Certain performers evoke strong reactions either positive ornegative--as if you're not allowed to be neutral. You must decide--or else. Why?Sometimes it's the performer who's just so in your face. Sometimes it's theartist's audience whose devotion makes you wonder if you tripped upon a cult.Sometimes it's even the actual music that's tailored to a certain audience andfeels exclusionary to everyone else.
I've been writing this blog for what now has been about halfmy life. And I've learned, too, that certain bands have computer savvy fansquick to defend their idols, while other performers aren't quite so lucky. I'vebeen dogging on the Pure Prairie League and it's as if no one cares! While I'vebeen surprised by just how many Leon Russell fans are still alive and well andready to stick up for their man. And Aerosmith fans are a vocal lot, while theenthusiasm for Uriah Heep hasn't quite kept up with the times.
And I am planning a list of the Ten Most Universally LovedBands as well. Which, of course, will bring an outpouring of people letting usall know how much they don't love said bands. But that's the beauty of thiswhole schoolyard-sandbox! Everyone gets to play. Just don't knock me in thehead with the metal shovel. Those things hurt.
10) Creed: Scott Stapp always looks so serious. Whichonly sets you up for being goofed on. And the fact that the band's music soundsbig and important and makes Pearl Jam sound modest in comparison makes themripe for ribbing. But their fans are solid, true believers and made them one ofthe era's most successful bands. Had they stayed together would they have savedor destroyed civilization? We now will never know.Sonic Youth: When they opened for Neil Young back inthe early '90s, Sonic Youth were suddenly thrust into the classic rockspotlight where their alternate tunings and indie-rock mutterings were suddenlycooked under the mainstream microscope. What made sense to people used toloitering in dark, dirty rock clubs was suddenly being served to the day-globeer bracelet crowd and the results wasn't always pretty. Yes, the professionalreviews have been pretty glowing, but it only seemed to breed resentment inother quarters where the band have been considered a tuneless fraud. Differentstrokes for different folks could've been the band's motto if it wasn't alreadya tired cliché.
8) U2: No matter how many times Bono tries to tell ajoke or show off his light-hearted side, it still comes off as if he's merely stoopingdown to say hello to the little people. He's always insisted on indulging hisflair for the dramatic and his band either play anthemic rock that makes youwant to topple the castle walls or sleep-inducing drones that lack anyjam-kicking drive. They're a bit like a religion. Their followers see a Messiahleading them to the promised land and their detractors see a snake-oil salesmanhocking overpriced goo.Rush: Let's hear it from the ladies in theaudience! Oh, wait, there aren't any. This is a RUSH concert. The only women inattendance were dragged there by boyfriends who are skating on some pretty thinice. I'm sure a handful of female Rush fans will write in to correct me on thispoint. But, really, take a look around. For whatever reason, Rush attract apredominately male audience who admire and analyze the band's every move. It'slike a secret language where science fiction, objectivism and weird timesignatures all converge and plan to sprout a new society. To outsiders, it'slike Geek-A-Thon 2112 where Daffy Duck sings the company song for two hours.
6) Jimmy Buffett: Parrotheads can't get enough andhave made Jimmy Buffett one of the richest, most successful performers of thepast century. The man has his appeal. But to those not swayed by the pirate'slife and who've never ventured down to the Florida Keys,the whole experience looks more like an insurance convention gone loco.Barbra Streisand: Could her following be muchlarger? She crosses over to so many different audiences who would pay anyamount of money to hear her sing, to perform, to lift their spirits. And thereare other people who would pay any amount of money to NOT hear her sing anothernote. One man's ceiling is another man's floor? One man's junk is another man'streasure? One man's daughter is another's man's annoying next door neighbor?
4) The Doors: I've never quite understood this, butit started in college and has followed me everywhere I write. Anytime I writeabout the Doors, it leads to people vehemently discussing how much Jim Morrisona) sucks, b) rules. If I say something positive, it's not positive enough. If Iwrite something negative, I'm not nasty enough. Either Jimmy and the boys weregenius or they were pretentious creeps who had the blues. Heck, my own problemis I like the pretentiousness and the drunken vocals. Those are thegood parts in my book.Billy Joel: The man has more songs on the radiothan just about any performer I can name. Many people swear he's written thesoundtrack to their lives. Many other people wish they could live in a worldwhere never would another Billy Joel song visit their lives. It's like theyshould start planning retirement communities where you could decide whether youwant to live the Billy Joel lifestyle or the Non-Billy Joel Lifestyle, the waythey once offered Smoking or Non-smoking sections of a restaurant. It onlyseems fair.
2) Frank Zappa: His admirers laugh at his jokes andadmire his musicianship--and collect an awful lot of albums. His detractorsthink he's smarmy, self-congratulatory and not nearly as smart as he thinks heis--and they don't collect a lot of his albums. Some people think he's funnylooking--or that he named his kids some pretty freaky names--Dweezil?, MoonUnit? He was a true original. You just have to decide whether his distinctflavor and aroma is right for you. Somebody uses the Boysenberry syrup at theIHOP.Grateful Dead: This one should be obvious.Deadheads are legion and they can discuss the variations of the different performancesand they have the bootlegs to back up their theories. To those not turned onand tuned in to their trip, it just looks like a parking lot with no designatedparking spots and too much mud to ever be bothered. Do you need to be high to"get it"? I can't tell. But the people seem to be having a good time.But it could all be a ruse of the CIA setting us up for a cataclysmic disaster.You decide if it's worth the risk.