The 10 Biggest Classic Rock Douchebags
While rock ‘n’ roll is necessarily classified as a form of pop music, it is actually an idiom whose radical, destructive primitivism established a new type of socio-cultural disorder. It’s about rejection of the status quo and celebration of the dis-imprisonment it instills.
Always exploited for profit, rock’s unmanageable aspects have been steadily diluted by a sinister, commercially driven course of revisionist myth-making. There is no acceptable role in the marketplace for radicals like Charlie Feathers, Poly Styrene, Lux Interior or Roky Erickson, but there’s always room for the homogeneous, money-hungry, play-it-safe phonies on this list.
These douchebags all have one thing in common — they screwed up rock ‘n’ roll, big time.
10. Jerry Garcia
Garcia’s gutless, drug-addled brand of candyass jamming wreaked havoc on rock ‘n’ roll, derailing what had been a form of rebel confrontation and paving the way for spineless hippie quasi-folk. Garcia’s guitar was always listless, flabby and aimless. He never went anywhere and always took his sweet time doing it, yet is endlessly venerated as a soloist on par with the greatest names in musical history. Hogwash. The ultimate illustration of Garcia’s dead-from-the-neck-up approach came when an SFPD officer, patrolling Golden Gate Park at noontime in January 1985, got an acrid whiff of Garcia’s burning cocaine — the peace-and-love icon was freebasing in the front seat of his BMW. Far out, man.
Courtesy of the label
9. Bob Dylan
A serial plagiarist (Google that — the citations are endless) and “moon/June”-level lyricist, Dylan’s masterly employ of the mediocre — that ingredient so essential to American pop culture enshrinement — has kept millions of unthinking listeners in a somnambulistic state. Seriously, kids, just because it rhymes (“the pump don’t work ‘cause the vandals took the handle”) doesn’t add any weight, and just because it’s topical (whether Emmett Till or Rubin Carter) doesn’t make it significant. Even Dylan’s primitive vocal style is entirely hijacked, from bluegrass singer Carter Stanley. His peer Joni Mitchell said it best in a 2010 L.A. Times interview: “He's a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception.”
8. John Fogerty
Consumed by an obsessive victim mentality, Fogerty allowed a standard music rip-off deal orchestrated by Fantasy Records’ Saul Zaentz to transform his life, music and personality. In the resulting frenzy of litigation, he sued everyone, repeatedly, including his former Credence Clearwater Revival bandmates, and spewed his venomous frustration in a series of ridiculous songs, notably the idiotic “Zanz Can’t Dance.” Snatching karmic defeat from the jaws of legal victory by refusing to let his former colleagues perform at Creedence’s Hall of Fame induction, Fogerty’s self-propelled legacy of sanitized bubblegum blues and all around douchery is unparalleled.
7. Lou Reed
A chronic dullard whose turgid output steadily degenerated over six interminable decades, Reed, like his stale monotone vocal delivery, was so relentlessly and unengagingly depressive that the approximately 20 minutes of influential rock ‘n’ roll he participated in wholly invalidates itself — and brings to mind the infinite monkey theorem (wherein a primate with a typewriter would eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare). If, as Reed so pretentiously did, one feels compelled to identify oneself as “a poet from New York City,” fine. Just stay the hell away from rock ‘n’ roll.
Courtesy of Dallas Police Department
6. David Crosby
David Crosby’s appalling legacy of faux-folk rock epitomizes the worst of hippie-era dreck. Where the jangle-happy Byrds were merely affected and annoying, his subsequent work with Crosby, Stills and Nash (or, as Rollin’ Rock Records’ president Ronnie Weiser called them, “Crosby, Shit & Trash”) reached patchouli-fumed heights of indulgence. Almost everyone partnered with Crosby eventually grew to loathe him: The Byrds couldn’t stand his windy between-song rants, and Young and Stills famously deleted Crosby and Nash’s vocals from 1976’s Long May You Run album. As if having to look at his cowardly lion mane and gone-to-seed Fu Manchu ‘stache weren’t bad enough, Crosby’s more recent partnership with hateful British dwarf Phil Collins (who paid for Crosby’s 1994 liver transplant) only heightens his already formidable douche quotient.
5. Bruce Springsteen
Overheated and overinflated, Springsteen’s’ ceaselessly droning spew of Jersey muck reliably induces a state of complete torpor. A lifeless groaner who hypocritically spices up the most clichéd, meathead masculinity with a pathetic drizzle of Woody Guthrie-damaged, nakedly opportunistic “social conscience,” Springsteen’s bellow-and-grimace routine belongs in a zoo, not a rock club.
Courtesy of Roy Kerwood/Wikimedia Commons
4. John Lennon
The most reverentially treated by revisionist history, Lennon admittedly beat any woman foolish enough to get close to him and infamously subjected his son Julian to the vilest verbal abuse, but committed far greater cultural atrocities. A second rate pop hack whose mind numbingly dull doggerel effectively hobbled rock ‘n’ roll, Lennon’s destructive, simple-minded compositions and chronically phony persona represent the very worst of dismal rock star nothingness. A shining example of his peerless douche-a-tivity came when Lennon dumped a beer over Chris “Let’s Dance” Montez’s head while the Beatles were opening for the Chicano sensation’s 1963 U.K. tour. Montez was a Golden Gloves boxer; he kicked Lennon’s ass on the spot, pounding him until singer Tommy Roe broke it up.
Courtesy of Reuben Martin/RCA Records
3. Phil Spector
This one is obvious, but Phillip’s inclusion here has more to do with his rotten, overdone music than his aberrant, murderous nature. The so-called “Wall of Sound” brought nothing but an unwelcome, needlessly grandiose fog to pop music and did nothing whatsoever to advance rock ‘n’ roll. Quite the contrary, it obfuscated and diminished the idiom’s innate power. Spector really only cared about money — exactly the kind of douche who helped wreck rock’s simple, fiery, elemental power.
Courtesy of Reuben Martin/RCA Records
2. Carlos Santana
Thanks to fabulous mid-1960s hit makers like East L.A.’s Premiers and Bay City, Michigan's’s ? & the Mysterians, Chicano rock was established as a brilliant, swaggering brand of Big Beat. But luckily for the corporate gringo, along came Carlos Santana, a guitarist of such clichéd predictability and flat affect that he established a new low of stereotypical Latin-tinged rock. When that, inevitably, wore out its welcome, Santana slunk through a variety of ludicrous, commercially driven, chameleonic moves, none of them worth the wax they was pressed on. And today? Been to Macy’s lately? “Carlos by Carlos footwear, truly trendy, mixed materials for fashion forward footwear.”
1. Frank Zappa
Zappa was a self-appointed authority figure who did nothing but ceaselessly bitch, piss and moan without ever offering a single solution or so much as an attempt at constructive criticism. He bitched about society, put down rock ‘n’ roll, affected a strident, elitist intellect, and generally made an ass of himself. Zappa was always right, always knew best, and he was always way, way ahead of everyone else. Zappa was really just an overstimulated, unfocused megalomaniac who wanted to come off as smarter than you. And you. And you. And that painfully cute, “experimental” crap he passed off as music? You can sit around and listen to that garbage all day, just don’t call it rock ‘n’ roll.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.