Apr 282020

Is this topics like shooting fish in a barrel? Yes, unless we restrict ourselves to artists who released no more than TWO (2) releases before some hotshot producer polished them up and helped them become wildly successful. This limit, mind you, will rule out the likes of Soul Asylum, comeback-era Aerosmith, and lord knows how many other fish in a barrel you’re dying to shoot.

A second limitation in this discussion is that some artist’s underground “cool” phase under a different name or in a different band does not count. If the debut by The Cars, for instance, strikes you as overproduced slop relative to earlier music some of the band members put out under a different name, that earlier band you thought was cooler without all the glossy production doesn’t count. The Cars started out with a heavily produced first album…as The Cars. (For the record, if you feel like arguing, I have no problem with the incredibly polished production of that album.)

My first thought on this topic goes to The Bangles, originally The Bangs before another band claimed ownership of that name. Although their music wasn’t that much different on their debut EP, I enjoy it so much more before some producer gussied them up and helped them get wildly popular. Bless that producer, mind you, for helping them enjoy the sweet life of Top 40 success, but I wish they could have received a government grant to continue making music like “The Real World,” their initial single.


  16 Responses to “Bands That Were Much Better Before Some Producer Polished Them Up and Helped Them Become Wildly Popular”

  1. Happiness Stan

    Nirvana spring to mind.

    Teenage Fanclub’s first album was rough as anything, although they probably don’t meet your criteria as wildly popular, even though that merely demonstrates the injustice of the world.

  2. I don’t think Bleach is better than Nevermind. I just don’t see it.

  3. I can think of a couple of great singles that somehow lost something In the Producer transition, although neither of there debut albums were very slickly rendered.

    I love the Richard Hell and the Voidoids Ork EP. Two of the songs appeared on the LP, in a rerecorded version. “Blank Generation” was a hair less immediate. The original was just a little more garage and dirty in a good way. On the EP, “(I Could Live with You in) Another World,” the slightly overwrought vocal was offset by a tough dual guitar arrangement, and a unique sort of funky bass part. I loved every second of its 6 minutes. The album version upped the overwrought and put phasing on one of the guitars and, I think, the bass, which stripped the track of its brute force. It was endless. It’s unbelievable that anyone with the original record available for reference could not notice that this recording was seriously flawed.

    The Devo Booji Boy version of “Jocko Homo” also was superior to the produced version. Sorry, Eno. The synthesizer sounds on the original are so primitive and the album version sounds just like a squiggly standard synthesizer. The remake also cut out the “Ohio” bit in the bridge, a stupid joke that came off brilliantly within the context.

  4. sammymaudlin

    Geo touched on it but for a deeper dive please refer to https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/gut-feeling-my-evolution-as-a-devo-tee-o/

  5. I am semi-surprised that five comments in the Replacements haven’t already been mentioned. (For the record, I don’t agree—I think Pleased to Meet Me very narrowly takes the trophy for their best album.)

  6. Scott (the other one), I agree that Pleased to Meet Me is their best album, but they wouldn’t qualify because they already had released more than 2 albums before a producer gussied them up a bit.

    This could very well be too narrow a topic I put up here! It’s been years since I’ve done RTH, but admittedly, I’m sometimes more taken by the exclusionary clauses I can cook up than the topic itself. My apologies if this was the case.

  7. diskojoe

    I have that pre-CBS Bangles compiliation that came out a few years ago & it does sound better than their latter stuff, but then again, they did do covers of “September Gurls”, “Live” & “Going Down to Liverpool” on their later albums.

    I’m reminded of the time I hung around the Salem State College radio station in the mid-80s, where my friend Bob was (& still is!) a DJ. There was a tape by a local Boston band called the Rings (I think) called “Do the Things (You Wanna Do)” that sounded great to me w/a catchy ’60s rough, but melodic, garage vibe. Then they put out an album w/a rerecorded version & it sounded too slick for me.

  8. Iggy and the Strooges

  9. The Hooters put out two 45s in the beginning of their career. One had a version of Fighting on the Same Side. They recorded it two more times, with a bigger budget each time, and it just kept getting worse. The first two versions were essentially the same arrangement. The less said about the version that came out on Columbia, the better.

    The 45 version:

    The indie album version on Antenna Records:

    Columbia rewrite:

  10. cherguevara

    The Hooters were the first group that came to mind, but I wasn’t sure they were “wildly successful.” I was thinking this might apply to an artist who primarily worked solo before getting signed and thus had to make a “commercially viable” album with a full band production. And I can think of a few in that category, whose studio albums have been disappointing – but none whose albums were also wildly successful.

  11. The Hooters are a good one. They were big in Sweden, at least. Big enough elsewhere.

    He probably put out more than two solo album’s before getting completely gussied up in the 1980s, but if not, Robert Palmer would be up for consideration.

  12. I know this is lame, but the only thing I can really come up with is The Three O Clock. They had, what I thought at the time, a decent indie EP. I can’t remember the name of it, but there was a track on it called “I Go Wild.” Pretty good, I think that might have lead to their deal with IRS and their Sixteen Tambourines LP. I recall that being pretty bad.

    Actually, disregard all the above because they don’t meet Mod’s criteria. Their IRS LP, I believe, bombed.

  13. BigSteve

    I agree that the Three O’Clock never recorded anything as good as I Go Wild.

    I thought I might have one with the dB’s, since their first album is their best, and it was ‘produced’ by magazine publisher Alan Betrock. They had diminishing artistic returns as Scott Litt produced album 2, Chris Butler produced album 3, and Greg Edward (who?) produced album 4.

    But wildly successful? Uh no. The restrictions are too severe.

  14. One of my sons asked me the other day if failure is all right. I told him it was, that there is much we can learn from our failures. This thread I out out there is a good example. My limitations were too stringent. I was trying to keep out forces that had no interest storming the gates. Sorry, friends. You did a masterful job trying to polish my turd. I’ll do better next time.

  15. Mod,apology accepted

    Big Steve, you and I may have a lot more in common than we both want to own up to!

  16. Scott Litt with REM?

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