Overrated musicians with an undeserved mythical status in the drug world

By podge · Jan 8, 2010 · ·
  1. podge
    Im shit sick of some of the least impressive (apparent) musicians getting a ridiculous mythic status among drug users for being nothing more than mediocre. It sends out such a bad message, it seems to make people believe that hard work,practice and dedication isnt all that important once you take enough drugs to look cool or impress a certain group of people.

    Im about to offend many people here but as a musician i feel it my duty to instill a bit of common sense here, so here we go, the top 3 most overrated musicians (alive and dead) in the drug scene :

    Kurt Cobain - an ok song writer with an ok voice, and barely more than a beginner guitar player. Yet he is often cited as one of the best guitar players in history, but only by people who dont have a clue about guitar. And somehow he gets more recognition than a real grunge/rock vocalist from the same time - Layne Staley.

    Jim Morrison - an ok song writer, and an ok singer. Nothing special here. Plus he apparently wasnt much of a psychedelic user at all, instead he just kept up the image to appease a certain crowd.

    Pete Doherty - CANNOT SING. I havent listened to enough of his songs (because i was so offended by the sound) so i cant comment on his song writing abilities. And he can just about string some basic chords together on the guitar. Yet regarded a some sort of "deep misunderstood poet". He is just a drug abuser who enjoys a singalong, and for some reason people worship him.


    To all the people who are fans of the above artists , i fully understand that everyone is into different music. And im not bitching about the above artists as such, at the end of the day they were only doing their own thing and i fully respect that. I even enjoy a track or two from a couple of the above artists. What i am complaining about is that these people are regarded by many to be of almost godlike status, and so many great musicians (drugs users or not) dont get any recognition. It an injustice which pisses me off big time.

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  1. tripolar
    Interesting subject there podge. I have to agree on Cobain and especially Morrison. I do however like Doherty's work on The Libertines first album "up the bracket". But every time I listen to it, I can't stop thinking of early Beatles, particularly Rubber Soul. Yes, admittedly they've done a better job than Noel Gallagher, but still... PD has become a caricature of himself, and I can't see how that contributes to his "mythical status".

    Here's a short list of some of my favourite musicians who have been heavily involved with drugs, but with relatively less of a hoo-ha than your lot: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Nick Drake, Jaco Pastorius

  2. guldenat
    I've never met someone over 15 years old who thought Kurt Cobain had any technical prowess with the guitar. And from what I can tell his lyrics made no sense. So I totally agree with you there.

    With Jim Morrison... his lyrics are sometimes silly and poorly written, and I think the rest of the band is really to thank for what I consider a lot of good music the doors released. I'm not trying to shit on Jim, really... I like him well enough; but I think he gets a bit more credit than he deserves because he was a very charismatic frontman.
  3. tripolar
    If Oliver Stone did not make the movie Morrison would be lost among other musicians (good musicians, but not great ones). But come on, when you think of the sixties and who defined the music scene, how often do you think of the Doors? I certainly don't ...

  4. podge
    Glad i havent offended anyone seriously yet. : )

    Fully agree with you on the list of musicians who dont get enough credit tripolar, complete legends (mainly) only known by people who do some real delving into the music world. Man, Jaco getting beaten to death by a bouncer, some horrible way to go.

    Ya iv similar thoughts to you guldenat - the other doors members were reasonably decent musicians , its just unfortunate these guys mainly remain in obscurity in comparison to Morrisons fame.
  5. rawbeer
    I know this'll really hurt some feelings but I basically feel this way about the Beatles. They have a lot of amazing songs but for every era of their music, for every style, there's really another band who did it just as well or better, for me. They are a brand, and whatever message their music may have had has been shit on by marketers, and the two surviving and completely talentless and totally shameless members, Paul and Ringo (I think Ringo is currently appearing at the opening of a new Long John Silver's near my house, in exchange for a box of free hush-puppies).
    Again, I'm not saying they suck, just that people need to stop lining up for miles to blow computer-generated images of them playing songs we've all heard a few too many times.
    And Kurt Cobain is basically the Beatles equivalent of the modern era. Just as I prefer Soundgarden of Alice to him, I prefer the Who and Pink Floyd to the Beatles.
  6. podge
    To be honest i have never really gotten into the beatles either, but i do respect them for what they have done for music, many of my idols cite the beatles as a big influence. As far as technical musical ability goes, the beatles dont have much going for them, but they at least had some creative musical idea's.
  7. tripolar
    True, they did. You have to admire the songwriting, but most of the innovation was down to George Martin, in my opinion ...
  8. rawbeer
    You can almost argue that technical musical ability and great song-writing don't go together. Think Bob Dylan vs. Eddie Van Halen.
    I can't think of a single person who would qualify as a great songwriter who was also a virtuoso, from the modern era (obviously Mozart would qualify). And the average person is usually pretty unimpressed by virtuosity and musical complexity (and often unable to recognize either).
    Nowadays most musicians are judged by their looks, in pop culture. Hence the total shit that is pop music today. Looks pretty, sounds awful. I miss ugly, talented musicians.
  9. tripolar
    rawbeer, agreed. Not many music fans care about virtuosity. But then again, most music is produced (and often played) using virtual instruments (myself being a guilty party).

    On the other hand, I don't think we have to limit the examples with Mozart, or Chopin, or Liszt.

    How about Led Zep? Hendrix (ok, perhaps not in Led Zep songwriting class)?
    Or A LOT of jazz musicians, say Bill Evans or Dave Brubeck (both brilliant pianists and composers) or Dizzy Gillespie.

    Also, what would your opinion be on needing to be a "virtuoso" in creating computer music. I think its valid statement to make that groups like propeller-heads or avalanches could qualify easily, or someone like Amon Tobin.

  10. thebige
    Image is everything in music
    not just the images a musician can invoke in a listeners mind........
    but the expertise the music industry employs to market their clinent..through album/CD art to photos and scripted interviews and public apearences.....that would fall under promotion and a marketing plan or the music industries business in general
    Unless a artist preforms for free,pays to put on his/hers performance at no charge to audience and freely gives away recordings of his/her material..........Hence the term "sell-out'.......
    The flip side of that coin might be a artist that says "Sell-out? Ya I sellout every seat in the house ....everynight."
  11. podge
    As far as virtuosity and songwriting go, its not that they arent compatible , i think its just that most people who aspire for virtuosity develop different creative goals, usually these goals can only be achieved within an instrumental context, so lyrics arent often an issue.

    Well Jimi was a good songwriter and at the time an amazing guitar player. But by todays technical guitar standards Jimi isnt a guitar virtuoso, a legend for sure, but standards have really increased. Led zeppelin - well zeppelin plagerised a lot of there music so we'll avoid discussing them.

    As far as jazz goes, for the most part its musicians music. Meaning to appreciate it fully one needs to understand music theory to fully appreciate it. And jazz is all about improvisation , many people dont even know this, and many just dont fully appreciate how hard it is to be a great improviser.

    Im not sure if the term virtuoso can really be applied to creating "computer music", creating music , be it on a computer or by musical notation is composition. And composing is about musicality - not always synonymous with virtuosity. There are many people with virtuosic technique but very little melodic or musical sense. So i wouldnt use the term virtuoso to rate a composer even if they write music which can only be played by a virtuoso. This doesnt take anything away from great composers - this just means there are other terms more suitable than virtuoso.

    To thebige : I dont think image has anything to do with music. But... it does have everything to do with the current music industry. Big difference. Hopefully someday musicality will be the cornerstone of the music industry, but at the moment its money.
  12. Nature Boy
    Great blog and a very necessary one at that. I agree with almost everything that's been said here. Kurt Cobain was no more than an over-glorified, bog standard guitar player with only a reasonably interesting level of singing/songwriting. His highly publicised death basically created a myth of personality around him.

    Jim Morrison wasn't particularly amazing either. Wishy washy lyrics from a guy that dubbed himself as a poet ahead of a songwriter. Robert Hunter he was not.

    As for Pete Doherty, I can't really judge. I've never listened to any of his stuff apart from the occasional pile of audio vomit he spouts out on TV chat shows. I'd be a little bit upset if anyone actually remembered his name in twenty years time.

    Just a couple of other things to mention. The Beatles. Important but unworthy of their iconic status IMO. I guess they can't really be blamed for that. Superstardom just hit them because they were in the right place at the right time. A lot like Elvis. Some good songs, many mediocre ones. Probably just not my cup of tea.

    Bob Dylan. Never digged the guy. Don't rate him as a singer and his music puts me to sleep. His lyrics seem to be well thought-out however. People seem to act surprised when I say that I don't like Dylan, seeing as I love the Grateful Dead and Neil Young. Can't really explain it.

    Oasis. Uh, that's an awkward one. Liked them when I was younger and when my musical taste was a lot more limited. Listening to them now is just a boringly painful experience, for the most part. Not to shit all over them because they have improved musically over the years (their less popular current incarnation can actually play a bit) but that early stuff has gotten extremely stale.

    I think I'd like to mention Metallica here. Sure they were highly influential but they're over-hyped beyond all rationality. They're almost synonymous with the entire metal genre which is something of a great shame because it doesn't reflect well on many excellent metal bands. I kind of feel sick when I hear someone say "Metallica is the basis for all metal". Fuck off. Motorhead and Black Sabbath were far more important IMO.

    Anyway, end vociferation.
  13. thebige
    Maybe swims use of image was outta place.......
    But Sid Vicious added nothing to the Sex Pistols other than image.
    A list of musicians that have "made-it" that are not true masters of their instruments would be enormous and a good number of them have even gone on record saying that they are not even good musicians.(James Hetfield of Metallica said in one interview that he couldn't even show you what notes are where on the neck of his guitar).....
    Swim has often thought that "the drug culture" is also used as a viable marketing demographic used by the music industry to promote the artist regardless of the artists use or even abstinence from any substances.
    Unfortunetly......many true virtuosos (of any instrument) are often never herd....except for the sounds that escape from their practice rooms.Music and music ability is so subjective.......that in swims own personal opinion,the ability of musician to evoke a positive response in even just one listener would classify that musician by default a virtuoso.
  14. UseIt~or~loseIt
    the Dead. and i love(ED) ther music for so many years, there mainfestions after jerry died(phil lesh is best imo), and even the dead renuions, but to me they are jsut so over rated as a being a sort of "rite of passage" for phsycedelic youth.

    the problem i have is that its a world unto it self and moving up in the ranks of the dead world detaches us from the ,ahh living one.

    and how many off us got off tour with insane addictions. ("this H is great with A, but i wish i had a little E and some yay, and afterwords a little k)-eventully too much of everything isnt even enough..

    i feel theyre are muscians who are really trying to expand my heart and my mind through their music,(Lotus, and Umphrees MCgee do it for me these days, sci yesterdays) this is how the dead started out, dedicated to expanding that undefinable "IT"
    swim still trips on those old recordings, mainly 65-69, still blow his mind
  15. UseIt~or~loseIt
    I almost feel bad for kurt cobain, i think he new he wasnt that good, and now hes sort of in an eternal lie
  16. bcubed
    Keith Richards was a great songwriter (witness all the "Jagger/Richards" compositions out there) who was--at worst--a B+ rhythm guistarist. Think of all the instantly-recognizable riffs out there credited to him (Satisfaction, Start Me Up, Brown Sugar, etc, etc)

    You could say similar things about Pete Townsend, though he was even more ambitious as a songwriter. (Frankly, I think The Who was the best of the 60's Brit rock scene...not a weak player in the group, ambitious, and generally successful with their ambitions.)

    I also agree that the Beatles were overrated, when one considers their music outside of its historical context.

    Cobain was one of those guys who gained credibility and respect by dying. Prior to his death, he was kinda seen as "over-sensitive, can't handle success, pisses off his fans with a crap CD (in Utero)." Afterwards, he was a "visionary genious who refused to compromise."
  17. guldenat
    @ Nature Boy: It is silly to say Metallica is the basis for all metal; I also agree with your two examples. But in my opinion, the Metallica of the 80's helped to redefine what a rhythm guitar should sound like. They had that special 'crunch' that not even Black Sabbath enjoyed at the time.
  18. podge
    Ya i fully agree with Metallica ( i know were straying away from the drug world here - but thats ok ), most people like a few metallica songs , or liked (past tense) but this reputation as being an amazing band is ridiculous. Lars is a lousy drummer, kirk is a boring,limited and predictable guitarist. Hetfield is relatively cool front man, fair enough. The best musician in the band is the new bass player Tony trujilo. As far as the "crunch" sound goes, metallica were lucky enough to be around in a time where gear and effects were changing and evoling, i wouldnt credit them with the whole movement. I appreciate what they did for the metal scene - but this reputation as the greatest metal band of all time is rubbish.

    Swim has never been a fan of the Stones or the Who either, they each have some fine songs and all but not swims thing for the most part. I wouldnt rate either guitarists very highly anymore - at the time ya they were relatively progressive but still not very advanced stuff. Dont get me wrong - you dont have to be a great player to write good music but as far as musicianship goes neither are overly impressive. From what iv heard heard in the guitar world though, townsend is rated as far more influential rhythm player than richards.

    To the bige - ya the Sex pistols were an image band, they didnt really bring any musicality to the table. About music and music ability being subjective..... yes the impression music has on people is subjective, but technichal musical ability is very objective. The term virtuosity implies a certain standard of technical proficiency , but technical proficiency isnt always required to write powerful or good music.

    At this point i thinks it only fair to call a spade a spade - U2 are insanely overrated. They may be my fellow country men, they may have some songs i like - but they are still given so much undeserved credit. This title of "greatest rock band in the world" ? I think the title "highest selling pop rock act" is far more reasonable.

    Thanks for commenting all, its good to talk/bitch about music. : ) Keep the comments coming.
  19. Potter
    TOOL!!! Most of their stuff sounds exactly the same, lyrics are unintelligible, and their fans think they are the most amazing band ever! They always point out they play in 6/8ths time and that's really hard and so that makes them awesome.

    And since we are on the topic of rock, why not take a glance over at this thread a history of rock, drugs, and the occult.
  20. bcubed
    Podge, I have to disagree re: Metallica. They developed a rhythmic approach that was uniquely theirs: 4/4, staccato to the point of sounding almost martial. Part of being a "good" musician (for a band vs. a sessionist) is developing a unique style that's instantly recognizable vs. "chops." You could argue that Kingdom Come's drummer (who?) had more chops than Lars...KC's still a lame-o Zep rip off vs. a cool band.

    Somebody mentioned the Dead? Great writers--but man oh man I can't stand to hear them live: 100s of songs in their repetiore and they play them ALL identical! (Much prefer to hear someone who *knows what they're doing* covering "Brokedown Palace," for instance.)

    Really liked U2 before Bono became this ego-obsessed cariacture of himself...right around "Actung Baby," IIRC.
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