When you’re part of a transatlantic family, it’s inevitable that – from time to time – your conversations over dinner or a glass of wine (or two) will turn to the differences between your respective countries. The Special One may, for instance, point out that the UK is practically prehistoric for having most of its shops close for the day at 6pm. This Brit Out Of Water might counter by invoking the barbarity of the death penalty – a comparable issue to the store opening hours issue, as I am sure you will all agree.
As it happens, our discussions can go both ways. In my opinion, America is a much more relaxed place in which to travel than the UK (particularly by air), but The Special One points to the gloriously civilised nature of the British train system. Clearly she’s never been stuck on Crewe station for three hours awaiting the arrival of a train to Euston.
Every so often though, we find ourselves in complete agreement, which is mildly reassuring given that we tied the knot just over two months ago. And ironically, one of the things that we agreed about most has been the attitude of our respective nations towards teamwork. Particularly when it comes to music.
I find it difficult to believe that I hadn’t thought about this before. But when it comes down to it, the greatest and/or most popular solo singers of all time are generally American. Whether it’s the founding fathers of rock’n’roll including Chuck Berry, Bill Haley or Elvis Presley, 60s and 70s icons such as Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor or Jimi Hendrix, 80s legends Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson or (like her or not) Whitney Houston, through to modern day mega-selling stars such as Norah Jones or Jay-Z, the biggest solo acts all hail from the US. Sure, Britain has the Rod Stewart’s, Tom Jones’s or Amy Winehouse’s of this world, but they’re still small-fry compared to their American equivalents.
Yet at the same time, if you think about the greatest bands of all time – the bands that could fill stadiums the world over – they are as a general rule British. There’s the Beatles, obviously, but add on top of that the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Depeche Mode, U2 (Oirish, but close enough for the purposes of this argument) or even Coldplay. Of course, there’s the Beach Boys, Metallica or even Aerosmith (and Australia has AC/DC), but nonetheless it remains true that when British musical acts perform well on the world stage, they tend to be bands.
All of this leads to the question of whether Britons simply work better in teams, and Americans tend to be better off on their own. Perhaps Brits just don’t have the confidence to go out on their own and conquer the world? Maybe Americans can’t bear to share the limelight with anyone else, and have to plough their own furrow if they’re to be truly fulfilled?
Given that I’ve just got married to an American though, it’s probably not a question I should probe too deeply on. After a solo career that lasted more than thirty years, this Brit Out Of Water is more than happy to be part of a combo at last.