Everybody makes mistakes, even music critics. In today's show, we revisit first impressions of soon-to-be classic albums and works that were on the wrong side of history.
First, Soundcheck host John Schaefer walks us through a few choice reviews of classical composers, as collected by the late Nicholas Slonimsky in his book, A Lexicon Of Musical Invective. In their day, both Beethoven and Wagner were shredded by baffled critics. Brahms too -- who George Bernard Shaw deemed “A great baby, rather tiresomely addicted to dressing himself up as Handel or Beethoven and making a prolonged and intolerable noise."
Of course some of the some of the biggest names in Western pop and rock also got terrible reviews when they first came out, too. J. Edward Keyes, Editor-in-Chief of eMusic, offers some choice examples.
Keyes says that while Simon and Garfunkels’ Bookends is now considered an American classic, it was panned by Rolling Stone's Arthur Schmidt in 1968 as "questionable."
Next, The Beatles' Abbey Road -- now ranked #14 on the Greatest Album of All-Time list by Rolling Stone -- was skewered by critic Ed Ward in the magazine’s pages in 1969. "Eeeeeeeeek. It's The Beatles," Ward wrote. But, when we caught up with Ward, who spoke to us from his home in France, he said "I have changed my views slightly toward the positive. Time has a way of doing that."
Pitchfork is also (in)famous for its sometimes caustic reviews. In the early days of the music site, contributor Jason Josephes demolished The Flaming Lips’ Zaireeka, giving it a score of 0.0 out of ten. That record eventually became a key release in the Flaming Lips’ development, Keyes explains.
"It moved them into what became -- starting with The Soft Bulletin, and there on out -- a series of really great, well-structured, well-considered records that established their reputation." In 2002, Mark Richardson, now Editor-in-Chief of Pitchfork, revisited the album. His post reads as something of a mea culpa for the website; he writes that he considers Zaireeka “one of the most amazing albums ever recorded.”
Bonus: Ed Ward talks about the day he received his review copy of Abbey Road -- and what other albums were in the pile: