In my house we speak of spring break the way we speak of the Holy Roman Empire: for just as the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman (nor, for that matter, an empire), so it is with Penn State’s spring break: it usually occurs at a time of year when the high temp is around 35 and there’s a nice comfy blanket of snow on the ground (as there is now), and it certainly doesn’t constitute a “break.”
But this year, we’re actually taking a break chez Bérubé! All four of us are headed off to– where else would you go for spring break?– New England, and I probably won’t be anywhere near an Internets connection for four days. Imagine that. And it really is something of a break for me, because this week I finished reading and evaluating those fellowship applications, I finished a short essay on I can’t remember what, I finished an introduction to that dang “special issue” I’ve been editing for– hmmmm, let me think– about two years or so, and best of all, I finished a complete first draft of Liberal Arts, the book I’ve been talking about and not producing for roughly as long as I’ve had a blog. (And yes, I’ve backed it up in two undisclosed locations, and I have hard copies too.) So for the next few days, I believe I will begin doing extensive research into some of the fine, fine suggestions all of you have made with regard to the new Ministry of Culture and Beer.
Now, in the past I wouldn’t bother to make an announcement about a tiny hiatus of three or four days, but then again, in the past I wasn’t averaging four to five thousand readers a day. And to thank you all for your patronage of (and infinite patience with) this humble but sometimes technologically precarious and excessively self-referential blog, I have a Brand New Game to offer everyone.
You’re all familiar with “One-Hit Wonder” contests and radio programs, and you know they always involve the usual suspects. Yes, yes, “Brandy” by Looking Glass; OK, “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians; “Smoke of a Distant Fire” by the Sanford-Townshend Band, but of course; “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward, “Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo, “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba, “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc., and so on. The list is as long as it is tedious. And without fail, someone will propose Mister Mister or Golden Earring or the Human League as one-hit wonders, when in fact these people were two-hit wonders who lived in mortal terror of being one-hit wonders-- though in the case of the Human League, not enough terror, because they decided to follow “Don’t You Want Me” with “(Keep Feeling) Fascination,” one of the worst songs written since the retreat of the global ice sheets circa 10,000 B.C.E.
But I’m not going to ask you to name one- or two-hit wonders. I have another question entirely. Which musical “artists,” in your learned opinions, should have been one-hit wonders? To put this another way: what hideous, ubiquitous person-or-group has produced years or decades of dreck except for that one song you can’t entirely dismiss and– gulp– might even like? You know, such that your opinion of him/ her/ them would be utterly different if he/ she/ they had produced only that one song?
I’ll kick this off with three suggestions. God and all her competitor dieties know how much I despise Billy Joel, how I utter vile imprecations when “Piano Man” or “Only the Good Die Young” or “Just the Way You Are” or “My Life” suddenly intrudes upon my car radio, never mind his stomach-turning minor compositions like “River of Dreams” or “Big Shot” or “Second Wind” (a song written to persuade depressed teens not to commit suicide, and which would have pushed me right off the precipice had I heard it when I was nineteen), and let’s not even bother with his early period, with its intolerable Captain Jacks and Angry Young Men who’ve “passed the age/ of consciousness and righteous rage.” (Who knew that Mr. Joel had had a socially conscious period, sometime between lunch and dinner on a balmy afternoon in May 1970?) But I can’t manage to hate “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” no matter how I try. By contrast, I have no trouble consigning the entire Phil Collins songbook to the nethermost reaches of Gehenna, for I break out in the full-body cold sweats every time I hear the whiny, pompous, one-hundred-percent-talent-free old gasbag, no matter what he’s singing. And Billy’s in the same boat, which is why these guys dominate Lite Rock. But still– if he’d been a one-hit wonder with “Hollywood,” I wouldn’t despise him at all. Likewise with the far more innocuous (and more recent) Smashmouth, who in a just world would have shuffled off this mortal coil after “Walking on the Sun,” a reasonably enjoyable middle-of-the-road number with a semblance of something like a groove, as opposed to the garbage they’ve written since, which serves only to betray the fact that these guys couldn’t connect a verse to a chorus or a chorus to a middle eight if they were given EZ-DIY songwriting software. Lenny Kravitz is another obvious case, having managed not to be boring beyond description just once, on the single, “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”
Further suggestions welcome. My only request, before I head off into the Northeastern tundra, is that you confine the suggestions to hideous and ubiquitous people who’ve written only one good song, as opposed to the Eric Claptons and Neil Diamonds of the world, who’ve written about three or four.
Gosh. This is harder than I thought it would be. How about an album which was good, but was followed by dreck? I’m thinking Blood Sweat and Tears II, here, with “Spinning Wheel,” “Smiling Phases,” “God Bless the Child” and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.” I bought the next three or four albums in hopes they could repeat, and they never did. Then they split up, but down the road David Clayton-Thomas tried to reestablish the band and failed to do any better.
I recognize the group didn’t necessarily write all or any of these.Posted by Linkmeister on 03/07 at 03:39 AM
This is easy: Garth Brooks (Friends in Low Places).Posted by djw on 03/07 at 03:43 AM
Paul McCartney (as a Wing) comes to mind. Then again, did he produce anything post-Beatles that is anything but vapid, fatuous tune-diddling?Posted by mike on 03/07 at 03:48 AM
Maroon5’s first song is that funky one, don’t remember the name but it goes “this..love..has..taken its toll..on me...”, great tune but when I hear that second one of theirs, “She will be loved”, I have to take a smoke break or will start yelling at people. They should have known where to draw the line.Posted by on 03/07 at 06:51 AM
This one’s tough. Can we go back to playing covers?Posted by Doghouse Riley on 03/07 at 08:39 AM
A few suggestions, after brainstorming with co-workers (artist/song to keep):
Wham/"Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” (so bad it’s good)
Sugar Ray/"Fly" (Can’t help it, it still makes me think of fun summers. The next few albums, though, I can take or leave. Then there’s the whole “Mark McGrath is on ET” thing...)
Elton John/"Crocodile Rock” (fun if bittersweet, and the only one that doesn’t sound like every other big, shitty song of his)
If I have to choose one, though, it’s definitely Sir Elton, and not just because he’s joined Phil Collins as the go-to man for maudlin Disney tracks. A few years ago, ABC did an interview with him where he talked about how he sits down at the piano and writes songs...and on the spot, he started playing a tune that sounded a lot like “Daniel,” “Your Song,” “Candle in the Wind,” etc., only it was about singing a song for Charlie Gibson. It forced me to reevaluate his whole corpus on the spot.Posted by on 03/07 at 09:54 AM
I submit Richard Marx. “Don’t Mean Nothing” had as much of a groove as we could expect from a mulleted 80’s rocker, while the rest of his work (like “Hold Onto the Night") was, in a word, horrible.
Then again, John Parr, with his craptastic “Naughty Naughty” and “St. Elmo’s Fire,” certainly deserves nomination as well.Posted by Paul on 03/07 at 10:32 AM
While I don’t hate their other stuff, I have trouble believing that the Hollies did “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress”. If they could do something that good, why did they put out the rest of that drivel? The problem was, some of it was popular drivel. I feel like their ability to put out money-making garbage distracted them from making better stuff.Posted by on 03/07 at 10:33 AM
Njori, the problem with The Hollies was that Graham Nash kept trying to be a Serious Artist, and the rest of the band would write Bus Stop as a defense mechanism. Only when Nash left to join CSN did the world learn that his Serious Art was just as insipid as their Pop Pabulum. They shoulda just relaxed.
Oh yeah: CSN, “Almost Cut My Hair”Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 10:51 AM
Okay, okay. Yes, I do find myself dancing along with “All Night Long” by Lionel Ritchie. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to slit my wrists every time I hear “Penny Lover” or “Stuck on You” or <gag> “Three Times a Lady”Posted by dee on 03/07 at 10:56 AM
Chicago. The first album, when they were Chicago Transit Authority, captured a moment in pop history, although I think that “I’m a Man” is the only song that holds up today. I am astounded, however, that they are the second most popular American rock band in history (at least according to Billboard). I can’t change the station fast enough if any subsequent song of theirs comes on the car radio. They alone are reason enough to use only an iPod when driving.Posted by on 03/07 at 11:20 AM
Duran Duran. “Rio” was a guilty pleasure but after that, well . . .Posted by on 03/07 at 11:20 AM
Uriah Heep was really an album group (and probably way before most of y’all’s time), but nevertheless I firmly believe they should be known for the song “Easy Living” and nothing else.Posted by on 03/07 at 11:26 AM
Someone already took Madonna, who manages to be worse and worse each coming year, although the song I can somewhat tolerate is “Like a Prayer” because I like the apparent mood swings it conveys. I think “Die Another Day” is as bad as she can get though.
Lynyrd Skynyrd also makes my list, as I fail to understand the cult of Freebird and can’t pretend to like a song written to defend the south against criticisms about lynching, but “Gimme Two Steps” is amusing.
But the artist who most definitely should have been a one hit wonder is Alanis Morrissette, because every time I hear the brilliantly creepy Uninvited, I curse the fact that it’s the completely untalented Morissette attempting to sing it and failing to pronounce a single consonant correctly, even by accident, in the process. Every other Alanis song sends me into hysterics, and I have been known to change the radio station at the mere mention of her name.
Dave Matthews Band should have been a one-album wonder, but since I like both “Ants Marching” and “What Would You Say?”, he’s apparently disqualified. And he should’ve been fired and had all of his previous earnings taken back for “Crash”. The only people who like “Crash” are stupid girls and stupid guys wanting to score with stupid girls.Posted by on 03/07 at 11:31 AM
Haircut 100 - Love Plus One.Posted by Roxanne on 03/07 at 11:32 AM
Dammit! Chris Clarke took the one good CSN song.
I myself have been living in an alternate reality these last few years, in which Radiohead disappeared off the face of the Earth after “Creep.”
What ever happened to those guys? They were kind of like a sad U2…
Also, The Zombies: “She’s Not There.” I know they had a few more hits, but I don’t wanna hear ‘em.Posted by Alex on 03/07 at 11:33 AM
My submission falls under the Clapton/Diamond rubric, but whattaya gonna do? Frampton Comes Alive is (one of?) the most popular live albums of all time, but only “Show Me the Way” sticks in my auricular craw like an earwig on acid. I saw Frampton warm up for Bowie’s “Spiders From Mars” Tour at the Garden. (Maybe “warm up” is overly generous—in fact Bowie just trotted him out for a couple of songs, with Peter F. harmlessly strumming in the background—his guitar may not have even been plugged in.) I admit I warmed up to him around then, but only because he was battling demons. In retrospect, I wish I had been rooting for the demons.Posted by on 03/07 at 11:36 AM
kind of like a sad U2…
I thought we were only supposed to talk about bands with a song worth listening to.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 11:36 AM
Smash Mouth. “Walking on the Sun” was a golden pop moment. Everything else is utter shit.Posted by on 03/07 at 11:41 AM
Two more and then I’ll yield the floor.
First, Dr. Hook. “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” is just a damn fine song, but I think we’d all be much better off without “When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman.”
Second, the group that occupies the high holy place in the annals of buttrock: Van Halen. “Hot for Teacher,” with its funky vamp and classic “I don’t *feel* tardy” line, is their only good song. Everything else is crap. “Eruption” is crap. “Jump” is crap. “Panama” is crap. Crap, crap, crap.Posted by Paul on 03/07 at 11:43 AM
I need a ruling on retroactive hatred. There’s Elton, certainly difficult to even look at now, but I still have to give props to his first few albums even if I can’t ever listen to them again. Just as I think Phil Collins is more of a non-entity than deserving of sharing the lowest circle of Hell with The Piano Man, but if I had to listen to adult contemporary radio for two hours I’d change my mind I’m sure.
And conversely I’ll admit to liking Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” before I’d heard it twelve times. Which was thirty-six times ago.
I’ll grab the chainsaw and say I could happily live in a world where “Little Sister” was the only song Elvis Aron Presley ever recorded.Posted by Doghouse Riley on 03/07 at 11:45 AM
I’m still recovering from the Dylan cover thing. I’m passing on this one. But I do want to congratulate you on completing the book draft. If you want a reader my spring break is next week.Posted by on 03/07 at 11:47 AM
To fill this catergory to the brim, look no further than geographically named rock bands--Kansas, Boston, Asia . . .Posted by on 03/07 at 11:48 AM
We seem to be getting two or three album wonders rather than one hit wonder or no decent albums since the Nixon administration (e.g., Elton John, Chicago, BS&T). On those themes, I’d add Led Zeppelin--the first album was a great collection of mostly blues covers, the second almost as good. Everything since (including “Stairway to Heaven”, which I though was bad enough when it was hit) has been drek. Lynyrd Skynyrd is another along these lines. “Give Me Two Steps” was fine. “Sweet Home Alabama”, etc. prompts me to change the station in an instant. And the Stones really haven’t done much worth hearing in about 25-30 years. “Bitch” was probably the last song I liked and mostly because of the Pavlovian reference (I have a psych degree).
INXS strikes me as a true one-hit wonder; “The One Thing” and then years of loud noise. TalkTalk is another--the wonderful “It’s My Life” and then several years of drivel. Their second hit “TalkTalk” seems to silly to be counted.
Heart would have been tolerable if they’d only had one hit. “Crazy On You” was never a favorite of mine, but it was certainly less awful than “Barracuda”. OTOH, almost any non-new wave-related act that broke in the late 70s seems like a candidate for “one hit wonder” by any measure.Posted by on 03/07 at 11:48 AM
My first year of graduate school was haunted by the damn Counting Crows, who should have disappeared from the face of the earth after “Mr. Jones,” which was an innocuous enough background song for sitting around a dive bar with your friends. Granted, I think that was their biggest hit, but we still had to suffer through the nails-on-a-chalkboard caterwaul of “Round Here.” (Actually, more like “Rrrrrrrrouououououound Heeeeeere.") And then, as if we hadn’t suffered enough, they had the audacity (the kind only the mediocre have) to do a cover of “Big Yellow Taxi.” As a marker of their permanent place in the Mediocre Hall of Fame, they appear on this year’s Academy Awards, the lead singer loedoking more and more like Sideshow Bob.
Please make them go away.Posted by on 03/07 at 11:57 AM
There was a popular band in the late 70’s when I was in college called “Head East.” Mercy, how I hated them. I don’t know if they were one-hit wonders or not ("Cold as Ice"), but I do not want to miss a chance to slander them. “Kansas,” and “Styx,” too. Truly atrocious.Posted by on 03/07 at 11:58 AM
I know it was a joke (and a good’un!) but speaking of U2, I know there’s a song off their first album I like but can’t for the life of me think of what it is.
Or maybe it wasn’t their first album but one of the subsequent early ones that actually had a good song on it.
U2 is probably the most relevant group brought up because they are so highly regarded and yet haven’t produced any songs worth listening to.
Except for one.
And I can’t for the life of me think of what it is, but I know there is one. I remember it… no, I can’t remember. But it was there.
I can’t agree about Phil Collins except for his earlier work with Genesis when he would just shut up and drum. Though right after Peter Gabriel left, Trick of the Tail contained many brilliant Collins-penned songs. But that’s just me. They should have stopped after Three-Sides Live.
For me, though, the one artist who should have been a one-hit-wonder is Tori Amos whose song “Cornflake Girl” is the only one I can stand listening to. But maybe it’s just that I can only stand any one song by her at a time and the only one I have is “Cornflake Girl” but maybe not because she sounds so much like Kate Bush that I can just pretend I’m listening to Kate Bush and the urge to vomit goes away. But that’s just me.
For those who like Ms. Amos I mean you no harm, just leave me to my Kate Bush and we can all live together and peace.
(Oh, also Paul McCartney and Wings’ Venus and Mars: Not a bad song on it. And then there’s always “Live and Let Die")
HannaPosted by Hanna on 03/07 at 12:01 PM
Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson, does anyone outside of the Midwest know who Head East are? “There’s Never Been Any Reason”...I’m old enough to have had a Trans Am with an 8-track (used; I’m not *that* old) in which I played this song.
How about the odious Natalie Merchant, was sort of tolerably chipper in 10K Maniacs?Posted by on 03/07 at 12:09 PM
This is so obvious that it hardly bears mentioning, but two-hit wonder Don McLean should have been a one-hit wonder.
Despite being arguably the most overplayed song of all time, “American Pie” ain’t bad.
“Vincent,” on the other hand, is insufferable.Posted by on 03/07 at 12:18 PM
Art Garfunkel - for ONLY singing bridge over troubled waters since leaving SimonPosted by on 03/07 at 12:21 PM
Jim Croce. Well, maybe he should’ve been a two-hit wonder.Posted by Roxanne on 03/07 at 12:21 PM
You said no bands/performers with three or four decent songs....how about two?
I’m thinking of Jefferson Airplane / Jefferson Starship / Starship.
“Somebody to Love” is a great song.
“White Rabbit,” while in certain ways laughably dated, is pretty good.
Everything else is almost frighteningly abysmal. And it’s all capped with “We Built This City.” I cringe to even think of it.Posted by on 03/07 at 12:25 PM
Hootie and the Blowfish. Had they only faded into the sunset after “Hold My Hand,” why, I bet people would be cheering Darius Rucker for his current Burger King commercial instead of heaping pity and scorn on the dude.Posted by on 03/07 at 12:33 PM
Smash Mouth is two words, and I’ll lay nine-to-five you never listened to their first album, which was fairly peachy throughout in my not at all humble opinion. I would nominate Carly Simon for “You’re So Vain,” though I admit I liked “That’s the Way I Always Thought It Should Be” when it first came on the radio in--was it 1970 or 1971? Also John Waite for “Missing You,” except that his follow-ups were barely hits at all.
As for Dr. Hook, what about the immortal “Levitate”? And “Carrie Me, Carrie,” which was based on Sister Carrie?Posted by on 03/07 at 12:36 PM
That really is Darius Rucker? I’ve been making fun of the guy for *trying* to look and sound like Darius Rucker.Posted by Paul on 03/07 at 12:37 PM
This thread reminds me that there are always going to be people who think that orange grass cloth and blue wingback chairs are the epitome of good taste, while anything as good as IKEA simplicity is evil and an abomination.
My nomination is Incubus - it should have been a one-hit wonder. “Drive” was a fantastic piece of guilty pleasure pop music. But “Stellar” off the same CD sucked, and is a poster child for the rest their rotten catalog. Who keeps letting these morons make records? And then telling the stations to play them?Posted by on 03/07 at 12:38 PM
Someone up there named Elvis (come on! You’re dismissing “That’s All Right” and “My Baby Left Me”?) so I guess the gloves are off.
David Bowie: “Golden Years.”
Everything else is overrated and overproduced, ripped off of Lou Reed or Iggy Pop or even Bob Dylan, only occasionally salvaged by Mick Ronson or Brian Eno (who, it should be noted, is often responsible for the good bits of the listenable albums of many a mediocre artist). And don’t get me started on his lyrics.
Furthermore, anyone who was ever in the Yardbirds never did anything as good as “For Your Love.”
Joy Division/New Order: “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”
I’m on a roll, here.
Norman Mailer: “The Naked and the Dead”
Alexander Payne: “Election”Posted by Alex on 03/07 at 12:49 PM
Hey, Christgau—you give Smash Mouth the benefit of the doubt but The Silver Jews get one star?Posted by Alex on 03/07 at 12:58 PM
Alex, don’t slur Joy Division or New Order or I will have to find your address. Even their bad songs are pretty good, in my opinion.
Billy Idol should have disappeared after “Dancing With Myself”.Posted by Amanda on 03/07 at 12:59 PM
Little-known first draft lyrics to “For Your Love”:
I’d give you sandwiches and more and that’s for sure
for your lunch
You could eat devil dogs with Christiane Amanpour
for your lunch
to fill you with delight, I’d give you fried egg white
and a jar of vegemite, make you toss and turn at night
for your lu-u-unch
for your lu-u-unch
for your lunch.
For your lunch, for your lunch
I would make Hawai’ian Punch
for your lunch, for your lunch
I would give you packaged goods.
I think Don McClean should have been a two-hit wonder, and the second hit should have been “In The Amazon” instead of “Vincent.”Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 01:08 PM
Hanna, I could be wrong, but are you thinking of “I Will Follow”? I either saw U2 play it at The Spit in Boston in 1981 or I dreamt the whole thing. The song does stick (and reminds me of 1-hit wonder MArtha and Muffins’ tune “Echo Beach.")Posted by on 03/07 at 01:12 PM
Exile is in a special category. They were a one-hit wonder with the disco smash “Kiss You All Over”, then disappeared from the genre, only to re-appear as a (gasp, wheeze) country music band. Definitely should have remained a one-hit wonder, all though in some respects they were.Posted by on 03/07 at 01:14 PM
All though. Heh.Posted by on 03/07 at 01:16 PM
i’m gonna throw glen ballard out there. i’m stretching the rules a bit because he’s not a performer but a producer. but given how much crap is actually the responsibility of producers (who get all the royalty$$ without having to deal with all the self promotion and marketing costs of being a star) i thought we could pick on them too.
mr. ballard is the guy who did alanis morrisette’s jagged little pill. the two of them were fine with ‘you oughta know,’ that peppy little co-dependent number, but then we had to hear every damn song off that album constantly.
worse, he went on to co-write and produce the dave matthews band’s worst album ever: everyday. it was an album that typified popular music at its worst, the idea that you could go into a studio for three days and write the crappiest music ever and have it be a huge commercial success.Posted by random on 03/07 at 01:22 PM
I could probably live happily if the only song Nelly had ever released was “Hot in Herre.”Posted by zach on 03/07 at 01:39 PM
First, Dr. Hook. “The Cover of the Rolling Stone”
Writtem by Shel Silverstein, who also
1. penned the Johnny Cash hits “A Boy Named Sue” and “25 Minutes To Go”
2. penned the Loretta Lynn hit “One’s On The Way”
3. authored a number of best-selling children’s books (c.f. “polar bear in my frigidaire")
4. drew cartoons for Playboy
“Let Your Love Flow” was a really great song by the Bellamy Brothers. Unfortunately, the rest of their “greatest hits” are pop-country dreck like “Kids of The Baby Boom” and “If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body”.Posted by on 03/07 at 01:39 PM
I liked the song about the Indian when I was in fifth grade. Now she sounds like a man.Posted by on 03/07 at 01:41 PM
come on! You’re dismissing “That’s All Right” and “My Baby Left Me”?
Well, they both remind me that El and The Colonel kept Arthur “Big Boy” Cruddup livin’ out back in a haystack, so, yeah. I went with Doc Pomus. But hell, grant him those two and take a free rental with your purchase, the man spent twenty-five years at the pinnacle and you’ve gotta scrape to get a handful of tastee treats, and those coulda been done better by several others.
Besides, look what we got from you when the gloves came off, Alex!Posted by Doghouse Riley on 03/07 at 01:57 PM
If only Janet Jackson just stopped after “Come Give You Love to Me” way back in 1982. The youth of America would have been spared the trauma of seeing her nipple and our culture would not be doomed.
Keepig with the “songs that end with me” theme, how about Depeche Mode and “Dreaming of Me”? A way better band before they got serious about it.Posted by George on 03/07 at 02:16 PM
This is so easy. The Royal Guardsmen: “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron.”Posted by on 03/07 at 02:23 PM
aerosmiths one lasting legacy is liv tyler. i could live without the rest of their output.Posted by on 03/07 at 02:42 PM
Joy Division, Bowie and New Order? Jesus…
The Dead and Pearl Jam. The Dead had, what, Casey Jones? It’s a worse drug song than Rainy Day Women, and I HATE that song. I mean, I like hallucinogens as much as the next guy, but every bootleg I’d ever heard from them sounds mushy, dull, aimless in perfect one-note harmony. I’d say Not to mention that Bob Weir sounds like the worst bar band singer in history, plus they spawned a completely bubble-headed, content-free definition of what it meant to be a ‘hippy’.
The first time I heard Pearl Jam, I asked my friend why Bad Company got back together. I really like that song Courderoy off of Vs. but beyond that, Vedder never met a tune he didn’t want to choke.Posted by JJB on 03/07 at 02:54 PM
For some reason, thinking about this question has me fixated on the bands of my early youth (i.e. the late 1960s and 1970s)… and, no, that’s not what I usually listen to these days! Perhaps it’s because this is the kind of question that I spent way too much time discussing with my friends in college (in the early-mid ‘80s).
At any event, the Guess Who certainly qualify. “American Woman” is a solid song. The rest of their output is dreadful.
I was also thinking about Journey, but I quickly came to realize that they never did have that one good song. Not even close. No good reason for their popularity whatsoever (let alone the solo success of lead crooner Steve Perry).
Finally, “Rich Girl” is a perfectly fine pop song. Unlike the rest of the Hall & Oates catalog.Posted by on 03/07 at 02:56 PM
Damn! Commenters on this blog are just too fast! I stopped by a couple hours ago, and thought of doing some hairsplitting with Chris Clarke (18) precisely around “I will follow”, off of U2’s 1978 debut record Boy. I passed because I was too busy. Then Hanna thinks of “I will follow”, can’t recall the title, calls for help, again I pass for a few minutes, and Philbold Studge (41) beats me to the answer. I ain’t playing on this thread either, it’s going too fast. But I join Amanda is protesting the fact that “Love will tear us apart” was named here. Both JD and New Order were amazing bands, the latter, in my opinion, right up to Technique (1989).
Now, are you allowing bands and singers who actually made three or four or five good songs that sound, however, as if they were *exactly the same one*?Posted by Idelber on 03/07 at 03:19 PM
Goodness, what an interesting subject. And, heck, you’ve got Robert Christgau reading your blog! How cool is that?
Before I try to actually come up with an answer, may I suggest that “Keep Feeling (Fascination)” deserves considerably more props than you’re giving it. Heck, when it was around, I came up with my first rule of songwriting. “When in doubt, modulate.” This has served me well a time or two since.
My problem is every time I try to come up with an artist with one or even two good songs, I start thinking of other ones worthy of respect. I disagree with virtually all of the suggestions made so far for a variety of reasons. Billy Joel did “Innocent Man” and “Allentown,” neither of which belongs on any classic list, but they have their good points. And Phil Collins had “In the Air Tonight.” What’s wrong with that one? I bow to Christgau on Smash Mouth, who actually has listened to them, something I’ve never done.
Maybe Guns’n’Roses for “Sweet Child O’Mine” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” Maybe Pavement for “Haircut” and “Range Life.” Maybe Dave Brubeck for “Take Five.” How about the Osmonds for “Crazy Horses” and “Down By the Lazy River”?Posted by Steve Pick on 03/07 at 03:19 PM
The Mamas and The Papas, “California Dreamin’”Posted by Jonquil on 03/07 at 03:44 PM
Steve--C’mon! To say Pavement had a hit is stretching it, or perhaps you’re just counting released singles and EPs, which the boys from Stockton did plenty of, sure. But let’s count the good songs, on CDs prior to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain ("Box Elder,” “Summer Babe,” “Zurich Is Stained,” “Here,” “Trigger Cut,” “In the Mouth a Dessert,") and after, and I’ll hold that list to merely six: “Rattled by the Rush,” “Grounded,” “Shady Lane,” “Starlings of the Slipstream,” “Spit on a Stranger,"Major Leagues.”
Besides, you can’t dance to John Ashbery, either, but he’s still a terrific poet.Posted by George on 03/07 at 03:49 PM
I did want to disagree with dee on Lionel Ritchie. “All Night Long” evokes in me the same wrist-slitting desires as “Three Times A Lady,” “Dancing on the Ceiling,” “Penny Lover,” etc. My nomination for the only worthwhile Lionel Ritchie number is the Commodores’ very first hit, “Brick House.” Had they disappeared after that one, they would have been perfectly respectable one-hit wonders.
And presumably we’d all also be spared The Simple Life.Posted by on 03/07 at 03:49 PM
How about artists that who deserve commercial success but only find it after reinventing themselves? Steve Miller and Boz Skags after their split comes to mind. I couldn’t stomach Boz’s disco-ish turn after hearing his live stuff recorded at The Filmore. And is there a dumber song than “Take the Money and Run”?Posted by on 03/07 at 03:51 PM
thought of doing some hairsplitting with Chris Clarke (18) precisely around “I will follow”,
Which I wasn’t counting because it’s basically a The Cure song that just happened to have been recorded by U2.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 03:52 PM
I’ll hold that list to merely six
...and Carrot Rope!
(by the way—I’ve posted my own Musical Challenge on my blog, based on my recent attempts to create a compilation CD entirely of songs by artists from and/or about my hometown. Harder than it sounds, if you try to be all-inclusive while still fitting it into the length of one CD.)Posted by Alex on 03/07 at 04:03 PM
You have me on the hit numbers of Pavement, but I’ve never been able to tolerate them much. I tried to e-mail you personally but couldn’t find an address, so I’ll point you to my further comments on this band: http://makeashorterlink.com/?Y5C631F9A.
Great line about Ashcroft, by the way.Posted by Steve Pick on 03/07 at 04:04 PM
Despite being arguably the most overplayed song of all time, “American Pie” ain’t bad.
I violently disagree! Why, if you were in front of me blaspheming like that, it would come to fisticuffs. That’s the extent of the rage that “song” sends me into.
Now that Ben’s got me in a fighting mood, here’s my nomination: Led Zeppelin. “Kashmir” was great, and most of the rest is dreck. I can’t believe anyone finds artistic worth in a pasty-faced limey with poodle hair shamelessly yowling in poor imitation of the great bluesmen.
For any younger readers I haven’t pissed off: Tool sucks harder than a Hoover. Pretentious pseudo-intellectual fucks who only had one good song if you combine the half-okay songs “Sober” with “Stinkfist”.Posted by The Vile Scribbler on 03/07 at 04:11 PM
Great line about Ashcroft, by the way.
George had written, “Besides, you can’t dance to John Ashbery, either, but he’s still a terrific poet.”
I’m not sure I’d say the same thing about this guy...especially since one could, if need be, probably waltz or fox trot to “Let the Eagle Soar.” Indeed, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if in some dank prison somewhere, people are being forced to do just that.Posted by on 03/07 at 04:14 PM
I vote for: Berlin (after “Sex") and Hootie and the Blowfish (after “Let Her Cry")Posted by on 03/07 at 04:18 PM
This listing could become exhaustive when you step outside of mainstream pop. Anything that becomes an advertising jingle reduces that band’s status. “Soft jazz” as a genre produces platinum selling records for bands/musicians with distinctly mediocre skills. “World music” has become equally cluttered w/ popular mediocrity, as is the trance/tech/house/electronica scene. And just how many 3 chord bluz bands have there been, are out there now, and will be in the future, all playing the same endless rock rhythm chord progressions ad nauseum? But if i have to pick, i would take any band, group, singer, etc. listed in the top 25 Billboard ranking of Country music--LeAnn Rimes, Chesney, Brooks and Dunn, big and rich, Scruggs, et al.
I would like a future list on some of those musical experiments of which there should have been lots more.
p.s. note to JJB-- Casey Jones isn’t even considered in the top fifty GD songs by deadheads, and not commercially successful. They only had one moderate commercial success: Touch of Grey, that deadhead’s ranked i believe, just inside the top 100.Posted by on 03/07 at 04:19 PM
"Jive Talkin’” pretty much does it for the Bee Gees, as far I’m concerned (though “I Started A Joke” is so very, very bad, it’s almost good.)Posted by on 03/07 at 04:22 PM
A tangential response. Nancy Sinatra “These Boots
Were Made for Walking” is about the most dreadful
song ever recorded. The problem is that it is
still getting air time. I hear it on KXLU in Los
Angeles (a great station BTW). And I was walking
through the brand new super-upscale shopping mall
“City Center” in West Palm Beach, and I heard it
being played there!Posted by on 03/07 at 04:37 PM
”Despite being arguably the most overplayed song of all time, “American Pie” ain’t bad Most overplayed? No..."Miracles" by the ever-excrecable Jefferson Starship gets that odious honor, I think. The Airplane? Nothing wrong with a little aural psychedelia...I’m thinking.
Other candidates: Asia, Toto, Hootie and the Blowfish. The Stones after 1980-81…Posted by Jo Fish on 03/07 at 04:41 PM
Smashing Pumpkins put together one moment of recorded brilliance, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” which somehow manages to be great, despite being a total thematic ripoff of “Comfortably Numb.” Great guitar work, nifty production and a near-perfect hook ("Despite all the rage I am still just a rat in a cage"). The rest of their stuff is pretty bad, and has aged veeerrrry quickly, but this still holds up.
Imagine if Aerosmith had stopped after “Sweet Emotion.” (Then imagine Devo covering it; I was singing it in the car the other day while listening on my iPod, and I think I sounded like Devo, and it sounded pretty damn funny.)Posted by on 03/07 at 05:09 PM
Point taken on ‘hits’ vis a vi Billboard, but basically, I was going by ‘songs I heard on the radio growing up’. I used to hear the Dead on the radio—and Touch of Grey makes me want to immediately turn on Metal Machine Music just to pummel it out of my sensory lode—and the endless number of bootlegs my stepfather played around the house. Dude, this is Albany ‘79! Chattanooga from ‘75! MSG, and I forget!
My point is I think that the band sucked, one ‘hit’ or not. It sounds like noodle-ly, self-indulgent muck to me whether its Garcia’s 20 minute solo on Darkstar (Hartford, ‘82) or their version of Good Lovin’.
Jo Fish: It’s easy enough to pretend that the Stones ended after Tattoo You, that way you don’t have to hate them.Posted by JJB on 03/07 at 05:12 PM
The Dead’s first album didn’t suck at all.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 05:17 PM
JJB, you are a person after my own heart. It is sacrilege to some people to point out what hacks The Dead were, but JesusMaryandJoseph, whatta buncha crap.
And while we’re bashing sacred heroes, I always pretty much hated The Band.Posted by on 03/07 at 05:26 PM
Vile Scribbler: For any younger readers I haven’t pissed off: Tool sucks harder than a Hoover.
True, and like the immutable law of Bands Named After Geography Suck, it’s difficult to deny that Monosyllabic Bands Suck Too: Tool, Staind, Train, Korn and the alltimer, a band that was gutsy enough to redefine suck, Creed.Posted by JJB on 03/07 at 05:39 PM
And while we’re bashing sacred heroes, I always pretty much hated The Band.
The Band was (were?) great when backing up Dylan, specifically on Live 1966, and (less so) on “Before the Flood.”
Otherwise, though—fairly useless.
I try to give early Dead stuff the benefit of the doubt, but find myself hating them more for what they represented (and later spawned) than for what they were.
Also—“American Pie” is shit. Strictly lyrically, I mean. It’s all this=that symbolism of the stupidest kind, more like a crossword puzzle than poetry. Irritatingly self-righteous (Oh, Bob Dylan sold out! Oh, the Rolling Stones were Godless!), the kind of thing you’re supposed to feel real clever about figuring out.Posted by Alex on 03/07 at 05:48 PM
Monosyllabic Bands Suck Too
What about The Clash? Is that two syllables? The Kinks? The Pogues?Posted by Alex on 03/07 at 05:53 PM
I try to give early Dead stuff the benefit of the doubt, but find myself hating them more for what they represented (and later spawned) than for what they were.
I agree in theory, but then I really had to come to the conclusion that while they seem like good guys, I hate their fans AND their music. Of course, I’d add that I just didn’t get their popularity in the first place—despite my affinity for certain illicit substances—and that maybe within the interminable jams lay some magic, somewhere.
And CoffeeCake, full disclosure, I like The Weight and I love the Drive By Truckers’ song Danko/Manuel so much, that I might have to take another listen...Hope we can still be friends though.Posted by JJB on 03/07 at 05:59 PM
Right, OK, but we were talking about shoulda-been one (or maybe two) hit wonders and The Band qualifies. I don’t mind the song “The Weight” if it only shows up every now and then (and never, ever in a car commercial).Posted by on 03/07 at 06:03 PM
I forgot to mention the corallary is that Bands With a ‘The’ in Them Don’t Count as Monosyllabic. My main intent, in fact, was to separate those bands (and the ones you listed are, in fact, why I should have listed the corallary.) who uniformly suck from “The” bands, whose overall record is too varied to judge as a whole.
Sorry for any confusion in my elitism.Posted by JJB on 03/07 at 06:05 PM
Got it CC.
And I hold no truck for them. Plus, it does piss me off that 4 Canadians (and one guy from Arkansas) put out the Southern Apologia “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, adding immesurably to the bullshit Lost Cause mythos that plagues us all.
But here’s the ironic thought: Music in commericals is now often better than the music they play on commerical radio. What was it, Mercury, that had a Smiths song? I love the fact that Iggy’s ode to heroin sells cruises. And why on Earth did Jaugar think a song about the aftermath of a nuclear/culture war was a good bet for the luxury market?Posted by JJB on 03/07 at 06:16 PM
What was it, Mercury, that had a Smiths song?
Must have missed that one....what song did they use? “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”?
And what product could you sell with “Girlfriend in a Coma”? It’s nice ‘n’ jinggly!Posted by on 03/07 at 06:25 PM
I forgot to mention the corallary is that Bands With a ‘The’ in Them Don’t Count as Monosyllabic.
Where do The The fit in here?
Plus, it does piss me off that 4 Canadians (and one guy from Arkansas) put out the Southern Apologia “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, adding immesurably to the bullshit Lost Cause mythos that plagues us all.
True that. However, this did allow Joan Baez (who you just know was going to pop up in this thread eventually) to mangle the lyrics, singing “There goes The Robert E. Lee” as if singing about a paddlewheeler.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 06:28 PM
I found via Google that it was “How Soon is Now?” and Nissan.Posted by JJB on 03/07 at 06:29 PM
I think the immutable Monosyllabic Sucking law would only kick in if they were named “The” although that might be so odd that it would be pretty good. Beck escapes this, as an exception to prove the rule.
How about this, bands overwhelmingly suck when they have a number in their name? I’m not quite sold on this one yet, because I like Radio 4, but overall, I’m seeing nice trend lines here: Blink 182, Sum 41, 4 Non Blondes…Posted by JJB on 03/07 at 06:37 PM
JJB, I think you might have something there, though I’ll toss KRS-One into the exceptions bin. Or did you mean “numeral”?Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 06:45 PM
Two Sheds Jackson - I haven’t heard ‘Head East’ mentioned for 25 years...but Foreigner did “Cold As Ice”. Your point holds true for them too though.
And if Carly Simon had quit with ‘That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be’ we would have been spared “Mockingbird” and ketchup commercials.Posted by on 03/07 at 06:46 PM
Good Lord, what a bunch of insulting crap-writing going on - so I thought I would join in. What’s with this deal of taking a thread about one-hit wonders and using it to go off on the pillars of (schmaltzy drecky) pop? You may hate Elton John, but he has set the record for the most top-whatever singles in consecutive years (over 20 consecutive years with a top 50 single, or something like that), so he is the complete opposite of a one-hit wonder. He is more like the pop beast that wouldn’t die.
Good call on Haircut 100, but the another song on that album also got some airplay and was pretty decent. At least it had some energy, Favourite Shirt. Also, the entry about choosing the geographic band names (Kansas, Boston, Asia...) was certainly on the right track.
I join in anyone wretching over Natalie Merchant (with our without the legions of Maniacs, every song sounds the same). And Billy Joel is at the top of my projectile-vomiting list - can’t stand tough guy posturing over bubblegum rock. But while Phil Collins has definitely committed some dreck, most of his solo stuff I can at least stomach (some I kinda like) and I don’t mind some of his Genesis stuff (some I kinda like). I also know someone who worked on a tour of his and the report is that he treated people very well - he was down to earth and generous.
My life would’ve had much less music-caused suffering if Erasure’s Small Town Boy never came to be. Or Oh, L’Amour. My god, the bile is rising! For several years you couldn’t escape them in a dance club - AAAAUUUGGGGGHHH!!! Sorry, having bad disco (90s - not 70s) flashbacks. New Order, on the other hand, I was always a big fan of.
One one-hit wonder that I’m more ambivalent about would be Nena with 99 Luftballoons.
I think we should have a whole section dedicated to reworked, risen from the dead bands that only came back to record god-awful schmaltz to cash in. Heart, (Jefferson) Starship… any other suggestions? Or bands that kept reworking and simply coming out different - The Byrds, King Crimson (I like both).Posted by on 03/07 at 06:51 PM
I share Michael’s lack of enthusiasm for the oeuvre of Billy Joel...but when he sang “New York State of Mind” during the telethon right after 9/11 he had me in tears. That song alone almost compensates for “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
And “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is good too.
Mrroberts: My life would’ve had much less music-caused suffering if Erasure’s Small Town Boy never came to be.
“Small Town Boy” was Bronski Beat, not Erasure.Posted by on 03/07 at 06:56 PM
mroberts you are missing the point. This was Prof. Berube’s charge:
Which musical “artists,” in your learned opinions, should have been one-hit wonders? To put this another way: what hideous, ubiquitous person-or-group has produced years or decades of dreck except for that one song you can’t entirely dismiss and– gulp– might even like?
He explicitly DIDN’T want us to list just one-hit wonders.
Chris Clarke you are right. Number = Numeral in the developing theory. KRS-One is a clarifying example: KRS-One (great) 50 Cent (terrible).Posted by JJB on 03/07 at 07:01 PM
DML Here’s one thing I never got about Carly Simon. In “You’re So Vain” she writes “You’re so vain/you probably think this song is about you.”
Well, isn’t it?
I mean when you name a song “You’re So Vain” aren’t you in fact, writing a song about someone (in this case, it’s Warren Beatty, right?) who you think is vain? So when the vainity stricken guy is asked, hey are you the vain guy who nailed Carly Simon after meeting her on a yacht?
They’ll say, “Yes, I was.”
“Then why does she say ‘you probably think this song is about you’, like it’s an insult?”
“I don’t know. I mean it’s obviously me isn’t it? I may be vain, but I mean, shit, I’m not an idiot.”Posted by JJB on 03/07 at 07:13 PM
I’m going to go with some more contemporary ones here (groups and singers that I hope will go away).
Have I not been reading carefully enough, or has *Coldplay* not come up? I’ll admit that I bought their hit CD, but only because the catchy melodies are drawn from real groups like Radiohead and the Pixies. Their crappily written lyrics drive me batty.
And what do you suppose Jewel would have been like if she had not wanted to go the pop princess route? She actually had a couple of good ones, and then...nothin’.
Since I’m currently living in Canada, I’ll go ahead and say it: Shania Twain, do what lovely Mina of Italy did, and retire in Switzerland already! I can’t take another one of her songs!!!Posted by on 03/07 at 07:22 PM
"For Your Lunch” was Laugh-Out-Loud Funny, and I’m a Yardbirds fan (really, though, they did have a few good ones over the years besides “For Your Love").
Dave Matthews certainly comes to mind. “Ants Marching” is fun, but the rest is both unlistenable and unintelligible (which is probably a good thing).
I suppose Aerosmith had two good songs, so they may not qualify.
But the winner? The Spin Doctors. For some reason I like “Two Princes” but everything else is complete and utter drek.Posted by on 03/07 at 07:24 PM
It should be someone you can’t, or don’t want to, remember otherwise. I nominate Billy Squier for “Everybody Wants You”.Posted by on 03/07 at 07:59 PM
hmmmm ... was wondering how this same “brand new game” might apply to academics or perhaps “hideous and ubiquitous” literary/cultural theorists.
I see that academics are doing what they are trained to do: criticize and critique artists. Yawn.
As for the Jewel comment from sneakysnu, one would think that a reader of this ever-so-ironic blog would recognize an ever-so-ironic “pop princess.”
Kravitz, boring? Get real.Posted by on 03/07 at 08:29 PM
Wow, everybody! It’s Special Guest Star David Horowitz!
(Michael, I’m sorry you saw fit to jump the shark so early in your blogging career.)Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 08:32 PM
A few candidates:
The Rolling Stones: “It’s All Over Now.”
Christina Aguilera: “Genie in the Bottle”
Cher: “If I Could Turn Back Time”
Metallica: “Whiskey in the Jar”
Phil Collins: “In Too Deep”
English Beat: “Save It For Later”
Michael Jackson: “Billie Jean”Posted by Tim Horrigan on 03/07 at 08:39 PM
Boy, you guys are tough. I have to admit I have pop sensibilities so jangling guitars and sweet harmonies are my thing.
What about The Raspberries “Go all the way”, Split Enz - “I’ve got you”, or INXS. Of the three INXS is the one that I find really annoyingPosted by on 03/07 at 08:41 PM
Chris Isaak: Wicked Game.Posted by Mark H on 03/07 at 08:45 PM
The one group that gives me left-elbow tendinitis as I punch for the buttons on the car radio is Journey.
The flaw in this hypothesis, however, is that I really cannot think of one song of theirs that is listenable.Posted by on 03/07 at 08:45 PM
"A tangential response. Nancy Sinatra “These Boots
Were Made for Walking” is about the most dreadful
song ever recorded.”
When I was at Columbia in the early 1980s, one of the people who lived in Athena Viscusi’s apartment (probably Athena herself) had a copy of the album of “These Boots Were Made for Walking”. She and Lee Greenwood (her husband at the time--- Nancy’s husband, I mean, not Athena’s) filled out the rest of space on the vinyl album with assorted not-too-awful country-pop cover ditties, each of which was gratuitously interrupted at least once by that Boom-boom-umbumbum bass riff. It was quite amusing.Posted by Tim Horrigan on 03/07 at 08:49 PM
Not David Horowitz, unless David Horowitz spent years in graduate school suffering such silly “brand new” games in whatever variations. ... While all of these artists made oodles of money. Which pays in American culture? Critique or create? Do the math.
Academics = critique = little risk = no money.
Artists (wannabes or authentic) = create = possibility of monetary reward in exchange for riskPosted by on 03/07 at 08:56 PM
unless David Horowitz spent years in graduate school suffering such silly “brand new” games in whatever variations
I never got to go to graduate school - nor did I even finish undergraduate school - and so this is all fresh and new to me.
Something not new to me, contrariwise, is the fallacy of equating wealth with value. Another is the person who walks into a party and sneers that everyone there is having fun the wrong way.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 09:05 PM
Whoa, boy! What responses to the Billy Joel post.
But Michael, you are wrong about Billy Joel’s period of time in which he was a socially conscious guy. He was really radical during the 1969 through 1971 period when he was part of the Hassles and then a two guy band (with the amazing drummer Jonathan Small) called Attila. I have the album and it is really quite good, in my humble view (I am a big prog rock fan, circa 1969-1979, I will admit; no, not Journey or Styx, but Gentle Giant, Genesis, King Crimson, and PFM, for starters).
Also, we can all be disgusted by the pretentiousness of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” ("JFK blown away, what more do I have to say?” Well, Billy, you haven’t said anything...). Point taken.
HOWEVER, let’s all calm down and admit Billy Joel is still likely a Democrat and is probably left of center. Yeah, he put out a lot of pablum, but he was just trying to make it in a capitalist music business that succeeded, by the time disco arrived--let alone the time Britney Spears arrived--at commodifying popular music perhaps beyond repair. Unlike most of the pablum sellers, Joel is in fact an excellent musician. I don’t buy his records/CDs, what have you, but let’s forebear casting the stones of heresy his way.Posted by on 03/07 at 09:06 PM
Just checking in from the pizza capital of the world, logging in at Frank Pepe’s Wireless Cafe. And yes, Lenny Kravitz is bo-ring. Bo-ring. As in te-di-ous. Even the most boring academics find it impossible to stay awake for the full duration of a Lenny Kravitz single. There is no point in challenging this.
I almost agree with the Madonna and Chicago suggestions: I’d save either “Holiday” or “Ray of Light” from Madonna, and “25 or 6 to 4” from the Chicago Transit Authority. Everything else can go, and in the case of Chicago, that would have spared us all a full decade of high school marching bands playing “Make Me Smile” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Also, I’d be perfectly happy if Fleetwood Mac’s impact on popular music was confined to “Go Your Own Way.”
And listen, if that’s really Robert Christgau up there (this blog is home to some of the finest leg-pulling miscreants on the Internets, you know): I’m willing to give it up to your superior Smash Mouth expertise, since I am not, in fact, familiar with their first album. But I still think I’m right about their chart hits. “Then the Morning Comes,” man. Q.E.D. And if, indeed, you are Robert Christgau, would you mind explaining that week in 1977 when your Village Voice column gave an A to Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits and an A to Wild Tchoupitoulas? That messed me up real bad, and I’ve spent the last 28 years trying to grasp the prematurely post-Neo-Bolshevist principles of analysis involved in that one.
Posted by Michael on 03/07 at 09:22 PM
The comment about Joy Division as one-hit wonder is totally uninformed.
And I’m soooo sick of the “Bowie is a copy-cat” line of criticism. Rock music *is* the music of copies. I love the Velvet Underground, but Lou Reed didn’t offer anything that garage bands hadn’t already accomplished (see Nuggets 1-4). Bowie and Eno were feeding off one another from the start: Roxy Music and glam-period Bowie. Eno’s first two solo discs are themselves (brilliant) rip-offs of early Bowie. And if you wanna give Eno all the credit for the late 70s Bowie albums, you’ll have to explain why Eno never wrote a decent pop tune after 1974.
In any case, I’ll nominate Pearl Jam (and the second, third, and fourth generation Pearl Jams out there) for a “should-have-been-a-one-hit-wonder” band. And, for an oldie but shitty, CSN(& or not & Y).Posted by on 03/07 at 09:26 PM
And yes, Lenny Kravitz is bo-ring. Bo-ring. As in te-di-ous.
His mom was hot, tho.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 09:30 PM
<i>Gentle Giant, Genesis, King Crimson, and PFM, for starters<i>
Great bands, every one of ‘em. Of course, they were totally opposed to the Top 40 and singles, so they get a pass on this thread. I’d also add ELP, Yes and Jethro Tull, but only in the 1970-1974 timeframe; Van Der Graaf Generator were a great band as well.Posted by on 03/07 at 09:36 PM
Fleetwood Mac should have stopped with Hypnotized.
(I can’t believe all the Clapton disers. The post-sober sober stuff is wretched, yes, but when he was toasted...be still my heart.)Posted by on 03/07 at 09:46 PM
I’m in all sorts of trouble for trodding upon New Order and David Bowie, but that’s the fun of the game, ain’t it?
Look—I like David Bowie. I even kinda liked The Man Who Fell to Earth. But the old “all music is copying” line only works if the copier brings something to the table him or herself. Bowie imitated without adding, except in the area of image. He was revolutionary in terms of image, but his actual music from his supposedly most artistically fertile period is muddy, confused gibberish.
And Joy Division, well… that’s music, like The Cure and occasionally The Smiths, that a guy listens to to make girls think he’s sensitive.Posted by Alex on 03/07 at 10:27 PM
Let’s give it up for Joe Cocker and “A Little Help From My Friends.” Other than that, he was just Belushi-food.Posted by on 03/07 at 10:51 PM
Is anyone else as depressed as I am that Michael gets more comments in absentia than I get when I’m in the moment? No fair!
But while I’m here, I’ll add America, Seal, Sade, Tears for Fears, Frankie Goes, B52s, and Terrance Trent D.Posted by Roxanne on 03/07 at 11:08 PM
He’s encouraged us to argue about music. It’s a boy thing, really. Women are just too dainty and sensitive for this sort of behavior.
Also, the B52s had so much more than just one good song.Posted by Alex on 03/07 at 11:13 PM
Aren’t you supposed to be studying?Posted by Roxanne on 03/07 at 11:19 PM
All right, Alex, I’ll agree to disagree. I think Bowie was far more than a male Madonna (compare, say, *Ziggy* to anything by Marc Bolan; or *Heroes* to, well, anything). And maybe I’m just weird to put Joy Division in an entirely different league than the Cure. (I agree about the Cure and the Smiths at the level of lyrics—but Johnny Marr’s guitar playing puts most anyone to shame.)
And I’ll agree to agree about the B52s: their first two albums—but especially that first LP—rival any so-called “Intelligent Dance Music.”Posted by on 03/07 at 11:22 PM
Is anyone else as depressed as I am that Michael gets more comments in absentia than I get when I’m in the moment? No fair!
Well, MB did shake his index finger at us and say “no dancing around to Bob Seger in your underwear while I’m gone!” What do you expect us to do?Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 11:23 PM
And I loved the B52s. But they were Schtick. It got stale.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/07 at 11:25 PM
Aren’t you supposed to be studying?
Well, yeah. That’s why I’m spending so much time commenting on blogs and trying to figure out the riff from “I’m Waiting For the Man” on the ukulele.Posted by Alex on 03/08 at 12:02 AM
- The one decent song before they started pouring a viscous coat of maudlin cello over everything they did.
Fiona Apple: “Criminal”
- It’s too long, but that’s one hell of a hook.
Glen Campbell: “Gentle On My Mind”
- The Nashville Sound should be the subject of an international arms control treaty. But he had a good voice when it wasn’t covered in tedious string arrangements.
Styx: “Mr. Roboto”
- C’mon. You know you love it.
This is a pretty tough one, really. If a band managed one decent song in a career of any length, then they usually got to two. I mean, I wish Rod Stewart would fall into a bottomless pit, but he stumbled his way into “Maggie May” and “Downtown Train”.Posted by on 03/08 at 12:04 AM
Soft jazz definitely sucks. The only person from that genre I ever liked was John Klemmer; now his stuff is, at best, a guilty pleasure.
Fleetwood Mac started to sound like a lounge band after they got Stevie Nicks. “Bare Trees” and “Mystert to Me” were great albums.
Sir Elton’s most listenable song was his barly charting first hit. “Empty Sky”.
Like I said before, the late 70s are gold mine of this stuff---Helen Reddy, for starters. Her nasaly version of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” was just awful and her various hijinks with husband Jeff Wald (they were constantly making scenes in hotels and restaurants, drunk or otherwise) undid any good done by “I am Woman”.
Re: Jefferson Airplane/Starship. You obviously have never heard “Volunteers”, “It’s No Secret”, or some of the great early instrumentsals from their sibling band, Hot Tuna. Not to mention menage a trois song “Triad”.
We’ve missed, though, the subgenre of “musicians’ musicians” whose work sounds horrible to everyone lese. Little Feat was the classic mid-70s example of this, a long with semi-folkie, Dave Mason. The Band (already mentioned in a more generic context) is another. Peter Allen might be too Broadway, but he fits, too; his singing always seemed tone deaf to me and his lyrics never seemed to fit the melody except for a few ditties like “Rio”.Posted by on 03/08 at 12:11 AM
Why are you coming up here? The weather is erratic and there are gobs of ice everywhere. It seems to me like this would be the ideal time to visit the desert !
Also, when you get back, are you going to blog about Ben Shapiro’s blithering about The Gates? I took a stab at it, but I’m not really qualified to address someone who lumps in all artistic works created in the past 100 years, not only regardless of genre, but regardless of whole field of performance, and looked on it and saw that it was not good.
I can only think of one shouldabeena one-hit wonder, because usually I change the channel before I find out who they are: Celine Dion. Though the guy who sounds like Smeagol is a close second (song called “Wonderland"--?) Oh wait, that guy with the, um, Homeland-themed songs - who is it, country, sings about stomping furriners all the time? Him too.Posted by bellatrys on 03/08 at 12:51 AM
Nominations for acts which would have been better if they had only had one (or less) hits: almost anything from the crimes against music known as the ‘80’s. Hall & Oates. George Michael. Boy George. Laura Branigan. Michael Bolton.Posted by on 03/08 at 01:31 AM
Lawd, lawd, lawd!
How in the world has this thread accumulated one hundred some comments without anybody mentioning Green Day? If ever there’s a band that you’d like to have heard less of, that’s gotta be it. On the other hand, “Longview” is a freakin’ punk pop anthem. If that’s the only Green Day song I’d ever heard I’d love ‘em and kiss ‘em like they were Norman Greenbaum.Posted by zwichenzug on 03/08 at 01:40 AM
funny thing: david bowie originally wrote “golden years” with the intention of having elvis sing it.
and anybody who talks about “muddy, confused gibberish” really shouldn’t defend elvis. true, the king in his pre-barbituate years could hack out a few semi-decent songs, but if you want to talk about musical theft, i’m willing to support bowie’s artistic integrity over elvis’ any day.Posted by on 03/08 at 01:41 AM
"… any good done by ‘I Am Woman’”??
OK, maybe I missed some irony by scrolling too fast. That song is the only thing on the planet that has ever made me want a sex change, and I include lots of outdoor occasions that required urination.Posted by Ron Sullivan on 03/08 at 01:43 AM
Ron, you might want to explain your non-male gender to the folks playing at home.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/08 at 01:48 AM
Some bands with exactly one song that I like:
Emerson, Lake and Palmer, “Jerusalem.” Unlike their other material, the song can take all the bombast they throw at it (which, to be sure, is plenty), and Carl Palmer almost keeps time for once.
Boston, “More Than A Feeling.” Come to think of it, I can’t remember any other Boston songs, but MtaF is so delicately balanced on the cheese-vat overhang that I find it hard to believe they could pull it off twice.
The Grateful Dead, “Ripple.” Don’t worry, I won’t defend it. I just like it. It probably helps that I have no idea what the lyrics are.
Danny Elfman, “Theme from the Simpsons.” He nailed that one, but while I’m sure there must be a few nuggets in the rest of his soundtrack oeuvre, I’m not going to be mining for them anytime soon. And yes, I’ve seen The Nightmare Before Christmas. Nice animation, ghastly songs. The wrong kind of ghastly, that is.
John Williams, “Star Wars” (including the Darth Vader music, although I like the swing version of that better). Another situation where bombast and bombast-appropriateness collided fortuitously, never to meet again.Posted by Tim Walters on 03/08 at 02:02 AM
They Might Be Giants—“Birdhouse in Your Mind”: Great song, bo-ring band.
Indigo Girls—“Galileo”: love this song, but all the “we’re on the road to live and learn, see the moon going down, I stopped into a Buckhead bar for a beer” is crap.
Missing Persons—“Words”: My what a great song, but the rest is pure drek.
American Music Club—ah, but they never had a hit ... hmm ... and maybe they never had a decent song ...
Philboid Studge, you mentioned seeing U2 at Spit in Boston in ‘81. I think I may have been at that show—or was it The Police? Oh wait, The Police may have played the Rat and not Spit.
In any case, Boston in the ‘80’s ... good times.Posted by on 03/08 at 02:13 AM
I meant gibberish of the lyrical/intellectual variety, not in the singing itself—Elvis didn’t write his own stuff, didn’t cop to being anything more than a hillbilly with a killer voice and an even better band. I would be the first to call The King a rip-off artist of the First Degree, but, to my ears, even something a fluffy as Jailhouse Rock just rocks more than the bloated arrhythmic “rhythm” section of the Spiders From Mars.
After the Army stint, though, I’m off the Elvis bandwagon.
But man oh man, people—“Mystery Train”!
Now, back to studying. I’ve almost got the chorus down.Posted by Alex on 03/08 at 02:13 AM
>"Ron, you might want to explain..."<
Tsk. Don’t mess with the set-up.
I’ll cop to thinking The Band had it all over Mr. Dylan. Neck-and-neck for pretentiousness, but at least they sounded pretty.Posted by Ron Sullivan on 03/08 at 02:20 AM
Random notes (and why is this thread more popular than beer? what is wrong with us?):
1) That probably really is Robert Christgau. Correct email address. Proper cutting tone, and sure enough he likes Smash Mouth’s first album if you go check his website.
Oh, and Michael, he gave Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits a B- and that record and Wild Tchoupitoulas were released a year apart. It’s mistakes like that the right wing blogs quote to show lefties lie.
2) Eno didn’t really want to write pop songs after 1974, or I’d argue 1978 (I mean, “King’s Lead Hat” still kicks butt). And then he did write good ones with John Cale when they covered “Hallelujah,” uh, I mean on Wrong Way Up in 1990. Those songs had to be pop or they wouldn’t have been used for soundtrack moments during Northern Exposure.
3) Daryl Hall’s record with Robert Fripp has some nifty 1970s art-rocky moments.
4) To clarify my clearly mystifying comments earlier, Stephen Malkmus of Pavement once said he based his lyrics on John Ashbery poems. Most likely a put-on, but an engagingly smarty-pants one.
5) I think this thread has devolved into the moment in Manhattan when Woody Allen has to endure Dianne Keaton’s gallery of the over-rated and her mispronounciation of Van Gogh.
6) I’ve spent more time writing here today than on my own blog....Posted by George on 03/08 at 02:37 AM
Lord, Downtown Train? Rod the Mod shouldn’t be allowed to listen to Tom Waits, let alone cover him. He did some good work with Jeff Beck, and his first solo album has its moments, but “Maggie May” should have ended it.
My own favorite Elvis song is “Suspicion” by Terry Stafford.Posted by Doghouse Riley on 03/08 at 03:07 AM
Split Enz? I Got You? How?
Have you not heard One Step Ahead? My Mistake? History Never Repeats? I See Red? Stuff And Nonsense? Late Last Night?
Granted, I Got You is awesome. But turning down the rest of their ouvre or ovre or ovary or ouevre is a harsh business.
Dirty Creature, even?
Also it is not witty to reply “har har, i wish i HADNT herd them songs.”
Also somebody badmouthed TMBG. This will not do.
Also I totally can’t think of an entry to make in this game. Sadness occurs in a big way on my behalf, I assure you.Posted by JHIMYM on 03/08 at 06:35 AM
Late as always - “Two Princes” already mentioned - so I’ll make the obscure foreign reference: If “The Real Thing” (not the U2 song) had been the only contribution of any kind Russell Morris, Johnny Young and Ian “Molly” Meldrum had made to Australian popular culture, it wouldn’t have been necessary for me to hunt them down with a machete when I have some free time.
And as for Kravitz - don’t you mean “Mr Cabdriver”?Posted by on 03/08 at 07:19 AM
I’m not so sure Coldplay fits into this list; I didn’t know they had a good song. Also, what would be Aerosmith’s other good song, besides “Sweet Emotion?”
Green Day is an excellent choice, ‘cuz “Longview” is indeed a terrific song, but the rest of their stuff is wildly overrated. A friend played “American Idiot” for me the other day, and the only remotely interesting thing about it is the nifty lift from The Raincoats’ “Fairytale in the Supermarket” that occurs in...one of the songs. I wasn’t looking at the tracklist.
I’d nominate KISS for this list. “Strutter” rivals anything on the New York Dolls record, and we might’ve been spared “I Was Made For Loving You” or (shudder) “Let’s Put The X In Sex.” (Sample lyric: “Love’s like a muscle and you make me wanna flex.")Posted by on 03/08 at 09:52 AM
I didn’t know Tom Waits wrote “Downtown Train”. I thought he’d just done a far superior cover. Good. Now we can consign Rod to this list.Posted by on 03/08 at 10:34 AM
Toys in the Attic is a great song. Walk this Way was probably great when it came out too, but then by the time I was 10, I had heard it probably 20,000 times—plus, as an unintended consequence via Run-DMC, its existence led directly to Kid Rock and Fred Durst.
Good call on Kiss too. They really suck.
There shoud also be a category for bands/artists who were great in their heyday, but now shouldn’t be allowed near an open mike. Rod Stewart and the Stones fit the bill and in a tragic turn of events, I have to add Paul Westerberg.Posted by JJB on 03/08 at 10:37 AM
Boston in the 80s ... yeah. If memory serves (and it almost never does)… Mission of Burma playing some microscopic bar near HArvard Sq ... Bonnie Raitt on Halloween Night ... good timesPosted by on 03/08 at 10:40 AM
Travis G. re: Green Day. Listen to “jesus of suburbia”, then think of Bobo. It’ll make you smile…
For the Sir Elton bashers (and I’m right up there for everything after GBYBR), if you’ve never checked out 11-17-70, it’s pretty good. Recorded live during a broadcase from the A&R studios in New York, and he was intro’d by Dave Herman of NY Radio Fame. How cool was that?Posted by Jo Fish on 03/08 at 11:12 AM
Alas, JJB, I agree with you about Paul Westerberg. On the other hand, I disagree with you about “Toys In The Attic.” I’ve never been real crazy about that song but, then, I don’t really like Aerosmith very much. (And how gross is that commercial where Steven Tyler walks into a restaurant and all those young women knock their table over to get a good look at him? BLECH. He’s one scary-looking mother.) The worst part about the Aerosmith-Run DMC collaboration is everything Aerosmith recorded afterward.
I kind of wish the Flaming Lips had hung it up after “She Don’t Use Jelly.” That was by far the worst song on an otherwise very enjoyable album, but I’ve been pretty underwhelmed by their orchestral pop stuff. I’ve tried to like it, and even feel a little bad that I don’t, but I still greatly prefer their early stuff. The old Flaming Lips would’ve never been compared to Wilco.Posted by on 03/08 at 11:21 AM
I just looked at the tracklisting, Jo, and I do remember liking the melody to that one. I’ll have to give the lyrics a look-see and/or listen.
I’m not an Elton John fan by any means, but I’ve always liked “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.”Posted by on 03/08 at 11:26 AM
Madonna, Billy Idol and Britney Spears. They have all made one song that I unfortunately found very catchy, leaving me in a vulnerable position w/ my hipster friends.
I also think that the influences flowed back and forth between Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. If it was all one way why would those artists hire Bowie as their producer. If Lou Reed wasn’t singing Transformer sounds more like Bowie than VU.
Phil Collins is not talentless, he is an accomplished drummer. See who is playing drums on all of the early Eno albums. As a solo artist he sucked; more of a technician than an artist.Posted by Prudence Goodwife on 03/08 at 11:29 AM
At best, “Aerosmith” is a 70s kitsch/guilty pleasure. They seemed like a silly suburban garage band even then, which I think was the point of their appeal. My guilty pleasure by Boston was “Hitch A Ride”. They basically were a two album-hit wonder like much of the rest of the list.
Re: Indigo Girls: any lyric about Atlanta seems to suggest a lack of imagination.They are easily one of the more pretentious folkies which may be why they’ve remained in a place like Atlanta (a place I hoep to escape one day). That Sir Elton lives here in “The City that Doesn’t Work” suggests he has bad taste even when it comes to tax havens.
Christgau calls himself “the dean of rock critics”. I guess that makes him the David Broder of rock critics, although he goes for bombast and intellectual pretentiousness rather then the “sensible center” (and a lazy version of “conventional wisdom"). Either way, you’ve got somebody who’se more impressed with their dull opinion than with what they’re supposed to be covering. Anyone who liked Helen Reddy more than CSN probably needed to have his head examined even 30+ years ago.Posted by on 03/08 at 11:40 AM
Rich you are right on about Christgau. He is almost worthless as a critic. He reviews albums months and months after they have been released so they really don’t help the music consumer, despite what he titles his column.Posted by Prudence Goodwife on 03/08 at 11:57 AM
I hate, hate, hate whatever passes for Arrowsmith these days, but whatever. They had an obscure record out before their reincarnation, at the dreg end of their junkie days, with a song called “My Fist Your Face”, which I liked too. But then again, if they didn’t exist, my life would have been exactly the same. And we men wouldn’t have to live in shame by the fact that Steven Tyler has had more plastic surgery than anyone this side of the woman who looks like a cat.
I hardly know what Christgau means half the time—even when he seemingly doesn’t like a record, he gives it a ‘B’ or some such idiocy. That said, he still stands taller than the rest of the Voice writers who combine his pomposity with uber-hipster cynicism and self-impressed, overly stylized prose.
The worst is Chuck Eddy. Here’s the first Google thing I found for a band called Grandpa’s Ghost, cut and pasted verbatim: that these remarkable former alt-country musicians land next to grandaddy on your alphabetized cd shelf makes some sense since both groups carry folk-roots pastorals into a bong-smoke realm. but grandpa’s ghost are alot more guitar-explorationally rock about it, which explains why joe carducci signed them to his record label. and that they’re from an illinois town called pocahontas is cool, too, even though they’re alot closer to side 2 of ‘rust never sleeps’ than to side one, especially if crazy horse was a kraut-rock band
???Posted by JJB on 03/08 at 12:05 PM
I know this is obscure, but NightRanger (stop laughing) use to have a good, hard rock edge and did a song called “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” After that came things like Sister Christian (aargh!)Posted by on 03/08 at 12:21 PM
No mention of Kiss awfulness should omit “Beth,” which is not only particularly awful, but was also the group’s biggest hit and the progenitor of generations of horrible heavy metal ballads.Posted by on 03/08 at 12:41 PM
I count Phil Collins as one of my guilty pleasures. I’ll listen to some of his songs with Genesis - “That’s All,” “Misunderstanding” and “In Too Deep,” for example - any time they come on the radio. I won’t attempt to argue that those are good songs, necessarily, although I’d say that “In The Air Tonight” is. I also sorta like “I Don’t Care Anymore,” if only for its obsessive recording quality - a mic for every drum.
The Power Station’s “Some Like It Hot” is another kinda crappy song that I like for its surprisingly detailed production. The drums, played by Tony Thompson of Chic, are individually miked and then chopped and spliced, which I noticed only recently on headphones (thanks, iPod). It apparently must be lots of fun to get all coked up and mic a drum kit, from the sound of things. The song, overall, is pretty stupid, but you can do a lot worse than to rip off Liquid Liquid, which they do on this song. Their cover of “Bang A Gong,” by T. Rex, should never have happened, though, so I’d put them on this list.Posted by on 03/08 at 12:49 PM
Yeah, “Beth” is awful.Posted by on 03/08 at 12:53 PM
Ack, stupid comment system ate my well-reasoned and oh-so-witty response. Well, the digest version is this:
The Eagles: My 16-year-old self would kick my ass for this, but give them “Hotel California” and toss the rest.
Yes: “Roundabout.” They sure put out a lot of music, self-indulgent and eminently forgettable.
Mariah Carey: I thoroughly enjoy “Heartbreaker,” which features my favorite use of the word “incessantly,” but, eesh, humanity definitely could have done without the rest.
(mroberts , taking a shot at my beloved Erasure? For shame, for shame.)Posted by on 03/08 at 01:19 PM
This is getting ridiculous Michael. You need to POLICE this thread.Posted by on 03/08 at 01:41 PM
Paul Simon. Seriously. I’ve tried. I can’t like anything but “The Only Living Boy in New York.” He wrote a Broadway musical. That’s enough to relegate him to a particularly steamy part of hell filled with dancing nuns and men in eye make-up . . . not Marilyn Manson style either.Posted by on 03/08 at 02:23 PM
This is getting ridiculous Michael. You need to POLICE this thread.
Typical youthful intolerance. You’ll enjoy this kind of thing more when UB40.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/08 at 02:34 PM
Professor Bérubé, your army awaits! Give us our marching orders! Sound the clarion, or the klaxon, or whatever it is.Posted by Doghouse Riley on 03/08 at 03:07 PM
Too late to storm The Gates, though.Posted by Doghouse Riley on 03/08 at 03:08 PM
Collins is a decent drummer and I still like very early Genisis “Lamb Lies Down on Brodway” early) if only for the clever if sometimes trite wordplay.
Yes, like ELP mixed the unlistenable with the catchy and sometime shad a good song. They aren’t one hit wonders and they aren’t as overrated as some of their contemporaries who have been mentioned here.
Now the Eagles---if the topic were inexplicably very popular groups, they would be up there with Aerosmith. Only in the vaccuum of the mid to late-70s could horrible songs like the non-melodic, off-key “Hotel California” be popular, particularly at a time when California was no longer the dream land it seemed in the 50s and 60s.Posted by on 03/08 at 03:28 PM
Def Leppard. “Photograph” = Guilty pleasure. Everything else = Cavernously sucky.Posted by Davenoon on 03/08 at 03:48 PM
See, now I’m more interested in Ron than any of this music stuff.
(whispers: call me)
HannaPosted by Hanna on 03/08 at 04:06 PM
Oh, dear, Hanna --
It’s just a heavily pruned Veronica. (That’s a gardeners’ joke.)
For further minor amusement, my father’s name was Vaughn.
What’s funny to me about this thread is that, while I’ve heard _of_ the majority of the musicians cited, I haven’t heard most of the songs. I don’t even have to have an opinion about them. I don’t have to listen to them. (I love music; it’s just that there’s all this other music to listen to.) Sometimes it’s such a relief to be an old fart and out of the pop-culture loop.
I have, however, enjoyed Richard Thompson’s cover of “Oops! I Did It Again.” And I heard Tom Waits’ version of “Downtown Train” long enough ago to be pissed off and contemptuous when I heard the Rod Stewart cover.
And Tom Waits, as far as I know, still owes one of My Man Beelzebubba (the Lord of the Pies)’s former housemates twenty bucks, from when Waits visited San Francisco on a Beat pilgrimage, before _Closing Time_.
See, that’s the kind of shit an old fart can bore you with when you start with the pop-culture crit.Posted by Ron Sullivan on 03/08 at 04:52 PM
How frustrating. I wrote this long post and it got eaten.
Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”
Snoop in “Nothin’ But a G Thang”
2 Live Crew, “Pretty Woman”
Will Smith should have died after “Parents Just Don’t Understand”
Sinead O’Connor “Nothing Compares to You,” only because it was a Prince song and Prince is the most awesome.Posted by on 03/08 at 07:11 PM
It hurts me to say this, because they were the first rock concert I ever went to, but: Culture Club. Everything after “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” was just awful.
Also: Pachelbel, dudes. I mean, after the Canon in D, why bother?Posted by Elise on 03/08 at 07:48 PM
I don’t think anyone would complain if ELO had only recorded Mr. Blue Sky. I certainly wouldn’t.Posted by on 03/08 at 08:26 PM
Public Enemy? Public ENEMY??? I’m real curious what your reasoning might be to imply that Public Enemy shouldn’t have had hits with, say, “Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos,” “Bring The Noise” or “Welcome To The Terrordome.” Not that they were really a “hits” group, anyway, but still.
That’s funny, however, that you mentioned 2 Live Crew. I was planning to suggest “Get It Girl,” for there is no finer example of booty music, with that sublime beat. Plus, it contains the immortal couplet, “I’ll be true, I won’t neglect you/Marquis is better than the other dude.”
And while I’m at it, I think Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” is vastly superior to its follow-up, “Do Me.”Posted by on 03/08 at 08:32 PM
Vic, ELO used up their one good song before they even became ELO: Fields of People by their previous avatar The Move.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/08 at 08:35 PM
Bread’s “Guitar Man” is secretly a pretty great song; the rest of their discography, not so much.
Seals & Croft never really outdid “Summer Breeze,” either.
And Lobo caught lightning in a bottle with “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo.” The world would’ve kept turning, I think, without “I’d Love You To Want Me.”Posted by on 03/08 at 08:51 PM
Isn’t there some corollary of Godwin’s Law that says that when, in a thread discussing music, someone mentions Bread and/or Seals & Croft the discussion is over?Posted by on 03/08 at 10:50 PM
Ok, “Bring the Noise” I’ll grant you. But honestly, everything else, when I listen to it now, is just kind of repetitive.Posted by on 03/09 at 12:01 AM
Gordon Lightfoot. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” made me want to scream even when I was a teenager. But there’s still something about “If You Could Read My Mind” that somehow gets to me.
Does Crystal Gayle get into the contest by being awful on everything except Tom Waits’ fabulous soundtrack to “One from the Heart”?Posted by on 03/09 at 02:27 AM
"One Toke Over the Line” by Brewer and Shipley.Posted by on 03/09 at 02:56 AM
What really fascinates me are the cases where the difference in value between the good song and the rest is particularly wide. This is usually because the good song is marginal, and the bad songs are truly horrific. Many have already been mentioned:
Billy Joel, although I’d take “Still Rock’n’Roll To Me” as my poison. The rest, well ‘We didn’t start the fire’ indeed.
Aerosmith-Sweet Emotion, ‘nuff said.
Emerson Lake and Palmer- although here I’d go with the “Peter Gunn” theme off the live album, not that I owned it on 8-track, and blasted it while driving around in my dad’s pontiac, or anything.
Tears for Fears - “Head over Heels” I’m surprised no one mentioned these overly-earnest haircuts from the mid-eighties. They recently played the casino on the edge of my southwest city. Sic Transit, eh lads?
But the really interesting cases would be ones where either the good song was very good, and the rest bad (I assume that bands with lots of mediocre tunes wouldn’t qualify as the sonic vermin we seek).
I can think of one possible candidate- the Fine Young Cannibals. Their tune “She Drives Me Crazy” really is an inspired pop tune. The rest of the corpus could be banned by the Geneva conventions on torture. But I can’t think of too many others.
This brings up yet another interesting category, artists with the greatest span between their good and bad work. But here I think we already have an undisputed world champion - The Jefforson Airplane/Starhip time-worm. “Somebody to love”, is sublime acid rock, “We Built This City” makes me throw up in my mouth.
And that’s not even mentioning Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse of Judgement.Posted by on 03/09 at 05:04 AM
Epist, we could name the distance of which you write the Smashmouth Divide because, as Mr. Bérubé and Mr. Christgau have already pointed out, “Walking On The Sun” is a really great song. And then there’s “All Star.”
Jefferson Airplane/Starship don’t quite compare, because they had a couple of great songs in the ‘60s and I kind of like “Miracles,” even though I know it’s bad, and “Sara” is just slightly better than “We Built This City,” which comes from the same album (now available for $1.98 from Amazon). I’m not sure any other band’s output would compare with Smashmouth’s, because their first hit was a legitimately good song, but their subsequent output makes “She Drives Me Crazy” sound like “Teenage Kicks.”
I like “Head Over Heels,” but then I also really like “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” But maybe I just like that because it’s in Real Genius. I love that movie. Tears for Fears also had an enjoyable album in the early 90s that I was required to listen to at an old job, so I might keep them off this list. But just barely.
I’m not buying your argument to diminish Public Enemy, antid_oto. The repetition is sort of the point, like how the looped piano chords on “Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos” enhance the tension building on the cell block, as described by Mr. D. By your reasoning, most hip hop is lacking, because it’s all pretty repetitive. If that’s your point, then we’re talking about something else entirely. (Somehow I doubt that, though, given that you cited 2 Live Crew and Snoop.)
Speaking of Snoop, he certainly qualifies for this list, but in the album category. Doggystyle is a stone-cold classic, and has held up pretty well over the years, even if gangsta rap has (thankfully) fallen by the wayside. His latest hit, “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” has some interesting things going on musically, but Snoop has gotten creepy in a Chuck Berry-putting-cameras-in-the-toilet sort of way. In his prime, though, Snoop was something. Listen to his rap on “Tha Shiznit.” That’s what supreme confidence sounds like.Posted by on 03/09 at 10:17 AM
Jefferson Airplane/Starship don’t quite compare, because they had a couple of great songs in the ‘60s and I kind of like “Miracles,” even though I know it’s bad,
The thing that keeps The Jeffersons off this list is that they released one of the all-time best rock and roll albums of all time, The Ballad of Baron Von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun, from which at least half the songs are fantastic. Especially including the Horowitz-tweaking, neo-Bolshevist <a href="http://www.musicaememoria.com/BaronVonToolboth.htm#FLOWERS OF THE NIGHT">Flowers of the Night</a>.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/09 at 11:06 AM
Ters for Fears is definitely a two hit wonder. As for casinos, the Beach Boys (grossly overrated, in their own right, esp. sans. Brian Wilson) are playing them, too.
Forgot about “Baron von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun”. They deserve contention for best album title with that one. Actually they had at least a couple really great albums (e.g., Volunteers) and enough good songs to fill their “Worst of...” greatest hits album. The first reunion of Jefferson Starship ("Dragonfly") was quite good and they were still an impressive live act when that came out.
Seals and Crofts were almost too nice to mock, but once you get past “Summer Breeze” it was all stuff that should have sent them back to the bar they used to regularly headline in Calumet City (blue collar ‘burb S of Chicago). Basically, they were Batdorf & Rodney with a catchier and more popular one-hit (and awful second one).
Gordon Lightfoot definitely was abit too earnest and the “Wreck of the Edmmund Fitzgerald “doesn’t exactly “rock” or inspire (and I grew-up on the lakes with ex-Great Lakes sailors for a Dad and older brother). And Bread---"Make it with You” is a guilty pleasure, but the rest is drek.Posted by on 03/09 at 12:01 PM
Then there are groups where the one “good” song isn’t actually good, just vastly less bad than the rest of the output.
An example: The Association. “Along Comes Mary” is dated, but ok. Everything else....yeeagh! I wonder if high school choruses are still being forced to sing “Cherish.”Posted by on 03/09 at 12:49 PM
Incidentally, having been responsible for the initial mention of the Jefferson Airplane / Jefferson Starship / Starship nexus on this thread, let me grant that they had more than just two songs ("Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit") going for them in the 1960s, though most of those early albums have not worn particularly well in my opinion (as I grew up in the Bay Area in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, I and just about everyone I knew had all these albums). I think I was moved to declare their should-have-been-two-hit-wonderhood by the sheer awfulness of “We Built This City” (which has been stuck in my head for days ever since Roxanne linked to the still more awful Starbucks version of it (WARNING: this recording probably violates the international convention against torture)). Personally I would also “Miracles” among their truly awful hits, however. Marty Balin is Peter Cetera-like in his ability to leach all the talent out of his bandmates and replace it with pure schlock.Posted by on 03/09 at 12:56 PM
Grand Funk Railroad. they must have had at least one good song. somewhere. sometime. or...maybe not.
*Posted by the farmer on 03/09 at 01:29 PM
You will notice I did not touch the undefendable “Built this City”. By then, the Starship was hopeless and ready for an oldies tour of Indian casinos and community days in suburban sprawl places like Naperville, Illinois (where they could have opened for “The Buckinghams” or “The Association"). “Miracles” is not a great song but has some sentimental appeal for me--it and the “Who’s Crying Now” (one of the few Journey songs for which I have a kind word) played endlessly on pre-programmed small town radio stations as I travelled across Pernnsylvania on my way to start a PhD in Ohio. I was relieved to finally reach Cleveland’s radio space (once an oasis of great radio), but those two songs remain a wistful memory. Very little psychedelia holds up well, it was music to be heard under the influence of a certain subset of drugs that have since gone out of fashion. “White Rabbit” always struck me as overrated, but I like to here a rousing chorus of “Volunteers” or “It’s No Secret” once in awhile.
I’m sure high school choirs still do “Cherish” if only because it’s one of those awkward, too many syllabls for the measure songs that are challenging (as well as easy to ruin). Plus plenty of nerdy, marching band-type boomers are still choir directors. We had to sing “Windy” in junior high when it was a hit. Actually, I prefer the mildly mawkish, but melodically more interesting “Everything that Touches You” to either of these.Posted by on 03/09 at 01:39 PM
Choose one: “Nights Are Forever Without You,” by England Dan & John Ford Conley, or “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight?”
If I truly had to choose just one, I’d go with the latter, if only for the immortal opening lyric, “Hello, yeah, it’s been awhile/Not much, how ‘bout you?” But there’s a perceptible sense of longing in “Nights Are Forever Without You” that elevates it somewhat from standard mid-70s AM radio fare. (Okay, “elevate” might be overstating by...a lot, but both songs are highly enjoyable representatives of their cultural time and place. I mean, what were you listening to in 1976? I doubt it was Marquee Moon. I, for one, was listening to these guys, but I was also three years old that year, so I listened to whatever my mom did.)
My verdict? England Dan & John Ford Conley were not, nor should they have been, one-hit wonders. Firefall, on the other hand…Posted by on 03/09 at 05:06 PM
I mean, what were you listening to in 1976?
A bit of world music, whatever was available on LP in used stores. Joan Baez. Dylan. Neil Young. Amon Duul II. the Dead. Bob Marley. Jethro Tull. Joni Mitchell. Steve Forbert. Aztec Two-Step. Jeff Beck. Yes. etc.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/09 at 05:15 PM
You can still call me… you know, if you wanna.
HannaPosted by Hanna on 03/09 at 05:29 PM
You apparently weren’t a radio programmer in the mid-1970s. (You have good taste, too, unless it’s changed dramatically since 1976.) But people who WEREN’T listening to Amon Düül II were quite likely listening to England Dan & John Ford Conley. They expressed something ("I’m not talkin’ ‘bout movin’ in/And I don’t wanna change your life) that, while clumsily articulated, probably meant something to a lot of listeners at the time.
That’s why it’s such a shame that pop radio has more or less ceased to exist. Most songs that get played now can’t possibly speak to their audience, unless they ARE a coked-out pimp, raisin’ hell in the strip club.Posted by on 03/09 at 05:30 PM
(You have good taste, too, unless it’s changed dramatically since 1976.)
I have no taste at all, and it has changed dramatically since 1976 but only because, as in the case of (thread tie-in alert) beer, there’s better stuff available now.
Case in point for “no taste”: this morning before heading to work, I listened to Flowers Of The Night (i got nostalgic), then Philip Glass, then Shonen Knife’s cover of Top Of The World, then the song I have linked here, and then some stuff from Ecuador on Folkways.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/09 at 05:35 PM
Chris, your music taste (or lack thereof) is strikingly similar to mine. Especially the “no taste” part. And the beer.
Even though I like them pretty much, the world wouldn’t be much different if the Cars had only reached the charts with “Just What I Needed.” Everything else they did pales in comparison to that one perfect song. (Especially “Drive.” Blech.)Posted by on 03/09 at 05:49 PM
"They expressed something ("I’m not talkin’ ‘bout movin’ in/And I don’t wanna change your life) that, while clumsily articulated, probably meant something to a lot of listeners at the time.”
But, oddly, even the worst classic rock stations (even the classic soft rock ones) usually manage to spare us the opportunity to re-experience those clumsy lyrics now. And in 1976, most people over the age of 14 (unless they had a cheap car radio) listened to FM radio (which was “album-oriented rock) where Amon Düül II often was not on the ever shrinking airplay lists.
In 1976, alot of people were discovering reggae (a little went a long way for me, although it was a nice accompnaiment for visiting head shops), new directions in jazz (like Flora Purim), old directions in jazz (like Miles Davis before he sucked), and the beginnings of new wave. Even people who listened to (ecch!) the Eagles or Firefall wouldn’t necessarily listen that schmaltz you try defend on the grounds of “popularity”.Posted by on 03/09 at 05:54 PM
“Best Friend’s Girlfriend” is every bit the equal (and, I think, better). So’s the later “Since You’ve Gone”.
Only “The Cars” was a great record, though. The album with “Drive” on it was uniformly terrible, although unaccountably popular.Posted by JJB on 03/09 at 05:59 PM
Gary Glitter’s Rock n’Roll and Executive Slacks a Local Philly band’s remix of it in the late 80’s.Posted by on 03/09 at 06:22 PM
I forgot to mention Men At Work, and their uber-catchy “Who Can It Be Now?”, although they only had a handful of other hits (is there a more aptly named pop song than “It’s A Mistake?").
And Sting/The Police might make the top-tier of the Smashmouth divide list. The first three albums are as vital and exciting as any music of the 80s. Harken back to “Be My Girl”, “The Bed’s Too Big (Without You)” and “Canary In A Coal Mine”. Synchronicity was passable, in an anthemic/high school way, but it was a harbinger of the coming (shit)storm that was/is Sting’s solo career. Let’s just say that if the revolutionary council were to draw up a list of people who most desperately need a hard slap, he’d make the top ten.
Peter Gabriel/Phil Collins/Genesis had a similar multi-pronged slide from the pinnacle of Avant Guard art rock (Selling England By The Pound) to So and No Jacket Required. Of course, the Gabriel progression was somewhat more commonplace: great artist puts out challenging stuff while fucked up in his early career, gets sober and older, and begins producing more and more smarmy pop, until you are ashamed to admit that you once owned their ablums (I’m looking at you, David Byrne).
The Phil Collins thing, however, is entirely novel. Sure, bands have lost their frontman, only to tap another band member to assume the role, and then sucked (cf. the Pink Floyd excressence mentioned above). But never in the history of Rawk has a good band found in their midst someone who sucked as hard, long and enthusiastically as Collins. Not content with making Genesis so utterly empty of content over the course of 5 albums that the band as a brand was unrecognizable to earlier fans, Collins went on to a solo career that redefined the space of banal pop music. From “Cinema Show” to “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”, which was, quite literally, a beer commercial disguised as a pop single. And for a bad beer, at that. Dizzying.
Oh, and Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath rocked *makes sign of devil*, but all that followed made my parents’ views about pop music seem reasonable and well researched.Posted by on 03/09 at 06:38 PM
I can’t believe no one’s mentioned The Eagles, the most presumptuous band to ever contaminate the earth. Count me with “The Dude’’ on this one. “C’mon. Turn it off, man.’’
At least they did one good song—“Desperado’’ --which is one more than Fleetwood Mac produced in its putrid career.Posted by on 03/09 at 06:53 PM
Fleetwood Mac should have quit after “Rattlesnake Shake?” Oh, well.Posted by on 03/09 at 07:28 PM
You make some good points, Rich, and I can’t personally vouch for anyone but my parents’ radio listening habits until, say, 1979 or so, but I know those songs, they get played now on oldies-format radio and Rhino released 25 volumes of Super Hits of the 70s. Those songs must’ve meant something to somebody. I’m not so much defending them on the grounds of popularity, because popular almost never means good, but I think England Dan & John Ford Conley’s two biggest hits are actually not all that horrible, and there’s at least once or twice a year that I’ll listen to them and enjoy them (I’m usually having a drunken sing-along with my girlfriend when that happens, but diff’rent strokes, you know?).
Although I like “My Best Friend’s Girl,” JJB, I still stand by my argument that “Just What I Needed” is a much better song (although I’ll admit that each is vastly superior to England Dan & friend, but they ought to be judged on a totally different system of merits). “Just What I Needed” is one of the most distinctive and rhythmically interesting songs that are also popular. The way the drums enter the song on the off-beat is brilliant and I love how they revisit that pattern in the middle verse, and the synth hook is practically brand-name. That’s why people hire Ric Ocasek to produce their records, although Greg Hawkes played synthesizer (maybe they’re just hoping to meet Mrs. Ocasek.) The rest of their songs from that album are very good, that one’s a five-star gem.Posted by on 03/09 at 07:48 PM
I agree with other commentors about the Eagles, but Lying Eyes is my guilty pleasure. It’s drek, but catchy. The Commodores should definitely have stopped with Brick House. But the band that I really can’t listen to - except for To Live and Die in LA - is Wang Chung. Awful.Posted by on 03/09 at 08:25 PM
Ok, fine, someone has to do it, so I guess I will. In defense of Journey, one could, I suppose, offer a range of arguments (although I’m afraid that most would require a somewhat lengthy discussion of the broader theory of How You Come to Love Things You Used to Hate), but for our purposes let me simply say that if Don’t Stop Believing isn’t a guilty pleasure, well then I just don’t know what is. One could also add that the first sixteen bars of Stone in Love rank high in the annals of arena rock, although, soit, the song does suffer a complete breakdown midway through, somewhat shallowly-reminiscent of Hendrix’s inability to polish off the otherwise brilliant Bold As Love with something other than a horrendously bloated and aimless display of his six-string virtuosity.
Lastly, by way of response to some upthread comments, let me propose as a new award category the best use of a brass section in a pop/rock/r&b song, in which, alongside the obvious I’m Your Vehicle, S&G’s Keep the Customer Satisfied, must, I would think, be among the favs.Posted by on 03/09 at 08:39 PM
Oh, and another thing: Peaceful, Easy Feeling. Proto-alt.country lab steel, dreamy melody, bittersweet theme, a classic. The Eagles got no bidness in this thread.Posted by on 03/09 at 08:43 PM
err, lap steel.Posted by on 03/09 at 08:44 PM
The Eagles were mentioned upthread. Yeah, they sucked! Most of us who say that have 1 or 2 songs of their’s we liked, but, yecch! Had they emerged even a couple years sooner, they never would have made it up the charts, except may be with a bubble gum crowd.
Keep in mind charting is not the same as intense liking, esp. over the long run. The trivia geeks among us who’ve gone over Billboard lists have noticed plenty of songs whos quiet demise probably owes something to being a momentary lapse in taste. A guilty pleasure that did not last. The chestnust that Michael wantedus to avoid are ample evidence of those. Sappy sort-of folk rock or sort-of-country rock was to the late 70s what things like ? and the Mysterians were to the folks 10 years before.Posted by on 03/09 at 08:53 PM
In some ways the thread seems to be veering into grossly over-rated people who probably should have stopped touring or recording years ago. David Byrne has been on my list for that honor for a long time.Posted by on 03/09 at 08:56 PM
Rich, are you seriously championing thread discipline 195 comments in? How quaint!
But yes, I understand that The Eagles were mentioned upthread; it was those comments to which I was responding, and with which I was attempting to disagree. Maybe I was too young to suffer the brunt of their alleged sapiness, but imo they don’t suck.Posted by on 03/09 at 09:01 PM
(Dipping toe into Eagles oeuvre gingerly):
Any band which played behind Ronstadt in her early country incarnation can’t be ALL bad.Posted by Linkmeister on 03/09 at 09:59 PM
The Eagles served a purpose in their early years, which was to soften the resistance of the Affluent Urban American Listening Public to the country idiom. Sadly, many people went from there to listening to Jackson Browne and/or Dan Fogelberg. But others rode that slippery slope all the way to Tom T. Hall or Merle Haggard. No Don Henley, no Radney Foster. It’s that simple.
OK, no it’s not, but I had to make some emphatic-sounding statement there.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/09 at 10:07 PM
Nope. They went from Jackson Browne (you couldn’t go from “Hotel California” to “The Pretender") to the Eagles to 2nd rate castoffs of Buffalo Springfield & the Byrds (or castoffs of their castoffs like Kenny Loggins) to watered down country crap like Garth Brooks and God knows what else. That slope was more likely to lead to Willie Nelson (in his overly mainstream period) than Merle Haggard. Ronstadt is another matter. Her tone deaf renditions of “Heatwave” and “Ooh Baby Baby” should never be forgiven and, no doubt, contributed to her decline. She was okay in her early days, but it’s not hard to identify a dozen more talented female folkies or soft country singers. Even the pretentious, audience-unfriendly Joni Mitchell deserves higher marks.
But I digress...no, the Eagles were just part of that big slippery slope that started just before Nixon’s re-election. I forget the rock critic who made this demarcation, but it fits----the rise of Grand Funk was the downfall of rock music. You went from having curioisties like the Electric Prunes who did “acid rock” covers of Motown and symphony music to curiosities like “Afternoon Delight”, Ronstatdt screeching through “Heatwave”, and Disco. Too much 1970s for now. Must go.Posted by on 03/09 at 10:44 PM
200th!Posted by on 03/09 at 10:48 PM
Oh well, better late to the party than never…
Jethro Tull: Okay, there’s “Aqualung”. No, not the album, the song. Catchy, no doubt. Hell of a hook. Justification for a subsequent 20 albums, three boxed sets, and a yearly tour? No. No no no no no.
Sinead O’Connor: No, she does not make the list for “Nothing Compares 2 U”. Just because a Prince cast-off is nearly the best thing in your entire repertoire doesn’t make it a good song. But I will grudgingly allow that “Mandinka” (yes, I’m pretty sure it charted, at least on college play) was a decent little number. If only an asteroid had immediately fallen on her head then, we would have been spared the horror of the rest of her career.
Gin Blossoms: You’re a band with one indisputably great song, written by your ex-singer who killed himself before the single dropped. What do you do? Release a ton of crap afterward in hopes that no one will notice. Sadly, no one did, at least at first…
Stone Temple Pilots: it’s a guilty pleasure, but you can’t really deny that “Plush” will get under your skin and stay there. But that’s no excuse for the rest of their crappy singles charting.
and in the “begging for a beatdown” category…
Notorious BIG & 2PAC: The twinned Jethro Tulls of undead hip-hop. Yes, okay, fine, “Ready to Die” and “Keep Ya Head Up” (respectively) are fine, fine tracks. And yeah, it was a tragedy that they both died young and stupidly. But COME ON. Never before have two back catalogs so shallow been mined so cynically for so much money.Posted by Doctor Memory on 03/09 at 11:08 PM
Anita Baker. After No One in the World, she was afflicted with a disabling case of Whitney Houston disease and every song since has been a commando assault on her upper register, which at this writing appears to be losing.Posted by julia on 03/10 at 01:59 AM
I don’t even know how to address the wrongness of thinking B.I.G. had only one good track. Yes, “Born Again” is awful and “Life After Death” was filled out with crap, but it also had “Another,” “Going Back to Cali,” and “What’s Beef.” “Ready to Die” wasn’t even the best song on its album. 2Pac made “California Love,” for heaven’s sake. (Yes, the mining sucks.)
And I HATE “Mandinka.”Posted by on 03/10 at 04:38 AM
I’m not buying your argument to diminish Public Enemy, antid_oto. The repetition is sort of the point, like how the looped piano chords on “Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos” enhance the tension building on the cell block, as described by Mr. D. By your reasoning, most hip hop is lacking, because it’s all pretty repetitive.
I thought about this. I can’t say why I find PE repetitive and not other hip-hop. I can say that I didn’t mean the within-song construction but the song-to-song similarity. And it’s not the music: the hooks are actually pretty varied, the musical complexity way ahead of its time for hip-hop (okay, like two and a half years ahead of its time). I think it has more to do with Chuck D’s delivery, the way his cadence is always exactly the same in every line of every song. He didn’t change one bit from the first PE album to the last, and it just wears on me after a while. (Contrast LL Cool J, for instance, and the difference between “Jack the Ripper” and “Phenomenon,” whatever you think of the latter.)Posted by on 03/10 at 04:46 AM
Wooly Bully, by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, written by Sam himself (Domingo Samudio). I’m grateful for this information to Neil young who went into a long rant at a concert about what crap all their other stuff was.
Young was too far off his face to realise how tacky he sounded (or to play), but he was right.Posted by on 03/10 at 09:50 AM
It’s hard to knock Jackson Browne TOO much, because he wrote “These Days.” That blows my mind. I don’t mind “Doctor My Eyes” all that much, but I don’t know much about his work (besides the atrocious “For The Roadies"). As for the Eagles, if I had to keep one song only, I’d pick their Al Green-Willie Mitchell homage, “I Can’t Tell You Why.” It’s a stunning failure, and Timothy B. Schmit’s falsetto and the dampened drum sound are the only evidence of their intent, because they neglect to produce any swing whatsoever. I really like the tasteful guitar work on the song’s FIRST solo, but the second solo (!) is a little repetitive, both in deployment and execution. However, I just sort of like this song for some reason. (No accounting for taste, etc.)
I see your point about Public Enemy, anitd_oto. Chuck D’s cadence, which he says is based on Marv Albert’s broadcast style, fit the message and image they presented, but it wore thin pretty quickly (like on that awful song they did for He Got Game). But It Takes A Nation of Millions was so great and influential that it’s hard for me to consign them to one-hit wonder shoulda-been status.
I do agree with you on Biggie, who was a great storyteller and had a distinctive and expressive flow. His producer sucked, but Notorious B.I.G. was one of the true hip-hop greats, although we never saw what money and easy-living would’ve done to his choice of subject matter (I’d like to give a shout-out to Ice Cube!).
Tupac, on the other hand, is one of the most wildly overrated artists of all time, second only to the Doors, probably. Really, what did Tupac do to deserve the accolades, which were heaped upon him even before he died? He was handsome and charismatic, sure, but his flow was wooden and his lyrics were boring. I like “California Love,” and I’ll even admit “Hit ‘Em Up” was pretty good, although it’s eerie now to hear him rap about shooting Biggie. But, man, “Keep Ya Head Up” is an obvious and heavy-handed attempt to provide a positive message to all his black sistas, and “Dear Mama” is as trite as it gets. He gets the show-don’t-tell rule of writing exactly backwards. Ghostface Killa covered similar subject matter on his song, “All That I Got Is You,” but with far more skill and complexity. (Actually, Ghostface is criminally underrated as a lyricist; he’s the best in the game, and maybe one of the better descriptive storytellers in America. I’m totally not kidding.)Posted by on 03/10 at 10:05 AM
Dying does much to advance a career. People have been overlooking the psychotic-cum-childishness of Jim Morrison’s poetry for decades. Dying made even his public masturbation (or was it masturbation?--who cares, really) seem drenched in meaning. If he’d lived, he probably would have turned out a series of mind numbingly awful albums, gone into rehab or adopted some dumbed down version of Buddhism, and emerged as a tedious oldies act playing Indian casinos. Tupac is simply an updated version of this in a different genre. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix had enough of the genuine “seeker” about them that they might have done some better work and grown organic vegetables or something for awhile before becoming oldies acts.
Jackson Browne, unfortunately, helped spawn the Eagles. I like him, anyway, even some of the post-Pretender stuff. Most people at his concerts leave once you get into the more rocking, later stuff. With Jackson Browne, you tend to get people who either hate him or hate his work after it reached certain stages (after hitting Darryl Hannah, after “THe Pretender”, etc.).Posted by on 03/10 at 11:33 AM
masturbation… masturbation… drenched
Eeewww?Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/10 at 11:37 AM
Am I the only one who started thinking of metal bands? Is that a product of growing up in the 80s, or of my deficient (as best I can tell from these comments) musical taste?
Anyway, from Michael’s OP, the first one that I thought of was Guns and Roses’ “Sweet` Child O Mine”.
Never liked any thing else they did (again, not sure if that’s because of or despite my musical deficiencies) but I’m always happy to hear that song.Posted by on 03/10 at 12:27 PM
Geez, is this still going on? I’m amazed that it gets into the 150’s before the Eagles come up, the most obvious 70’s choice for me. The Royal Guardsmen!?
It’s certainly interesting to hear what Michael’s readers REALLY have opinions about. Me, I’m just tuning back in to see if he’ll say anything about Ward Churchill.
Well, not only, but on the same theme of disenfrancishement and speaking back to power, I’m glad to see there was some defense of They Might Be Giants. TMBG might be getting formulaic (hence now targeting four-year olds as listeners) but have a legacy of something like brilliance. “Metal Detector” alone is something to wonder at, and there are many others. Someone tried the same operation on English Beat, also an absolutely great band. “Mirror in the Bathroom” is even better than “Save it for Later” and really all three of their CDs are fabulous. True, they didn;t last long, but that’s a different question.
But really I can’t balme anybody here, since you’re just taking off on Michael’s own ill-advised placement of Chumbawamba with the likes of Looking Glass and Anita Ward. That defamation rankles. Tubthumping may have been turned into a frat-house hit here, but it’s actually a critique of drinking culture. And Chumba has produced an amazing number of works which get into political struggles and various things in fascinating ways, most recently in traditional English rebel songs sung a capella, and some others about things like globalization, the Iraq war, file-sharing, and commercialization of music, with a fab beat and lots of hooks. If they’re one-hit wonders, the fault’s with the system, if ya ask me.Posted by on 03/10 at 01:14 PM
I’d agree with barring all Guns ‘N’ Roses songs from public airplay, save “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” I remember the first time I heard it, thinking, “I’m going to be hearing this song for the rest of my life.” And that wasn’t a bad thing, either, although I never really caught the metal bug. “Welcome To The Jungle” is a good song, I guess, but I could do without ever hearing it again. Same goes for “Patience,” and their double album-at-twice the price was heavily influenced by Elton John, so no further explanation need be given.
Despite my missing the metal boat, I must take great exception with whoever suggested placing Van Halen on this list. They’ve got several no-argument classics, with “Dance The Night Away” at the top of the list. Eddie Van Halen is mostly overrated as a guitar player, but he did invent a widely copied style of playing. That should count for something. They were pretty good up to and including 1984 (both the year and the album).
And, sorry, I’ve got no interest in hearing any more Chumbawumba, despite some intriguing commentary I’ve heard about them. “Tubthumping” is the most singularly annoying song I’ve ever heard.Posted by on 03/10 at 01:44 PM
Me, I’m just tuning back in to see if he’ll say anything about Ward Churchill.
Well, I’d call both Fantasies of the Master Race and A Little Matter of Genocide worthy of consideration for “hit” status, and I expect musicologists of the future will back me up, especially once the little matter of his “more popular than Eichmann” statement dies down.Posted by Chris Clarke on 03/10 at 03:02 PM
In general, I hate the idea of thinking about music through “hits” and single tracks. Commit to the product, I always feel. But as I was lazily scrolling through all these posts, the thought suddenly struck me:
Now, in general, I’m in agreement that they’re one step up the food chain from filter-feeders, acid-washed jeans, and Styx. But every time “Wheel in the Sky” or, more rarely, “When the Lights Go Down in the City,” comes on the radio, I’m hard pressed not to listen. Were that these were the band’s only songs.Posted by on 03/10 at 03:15 PM
Whoops. Forgive the bad grammar. Were that these the band’s only songs, I meant to write. I sure hope that Steve what’s-his-name isn’t lurking out there, waiting to call me out in his plaintive, ex-Journey wail.Posted by on 03/10 at 03:17 PM
When I was visiting San Francisco a couple of years ago, “Lights” would run through my head every time it got close to sundown. Was it because Journey is from there, or something else? I dunno, but it was odd because I’ve never liked that song. I do a little bit now, but only because of that pleasant memory. But “Don’t Stop Believin’,” on the other hand...that’s a great song. I can’t find the post upthread where someone praised it, but I heartily agree with them, whoever they are.Posted by on 03/10 at 03:57 PM
No argument about Tupac, really, although I also kind of like that song he did on the Digital Underground album (off the top of my head I can’t remember which album or which song). And definitely no argument about Ghostface--Supreme Clientele is a truly great album.Posted by on 03/10 at 04:33 PM
Karl, I’m still trying to figure out which version is grammatically correct, but if Steve Perry does come after you, I’m sure Paul “this world in which we live in” McCartney would be willing to smack him down for you.Posted by on 03/10 at 04:50 PM
I see that Uncle Kvetch has corrected me - yes, Small Town Boy was by Bronski Beat, not Erasure. Yikes. Having both of those bands in the same sentence is truly harrowing. I had to go and listen to clips of each to make sure of the difference. My God. I think I would take a thousand Billy Joels over Bronski Beat and Erasure. Well, either way is hell. Although, I also agree with Uncle that Billy Jowl (I like that mistype, I think I’ll keep it) can have his moments. For example, while I don’t care for the album, inexplicably, I don’t mind the song River of Dreams. I think it suits him fine. I can also see how New York State of Mind is a good song for him. That I didn’t mention anything positive before was my only form of editing on my previous post. Also, both Bronski Beat and Erasure are very good at writing catchy stuff and I can see why they were popular—but they fill me with pain. For me they are the aural equivalent of passing a kidney stone.
Also, JJB correctly harangues me for not following Berube’s request for groups that should have been one-hit wonders - I chose to comment on other commenters and share some general pain and nostalgia over past hits - sorry, very undisciplined of me!
OK, my pain is over (the stone is passed). I can’t take it anymore. I will no longer post about music that provokes suffering and dread. I say music threads should aim for things we actually like! Perhaps I will go visit http://www.krimson-news.com/ and clear my palate a little. Or put on some Burning Spear… heck I was listening to Mezzanine by Massive Attack earlier and I felt much better!Posted by on 03/10 at 05:35 PM
If there’s two songs you kind of like, does that count? Because Busta Rhymes.Posted by on 03/10 at 07:15 PM
Oh, and what if the one song you like is only good because it’s a collaboration? For example, “Magic Stick” is only good because Lil’ Kim is on it, and everything else from 50 Cent is terrible. The only thing I ever liked from Slayer was that song with Ice-T on the Judgement Night CD.Posted by on 03/10 at 07:36 PM
Nah, Slayer’s pretty great. They’re not exactly my bag, but they’re one of the best at what they did (really fast and intense metal with a decidely satanic flair). I wouldn’t mind if Metallica had broken up after ...And Justice For All and the awesomely terrific “One,” which then convinced them to become a singles band. “Enter Sandman” was not all that good. Not bad, but not good. And when they started recording the same album over and over and then releasing bad covers of good songs, their fans should’ve jumped overboard.
Speaking of Metallica covers, I can’t believe we’ve gotten this far without Bob Seger coming up even once. I can’t decide between “Down on Main Street” or “Night Moves.”
“Woke last night to the sound of thunder, how far off I sat and wondered...”Posted by on 03/11 at 10:11 AM
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones cover of “Enter Sandman” was pretty good.Posted by on 03/11 at 02:56 PM
“‘Kubla Khan’ is a great piece of work, but Coleridge just should have stuck a sock in it after that, I mean, come ON. Boring boring boring.”
Hey, you know, bad pop musicians have feelings too.Posted by John S. on 03/12 at 04:41 AM