This an interesting one, considering I really don’t like jam-bands. But in high school, for whatever reason, I thought that Blues Traveler was one of the greatest bands around. Like most people, I bought Four based on the singles “Hook” and “Run Around”. I quickly fell in love with that album, and bought their live album Live Fall From the Fall not too long after.
Live From the Fall consisted of several songs that stretched past the 10 minute mark. The band’s sweeping interplay blew my teenage mind. I loved the way guitarist Chan Kinchla’s bluesy guitar riffs interlocked with John Popper’s wild and manic harmonica playing. They could rock the house with a song like “NY Prophesie” or “Crash Burn” and bring it down with the slow-burn of the epic “Mountain Cry”.
My obsessions with Blues Traveler dissipated as quickly as it came. I have no memory of when I stopped liking them, but I quickly became bored with the same things that made me like the band in the first place. The 10-minute suites seemed tedious, tired and boring.
But if “Hook” comes on randomly at a bar I’ll still sing along to all the words in the bridge without missing a beat.
Those who know me, know that I despise Led Zeppelin. But during my freshmen year of high school, like many teenagers I fell for their bluesy spell. They were unlike any other band I had heard. Jimmy Page’s crunching riffs combined with John Bonham’s pounding groove seemed like a gift from the musical heavens. Robert Plant oozed sex with his soaring vocals. What wasn’t to like for a teenager?
I think it was the live versions of “Dazed and Confused” that turned me off to Led Zeppelin. Some people may have thought that when Jimmy Page broke out the violin bow, it was the epitome of sort of mystical musical power. Not me. I found the whole move to be pretentious and egotistical. And that shit would last for a half hour! Also, around the same time I discovered that much of the music on their first and second album was ripped off from the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon.
I don’t regret listening to Led Zeppelin, because they taught me what type of music I don’t want to listen to.
System of a Down
Jesus, that was a weird period. I was really into System of a Down during my college years. Their unique brand of metal combined with Middle-Eastern flourishes really grabbed my attention. They could be sophomoric and intelligent at the same time (as evident throughout much of Toxicity) which reflected much of the way I viewed life during college.
I liked them so much, that I even went to Ozzfest in 2002 just so I could see them live. And like jam-bands, I don’t particularly like metal. They were pretty decent live, though I kept trying to convince myself even back then, that they were better than they actually were. I kept that charade up for a few years until I came to the realization that their only truly good song was “Chop Suey!”
I have mixed feelings about putting The Clash on this list, since they are a legitimately great band and I don’t despise them the way I do Led Zeppelin. For years, I felt that they truly justified their calling card of “the only band that matters”. Certainly, their self-titled album and London Calling are land-marks of punk. And like The Beatles and The Stones they could take almost any style and make it their own.
But over the past few years, every time I listen to The Clash I just get an overwhelming feeling of “meh”. They just don’t grab me. It all sort of un-raveled when I read Chris Saleswic’s The Ballad of Joe Strummer. The book didn’t hold back and it un-did the myth of “Saint Joe”. I had no idea that Strummer was actually the son of a diplomat and born into a pretty privileged life. Granted, revelations like these aren’t always deal breakers (see John Lennon), but with Strummer it seemed like not only a let down but a punch in the gut.
Throwing Copper was the soundtrack of middle school years. I loved everything about it. Those songs really spoke to me. “Shit Towne” was about my hometown! “Waitress” was social commentary at its best (complete with curse words!). And I had no fucking idea (and still don’t) what “Pillar of Davidson” was about it, but it sounded philosophical and heavy. They were like U2, but louder.
And of course, like almost everyone my love of Live ended when they released their follow-up Secret Samadhi. Everyone knew that Ed Kowalczyk could be pretentious, but that album took it to a whole other level and the songs weren’t catchy or memorable. There’s some justification that it really could be the worst follow-up album to a successful one ever recorded.
When they released The Distance to Here in 1999, it seemed like a return to form, but of course it wasn’t. But hey at least that album gave us the phrase “rose garden of trust”.