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
CHARGE AGAINST: A screeching, incomprehensible boho who broke up the Beatles.
CASE FILES: Even her most ardent admirers would admit that Ono’s penchant for warbling, exploratory vocal workouts is tough sledding. Her singing is the kind of thing that makes people think conceptual artists are hucksters without much natural talent and, worse, willing to drag others down to their level. That stance was aired out in a classic episode of The Simpsons in which a Yoko-like avant-gardist forces Barney’s Lennon figure into perplexing experiments. As recently as 1999, a BBC documentary about Ono featured the British art critic Brian Sewell arguing that “she’s shaped nothing, she’s contributed nothing….If she had not been the widow of Lennon, she would be totally forgotten by now.”
THE DEFENSE: Only people struck with (the vaguely sexist and racist) hysterical, Beatles-post-breakup deafness could fail to understand that Ono is one of the most forward-thinking artists of our time. Over a massively influential 40-year recording career, she has proven herself a giant of downtown minimalism (all the greats played her loft), a skilled pop poet (“Listen, the Snow Is Falling,” her half of Double Fantasy), an ever-searching sound radical (“AOS,” which featured Ornette Coleman), and even a modern club-queen (her 2011 dance hit “Move On Fast”). D.M.
CHARGE AGAINST: : Wholesome as a glass of milk, smooth as a laxative, happily shouldered the white man’s burden of ruining the songs of black artists for “mainstream” audience acceptance.
CASE FILES: Boone’s lazy swims through Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame,” Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” and Joe Turner’s “Chains of Love” diluted and drained every last trace of life (or, more accurately, sex) out of the songs. Not surprisingly, his soul-free renditions outsold the originals, taking money out of their creators’ pockets and impeding the spread of innovative music. Pat later passed his sanitized baton to daughter Debby, whose “You Light Up My Life” spent ten weeks at No. 1 just as the punk era hit its stride. Boone the elder finally capped his culture crimes with the absurd 1997 album In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, containing tongue-in-cheek big-band renditions of “Paradise City,” “Enter Sandman,” and other hard-rock numbers. These days, the genial 77-year-old supports the Tea Party, believes Obama is an alien, and has likened liberals to cancer.
THE DEFENSE: In spite of it all, there are genuine rock’n’rollers who don’t hate him. DJ Fontana, Elvis Presley’s original drummer, believes Boone belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and reckons his boss would too. “They were friends,” he told Roctober magazine. “I think [Elvis] recognized Pat’s talent for what he was doing.” I.R.