I am of the opinion that the best configuration of a band is a good ol’ fashioned power trio. For the most part, these trios consist of a bassist, drummer and guitarist, with either the bassist or guitarist handling vocals. The drummer can sing, but only backing vocals.
The trio is rock ‘n’ roll at its most real, most true-to-its-roots form – pure, honest, and simple. You can’t have a weak link in a power trio, everyone involved has to uphold their end of the bargain. If you want to be in a band, it all starts with the number three.
And you have amps to thank. Bigger and louder amps – along with the rise in popularity of the electric bass in the mid ’60s – helped open the door for bands to eschew fourth and fifth members. The electric bass could help stabilize things in the basement, while a louder amp could make one guitar sound like two. Drummers probably weren’t overly stoked about this, but it’s a widely known fact that no one cares what drummers think. And this is coming from a drummer. Also, volume should never be a concern for a drummer. If it is, get more cymbals.
Two of the best trios in rock history are celebrating anniversaries this week. Green Day’s rock opera American Idiot turned 11 on Sept. 20 and Nirvana’s cultural behemoth Nevermind turns 25 on Sept. 24. We could get hung up on technicalities here and point out that in each band’s later stages fourth members were added, but save the technicalities for fantasy football scoring and calculating the interest on your student loan. Green Day will always be considered a power trio; same for Nirvana (sorry, Pat Smear).
But where do Nirvana and Green Day rank among the best power trios ever?
That sounds like something we should look into.
First though, let’s give some shoutouts. These trios didn’t crack our list of the 10 best in rock history, but we wanted to acknowledge them regardless.