Yes, mom, the Beatles were great. Yes, dad, the Rolling Stones are influential. No, grandma, I haven't seen your copy of Blonde On Blonde....jeez. They say history is written by the winners, but any self-hating rock critic knows they are a far cry from the winner's circle. So why do these perpetual losers continue to hand out the same common wisdom that's provably wrong? Because they're perpetual losers? Because it's easier to declare Sgt. Pepper's a legendary album and be done with it than dig up the collected works of Meatloaf and have to decide if Bat Out Of Hell II is worse than Bat Out Of Hell III? Don't yell at me. I just WORK here.
Considering most popular music is absolutely miserable, it's impossible that good bands carry the most influence. If they did, music would be uniformly great. But we suffer through Country-Rock, Hair-Metal, Electronica, Divas, Boy Bands and that lazy strain of Hip-Hop where rappers talk over their record collection. You want to blame the Beatles for this?
Here are five INFLUENTIAL artists:
Fabian - Oh, this could go any which way. There were always prefabricated pop stars chosen for their good looks and universal appeal, whose music in the end is rarely considered, but whose legend lives on. I've never even heard this guy. But I've read he was lousy! Must be true. Name a boy band for whom this isn't true.
The Partridge Family - Long before MTV we had this great singing family whose smallest members clearly couldn't play. Besides Danny Bonaduce's full-hand approach to the bass and that drummer kid's inability to hold the sticks, we had a mom who was clearly NOT HOT singing alongside her much better looking kids. Their multi-colored bus turned out to be their most recognizable trait. But it's encouraged lots of other people to pretend they're some kind of family from the Ramones to the Polyphonic Spree to any band who all buy their clothes at the same time.
MC Hammer - I'll never forget the first time I had "Can't Touch This" explained to me. I was asked if I'd ever heard Rick James' "Superfreak," which I had. I was then told to imagine that song played in the background while some guy talks over it and yells out things like "Stop! It's Hammer Time." I knew then the future of music was so bright I'd have to wear earplugs and looked forward to the day when a song like "Every Breath You Take" would be similarly ruined.
The Eagles - What are these guys doing here? Well, before you think I only consider musicians who can't play an instrument to be a major influence on music, I thought I'd throw the band that brought the most boring aspects of country music together with the most boring aspects of rock n' roll. With a live show once described as "loitering," these guys managed to charge upwards of something like $10,000 a ticket. If they're good enough for Garth Brooks (who also likes Kiss and Billy Joel), well, I think we've found another national treasure.
Milli Vanilli - These Grammy-Un-Winners represent that great American belief in what you can't do, someone else can, and you can still take credit for it. Today we have "auto-tuning" for those who can't, but back in the Milli Vanilli days they actually had to go out and FIND SOMEONE WHO COULD SING. Who WASN'T inspired by their high cheekbones and cool hair? (And really shouldn't the Grammy committee who took away the Grammy from these guys then have given it to the poor studio hacks who actually played on the record?)