[Today: Talking overrated…]
I take a fair amount of heat in the comments section of this blog – most of it deserved, some of it semi-coherent, drive-by noise that goes on all over the internet. Certain posts have drawn sustained ire over the three-year run of this blog, most particularly those that aren’t kind (although none more than my selections for the greatest Hip-Hop albums – that post practically has gunshots ringing out in the comments section). I’ve come to expect and enjoy the inevitable friction that some of my opinions stir up, and I appreciate passionate fans speaking out, even when their passion is pointed angrily at me.
One of my early posts on this blog was a list of the most overlooked albums of all-time. As an addendum to that post, I included a list of what I considered to be the most overrated albums of all-time (now I would totally make that into its own post, but whatever…). The overrated list included Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, any Jimmy Buffett (shudder), Dave Matthews (double shudder), The Eagles’ awful Hotel California and The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, which unbelievably is the best selling double-album of all-time.
But the two albums on that list that have earned me the harshest fire over the years are The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s… and Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow. The comments from incredulous Beatles fans are there for your enjoyment. I know it’s hard for some people to believe that I can simultaneously like this album and think it’s overrated, but that is the case. Sgt. Pepper’s was important because it elevated the LP to the place of art. The iconic cover image, the lyrics printed inside (the first album to do so), the “concept” behind it – all of this made people take music more seriously, which made musicians take themselves more seriously, which was both a good and bad thing. It’s a great album, but Sgt. Pepper’s is not the greatest album of the 20th century, which means it’s overrated by the army of critics who call it that.
Surrealistic Pillow‘s inclusion on that list has drawn little in the way of reader comments. Instead, it was a red-faced friend of my hippie uncle who lowered the boom on me for daring to besmirch the name of the Airplane. His voice rising an octave or two, he scolded me that they were “a great band that could tear it up on stage.” From there we quickly progressed to I’m-shaking-my-head-sadly-because-you’re-a-worthless-piece-of-crap-who-will-never-get-it. In the years since that conversation, I’ve spent more time on Jeff Air, and I’ve come to think of them as a band whose whole was actually less than its parts. Their stage harmonies were horrible, and they had no business out-selling SF contemporaries like Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service. But that said, Jefferson Airplane had a few great tunes and some charismatic personalities on board (I’m not crazy about Grace Slick’s voice, but she carried herself like a superstar), and they wouldn’t be on that overrated list if I were compiling it today. Sgt Pepper’s however, still isn’t the greatest album of the 20th century, so it stays put…