Green Day better than Zeppelin? Salon readers are outraged at the very idea -- and Neal Pollack responds.

By Salon Staff
Published February 16, 2005 9:00PM (EST)

[Read "Grammy Whammy!" by Neal Pollack.]

"There's lot of lifetime achievement tonight, probably too much, as Led Zeppelin gets a lifetime achievement award. In a case of reverse irony, Green Day wins best rock album immediately after. They're a band far better than Zeppelin, though the sex to their music goes at a much less seductive pace.

I thought it was a misprint that you would compare Green Day to Zeppelin, let alone make such a statement like this. But later I read, "Call me naive, but I can't even begin to say how much I admire these guys. Not every band that works hard gets successful for the right reasons, but it's nice to see it happen at least once."

I am calling you naive -- actually, ignorant, naive and/or biased. I think you need to do some homework on Zeppelin. Just because your teeny-bopper days were spent listening to Green Day (as were some of mine) doesn't make this a monumental band. You can make such a statement because you've heard "Stairway to Heaven" on the radio.

I'm in shock.

-- Julian

I don't understand why music critics simply must use every available opportunity to bash Led Zeppelin. I did not grow up in the '70s, I have never been to a heavy metal or hard rock concert, and I don't have a mullet (in fact, I could not grow a true mullet without the help of Jheri Curl; my genes prefer Afros). Despite these cultural limitations, even I can recognize that Led Zeppelin produced more eternal songs than any rock band other than the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and possibly U2.

Let's give them a break and cut out the snide remarks.

-- Bryan Thompson

Say it ain't so!

My heart froze in horror when I read Neal Pollack's blasphemous sentiments about the merits of Led Zeppelin's lifetime achievement award at the Grammys. I can't believe that anyone (Billie Joe, Tre Cool and Mike D included) would actually proclaim that Green Day is a far greater band than the biggest band in the history of rock 'n' roll. You can make all kinds of arguments about L.Z.'s place in history but to deny the role that they had in shaping the face of music for generations is sheer naive lunacy.

This is not to say that I am knocking Green Day, who absolutely deserve every morsel of their newfound credibility, and whose latest album is an amazing step of transformation and maturity. I have tremendous respect for their growth as artists (although I have to admit I prefer the rough-hewn, adolescent energy of earlier efforts like "Kerplunk").

Pollack continues to undermine his credibility by publicly proclaiming his ignorance of the existence of one the preeminent guitar legends of classic rock -- Dickey Betts.

The bottom line is how can a person be a music critic, and actually a published author, while seemingly possessing the musical acumen of a pre-pubescent teenage suburbanite?

-- Ian Abbett

C'mon, don't you require your music writers to have credentials before you allow them to get published on Salon? Or do you simply hire people at random to spout their very limited knowledge and present it as some sort of authoritarian diatribe? Green Day is "a band far better than Zeppelin." What is that? That's so wrong it's not even amusing. I mean, where do I start?

This guy's uninformed opinions belong in the blog world, where he can go on and on about how superior today's lame bands are, much better than hacks like Zep and the Beatles. Green Day! Ugh. Not Radiohead or some band with at least a good deal of talent. Good thing Marvin Gaye didn't get a lifetime achievement award or I'd have to read how much more soulful and wonderful Alicia Keys is.

Just pathetic. You should really require your music writers to have a solid understanding of the difference between music that matters and music of the moment. Tom Waits matters. He's about the only person recording today with any amount of integrity. Alicia Keys does not matter. Green Day does not matter. Kanye West does not matter. Zeppelin matters a lot! Ask any guitarist worth their salt, they'll tell you just how much.

-- Bret Partker

Everyone is entitled to hold even the most misguided and uninformed opinions about music. However, simply having opinions does not qualify one to be a music critic. Your Grammy reviewer says that Green Day is "a band far better than Zeppelin, though the sex to their music goes at a much less seductive pace." Como? I like Green Day just fine, but it's always been a mere echo of original bands past, such as the Ramones and the Sex Pistols -- complete with a fake-British-accented lead singer. Led Zeppelin changed the face of rock.

-- Jeff Pyle

While I agree with Neal Pollack's assertion that the 2005 Grammy awards was an entertaining show with a higher proportion than usual of quality musical guests, I am stunned by more than a few of his statements.

1) A supposed music critic has never even heard of Dickie Betts? Did Mr. Pollack build his critical pedigree from underneath a rock? If so, it was clearly the wrong rock.

2) Green Day is a better rock band than Led Zeppelin? Please. Taste aside, one of these bands is an indisputable member of rock's elite who took the elemental form of blues and created some of the most memorable, original and influential songs of the 1970s. The other band sounds like the Clash circa 1978.

3) I agree that Tim McGraw and Jennifer Lopez were low points of the night, but how could one not be impressed with the sheer joy and vocal prowess that characterized Melissa Etheridge's performance? I guess it's a matter of taste but really poor taste. She put the young Stone woman in her place.

4) I finally realized that Mr. Pollack may have been born with tin ears when he referred to the all-star performance of John Lennon's "Across the Universe" as "absolutely magnificent." This horrendous train wreck of a performance was clearly in the wrong key for most of the performers. The harmonies were brutally out of tune, Brian Wilson sang a full tone sharp, and somehow the arrangement induced the usually sultry Norah Jones to sing a full semi-tone flat. Where was Ashlee Simpson's computerized pitch adjuster when it was really needed? This was an embarrassment I'm sure most musically oriented folks will try hard to forget.

-- Daniel K. Berman

Neal Pollack responds:

The last thing I expected when I woke up Monday morning is that Led Zeppelin fans would have declared a fatwa on me. I've never seen such a violent response to anything I've written, and I've written a lot of offensive, stupid stuff. Is there some Donald Wildmon figure directing this intense Zeppelin defense, or did I accidentally strike some rich vein of bile in the culture? The attacks I received were so passionate, and so personal, that by the time I'd read the 10th one, I found myself thinking: "Geez. Maybe I am ignorant."

Then again, you know what? I'm entitled to my opinion. For the record, I listened to "Whole Lotta Love" on some headphones when I was 11, and I still consider it one of my transformative musical experiences. Zeppelin albums, every single one of them, made up a great part of my collection, along with Pink Floyd, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who and other bands that were part of my forced education at the dawn of classic-rock radio. I lived in almost total ignorance of any other musical reality. Then when I turned 19 I went to see the Pogues live in Chicago during their last tour with Shane McGowan. That was the moment that would determine what kind of musical attitude I'd adopt in adulthood, and my John Lennon and Mick Jagger posters came off the dorm-room wall. That was when I stopped believing in rock gods.

I used to think Zeppelin was pretty important, but I haven't thought about the band in a very long time. It's possible that this could just signal a shift in my musical taste over time, not serve as incontrovertible proof of my eternal galactic stupidity. There could be someone out there who agrees with me. So I just think that what's popular is good right now. So what? Why should I apologize for liking what's actually popular at the moment?

That said, "Across The Universe" was actually quite horrible. I was just very drunk by the time it came on. I humbly apologize for my previously stated opinion.

Salon Staff

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