When I was 18 years old, I began working at a Tower Records in New York City. I would go back and work there over breaks from college, and I also worked in its Boston and San Francisco locations. I also played in a bunch of bands, from around the same time until my early 30s.
In both cases, I was told over and over again that a particular recording artist was simply the shit. That I must listen to it all the time. That if I didn’t like it, I should listen again. And again. Being a young and spineless guy I immediately reported for duty and checked out said artists.
For a long time, I felt like there must be something wrong with me if I didn’t like them. After all, my coworkers and bandmates told of their favorite artists’ brilliance like it was an article of faith. How could I miss it if they were as fantastic as my colleagues suggested?
Then, I had a son and turned 40, and immediately ran out of whatever energy I was using to try and make myself like this stuff. I can now say confidently that the bands that record store clerks and bandmates insisted I enjoy were complete fucking garbage. I have no idea why they liked the stuff so much. None of it was actual good music, like ABBA or Dio or Lana Del Rey. In fact, I would go so far as to characterize it as… overrated.
Please internalize the following list of overrated bands and artists that many people tried to get me to like over the years, for reasons best known to them, since all of it is actually shit. Then go listen to some good music to cleanse your ear palette, like the Scorpions or Jethro Tull.
The Beach Boys
I hate this band. Hate them hate them hate them. I always have, even when I was a little kid and didn’t know anything about them. I could say that roughly 90% of the people that I worked with in record stores would yammer on endlessly about the “Pet Sounds” album, how it was the most brilliant thing ever made and it’s a landmark and there would be no “Sgt. Pepper” without it, and so on and so on. Well, I’m as big a Beatles fan as they come, and I would gladly erase “Sgt. Pepper” from the history of the universe if it took “Pet Sounds” away with it.
I’m a heavy metal guy, and I have been for many years. So, I really should be all on board with the music of KISS. I mean, they’re “significant” and all that, and their fans sure talk them up a lot, so I should like them too, right? Well, no. Their music is garbage. If they didn’t use distorted guitars and if Gene Simmons didn’t breathe fire, they would be the Bay City Rollers, only less talented. If I want to listen to brain-dead two-chord hard rock, I’ll listen to AC/DC, thank you very much.
Not liking Motörhead is absolute headbanger heresy. I mean, Lemmy’s an icon, they invented thrash, sort of, and Lemmy’s face wart alone gives him tons of cred. All fine and good, except for the fact that their music is incredibly boring and does absolutely nothing for me. I know tons of people who love them, and I don’t doubt that their love is genuine. But Jesus Christ, every song sounds the same, and except for “Iron Fist,” who gives a shit anyway?
My hatred of Santana dates back decades before Carlos Santana teamed up with Rob Thomas. I was a young, teenaged guitar student, just learning my way around the fretboard, when my instructor gave me a cassette of some early Santana album and said it would blow my mind and make me think of the guitar in a whole new way. I have never been so bored in my entire life. Over the years, people I know who are accomplished musicians whom I really respect have tried to get me to reconsider, to just listen to this one jam, to just listen to this one solo, all to no avail. Well, at least they know how I feel when I tell them that “Grease 2” is superior to the original.
Ugh, I hate this band. I’m not going to lie, a lot of the reason for that is personal. My wife’s name is “Asia,” like the continent, but when I introduce her to people, they think her name is spelled “Aja,” like the Steely Dan album. It’s also personal because every drummer I ever played with who was very technical in their approach loved this band and would give me endless shit for not listening to them. They also have a smooth, almost yacht-rock sound that makes me feel mildly nauseous. I will say, in their favor, however, that Donny and Marie did a great cover of “Reelin’ in the Years” on their old show, and unlike on the original, they used ice dancers. Also – Ruth Buzzi.