Music History

An Experiment in Honesty: Which Formerly Hated Artists Did You Eventually Come Around to Appreciate?

Here’s a question for everyone: What three artists did you originally hate/dislike/not get did you end up appreciating later? Be honest.

I’ll go first.

Back in the 80s, I did NOT get The Smiths. I thought they were a bunch of wimps. Over the years, though, I slowly came to appreciate them and now believe them to be one of the most important bands of all time.

Band two: ABBA. I originally wrote them off as a silly pop band. But then one day I woke up to the brilliance of the songwriting, singing and production. It happened when I accidentally heard “This Visitor” one day. Now I’m a believer.

Band three: Iron Maiden. I thought they were…okay. I was a little slow to pick up on the power and majesty of their music.

Your turn. Some responses may be used on my radio show.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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25 thoughts on “An Experiment in Honesty: Which Formerly Hated Artists Did You Eventually Come Around to Appreciate?

  • Nirvana – I thought they were just a bunch of noise.
    Ed Sheeran – I thought he wrote middling pop, then he contributed to The Hobbit.
    Flyleaf – My daughter brought this home at the same time as Nightwish (yech!) so I stupidly lumped them together.

  • I’m with you on ABBA. They were probably the first band I said I hated without having given them a chance at all. It wasn’t until I saw a documentary on them that I realized how much their music was out there and how much I actually knew and enjoyed.

    Tea Party. It wasn’t until Transmission that they clicked with me. Bought into them fully after that.

    Tom Waits. Wtf was up with his music or whatever you called it. Never understood it until I heard Mule Variations and then I looked back. Brilliant.

    Sometimes all you need is one moment for everything else to make perfect sense.

  • The Police. Initially I felt their songs were mostly a few lines repeated endlessly and similar sounding. “Sending out an SOS…”, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing”, “Put on the red light” and , of course “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”. As time went by other songs slipped in there like “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Invisible Sun”. Synchronicity helped me revisit their earlier works with a more open ear. And then they were gone…

  • My three:

    1) The Sex Pistols. I was a metalhead as a kid, back in the 80s when metal was metal and punk was punk. Never the twain did meet, except to beat the hell out of each other in the yard of my school. Then along came grunge in the 90s, and I sort of said…oh, wow, this is all the same stuff in a lot of ways, isn’t it? The anger, the rebellion, the loudness…punk, was just a bit more political. That, and punk had a better sense of humour. (Metal took itself a bit too seriously, I found.)

    But punk and metal turned out to be like siblings who fought like hell as kids, then learned to get along after they grew up. I appreciated the Sex Pistols much later in life, when I came to understand how groundbreaking and influential they were.

    2) U2. To be honest, I didn’t mind their music too much, but their early fans back in the day really pissed me off. All arty-farty and wearing black and all earnestly and pretentiously political and stuff…ugh. U2 was sort of guilty by association.

    Then my brother talked me into seeing them when the “Joshua Tree” tour came to Toronto in October 1987, at the old Exhibition Stadium. It was like flipping a switch. I got it–what this band was capable of, and why they became the band they did. U2 kind of lost me again after the Zooropa phase, but I’ve come drifting back to them over the years.

    3) The Dixie Chicks. (Yes, you’re allowed to laugh at that one a little bit.) I am not much of a fan of country music. I find a lot of “New Country” in particular to be very phony, very affected, and very bubble-gummy.

    I gained a lot of respect for the Dixie Chicks when they spoke their minds about the Iraq war, and said how embarrassed they were that the came from the same state as George W Bush. That cost them a lot of fans and a lot of money, but they never wavered. That took guts.

    And then I saw the film “Shut Up and Sing”, and I REALLY got it. Not only did I appreciate their tough-mindedness and their refusal to be intimidated by the right-wing screamers, but…WOW, do their musical chops ever come through in that film. The Dixie Chicks are GREAT singers, and their fiddle player is outstanding.

    I now put the Dixie Chicks into the same category into which I put artists like Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, and Adele. I’m not a fan, in that their music isn’t to my taste, but I have great respect for them as artists, and for what they have achieved.

  • Guns N’ Roses – Used to hate hair bands, but I grew to love Slash. And I love their cover of Sympathy For The Devil
    Katy Perry – My kids convinced me by making me listen to her constantly and I learned to appreciate her voice.
    Snoop Dogg – Wasn’t a big rap fan, but my husband was so we saw him live at a festival and he was amazing.

    • I felt the same way about GnR. I saw them open for Iron Maiden in….I think it was 1988. And their performance just STUNK. Axl’s voice was failing, and Slash looked like he could barely stand up. So I thought: “Nah, these losers aren’t going anywhere.”

      They grew on me, eventually. I wasn’t (and still am not) a huge fan, but I got past the BS and that bad early performance and appreciated them.

  • Steely Dan: Dismissed them for the longest time as overly slick filler for classic rock radio – something to pass the time between The Who and Led Zeppelin. After I started getting into jazz I ended up revisiting Aja and realizing that not only was there some serious musicianship going on there, there was also a demented sense of humour.

    Grateful Dead: I did the whole “hippies are scum” thing when I was younger and followed Fat Mike’s lead in hating on Jerry Garcia and the Dead. I sort of knew “Scarlet Begonias” because Sublime had covered it, but I didn’t really know anything about the band or their music. When I met my wife, however, she was a big fan of Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, and the Grateful Dead. I continued to resist until one night we were driving back through upstate New York to her aunt and uncle’s house in Almyra. She put on American Beauty and it was as though a dam burst somewhere in my head; I suddenly got the Dead, on a visceral level, and by the time we hit the picturesque outskirts of Almyra the steel guitar in the middle of “Candyman” synced up perfectly with our passage and I was hooked for life.

    Beach House: Before Bloom, the Baltimore duo held no charms for me. Their music bored me utterly – it felt to me as though it were garden party Muzak for bored, jaded suburban teens lounging by their pools and trying to be amateur sunglasses models. They were, to me, one of those bands that Pitchfork hyped in the mid-to-late Oughts that approximated a certain hopelessly ironic Brooklyn aesthetic I couldn’t relate to. Then Bloom came out, in 2012, and I changed my mind completely. I can’t explain exactly what clicked when I first heard “Myth”, but for whatever reason it clicked loudly. Where I previously felt boredom I instead felt a heavy tug of nostalgia for youth and summer; I fully admit that the summers I imagined listening to it likely never occurred that way but while listening to Beach House it was as though they had.

    • I completely understand about the Grateful Dead–but I’m not there yet.

      • American Beauty brought me close. Workingman’s Dead drove me home.

  • There only example I can think of is the opposite of what you’re asking, but I’m going to leave it here anyway. Nickelback, I still think The State and there first album are great, but everything else has been terrible, meaning they are a band I thought was great and eventually hated. Their music hasn’t changed, but I can’t appreciate it anymore.

    • My “used to like them” artist: Sting. His first two post-Police solo albums (Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun) were brilliant. After that…zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  • Mostly Beatles for me. Was just “mom and dad music”, or grocery store background muzak when I was younger.

    It wasn’t until I realised Tomorrow Never Knows by Helio Sequence was a cover that I fell in love. Blown away that they had that sound in the 60s and then became immersed in their entire evolution over such a short amount of time.

    Similarly I guess Tom Petty was originally “dad rock” for me. Learned to appreciate him later.

  • Depeche Mode – The thought of listening to a bunch of guys with keyboards was not appealing to me. At that time my preferred category of music was metal. One day I heard Enjoy the Silence and I was hooked.

    Tom Waits – First time I heard Tom Waits I thought it was the worst music I have ever heard. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I final understood his genius. The album that would change me is Rain Dogs.

    White Stripes – I went to a local record shop that specialized in punk and under ground bands. On the rack under new releases they had De Stijl on vinyl. I loved the album cover so I thought I would give it a listen. My initial reaction was something along the lines of “what is this crap”! Ignored it and went on my way. It wasn’t until there next record that I feel in love with them and never looked back.

  • I never thought I would say this (especially having lived through the late 70s), but I have actually come around to appreciating some of the music from that era that we disparagingly labelled as “disco”. Anything Nile Rodgers had his hands on is deserving of a closer listen.

    Another band I never really got was Peter Gabriel era Genesis. However, last fall, my cousin convinced me to see The Musical Box (a Genesis tribute band), and I now have a new-found appreciation. ELP is still going to take some work, though…

  • Laugh as you like:

    The Cult – at first I thought just another pseudo wanna be death metal band. Must be goth and wear long black lace shirts (where the lace hangs down past your hands!!), don’t go out in the sun or wear lots of white facepaint…. But grew to appreciate the performances, guitar playing and the voice. Now have all their albums and crank them up. And I have always been in to hard rock, hair metal and guitar driven music, which leads to ….

    Kid Rock – (and kind of Eminem & the Beastie Boys) – these guys rap?? I would shut the radio off or change the station when they came on. I just didn’t get it. But now really enjoy listening to most of their stuff – especially anything live as their performances seem to capture the emotion / feeling / that untouchable thing you can’t quite describe.

    Lady Gaga – from perceived pop diva princess – to brilliant (and so talented). Maybe it’s the pure showmanship of her performances – but I’m hooked. And I really can’t stand to listen to the Katy Perry’s, Brittany Spears or Beyonce’s songs, but bring on Gaga anytime.

  • 1. Pearl Jam – did not get them from the fall of ’91 until 1994, thought they were mindless jock rock disguised as overrated new trend that high schoolers ate up without thinking choice through.
    Now Ed Ved and the guys have proven intelligence and respect for music and the world as well.

    2. 311 – before nu-metal blew up I thought they were The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” on steroids in the worst intended way. Today I appreciate their other songs that AREN’T “Down” because that tune is misrepresentative of their sound. Felt even more sorry for them after that Scott Stapp incident.

    3. The Bee Gees – who didn’t knock these guys? For those excuses I have been proven wrong. Greatest songwriters and performers, elder statesmen and I mean it in the best way possible. If I have any reason to still slight them it is pure jealousy! I even watched ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and saw that for more than Mickey Mouse watch disco posturing. Given a choice though I do really like their earlier ’60s pop recordings–gotta get that message through!

  • That is an epic tune. some bands just don’t come across with that much volume of sound in production. I would have used them as a frisbee back in the day.
    The new bands that come across like that to me are far between but Arcade Fire has something special. Lady GaGa is one i hated until I listened to her live at the ACC man what an epic show.
    Sia, I can appreciate as well after an interview on Howard Stern.

  • NIRVANA – Music journalists made me hate this band. Everywhere you turned in 1991 it was all about how Nirvana was the second coming and were changing rock and Kurt Cobain was the new Dylan. All this for an album I found mediocre and over-produced. However, when In Utero was released 2 years later I loved it. I still think Nevermind gets way more credit and acclaim than it deserves, but I suppose I’m on the losing side of history there.

    U2 – I found this band, particularly Bono, insufferable throughout the 80s, particularly during The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum years. Cut to 1990 with the release of Night and Day from Red, Hot & Blue, and I was immediately into their new sound. They almost sounded…cool. Suffice to say, Achtung Baby sealed the deal. With the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree I went back and watched footage of them at the Grammy’s in ’88. Turns out I was right. Bono was annoying in the 80s. However, he’s become much more articulate and self-deprecating since.

  • Bruce Springsteen – it wasn’t until The Rising that I finally got him. Maybe I needed something after 9/11 – I’m a die hard U2 fan and the US leg of the Elevation tour ended in late ’01 and Bruce was there to fill a void that I didn’t know existed.

    Grateful Dead – I never actually hated them, but I didn’t really like them. It wasn’t until the Fare Thee Well shows in Chicago that I realized I knew a lot more of their catalog than I thought I did and grew to appreciate them. They are now one of the artists of whom I own the most releases on vinyl.

    Tupac – I am not a rap fan at all. I am, however, a die hard Pearl Jam fan and when we learned that they’d be getting into the Rock Hall of Fame, I immediately rejoined, so as to have a chance at getting induction ceremony tickets to the show in Brooklyn. Of course, they were the last up that night, so I watched the other inductees give speeches and perform – it was a fantastic night as I love Jeff Lynne / ELO and Yes, and the Journey thing was so nostalgic. But it was Snoop Dogg’s induction of Tupac that made me want to give him a chance. We downloaded some of his music the next day and my opinion changed.

  • Bright Eyes – originally didn’t bother to listen when he blew up in the mid-2000s because I just lumped him in with the other whiny emo artists of the time, mostly because of his fans. I was converted when I was a friend’s place and she had on “I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning” and without knowing what was playing, I actually listened to the songwriting and had to acknowledge that Conor Oberst is a hell of a songwriter. Now I own most of his records.

    Blur – my first love is Oasis so as a kid I felt I had to choose sides, as young fans do. Now older, I think Damon Albarn may be a musical genius.

    Rush- As an editor for Canadian Musician magazine, admitting this may cost me my job, but I never liked Rush. I’ve never been able to get into prog rock in general. I didn’t hate them, but I didn’t get them either. The HBO documentary that came out a few years ago converted me, at least much as I can be. While I’m probably never going to say, “Hey, I could really go for some 2112 right now,” that doc made me realize what exceptional musicians all three of them are and appreciate the success and fan base they’ve cultivated.

  • Johnny Cash – this was my parents music, but as I reached my 40s and the American Recordings were made, I was hooked – I so wish I could have seen him in concert.

    Def Leppard – I thought it was just Q107 music, then I picked up Hysteria.

    Japan – I can remember teasing a couple of young ladies about liking Japan, back when it was current. What an idiot I was. I can listen to Mick Karn’s fretless bass all day.

  • Bob Dylan: it took me a long time to fully come around on him. I realized he was an important songwriter but found his voice unpleasantly nasal. “It makes you want to hide,” as Dylan himself said. It wasn’t until I heard ‘Tommorow is a Long Time’ at the end of a Walking Dead episode that it all clicked. The plain-spoken weariness of his vocal is perfect and beautiful.

  • I was very late to the party for Tea Party. I thought they were a bastard child of Led Zep and the Doors, mixed with Alistair Crowley. Love them now.

    Pearl Jam was a love hate love. Loved Ten, until I saw them live here in Edmonton for their first show. Worst concert ever. Opening acts (two of them) were horrid, and PJ themselves came on stage ridiculously late, could barely stand, Eddie was slurring words and acting like an asshole the whole night, and then they absolutely butchered a cover of Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. My friend and I walked out of the show at that point. I completely ignored them for a few albums afterward, and they somehow managed to win me back with each successive release. They’re solidly in my top 20 all time fave bands.
    My recent thing is Supertramp. My older sister had a couple of their tapes and a record or two, but none of my friends listened to them. I thought they were kind of high on themselves, but over time, I’ve developed an appreciation for them. It was partly due to Supertramp member Mark Hart joining Crowded House that led to me looking into them more.
    A band I tried really hard to get into for decades, and failed, is Pink Floyd. When I was at MacEwan in the jazz bass program, there were lots of PF fans, and even hanging around them and also working a PF show here in Edmonton wasn’t enough to turn me into a fan. It’s just not to be. I love Roger Waters though.

  • Interesting that several other people have said Tea Party. I could take them or leave them around 1997 and then I saw them in concert and they were fantastic. I still love them now.

    The Tragically Hip. I liked the stuff on the radio at first, but then it all seemed over played. And I saw them live but it was a long day at Another Roadside Attraction and we were so far from the stage and I thought they weren’t all they were cracked up to be. But now I’m older and I’ve grown into the music and some of those songs take me back to high school.

  • A little late to the party my apologies!

    Moby: Considered him just another sellout but turns out he has some talent and some decent music.

    Marilyn Manson: Didn’t even attempt to listen to this music. Then I seen the video for Man That You Fear. Decided to check out the Antichrist Superstar album. Wow, very good stuff. So now I’m searching the other albums and finding some gems along the way.

    Oasis: Thought they were some whiny angry pricks. They are but the show that AC did on them changed my mind about the music.


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