligible? (In fact, there are no women anywhere on this chart, so that’s another general complaint to be launched elsewhere on behalf of Janis Joplin, Kim Gordon, Chrissie Hynde, and Ann & Nancy Wilson.) And are we judging/choosing our Frontman on vocal abilities alone or does stage presence play into it? Again, chemistry comes into play, how will a given Frontman’s voice sound with a given supergroup of musicians? If you choose some hard-rockin metal-leaning musicians, then Axl Rose might be a better choice than, say, Bono or Mick Jagger. But I’d trust Bono and Jagger to actually show up to the gigs and perform on time, and in general I don’t think I’d want Axl Rose in any band I was putting together.

This also brings up a few more questions: should the lyrical/writing talent of the Frontman/singer be considered? Or if we spend the $10 to get Neil Peart as our drummer do we just use his lyrics? Or do we skimp and get Jim Morrison (only a dollar!) and figure with a band full of legendary musicians we only need a cool-looking guy to stand there and read through his nonsensical faux-etry journals and stay out of the way. Then again, if we splurge and spend $10 on Hendrix (or $8 for Prince) on Lead Guitar, do we really need a Frontman? There’s not much a Frontman/singer can do that Prince can’t. Heck, just pay the $8 for Prince and have him play everything. Done.

Judging from the list, I’m guessing the idea is to have a designated singer who generally doesn’t play an instrument. Interesting that Freddie Mercury got the top slot; I don’t disagree, but I would have assumed he’d be underrated on this list since most people see guys like Jagger and Robert Plant as the standard bearers. So, good on @MattNorlander for giving the incomparable Mercury his due. But I wonder if Bono ($3) was penalized for his perceived “flaw” of being a too much of a “do-gooder.” Jeez, god forbid a guy uses his fame to help feed and save the world! And okay, he’s a got a huge ego, but I’m pretty sure that’s a main requirement here, right up there with (and possibly above) actual vocal talent. (Or maybe @MattNorlander just likes Queen a lot more than U2.) Like Mercury, Bono also nailed it at Live Aid (forever launching U2 into the pop stratosphere) and he’s been commanding stadiums for almost 30 years since. And he’s had his hand in writing his share of hit songs. So yea, Bono is a basement bargain!

Looking at these lists, there’s just tremendous value at the bottom of the drummers list.

Ginger Baker is a heckuva drummer for a dollar. It’s the most literal example possible of “a lot bang for the buck.” Of course, that extra $3 you’d have to spend for Dave Grohl is buying you peace of mind, the reliability of Dave’s mental stability vs. that of Mr. Baker’s. And Grohl is an industry-connected guy who seems to have the Midas Touch right now. Oh, and he can write and sing hooks if your all-time superstar band of legends ever hits a dry spell.

Meanwhile, one of my favorite drummers ever (Stewart Copeland) is only $2. So as much as I love John Bonham ($9) I think I’ll spend the big money elsewhere.

Speaking of value… I’d buy George Harrison for a dollar! Wait, I can get half the Beatles for $3? And I guess it’s a credit to both Led Zeppelin and The Who that not only is every member on this list, but each foursome would cost $30, well over the $25 cap for an “all-time, five-piece rock band.” So kudos to those guys, I think everything is gonna work out pretty good for them.

If you had to spend the full $25, how about:

Drums: Dave Grohl ($4)
Frontman Freddie Mercury ($10)
Lead Guitar: Eddie Van Halen ($5)
Rhythm Guitar: Tony Iommi ($4)
Bass: Paul McCartney ($2)

There would be a solid return on investment with the massive hits likely to come with Iommi’s Sabbath riffage, Eddie VH’s pyrotechnics, Dave fuckin Grohl, Sir Macca, and Freddie Mercury. They would write incredible songs AND rock out.

Another band for the full $25:

Drums: Stewart Copeland ($2)
Frontman: Bono ($3)
Lead Guitar: Prince ($8)
Rhythm Guitar: Keith Richards ($8)
Bass: Flea ($4)

While I think Flea and Prince would be great together, and Stewart Copeland would keep things dynamic and interesting while Keith stumbled around smirking and smoking in his bandannas and bracelets, I think overall it would get too busy. These guys would jam, but I’m not crazy about the chemistry. At some point Stewart would punch Bono in the face.

If the goal is to get the cheapest band way under the $25 cap… okay, you could do worse than just grabbing the $1 guys from the bottom of each category (George Harrison on Lead Guitar with Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard on Rhythm, Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones on Bass, Ginger Baker on Drums, and Jim Morrison manning the mic), but for only $14 you could get:

Drums: Danny Carey ($3)
Frontman: David Bowie ($5)
Lead Guitar: Brian May ($3)
Rhythm Guitar: Johnny Greenwood ($2)
Bass: John Paul Jones ($1)

I wanted to keep it even cheaper with maybe Bono for $3, since this group needs a lyricist too, or even Ozzy for $4 and a heavier sound, but ultimately this group culled from the likes of Queen, Tool, and Radiohead, along with the diverse skillset and instrumentation of JPJ, it was screaming out for a bigger, more adaptable presence and Bowie is a great value here. What a weird, interesting group that would be.

Wait, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, James Brown, and Kurt Cobain are all free? Who woulda thunkit? (And, sorry guys, no members of The Eagles, Kiss, or AC/DC made the cut. Thankfully.) Oh, hey, Sammy Hagar is also available! He’s got the pipes, and the experience of being a hired-gun frontman. Unfortunately, if you get Sammy Hagar in his prime, there’s an excellent chance he shows up in those tiger-striped workout pants. So let’s just move on.

As for who else is missing, here’s a band you could get for free:

Drums: Alex Van Halen
Rhythm/Lead Guitar: Bruce Springsteen
Lead/Rhythm Guitar: Jack White
Bass: Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam)
Frontmen: Bruce/Jack (and if this breaks a rule, throw Chris Cornell in this band)

This one also has a chemistry problem. Bruce Springsteen and Jack White are two of my favorite rock musicians on the planet (or any other planet, as the case might be with Jack). But I don’t see them meshing, they’re both bandleaders, Alpha dogs. Which leads us back to not needing a “Frontman” if you have someone like Prince as your guitarist. (So we’ll bring in Cornell to sing and just ditch Bruce for John Frusciante. This band would be insane.)

And this is why these trivial exercises of making fantasy rock bands and Mt. Rushmores of athletes is so ludicrous. Sure, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James are 5 of the greatest basketball players ever, but would they make a good team? And they’re lacking a big man. Just like you wouldn’t put together a team of Wilt Chamberlin, Bill Russell, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwan, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Same thing with a band. Chemistry matters.

Another $0 band:

Drums: ?uestlove
Frontman: David Lee Roth
Rhythm/Lead Guitar: Carlos Santana
Lead/Rhythm Guitar: Jerry Garcia
Bass: Meshell Ndegeocello

Okay, now we’re cookin’ with grease. Santana and Garcia and both selfless and spiritual players who would connect with and listen to their band mates, share the spotlight, and each brings a variety of tools to the table. Epic pairing. Of course, ?uestlove is not only a master bandleader but also an amazing drummer who could lock in with Mehsell’s varied grooves to lay the groundwork for a circus ringleader like David Lee Roth, who would bring some much-needed swagger and flair to this otherwise workmanlike group.

This silly debate could go on forever, new charts could be made. And I bet somewhere someone else is thinking about who might fit with Sting and Keith Moon. I’m still trying to figure out the best combination I could afford on bass and drums if I spend $21 on The Edge, David Gilmour, and Robert Plant. Hope I die before this game gets old.



  1. “I’m still trying to figure out the best combination I could afford on bass and drums if I spend $21 on The Edge, David Gilmour, and Robert Plant.” You could go with Stewart Copeland and either John Paul Jones or Paul McCartney to fill out the rhythm section. Of course, then you’ve got the problem of Copeland, a great drummer, almost certainly rubbing at least Plant and likely Plant and Gilmour the wrong way and the band breaking up halfway through recording their first album.

    I went with

    Frontman – David Bowie ($5)
    Lead Guitar – Eric Clapton ($5)
    Rhythm Guitar – Pete Townshend ($9)
    Bass – Paul McCartney ($2)
    Drums – Dave Grohl ($4)

    which I think would gel quite well, both musically and personality-wise.

    Townshend’s a bit overpriced there, the one one who is (who’s not underpriced, in fact), if it’s possible to overprice Pete, which it may not be.

    Gilmour and Grohl have proven they can be kickass sidemen, at least in the somewhat short term, and even Townshend has occasionally. (And every time you see him with Clapton, he still seems somewhat in awe of Eric.).

    And if David Bowie can subsume his ego to Reeves Gabrels, I think he can to Paul McCartney and Pete Townshend with little difficulty, no?


  2. $21 gets me

    Jonny Greenwood
    David Bowie
    Bootsy Collins
    Ginger Baker

    A loose and funky rhythm section complementing funk and experimentation at the forefront with the most adaptable front man to take it all on. Yes. I want to see this band.


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