Cello, there. First off, I'd like to thank you guys for your input last week over my new formatting idea for this blog series. After reading your comments, it seemed pretty unanimous that everyone enjoys the usual essay format but is willing to take on a change. I'm glad that so many people out there actually take the time to read articles and enjoy commentary from the likes of writers like me that's pretty awesome. So given the love for the original blog format, I think what I'll do is a combination of ideas - some weeks I'll stick to the usual essay-like post pertaining to music news, but on weeks that seem to contain more lighthearted or intriguing news stories, I'll adopt the Top Band, Top Guitarist, Idiot of the Week etc. approach. And to for variety's sake (It's the End of the Week Variety Hour!), some weeks I'll address an entirely different subject to spark a conversation. Such is the case with this week.
I'd like to pose an idea what bands out there have you never been able to understand?
You know the bands I'm talking about the big-time, legendary bands that are adored by millions, but for some reason, you just can't get into them. You've tried. Your friends routinely make compelling arguments why you should listen to X or Y band, but something about the music just doesn't resonate with you. You want to understand why the band is considered so great, but after many attempts at listening, you're just not into them and end up dismissing the music.
So what big bands out there don't you get? What is it about those bands that make millions of people go nuts, but makes you turn your nose up?
Here's a list of bands I've never quite gotten. Maybe you share some. Mind you, I'm not knocking these bands at all... I certainly acknowledge their greatness because, let's be real, it does take a considerable amount of awesomesauce to become a big name in the rock world. But these guys... I dunno, something just doesn't sit right with me.
Uncharacteristically, I'm going to write this list more off-the-cuff and I'll be a little more opinionated than usual. My descriptions relay how the music sounds to me at this current state in time. By no means am I dismissing these bands entirely or am unwilling to reconsider my stance on them; actually, I think that's why this subject interests me so much I want to be proven wrong. Show me some tunes for musical conversion! Show me the way! All right, let's get started.
1) Elvis Presley
As someone who has always loved rock music, you'd think that I'd be more interested in/enjoy the music of the figure that popularized the genre. I just never took the time to get into Elvis Presley, most likely because people my age are so far removed from Elvis's influence on the music world. My apathy toward Elvis is mostly due to a lack of context, which I'm admittedly uneducated in; most likely, if I were to study Elvis, the time period, and the significance of his recordings, I'd appreciate him much more. But because 50 or so years have passed since he got big, and his likeness and crooning vocal style seems kind of cartoonish, I have a hard time becoming enthused. For now, hearing Elvis just reminds me of listening to his Christmas albums in my parent's car as a kid and watching Uncle Jesse on Full House act like an obsessed nut job doing Elvis impressions.
2) The Grateful Dead
Although Jerry Garcia is supposedly a prolific guitarist, I never could get into The Grateful Dead. I recently studied a bit of the Dead's music when I wrote a guitar lesson for a rock music website in which I had to study Garcia's style and transcribe a solo. While this experience helped me realize the dude was indeed a talented, respectable great guitarist, I'm still not sold. Maybe I'm just put off by the jam band culture attached to them. Just not my cup of tea, I guess. Also, I've talked to other non-Dead fans and Dead fans alike, and it seems that younger generations only tend to listen to the Dead based on whether or not their parents listened to them. My more conservative parents didn't and preferred The Beatles, which brings me to the next band I've never quite become a fan of...
3) The Rolling Stones
This may not be entirely fair. Duh, they are The Rolling Stones, one of the greatest and influential rock and roll bands of all time; however, I never gave them a standing chance based on my lifelong fandom and preference to The Beatles. Plus, with a huge catalog that spans four decades, I simply don't know where to start with The Stones.
4) Bruce Springsteen
I hear that live, Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band are legit, but nothing I've heard on record has really piqued my interests. The music seems too friendly and tame. Plus, when I think of Springsteen, as a kid growing up in the 90s, I can't help but associate the music with Adam Sandler's portrayal of him on "SNL" Springsteen's style and music just seems a little goofy. Drummer Max Weinberg though is pretty rad though.
5) Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam always seemed too vanilla compared to the other "grunge" bands that came out at the time. Granted "Ten" is a pretty sick record, but after that, Pearl Jam's straightforward rock music seemed dull and lacked interesting musicality/execution. I have total respect for Pearl Jam sustaining such a fruitful career, securing a loyal fan base and doing pretty much whatever they want to do musically, but eh... even when I saw them live, I wasn't grabbed by the ear-nuts.
6) Bob Dylan
I'll get some flack for this. I try to listen to Dylan. I've tried a lot actually. It's his voice, really... I just can't in good faith put on a Dylan record and enjoy it for the music. I know I'm clearly missing something because Rolling Stone Magazine pretty much masturbates out Dylan love letters in every issue, and Dylan is regarded as a living folk rock legend. I'm told it's all about the words. Obviously, he's a brilliant lyricist and it's more about his musical storytelling, rather than the music, but I don't know though; I may not just be into poetry set to acoustic guitars. If anyone can direct me to a really sick Dylan track that blows me away, I'll write you a personal haiku.
7) Tom Petty
People go nuts over Petty and I don't know why. I've never understood what the hoopla is about. Perhaps it's rooted in an experience in 8th grade when my band wanted to cover "Free Falling", and for some reason I detested that song. Thus, anything else I've heard from him sucks by association. Plus, Petty's songs come off as really repetitious, and naturally, with vocals that are quite reminiscent of Bob Dylan, well...
I've heard praise for Tool's musicianship, heaviness, and emotional quality, but again, I just don't get them. Maybe it's Maynard Keenan's voice, or maybe it's the uninspired riffs and songs that just drag on... I just never understood the apparent genius of Tool. Drummer Danny Carey is sick though.
9) Dave Matthews Band
Although Carter Beauford rips on drums (seems like a lot of these bands I listed include great drummers... weird), Dave Matthew's squeaky vocals, the underlying acoustic rock vibe... the, what is it, saxophone presenceit all seems a little too adult contemporary, mid-tempo soft rock. The band has chops out the wazoo, but on record, they come off a little boring. I haven't seen them live though, so maybe I should ingest a copious amount of drugs and lie out on the lawn for a DMB show and enjoy the experience.
10) Jane's Addiction
Finally, we have Jane's Addiction. Every Jane's Addiction song, to me, sounds like a strange, clunky mess. Dave Navarro is probably one of the most overrated guitar players on the planet and Perry Farrel, although a smart musician, sounds too abrasive and weird. But then again, these guys are supposed to be weird.
And that's my list. That was kind of fun sometimes you just have to spout off your opinion every now and then. Apologies for the polarizing statements, but when you think about it, many people's musical opinions are based around perceptions gained when younger, which we carry with us as we age.
Anyway, you can see a lot of reasons for why one may not "get" a band a lack of context, a preference toward another similar band, not growing up on the music, or maybe just finding the music annoying.
So share the bands you never quite got in the comments. Maybe we'll be surprised and find some common choices. Maybe everyone will come to the conclusion that nobody really likes Tom Petty.
On The Next It's The End Of The Week As We Know It:
After this blog turned 65, I collect my Internet social security; I use the money to buy a stupidly large amount of Dunlop jazz picks.
A coked up Vince Neil apologizes to the Las Vegas valets he chastised, admitting that he forgot he no longer owned a Rolls Royce and remembered purchasing a La Baron that was previously owned by Jon Voight.
By Zach Pino Twitter: @zachpino