Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Second Time Around (Or Third Time's The Charm...You Pick)

Let's say you've never heard a note by The Beatles. One afternoon, your best friend Clay calls you up and says, "You gotta hear this band. They are called The Beatles and I made a mixtape of my favorite stuff." You invite Clay over for some Hawaiian Punch and Funyuns, and you listen to his mix which includes the following:

A Taste Of Honey
Mr. Moonlight
Yellow Submarine
Maxwell's Silver Hammer

What would you think of The Beatles then?

(I'd just like to go on record and say I don't mind any of these songs and actually love Lennon's vocals on "Mr. Moonlight." I am just making a point, so take it easy.)

My recent Frankie Miller revelation, (see yesterday's post below), made me think of how often I was unknowingly listening to the wrong representation of an artist. Not always the weakest output, per se, but just some ill-advised choices. I chose 1982's "Dancing In The Rain," not because I was interested in Frankie Miller, but his guitar player Brian Robertson, an alumnus of Thin Lizzy, one of my favorite bands. It's not a very good record, sounds like Thin Lizzy about as much as Nana Mouskouri does, and aside from Frankie's voice, sounds nothing like the music that made fans of so many.

Someone once told me that he thought ELO and Cheap Trick were overrated and "mostly horrible." He also admitted to only knowing the hits. 7 of the 16 tracks on "Cheap Trick's Authorized Greatest Hits" CD are arguably their worst songs, and only one song each from what I think are ELO's two best albums appear on their hits collection.

My first taste of Miles Davis was not "Kind Of Blue" but "On The Corner." Even if I liked "On The Corner," which I don't, if I had stopped there, well...

The Dead? "Casey Jones" and "Truckin'" OUCH! That was my introduction to the Dead, thanks to Dave Herman of WNEW-FM. (You owe me, Dave.)

There was no more ardent non-supporter of The Grateful Dead than I was. But with a little cajoling, a lot of food and alcohol, and the perverse need of one person to hold me captive and play nothing but the Dead for a snowbound weekend in Vermont, I did discover something special. (Not in that person, but the music.)

Here are my pointers for non-Dead fans, if you ever feel the need to try again.

1.) Listen to the songs Bob Weir sings only when losing a bet

2.) If forced to choose between a) horrible, painful death or b) listening to any of the Dead's live versions of Beatles or Motown covers, choose A.

3.) Start with the first album and move slowly through the studio output, regardless of how many times your friend says, "Dude, Cornell, 5/8/77."

4.) Make Disc One of "Dick's Picks Volume 8," the first live Dead you listen to. It's acoustic, Jerry & Bob harmonize well, and the guitar playing is stellar.

5.) "Black Muddy River," from "In The Dark." Heartbreaking.

So, I'm asking, is there one artist you may have resisted time and again, based on one particular experience, only to discover you actually love the artist and had been listening to the wrong music?


cmealha said...

Easy one. I hated the Beach Boys because I thought they were Surfin' USA, Surfin Safari, Surfin Capicola, etc. Not til much later did I discover the beauty of Brian Wilson's music.

itsok2beright said...

This is a great topic and can go either way. It can be great artists that you may not have been mature enough to understand, or guilty pleasures that just happened to grow on you. I'll go with the following few:

1. Alan Parsons Project
2. Chicago
3. Paul Simon
4. Metallica
5. Iron Maiden
6. Led Zeppelin!!! (Yes. When I first got into rock, I was listening to Kiss, and remember telling someone (Randy from Ocean Ave) that LZ sucked!) That was when all you heard on the radio was Stairway, and I would sooner have punctured my ear drums than listen to it again. Of course, just a few months later, my opinion completely reversed.

soundsource said...

Ok I can deal with public embarrassment. Both of these examples I blame on musical snobbishness and being a schmuck, Number 1 Led Zeppelin, yes that's right Led Zeppelin. I was a huge fan of Jeff Beck (Truth and Beck-Ola) at the time and thought that Zep where just a posing, blues ripping off cheap version.....DUMB. Next up at the confessional Lynyrd Skynyrd, again I blame musical snobbishness and severe dumbness. My reason in the case of Lynyrd Skynyrd was again who needs the runner up. In this case I was a huge Allman Brothers Band fan and just couldn't understand why I should waste my hard earned bucks on a bunch of wannabe rednecks (did I say DUMB and or SCHMUCK). I'm sure there are others in my history but I consider these my two most glaring examples. Since my revelations regarding the greatness of both these bands I have tried not to make the same mistakes again, so I try to give everything a fair listen (ok not Celine Dion and Michael Bolton) and usually I can find something musically redeeming in the most marginal of bands or individuals (not always). All that being said I still don't really care for the Dead (but I have listend to lots of their music) and I'm struggling with Geddy Lee's voice (but they can play like motherfuckers). As regards this topic I would refer all you intrepid Burning Wood fans to yesterday's comments regarding Frankie Miller.

Sal Nunziato said...

I love Surfin Capicola.

And Side 2 of Chicago II remains one of my favorite album sides of all time.

steve simels said...

I came late to the Dead party as well, although I should add that the only live stuff of theirs that interests me at all even now is the early stuff, from before they were actually signed. Mostly for the atmosphere and the historical You Are There vibe, of course.

That said, I am NOT going to reassess Bon Jovi. Or ELP. Ever.

Anonymous said...

I'll second the Beach Boys vote , though I'm still only a fan of the Pet Sounds/Smile type stuff.

The thought this brings up to me was how as a 9 year old I wanted no music in my life by anyone other than KISS. Trouble was my folks didn't allow me to own KISS records. All I asked for for Chanukah was KISS ALIVE and ALIVE II, or any KISS anyone else would like to give me.
Instead, my parents and a beloved uncle decided that Rock and Roll was rock and Roll and my parents gave me a stack of K-Tel collections ( Brownsville Station? That's NOT KISS !!!) and my Uncle gave me Billy Joel's Piano Man. I can still recall the disappointment and confusion. BILLY JOEL ? PIANO Man?
If I listened and still preferred KISS I was told, I could return them. I returned them.
Years later when I re-purchased Piano Man and became a fan I called my Uncle to thank him for trying.

charlie c. said...

change 'bands' to 'singers' and 'love' to 'listen to' and . . . . we have:

Joan Osborne
Ryan Adams
Joni Mitchell

First two, ashamedly, because once the Dead remnants gave their collective imprimatur -- i was obliged to listen. Ryan I just had pegged wrong from the get-go . . . I love Magnolia Mountain, Two and so on -- evocative as After the Gold Rush. Ms Mitchell? she changed or I did -- she still don't answer my calls or friend requests.
(Steve Simels -- I have a ton of 'that' stuff . . . if you might want to reload!)

charlie c. said...

Wait -- what's in the punch?!?

Anonymous said...

My issues with bands I've come to love were usually stupid cultural ones. For instance, I hated the Beach Boys when I was in high school in the 70s, at the time of their Endless Summer revival, because all the creepy Jesus Freak girls in my high school loved them. Then, at some point when I was in my 30s, California Girls came on the radio and hearing it with fresh, unbiased ears was a revelation.

I also always hated Fleetwood Mac because if you were into punk and new wave in the late 70s you had to hate them. They were the apotheosis of MOR crap. More recently I've learned to appreciate and even love their mix of craftsmanship and, not sure the right word here... urgency? Actually been on a Fleetwood Mac jag the last couple months.

Living in a big house with a bunch of hippies ruined the Dead for me for years, but now I'm back in the fold. But Sal, you'd really have skeptics work their way through the albums from the beginning and not start with Workingman's Dead or American Beauty?

Chicago II? I'll have to check that out...

Bruce Handy

Sal Nunziato said...


When I first heard "The Golden Road" and "Cream Puff War," from the first album, I refused to believe it was the same band that recorded "Casey Jones." I think the skeptics might refuse when they see how familiar "American Beauty" and "Workingman's Dead" are, no matter how great those records may be. I'm speaking from my own experience, of course.

Eric said...

What people miss about the dead is they delivered it live 200 nights a year.....sure some great albums, but like the stones, nothing stunning after 77'---however, their live shows were unique simply BECAUSE THEY NEVER PLAYED THE SAME SET---most giant tours, aside from maybe the boss, stay on the same songs throughout...the dead could be seen on consecutive nights and one would hear a different set list.....

the artist for "the second time around" is the great pisser. R. Kelly----that full length video is genius---I'm sure no one here agrees

anythingshouldhappen said...

Wow what a great article. I'd never looked at this perspective.

This isn't going to get me liking Bon Jovi, INXS etc is it?

I remember a chat with my dad. I told him The Beatles early stuff was twee and rubbish. He sat me down had a long talk and got out some records that were released at the same time. I saw the point.

Bands I cannot like start with The Grateful dead, I've tries and tried and have mates just like yours.

Pink Floyd - theirs inventiveness and there's rubbish and they finished when Syd went bananas.

As for Dave Gilmour, same solo for 25 years now.

Yet with ELO and Cheap Trick I fully see your point, their best stuff is on no greatest hits.

I've successfully changed a lot of people's minds about Tin Machine when you've managed to get Bowie the solo artist out of your brain.

Come on I challenge you, make me like Pink Floyd!

BTW I'm with Steve never ever ever ever (did I say ever?) ELP

David Handelman said...

I would say for me in high school and college, it took other people's passions to turn me around on things, not so much because I'd heard the wrong songs, but because someone else's passion can help you get over the hump of the newness of a sound -- say, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, David Bowie -- or get past the greatest hits radio facade (Bowie, Neil Young). My most embarrassing one, as I posted on my blog, was Bruce -- I really didn't know more than Born to Run (the song) and knew Manfred Mann's Blinded By the Light better. But by the time Darkness came out, I was there for him at the Palladium.

Aaron said...

In a mean-spirited bid to prove that I was punk rock tough (pretty pathetic, really) I used to suddenly exclaim, "Oh, my god! Jerry Garcia's really dead?" just to see how people would react, 10 years before he actually died. For me it was the people who followed them around exclaiming how revolutionary their music was at a time when Jerry's voice had just gone, and everything they played sounded like they had consumed a lot of codeine infused cough syrup, then played a live show inside a toilet. The antidote to that can also be found on the album "Grateful Dead," AKA "Skull & Roses." There's a super energetic version of them noodling in and out of "Not Fade Away," then "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad." They sing themselves raw, and demonstrate what they were capable of at the top of their game. I used to play it for people who wanted to know what the big fuss about the Dead was. Lot's of them seemed to get it afterwards.

Gene Oberto said...

One of the most endearing traits of the Grateful Dead, to me, is that you always can sing along with the matter how bad you sing.

The harmonies are so ragged yet, inexplicably, absolutely right on, that when I sing along at the top of my "voice" it sounds like I've been touring with them from the start.

It's a small favor that this band has given me. I have always appreciated it.

Christine said...

Does this count? I hated the Talking Heads until I saw "Stop Making Sense." That movie turned me into a fan.

Thanks for the Dead lesson. I may
just take your advice. (Dave owes me one too.)

Anonymous said...

Civic center phila,Wakins Glen rehersal, Englishtown, some songs just sounded like they need to tune up.

Eric said...

ENGLISHTOWN!!!! WHAT A TRAFFIC JAM...thank god for booze and bowls....

Anonymous said...

Englistown every remembers the traffic, what about the music?

Eric said...

englishtown was the terrapin station tour and my exit to the other side of downtown punk rock--or uptown@hurrahs