I realized that I didn’t have the faintest idea what “alternative” I would offer. Part of the problem, I think, is the term “greatest”: it suggests a longevity and/or a ponderousness that eliminates from consideration groups like the Ramones, who had a tremendous impact on American popular music but are really, in retrospect, three-album wonders. See also Velvet Underground, Television, Modern Lovers, Nirvana. Well, so maybe X? Hüsker Dü? The Replacements? Can it be true that there were no “great” American bands prior to the late 1970s? (Musically, btw, I think the best of these bands was X. Partly that’s because it’s true, and partly it’s because I never completely forgave the Replacements for being such incompetent drunken louts in half their live shows. At least Hüsker Dü showed up and played like they meant it.)
Personally, I'd throw my money behind the 'Mats, if I had to choose from Berube's list here, though The Ramones are obviously more influential. Personally, the Velvet Underground never spoke to me--I always assumed I was born about a decade late. (I heard a radio piece on Nico a month or so ago--bleah.) Like Dylan, I respect the achievement, but it's not something I connect with. Dylan also raises the question of the mistake of not considering individual artists: Bob himself, for example, or Bruce (for whom I think a pretty compelling argument could be made). But if it has to be a band, there's a sidebar here with plenty of red-blooded Americans. Please note the absence of "the various All-Stars of Turgid who named their groups after cities, states, or rivers of Hades."