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Beth Mann

Beth Mann
Long Beach Island, New Jersey, USA
November 11
Hot Buttered Media
I'm a writer and creative consultant. I have years of experimental comedy and strange theater under my belt. I surf. I cook. I love wine, men and song. And puppies. I effin' love puppies.

FEBRUARY 10, 2012 6:01AM

15 Bands that Smarted the Fun out of Music

Rate: 16 Flag

 Some musicians are a little too smart for their own good. They're not bad or anything. Just could stand a little lightening up occasionally. A little...self-serious, perhaps. This is because they "smarted the fun out of music."

WARNING! Do not defend the band to us or you'd be seriously missing the point. We actually like many of the musicians listed. We make fun of them nonetheless. Because we can.

Thanks to contributing Silly Lists of Nothingness staff member, Ruby Lawrence. And to all of the helpful Open Salon commenters who grew this list from 5 to 15!

1. Brian Eno

2. Philip Glass


3. Radiohead

4. Beethoven

5. Moby



6. Patti Smith

7. Trent Reznor

8. These two.
(Leonard Cohen and Suzanne Vega. Read this interview if you want to see how serious they can get.)

 9. Robert Fripp (of King Crimson fame.)

10. Morrissey (Don't let the pussycat fool you.)

11. Early Bono (Luckily, he's mellowed over the years.)

12. Arnold Schoenberg

13. Lou Reed

14. Steely Dan (Love you guys, you know that - but you definitely fit the bill.)


15. Diamanda Galas


15B. Michael Stipe (of REM fame)




Philip Glass and some serious work:

A beautiful (and serious) piece by Moby:

Thom Yorke being tres seriouso:


NIN singing the most morose tune ever. Makes me want to eat rusty nails. Don't ever play this at a party:


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I won't defend any of them, although I like them all. I'll just reminisce about those halcyon days of the Seventies when the collective weight of Emerson Lake & Palmer, Rick Wakeman, Genesis, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, and other prog-rock acts caused some of our less-serious heroes to launch punk.

Robert Fripp--there's another dude who belongs on your list. Zappa was pretty fucking serious, too. But he rarely sucked the fun out of anything.
No women? Laurie Anderson? Patti Smith? Tina Weymouth? Just as brainy as these boys, and way more good looking.
@greenheron: most women are to smart to smart the fun out of music. Tori Amos, though...
Good suggestions...and you're right, greenheron...we're missing a chick or two. Patti Smith could definitely be up there.
Well I thought Patti Smith's version of Gloria was fun and while I appreciate Ken H's main point, Gabriel's costumes in the early days of Genesis were fun. But I do agree with the rest of your collection Beth.
Ok, of that group I have an Idea who "Beethoven" is ( Didn't he popularize the "Roll Over"?) I thought you were going to discuss Flatt and Scruggs.
I didn't know Leonard Cohen was a chiropractor.
Good list, though I'll admit to listening to both Beethoven's Eroica symphony and Leonard Cohen's new record this week (Cohen is actually pretty funny sometimes). Terrible admission: I've never been able to stand Radiohead.
lol @ Con Chapman.

KNEW before I clicked here that radiohead would be on your list!
My mottos always been: "More James Brown, less James Blunt!"

P.S. and I'm pretty sure Kenny G is the Antichrist! ;)
I can't argue too much, but how do you include Ludwig, but not Arnold Schoenberg and his atonal, 12-tone musical mastrubation?
I will quote some song lyrics about how the fun left music. Yes, these guys mentioned are part of the problem, but not the biggest part.

It was a golden age, and everyone had a ball!
Until grunge came along and had to ruin it all...

...Depression rock, like a cancerous tumor,
Killed all radio's sense of humor.
With FCC deregulations,
Soon corporations owned all the stations.

No more novelty tunes to be heard by you folks,
'Cept Jeff Foxworthy tellin' Redneck jokes.
Or Adam Sandler listing off the whos-whos
In a holiday list of celebrity Jews.
Oh shoot...Morrisey! Of course. Maybe I'll trade out Early Bono for him. I'm sure there are some good and morose shots of Morrisey.

And Stim, very right indeed. But Beethoven looks funnier. (It's the hair.)

Cranky and others: you know what was interesting? Looking for the images. Some had TONS of really serious pix about and others had a mixed bag of smiles and serious. Moby was smiling all over the place, for instance. And Cohen too. Patti Smith, not smiling so much. Radiohead...very few. And when the lead singer smiles, it feels painful.

Okay, so Morrisey and Talking Heads? Still on the fence with them because they dress silly but still seem like a really smart, serious band.
Brainy band (and auteur) who did it right: Talking Heads & David Byrne. Complete and utter fun, super-smart and you could -- almost had to -- dance to them.
Stunning photos and a good mix of what my kids would call "emo stuff"...minus Beethoven, that is.
Alright Stim, Schoenberg is in.

Neutron, depression rock...I should have coined that one years ago!

Jeremiah, you are right. Talking Heads feel like they'd be a fit for this list, but aren't when it's all said and done.
Spot on with Phillip Glass. At the risk of treading on sensitive toes, where's Lou Reed and the Velvets?

Now as to Beethoven, "With all due respect" - as they say down your way, in the Sopranos - I don't think anyone is qualified to pass judgment on him until they've listened to his Late String Quartets at least 10 times. An undertaking which might actually kill you, but as the man said, "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger." Much stronger, in this case.

But hey, here I am trying to smart the fun out of your blog.
Nother exception that proves your rule (whatever that means): Walter Becker & Donald Fagan, aka Steely Dan . Brilliant lyrics from the start. Cerebral even ("Don't Take Me Alive," "Show Biz Kids, a dozen others). Supremely accomplished (but still rockin) musicianship. Monster hits even. And after years as a "studio band" they took it on the road blew everyone away (take a bow, Jon Herrington).

Meanwhile, for your list of the fun-free: substitute Ludwig van (go ask Alex) for Laurie Anderson.
I came back here a couple of times to watch the list grow.

Where does Sting fit in? I have nearly broken my finger pushing the dashboard radio button to switch stations when he comes on.

or Carly Simon anyone?
Oh sh*t! Steely Dan...of course. And yes...Lou Reed and Laurie belong on there too. I might be up to 15...a lot of self-seriousness out there.

Jeremiah, I hear you. I love Steely Dan. They are just smooth and perfect, but fit the criteria here. (But as I said, I like several of these musicians.)

Back to Beethoven, I get you all...but the image is so funny. I can't take it away!
Ha! Even Schoenberg's photo is too serious.
The list got longer since this morning. Suzanne Vega! How could I have forgotten her?!
Yes, it's been a busy day, greenheron. I looked at a bunch of images of Laurie Anderson and she's a little too smiley for the self-serious musician list. But I could be swayed.

I'm thinking I might round out the list with Diamanda Galas. Make it an even 15.
I've only heard of two of them... That's slightly sad. But they definitely look a bit over-serious!
What a great concept for a post - the title is a gem - I was all "YES" even before I read the list. I would put Michael Stipe right up there. And sometimes I want to tell Elivs Costello to you know, *lighten up* already, dude.
Oh my god....I forgot Michael Stipe. Oi...not 16. Someone needs cut...maybe early Bono...NO!!!
Thank you, Ms. Mann. Wish I could take credit for the lyrics. The quoted lyrics were from a song by The Great Luke Ski, "Dementia Revolution." It's a celebration of comedy music, an explanation of why it vanished before our eyes, and showing that it's still alive and thriving in the underground world of the Internet and science fiction conventions.

Another interesting thing about dementia music (named after the great Dr. Demento) - much of it is available for free. Record labels don't carry comedy music because they can't make Lady Gaga numbers off it. So these ladies and gents release their work online, with free low-fi versions and cheap high-quality versions. They don't make real money at it. They do it for the love of it. Which should be a lesson for all these people trying to be writers.
To be fair, Beethoven didn't have a band, just the odd pickup orchestra. But he was damn serious. Wasn't he the first guy who had his face on a sweatshirt? I remember that from when I was a kid.
It was in the 1970's that rock musicians began to think of themselves as artists, and this irrational self-importance and "seriousness" sucked the life and fun out of rock and roll for a short period. I suppose that many of the British musicians who were Beatles fans forgot that the Fab Four really broke up as soon as it stopped being fun. I blame both the prog rock movement bands (Yes, Jethro Tull, Emerson-Lake Palmer, Genesis, Pink Floyd) and the terrbile corporate rock bands (Styx, Boston, Foreigner, Kansas). You could tell who was taking thmselves too seriously by the fact that they never smiled while on stage, and they put on a terrible live concert due to their "intelligence" and self-importance. Although I don't really believe in God, I thank him for giving us the gift of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in the 1970s; Bruce single-handedly saved rock and roll from Disco and from itself. It was also the Ramones who reminded us that rock music is never supposed to be too slick or polished, but it is supposed to be fun and full of energy with three or four chords.
Paul Haider, Chicago