Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, August 13, 2003
OVERRATED, VOLUME 2 : THE DICTATORS….Continuing our look at those musical acts that receive far too much credit for far too little payoff, let us now turn to those 1970s clown princes of mediocre rock and roll, THE DICTATORS. Oh wait – let’s first take a look at a couple of things we need to remember before we launch into the evisceration:

A.) There’s no accounting for taste, and
B.) My opinions are just that, opinions. Yours are equally valid and defensible.

I’ll go that one further and recognize that any negative mojo thrown The Dictators’ way will really rub our compatriot, the estimable Jeroen at NEXT BIG THING, the wrong way – they’re pretty much his favorite band, which doesn’t reflect on the high quality of his (and Lindsay Hutton’s) excellent web site. And yeah, I recognize that I may be kicked out of the scene for my views. But I never could figure out the appeal – to me, the Dictators at best are a loud, drunk, partyin’ guitar band worth a couple of cheap laughs ("we knocked ‘em dead in Dallas / they didn’t know we were Jews” is a good one). They may have been far more enjoyable at the time than many of the lesser lights of the 1975-76 “rock scene”, but we’re talking about an age of Jethro Tull, Supertramp, Yes and Boston – not exactly formidable competition. That sort of entrenched awfulness cries out for a true revolution & for the men to stand up and separate themselves from the boys. That revolution came a year later – and it didn’t include The Dictators. What were theydoing in 1977? Plodding on with the same old major-label, well-produced “funny” guitar rock they’d already played out with their decent debut “Go Girl Crazy”, but with lesser songs and a joke that had already been swept aside in the wake of the punk explosion of both sides of the Atlantic. And sure, I’ll give Adny Shernoff his props for being a Stooges fan & for publishing the “Teenage Wasteland Gazette” – good on ya, Adny! Digging the Stooges in 1975 is the bare minimum for consideration for elevation into the canon; but history won't let you coast on that alone.

About 15 years ago I was poking around The Dictators section in a Los Angeles record store, where I was accosted by an older gentleman for whom English was not a native tongue. He saw me looking in the bin, and had this to say: “Dictata. Good gitah”. Yes, on this point I have to agree with him – some very, very good gitah on those 3 Dictators albums. After that, what?