After I ranted the other day about the suckiness that is Motley Crue, an old friend left me a challenging comment:
“Anyway, since you brought it up, I’d like to see your complete list of your top 10 least favorite major rock bands.”
You would think such a thing would be easy for any opinionated music listener to come up with … and yet I am struggling, like a fisherman in a Hemingway novel trying to reel in a marlin.
It would be easy to dash off a listicle with a grabby headline like “18 Bands That Really Suck.” Such things are all over the Net these days; and writing such a post would probably drive up my traffic, at least a little bit.
But I can’t just dish the snark and be done with it. Can’t bring myself.
Here are the obstacles standing between you, the reader, and my list of worst all-time major bands:
Small sample size. The bands I don’t like, I’ve not really listened to.
Take Supertramp, for instance. I dislike many of their radio singles, so I’ve never listened to their albums.
But how can I list a band among my least favorites if I’ve not even done them the favor of listening to one of their albums? That seems dishonest. For all I know, their album tracks could be really killer — or, at least, good enough to lift them off my Bottom 10 list.
(As a side note, Supertramp — more so than any other rock band I know of — has completely scrubbed YouTube of its studio recordings. Seriously; try a search and see what you get. This is counterproductive in my case: I’m not buying Breakfast in America without hearing it first, and a YouTube preview would have been a fine opportunity for me to do that.)
Artist, or genre? Sometimes, it’s not a particular artist I dislike, so much as it is an entire genre.
I strongly dislike R&B divas who grossly over-emote, and pop-punk bands with bratty singers, and today’s popular bro-country, and most anything labeled “nu-metal,” and easy-listening smooth jazz.
So how does one represent that on a worst-bands list? I mean, it doesn’t matter who the group is. If they make those noises, I hate them. But how much do I weigh down my list with them?
Peaks and valleys. The ’64 Beatles were a great band. Same with the ’69 Beatles.
But the late ’66-early ’67 Beatles? The guys who put out songs with McCartney playing trumpet, and who couldn’t figure out how to end their songs (think of the ending of “Magical Mystery Tour”), and who seemed to abandon craft for randomness and novelty?
I have no great use for those guys, and would even suggest that their hubris might bring them dangerously close to my Bottom 10.
The thorny questions: Is it cricket to define a certain time period of a band’s existence as Bottom 10, but not other periods? Is that a hopelessly arcane, smug and obnoxious pop-geek thing to do?
And for that matter, is any band that lasts long enough to have multiple developmental stages automatically good enough to deserve exclusion from the Bottom 10?
Other bands qualifying for the Bottom 10, if this wrinkle is allowed, include the 1971 and 1994-95 Grateful Dead and post-1977 Chicago (OK, I like “Street Player,” so make that post-1980 Chicago.)
Having thrown out all those caveats, I guess I can still bring myself to compile a list of performers I don’t have a lot of use for.
They include Motley Crue, the Moody Blues, the Eagles (including Don Henley and Glenn Frey solo), Poison (no ’80s hair-metal, really; there’s that genre question again), Madonna (except for “Vogue,” which is fierce and wonderful, and I mean that), John Denver, Harry Chapin, Styx, Hootie and the Blowfish, Phish and Green Day.
There, there’s 11 for ya. One to grow on.