One of the advantages of being 60, as opposed to 40 or even 50, is that I don’t have the 80’s or 90’s as my golden age of music. Let’s face it, being old is at best ok, the time when the most important things happen in our lives are between 15 and 25. And that includes the best music of our lives.
The other day I accidently caught a celebration of Blur’s ‘Parklife’ on 6 music. It’s regarded as a bit of a classic apparently, but it passed me by, there were other things happening in my life which were more important to me than the 3rd album by a British indie sounding band.
More worryingly/significantly is the fact that it’s 30 (30!) years since the release of the first Stone Roses album. Tributes have been prepared and apparently the Stone Roses are now one of the greatest bands ever.
I must admit that at the time I was still engaged in contemporary music and their single ‘Fools Gold’ did rather capture my imagination largely down to the drumming of Reni and the bass playing of Mani (names made for children’s TV). What little I picked up beyond that seemed to be rather disappointing jingle jangle rock music with bad singing. There wasn’t much about the Roses to lift them above the general level of indie bands with jangly guitars and half arsed vocals and I didn’t pay a huge attention to their music.
Less than a decade on the Stone Roses were phenomenally influential having influence Oasis who were on their way to becoming the great British hope for music and arguably the last real British rock stars. Oasis had a a similar derivative guitar style and a beefed-up replica of Ian Brown’s vocals with attitude. The Roses themselves had gone down the pan swiftly having swapped the Byrds for Zeppelin and shed members along the way.
For me, the Stone Roses are the epitome of overrated, a band I consider to be highly regarded by history despite having delivered very little of actual substance. It’s an age thing of course if I was a decade or so younger they would have coincided with my formative years and I would have looked at them as uncritically as I regard the Clash or Slade or Yes or Fairport Convention (early years only)
And so, I have been considering what it means to be overrated or underrated. When I was writing about Rory Gallager a few weeks back I watched quite a few YouTube videos on the Irish guitarist. What came up time and time again in the comments section was the sense that Gallager was ‘underated’. He’s one hell of a performer and guitarist but there’s the sense that he has never been full appreciated probably just because he isn’t a household name like Hendrix or Beck.
At the core of the whole underrated/overrated debate is the sense that there is a gulf between what the artist or band actually were and how, usually in retrospect, they have entered into our collective consciousness. It’s a tricky one, take Queen for example. For years in the 70’s they just seemed a bit irritating with their bloody ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ but they soldered on adding and adding material with little sense of direction until they collected a huge shiny pile of nothing. 30 years later the band are at an all-time high, they are officially national treasures and mocking them is now a criminal offence. But.. hand on heart I couldn’t make a case that Queen were overrated. Even though I don’t like them much I can recognise that they produced a whole load of entertaining songs, in retrospect they broke the mould as to what a rock band should be and again in retrospect Freddie Mercury deserves his accolades as an entertainer in the face of sexual and racial prejudice. Another band who escaped my overrated accusations was The Moody Blues, a band who apparently are in the totally pointless rock and roll hall of fame having spent their entire career producing nothing of value. That started me thinking about who actually ever rated the Moody Blues in the first place?. I have never met anyone who like the band, it’s not like the music critics are preparing 6 music documentaries telling us what a great band the Moody’s were, a popular band but barely rated, so free from charges of being overrated.
For the next couple of weeks, I will looking at 10 bands who, in my opinion, fit the overrated underrated category. In order to be as unbiased as possible I will concentrate on the 70’s rather than using this as an opportunity to go off on one of those ‘music isn’t what it used to be’ rants.
If you have a favourite overrated underrated band please get involved in some way, all contributions gratefully received.