Before you light the torches, and march on the Goliath offices with morning stars and maces, please know that this list is in no way suggesting your favorite rock star is an untalented hack, rather they may just be completely overrated. Pop culture is fascinating, isn’t it? It’s amazing that people will cling to the ideologies of an artist—or sometimes some really crappy music—to the degree that they become a social icon. And while these nine rock stars have certainly had influence on our generation, we don’t expect many people will be talking about them 100 years from now.
9. Axl Rose
Where do we go? Where do we go, now? Guns N’ Roses was huge in the 1980s and 1990s. They sold out shows around the world, produced some of the biggest hard rock hits in a generation, and feuded with other bands like Nirvana, before feuding among themselves and breaking up. Since then…? The break up was the proof in the puddin’. Axl Rose wanted desperately to believe that he was the reason for the band’s success. He was the perfect front man for the band, but when he tried to perform with other musicians under the Guns N’ Roses name, people weren’t buying it. He tried hard, but without Slash, there was simply no Guns N’ Roses. One could easily argue that Slash was the most intriguing member of the band. Hopefully, lone wolf Axl sees that life is more purposeful as part of a pack.
8. Billie Joe Armstrong
Green Day thrust punk into the popular mainstream. Sure, many punk bands had hits that flirted with the tops of various pop charts, but Green Day took it to another level. Heck, they even used their jams to piece together a Broadway Musical. Sadly, for the icons of “punk,” you don’t get less punk than that. This is certainly not a knock on Green Day, or their fans, or the fact that the band has made some pretty stellar music at points in its existence. It is a suggestion that Billie Joe Armstrong thinks he’s a little more badass than he actually is. His level of jerk doesn’t approach someone like John Lydon of The Sex Pistols, but bellowing that you hate Steve Jobs, and you’re looking forward to the day he dies of cancer…? That goes from raging against the machine to straight being a straight up jerk.
7. Brian Hugh Warner
Brian Hugh Warner…never heard of him. Obviously, the photo has given this one away. You know Brian as Marilyn Manson—though that’s technically the name of the band—and the only reason Brian is not at the top of this list is the fact that his career is devoid of hits like the other artists. In fairness to Marilyn Manson, Brian offered shock in a way no one else was offering shock in the 1990s. Maybe GWAR, but GWAR wasn’t opening for major musical acts, then going on to headline. When it came right down to it, a Marilyn Manson show wasn’t anything anyone hadn’t seen before on a rock stage, it was just easier to find photos and video after the fact. Brian’s biggest hit was a cover of a Eurthymics jam. What else needs to be said? Fans should check out Igor Stravinsky for shock done right.
We hear you, fans! U2 puts on a great show. Well…they used to. And yes, Bono is such a positive influence for change in the world. That is true. And we love the story of old school chums becoming one of the world’s biggest, and most successful rock bands, but Bono as a front man? He’s a little bit like a movie starring Kevin Costner. Yep, Kevin has knocked a few out of the park, but sometimes you really feel like he’s phoning it in. Same thing for Bono. Here’s an example: Remember when Bono had his bicycling accident a couple years ago? One of the gigs he was forced to cancel was an appearance on The Tonight Show. Instead, Jimmy and The Roots laid down some U2, and, dare we say it, Jimmy was comparable to the real deal.
5. Kurt Cobain
Kurt is beloved, and rightly so. There is no denying his influence and impact on the music industry. But it doesn’t change the fact that Dave Grohl was the most talented member of Nirvana. Sure, Kurt was better as a musician than we ever got to hear. It was obvious within some of his lyrical content. Sadly, it seems he was too high to ever write anything that was musically complex. That’s why Nirvana songs are some of the first you learn to play on guitar. The complexity came from Grohl playing drums and singing harmony. There is something awesome to be said about that, and something that leaves you empty inside. Do we wish Kurt had gotten clean and lived beyond 27 years? Obviously.
4. John Mayer
John Mayer can play the guitar. And in fairness to the dude, he can sing in the right key and on pitch. But overall…? The greatest rock stars never throw their lovers under the bus. They discreetly have several at the same time. Sometimes they’re not so discreet. John has a wannabe bad boy reputation, and he has been working to repair it for a little over a decade. He’s a little full of himself when it comes to, well, everything. There’s no surprise that he’s on this list. There is more of an appreciation for John as a jazz musician than his messing around with pop and rock. If he hangs there for while, we can write some complimentary pieces on him.
3. Ozzy Osbourne
We’re into the top three. Rock royalty. And still overrated. When drugs and alcohol account for much of an individual’s success, it robs talent from the equation. It would be stupid to suggest Ozzy Osbourne isn’t one of the coolest rock stars out there. The fact that he’s still functional after he melted his brain like a box of crayons on a hot stove is seriously impressive. And the guy is genuine and influential. But one of the greatest of all time? Not really. He has enjoyed more fame across the board through reality TV than he did on stage. Yes, Ozzy knocked a few jams out of the park, and his on stage antics…? Well, they were just that, weren’t they? Antics. The real rock star in the Ozzy equation? Sharon Osbourne.
2. Jerry Garcia
Don’t tell Ben & Jerry’s that Jerry Garcia made this list. We’d never want them to reconsider the merits of the delightful Cherry Garcia ice cream flavor. Cherry Garcia may be more long-term sustaining, and have more fans than Jerry Garcia. But no fan of music, or all things creative, can argue with the genius of Jerry Garcia. If ever a guy figured out the formula of getting high and writing music that people would love while they were high, it was Jerry Garcia. Without Jerry, the world might have never had Jimmy Buffett, The Spin Doctors, Phish, Rusted Root…the list goes on and on. Jerry was integral to the success and growth of The Grateful Dead, but as a whole…overrated. However, Jerry does get a ton of rock star points for having his ex-wives barred from attending his funeral by his widow.
1. Jim Morrison
Poor Jim. Another member of the 27 Club. He was a man who really didn’t know, nor wanted to know his limits when it came to the consumption of substances. Simply put, Jim had a drug problem. And as a result, The Doors never got the credit they deserved for being incredible musicians, and doing things that really hadn’t been done before they came along. Hindsight being 20/20, there are many who believe The Doors would have been an even better band with someone else as the front man. It’s moot, though hard to imagine. Bottom line, Jim was self-indulgent and supremely quotable, none more true than the following: “I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments.”