By Clay McNear
Why are tribute bands so maligned? By definition, they lack original thought, but most make up for it with suicide-bomber zeal. Not to mention pride of craftsmanship. As someone who used to play "Smoke on the Water" and "We're an American Band" in a shitty junior-high band, I can tell you that it's damned hard to re-create, note for note, the music to a classic-rock song that everybody knows note for note. And it's a much tougher sell to get up onstage and do a technically proficient "Walk This Way" than it is for Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to puke it out the way they usually do. In fact, Steve and Joe really only had to play "WTW" good once. An Aerosmith tribute band has to play it perfect every time.
What got me thinking about this was an ad I saw for a band called B/S, plus the reaction I got from my co-workers when I floated a trial balloon about covering the group. The idea wasn't warmly received, but that's okay. My friends never played "Smoke on the Water" and "We're an American Band" in a shitty junior-high band, so they never got the snot beat out of 'em by redneck dipshits. It's all about perspective.
B/S stands for Bon Scott, and the Phoenix band channels Scott-era AC/DC. Since I've never seen B/S live, I can't attest to its quality, but if the version of "Highway to Hell" on the group's MySpace is any indication -- ack! Still, I can't help admiring the band's cocksure assertion that it's "the premiere live tribute to Bon Scott-era AC/DC." Though the statement is baldly, patently, laughably untrue, I give 'em props for whipping out a set of collective cojónes that rivals the pair Bon Scott's sporting in the accompanying image.
All of the above -- especially the part where I blanketly pardon tribute bands for their sins -- got me to thinking about acts I like that are considered poison by rock critics and their fellow-traveling music snobs, who aren't, methinks, totally forthcoming about their own musical tastes. That I dig Hanson's "MMMBop" is the kind of nasty little secret that most of us take to the grave, but what do I care? After you've been beaten up by redneck dipshits, you learn that it's all about perspective.
Without further ado, here are some guilty faves that'll make you pray for my immortal soul:
Aqua. ("Barbie Girl" was satire, people.)
MC Hammer. (I loved parachute pants!)
Wang Chung. (I loved Linn drums!)
Offspring. ("Give it to me baby/Uh-huh, uh-huh")
Blink 182. (Oh, come on! "Dammit" is the best breakup song in the history of rock.)
Bloodhound Gang. (Oh, come on! "Lift Your Head Up High and Blow Your Brains Out" is a lewd, nasty, mean-spirited masterpiece.)
Peter Cetera. (This one was particularly galling to admit.)
Ace of Base. (This one, too.)
Bread. (This one, three.)
Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers.
Mark Lindsay. ("Ari-ZO-na, take off your rainbow shades/Ari-ZO-na, cut off your Indian braids")
Henry Gross. (So the dude sang about his dead dog in a falsetto. What's it to you?)
Les Misérables soundtrack.
Dawson's Creek soundtrack.
High School Musical soundtrack.
Now, here are some that'll make you look upon me with pity and scorn:
Dan Fogelberg. (Gentle music to hug a teddy bear to.)
Jackson Browne -- early, introspective phase. (Tortured music to hug a teddy bear to.)
REO Speedwagon. (Insipid, but you can't get 'em outta your skull, no matter how hard you slam it against bricks.)
Gordon Lightfoot. (Wait. Why am I even justifying myself here? He's one of the greatest songwriters ever to wear mandals. Bite me.)
Charlie Rich. ("Rollin' With the Flow." Masterpiece.)
The Sweet. (I've seen this band on other people's worst lists, but I can't imagine why.)
The Bangles. (Are they uncool?)
Joan Osborne. (Also on the anti-cool cusp. If you can't stand that God-on-the-bus song, check out "Right Hand Man," Joan's bluesy, sleazy masterpiece.)
Sophie B. Hawkins.
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Alan Parsons Project.
The Trammps. ("Disco Inferno." Masterpiece.)
Okay, you redneck dipshits and mendacious music snobs. Give it to me baby. Uh-huh, uh-huh.
B/S performs its all-ages tribute to Bon Scott-era AC/DC on Saturday, July 26, at Marquee Theatre, 730 North Mill Avenue in Tempe. Breakdown, Split the Enemy, Mighty Unlisted, The Anatomy of Suffering, Haffo, and Flight to London share the stage. Showtime is 6:30 p.m. (B/S goes on at about 10:30.) Tix are $10 advance, $12 day of. See Lucky Man Concerts. For more info on the band, check out B/S Tribute.