A little over ten years ago, my business partner Tony Sachs and I wrote a very short piece for our record store newsletter describing the difference between Beatles apologists and Beatles realists. We wrote that, the job of the apologist was to find the minutes of brilliance or even competence amidst the forty minutes of dreck that made up most Beatles solo albums, and use them to justify the whole sorry mess. The realists loved The Beatles too, but they were able to hear just how bad most of these records were. This was our very snarky way of reviewing the then, just released Paul McCartney record, "Memory Almost Full." I have since reevaluated that record, as I do with many records that initially strike me as garbage. Occasionally, it is quite rewarding, as was the case with "Memory Almost Full."
Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with a musician friend about something similar. The subject of horrible songs had come up after a McCartney track called "The Loveliest Thing" popped up at random on my iPod. This was a B-Side from the "Flowers In The Dirt" sessions, though I think it was written a few years earlier, and it was pretty god-awful. (I might change my mind in 2028. Check back if you can.) As I listened to the horrible lyrics and unpleasant melody and arrangement, I wondered if there were fans of Sir Paul who simply would not admit how awful it was. My friend had suggested that maybe certain fans had an unconditional love for an artist, to which I replied, "Everyone has written horrible songs, including Bob Dylan and George Gershwin. Do these fans think it is some sort of betrayal, that they wouldn't even cop to it among friends?" (I am also completely aware that the aforementioned "Loveliest Thing" might be a favorite to some McCartney fans, while "Band On The Run" might be terrible to others. But, let's keep this discussion reasonable.)
I was thrown out of a Todd Rundgren group, which is pretty embarrassing. (I know to some of you, just being in a Todd Rundgren group is embarrassing, but try to focus.) It happened when there was a unanimous outpouring of praise for Todd's 2013 release, "State," a record I did not like at all. After reading what seemed like endless comments about how brilliant this record was, I couldn't hold my tongue or fingers any longer. I simply asked, "Is there no one who recognizes good from bad? It seems impossible that one artist could release nothing but masterpieces since 1968. Doesn't anyone agree?" For those who have not heard "State," it is to my ears, a poor sounding, badly produced collection of EDM (electronic dance music) songs, that try desperately to stay current and in good stead with a new Rundgren audience, but completely abandons what kept the loyal Rundgren fans loyal in the first place...or so I thought. It's one thing to push boundaries and to follow your inspiration. I wouldn't deny any artist his right to create. But I don't think "State" works at all and I found it somewhat unrealistic that every Rundgren fan over 50 and pushing 60, could disagree with me so overwhelmingly. "We don't need this negativity here." And...out the door I went.
What is this phenomenon? Should there be a third category? We have apologists and realists. How about "disciples?" I see this happening with Rolling Stones fans, as well. The same people who can listen to "Let It Bleed" and "Get Yer Ya Ya's Out," have no issues at all with "Still Life" or "Voodoo Lounge," or worse, something as unlistenable as the most recent live dreck, "Havana Moon."
Admitting that the Rolling Stones sound pretty terrible in 2016 is not treason. You are not asking for a divorce because your significant other now needs a walker. From a strictly musical pojnt of view, shouldn't we be able to separate the wheat from the chaff without a feeling of betrayal?
I want to know your most despised songs and records from your very favorite artists. Tell me all about the worst Ray Davies tunes and David Bowie tunes. Dylan, McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Van Morrison, for godsake NEIL YOUNG, The Who...let's hear it. This is a safe place. I am sure Mick and Keith won't stop sending you dinner invites if you admit "You Got Me Rocking" is horrible. And please, if you are going to troll anonymously, and simply offer comments like "Every McCartney solo record since Ram," don't bother.