50 Worst Decisions in Music History -or- How Can Rolling Stone Be Wrong All the Time?
Last week, Rolling Stone rolled out with the 50 Worst Decisions in Music History. The article was written by another nondescript guy in their stable of woke mother-f@#*ers. Using the author's caveat of *drugs not included, ("to be clear, we limited this largely to professional decisions that impacted careers.") he came up with a bewilderingly random list that, if it was written 10 years ago, would have come from a very, very, different perspective.
So now I have to correct Rolling Stone using my jaded prism.
(What they got right is in RED. The red number is the Rolling Stone ranking.)
50. The Evolution of Payola
In possibly one of Rock and Roll's first big scandals, rabble rouser Alan Freed, who championed black artists, had his career destroyed over ties to pay to play schemes. Freed died shortly thereafter as a pauper. Squeaky clean Dick Clark, who shockingly said he learned to "cover your ass at all times" in relation to payola, lived a full life and was a beloved slice of Americana. Payola didn't stop in the 50's, it evolved with the times and took on a more corporate and complex form. Instead of money being funneled to DJ's, music became business transactions. Today's teens want to know what a DJ is and they realize most of their music is chosen by an algorithm.
49. Ol' Dirty Bastard took a limo to pick up his food stamps.
RIP Big Baby Jesus.
48, Justin Timberlake tried to reboot MySpace.
Yeah, that didn't work at all.
47. Amy Grant de-emphasized Christianity
Throngs of devoted Christian teens tossed their Amy Grant gear in the garbage, but Grant's talents crossed genres from pop, to country, to bluegrass, to gospel.
46. Brian "Head" Welch re-emphasized Christianity
When Welch became a born-again Christian, he left the band Korn. When he ran out of money, he went back to Korn and tried to explain how both his job and his lifestyle were compatible. Uhh--
45. Scorpions Cover Art
The German Rock band has had their albums on numerous "worst cover art" lists, including Lovedrive and Animal Magnetism, but it was 1976's horrific cover of their album Virgin Killer that we can't even CONSIDER showing here.
44. (2) Jerry Lee Lewis married his underaged cousin
Even for being in the South, in 1958, Jerry Lee Lewis marrying a 13 year old relative was really bad. It nearly killed his career (and it should have.)
43. (9) U2 released their new album straight to iTunes.
That album was horrible. I know I listened to it for free and immediately tried to delete it. I dare not even mention its name.
42. The Who Tour without Entwistle.
On the eve of their 2002 tour, the Who's bassist John Entwistle died suddenly and Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend decided to keep touring only a few days after his death, cancelling 2 tour dates and looking like two guys who didn't care. (Hint: See #18, they didn't.)
41. Brandy played a concert to 40 people....
...in a venue that held 90,000.
40. Casey Kasem quit American Top 40 TWICE.
At one time, American Top 40 was the biggest radio show in the United States. Voice-over legend Casey Kasem left the show in 1988 at the peak of its popularity over a monetary dispute. After returning in 1995, he "retired" from AT40 in 2003 to focus on his other radio endeavors. Other than being the voice Shaggy, can you name any of his other work?
39. Tracii Guns left Guns N' Roses
Let that sink in for a moment. Tracii Guns, of the crappy L.A. Guns, merged his band with Hollywood Rose and formed Guns N' Roses. After a few months, Guns realized he didn't like Axl Rose (who does?) and reformed L.A. Guns. Guns was replaced by Slash and the rest, as they say, is Rock and Roll history.
38. Anton Newcombe hated the documentary that made him famous
Dig! was universally accepted as one of the best music documentaries ever made. I would argue that the Dig! Documentary gave Newcombe, the Svengali of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the resources and the cache to keep making music. Newcombe would argue "I am not a movie."
37. Al Yankovic vs Music Business Model
"Capitol Records paid me a total of $500 for My Bologna, and then charged me $1,000 to re-record it for my album," Yankovic via the Tampa Bay Times. As much as my 10 year old self loved My Bologna, even the affable Al had to question the business model of his chosen career.
36. Chris Carrabba chose Music as a career.
We do not like Dashboard Confessional here at Beacon of Speech.
35. (13) Garth Brooks became Chris Gaines
Yeah, I think that bad decision was universally derided.
34. Milli Vanilli won a Grammy
I don't blame Rob and Fab, I blame the Grammys.
33. ABBA turned down a BILLION dollars to reunite.
When the band turned down the billion dollars, I kind of respected the two divorced couples. But then they reunited in 2022 for NOT A BILLION dollars. They reunited after 40 years, not for the money, but to release an average album and make some holograms.
32. Woodstock 79
Rolling Stone derided Woodstock 99 because of the riots, but the music of Woodstock 99 was the soundtrack to a generation. The music of Woodstock 79 sucked eggs.
31. Frank Sinatra married Mia Farrow.
Sinatra's last #1 album coincided with his marriage to teenager Mia Farrow and she's been tabloid fodder ever since. Frank Sinatra was surly until death because a cartoonist outed his mob connections.
30. American Idol moved from Fox to ABC
I hated American Idol, but that show changed the music business. Once it moved to ABC, it was just another show.
29. KISS Unmasked
You notice that those ugly dudes put that makeup back on real quick. Now touring in their 70's, with the makeup on.
28. The Avalanches waited 16 years for a follow up album.
After a successful debut album, the Avalanches more or less disappeared. When they explained where they were and then returned with a #1 album, it made even less sense.
27. The Assembly of the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC
I'm not talking about their music specifically, I'm talking about their producer, Lou Pearlman, using the bands as a front for one of the largest, and longest, Ponzi Schemes in American History.
26. FLAG vs Black Flag
Henry Rollins retired from music. Greg Ginn and homeless musicians tour under the Black Flag moniker. Ex-Black Flag members sometimes tour as FLAG. Black Flag was an influential band with all parties contributing to its tainted, messy legacy.
25. Gwen Stefani Sold Out
If you check your calendar, No Doubt has released just one album in the last 20 years. Since then Stefani has left ska behind and embraced both pop and the pop stylings of The Voice. Her latest plastic surgery removed the last traces of her alternative past.
24. Mudhoney Didn't Sell Out
My son keeps telling me that Mudhoney keeps churning out Grunge Gold. Maybe Mudhoney should have sold out, just a little bit.
23. Elvis' Greatest Shit
During Elvis' lifetime, his record company released over a dozen Greatest Hits or Compilation albums. After his death, Elvis' Estate released over a HUNDRED MORE of these already released Compilations. In 1982, a smart aleck gathered Elvis' WORST recordings and packaged them in a sarcastic form. The Elvis' Greatest Shit bootleg is one of the most popular bootlegs in music history.
"Elvis’ Greatest Shit isn’t exactly a pleasant listening experience, but it’s an important line of demarcation in the history of bootlegging because it shows why some unreleased material is unreleased in the first place." - Far Out Magazine
22. (38) Roger Waters dares Pink Floyd to carry on without him
The funny thing is, neither Waters, nor his old band-mates, were all that prolific after the split. With Pink Floyd now semi-retired, Roger Waters now plays all the hits without having to split the tour money. Waters can now pay touring musicians pennies on the dollar compared to Mason and Gilmore. (Which is what I think he wanted all along.)
21. Styx released the Music Time video.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVED the Music Time video (me and, like, 8 other people,) but it was as if Styx was doing an imitation of Oingo Boingo. The Styx of Dennis DeYoung was operatic with ballads galore. The Styx of Tommy Shaw was rock. And don't forget the time Styx was accused of Satanism. Music Time symbolized a band that never seemed to be on the same page.
20. Ma$e "retires"
Diddy and Mase were on top of the world in the late 90's, but in 1999, at age 22, Mase was called by God to retire. After 5 years away from the music business, Mase returned with a series questionable career choices. If you are patient, you can catch him on tour at your local casino with the "all stars of rap." (Not sarcasm.)
19. Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at the Oscars
Why is Will Smith on this list? And for that? When you revisit Smith's filmography, it has mostly sucked, with 2 exceptions, for 20 years. Instead of groveling to the world press after "the Slap," Smith should have said this: "yeah I slapped Chris Rock, and if I'm ever on set with him, I'll slap him again. It's a moot point though, I'm retiring from acting and returning to music." He'd be more "gangsta" than most of the rappers out there today. Smith assaulted a beloved entertainer in front of millions and got away with it without even a verbal warning from law enforcement.
18. The Legacy of Woodstock continues
The original Woodstock was 53 years ago and most of the artists that participated have long since passed. But in 2019, I noticed a few names from the original Woodstock slated to perform at the aborted Woodstock 50. Then I noticed some of the Woodstock musicians are still around:
Canned Heat: No original members. Still touring.
Arlo Guthrie: Still touring.
Santana: Still touring around leader Carlos Santana. Over 50 ex-members of the band exist.
Country Joe: It appears Country Joe is still active, but not touring due to Covid. He just released a new album.
Sha Na Na: Sha Na Na announced they were breaking up....LAST WEEK
The Who: Townshend and Daltrey, still touring.
I think some of the above stories are nice, but at some point the Woodstock Brand needs to be retired. The Woodstock Brand? According to the Woodstock website (which is absurd if you think about it): Woodstock is committed to living by its principles- we believe in universal human rights, ethical business practices, unfettered creative expression, free trade, the loving care of our planet, the power of the individual to make a difference, and the overwhelming impact of communities to act as agents of peaceful change.
Let's be clear, that is what they are marketing to you so you buy their sweatshirts.
17. Warped Tour ended, even though it still made money
According to co-founder Kevin Lyman: "Issues such as fan elitism and the loss of a community caused the festival to reach its breaking point, rather than financial problems."
16. Rolling Stone's Revised Top 500 Album List (2020)
You know why Hunter S. Thompson killed himself? Because he knew that the anti-establishment magazine that he wrote for was becoming the establishment-
Editor's Note: That is speculation.
Rolling Stone's 2020 Album list dumped a ton of rock albums from the magazine's 2012 list in favor of a more contemporary flavor. Which would be fine, if they weren't a ROCK MAGAZINE.
15. When Ray Sawyer died, he wasn't on the Cover of the Rolling Stone
No, the corporate magazine went with Taylor Swift instead.
14. Morrissey Got Fat
It is hard to believe that sensitive man Morrissey alienated all of the other Smiths, 90% of his own fans, and then half of Great Britain with his boorish behavior, all the while churning out Top 5 album after Top 5 album. (In the UK.) If you keep buying his albums, he'll never learn.
13. The Hell Freezes Over Tour
Great for the Eagles, terrible for music fans everywhere. The Eagles' reunion set the bar for the $100 ticket threshold. Every time you spend over a hundred dollars on a concert ticket, silently swear to yourself and Glenn Frey hears your words as he burns in the bowels of Hades.
12. Every decision Michael Jackson made after 1993
Once Oprah interviewed Jackson live at the Neverland Ranch, it was all downhill from there. He would only release 2 more mediocre albums after that and knowledge about his personal life began to leak to the press. People forget that he was the biggest pop star on the planet, dead or alive, until about 5 years ago.
11. (35) Jane's Addiction breaks up in 1991
I once read in Alternative Press that "if Nirvana didn't exist, Jane's Addiction would have been the biggest thing in Alternative Music History." They were right.
10. The 8-Track tape
Today, digital sales still outpace all types of physical music sales. Vinyl is beloved and has made a resurgence. CD's are still half of all physical music sales. Cassettes still make up a niche market. 8-Track Tapes? Still deader than dead. Their short reign as the format of choice only lasted a few years in the mid-70's.
9. Marilyn Manson started dating Evan Rachel Wood
There was a precipitous dropoff in the quality of Manson's work starting with his Heart Shaped Glasses single, an ode to Evan Rachel Wood.
One the other hand, Evan Rachel Wood said that Manson wasn't a cartoonish devil, he was the real devil.
Here: Rolling Stone
Here: USA Today
8. EMI blocked the Grey Album
Danger Mouse released his "art project" and it quickly caught fire underground. A mashup of the rap styling of JayZ and music of the Beatles, all living parties agreed to set aside copyright issues to allow the Grey Album to be released, but EMI said no. Why would EMI say no to free money? Doing a little detective work, that means the Grey Album was either blocked by the Estate of George Harrison or Yoko Ono. Which brings us to our next entry....
7. Yoko Ono has no hobbies
There was a narrative that Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles and her rich friends have labeled that as a hateful perspective. Then I watched the Get Back Sessions and I'm here to say that YOKO ONO BROKE UP THE BEATLES. No job, no where, lets you bring your wife to work and lets her just sit around doing nothing while you ply your trade. What would your boss say if you took your spouse to work and just let them twaddle around on their iPhone while sitting next to you while you worked? Good musicians work hard at their art and the Beatles were arguably the greatest collection of musicians in the same band.
6. Jeff Penalty replaced a Child Actor that replaced Jello Biafra
Lots of rock bands try to carry on without their lead singer, usually to diminishing results. Rolling Stone believed that the worst Rock vocalist substitute was Gary Cherone as the lead singer of Van Halen. That's a good try, but the right answer is Jeff Penalty as a replacement for Jello Biafra in the Dead Kennedys. Jeff Penalty's resume was razor thin for a karoke singer, let alone subbing for one of the most influential figures in punk history.
5. The Conservatorship of Britney Spears
Pop princess Britney Spears scored her first #1 single while she was still a teenager. By her third album, she was starting to get songwriting credits on some of her own songs. When she had her Mental Break in 2008, her Dad took control of both her business and personal life as he brought in a team of songwriters and producers for her next musical projects. Spears Sr. propped up his own daughter by using her as a product for financial gain. No one seemed to ask what was best for Britney until the #FreeBritney Movement.
4. (31) Phil Spector pulled a gun on the Ramones
Phil Spector had a long history of threatening behavior even before he murdered Lana Clarkson. Rolling Stone used the example of Spector and Leonard Cohen, but pulling a gun on 4 punks is more menacing than pulling a gun on an aging crooner.
3. Metallica released the Black Album
At that moment, the greatest Metal Band of all time became an average Rock Band.
2. Kanye West started dating Kim Kardashian
The bad times associated with Kanye all began with that first poorly placed domino.
1. Absolutely everything related to the band Mayhem up to the year 1996
My "favorite" musical tale is about the early years of the band Mayhem.
After shuffling through various Norwegian delinquents, the band settled down with a lineup of Dead on Vocals, Euronymous on Guitar, Necrobutcher on Bass, and Hellhammer on Drums.
Then Dead killed himself, Euronymous made jewelry from pieces of Dead's skull and Necrobutcher left the band in disgust. Then Necrobutcher's replacement, Count Grishnackh, killed Euronymous and was arrested for the murder. And, in addition to the murder, Grishnackh was arrested for various church fires and possession of explosives.
By 1994, there was no more Mayhem, but a cobled together first album called De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Necrobutcher and Hellhammer would return to the Mayhem fold in 1995. Not unlike the music of GG Allin, Mayhem's music wasn't very good, it was all about the aura.
I have never met anyone who actually listens to the music of Mayhem.
Side note: You're sitting in your Mom's basement with your black and white face makeup on cursing my existence? Listen, Mayhem exists today because musicians such as Rune Eriksen and Attila Csihar were able to take the Mayhem Brand and run with it. If Mayhem ended in 1994, their efforts would have been lost to time and they wouldn't be considered one of the best black metal bands of all time.