20 genuinely horrible albums made by genius musicians


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Making great music is like playing baseball; nobody bats 1000, no matter how good they are. Sure, a few artists have managed the neat trick of never making a bad album, but those artists are, without a doubt, the exception to the rule.

Like the rest of us, even the most brilliant musician will slip on a metaphorical banana peel and release something that amounts to a stubborn stain on their catalog, which can never come out no matter how many great albums they release afterward. Here’s our list of genuinely crappy albums by great artists, a syndrome that occurs so frequently that we’re doing 20 instead of just 10.


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1. Aerosmith — ‘Rock in a Hard Place’ (1982)

The American hard rock band Aerosmith spent the 1970s going from strength to strength, but by the 1980s, they were creatively spent and lost the services of guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, who were essential to the band’s sound. Ken Tucker of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave it a one-star review , and the passage of 40 years has done nothing to rehabilitate its reputation.


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2. The Beatles — ‘Yellow Submarine’ (1969)

Hey, even the Beatles don’t have an unblemished catalog. Technically, this is only half a Beatles album anyway, since side two is composed entirely of incidental music written by producer George Martin, and it’s safe to say that album side got played by Beatles fans exactly once. Side one is composed of previously released material and unreleased outtakes, of which only “It’s All Too Much” is worth hearing. Other than that song, this album is a complete waste of time.

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3. Black Sabbath — ‘Forbidden’ (1995)


After Ozzy Osbourne parted ways with Black Sabbath in 1979, the band suffered years of revolving door lineups with different singers, bassists, and drummers coming and going, with varying degrees of success. Meanwhile, 1995’s “Forbidden” was hot garbage from top to bottom and easily the band’s worst release. It had no redeeming qualities, and the less said about it, the better.


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4. David Bowie — ‘Never Let Me Down’ (1987)


David Bowie made a career out of crafting music that was ahead of its time, but by the 1980s, he had become much poppier in his output, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Sadly, by 1987’s “Never Let Me Down,” words like “middling” and “dull” would apply, a massive step down for an artist whose entire career was built on pushing the envelope. Reviews were mostly mixed, but today, this is still nobody’s favorite David Bowie album and likely never will be.


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5. Eric Clapton — ‘Money and Cigarettes’ (1983)

1983’s “Money and Cigarettes” was Eric Clapton’s first album after being in treatment for alcoholism. While we’re happy he got the monkey off his back, the album itself is massively dull and contains not one note of memorable music. In the New York Times, the guitarist conceded that he could probably do better on his next album than on this one. 


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6. The Clash — ‘Cut the Crap’ (1985)

In their glory days, even people who didn’t like punk rock liked the Clash, or at least respected them and recognized them as the genuine article. As their music changed from pure punk rock to incorporate elements of reggae, dub, and other sounds, their fans stayed with them, even as they committed the worst sin of all – making a popular album with 1982’s ‘Combat Rock.” But the fans could not countenance singer Joe Strummer firing half the band and turning in “Cut the Crap” as a Clash album in 1985, and the reviews were merciless. Strummer disowned the album and broke up the band weeks after its release.

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7. The Doors — ‘Other Voices’ (1971)

When Doors singer Jim Morrison died in July 1971, the smart money would have been on the band breaking up immediately, as it was a loss akin to the Rolling Stones going on without Mick Jagger. At the time of the singer’s death, the remaining band members had been playing together and writing new material, so maybe it seemed like a healthy and life-affirming decision to carry on. Still, the sad fact is that without Morrison, it just didn’t work. They recorded another Jimless album, “Full Circle” in 1972 and then mercifully pulled the plug.

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8. Led Zeppelin — ‘Coda’ (1982)

It may not be fair to include “Coda” on this list since it was a collection of outtakes compiled by the band two years after they broke up and was not intended to stand alongside their regular studio albums. Having said that, “Coda” fails to clear the very low bar set for it, despite having a couple of songs on it that are not so bad. You will never put it on the same way you put on “Houses of the Holy,” and if you do, you will never listen to it a second time.

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9. Lynyrd Skynyrd — ‘Skynyrd’s First and… Last’ (1978)

Just like “Coda” was for Led Zeppelin, “Skynyrd’s First and… Last” was a vault-clearing outtakes album released after the band had been in a plane crash that killed two members. The tracks all came from sessions recorded before the band’s first album, and a couple of the songs are truly outstanding. Then there are another seven songs, which are not. It’s not unlistenable, but it falls far short of the music released during the band’s heyday.

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10. Metallica — ‘St. Anger’ (2003)

“St. Anger” is the worst album Metallica ever recorded, for several reasons. The sound is awful (drummer Lars Ulrich sounds like he’s hitting a garbage can lid), the songs are terrible from start to finish, and they go on for multiple eternities, with songs that overstay their welcome after two minutes going on for seven or eight. In their 40-year career, Metallica has released several records that challenged fans and didn’t offer easy retreads of the stuff fans liked the most, but this album feels like pure punishment, and not the good kind.

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11. Pink Floyd — ‘The Final Cut’ (1983)

 Pink Floyd’s catalog is wide and varied, and quite honestly, not every record is a winner. In fact, some of them are downright crappy! But when it comes to the album that has no good songs and shows bassist and songwriter Roger Waters at his most dictatorial, 1983’s “The Final Cut” has no competition. Waters was primarily responsible for the band’s previous album, “The Wall,” which he had written about 95% of and had been a major hit on the charts. He was driven mad with power and decided he was Pink Floyd, but he left the group after the release of “The Final Cut,” assuming the band would collapse without him. Instead, they went on to make millions and millions of dollars in his absence.

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12 Elvis Presley — ‘Having Fun with Elvis on Stage’ (1974)

Whatever you think of Elvis Presley, you’d have to agree that he was a singer first, maybe an actor second, and someone who shot at television sets to change the channel third. What he was not was a spoken word artist, but that didn’t do anything to stop the release of 1974’s “Having Fun with Elvis on Stage,” which consisted entirely of the guy’s onstage banter and contained not one note of music. Of course, for some people, the complete absence of Elvis Presley’s music might be a selling point.

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13. Queen — ‘Hot Space’ (1982)

Queen was never a band that was a critic’s darling, but the fans always loved them, even when they departed from their rock sound to dabble in other styles. The one time this wasn’t the case was on 1982’s “Hot Space” album, which consisted almost entirely of dance music and not the kind that anyone wanted. The one bright spot on the album was the closing cut, “Under Pressure,” which featured a guest appearance from David Bowie and is a stone-cold classic. The 40 minutes preceding it uniformly stink.

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14.Queen + Paul Rodgers — ‘The Cosmos Rocks’ (2008)

This may seem like double-dipping since we discussed Queen in the previous entry. Still, we would be shirking our responsibilities as a publication full of actionable knowledge if we let this go. After Freddie Mercury passed away in 1991, Queen became inactive for several years, only to emerge in 2005 with Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers at the microphone. The pairing did not work at all, but fans were so happy to see the band again in any form that the union was tolerated. Then they made the album “The Cosmos Rocks,”it was awful, and the pairing ended shortly after that.

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15 Lou Reed and Metallica — ‘Lulu’ (2011)

This also qualifies as double-dipping since we mentioned Metallica a few entries ago, but we would be remiss to overlook it. Whether you want to see this as a misfire for Lou Reed, Metallica, or both, there’s no denying that this record is physically painful to listen to from the word go. It lasts over 88 minutes, with some songs going on for almost 20 minutes. Critic Don Kaye called it “a catastrophic failure on almost every level” , and he wasn’t wrong.

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16. The Rolling Stones — ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ (1967)

When you have as long a career as the Rolling Stones, you’re likely to make at least a couple of subpar albums, and Mick Jagger and co. certainly released their share. While a couple receive regular mention on worst-of lists, such as 1986’s “Dirty Work,” we’re going with 1967’s “Their Satanic Majesties Request,” a blatant attempt at ripping off the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in both look and sound. The faux-psychedelic album cover housed a record full of ‘faux-psychedelic’ music, which the Rolling Stones had no talent for. In the 1994 book “Keith Richards: In His Own Words,” the legendary Stones guitarist called the record ‘a load of crap.

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17. Rod Stewart — ‘Blondes Have More Fun’ (1978)

In the late 1970s, it seemed like every rock artist was going disco, even artists like KISS and the Rolling Stones, whose rock credentials seemed beyond question. Rod Stewart also couldn’t resist participating in the fad, and his “Blondes Have More Fun” album saw him shaking his booty to a disco beat, especially on its lead-off single, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.” It’s certainly not the worst record ever made, but when it came out, fans of Stewart’s more rock material were livid with rage, and many of them never forgave him.

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18. Van Halen — ‘Van Halen III’ (1998)

Van Halen could seemingly do no wrong in the 1980s when they dominated the airwaves and were all over MTV. Some worried that it might affect their commercial fortunes when they parted ways with singer David Lee Roth, but when new singer Sammy Hagar took over for Roth, the band went from strength to strength. For reasons too convoluted to go into, they parted ways with Hagar and replaced him with former Extreme singer Gary Cherone, who sang on 1998’s very terrible “Van Halen III.”While it’s tempting to blame the new guy for it, the singer described the record as “Eddie [Van Halen’s] baby” in a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone.

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19. The Who — ‘It’s Hard’ (1982)

The Who had arguably been in artistic decline in the late 1970s, notably when they released 1978’s subpar “Who Are You” album. Then, legendary drummer Keith Moon passed away, and many people took it for granted that was the end of the band, but they drafted the Faces’ Kenney Jones and carried on. Their first album with Jones, “Face Dances,” wasn’t terrible, but the next one, 1982’s “It’s Hard,” absolutely was. The band must have agreed because they broke up shortly afterward.

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20. Yes — ‘Union’ (1991)

The British progressive rock band Yes made their name in the 1970s and even had an unlikely career renaissance in the 1980s. But there was trouble in paradise when the Yes lineup that became popular in the 1980s was operating simultaneously with the members who had been in the band in the previous decade. If that doesn’t make any sense, that’s because it doesn’t! The record company decided to worsen an incoherent situation by taking songs recorded by both camps, combining them on one album, calling the album ‘Union,’ and saying it was a Yes album. The music was as incoherent as the backstory, and not one of the album’s 14 songs is good. Legendary Yes keyboard player Rick Wakeman said that he referred to the “Union” album as “Onion” because it made him cry whenever he listened to it.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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