Let's face it: "Dad rock" isn't really a positive term. It has an ugly suburban connotation, the sort of music that triggers nostalgia in the minivan on the way to soccer practice of the days before marriage and children shattered his independence.
Abe Simpson swung pretty close to the definition in this classic Simpsons moment, after a teenage Homer defiantly declares his father to not be "with it":
"I used to be 'with it.' They they changed what 'it' was. Now what I'm 'with' isn't 'it.' And what's 'it' seems weird and scary to me."
"Dad rock" is the "it" your father used to be with.
But with Father's Day approaching this Sunday, it's time to give dad-rock its due. After all, they call it "classic rock" for a reason. In the music of your father's youth lie undisputed classics, bands that are absolute must-knows for any serious music listener. So, in honor of dads anywhere, here are some albums that your dad loves and that if you don't already, you should, too.
Steve Miller Band - Fly Like an Eagle
Steve Miller doesn't get much critical respect these days, often the first choice when music writers need a generic, classic-rock punching bag. But Fly Like an Eagle has some really strong moments. The title track starts with a laid-back guitar riff and continues into a psychedelic-influenced groove that's sort of like the Corona with lime of music: Yeah, sure, there are much more interesting beers out there, but who's going to complain if you get handed one? The album contains hints of Miller's blues roots, and contained three songs -- the title track, "Take the Money and Run," and "Rock'n Me" -- that continue to dominate both classic rock radio and suburban barbecues to this day. Your dad loves this album because it was everywhere during his youth: this thing went platinum four times, and it was probably on in the background during many of his formative years. Cream - Disraeli Gears
How many joints were sparked to this album back in the late '60s and throughout the '70s? This album features the hallmark psychedelic-rock sounds of Cream's brief existence. "Sunshine of My Love" is the obvious classic from the record, but there are so many other songs on here that have earned its place in your dad's record collection: the arresting blues number "Strange Brew," the heroine-addled "Blue Condition," the descending madness and mythic aura of "Tales of Brave Ulysses." Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce were three virtuosos in top form for this record, and there are many good reasons this album deserves recognition today. Eagles - Hotel California
OK, OK, we get it -- it's the frickin' Eagles. The band who never wrote a song your grandma didn't like. The band about which Robert Christgau wrote this famous paragraph:
Another thing that interests me about the Eagles is that I hate them. "Hate" is the kind of uptight word that automatically excludes one from polite posthippie circles, a good reason to use it, but it is also meant to convey an anguish that is very intense, yet difficult to pinpoint. Do I hate music that has been giving me pleasure all weekend, made by four human beings I've never met? Yeah, I think so. Listening to the Eagles has left me feeling alienated from things I used to love. As the culmination of rock's country strain, the group is also the culmination of the counterculture reaction that strain epitomizes.
They're also the best-selling rock band of all time, and Hotel California is the band's best-selling album, going platinum an astonishing 16 times in the United States. So if there's any album on this list your dad likely owns, it's this one. You surely know the title track by heart, but ever listened to "New Kid in Town"? Or "Victim of Love"? The former is a wary look at fame, and the latter's influence is apparent in the hundreds of songs written by lesser bands that sound almost exactly like it. You don't need to love this album as much as appreciate its place in rock history. Few albums were more influential, and subsequently, more hated than Hotel California. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Green River
Any of CCR's first four or five albums would have fit this list perfectly -- they all contain ubiquitous, non-threatening singles that dominated the airwaves of your father's childhood. But this album gets the selection because of "Bad Moon Rising," which is just a wasteland of a song. Let's face it -- if all you heard of CCR were "Bad Moon Rising" and "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" (from Pendulum, you'd be right to dismiss the band as nothing worse than dad-rock garbage. But the thing is, CCR had some very strong albums. Nearly every other song besides "Bad Moon Rising on Green River is excellent. John Fogerty's voice is one of the most iconic in rock 'n' roll, and he wrote some pretty good songs, too. The Band - The Last Waltz
The Last Waltz is up there as far as best concert films go, and the soundtrack doubles as one of the top live albums of all time. The Band wrote nearly perfect southern rock songs, infinitely catchy. This is one of those dad rock albums that you probably sang along to as a kid, so maybe it doesn't belong on this list. But if you don't already love this album, Buy the DVD. The guest appearances alone are like a who's who of dad rock -- Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Clapton, Van Morrison, the list goes on and on. An important part of rock history loved by millions, and a good album to boot. So happy Father's Day, to dads in the Valley of the Sun and beyond. And too all those disparaging the dad-rock albums listed above: keep in mind the Simpsons quote that kicked this article off.
Note those last few words: "It'll happen to you." So careful what you say; before you know it, the albums you know and love will become golden oldies, and your kids will be laughing at your skinny jeans, neon wayfarers and bodycon dresses, and you'll be wondering where your youth went. So again, happy Father's Day!
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