Saturday, January 21, 2012

Most Underrated in Rock

Earlier this month I wrote a story on who I thought was the greatest band ever. The Who. Kind of surprisingly, a number of people agreed with me. I was waiting for the Led Zep legion to come out and hang me. Seems the consensus, based on my extremely small focus group of 12 followers, is that not only are The Who the best ever, but that Who’s Next was one of, if not the, greatest rock albums of all time.

Well, that’s a subject of another debate. This time I want to delve into the topic of most underrated band. The only one ground rule I had in this highly subjective competition was, it had to be someone people have heard of, so you can’t say ‘My cousin’s kick-ass garage band.’ These have to be bands that people would at least say, oh yeah…I remember them.

With that kick-off, I give you the three bands that I think truly never got the recognition they deserved. First, some Honorable Mentions:

The Spin Doctors - Awesome debut album with a quirky fun pop sound, then pfffft. What the heck happened?
Montrose - You're Rock Candy're hot sweet and sticky. Sammy Hagar's first band.
Chicago - Never inducted in the R&R HOF, which is a glaring oversight
Midnight Oil - Most relevant Australian Band (Sorry AC/DC)
Cake - Best band you've probably never heard of

Now, I give you the three runners-up, in no particular order:

The Kinks

Okay. Everyone has heard of The Kinks. Many would even go so far as to say, “UNDERRATED? Cmon Jer…they got their due.”

I respectfully disagree.

Sure, they had longevity. Sure, they had hits – Lola, Sunday Afternoon, Come Dancing, Superman, and they even get re-relevantized every holiday season with Father Christmas (give us your money…we got no time for your silly toys…).

But my rationale for including them in this ‘Most Underrated’ category is, they gave us the best guitar riff in rock. And like most memorable rock riffs, it was simple and powerful. Five notes –

Da DADA Duh Da…Da DADA Duh Da…

Girl, you really got me now. You got me so I don’t know what I’m doing.

I just gave you an earworm and you’re tapping your feet now aren’t ya?

I rest my case.

Thin Lizzy

Trust me, this band was a lot more than 'The Boys Are Back In Town'. Led by one of the most charismatic frontmen in rock, a black-Irishman, Phil Lynott, this band had attitude. And they delivered that attitude with a tight, clean sound that had you simultaneously dancing your ass off and sticking your middle finger in the air in rebellion. Their songs were also the works of professionals of their respective crafts, that, when melded together, told wonderful tales of life in the streets, mysticism...and cowboys. 

Yes, cowboys. This is my favorite TL tune -

Sadly, their career was short-lived thus never getting the true accolades they deserved. But for a period of time, from 1975 through 1980, nobody was better. And Phil was taken from us too soon, dying in 1986 at the age of 36.



Humble Pie

Wow. What a band. They were a power punch to the solar plexus courtesy of a driving blues beat punctuated by the one-of-a-kind voice of Steve Marriott. Steve was absolutely amazing. There was no voice like his – a soaring, snarling, soulful much-larger-than-his-body where-in the hell-did-that-come-from sound of absolute joy. Nobody put more of himself or herself into a song than Steve did. Thirty Days In the Hole, Stone Cold Fever. And, of course, he didn’t need no doctor –

But it wasn’t just Steve. That band also featured a guitarist that went on the have a decent career. Guy by the name of Peter Frampton.

But the winner of The Most Underrated Band in Rock History Is…

The Dave Clark Five

The DC5 was part of the British Invasion of the mid-1960’s (that coincidentally also brought us The Who and The Kinks). From 1964 through 1968 they traded top of the chart hits with The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, churning out hit after hit – Glad All Over, Catch Us If You Can, Because, Do You Love Me, Bits And Pieces…to name just a few.

They captured the tone of that era perfectly – that mid-60’s pop sound. They were The Beatles with more ‘party’ to them – they were innovative, being the first rock band to have a saxophone player. And if you were having a party, they were the band you wanted in the house. They also introduced the concept of ‘over-modulation’ to producing, later mimicked by Phil Spector and his Wall Of Sound. That sort of almost too-loud, make the speakers shake distortion that had you reaching to turn down the volume, making you think that it’s your phonograph player with it’s crappy speakers doing the deed.

Nope, that was just the DC5 doing their thing. And doing it very well. 

What also made the DC5 beautiful was their simple message - let's have fun. There were no social statements to their music, no hidden lyrics that could only be discerned by playing the song backwards, no hidden agendas. They didn't try to make us think - they wanted us happy. Their message was this: We are gonna have a party, and we are gonna make sure every ass is shaking on the dance floor. Joy. Pure joy. Certainly what we needed as a country in the wake of the Kennedy assassination and the deepening of the Vietnam War. The world was bleak and sorrow filled the air...until the DC5 re-injected some much-needed and cathartic joy.

Their career was rather short-lived, as the psychedelic sound of the late-60’s made most people turn away from that pop sound of a few years earlier. Sadly for DC5, they weren’t some bubblegum band that should have been discarded. They were legendary, and those songs still hold up. If you disagree, give a looksee at the following, or as Dave said, WATCH ME NOW!” -

Tell me you aren’t gonna play that song at your next frat party.

They were (finally) inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, about twenty years too late, which, in my opinion, cemented their status as most underrated. It took the world far too long to catch on. Tell 'em Tom -

Better late than never, for the most underrated band in rock history.


Anonymous said...

That's what I'm talking about

Julio Rey said...

Fully agree with your choice of the Kinks. Better than the Stones in my book