The Drop-Off Point: 10 Terrible Albums By Amazing Artists

Even the most iconic musicians have released major duds.

By Frank Donovan

There’s no denying that Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson are among the most iconic and respected musicians of all time. Hell, their influence on music is incalculable and we love them unconditionally. Well, except for that one album…Even the greatest artists ever can release major duds that made us say (to quote the legendary critic Greill Marcus), “What is this sh-t?”

As fans, we tend to block ’em out, but let’s take a look now just for fun. These records prove the age-old expression, “You can’t win ’em all!”

  • 1 Self Portrait by Bob Dylan (1970)
    Forty-five years ago this week, Rolling Stone critic Greill Marcus famously opened his review with the simple questions: What is this shit? Years later, Dylan answered to the magazine that, indeed, the album was intentionally “shit.”

  • 2 Cut The Crap by the Clash (1985)
    The tension among bandmates was thick during rehearsals leading up to the album’s recording, and climaxed with Joe Strummer and bassist Paul Simonon firing Mick Jones. Unfavorable reviews of the Clash’s final studio album largely attribute its shortcomings to Jones’ absence.
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  • 4 Never Let Me Down by David Bowie (1987)
    While the album sold just fine, critics weren’t pleased with Bowie’s album, which several claimed was unfocused and overproduced. Bowie himself in later years came around to agree with them, calling the record his “nadir.”

  • 5 Yellow Submarine by the Beatles (1969)
    Neither the Beatles nor their critics hid the fact that this album, really the only blemish on the Beatles record, was released to fulfill a contractual obligation to provide a soundtrack to the animated film Yellow Submarine. As such, it became a catchall for previously unreleased off-cuts and other meager efforts, save for “Hey Bulldog.”

  • 6 Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed (2011)
    Fans had high hopes for this collaboration, a concept album based on the work of German playwright Frank Wedekind. But Reed’s spoken word over Metallica’s shredding is truly grating on the ears.

  • 7 Coda by Led Zeppelin (1982)
    Another contractual fulfillment, LZ’s final album is a collection of previously unused material, released years after they disbanded following John Bonham’s death.

  • 8 Blood On The Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix by Michael Jackson (1997)
    BOTD contains mostly remixes, with five new songs that aren’t up to MJ vocal standards.

  • 9 Songs from The Capeman by Paul Simon (1997)
    This commercial flop is a selection of songs from the short-lived Broadway show that Simon wrote called The Capeman, which takes place in late 1950s New York City and features doo-wop and traditional Latin music.

  • 10 Never Say Die! by Black Sabbath (1978)
    The album’s scattered sound can be easily explained. Ozzy Osbourne had left the band just before recording was scheduled to begin, and rejoined last minute. His refusal to sing any of the material they’d written in his absence made for a rushed recording.

  • 11 Pop by U2 (1997)
    ” alt=”U2-Pop-[Front]”]The group says that they were forced to release the semi-ironic electronic/dance album before they were fully happy with it. They’ve even re-recorded tracks in years since.

  • 12 Van Halen III by Van Halen (1998)
    Sometimes going in a new sonic direction pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t. Gary Cherone sang lead vocals on this album of more political than party songs that disappointed most VH fans.

  • 13 Working On A Dream by Bruce Springsteen (2009)
    Fans and critics were turned off by Springsteen’s sentimental tone on the album, which some attributed to his newfound optimism in the post-Bush era. [/item