How does Peter Gabriel's album So escape people's "Best Albums of all Time" lists? Give it a listen. I don't care if several of the songs reached self parody status because of over exposure in the 80's. Even a 5 song EP with Mercy Street, Your Eyes, Red Rain, Don't Give Up, and Sledgehammer would merit consideration for All Time Greatness. If this were all he ever did, it suffices for immortality.
Speaking of which, a friend of mine and I recently performed at a local bar. When she wanted to do a Courtney Love song, I balked, having always found the former Mrs. Cobain loathsome, and believing that she was absolutely responsible in some way for her late, great, husband's death. But upon hearing the song Malibu, I forgave her everything. I remembered watching Immortal Beloved, wherein the woman Beethoven had terrorized (and loved) says: "I forgave him because of the Ode to Joy." I remembered reading an interview with Morrissey wherein he stated that David Bowie is pardoned of all sins because of Drive-In Saturday. Courtney Love is certainly no Beethoven or Bowie, but Malibu is that kind of achievement. If it were her only accomplishment, she could still be called great. And even Love haters would have to admit the greatness of at least that song.
It occurred to us, that every performer/band has their very own Malibu. The song that even detractors must accept. The song that makes you forgive them. Even non Smiths fans cannot dismiss There is a Light That Never Goes Out. It is too beautiful. Even non Bowie fans have to love The Man Who Sold the World, and/or Drive In Saturday. And for the greatness of these offerings you forgive his fop-pop in the 80's, and his hair in Labyrinth, and the fact that he made himself a publicly traded commodity (you see why he needs at least two). You might hate Metallica, but you can't help but rock out to Enter Sandman. ETC.
It isn't just picking the ear candy out of some one's catalogue. Think of every great band you like. They have to have at least one song that grabs the world and says: "judge me by this." Really great songwriters have several, in many cases because they need that much forgiveness. Often you discover these songs because bands you actually like cover them, and you realize, "I was never really into Michael Jackson, but that version of Smooth Criminal is coolness."
Can you think of any more examples?
What's your Malibu?