Music/Popular Culture

Tournament of Rock IV: the REO Speedwagon pod

Tournament of Rock IV: Monsters of Corporate Rock!Pod #6 results are in, and #7 seed KISS has eased by Genesis and Nickelback. The contemporary acts are not making much noise in the ToR so far, but there are some industry leaders yet to take their swings. KISS moves on to the Sweet 16.

Up next: pod #7: Show me the money.

  • #4 Seed: REO Speedwagon
  • Creed
  • Hall & Oates
  • No Doubt
  • Rod Stewart

REO Speedwagon

Although REO was slowly inching their way to big-time success, no one (not even the band) could have predicted the massive hit that their next album turned out to be, Hi Infidelity. Issued at the tail end of 1980, it became one of 1981’s biggest albums — spawning one of the best-known power ballads of all time, “Keep on Loving You,” as well as such popular rock radio hits as “Don’t Let Him Go” and “Take It on the Run.” Hi Infidelity would eventually go on to sell more than nine million copies — catapulting REO to arena-headlining status.

Jim: REO Speedwagon is kind of the love child of Head East and Dwight Twilley Band. Hard rock meets power pop. Catchy (if annoying) tunes played big for the arena crowd. Why they thought they needed a Getty Lee wannabe as lead vocalist is one of those enigmas I cannot decipher.

Bonesparkle: I think REO might have been the first band I ever heard more or less bragging about selling out. So, high marks for self-awareness.


Many reviewers slammed the band’s music as derivative, and frontman Scott Stapp was lambasted by publications like Rolling Stone for being “irony-deficient, Jesus-haired and often shirtless in a way that reminded people of the guy from Lord of the Dance.” Based on their frequently spiritual lyrics, some observers deemed Creed part of a new breed of alternative-styled Christian bands, an affiliation that Creed actively tried to downplay. Neither critical jabs nor a potential secular backlash could derail the band, though, and they went into the new millennium as a seemingly unstoppable commercial juggernaut.

Me: Have you read the story about Scott Stapp getting punked at the Gainesville Denny’s at 3am? No. Really, you oughta. Great Moments in Rock & Roll Douchebag History.

Jim: If U2 proves that God loves Rock & Roll, Creed proves that God hates Rock & Roll. Discuss.

Hall & Oates

From their first hit in 1974 through their heyday in the ’80s, Daryl Hall and John Oates’ smooth, catchy take on Philly soul brought them enormous commercial success — including six number one singles and six platinum albums — yet little critical success. Hall & Oates’ music was remarkably well constructed and produced; at their best, their songs were filled with strong hooks and melodies that adhered to soul traditions without being a slave to them by incorporating elements of new wave and hard rock.

Jim: Hall & Oates were an enjoyable blue-eyed soul outfit. Then they became an ’80s pop band. This was not a change for the better.

fikshun: Prostitutes do it to pay the bills. But at least they’re honest about it.

No Doubt

Tragic Kingdom was released in October 1995. The album served as a document of the breakup of Gwen Stefani and Kanal, whose relationship had lasted seven years. Thanks to constant touring and the appearance of “Just a Girl” and “Spiderwebs” on MTV’s Buzz Bin, the album hit the Top Ten in 1996. Stefani, who has made no secret of her pop ambitions, became a centerpiece of attention as an alternative to the crop of tough girls prevalent on the charts. By the end of the year, Tragic Kingdom hit number one on the album charts, almost a year after its first release; the record’s third single, the ballad “Don’t Speak,” was the band’s biggest hit to date.

fikshun: I’ve always been curious why established artists cover other artists’ songs (ie: Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life”). You don’t get any songwriting royalties, just performance royalties. Oh wait, it was a mascara promotion, wasn’t it?

Jim: Supermodel wannabe meets Sublime wannabes.

Bonesparkle: I feel for the guys. Imagine – you thought you were signing up for Dance Hall Crashers and next thing you know you’re Madonna’s backing band. It’s like Penny in that episode of Big Bang Theory: “Today I drove to Van Nuys for an audition that I thought was for a cat food commercial. Turned out to be porn.”

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart may have begun his career as a respected singer, yet that critical respect eroded as he got older, as he became more concerned with stardom and adult contemporary songcraft than the rock music that launched him. While he has recorded some terrible albums — and he would admit that freely — Stewart was once rock & roll’s best interpretive singer as well as an accomplished songwriter, creating a raw combination of folk, rock, blues, and country that sounded like no other folk-rock or country-rock material. Instead of finding the folk in rock, he found how folk rocked like hell on its own. After Stewart became successful, he began to lose the rootsier elements of his music, yet he remained a superb singer, even as he abandoned his own artistic path in favor of following pop trends.

Jim: Once one of rock’s greatest vocalists and a fine songwriter. Ran out of ideas around 1973-74. Decided to become a cartoon character – the result is sad and obvious….

fikshun: I kinda think it’d be fun to have another tournament based on rock artists who most successfully sleazed their way through the disco era. Rod would have to be in the top 5.

Me: #3 on my “Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen” list. Long John Baldry told this joke in a show one time (Rod used to be in Baldry’s band way back when). What’s the difference between a bull and Rod Stewart’s band? With the bull, the horns are up front and the asshole is in the back.

Bonesparkle: I keep waiting for news that Stewart has been killed on stage when he failed to duck an especially well-heaved pair of XXXL granny panties.

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The rules.

Image Credit: Houston Press

1 reply »

  1. How dare these bands make music that ordinary people enjoy! Don’t they know that the only opinions that matter are those of fellow musicians and music critics? Of course, there are so many more ordinary people, and they have so much more money to spend, it’s quite profitable to entertain all those ignorant non-musicians out there. One could take that view that everybody is entitled to their own taste in music, in which case music critics are some people with over inflated egos who contribute nothing – except snarky articles, of course.