@Scott Peterson brought this topic up on the today's albums thread. Thought it might lead to some interesting conversation or, at the very least, some interesting lists. Your ten favorite artists; have they had the success they deserve? More success than their talent should have brought them? Of course, the measure of success isn't the same for all of us so for this purpose, let's just go with the standards of music business success; hit records, fame, fortune.
Ten of my favorites in no particular order.
Bruce Springsteen - he deserves every bit of the massive success he's enjoyed.
David Baerwald - he hasn't had the success he should have. One of the best American songwriters, one of the sharpest wits and wickedest pens any writer has ever had.
Cold Chisel - from my American perspective, they've had the success they deserve in their homeland, but outside of Australia, Cold Chisel has been sorely ignored. I've never understood why they didn't catch on in America, especially during our weird Aussie fetish days of the 80s.
Tom Petty - he had the career he deserved, just not the years he deserved.
Mary Cutrufello - she should be more well-known and sell out larger venues. She's a great songwriter and a fantastic performer who still drives truck for a living.
Bob Dylan - who hasn't heard of him and heard his music? Bob's had the career he deserved and many of his songs have even given lesser artists success they didn't deserve.
Little River Band - the original band had the success they deserve and the Americans currently pretending to be the Little River Band are having more than they deserve. And they're on the county fair and casino circuit.
Steve Earle - he's maybe had a little less success than he deserved, but it was hard-won after his years of fucking up.
Drive-By Truckers - they won't have the success they deserve until every living person has heard every song they've done.
Bob Seger - He's much-loved, but I think he should be more respected. A great, solid career and he never let it consume him.
I wonder whether the same could be said for Patti - would she have had more success if she hadn't been Mrs Springsteen?
Would she have had more, or less fame, had she not been married to Paul Simon?
One of my favourite songwriters, voices, and she just seems to be one of the nicest humans on earth. I feel like she has not really had her due because, well, she is seen as Mrs. Simon, isn't she? She can write a catchy hook and perfect pop song. But she also writes beautiful songs that get me every time... Lump in the throat stuff.
Has recorded a fair amount of material too. Solo, with New Bohemians, with Steve Martin, The Heavy Circles (with Paul's son Harper) and The Gaddabouts, with Steve Gadd, Pino Paladino and Andy Fairweather-Low. I think she jsut loves writing and making music with people, no matter the commercial success. I have always secretly hoped she and Paul would collaborate on a record but I doubt it is going to happen.
A couple favorites that have had decent careers…but I always thought should have been bigger stars are: Steve Forbert Marshall Crenshaw
A few more occurred to me, although three of them would slip just outside my Top 10 so don't really count:
Nick Drake—I mean. I didn't actually hear a note of ND's music until at least 15 years after I'd first heard of him. But I bought his first album—relatively early days of Amazon, if I recall correctly, and it was like six bucks—and put it on and within the first five seconds of the first song I thought, "yes...yes. Okay." And then he started singing and by the end of the first line I remember thinking, "well...motherfucker. How have I lived this long without this guy's stuff in my life?" I think if I'd discovered his music when I was in high school, he would have been one of my Top 5 ever, maybe.
Elliott Smith—actually got about the right amount of success, I think, given how idiosyncratic his vocal stylings were and the subjects about which he sang and wrote. Another artist who, if I'd discovered him as a teenager, would have become a Top 5, likely. (He was born about six months after me, so me discovering him as a teenager was not really possible.)
Bob Dylan—deserves every bit of the enormous wealth he's earned...and yet sometimes it still strikes me just how unlikely it is that he got to be as huge as he did. Because, again, his lyrics are often convoluted and mysterious and even impenetrable and let's be honest even at its most accessible his voice is pretty fuckin' weird—and I'd say that by now his voice has been NOT at its most accessible at least 5x as long as it was.
Sonic Youth—never came close to the acclaim of their pals and fans Nirvana and yet I'm pretty sure they were all quite comfortable financially from 1990 on and that's a very good thing but also kind of a surprising thing.
Dinosaur Jr—I wish they'd gotten more success, and it's still not too late! (Despite putting out the best reunion albums of any band ever, including one within the past few months, it's absolutely too late.) But for all their stuff is catchy and crunchy and has the greatest collection of post-1970s guitar solos, J Mascis's voice remains an acquired taste and it ain't one that's ever going to be acquired by many.
10-ish that got away:
Subway Sect - One of those support bands you see and come away convinced they’re gonna be the next big thing. Vic Goddard regarded as a great lost talent. ‘Ambition’ is in my top ten 45s.
The Only Ones - don’t do drugs kids. (See also The Ruts.)
Joy Division - a what might have been? Having said that perhaps 2 records was the allotted life span. 😔
James King & the Lone Wolves - there used to be a great James King interview on YouTube about the Glasgow scene of the time. A clutch of class 45’s and, I believe, an aborted album. Gone.
Lucinda Williams - never ceases to amaze me how so many supposedly sentient beings do not seem to be aware of the genius that is….
Roddy Frame - He’s still putting out music, sparingly, and his live shows are a privilege to attend whether solo or with a band. Rather feels like he is working to his agenda and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that provided it makes him happy.
Curse Of Lono - If there was any justice they would already be filling 1000+ venues, instead of pub back rooms. They deserve to ‘make it’, without a shadow of a doubt.See also their label mate: John Murry.
The Cramps - if only they had kept together the original line up with Brian Gregory, and avoided turning into a kitsch cartoon parody of themselves.
Jesse Malin - see MRAFC above.
Why aren’t the Drive By Truckers better known in the UK? Mystery to me.
Rounding off with a couple who did achieve some sort of recognition, but well after the event: Big Star and the Velvets.
I could write a list of at least 20 names here, of bands or artists who deserved more recognition and a wider international audience for the music they made/make. All would be South African so few, if any of the names would mean anything to anyone outside of the tip of Africa. No doubt most people from most countries outside of Northern America and the British Isles could say the same.
Needs some serious thought……🤔
Maria McKee, great shout.
And Lone Justice further back.
Should have been massive.
Maria McKee and Johnette Napolitano - both with and without their respective bands - deserved more acclaim.
He's definitely toured Europe.
Going initially to @Jerseyfornia original post:
Anyone who has been around here knows our mutual love for Australia's own Cold Chisel. Incredible band, check them out. They were the most commercially (and, significantly, critically) popular rock band in Australia in the early 80's. And despite their commercial success at the peak of their career in those early 80's, they further became one of those unique artists akin to The Doors who sold more records between breaking up in 1983 and reforming in 1998 than they did while a functioning recording / touring band.
That's all in Australia, of course. Hardly anyone else anywhere has heard of them (aside from a certain California based biker, and apparently a bunch of Germans back in 1982 where Chisel started to suddenly sell records). A few factors come into play here. While Chisel's songs musically were a perfect blend of rock grit married at times with appealing melodic tones, the lyrical approach was mostly uniquely Australian. And not in a humorous 'land Down Under' way... perceptive lyrics about those on the margins of Australian society. This kind of serious Australian song writing would only be embraced by the wider world in the latter 80's, with bands like Midnight Oil.
The other key factor was an own goal... Chisel's reluctance as a live band to trade the relative glories of having scaled the rock pyramid in Australia to start anew in the lower echelons in the States. Chisel first toured the States in 1981. Take my word for it, that at the time they were one of the greatest live bands in the world. Actually, don't take my word for it... acts they toured with at the time (Joe Ely, Fabulous Thunderbirds) and burgeoning rock critics ( David Fricke) said so. But Chisel were not wiling to do those hard gruelling yards needed to slowly develop a ground roots following in the States. Chisel arrived in the States around the same time as U2. At that time, Chisel were a better live band with stronger material. U2 did the hard yards, which also helped them develop their craft in a way Chisel denied themselves.
Wow, a long winded way to say Cold Chisel deserved more success. But perversely probably ended up with the success they deserved for not rolling the dice.
On another act JF mentioned... Bob Seger. Am I right in saying he never toured outside of the US? Maybe I'm wrong, perhaps he toured Europe? He was a big enough radio hit here in Australia... some actual touring also may have elevated him to another level worldwide.
Another favourite of mine not yet mentioned... Dire Straits. Probably more successful than they could ever have expected to be in some ways. Even with Brothers In Arms being recorded in a clean gleaming way for the new CD technology, those big songs (Money For Nothing, So Far Away, Walk Of Life) just don't sound like typical successful chart singles. So fair play, as they might say in Dire homeland.
An alternative list would be talentless melts who have enjoyed vast commercial success, but I won't go there for rear of causing offence.
Not going to make a list ..... But i guess Badfinger might fit here ...... I thought Pete Ham was fantastic ....
My taste is wildly commercial .... The Beatles, Stones, Bruce and Queen are all doing fine 🤣...I suppose Willie Nile could use a few bucks
You know when you're putting these list together you always miss one or two. Rush should be at about 3. The first time I saw them in 1980 I was blown away to think three people were making all that music. But their success fall into the same as ZZ Top. The Pop songs from Moving Pictures made them the superstars they are today.
The problem with using my Top 10 favorite artists is that most of my Top 10 list are people/artists/bands who got fabulously wealthy and famous, which makes for a boring list, for the purposes of this exercise.
These have been my top 4 artists for the past 30 years:
1) The Beatles — I mean, I guess I could try to argue that no matter how highly rated they are, they can't be rated as highly as they deserve, as they are the pinnacle of artistic expression...but, yeah, no, they got the success they deserved.
2) Bruce Springsteen — same, only less flowerly.
3) REM — the excellent critic Steven Hyden did a series of pieces nearly a decade ago, arguing that this band (for my money, and yes, I know, hot-take incoming, is the single greatest American band ever) is actually greatly underrated these days, on account of how far they felt, both commercially and critically, once they'd peaked in the mid-90s, and I think he was exactly right. So. They got every bit of the money they deserved and once upon a time they got the acclaim but are oddly forgotten/disparaged these days. Still, all in all, I'm not too fussed.
4) The Replacements — sigh. The second best American band of the 80s, they created some of the greatest rock and roll ever...and yet the reason they didn't have more success is because they fucked up again and again and again. The recent book about them, Trouble Boys, is fascinating and depressing and lays out why they were so damned determined to shoot themselves in the foot over and over, and it's understandable why they did. But at the end of the day, they did.
Then we get stuff like Led Zeppelin and U2 and The Who and David Bowie and Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel, and they all got all the success they could ever have hoped for and deserved it.
Except perhaps for Peter Gabriel, who in some ways — and I love his work so much — got perhaps more than he deserved? Or, rather, that's not quite right. What I mean is that his work is fuckin' weird. So the fact that he went on to be as crazy successful as he did is wonderful but does feel a bit out of whack. The 80s were an interesting decade.
Towards the bottom of my Top 10 is Suzanne Vega, and I think I'd argue she got about the right amount of success. Again, I think she's brilliant, and I'm so glad that as of her second album she was probably more or less set for life, if not buying private jets and private islands. But it's not surprising she wasn't more successful—despite starting to make more accessible albums, her vocal style and her writing aren't especially suited to mass popularity, and I think she knew that and seems to have been okay with it. So being able to get as much work as you want, while never actually having to work again? That seems like pretty much living the dream to me.
Bruce - enough said!
Pearl Jam - successful and all know their hits, but the non- hits is what makes them great
U2 - First four albums before Joshua Tree makes them great, But JT makes them a commercial success
The Killers - just started getting into them a few years back, a true Indie success
The National - They need a lot more success then what they have gotten
Judas Priest - My late teens - early 20's superstar band. Matter as fact will be going to see them in 2 weeks, 22nd time only Bruce is more.
UFO - very successful until Michael Schneker left!
All forms of Jack White - he deserves more
Jimi - enough said
Z.Z. Top - Just me talking and not for them, but I believe they got success they wanted, but not the way they wanted if that makes sense? I believe they wanted success playing Bluesy tunes, but their success came playing Pop tunes.
I'm throwing my man Jesse Malin into the mix.
Guy should be huge but he's playing 3-400 capacity venues.
I get the vibe he's a musician's musician.
He seems known to and rated by everyone.
He's awesome live, a super talented songwriter and a very funny guy.
I'm not going to attempt a list as I think most of my top 10 have or had the success they deserved.
Obviously, number 1 is Bruce who deserves every success he has had.
The people who come to mind who haven't had as much success as they might are Graham Parker, who I think is a brilliant song writer and performer, Suede, who I think were every bit as good as Oasis and better than Blur and Josh Ritter, who I love to bits.
The list of people who have had more success than they deserve is endless!
I'll write a longer post later, but off the top of my head there are two artists I can think of who never really seemed to have mainstream success and both deserve it, IMO.
Joe Henry and Shawn Mullins. Both superb songwriters, make good albums, and Shawn at least is one of the most charismatic and interesting live performers I've seen (on video of course) Joe has acclaim as a producer, but I don't believe many are familiar with his body of recorded work.