The Current

Great Music Lives Here ®
Listener-Supported Music
Donate Now

John Moe plays 'Find the Teddy' with your favorite bands

Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota provides the latest inspiration for John Moe's musical games.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota provides the latest inspiration for John Moe's musical games.Dean Franklin / Creative Commons 2.0

by John Moe

August 03, 2016

One thing about living in Minnesota is that you're right next to South Dakota and, therein, the four enormous heads of American Presidents on Mt. Rushmore. Contrary to popular belief, the figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt are not naturally occurring. Instead, they were dynamited and carved into existence, leaving behind a hillside full of stone that no one has bothered to clean up, thereby honoring our country's rich littering history as well as that of the executive office.

Now, of course they were ALL great presidents. It's just...

I mean, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln are hall-of-famers. They are the Kareem, Jordan, and LeBron of Presidents. Then there's Teddy... and he was good! He was really good. Conservation movement, trust-busting, National Parks, all good stuff. But doesn't it seem like Teddy is just a notch below the other guys? Still a better president than I would be but definitely fourth among those four. Heck, he might not even be our best president named Roosevelt.

Now, don't yell at me. Don't speak softly and hit me with a big stick or anything. But it got me thinking about the idea of a slot in a group of four where you still belong in that group but you're in fourth place by a noticeable distance. You're the Teddy. Among Hogwarts houses, Hufflepuff is the Teddy. When it comes to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Conquest is bad but not nearly as apocalyptic as Famine, War, and Pestilence, so Conquest is the Teddy. T-Mobile is the Teddy of major American wireless carriers. The NHL is the Teddy league of sports. You get the idea.

But we're here to talk music. And because I try to be nice (or at least shield the world from what a horrible jerk I really am), I'm really hesitant to call any artist or band a Teddy. But keep in mind that even if you're the Teddy, that means you made it onto Mt. Rushmore. You're revered, you're honored and saluted long after you're gone, you are truly great. Just not AS great as the other three that make up your grouping. Ringo Starr is the Teddy of The Beatles. Kiss has a Teddy in Peter Criss. Whoever plays guitar for Red Hot Chili Peppers is the Teddy of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I looked into areas of music where I could most easily find a dominant foursome to determine if, wherever there is a group of four, there is a Teddy.

British Invasion Mt. Rushmore:

The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Kinks
And the Teddy Goes To... The Kinks. Phenomenal band. One of my favorites. But when stacked against the other three, they are wearing the spectacles. "Waterloo Sunset" is their National Park system.
Interesting to note that the three groups who are NOT Teddys each have a Teddy in them. Ringo for The Beatles, Bill Wyman for The Stones (if we exclude rhythm guitarists for the sake of math), and Kenney Jones of The Who, who did not have a Teddy before Kenney.

80's Arena Rock Mt. Rushmore:

Journey, Loverboy, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon
And the Teddy Goes To... Loverboy. The Canadian rockers who rocked rockin' headbands were outstanding but they drifted from prominence just as surely as Teddy's ill-advised drift to the Bull Moose Party.

Contemporary Folk-Rock Mt. Rushmore:

Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, Of Monsters And Men, Lumineers
And the Teddy Goes To... Of Monsters And Men. Just a little more eclectic than the others, probably due to being from Iceland. TR was not from Iceland but among those other dudes he's the most avant-garde and therefore, I guess, Bjorkian?

Vocal-Only Boy Band Mt. Rushmore:

Boyz II Men, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, N'Sync
And the Teddy Goes To... No Teddy! You could make arguments against any of them but there's no clear trustbuster lagging half a lap behind.
The Jackson 5 is not included in this list because they played instruments. That brings up the question of which four Jacksons would make the Jackson Family Mt. Rushmore. I'd say Michael, Janet, and then just let everyone else take turns.

Large Geographical Locations in the United States Mt. Rushmore:

America, Kansas, Boston, Chicago
And the Teddy Goes To... America, but not by all that huge a margin over Kansas. Curiously, the lasting popularity of these bands is inversely proportional to the area for which they are named. Chicago put out dozens of (unimaginatively named) albums, Boston is highly influential, Kansas is a band you would totally check out at a state fair, but America is mostly known for two songs, one about being depressed and one about not being able to name a horse. And yes, both the Chicago and Boston metro areas have more people than all of Kansas.

Bands I Saw As A Teenager That I Would Not Go See On Purpose Today Mt. Rushmore:

Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Twisted SIster, Crosby Stills & Nash
And the Teddy Goes To... Twisted Sister. Loud? Yes. Theatrical? Yes. Loud, though? Again, yes. As with all Teddys, you have to give them credit for filling a largish arena and separating teens from cash, but they fall short when compared to other admittedly wide-varying acts. Yes, they can shred more screamy wiggity-wiggity guitar solos than CSN but the harmonies are not quite as tight.

One-named Singers Played on The Current Mt. Rushmore:

Adele, Gotye, Hozier, Beck
And the Teddy Goes To... Gotye. I kind of think of Gotye and Hozier as the Jefferson and Roosevelt here. I mean, Jefferson is great but Washington started a country and Lincoln reunited it whereas Jefferson was... a very good writer. Hozier takes the TJ position on the strength of having made a few noteworthy songs while Gotye mostly has the one about knowing someone and then not so much knowing them anymore.

Okay, so it turns out the Teddy rule works sometimes and not other times. Which means it's not really a rule at all and more just a framework by which one can unfairly diminish the status of others from a great distance by comparing them to their more accomplished peers. Sorry, Teddys. But you're all still tremendously high achievers and I hope you remember that after you read this article, which you will not read. Maybe Hozier will read it. Maybe. But you did begin construction on the Panama Canal and that ain't nothing.