Jun 012008

What’s your Holy Trinity of Rock ‘n Roll? In our epic and ongoing Last Man Standing we learned that The Replacements make up one third of Townsman cdm‘s Holy Trinity.

The concept of the Holy Trinity of Rock was first coined by Epluribusgergely, which he used to describe Hrrundivbakshi‘s gold standard of Holy Trinities: Prince, ZZ Top, and ELO. As cdm fills us in on the last two thirds of his Holy Trinity, let’s hear from the rest of you: what three bands best represent all that rock ‘n roll means to you.


  44 Responses to “What’s Your Holy Trinity of Rock ‘n Roll?”

  1. All trinities must have an underlying support (as in “it’s turtles all the way down”), and therefore I take it as a given that the Beatles are my turtle. That leaves as my holy trinity:

    Elvis Costello, R. Stevie Moore, and Stereolab. While it seems to to have a band that only started recording the year I became able to legally drink in my HT, they bring in the electronic, bossa nova and Eurovision-style pop that underlie many of my favorite artists. What EC and RSM bring to the party is immediately obvious.

  2. Beatles
    Elvis Costello The Clash

  3. BigSteve

    Mr. 48, how can what R. Stevie Moore brings to the table be obvious to me if, like most people, I’ve never heard a note of his music?

  4. For me the Holy Trinity is not necessarily my favorite three artists, but instead the three artists that have meant the most to me over the years and who shaped my views on music.

    With that caveat aside, I’ve got three Holy Trinities

    Rock: Bob Dylan, The Who, The Replacements

    Country: Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, Tom T. Hall

    Jazz: Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk

    Sorry, but I can’t just limit it to rock. My HT for music in general would be the first name on each sub-HT.

  5. Mr. Moderator

    Paul wrote:

    For me the Holy Trinity is not necessarily my favorite three artists, but instead the three artists that have meant the most to me over the years and who shaped my views on music.

    Excellent approach to what we’re looking for!

    I’m still trying to decide on the third member of my Holy Trinity. This is tough.

  6. Time out. Mad props to the Back Office for finding that creepy video starring a young Eplurb! I hope you don’t get a call from ZZ’s lawyers. Message to mom: you might want schedule that talk a little later, huh?

  7. Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Amen.

  8. Mr. 48, how can what R. Stevie Moore brings to the table be obvious to me if, like most people, I’ve never heard a note of his music?

    Well, it’s obvious when you hear it, then.

  9. sammymaudlin



  10. The Rolling Stones (Mick Taylor era), the Velvet Underground and the Mats. Note the collective lack of virtuosos in the trinity.

    Country: Hank, George Jones, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys

    Blues: Howling Wolf, Robert Johnson, probably more Howling Wolf but I’ll say Elmore James to keep this from turning into a binity.

    Jazz: I second Paul S.

    And for the record, I didn’t hear about the Holy Trinity of Rock From E Pluribus. I can’t remember who it was but it was about ten years ago and they had the Ramones and Hank in theirs.

  11. If we’re expanding:

    Country: Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Carter Family

    Blues: Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Kokomo Arnold

    Jazz: Roland Kirk, MJQ, Miles

  12. Mr. Moderator

    I’ve been thinking about this and trying to recall my barely Catholic upbringing. If I’m going to construct my Rock ‘n Roll Holy Trinity along the lines of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I’d start with The Beatles (Father), Elvis Costello (Son), and Bob Dylan (Holy Ghost), but what I get most out of Dylan is from a concentrated period. Maybe Eno’s my Holy Ghost. Then where do Brian Jones-era Stones and The Clash fit into all this? I’ve got more work to do before I declare, OK?

  13. BigSteve

    I’ve been thinking about this, and what really matters most to me most is broad stylistic reach combined with the ability to keep doing it over a long period of time. I knew Bob Dylan would be in there, but picking the other two was tough.

    In the running at various times were Hendrix, Lowell George, Neil Young, Ray Davies, Jerry Garcia, either Elvis, Beefheart, Prince, James Brown, Lou Reed, Bob Marley, Doug Sahm, and Charlie Rich, each disqualified for different reasons, usually either for burning brightly but too briefly or for being too inconsistent. I’m going with Ry Cooder and Van Morrison. Those three still leave a few things out, but songwriting, singing, and playing are all covered plus the widest range of the types of music that matter most to me.

    And although the question was phrased in terms of bands, I would never pick a band for something like this, only an individual artist.

  14. On the grounds of being arbitrary and limited, this thread is worse than the ten best songs in the history of rock and roll that the Mod allowed only with a nose pin. What gives?

    Stones, Dylan, The Minutemen.

  15. hrrundivbakshi

    I’m bein’ called out agin! To paraphrase my vinyl guru, epluribusgergley: “know that” I agree with mwall, that this is a silly thread at best. I’m more of a Hindu when it comes to Rock Godhead. What I want to know is: what’s your Rock Ganesha, your Rock Hanuman — and most interestingly: what’s your Rock Lingam?

    Yours respectfully,


  16. dbuskirk

    Wesley Willis, Wildman Fisher and Mikey Wild (back in action!)

  17. At the risk of being exposed as a faux Rock Nerd, I’ve never understood why this is any this post (or top ten songs/albums/etc) is any sillier than any other discussion that I’ve seen on here. As much as I love this stuff, it’s not like we’re curing cancer on this site. What’s the aversion? Too “High Fidelity”? Too lazy?

  18. hrrundivbakshi

    Sorry, I meant “Rock Yoni.” There’s far too much Lingam in Rock already, and I think we know where to find it.

  19. alexmagic

    The only Holy Trinity of Rock that matters:
    (The 2:50 mark)

  20. Mr. Moderator

    Mwall wrote:

    On the grounds of being arbitrary and limited, this thread is worse than the ten best songs in the history of rock and roll that the Mod allowed only with a nose pin. What gives?

    Hey man, Hrrundi put his mansack on the table long ago. How ’bout you doing the same and quit complaining? I’m not asking for your favorite artists, necessarily, but your Holy Trinity. There are spiritual implications here that I feel need sharing.

  21. Reread my post, Mod. I smart-mouthed first, then ponied up second. I will also say that I could easily replace The Minutemen with Pere Ubu, and maybe I will.

  22. lot of bullshittin,
    not a lot of trinities.
    c’mon guys.
    so far buskirk wins.

  23. RUN-DMC, Public Enemy, Wu Tang Clan, Amen.

  24. I think more clarity is needed on what constitutes a Holy Trinity. Right now it seems like a rank your children in order of how much you like them question. Mod you implied that Costello is the offspring of Beatles. Does the Trinity include a descendent?

  25. BigSteve

    Man creates god(s) in his own image. It’s up to the individual theologian to explain the derivation of his Trinity.

    Even after looking up the turtles reference, I didn’t understand its applicability.

  26. I think I’ve got something. It’s not the most eclectic or daring of Holy Trinities, but it’s mine.

    The Beatles: Getting into this band at an early-ish age was key for me and, I’d wager, most RTH-ers. Pretty much every musical decision I’ve made, good or ill, can be traced back to them.

    The Kinks: Introduced me to wit, irony, cult status, advanced Anglophilia, character studies and lots of other things that I value. They laid the groundwork for my later obsessions with Randy Newman, Pulp and others.

    Elvis Costello: An artist with whom I currently have a rather complicated relationship, but if I’m being honest, he helped pull me out of the classic rock canon. Although his current “I can sing anything” pose is obnoxious (and a lie), his obvious passion for country, jazz and other non-rock genres served as a good entry point for me.

  27. general slocum

    I’ve seen caveat trinities, as in the person who picked three hip-hop/rap groups for “Rock and Roll Trinity.” And the person who listed nine artists of rock, jazz, and I forget what else. It is hard to pick a big three of anything, and moreso, when I don’t have a Jazz Town Hall or Classical Town Hall next door to scratch the other itches. But I will in good faith keep it to rock as I see it. I will also try to avoid slipping in a fourth, under the guise of calling it a “turtle.” Come, come now.

    The BEatles have to be first, just out of overall hours listening, ubiquity through childhood, memorability, percentage of turds, and overall cultural saturation.

    Zappa, for ingenuity, guitar skills, harmonic interest, eclectic but worthwhile breadth, and for the ability to reach across his own assholism, potty humor, elitist prickishness, and hostility to keep me tuned in for decades.

    I’d almost put Beefheart last, for poetry, vibe, iconic rock status, and because it seems wussier to put Bob Dylan for the same reasons. But instead, I have to put Lou Reed – Uh oh. Wait! No I don’t! – This is screwy, but you know what? To be genuine, I have to say it’s Eno. Based only on Roxy and his own records through 1980, which isn’t that much output overall, he is a shining example of inventive utilization of minimal actual skills. The worlds implied by his sounds were an oasis to this Townsman when I was a gawky youth (with minimal skills!)

    These three sum up a lot of one branch of my musical family tree.

  28. I just threw in those bonus genres because I saw Paul S do it and I’m a “monkey see, monkey do” kind of guy, but rest assured, they’re not a backdoor way of squeezing more folks into the trinity. If I was doing that, I would have figured out a way to shoehorn Tom Waits in there. I picked mine based on the impact that they had on me when I first heard them and, secondarily, time spent listening.

    I’ve always been a Stones guy so I’ve only fairly recently been able to really appreciate the Beatles (especially Ringo). You just can’t argue with the Beatles’ catalog or impact but that’s part of the problem for me. It took me quite along time to get past the fact that they were/are crammed down my throat for as long as I can remember. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t really be a rock fan without appreciating them on a certain level but at the same time pizza might kick ass but not if you were force fed it at every meal. But don’t worry, I’m in recovery now. I still only own two of their albums and am not sure if I would include them in the top 10 discs but I’m making progress.

    Something about the Stone’s Rock-ness always appealed to me more than the Beatles’ Pop-ness. Maybe I judged the Beatles’ too harshly for their British dance hall dalliances but damn that shit is annoying. I know the Stones have their share of misfires, more so than the Beatles even if you are just judging them based on the period when both bands were still together, but that open chord Keith stuff like Tumbling Dice and Rocks Off kills me.

    True to the cliché, the Velvet Underground made me realize that anybody could start a band (or could they?) and that songwriting, ingenuity and a vibe were much more important than necessarily being proficient on your instrument. Also, the fact that they were singing about speed deals while everyone else was singing about flowers and whatnot appeals to my contrarian nature.

    It’s sort of the same with the Replacements, but with the beauty-in-imperfection that I mentioned before when I was defending them against the Gurus.

  29. Sure. Just blame Paul S.

  30. I will also try to avoid slipping in a fourth, under the guise of calling it a “turtle.” Come, come now.

    The turtle quote is spiritually and philosophically apt. Come come now yourself.

  31. general slocum

    The somewhat great 48 sez:
    The turtle quote is spiritually and philosophically apt. Come come now yourself.

    Something about “Holy Trinity” had me thinking in threes, but that is my Roman Catholic, Euclidian upbringing showing. “Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Turtle” is after my time. Weren’t the other turtles Michaelangelo, Leonardo, and Bernie Taupin? You’ve still got 3 turtles left!

  32. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, G48 — are you referring to the ancient American cosmologies that believed that the universe was held up on the back of a giant turtle? If so, *I* understand you.

    Now to the matter at hand:

    Rock Ganesha: Stones. No band has ever worked so hard, for so long. Surely the gods take no offense at their absurd wealth.

    Rock Hanuman: let’s see, a band or artist that is cursed for its childishness, and is never really aware of its own awesome powers… one of Prince’s curses is that he’s unbearably childish sometimes, but he knows *exactly* how powerful he is. Jonathan Richman is childish, but with no superpowers to speak of. Van Halen is childish, but quite aware of their power. This is a hard one — I need some help, fellow beievers!

    Rock Shiva: A band or artist of awesome power, that both creates and destroys the world around them; whose worship can frequently be distilled into a contemplation of their singular masculinity. *Gotta* be Elvis Presley.

    Rock Shakti: the overarching “female” counterpart to the predominantly male rock cosmology, she grants creative, inspirational wisdom to balance the masculine/destructive impulses of “male” artists. This is another tough one, but I’m going to say Joni MItchell. I’m not the biggest fan, being more of a follower of Rock Shiva, but I admit she has a kind of pure femininity that seems to inspire followers of the Lingam.

    Yours respectfully,


  33. 2000 Man

    The Stones part is easy. Before Punk, in the days when Classic Rock ruled I knew some blues artists, but through The Stones I found out about Country and Country Rock. They also validated my thoughts on looking back and finding out about the history of Rock n Roll. They’re definitely my main “go to” band.

    The Replacements. I pretty much missed them when they were a real, live band. Some of it was my fault, but more of it was radio’s fault. Probably about an hour after they broke up I looked up from my pile of Stones bootlegs and noticed that I missed something great and I shouldn’t have. It all works out, though. That reminded me that I have to look for what I like, and that I show up late for some parties, but that’s what records are for. It’s also okay because I think I appreciate Paul Westerberg’s solo career more.

    The Flamin’ Groovies. They may be the hardest band in the world to collect and I never got to see them, but they’re probably the only band I can think of that changed singers and was just as good, even though they were different.

    I think these three bands are the ones that remind me what it is that I’m looking for in old and new music constantly, more guitars and a little sincerity.

  34. mockcarr

    Well, because you didn’t see them 2000 man, you may hold a different opinion of the Replacements, but they were a difficult, messy live band too. They COULD play, would proceed to kick your ass for about 20 minutes, and then would show you that they didn’t give a shit and never finish another song completely and burn setlists or play requests for songs they didn’t know. Even so that feckin’ 20 minutes stuck with me. After all, that’s all a Beatles fan got way back when, so maybe I have this backwards.

    The Beatles took the basic musical elements and used them in a way I 95 percent love. God, if there is one, has a worse ratio than that.
    If a voice of a supreme deity exists for me, it is that Beatle harmonic voice. They probably include everything I could like in rock and are a template for most of the sounds of production that will let me like an okay band more.

    The Who have the duality of a man/god figure – the technical skill within distortion, the plaintive questioning alongside the heavy bombastic egotism, the anger with the love, the serious and whimsical, the rhythm and solo players interchangable in their usage, every member a solist and also of the band. The band identifying with the dancers, then becoming the stars wondering how they became myths and and can they actually be those Rock gods? Can they can still communicate with the people who listen? Reflecting man’s excess and confusion and his search for meaning. Pete, at least, believing for a time that it is the music itself. The single note player and listener.

    If I’m left with a ghost, then it’s the Minutemen. From an ethereal DIY ethos that rarely produces talent, comes this trio of skill, power, and nuance who never considers any idea too small or large to pursue. They applied the working man’s common sense to philosophy and history’s posings and gave it an guts and riffs. So much for singing. Rock isnt’ supposed to be really good, as Tom Petty would say. I can appreciate a lot of things mixed into rock songs that would otherwise be incomprehensible to me because of them. I’ll give more time to quirks I would have rejected and moved on from in the past. They helped reassure me that lyrics do matter. I do not necessarily “enjoy” Mike Watt always, but he’s kept me thinking there are people who still go out into the drudgery of touring happy that there are poeple who want to listen to what you have to say and play. That ought to be what it’s about. I feel I have to support someone living by playing music without being a commodity or a cog in someone else’s machine.

  35. hrrundivbakshi

    Dag, mockcarr! Post of the day!

  36. Notice that 2000 Man’s trinity are essentially three versions of the same thing. If nothing else, the guy’s consistent.

  37. Hey, G48 — are you referring to the ancient American cosmologies that believed that the universe was held up on the back of a giant turtle? If so, *I* understand you.

    Indirectly, yeah. What I’m referring to is a famous story that’s been attributed to everyone from Henry James to Bertrand Russell to Albert Einstein. Basically, a philosopher is giving a talk about the Cosmological Argument — you know, “if God created the universe, then what created God,” and all that — and an old woman stood up and announced that the whole argument was silly, because everyone knows that the universe is actually a flat plane that rests on the back of a giant turtle. And the philosopher asks what the turtle is standing on, and the woman says “It’s turtles all the way down!”

  38. 2000 Man

    Mockarr, I’ve listened to a show or two from the early days of the Replacements. I’m kind of glad I didn’t see them on a night like that. I saw Big Country do an 18 minute show where they played their big hit song twice. I felt incredibly ripped off and I was on the guest list!

    Mwall, I’ve long said everything I listen to sounds the same. It sort of doesn’t, really, but if I’m being honest then these are the three bands that I’d replace first if disaster struck. If I explore around the Stones and the Mats and their influences and followers, I find some really different stuff, but they’re the chewy center. I found out about Muddy Waters and Gram Parsons through the Stones, and Big Star and Lucero from the Mats (there’s more, too). I also find the British and American interpretations really interesting.

    The Flamin’ Groovies I just love.

    But a guitar player that thinks Keith Richards or Chuck Berry is god will always find a place to stay on my music shelf.

  39. I tried not to think too heavily and chose the first 3 which popped into my head cross referenced with the amount of albums I own by them and willingness to buy anything they put out (good, bad and ugly) regardless of reviews or respected friends’ opinions:

    Beach Boys , Blur & eels

  40. Mr. Moderator

    Eels… I’ve been meaning to check this “band” out again. I recently read an interview with the E guy in TapeOp that I’ve been meaning to work into a thread here. Thanks for the reminder, Mac.

  41. AC/DC

    The Ramones


  42. Rock (Solo Artists) Chuck Berry
    David Bowie Prince

    Rock (Bands) The Rolling Stones
    The Who Queen

    Pop Prince
    Michael Jackson Madonna

    R&B/Soul James Brown
    Prince Michael Jackson

    Funk Sly & The Family Stone
    George Clinton Prince

  43. Welcome aboard! We look forward to more of your thoughts on a range of subjects.

  44. High five for covering so much ground with your Rock Trinity choices.

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube