April 19, 2004
Nothing like a discussion of bad music

All right, it's time to generate some real controversy around here: Via Norbizness and The Agitator comes this list of the 50 Worst Bands in the history of rock. Naturally, one cannot link to such a thing without offering some opinions of it, so here I go:

1. Dispensing with the preliminaries first: this is one guy's opinion, it's all subjective, you and I have better taste than this jackwad, blah blah blah. People, this is an article in Blender magazine, not an act of Congress. Let's keep a sense of perspective here.

2. Now that we've established the importance of perspective, I can say this: What definition of "rock" is this guy using? I mean, Lee Greenwood, Celine Dion, La Toya Jackson, Yanni - in what hellish universe do these acts count as "rock"? I'm not saying they don't suck - I'm most emphatically not saying they don't suck - but why Lee Greenwood and not Kenny Chesney? Why Celine and Yanni and not John Tesh? I know, I know, one man's opinion, it's all subjective, blah blah blah, but sheesh. Let's at least be consistent about what kind of music we're examining here. Hell, why not do separate lists for the worst country, pop, and Adult Contemporary artists as well? It's not like there'd be a shortage of candidates.

3. All that said, I'm hard pressed to argue with most of the inclusions. I'm just arguing there aren't enough of them - where are Toto, Bryan Adams, The Firm, Billy Ocean, Bad Company, Grand Funk Railroad? Admit it, your teeth started to hurt just reading some of these names. Chris Cross, New Kids On The Block, Billy Ray Cyrus, Leo Sayer, Mister Big...for the love of God, someone make me stop!

4. Ahem. At the risk of embarrassing myself, I will admit to a certain enjoyment of the Alan Parsons Project and pre-1980s Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. I'm not saying these bands aren't worthy of derision, but like game shows and various undignified food products, they're a guilty pleasure and I'm reasonably immune to any verbal abuse about my fondness for them. So sue me.

All right, I'm done. Feel free to gnash your teeth about the overlooked worthies and undeserving targets in the comments.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 19, 2004 to Music | TrackBack

I'm pleased to see that enough bands I like are on the list that I remain resolutely un-hip. (Why yes, I do like Japan, but Oil on Canvas is plenty, thanks.)

On the other hand, it was worth the price of entry to see them skewer Oingo Boingo, a band that I have always thought was overrated.

Posted by: Ginger on April 19, 2004 2:33 PM

Funny you mention this today. While I was home for lunch today, I heard something on CNBC about a sneak preview of the worst 50 songs of all time -- as opposed to the worst bands -- and the "bottom 10" was listed there. (The worst, they said, was Starship's We Built This City.)

That list I saw was way too heavy on music of the last 15-20 years or so. No Bottom Ten list that doesn't have stinkers like Paul Anka's Having My Baby is suspect to me. Yes, there some good picks in their bottom 10 like Don't Worry, Be Happy and "Ice Ice Baby", but some of the worst of the worst weren't there. Hope to at least find them in the bottom 50, or else their ratings suck!

This bottom 10 list can be found here: http://www.contactmusic.com/new/xmlfeed.nsf/0/008153485761920480256E7100668C7E?opendocument

Posted by: Tim on April 19, 2004 2:34 PM

Re: the "bottom 10" - it'll be interesting to see how it compares to Dave Barry's original Bad Song Survey. That list was heavy on the "oldies" stuff that Barry (and probably much of his readership) grew up on..

And dammit, I like "Heart of Rock and Roll". Though I admit the rest of the list is pretty accurate.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on April 19, 2004 2:49 PM

Folks, just listen to any of the Golden Throats or Party Killers (Rhino - who else) collections to appreicate the worst of Rock.

One of my wild card picks, however, would be Johnny Cash's version of What'd I Say. This is recorded proof that he did every imaginable drug known to man.

Pre 1980's ELP isn't horrible. On the other hand, I happen to like Bad Company and Grand Funk Railroad. What about Motorhead, which was referred to as sounding like a cat in a blender? Janis Joplin with or without Big Brother is the closest I've heard to a recording of a chicken. REO Speedwagon and Styx are interchangably bad. I'm surprised Europe wasn't on the list simply because of The Final Countdown.

Mick Jagger as a solo artist proves that Keith Richards is far more talented. (This is from a Stones fan who happens to consider Charlie Watts the most gifted member of the band).

Finally, does Leo Sayer qualify as a man or woman? Listening to "More Than I Can Say" made me confused.

Posted by: William Hughes on April 19, 2004 3:11 PM

I'm glad to see someone finally write a worst list that includes The Doors and that God-awful Creed...but where's New Kid's On the Block? What about The Spice Girls? Or The Monkees, The Guess Who, or Damn Yankees?

And why extend the limits of "Rock" to include The Gipsy Kings? Leave them outta this.

Posted by: Patrick on April 19, 2004 3:26 PM

Someone on that article sure doesn't like 1970s Pretentious Art Rock. It's an artform unto itself. And what do they have against drum solos?

I'm disappointed they neglected Journey. Or The Smiths. I mean, really. Morrissey is so bad as a singer that all the other members of The Smiths quit. His entire band left him. And then there was the Mr. Floppy song 100,000 Morrisseys about how horrible Morrissey is:

What shall we do when 100,000 Morrisseys come marching over the hill?
Posted by: kherr on April 19, 2004 3:42 PM

Maybe the choices of what's "rock" come down to who's gotten Top 40 radio exposure in the rock era? Celine and Greenwood definitely have had pop hits in the period, while someone like Chesney (while awful) has been pretty much confined to country radio. (Which is now so dreadful that I can't even try it occasionally for the random good song, but that's something else entirely.)

There were some songs in the Bad Song Survey that were pretty recent at the time. But that was like ten years ago. On the other hand, the last ten years in pop music pretty much run completely together for me.

Posted by: Mac Thomason on April 19, 2004 3:50 PM

As proof of my lack of readership, I'll point out that I wrote about his back in August.


Posted by: Pete on April 19, 2004 3:58 PM

Oh, and actually I like Howard Jones. Then again, I'm a huge dork.

Posted by: Mac Thomason on April 19, 2004 4:05 PM

Mac, you've inspired me to come out of the closet...I like Toad the Wet Sprocket and Crash Test Dummies. I, too, am a dork.

And I humbly ask the Whitesnake considered to replace this unfarily maligned pair on the list. That would give them 3 entries which I feel is just about right. There I said it. I feel better now.

Posted by: Patrick on April 19, 2004 4:13 PM

Now waaaaaiiiiittt a minute. There were 2 cool songs done by the Monkeys written by Mike Nesmith: Papa Gene's Blues and What Am I Doin' Hangin' Round.

I think you have to give some sort of credit to sentimental favorites. I learned how to smoke weed while listening to Grand Funk.

Posted by: vachon on April 19, 2004 7:09 PM

My earlier post of Mick Jagger as a solo artist reminded me of his duet with Michael Jackson from 1984, "State of Shock". The first time I heard this travesty, I was in a state of shock.

The Doors win my vote for "Most Overrated Band of All Time".

Posted by: William Hughes on April 19, 2004 7:22 PM

Man, either I'm very old or I haven't listened to AM music in a very long time. Or both. I only recognized about eight names on that list.

Posted by: Linkmeister on April 20, 2004 1:24 AM

The Doors???? WTF?!!!

Hit albums, popular songs, years in the spotlight, several books and movies, continuing fame, political controversy, and loads of rumors, legends, and bad-boy antics--if that doesn't make a great rock band, what the hell does?

Also, I have to second the nominations of Styx and REO Speedwagon. Come on, even if you're not a Doors fan, you'd have to admit Styx and REO suck in way that puts them far below the Doors. "Domo Arigato, Mr Roboto" alone earned Styx a place in Rock N Rol Hell.

I also don't get why so many bands that aren't even remotely "rock" got put on the list. Clearly, Blender is all mixed up.

Yup, even I can't believe i wrote that one down.

Posted by: DocG on April 20, 2004 10:55 AM

Celine Dion is on a list of rock and roll singers?

Even bad ones. My lord, how could anyone be worse than Celine Dion?

I would say that even if I didn't always picture her husband's exwife driving her four kids around when that hideous voice starts squawking "don't give up on your faith" out of the car radio.

I know that my lunch will go on.

Posted by: julia on April 20, 2004 11:54 AM

Just wanted to point out that the article doesn't specify that it's for rock; it says the 50 worst artists in music history. Even so, they actually mean mid-to-late-20th-century recorded popular music history. Otherwise we'd be seeing Florence Foster Jenkins and such.

Posted by: Chris Quinones on April 20, 2004 12:51 PM

Obviously, missing REO ForeignJourneyWagon is just a mistake. The problem is that REOForeignJourneyWagon is a style of bad music (yes, it obviously includes Styx), rather than an individual band. Be honest. You can't tell them apart, either.

Also, I think it's largely a case of someone too hip writing the list. He wants you to read the list and say, "Wait, I own one of that band's records!" So he has to take shots at everyone. Can't have too many of any one sort (I think we can probably come up with 50 hair metal/REO etc. bands all of whom were worse than ELP, but that would defeat the purpose) or too many of the obvious novelty disasters (The Archies, Sha Na Na, etc.) or too many pop singers (Bobby Darrin, Rickey Nelson, down to Paul Anka, Neal Sedaka, to Britney and 'N Sync).

Look, there's no way you can tell me that anyone considers ELP a WORSE band than Captain and Tenille. That's not the role of a list like this.

Having said that, how is it even conceivable that neither Rush (the most pretensious of all) nor the Backstreet Boys (the most offensive of the talentless boy bands) made the list?

Posted by: Ron on April 20, 2004 3:51 PM