Aug 132007

Per Townsman Mwall’s suggestion, we’re moving the question from today’s Dugout Chatter on the Band That Brought the Most Shame to the Genre of Rock ‘n Roll to the Main Stage!

To review, I wrote:

Has any artist outright shamed the entire genre of rock ‘n roll as Meat Loaf did in his prime? I heard the intro to “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” the other day, and I felt like I was watching one of my own sons get a swirly in summer camp.

2000 Man suggested solo Mick Jagger. Mwall singles out Styx for the shameful way they treated the genre. All good suggestions, but I still say Meat Loaf gave rock a swirly, then rubbed his sweaty briefs in roll’s face!

Let’s be clear: we’re not talking “bad” bands – that’s shooting ducks in a barrel. Rather, we’re talking bands that made a mockery of or otherwise shamed the entire genre of rock ‘n roll.

A little description is in order with your nominations. I, for instance, find Meat Loaf’s appropriation of early rock ‘n roll bombast performed in a post-Rocky Horror Picture Show manner to be disrepectful to the founding fathers of rock. In one fell swoop, he drags in Broadway, Vampire Rock, and operatic ambitions. The mixing of pure rock ‘n roll with any one of these elements is dangerous enough. In Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman’s hands, music becomes an act of terror. Four measures into “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” and any good will engendered by the likes of glam rockers like the New York Dolls is shot to hell.

For shame, Meat Loaf, for shame!


  30 Responses to “Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Shame”

  1. For me, the Rocky Horror picture show context, and the camp elements involved, give Meat Loaf a drag queen glam ambiance (done better by everyone else, of course) that adds a touch of smirk to the bombast. That touch of humor, however light, mitigates my annoyance, however lightly.

    Now, I will quote you the lyrics to “Fooling Yourself” by Styx:

    Why must you be
    such an angry young man
    When your future looks quite
    bright to me
    How can there be
    such a cynical plan
    that could hide such a lamb
    such a caring young man
    And you’re fooling yourself
    if you don’t believe it
    You’re kidding yourself
    if you don’t believe it

    Styx’s early pretenses at prog rock were much worse than those of Kansas, since the band really couldn’t play. So they piled on pompous pseudo-profundity after pompous pseudo-profundity, wrapping in a voice of caring reminiscent of third-grade Sunday School teachers all over the midwest. Add plodding rhythms, lowest common denominator sing-a-long hooks, cheesy keyboards washes, and mix repeatedly, until millions of records are purchased.

    Styx, you see, believes that they bring the goods, and every element becomes a parody of rock and roll.

  2. BigSteve

    …we’re talking bands that made a mockery of or otherwise shamed the entire genre of rock ‘n roll.

    Isn’t this pretty much what John Lydon had in mind for the Sex Pistols and PiL? The examples so far suggest that the category is for those who shamed rock without knowing it.

  3. Sure, Steve. Tries to shame is by no means the same as bringing shame. And there’s no doubt in my mind that the most shame is brought by those bands who don’t intend to do so. So I think even if you included bands who intended to shame rock, they wouldn’t win.

  4. I hadn’t seen 2000Man’s response but I was going to bring up RTH-Fav, Bowie and Jagger covering “Dancing In The Street”

    Do I even need to add text supporitng it? The vision of Mick and Dave shaking their butts is forever burned into my memory

  5. No doubt “Dancing” is a big moment of shame. But on balance, would you prefer that Jagger and Bowie didn’t exist, so that one moment of shame would not have happened?

    On the other hand, Styx has a multi-platinum career of shame that, were it wiped from the history of rock and roll, nothing of positive significance would be lost.


  6. Mr. Moderator

    Mwall, Styx is a shameful band, indeed. They are my third-least-favorite band, behind Journey and Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Styx, but they brought more shame to the genre than either of those. For all the shame they brought, however, Styx never disgraced a woman by making her perform with them. Meat Loaf had two women under his reign.

  7. Ah, Mr. Mod. I’ve been meaning to ask you: if you split a hair in a forest, and know one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?

    But to the point at hand. I think the presence of these particular women indicates on some level that it’s all a lark, a sillier version of Grease. I can imagine a fan of camp actually liking ML as a silly piece of dance-y fluff. I mean, not me. But someone.

    But with Styx, to like them, you’d have to like them in all seriousness.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Better to like shit in all seriousness than to waste your days liking shit on a lark, I say, but that’s beside the point. I think plenty of people love Styx on a lark. They’re the no-comittment version of prog-rock. You don’t have to smoke from a Pegasus bong and masturbate to detailed sketches of wizards to get a kick out of Styx.

    Finally, don’t give me this hair-splitting copout. You, of all people, understand the value of this practice.

  9. I think plenty of people love Styx on a lark. They’re the no-comittment version of prog-rock.

    Name one such person, or let that person stand up and say so here, and I’ll be more inclined to believe you.

    You don’t have to smoke from a Pegasus bong and masturbate to detailed sketches of wizards to get a kick out of Styx.

    Yes you do.

    Finally, don’t give me this hair-splitting copout. You, of all people, understand the value of this practice.

    Ah, Mr. Mod, of course I understand. And you of all people should enjoy the joke, although my apologies if it seemed hostile. After all, we’re debating degrees of shame here–and what fun it is. But rock and roll feels no shame, it’s just music. It’s only those of us who listen to it who feel shame. And every now and then, some pride.

  10. Mr. Moderator

    No, Mwall, I got your joke but felt you would appreciate it if I reacted in mock outrage. Believe me, I’m laughing through all this, and I know we’re so close to identifying the genre’s most shameful moment. Rock ‘n roll does feel shame. Just ask the Dolls.

  11. You guys are all barking up the wrong tree.

    SUPERTRAMP did more to disgrace the entire genre more than any of these other bands. The runnaway success of their quintuple platinum opus, BREAKFAST IN AMERICA, lead to what I call THE GREAT SOFTENING. Rock was globally softened in 1978 allowing for the STYX, the JOURNEY, LEO SAYER, AIR SUPPLY, REO SPEEDWAGON, MEATLOAF, EDDIE MONEY, etc.

    Nothing prog about it.

    As it regards liking STYX and all this other shit I mentioned, I know it’s all shit, and all bad and fucking ridiculous and not really rockandroll. However, I really like it all, and I think that’s funny, but I don’t do it just to be funny. There are some great songs in all that pile of stuff.

    Besides I have to like STYX.

    I’m KILROY!



  12. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, shawnkilroy — I really like this “Great Softening” concept of yours. You may be on to something there!

  13. alexmagic

    Styx may deserve a spin-off thread from this spun-off thread. Everything about the band is worth discussing in this context, from the name, to their costumes, their moves, their lyrics and their Look. A vintage Styx band photo gets you a lead singer who looks like the Living Mannequin from Today’s Special, a guitar player who looks like Muppet Show-era Mark Hamill and another guitar player who looks like Red Rose Speedway-era Linda McCartney with a moustache.

    If you can find the video for “Rockin’ the Paradise” online – one of the first ten videos played on MTV – you would indeed see that a competent prosecution could build a pretty mean case in a Trial Of Styx. But that would miss the point, miss how the video showcases the sad truth at the heart of the band, miss how five men could at once be together and yet so very, very alone. The inherent duality of Styx, the battle of Tommy Shaw’s all-consuming need to rock vs. Dennis DeYoung’s refined desire to add a sense theatre and lyrics about robots, is on full display. And so while the band is triumphantly captured at the height of their popularity, we can also see the inner turmoil that would drive them apart.

    To start with, everybody in the band is working a different costume gimmick. This is presumably intentional, to serve the conceptual needs of DeYoung’s vision, but it betrays the fractured nature of the band. DeYoung (also bringing a perm and moustache to the table at this point), is some kind of cabaret circus barker with decidedly tight red pants, James Young is accentuating his Linda space-mullet with a pseudo-spacesuit, the drummer has a pilot’s outfit with shorts, the bass player has chosen a Michael O’Donoghue beard to go with his tuxedo and Tommy Shaw may or may not be wearing O.R. scrubs.

    The video opens with a very tasteful and moving DeYoung/red tights preamble, and then he introduces the blinking Paradise sign, which signals us that it’s time to ROCK like only Styx can. Enter Young and Shaw, and the two of them are so moved by their own rockin’ that they have to stop hopping in place so they can run over to each other and perform an impromptu Face-To-Face Dual Guitar Rock Team-up Move. DeYoung becomes self-conscious at this display, contemplates the rift at the core of Styx, and considers trying to do a Microphone-Assisted Air Guitar move to fit in with the guys, but he gets confused and has to settle for some spread-legged posing and modified jazz hands. Young, however, appreciates the way their tortured genius has tried to bond with them, so when DeYoung retreats to the safety his white piano, “JY” comes over to attempt a Piano/Guitar Rock Team-up.

    At this point, there’s a quick cut to a shot of Tommy Shaw hopping angrily in place, seething at Young’s efforts to bridge the rock/performance gap with DeYoung. “Judas!” he must be thinking. Young remains blissfully unaware of the sudden tension in the air and literally prances back to the drum riser for a quick Guitar/Bass Team-up, trying to spread the love. But from that moment on, the bond between Young and Shaw has been inexorably broken. Tommy broods, shredding away by himself (occasionally and symbolically on one leg), thinking of the future and throwing a dirty sideways glance across the stage at JY, who is now bathed in a mocking spotlight which harshly illuminates how truly in the dark he is about his band.

    So anyway, to wipe Styx out would mean losing more than their catalog of beloved multi-platinum hits. It would mean losing a living document of the creative turmoil dormant within all bands: the eternal war between comfort and growth, success and challenge, Art and Rock. And also, losing dystopic stories about killing robots and hiding inside them as a means to save the world from warped forces of morality via the power of theater-tinged rock. But mostly, that living document thing.

  14. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, alexmagic — that was one fine post. In order to facilitate discussion, I thought I might post the following links:

    First, the performance in question:

    Next, a bit of extremely critical background dialog. I *really* want to hear Townsman Rick’s take on this bit of theater:

    Upon seeing this footage, I believe I’m coming around to mwall’s thinking about Styx. It’d be awful hard for Meat or any other Loaf to match the dhame this band brought to the Rock.

  15. As I’ve mentioned before, my wife basically missed the ’70s in terms of mainstream pop music. The first time she saw a Styx video on VH1 classic, she absolutely nailed the inherent problem: “Why is Mandy Patinkin in front of that band?”

  16. That’s a truly impressive post, alexmagic. I can feel the shame without even watching the video.

  17. alexmagic

    Here’s the Rockin’ The Paradise video I was referring to:

    At 2:47 in, the good times. At about 3:25 in, an olive branch extended…a band destroyed.

  18. Wow. Alex has done a fine close reading of the identity conflict in Styx.

    But at least Styx had some sort of identity. That can’t be said of REO Speedwagon and Kansas, the other two bands of the Holy Trinity of Mediocre Midwestern Rock.

  19. BigSteve

    Partly because I want to stop thinking about Styx for a little while, I’m going to nominate the faux Sgt. Pepper band — the BeeGees + Peter Frampton. Even though they were not a real band (and movie bands that made a mockery of rock&roll is a wide open field), their existence was certainly shameful, to say nothing of their performances.

  20. Mr. Moderator

    Alexmagic has convinced me: Styx IS the most shameful band in rock. Meat Loaf is #2. Excellent work!

  21. But at least Styx had some sort of identity. That can’t be said of REO Speedwagon and Kansas, the other two bands of the Holy Trinity of Mediocre Midwestern Rock.

    Maybe you could elaborate, Dr. John, since I’m not sure I agree. REO is more of a do more with less kind of band, content to turn out hits of a certain stripe without a lot of pretension about what they’re doing. I mean, they’re not good, but at least they don’t claim some to have some kind of original concept. Just a (bad) rock band, but not one that reaches for the stars of shame.

    Kansas is better than Styx, I think. More complex art rock passages at times. They’re Yes for the Midwest. Yes, they’re embarrassing mainly, and viable candidates here, but every now and then on the radio I can hear them and actually listen for a few moments. Only a few, but still.

  22. Re: The Holy Trinity of Mediocre Midwestern Rock.

    Styx has “Come Sail Away” which has earned its place in Escapism Rock (duly celebrated in The Virgin Suicides). It’s like I hear the song on the radio, and from that distinctly crass combination of the sublime and sttupid, I know who it is. That is an identity, albeit perhaps not one that should be praised highly.

    Kansas, I can’t figure out what they’re singing about. What is the “point of no return,” anyhow? Here their attempt to create an identity is obstructed by their inability to communicate something that doesn’t sound like it was copied from a high school history textbook.

    REO Speedwagon, their cliche-laden songs literally fold back identity, creating a terrifying lack of perspective, like an MC Escher painting. What can you say, except their songs are about rock, and they sound like a rock group.

    is a stylistic black hole that threatens to swallow the entire time-space rock universe.

    REO Speedwagon

  23. To clarify, I meant to say the cliche-laden of REO Speedwagon literally turns the concept of identity in on itself.

    And the last three lines should’ve been edited out.

  24. Oh yeah, of course I meant to write “the cliche-laden songs of REO Speedwagon.”

    It seems I’m very distracted today.

  25. Seriously, Backoffice, WHY can’t we edit our posts?

  26. Mr. Moderator

    One more thing…A number of you who have a history with us and, therefore, whom we feel comfortable granting extended privileges for creating threads from scratch, on your own, have been invited to do so. If I’ve overlooked any of you and you would like to take part in posting from “The Back Office,” just say the word. We can set you up. There, you can do a lot more things you would like to do. You still can’t do everything and you’ll still have something to bitch about (I do too, don’t think I’m just preaching to you), but you can take more control of creating new threads. You can make the place better reflect what you’re into. Think about it.

    Townsman Kilroy, that Rock Stool Softener concept needs its own post. Think about it.

  27. Well, I have a complaint. I know all these posts are done by other people, but some of them do not meet the standards of the posts that I would write if I was taking the time to write up these posts, which I am not. I truly feel disappointed at the degree to which the posted material does not match my imagination of what I would post, were I posting. Somebody’s got to make up for the fact that even with the privilege to post, I’m doing nothing, and that what I imagine is so much better than everything that IS.

    This message is brought to you from San Diego, a non reality-based community.

  28. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever made that particular complaint. Sorry that it seems to have inflamed your piles or something.

  29. Mr. Moderator

    No, Great One, I’m sorry for blowing a gasket like that. I’ve been extremely sleep deprived of late, yet I’m not getting some fantastic Bowie-like string of creativity out of it.

  30. i’ll gather my resources.

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