I guess I am obligated, based on recent stories; to address the category of most overrated rock bands. To recap, I exhorted on who I thought was the greatest rock band ever (The Who), which begat a story on the most underrated bands. Both of those stories were positive feel-goods, at least from my end, as I attempted to show why all the above were deserving of far more respect than they earned.
Now it’s time to flip the script.
Rock is littered with bands that achieved far beyond their talent. To be clear, I am not talking about one hit wonders here – those bands got their requisite fifteen minutes of fame then faded as they should have. Nothing overrated about the Starland Vocal Band or Bubble Puppy. They had their hit, had their time on the charts then went back to wherever they belonged…which was, not annoying us anymore.
No, I am talking about bands, some of them legendary, as the list will reveal, that in my mind fluked their way to fame. Bands that, if you dissect their work, even minimally, reveal a sham. Now, there is a common thread among the bands on this list, and that is excellent timing. Some appeared at the most opportune time and took advantage of a sentiment or a mood. Hey, cool. But do not ever confuse opportunity with talent. Cuz these bands, quite frankly, did not have much.
So here we go. I got my Hater Hat firmly planted on my head. And with a Ringo Starr (most overrated drummer) drum roll, I give you, first, the runners-up of Most Overrated Rock Bands in history:
This band roared onto the scene in the mid-70’s with a rich, deep, hard rock groove featuring double-lead guitars and the somewhat soulful voice of Brad Delp. They dominated FM radio airplay and their debut album went multi-zillion platinum. “I close my eyyyyyyes and I slip awayyyyyy….’ Then the double-leads kicked in. Infectious, soaring guitars.
Then we found out it was all manufactured in a studio. Tom Scholz was an MIT grad in Engineering who took basic guitar riffs and processed them through various electronic gadgetry, mixed it, mixed it again, then for good measure mixed it one more time before deciding it was a sound worth making money off of.
That first album had fans screaming for more. It took a couple of years for Sholz to 'manufacture' another album, Don’t Look Back, in 1978, that sounded, well, exactly like the first one. But since the debut was so good (supposedly), fans ate up the second one. They wanted more. It took eight years before they got Third Stage, which sounded, you guessed it, like the first two. The bloom was clearly off this rose. Three albums in twelve years were enough to show this wasn’t a band.
It was a science project.
The Sex Pistols
Here was a band that was the beneficiary of outrageously good timing. Coming out of Britain in 1977, they cashed in on a growing unrest among the masses due to a recession and a general distaste for the royalty over there. So they did a lot of heroin, screamed loudly, and hated everything. They didn’t do songs, they did primal rants. Zero musical value. Johnny Rotten (what an appropriate surname, even if it was concocted) couldn’t sing, Sid Vicious couldn’t play guitar, and the rest of the hacks were equally horrible.
“I-I-I am an Anarchist-ah!”
No, you suck. And it is an absolute travesty that they are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Y’all knew this was coming, didn’t ya? I have never been a fan of KISS, but hey, at least take comfort in knowing there is a band that I think is even more overrated than them.
But first, my case for having them here:
To be fair, KISS is a great party band. They had some anthemic songs that to this day will get people out shaking their asses. And further, they put on one hell of a show. The KISS Army is a loyal, devoted bunch.
But musically, they’re kindergarteners. Know how most rock songs are three power chords? KISS couldn’t handle three, so they reduced it to two. Really, none of them are decent musicians, as witnessed by their laughable ‘Individual’ albums of the late 70’s. Okay Ace Frehley scored a semi-hit with New York Groove, but you would think that, with four albums consisting of a combined 40-plus songs…if they were any good, there would be at least a half dozen memorable tunes there, right?
There wasn’t. Because there’s very little talent. And they also had the annoying pretense of thinking they were better than they really were. Amazing what makeup and costumes can do, eh?
And Gene Simmons is the biggest douchebag on the planet.
And now…I give you the Most Overrated Band in Rock History:
The Grateful Dead
First off, TWO drummers? WHY? Look, I have listened to the Dead’s music and I have divined nothing within it so intricate that it requires two percussionists. They basically play the same damn thing anyway. My guess is one of them was their dope connection so they felt obligated.
Their musical library. Quick – name a Dead hit. I’ll give you Touch of Grey and Casey Jones. Name another one. Okay, Truckin'. This band was around for forty-plus years and nobody can tell me what was so wondrously memorable about their songs. That’s probably because their legion of followers were as drug-addled as they were.
But the real reason is, they didn’t do songs. They did impromptu jams. And that’s the defense their fans give for their supposed greatness – it wasn’t about spitting out airplay hits, it was about their concert aura, how a Dead show was the most spiritually uplifting, five-hour tie-dyed party on the planet (I am still trying to figure out which planet they are referring to). So they just went wherever the feeling (and the dope) took them. And yes, I know, the Deadheads will say that’s what made them great, and why they followed the band on their tours. No two shows were the same – in Memphis they may do a 20-minute version of I Need a Miracle, and the next night in Nashville they may extend it to 30 minutes.
The thing is, even those extended, boring jams were lousy. They were of high-school garage band level talent-wise. What, Jerry Garcia dropped some killer blotter acid so he thought he was suddenly Jimi Hendrix? He wasn't. Bob Weir could sing, but when they went off-script, which they consistently did since they never had a script, it just sounded like a muddled mishmash of guys trying not to overdose while performing. Having been hatched in the San Francisco Summer of Love of 1967, they caught the imagination of the times and turned it into forty years of crappy musicianship. They were the epitome of the now-tired cliché - the more you drink, the better we sound.
So there you go. Four bands that each member of should wake up each morning thanking their lucky stars that they were able to get over on the rest of the world and make a fortune being lousy.
But knowing the Sex Pistols, they’re likely just to give us the finger.