Hated in the Nation: The 30 Biggest Punching Bags in Pop History

We open up the case files to see who's gotten a bad rap and who's just bad

Rob Thomas / Stefan M. Prager/Redferns
Rob Thomas / Stefan M. Prager/Redferns
WRITTEN BY
SPIN Staff

Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, America needs new enemies upon whom we can dump our never-ending supply of scorn and bile. We decided to look at the most dissed and dismissed artists in pop history, exploring both the causes (racism, sexism, wicked clownism) and the effects. Some artists caught a raw deal, and some got off easy (though no attempt at objectivity could overcome the fact that Kenny G made Namaste India last year). Regardless, all of these artists were, at one time or another, guilty in the court of public opinion. You mad, doggie?

30 THE MONKEES    

CHARGE AGAINST: Talentless central-casting featherweights conceived in a boardroom for a cut-rate sitcom version of A Hard Day's Night.

CASE FILES: Legendary cinema mavericks Bob Rafelson and the late Bert Schneider were still a couple years away from Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider when they tried to channel the Beatles' goofy charm into a sitcom, hiring Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and lone Brit Davy Jones, despite the fact that none of the four were particularly accomplished musicians, much less in a band together. By the time The Monkees debuted in September 1966, the real Beatles were sprinting madly, not from shrieking fans, but from the mop-top image the show was aping; they'd stopped playing live, had an album cover banned due to severed baby heads, and had begun work on Sgt. Pepper's. This made the Monkees' pop trifles — and their inability to play instruments — seem all the more trifling by comparison. The opinion still persists, as they've been denied their rightful place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for 26 years running.

THE DEFENSE: You know who had no issue with the Prefab Four? The Fab Four. Nesmith, who parlayed his experience into a career as a music-video pioneer, befriended the Beatles, and according to the 1986 book Monkeemania, John Lennon called the Monkees "the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers." Rafelson directed the 1968 pitch-black Monkees cult classic Head, as self-aware and acerbic as the show was frothy and oblivious. Over time, the Monkees' insistence on remaining a band long after they were contractually obligated (and after joyless hippies wished them gone) made them unlikely punk icons: "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" was covered by both the Sex Pistols and Minor Threat, without irony. Maybe. STEVE KANDELL

29 PHIL COLLINS    

CHARGE AGAINST: The embodiment of ersatz, a man who unerringly — and ad nauseam — knew how to tie an annoyingly catchy melody to a cliché-ridden lyric. And what the fuck is a Sussudio?

CASE FILES: With his slick pop singles and aggressively inoffensive persona, Collins became the personification of wimpy '80s MOR radio. Jimmy Page blamed Collins' drumming for Led Zeppelin's lackluster Live Aid reunion gig in 1985. (To be fair, the guy did take the Concord from London to Philly to play both shows.) In American Psycho, novelist Bret Easton Ellis' great icon of "Me Decade" greed, Patrick Bateman, even praised Collins' single-minded pursuit of the almighty dollar: "Phil Collins' solo efforts seem to be more commercial, and therefore more narrower, in a satisfying way." He was last seen on South Park with his Oscar shoved up his ass.

THE DEFENSE: Phil has hip-hop cred! In addition to having his work sampled by Tupac, DMX, and Nas, folks like Lil' Kim and ODB contributed to 2003's hip-hop/R&B Collins tribute album Urban Renewal. His Bone Thugs collabo "Home" is just plain dope. And for all the rockist snobs out there: Collins was the go-to drummer for some of the best solo efforts of artistically unassailable Brian Eno. And don't think Mike Tyson is the only one compelled to air-drum along with "In the Air Tonight." DAVID MARCHESE

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