Deep Cuts

Deep Cuts: Artists I Was Completely Wrong About

Live Like A SuicideGuns N’ Roses wasn’t the first band that I got completely wrong; in fact, I have quite a history of missing the bus early on.

Here are a few of the many artists I initially hated but for whom I developed a genuine fondness:

The Beastie Boys: I liked Polly Wog Stew all right, but when License to Ill came out I loathed the Beasties. There was nothing about that album that did it for me.

And then Paul’s Boutique dropped and I had to admit that they were simply awesome. The Beasties remain in my power rotation.

Iron Maiden: My beef with Maiden was based on two very superficial things: Their mascot, Eddie, and the guys in my school who liked Maiden. They didn’t come anymore redneck in Boiling Springs, South Carolina than Iron Maiden fans.

Eventually I got out of my own way and listened to the band, and they were great. Go figure.

Johnny Cash: Johnny Cash was an old guy, and he was country, and he had a TV show. What the hell did I care about Johnny Cash? I had KISS records to listen to.

Yeah, I was an idiot.

Oasis: When “Live Forever” dropped all I heard was another cruddy pop single. It took a while, but I finally got it.

Bruce Springsteen: I was 8 or so when Born to Run came out, but I remember the hype about Bruce being the next big thing. It just sounded like more radio music to me — pleasant enough, but disposable.

I still think that’s true of Bruce’s most popular songs: “Hungry Heart,” “Born in the USA,” “Glory Days,” etc. But man, when I heard Nebraska for the first time I was sold.

Al Green: I had so many biases against the Rev, and “The Rev” was the first of them. How is a Guy In Black Tee Shirt Who Jams supposed to like a reverend? Come on!

Now Al is in my power rotation. I can’t get enough.

The White Stripes:  Jack and Meg hit my “if the hipsters like it then it must suck” button. I’m a horrible joiner, and when everybody jumped on the White Stripes bandwagon I tossed up a roadblock and refused to listen to them.

Honestly, I’m still kind of that way about Jack White, but there’s no denying the music:

Flight of the Conchords: I caught my first episode of Flight of the Conchords while sitting in a hotel in San Francisco. I don’t remember laughing once, but I came back for another episode anyway. Thank goodness. Not only was the show brilliant, but these guys make great songs.

Sammy Davis, Jr.: I grew up in the seventies and eighties, when Sammy was all gold chains, talk shows, and “let me tell you something about this cat, and I mean this, man.” He was a caricature, always laughing too hard at Frank’s jokes, jangling his jewelry, and kissing Archie Bunker.

Somewhere along the line, though, I dropped my guard and the brilliance of the Sam Man got through to me. The cat was enormously talented, and I mean that, man.

Lenny Kravitz: When Lenny’s first album dropped he was “Mr. Lisa Bonet,” and his sound was faux hippy. I turned my nose up at Let Love Rule as a bad Beatles knockoff, and then I doubled down on that opinion when Kravitz claimed not to be a Beatles fan.

And then I saw Lenny open for Bowie and he was great, so I actually listened to the album rather than making snotty comments. It rocked, I loved it, and I had to admit that I was an asshole.

The last Lenny Kravitz album I really loved was Are You Gonna Go My Way, but honestly if the only thing the guy ever made was the brilliant Mama Said he’d still be aces.

There’s a handful of mea culpas for you. What artists were you completely wrong about? I’m listening.

6 replies »

  1. Great write-up! It’s interesting how sometimes it takes us time and a couple of takes to get into some bands. I guess my biggest fail was missing out on Arctic Monkeys when I first heard them. I dismissed them with this hipster cliche plastered all around them, but a couple of years later realised the mistake I’d made and simply dived into their music headlong. No regrets! 🙂


  2. I was wrong, like you, about The White Stripes. Part of my wrongness had to do with getting awakened to “Icky Thump” for a week straight at 4:45am.

    One of my biggest wrongs was probably Pearl Jam. I did not like them when they came out. I though they were a one trick pony and simply riding the wave of what was popular at the time. However, as they released more and more music, I realized that they went deeper. I actually appreciate their early stuff too, now.


  3. From David Rakoff, on being wrong about trends, which is just my long way to say “you’re in great company.”

    David Rakoff: “Primarily, the office was an advertising agency. But what they were setting up was this thing for expatriates who were living in Tokyo at the time, or perhaps all of Japan. And it was like a network on a computer. And they would set up a newsletter on the network, and people could, quote, log on to the computer and talk to one another or do research.

    I just looked around the room and I saw these computers, and could only think, what kind of loser would log onto a computer, talk to someone– then in fact, that night in my diary, I had written something like, this is like those comic book enthusiasts who actually read the little instructions at the bottom of the panel that said, “For more on the Green Goblin, check out Spidey #137.”

    And almost the only moment of decisiveness in my entire adult life– I’ve certainly never equaled this– I went in the next morning and I quit. And all I could think was, sayonara, suckers. Good luck with your network. And we know exactly what the network was. It was the internet.

    I have a negative capacity to identify trends. Like when, in college, I went to see Madonna at Danceteria, which was a club downtown– like 1982 or whatever. And I thought, boy, is she lousy.”

    Ira Glass: Are there other examples besides Madonna and the internet?

    David Rakoff: Other than Madonna and the internet? You need another example? When I was in an editorial assistant working in publishing, I was handed a manuscript to read. And I think wrote something like sub-literate, borderline misogyny, an easy pass. And somebody thought, I’m just going to take a look at this anyway. It was Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.”


  4. The Deftones are a band that I was definitely wrong about. When I first heard “Bored” on the radio, I dismissed them as being just another “nu-metal” act like Korn, White Zombie, and all the other bands playing downtuned, repetitive riffs at the time. Nu-metal did absolutely nothing for me, and neither did the Deftones (and it did not help that our local rock radio station was playing them a few dozen times a day….) Then a few years ago when their “Diamond Eyes” album came out, I was sharing a work cubicle at the time with a guy who was a huge Deftones fan, and he insisted on playing that album over and over and over…and instead of annoying the hell out of me, it started to grow on me. There was something about the contrast between the brutally heavy, downtuned riffs and Chino Moreno’s silky-smooth, melodic vocals that really got under my skin. And the band uses whisper-to-a-scream dynamics in a way that is downright, well, sexy.

    I still can’t say that I am totally in love with everything they have done, but they have managed to stick around and improve with age in a way their contemporaries have not, and they have persevered through tragedy (their original bass player, Chi Cheng, was left severely brain-damaged in a car accident a few years ago, and passed away last year.) That makes them worthy of respect in my book…and then they have songs like this one, from their last album “Koi No Yokan” that basically turn my insides out….


  5. Not really in the same vein, but amusing nonetheless: in the early 80s, I had a friend who was a little younger than me, but he had varied musical tastes. He played Motorhead’s Ace of Spades for me; it was ok. Fast forward to the first time I heard Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” on the radio. “Wow, these guys have really changed their sound,” I thought. “I need to check them out!” And I’ve been a huge T-Heads fan ever since.


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