Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Traveling Nilburys: A Not-So-Supergroup

It crossed my mind that both my least favorite vocalist and least favorite guitar player were in the same, wildly popular and successful band.

But is my deep disgust for this band completely at the hands of these two musicians? I'm not sure. I really do like two of the other members.

More on these people in a minute.

Some other inadvertent saboteurs came to mind.

Liberty DeVitto, long time drummer for  Billy Joel, had the ability to jar me from enjoying a perfectly good pop tune with some unnatural smack of a snare or what some might feel was a creative run along the toms, but to my ears felt more like a kid stomping all over some bubblewrap.

Larry Graham was a hero!  A bass-slapping monster, funking it up and taking names. Then he met Prince, sucked Prince's mojo right out of his body and BAM... Bob's your soulless, funkless, bad song-writing, G-rated, God-fearing sexless uncle.

In the case of Liberty DeVitto, I simply don't like his style of drumming. Larry Graham, on the other hand, is still a fantastic player, I just wish he kept his nose out of Prince's business.

But I digress. (Though I sure like venting about how shitty Prince has become. Thanks, Larry.)

I thought it would be a fun exercise to create a band, a supergroup if you will, consisting of musicians I really don't like. The Traveling Wilburys featured five favorites and though their two records might be filled with Dylan and Petty toss-offs, I loved them both for their spirit. What would the opposite of that be for me?

My choices did not go after easy marks. I know many would choose Bob Dylan or Geddy Lee as their least favorite vocalist. But I not only like Bob Dylan's voice, I feel that he is a genuinely good singer, underneath all the gravel and drone. Geddy is an acquired taste, but I acquired it. I also didn't choose Sid Vicious, since everyone knows he sucked.

My choices are people who have mostly been praised for their talents.

So my nightmare supergroup is as follows:

Vocals- Axl Rose

Just horrible through and through. Not a subtle bone in his body. He never shuts up, not during guitar solos, not during fades or codas. As a matter of fact, a good portion of the tunes on both "Use Your Illusion I and II" end with this bloated pinhead getting the last word. Plus, he makes nails on a blackboard sound like "The Velvet Fog." Even at his most tame, on songs like "November Rain" and "Patience," the tone of Axl Rose's voice is still a painful cross between Walter Brennan and a Rainbow Lorikeet.

Lead Guitar- Slash

Dinah Shore had more soul. His solos change tempo midway. He is noisy and haphazard and quite simply without style. He makes it impossible to feel anything, aside from "when is this awful carnival ride OVER!"  Every solo is a race for the finish. Plus, that opening riff to "Sweet Child Of Mine," considered to be an all-time classic rock riff, sounds like an Interpol siren. I am consistently baffled by both of these Guns N Roses members.

Bass-Pino Palladino (In The Who)

I will admit, this spot gave me trouble. No bass player has ever truly rubbed me the wrong way. I think Flea is overrated, but he fits in fine with the other players of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I have friends who swear by the rhythm section of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz. (Maybe David Byrne is the saboteur.)  But the Heads leave me cold, less a collective 30 minutes of their output. Maybe I'm not smart enough. Fa-fa-fa-fuck it.

There is no doubt in my mind that Pino Palladino is a fine musician. And I know I have enjoyed his playing elsewhere, say Jeff Beck's band. But there couldn't be a lousier replacement for one of the greatest bass players of all-time, John "The Ox" Entwistle. Think Spinal Tap, when their "sexy" album cover is deemed "sexist" and is replaced with "none more black."  It makes little sense other than Pete Townshend getting tired of the busyness of Entwistle's playing. Pete even made mention of it, as well as Keith Moon's insanity on the kit, in the "Quadrophenia" documentary. Pino's slick touch on Who classics is just wrong. Why not get Ron Carter to play "My Generation?" (Ok, maybe I'd like to hear that.)

Keyboards-Roger Powell

It's no secret that I am a Todd Rundgren and Utopia fanatic, but not because of Roger Powell. Being an innovator and an electronics genius doesn't make you a good keyboard player. The thing is, he is a good keyboard player. Just listen to his piano solo on "The Verb To Love." It really couldn't be more perfect. It's when he plugs in that he basically sabotages even the best of Utopia's work. Cheesy and dated, even on some of the band's already cheesy and dated proggy material, the sound of Powell's keys, which I assume he chose himself, make Rudy Vallee records sound modern.

Drums- Carter Beauford
Do you know this guy? He plays with the Dave Matthews Band, a band that even without my least favorite vocalist and least favorite guitar player, manages to be my least favorite band, mostly because of its odious and overrated leader. But a lot of credit must go to this boob who manages to make Keith Moon look like Little Ricky. The guy just overplays and overplays and overplays, never setting a groove long enough for the band or anyone...well...except the 90,000 in their constantly sold-out live fall into a pocket. (What do they know?)

I watched a live broadcast once, maybe 15 minutes tops, and Beauford twirled his sticks, rattled his chimes, used his mallets and double-bassed me right out of any interest at all. It was a circus. This was during one song.

Care to create your own bad band?


cmealha said...

I'm with you on Roger Powell and I'd add his Utopia band mate I'd add Willie Wilcox on drums. Geddy Lee on vocals for sure. Yeah , you could pick Dylan or Tom Waits but they're superlative songwriters and I don't think anyone would associate either with the term 'lead singer' which is Geddy's job. I can't think of any bass player that really irks me but I guess you can always throw in Sid Vicious cause he'd surely bring the suck.

itsok2beright said...

While I disagree radically with your choice for worst guitarist, I completely agree with your worst vocalist. I always felt that Axl should never have left the trailer he grew up in.

That said, my nominees for the worst foursome would be:

Attempt at singing: Axl Rose or Gavin Rossdale (Bush)
Faux Bass Player: Michael Anthony
Impercussionist: Alex Van Halen
String Stroker: Vinnie Vincent or CC Deville

Sal Nunziato said...


One of the first bass players that came to mind was Michael Anthony, thanks to his clams in "Atomic Punk" on the first Van Halen record. But then nothing else seemed to stand out as particularly bad.

Charlie Carr said...

Wow. After the Rundgren and McCArtney ramp-up, this one is almost too tough . . . hurts my head to even think these thoughts!
But: Freddy Mercury, Jim Messina, Ray Manzarek, Don Brewer are in right off the top of my head . . . trying to come up with a bass player.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Gene Simmons on Bass.

I think this was already accomplished in Super Heavy.

William Repsher said...

Lead vocals: three way tie, Scott Stapp of Creed (feel free to insert any 90s rock lead singer here with that bloated/self serious style), Billy Idol (cheesy and overbearing), Richard Hell (the absolute worst lead vocalist I've ever heard)

Background vocals: don't know who they were, but the white background singers who sang on Ray Charles and Sam Cooke records, even now that wrong-headed production choice grates on me

Guitar: can't really think of anyone save the obvious metal and hair metal guys. Maybe Yngwie Malmsteen just because of his name?

Bass: Richard Hell. He hung around Tom Verlaine, the real talent in Television. He hung around Johnny Thunders, the real talent in the Heartbreakers. He recruited Robert Quine, the real talent in the Voidoids ... never has someone with so little musical talent milked it for so much ... which is surely his greatest talent

Keyboards: Roy Bittan ... treacly and florid at least in the old days, the way you feel about DeVito's drum fills, I feel about his irritating accents on so many tracks, not just Springsteen's. Close second is Tina Turner's keyboard player in the 80s, who looked like Conan the Barbarian. Third, anyone who's ever played a keetar on stage. Has anyone ever played one in a studio?

Drums: not so much a person ... the drum production style of the 80s, those big gated drums that sound so incredibly fake and stupid today, much like the synthetic horn sections of that time.

Anonymous said...

it's all about chemistry.....i guess.....and you forgot the worst backup singer ever - linda mccartney (followed by the "no longer a backup singer but now
sharing the 'lead' mic"......, frikkin' mrs. patti springsteen and let the yahoos disagree and get their "boss panties" in a KNOT!!!....see ya' 'round, Sal! LOVE what you do......mostly...

misospecial said...

C'mon Sal—why don't you tell us how you really feel?

I'm just waking up and so lack the clarity to put together my nightmare lineup. But I laughed out loud several times at yours. Bonus points for the line about the Velvet Fog—Ha!

I would like to make a single nomination, and maybe later I'll string together the rest of the lineup. I vote for Mick Fleetwood.

Also to say a word for Geddy, whose vocals Creem once memorably characterized as "nip and tuck time at the kennel." In addition to the excellent musicianship he brings to vocals, and the many songs where he doesn't scale the heights of his falsetto, he is of course a spectacular bass player and a pretty impressive composer, coauthoring the music in all Rush material. He's a severely talented man...

Anyway, what a hilarious post and an excellent diversion... I think you should write at least one of these inspired snarkfests a month—give you a chance to us all these great lines and vent a little. I love this one and would be happy to see more.


Produced, of course, by Jeff Lynne.

Ken D said...

Nice to read that my lifelong loathing of Axl R. is shared. I figured I was missing something there and had just shut up about it...
If this band ever gigs, chances are Axl will be a late scratch, right? Can I nominate Meat Loaf to sit in?

A thanks for giving me one more reason to never listen to anything by the Dave Matthews Band.

Jeff Matthews said...

Anthony Kiedis -vocals
Kirk Hammett - guitar
Pete Wentz - bass
Keith Emerson -keys
Travis Barker - drums

buzzbabyjesus said...

Jeff nailed it, I'd say.

Ruben Chandler said...

Brilliant, brave and highly entertaining post! Fresh!

Sal Nunziato said...

One more @itsok2beright

I didn't say Slash was the worst guitarist. I said my "least favorite."

itsok2beright said...

@sal, i certainly respect the distinction. I was trying to pick raw lack of talent. If I had to pick least favorite, then Bruce has to be on the list as vocalist and guitarist.

Rumtoad said...

no...its ok to hate Slash and Axl. In fact, it is one of my favorite pastimes!

Anonymous said...

Singer: Keith Richards
Guitar: CC Deville
Bass: Peter Cetera
Keys: Alicia Keys
Drums: Don Henley



Jeff in Denton TX said...

Vince Neil - vocals
Dave Navarro - guitar
Alec John Such - bass
Pete Best - drums
Linda McCartney - keys (OK, that's too easy...)

mauijim said...

Sal thanks for coming back to have these kind of discussions.Hate to pick on newly deceased but never could like Johnny Winters singing.
Keep him on guitar and stop Brian May from playing the same guitar solo now on 40yrs.
Can we agree how important drummers are, let me introduce into evidence post Peter Buck REM.
Dont have any issues with bassists, but Billy Powell ruins One From tHE rOAD lets blame the mix instead Turn up the guitars!!!

mauijim said...

I meant Bill Berry sorry Peter

snakeboy said...

If you need harmonica in this group you just gotta add John Pooper er Popper. As far as bass players, anyone who plays the instrument and thinks it a lead guitar.