Thursday, June 14, 2018

Mid-week interruption. Thoughts on the induction ceremony

We interrupt this Songs Of Proof parade to talk about the recent ceremony.  The inductees have officially been enshrined, and the ceremony has long since wrapped.  And there was a lot of drama.  The Twitter stream gave a lot of insight, but after finally getting to see the edited version on HBO, it just seems that drama and controversy are par for the course.  Even knowing that though, reading about the drama on Twitter, and then later seeing it on the HBO broadcast, it seems that the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame makes a point to hit rock bottom, and then keep digging.  Also, shout out to the "Who Cares About The Rock Hall?" podcast.  A lot of the things they said are things that I thought, too.  Listening to their take on the broadcast helped me remember a lot of what I thought while watching it.

We'll start with the less controversial segments.  Nice tribute to Tom Petty, good In Memoriam segment, with the Soundgarden tribute.  I loved the speech for the Cars, but the performance was a little painful to listen to.  Ric Ocasek sounded a bit like Pete Townsend.  That's not a bad thing overall, but it just reinforces the aging rocker bit.  Sounded like they were deliberately playing slower too.   My thoughts regarding the Moody Blues are pretty much the same.  That's what happens when you're not eligible until 25 years after your first recording.  And if your band has broken up and you haven't been at it for several years, that's only going to make it even worse.  Still, just glad that they're in, and that's all that really matters.

Great induction for Nina Simone, too.  The tribute performances were just fantastic.  I feel sorry for her brother, trying to say what Nina would have said, only to get politely cut off by Mary J. Blige.  Similarly, a great induction for Sister Rosetta Tharpe and terrific performances.  I didn't agree with everything that Nina said in the video clips, but who am I to disagree with the actual artist?  Either way, just sad that neither lady was alive to speak at their inductions.

Which now brings us to the actual controversy and drama.  We'll start by looking at the whole Dire Straits debacle.  This really seems like a failure on a few different levels.  First off, I don't believe for one moment that the Hall wasn't trying to find somebody to do the honors.  As much as I want to be able to take people at their word, I'm just not inclined to believe Keith Urban or his people that nobody contacted them.  I'm not saying he backed out when he found out Mark wouldn't be there, but I'm not going to assume he's telling the entire truth either.  I don't let the Knopflers off the hook entirely either.   Maybe being rock stars, they never really had any interest in the goings-on at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but I can't believe they were completely oblivious to how the Hall operates.  Ever since the Sex Pistols sent their letter of acrimony toward the Hall, how the Hall runs their ceremonies has come under scrutiny, particularly in its practices regarding fees and compensations, the prices that they charge for the dinners and better seats, etc.  We've known about these things at least since 2006, so the Knopflers should have at least done a little homework.  Maybe it never seemed all that important to them, but it shouldn't have been that big a surprise, either.

But that by no means makes the Hall innocent either.  Let's be honest here, offering to recoup some costs, not others, then change which costs are what... the Knopflers' outrage is at least understandable.  I've mentioned in the past the almost slipshod way the Hall puts together their events, certainly since they stopped holding them at the Waldorf-Astoria.  Should the Hall pay for all flights and accommodations for the inductee?  Should it be an all-expense-paid affair?  Well, that'd be nice, but it sounds like that's not entirely realistic either.  While it certainly is no business of mine or most of you who read this blog what the financial affairs of the Foundation are, when fiscal shenanigans are part of the cause of inductees staying home, and causing the ceremony to border on a shambles, then maybe it's time to take a hard look at how things are being managed, or at least how clearly they are communicated.  I mean, the Hall shouldn't be on the hook if an inductee wants to bring their thirty cousins from England to share in their revelry, but maybe their kids and/or their parents?  That can get a little dicey when you're inducting a band that had ten members that you're including, though that doesn't mean that the Hall should limit the number of members if they are actually important to the band, but being honored means more when you are able to share it with loved ones.

Also at fault are the people in charge of the actual production, especially at the eleventh hour.  The accounts vary, naturally, but the general gist is that when they couldn't find somebody, John Illsley suggested that he could induct his own band.  Apparently someone in charge of the production liked the idea either as a lark or thought it would be a fresh and original take on it, and decided to run with it.  Even when Robbie Robertson offered at the last minute to say a few words, they turned down the offer in favor of the self-induction.  And that's how it went.  Illsley gave the induction speech, but on the TV broadcast, it sounds like the woman doing the announcing was actually inducting them... when she called them up to the stage.  It looked pretty sad on television, and must have been even sadder in person.  Whoever the production executive was that greenlighted the self-induction and turned down Robertson's offer, needs to be disciplined posthaste.  The idea in and of itself was rock bottom stupidity.  It wasn't fresh and novel, it was embarrassing and disrespectful, and gives the impression that maybe Dire Straits didn't deserve the induction after all.    I mean, I ranked Dire Straits last in terms of merit compared to the rest of the artists on the ballot, but even I believed they actually did deserve to be inducted.  They finished near the bottom of personal taste for me, and even I would have taken time off from work to go to Cleveland and induct Dire Straits.  I could have whipped up a few words in their favor.  It could have been at least like the induction of Van Halen; instead, it was an all-time low for the induction ceremonies.  If nothing else, the 2019 induction ceremony should begin with Robbie Robertson, or somebody, getting up and saying, "First, a little bit of unfinished business..." and give a proper speech for Dire Straits.  Make it right.

And lastly, the induction of Bon Jovi.  The presentation as televised makes it abundantly clear Bon Jovi was meant to be the headlining act, and it was only because there was no way Howard Stern would sit through the whole event that they were moved up to opening.  But the broadcast was edited to make them last, and that their induction alone would be about one-third of the running time, because that's how HBO wanted it.  As for Stern's speech... about what one would expect from him.  In other words, the bar was low.  Going after Cream, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan.  And... I'm sorry, why?  Not only are these all artists that have strong merits of their own, but these were all artists that were inducted before Bon Jovi was even eligible.  What good does it do to diss artists who got in before yours could even be brought up for discussion?  Exactly none.  All it does is make you look like an uneducated hatemonger.  Then there's the merits that Howard Stern spoke of.  Oh sure, their humanitarian work is pretty awesome.  No one's denying that.  But when you consider that the Rock Hall has long been more of a rogues' gallery than an upright citizens' brigade, it's pretty much a non-starter to talk about it.  The way they paid their dues?  Cool.  And a ton of other artists have done it too, and have gotten into the Hall.  But there is of course the ultimate dwelling point for Stern, the one hundred thirty million records sold.  I really don't need to expound on it too much.  Joe and Kristen from the "Who Cares About The Rock Hall?" podcast said it all perfectly.  Art quality is not so simply quantified,.  Now, much like the podcast hosts, I too agree that there is room for populism in the Hall, and much of the problem with the classes of late is that the Hall denied populist acts for so long.  But the Hall for a long time was about recognizing rock and roll music as an artform.  This turn for the popular may seem like a complete and utter betrayal of its principles.  Personally, I think it's a balancing out of priorities.  At a later time, I intend to talk more about commercial success and the Hall, but for now, suffice to say that being a commercial juggernaut definitely helps, but it's not the only thing.  The way that "Livin' On A Prayer" symbolizes and epitomizes the 1980's and the spirit of the youth at the time should have been given many more words by Stern.  And while Howard did briefly hint at it, their longevity, and ability to survive in the wake of the grunge revolution and the domination of rap by the mid-'90's, should have been given at least as much focus as the sperm-beating record sales.  Stern's speech conflating quality with quantity is PRECISELY the reason that the Hall worked to keep Bon Jovi out for so long.  That's not even getting to the band's speeches, mainly Jon's.  Though I do have to give Jon full credit for mentioning his work on the Star Wars Christmas album.  I thought for sure he'd want to bury that, but he mentioned it loud and somewhat proud.  Gotta love it.  The performances... well, yeah it's kind of stupid to perform new songs, but then again, U2 performed "Vertigo" at their induction, though that song was a year or two old by then, but still their most recent.  Personally, I think if a band's still going strong and putting out hit records, go for it.  I'm just not certain if that really applies to Bon Jovi's situation.

I'm not even going to get into the Singles category right now.  That's a whole other rant, I assure you.  And I'm late as it is just getting these thoughts up.  'Til next time folks.  We now return you to our regularly scheduled Songs Of Proof programming.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 2008

We have finally reached the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2008!  After this, we have ten more inductee classes to salute.  The Vocal Group Hall Of Fame is struggling to finance another event, another two actually, trying to stay vital through 2009, but it sadly does not come to pass.  As for the Rock Hall, there was something of a sense of dread with this class for me.  And it centers around the inevitability from one artist.  The one who was guaranteed to make it, but I wish hadn't.  Beyond that, there's a slight cloud looming over this class for two reasons: one, the controversy regarding the previous year's ballots practically guaranteed the Dave Clark Five would be back on the ballot, and possibly carried them into the Hall this time; two, because it had only been five years since the last time it happened, there's some disquiet about the fact that all of the inductees in the Performer category are Caucasian.  While the three people inducted in the other categories are not, that still doesn't do much to make critics happy.  Perhaps this seems like a benchmark occurrence because online news was much more prevalent in 2008 than it was in 2003, and with that, the boom of online editorials and commentary.  So, the odds of someone mentioning the racial uniformity in the Performer category became much, much greater, so much so that it's now one of the things Rock Hall hobbyists notice almost immediately when analyzing a ballot.

In terms of my predictions, I went 4/5 this year, and I'll be posting my original prediction post at the bottom.  I didn't figure on two '60's acts getting inducted, and was sure the second rap act was going to be hot on the heels of the first one.  So, if it had been the Beastie Boys getting in instead of the Ventures, I'd have been perfect; however, if it had been the Beastie Boys getting in instead of Madonna, that would have been the best five-inductee class that this ballot could have yielded.  At least that's what I thought back in 2008, and honestly, still kinda feel that way now.  In the current Rock Hall context, that does not reflect very well upon me, but back then, I don't think many of us saw this becoming such an issue.  But it was a pretty predictable class, still a great one, and some great songs document it in my library.  In a break for what has been the pattern the past couple years, this year's Performer inductees' songs only include one that was the biggest hit for the artist.

The Dave Clark Five:  After the controversy surrounding their previous omission, I figured they were a sure shot to be nominated again.  But would they get through this time?  I was much less confident.  I was ecstatic when they did though.  A friend of mine once compared the Dave Clark Five to cleaning products, saying they were "sanitary" and their sound was "disinfected."  Well, to me, the songs of the Dave Clark Five are like cannonballs: crafted to be smooth to the touch with no rough edges, but propelled by an explosive energy that crashes through your walls and makes an impact.  They were consistently loud and powerful, and even on songs like "Because," there was an energy to their songs.  As a bonus, look for a little-known song of theirs called "I Knew It All The Time," as it has a subtle gospel tinge to it.  If you read my previous entry with the pasted blog post about the ballot for 2007, you saw me laud "Any Way You Want It" as a song that raised the bar on loud and powerful.  Dick Bartley once played that song on his "American Gold" program, saying that it was about as loud as AM radio could get in the early-to-mid-'60's.  That power, combined with the simply but succinctly crafted lyrics and tight running time, makes it the perfect song to represent this band that was started as a soccer club fundraiser.

Leonard Cohen:  Sometime after Cohen's induction, when I finally joined the Future Rock Legends community, I found a rather negative comment about Leonard Cohen, saying he was "more cabaret than Liza Minelli."  A little harsh, but perhaps not entirely untrue, with songs like "Dance Me To The End Of Love" and "Closing Time" superb as those songs are.  Still, if Cohen is to be another one of those examples of trying to find a song that is "rock-adjacent" enough to justify his induction, you really don't have very far to look.  "There Ain't No Cure For Love" has a beat to it reminiscent of the Police's "Every Breath You Take" and has the overall feel of a Five Crowns-era Drifters' song.  "Never Any Good" just plain sounds like it was written to be a solo Ringo Starr record.  His early works like "Suzanne," "So Long, Marianne," and "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye" are all classics with folksy touches.  "Woke Up This Morning" infuses some electronic gimmickry, much as many rock records have done over the years.  And while everyone is expecting the mention of "Hallelujah," I'll just mention it to say I did not use that song.  The song I've chosen instead is "The Future," with an arrangement that is unquestionably rock and roll, lyrics that are unquestionably chilling as they are deep, and background vocals that are equally chilling in the atmosphere they provide.  Brilliant.

Kenny Gamble:  I love soul music, and of all the sub-genres therein, Philly soul is unquestionably my favorite.  From the O'Jays to Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes to Lou Rawls, it's top flight music that is criminally underrepresented in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Even inducting producer Thom Bell wouldn't suffice.  These acts need to get inducted, as well as several more.  Meanwhile, inducting the founding partnership of Gamble And Huff is still a great decision, the first inductees when the Non-Performer category was renamed the "Ahmet Ertegun Award."  Philly soul was smooth, but it could be funky too.  There were a lot of great love songs, but also songs of social conscience.  In the case of the first half, he is honored with an all-star record about improving the lot of the African-American community, particularly in the greater New York City metropolitan area, though it applies to the entire community.  With appearances by Lou Rawls, Billy Paul, Teddy Pendergrass, Archie Bell, the O'Jays, and Dee Dee Sharp Gamble, the selection here is the Philadelphia International All-Stars' "Let's Clean Up The Ghetto."

Leon Huff:  The other half of the label-founding team.  And perhaps the more musically inclined, as he did release music under his own name.  The whole feel of this team's music has been described as being about peace and love and spreading those themes and messages.  Perhaps McFadden And Whitehead summed up that philosophy best in the second verse of "Ain't No Stopping Us Now," where they talk about people with negative vibes trying to stop the peace and love, and the refusal to be deterred.  It would be fitting to use that song, and I nearly did.  Instead, in keeping with my enjoyment of using songs that are by the actual inductee, I found Leon Huff's "I Ain't Jivin', I'm Jammin'" which just from its title, as well as its feel, tells others it's all cool, and just keep on spreading the love... impressive considering the song is an instrumental with the title being sung by background singers!

Little Walter:  He could almost have been inducted as an Early Influence too.  His harmonica playing was influential to some of the bigger players that came after him, and his blues records are immaculately crafted and still stand the test of time.  It does him somewhat of an injustice that he's inducted almost solely on his contributions to Muddy Waters' records.  Then again, ol' Muddy was certainly important enough that honoring the players on his sessions certainly makes sense.  Exploring new avenues, scaling new heights, and reaching distances thought unimaginable, Little Walter helped bring the harmonica into the rock and roll canon more solidly, and there's really no question as to why his instrumental hit "Juke" is used to honor this man and his legacy.

Madonna:  The one inductee from this class I did not want to make it.  When AlexVoltaire of the Northumbrian Countdown asked us to create our list of inductees, using the exact same number of Performer inductees as the actual Hall, there were a ton of artists that were unanimously agreed upon.  Madonna was not, and I'm the reason why.  Back in the day, I was hoping so hard for her to miss out.  But I knew it was inevitable.  I just have never cared for her music.  Growing up, I used to listen to the radio a lot, and I used to love the daily Top Ten so I could hear what the popular music was.  And the first song I ever heard on the radio that I remember distinctly that I did NOT like was "Justify My Love."  This was 1990 and I was nine years old at the time; being prepubescent perhaps rendered me immune from the supposed sultry and seductive charms of this song.  And I still don't like it today.  Really, I've always felt her music was superficial: all sizzle and no steak.  Fortunately, her catalog is diverse enough that I have found a couple songs that I can somewhat enjoy, and I have since made peace that as a Michigander, she's family.  My selection for her is admittedly as a much of a subtle jab as it is emblematic of her musical legacy.  Despite her lengthy career, she is most closely identified with the '80's, and those songs are still mostly the best known.  And you know how you sometimes, somehow gained that nickname you never wanted and never liked?  That happened with her.  The image that Madonna had at the time was so closely aligned with the lyrical gestalt of "Material Girl" that it became her nickname.  Supposedly, Madge never liked the song much either, and especially didn't like being nicknamed the Material Girl.  So, it's a small bit of delight to use the song that gave her that nickname as her representative song, but really, it does fit.  It fits the whole motif of '80's pop, emblematic of the entire decade in a way, and as a bonus, features her trying to affect a British accent as she sings the chorus.  I genuinely do feel it epitomizes her entire musical legacy, especially her huge run in the early years.  Sorry fans, it ain't gonna be "Ray Of Light."

John Cougar Mellencamp:  Two confessions here.  First off, "Crumblin' Down" has one of the most irksome set of lyrics in its second verse.  He essentially defends his lack of education and character by saying, "But at least I know how to dance!"  Even if dancing is a euphemism here, it still irritates the crap out of me that there really are people like that who think that makes up for lacking intelligence and integrity.  Second confession, I have I never shortened it to "John Cougar" or "John Mellencamp," as he now prefers to be called.  It's always "John Cougar Mellencamp" when I talk about his music.  A Midwesterner through and through, he's always been known for his heartland sound and lyrics.  From "Jack And Diane" to "Pink Houses," to "The Authority Song,"--even "R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A. (A Salute To '60's Rock)" has that heartbeat of the Midwest that so few others captured successfully, consistently, and as long as he has.  Rock and roll that resonated with the working man, he still found a way to be successful to the teen market.  And yet, for all his major success and world travels, at the end of the day, he still considers himself to be a man of the small town.  There are a lot of choices, but even though it's not the biggest hit, "Small Town" is so obvious, it's in your face, and you really need look no further than it, and you've captured the essence of the music of John Cougar Mellencamp.

The Ventures:  On the "Who Cares About The Rock Hall" podcast, guest Greg Behrendt had some pretty disparaging things to say about the Ventures, partially for the sake of promoting Dick Dale as a worthy candidate.  Like so many things in our modern culture, I don't see why it needs to be an either/or situation, necessarily.  However, with the glut of classic rock from the late '70's and early '80's dominating the conversation recently, coupled with the conscious decision to keep the classes so small, it certainly can seem like it's a matter of limited spots.  But Greg Behrendt isn't the first naysayer against the Ventures that I've seen.  There is no shortage of accusations, varying from them being mainly cover artists to being cookie-cutter and easy to imitate and duplicate.  But perhaps the rebuttal to those folks arrives in the words of presenter John Fogerty, who said his former band used to buy records by the Ventures and listen to them repeatedly, learning the songs they were playing, and trying to play just how they played them.  Do you know what else that can be called?  Influence.  The influence of the Ventures on guitarists has been immense, and regardless of your feelings, they are the most commercially successful surf-rock band, at least in the U.S.  It's a reputation they established beginning in 1960 when rock and roll was being dismissed as a passing fad, when full ensemble bands were having only a little more staying power than R&B vocal groups.  The Ventures founded that legacy beginning with the #2 smash hit, "Walk - Don't Run," which really introduced the world to surf-rock on a large scale.  It was good enough to be revamped four years later, but the original smash is the version in this CD set.

And with the guitar flourish wrapping up "Walk - Don't Run," our look at the Class Of 2008 is done.  Overall, a fantastic class, and even if there's an inductee you might not have picked, it's actually a somewhat healthy balance of artistry, influence, innovation, and commercial impact.  Whatever your feelings about this or that artist, feel free to share in the Comments below.  For those who skimmed through for the recap, here you go:

the Dave Clark Five: "Any Way You Want It"
Leonard Cohen: "The Future"
Kenny Gamble: "Let's Clean Up The Ghetto" by the Philadelphia International All-Stars
Leon Huff: "I Ain't Jivin', I'm Jammin'"
Little Walter: "Juke"
Madonna: "Material Girl"
John Cougar Mellencamp: "Small Town"
the Ventures: "Walk - Don't Run"

And as promised, my original post from another message board, commenting and seeding the nominees, where I went 4/5.  Unedited, uncensored, how and who I was back in 2008.

"Ok, since I correctly predicted all five inductees last year, based on my percentages, I figured I'd try again this time. I don't feel as certain as I did last year, though I think four of them are pretty sound guesses.

1. Madonna--I fucking hate her music, her sense of professionalism, and even her recent quirks. But let's not kid ourselves either: she's the Juggernaut-bitch. Not Juggernaut, bitch! like it was said in the X3 movie, but Juggernaut-bitch. This woman is unstoppable. She'll make it for two reasons: one, she's had more commercial success AND impact and influence than the other eight nominees COMBINED; two, she was first on Sire Records, founded by Seymour Stein. There's some notoriety in the higher realms of the Hall Of Fame hierarchy. Most known is Jann S. Wenner's nickname of "Jann The Dictator." Slightly less known is that "what Seymour wants, Seymour gets." And Seymour wants his artists in. So far, the Ramones, the Talking Heads, and the Pretenders are in. It'd take an act of God to keep her out, though if she didn't get in, I'd consider it irrefutable evidence that God exists. Odds of induction: 99.99%

2. Beastie Boys--When Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five got inducted last year, there was bellyaching from commonfolk music lovers that hip-hop had no place alongside rock's revered royalty. Well, the Beastie Boys have been the textbook example of hip-hop and rock 'n' roll amalgamation. And they're still a huge draw on the concert tour. Only possible hinderance is the presence of Afrika Bambaataa on the ballot. Voters may go for pioneer of hip-hop instead of epitome of rock meeting rap. But, I don't think it'll slow them down. Odds of induction: 85%

3. Leonard Cohen--He's a depressing and artistic poet (and writer), and Hall of Fame voters tend to eat up bohemian and poetic singer/songwriters as if they were Hot Wings on "All You Can Eat Night" at the Santa Monica Hooters. Odds of induction: 75%

4. John Cougar Mellencamp--In recent years, the Hall of Fame has been inducting more acts that are bit more on the blue-collar common man side of popularity, grit and dirt rock 'n' roll. Such acts include ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Van Halen. Now, John Cougar Mellencamp is such an act. He's played on Classic Rock stations, and even on my Retro shifts. A lot of popularity, and he has the common touch. Odds of induction: 66%

5. Dave Clark Five--Now we're into uncertain territory. A solid rock act from the '60's, but it's getting harder and harder to induct acts from the '60's. Plus, they were clean-cut and non-rebellious, and never got weird, unlike the Beatles or Rolling Stones. Still, after last year's supposed scandal, wherein the Dave Clark Five supposedly would have been inducted if some members' votes had been sent earlier and received before the deadline. After that, it's a little more than coincidence that they're on the ballot again, and I think certain voters will be more prompt in getting their votes postmarked in time. Odds of induction: 55%

6. Ventures--Again, '60's acts are getting harder and harder to induct. The Ventures are the quintessential surf rock band, with many hit albums over the years, and very influential to other up and coming guitarists over the years. Still, this may not be their year. Odds of induction: 45%

7. Chic--I said some pretty unflattering things about them last year, including and odds of induction percentage lower than their actual ratio among the nominees (they were one of nine nominees, and I put odds at one in ten). And it still perturbs me that so many call them funk/jazz fusion. C'mon people. Admit it: they were disco! And the Hall of Fame hasn't been kind to disco acts. The only two inducted acts that were strongest as disco acts are the Bee Gees, who performed a complete gamut of styles over a career that lasted about 20 years, and Earth, Wind And Fire, who were pioneers for the new style of R&B and were in both R&B and disco. Nonetheless, a few things have changed in Niles Rodgers and co.'s favor. One, a repeat nomination. I believe this is now their fourth nomination. Granted, Gene Pitney needed eight, and both the Dells and Black Sabbath didn't make it until their tenth nomination, but with each nomination, the potential seems to get better. Also, with two disco acts on the ballot, the multiple nomination seems much more in Chic's favor this year. Their chances have quadrupled. Odds of induction: 40%

8. Afrika Bambaataa--A pioneer rap artist. And his best-known track even HAS "Rock" in its name: "Planet Rock." With Flash and the Five in, the door is opened for rap artists, and Afrika will be inducted eventually. But, Hall of Fame voters, in general, seem to vote for a variety of acts, and so I don't think most will vote for more than one hip-hop artist. And between this guy and the Beastie Boys, it's gonna be the Beastie Boys. Odds of induction: 35%

9. Donna Summer--When you think of disco divas, this woman springs first to mind, and rightfully so. About the only disco diva to have more than five Top 40 hits (on the pop charts, that is), and in fact, five of her many hits were #1 on the pop charts, this woman is a strong standout in the subgenre of disco, who helped pave the way for many female artists, as disco gave way to 80s dance music styles, and eventually to the R&B-electronica hybrid that exists now, and their subsequent heroines like Madonna, Jody Watley, Janet Jackson, Rihanna, etc. Still, you can't ignore the fact that a lot of those songs were lyrically intellectually insulting ("She Works Hard For The Money"), fantasy to the point of cheesy ("On The Radio"), or earsplittingly painful ("I Feel Love"). Her recent "comeback" hits of the past ten years notwithstanding, if she does make it in, it'll be because voters remembered the occasional tolerable song ("Heaven Knows"). Plus, as I mentioned, Hall of Fame voters seem to tend to vote for a variety of artists. With a fellow disco act on the ballot (Chic) and also a fellow strong female icon (Madonna), Donna really stands to be overlooked on this ballot, placing her least likely among the candidates. Odds of induction: 25%

Thoughts? Comments? Bueller? Bueller? Seriously folks, don't let me feel alone here, like I'm talking to myself."

Monday, June 4, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 2007

The Class Of 2007 has arrived, and what a mess it was.  From the controversy surrounding the vote, to questions of who should be inducted, to barriers being removed, this class was a lot to take in, perhaps more than suits a class this small.  This is also the smallest class that the Hall has ever had, which was part of the problem people had with it.  Only Performer inductees this year, and no other category.  It certainly raised questions when there were and are still so many important session musicians awaiting induction, not to mention Early Influences and Non-Performers too.  This sadly also ends up being the last year of inductions for the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame.  They drafted up a list of nominees for their prospective Class Of 2008, but it sadly never comes to pass.  For the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, though it's not all sad.  The final number, the all-star jam, is still the best one I've seen, and the only one that seems to include every inductee from that class in some capacity.  Patti Smith, Michael Stipe of R.E.M., Sammy Hagar of Van Halen, and Ronnie Bennett of the Ronettes all help sing part of the words to "People Have The Power" (as does Eddie Vedder), while it appears that the members of Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five are onstage helping belt out the chorus.  Still the standard of all-star jams, in my opinion.

On the personal front, though, this is a very happy year.  This is the first year that I found out ahead of time who the nominees were!  I was still a couple years from plugging into the Future Rock Legends community, but as a member of other forums, I posted the list of nominees as well as my thoughts.  And thus began my seeding.  At the very bottom of this post, I'll copy and paste my very first prediction post from a forum that's still around.  I'll continue this as I'm able, until we get to the classes where I posted my predictions on this blog.  But for the record, this very first year of predicting, I went 5/5.  Nailed 'em all first time out, a feat I have never duplicated, but hope to someday.   2007 is also the first year that I finally completed burning the first edition of this CD set.  I have changed a few songs over the years, but it's stayed mostly the same for over 10 years now.  I was so happy when I finally got it all put together.  It was a thing of beauty, if I do say so myself, even without any fancy cover art covering the tops of those CD-R's.  So now, let's look at the final five songs to be included on that first edition of this labor of love.

Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five:  We bust out of the gate with the biggest controversy of all this year.  Not just because they were the first hip-hop act inducted, which caused a ton of tittering and bristling from the rock purists, but of course also for the issue of ballots that arrived after the deadline.  Those late arriving ballots put the Dave Clark Five ahead by six votes, supposedly, but because they were received after the deadline, and also supposedly the Hall didn't want to have to wait another year to induct a hip-hop act, they went ahead and threw those votes out.  And also because they couldn't fathom a class with six Performer inductees, they kept it to only five, keeping the Dave Clark Five out, despite pleas to induct both those acts since the vote ran so close.  The Hall has since amended its position to allow a sixth Performer inductee if indeed the vote runs close like that.  You also got Jay-Z giving the most dispassionate induction speech possibly ever, reading it off his Blackberry.  It wouldn't be until the Black Keys inducted Steve Miller that you'd get one that was worse.  Then there's also the controversy that tore the group apart, though it didn't surface so much, since they were all just pretty happy to be getting inducted at all: the question of why Flash was included.  According to sources, his cutting and threading "instrumentation" never happened in the studio, but was all the work of producers and engineers.  That little problem has been sidestepped, however, by the simple fact that "The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel" was a hit on the R&B charts and was taken from a live set the group did, which is all Flash's handiwork.  I was very tempted to choose that song, since it's Flash's work, and includes rapped excerpts from each of the Furious Five from their previous record "The Birthday Party."  Ultimately, I slightly bent my rules for this and went with the all-important "The Message," though I have to admit that looking back, I'm not thrilled with the choice.  Melle Mel's the only member of the Furious Five actually rapping, with the other voice being Duke Bootee, who gets label credit, which runs against my general guiding principles for this project.  Still, its importance is a big selling point for keeping it in the playlist, as it remains so to this day.

R.E.M.:  About the only inductee this year without any controversy surrounding them.  Inducted their first year of eligibility, no snubbed members.  Nothing to complain about here.  Their induction was a great segment too, including the video package which included a clip of their appearance on Sesame Street, singing "Furry, Happy Monsters."  I laughed out loud for a solid ten seconds when they showed that clip.  First song by them I ever heard was "Stand," and I thought about using that one.  I also considered using "Imitation Of Life" which was the featured song on the college radio station when I was in college.  Nevertheless, this is just one of those instances where I went with the cliche.  "Losing My Religion" really encapsulates so much about R.E.M.  It showcases their signature guitar sound, often described as "jangly" and features lyrics that seem like idle babble and really don't make a whole lot of sense without further context.  With some hidden harmony from Peter Buck, this is cliche for them because it really does capture all their signature elements, making it the best choice.

The Ronettes:  When it comes to the Ronettes, the controversy surrounding them has to do with Phil Spector.  As a former member of the Nominating Committee, Phil Spector was largely the main reason the Ronettes hadn't been getting nominated.  With their records all featuring the famous "Wall Of Sound" that could be heard on records by the Crystals, Darlene Love, and Bob B. Soxx And The Blue Jeans, he used to argue that he was the real artist, and those groups didn't deserve it.  Well, that blockade busted when Phil's legal troubles kept him away from the meeting of the Nominating Committee that year, and the Ronettes got on the ballot.  And then they got inducted.  Phil Spector sent a letter congratulating them, which Paul Shaffer read at the ceremony, but it seemed to ring a little hollow.  As far as the song, they have two songs that they're really known for, but they had three other Top 40 hits that are amazing.  In addition to "Be My Baby" and "Baby, I Love You," you have "Walking In The Rain," which is a fantastic ballad; "Do I Love You," which is a driving record and really shows the girls' powering through with their voices; and the song I chose to use, which has a solid martial beat, also mightily showcases their voices and their vocal harmonies, and is just a song that needs to be heard by more people.  So, my selection for the Ronettes is "(The Best Part Of) Breaking Up."  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Be My Baby")

Patti Smith:  Sometimes called the "punk rock priestess," there is absolutely no refuting her legacy as a lyricist or the unbridled passion with which she delivered them.  Though deprecating of her own talent to a degree, there's not much that can be said against that either.  Though a solo artist in her own regard, her best-known works are those of the "Patti Smith Group" and it really is a shame and somewhat surprising that the group wasn't inducted with her, especially Lenny Kaye.  Just more mystery to this weird little institution we love so much.  My choice for using "Because The Night" to represent her is once again rooted in the hope I had of making this whole playlist into a radio program, which given the FCC regulations, ruled out a LOT of her songs, especially the one that is sometimes performed in conjunction with "Babeologue"... you know... the song that Smith's mother liked to vacuum to.  Even now, much as I've mused about switching to "People Have The Power," I find that I've just listened to "Because The Night" so much, that I really just love to sing along with it and don't want to swap it out.  So it stays.

Van Halen:  They didn't have to wait too long to get inducted, and they soared in on their first nomination.  I really don't think the wait had anything to do with difficulty deciding whether or not to include Sammy Hagar, so much as they just couldn't break through to the ballot until the Nominating Committee cleared a little of the logjam that was somewhat resolved in 2006.  I was born when Diamond Dave was still leader, but I never heard any of their songs until Sammy was singing for them.  Some of the more hardcore fans howled with rage when their induction included Hagar, but that was my introduction.  I really appreciate the richer instrumentation that songs like "Right Now" and "Dreams" had.  It really doesn't surprise me that greater commercial success came during the "Van Hagar" years.  The song selected though, is from the earlier era.  What really convinced me to choose this particular song was the video package that ran at the induction ceremony.  The matter came to what made Van Halen stand out as a band, and what seemed to separate them from the other arena rock bands at the time.  An interview clip showed David Lee Roth saying, "We were the only rock band that you could dance to!"  I don't know if that's entirely true, but I do think that mentality helped shape their sound and what made them such an influence upon later hair metal bands.  Therefore, "Dance The Night Away" was chosen as the song to represent them.  And looking back, this was a stellar selection, in my opinion.  As I said about the Velvet Underground's "Rock And Roll," "Dance The Night Away" has also proven to be a great closing song for a CD, for some reason.  The songs for 2005, 2006, and 2007 all fit on one CD, and "Dance The Night Away" just feels like a natural closer to finish it off with.

End of the disc and end of the class.  It's the smallest class, but despite all the drama that swirled around it, it's one of the best induction ceremonies that I've ever seen.  How about you?  What are your thoughts on the ceremony, this class, or the songs used to salute them?  Make mention in the Comments below.  A short recap:

Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five: "The Message"
R.E.M.: "Losing My Religion"
the Ronettes: "(The Best Part Of) Breaking Up"
Patti Smith: "Because The Night"
Van Halen: "Dance The Night Away"

The Vocal Group Hall Of Fame held their last inductions in 2007, and I have songs for them as well, with one extra.  The Vocal Group Hall Of Fame did a joint induction for the Gladiolas and Maurice Williams And The Zodiacs.  They essentially said that the Gladiolas eventually just changed the name to Maurice Williams And The Zodiacs, without switching members.  That is true... at first.  But by the time that the #1 hit "Stay" was recorded, the only member of the Gladiolas still left in the group was Maurice Williams himself.  And so, I feel the Vocal Hall was really inducting two groups with this induction, so two songs are awarded here.  The playlist for the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2007 is as such:

the Capris: "There's A Moon Out Tonight"
the Chords: "Sh-Boom"
the Dixie Cups: "People Say"
the Five Red Caps: "I Learned A Lesson I'll Never Forget"
the Four Preps: "Big Man"
the Gladiolas: "Little Darlin'"
the Hoboken Four: "Shine"
the Jive Five: "My True Story"
Kool And The Gang: "Joanna"
Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes: "Bad Luck (Part 1)"
the Monkees: "Valleri"
Tony Orlando And Dawn: "Knock Three Times"
Ruby And The Romantics: "Our Day Will Come"
Sam And Dave: "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby"
Sly And The Family Stone: "Hot Fun In The Summertime"
the Traveling Wilburys: "End Of The Line"
Maurice Williams And The Zodiacs: "Stay"

And as promised, the cut and pasted message board post with which I first seeded the nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  It was written somewhat responsively to an article by David Hinckley, titled "Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Begins Thinking Young," so when you see me alluding to an article, that's why.  I had also predicted that R.E.M.'s nomination and induction would be inevitable one day, so that's why there's that.  P.S., I was also really disparaging of Chic back in the day.  But here it is, my first prediction post, unedited and without proofreading, immature biases and factual errors intact, as it was back in 2006:

"I procrastinated posting this here, cuz I don't think most of you recognize the acts nominated. At least not most of them. But I'm bored, so what the hell.

So, we've got the nine nominees, five of whom will be inducted. 

As for the actual focus of the article: the need to market younger. 

I say, why? Ok, yeah the money issue. But yeesh, look at the new wave (no pun intended) of artists becoming eligible. And with so much of it scattered about, it's hard to tell who will actually make it. 

Even more interesting was a fairly recent Rolling Stone article about high school kids getting more and more interested in the classic acts like Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull and the Beatles. So who knows? It could be possible to not succumb to the need to go younger and stay true to itself. Only time will tell, I guess.

But getting to this year's nine nominees....

R.E.M. I called it. One of the godfathers of alternative, all they've given us. I rank them as the most deserving act. Odds of induction: 98%

Van Halen They'll be the first hair metal band in the Hall Of Fame, ahead of the deserving, but not in KISS. They've been eligible for a couple years now, glad to see they're on this year, and stand a strong chance of making it. I hope they give trophies to both Roth and Hagar. It took both of them, really. Second most deserving act. Odds of induction: 95%

Patti Smith A strike-while-the-iron-is-hot mentality here. Influencing U2 and other big acts, as well as another founding act in punk. I rank them 4th in terms of deserving. Odds of induction: 75%

Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five We'll see. No doubt the influence they've had on rock and roll and music as a whole, but the fact that they themselves weren't rock may hinder it. There was some pretty ugly murmuring about Miles Davis being inducted as a Performer this past year, instead of as an Early Influence. How will that affect this year? Is there a backlash, or is the argument of they weren't rock and roll or even soul losing more and more ground? I'm not sure. The fact that they've been near misses the past couple years may be telling, but then again, neither Black Sabbath nor the Dells got in until their 10th nomination. Gene Pitney, his eighth. This is only number three for the Furious Five, but the need to market younger may trump that. Either way, I don't think that statement should be made this year. I rank them as 7th in terms of deserving, but I'll say the odds of induction are at about 60%

The Ronnettes Ooh, where to begin here. Phil Spector has kept them off the ballot in the past few years, huh? There IS some truth to his argument about him being the real artist. If you're not a close study of the pop music in '62 and '63, then most of the girl group songs ARE gonna sound the same. You won't be able to tell the Crystals from the Ronnettes from Darlene Love. However, it's also no secret of his tragic marriage and bitter divorce with Ronnettes' lead singer Veronica Bennett. The other major thing that distinguises the Ronettes from the other girl groups is that Ronnie herself has been called rock and roll's first sex kitten. Why that should have any bearing, I really don't know, but we'll see. I kind of hope they do, just because I like them, but I also realize they may not deserve it as much as some of the other nominees here. However, there's a good chance that voters may see this as the only chance to get them in. Phil was first taken in to custody back in.... '03 was it? And this is the first year he's been too busy to keep them off the ballot? He may have his troubles sewn up in time to return to blackballing them for next year. So, yeah, this may be the lone chance. Hard to guess. I put them at #6 in terms of deserving it, and if they'd induct six instead of only five, I'd happily call it the cut-off point. Odds of induction: equally likely, 50%

Joe Tex Not a big fan of his work. There are plenty of soul acts more deserving than him: Johnnie Taylor, the Chi-Lites, the Delfonics, the Stylistics, the Spinners, etc. His biggest hits are annoying too. "I Gotcha" sounds like something Mystikal would cut. "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)" is just a silly disco cut that should be forgotten. "Skinny Legs And All" is supposed to be funny. Supposed to be. Two of his good songs, though, are "Show Me" and "Hold What You've Got." One unique aspect of his records, though, was he was equal opportunity in his lyrical criticism and advice of relationships. What may act against him, though probably not, is that he later converted to Islam. How much the attitude against the Muslim faith will affect the process, I think very little, since it's a select group of industry insiders who do the voting. Lately, the Hall Of Fame tries to induct at least one soul act, and they surprised a lot of people with Percy Sledge in '05, that and the fact that they didn't induct a soul act last year may mean they want to rectify that. I place him 8th in deserving it. Odds of induction though: 45%

Dave Clark Five I love this group. They were pure energy. Yeah, they were clean cut and all, but before the Beatles could make "Helter Skelter" top the Who's "I Can See For Miles" as the loudest and wildest, the Who had to top the Dave Clark Five's "Anyway You Want It" at least for loudest. Granted, it's not a wild song, but it's a loud piece of pure energy. The fact they were clean cut is a hinderance though. But another aspect to look at is this past year. For '06, the Hall Of Fame inducted three acts that had serious public support for them and outcry against their not having been inducted before '06: Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Sex Pistols. If this is any indication, these clean cut British lads stand a good chance, and may open the door for other acts with big public support to get in, like the Guess Who, Rush, and Alice Cooper. They are the third-most deserving act of the group, in my opinion, and I'd love to see them on stage performing together for the first time in over 30 years. I think all five are still alive: Dave Clark, Mike Smith, Lenny Davidson, Dennis Peyton, and Rick Huxley. Odds though, are at a mere 33%

The Stooges Their claim to fame: being Iggy Pop's old group. They also helped influence punk and a lot of 70's rock, with "Loose" being their best known song. I think they'll induct Iggy Pop as a soloist eventually and leave the Stooges in the cold. Still, if they can induct Sabbath instead of just waiting for Ozzy's solo eligibility, maybe. I find them the 5th most deserving act, but odds are only at 25%

Chic Since we've been doing retro Sundays at the radio station, I've become more familiar with Chic. My thoughts: NO!! NOOOOO!! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! This group SUCKS. Furthermore, the Hall Of Fame hasn't been kind to disco acts of the 70s. Only the BeeGees are in, and they got in before the time that they would have been eligible IF they had ONLY been a disco act. Donna Summer is not in, KC And The Sunshine Band is not in, Tavares is not in, Barry White is not in, Sister Sledge is not in, etc. So I don't think Chic will either, thank goodness. They are the least deserving of it, and I place the odds at a paltry 10%.

So what do you guys think?

*all percentages for odds of induction were pulled straight outta my ass."

Monday, May 28, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 2006

At the time, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s Class Of 2006 seemed like a real breath of fresh air.  This was a catch-up year for the fans of classic rock.  There were no newly eligible acts inducted, and this year is also noted for having an act that is much harder to defend as being part of the “rock and roll” diaspora.  The Mort Shuman rule comes into effect this year too, breaking up the Non-Performer duo into two people, so a total of seven Songs Of Proof, and just like the previous year, the first and penultimate songs in the playlist are for Non-Performer inductees.  Also, like last year, the biggest pop hits are the chosen songs for four of the five Performer inductees, though not intentionally.  Coincidence?  Probably.  But the big names of classic rock that finally smashed their way through this year are the real story that has everyone excited and restores people’s faith in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame for their embracing more populist acts.   No one really thought it would serve as a foreshadow for a decade later, though.  It’s just a year with some really awesome and very deserving inductees, including:

Herb Alpert:  No one would have thought of inducting this man as a Performer, but he could have been.  As the leader of the Tijuana Brass, Alpert’s utility as a record label executive comes from his understanding the artists’ minds because he was an artist himself.  If you love instrumentals, and have an open enough mind, listen to his work with the Tijuana Brass.  “The Lonely Bull,” “Zorba The Greek,” and “Tijuana Taxi” are merely three examples of the incredible body of work that was put out by this outfit.  But even from the beginning, he was into the business side of things, starting with Dore Records, which was the first home for Jan And Dean.  Since he was such a prolific musician himself, his song is indeed one of his own.  From the late ‘70’s, his album Rise is a fantastic listen with four outstanding tracks, and four okay ones.  The first time I heard the title track, I was absolutely floored.  A solid and funky beat, great atmosphere, and a spellbinding melody emanating from Alpert’s trumpet all culminate in an amazing listening experience that still feels a little short even though it clocks in around seven minutes.  Such a masterpiece, that had to be the song.

Black Sabbath:  The most awaited and anticipated of the inductees, Black Sabbath strangely took eight nominations to get in, which may have contributed to the current perceptions of snobbery in the upper echelons of the Foundation’s management.   However, no one would deny the importance of Black Sabbath as innovators of heavy metal, nor the massive and profound influence they have had on bands that followed, and not just other metal bands, but a variety of bands in the years to come.  Though deeply rooted in the blues, no one would really categorize Black Sabbath as blues-rock.  They had a pattern of excellence, which continued even with personnel who were snubbed from the band’s induction.  Some might be a bit upset at the use of “Iron Man” as the selection for this project, but no one would deny that it’s a landmark record, the best-known song by the band, and a sterling example of the trail that Black Sabbath blazed.

Blondie:  Every once in a while, you might hear a Blondie song on a classic rock station, most likely “Heart Of Glass" or "One Way Or Another.”  Blondie is the new-wave, post-punk artist that got in almost right away that made you think the Hall was going to be pushing forward fully into the ‘80’s with more modern acts.   Debbie Harry’s vocal versatility and range was at times alluring, and other times eerie.   Admittedly, my choice for “Call Me” as their song in this project has absolutely nothing to do with anything that made them an innovative or influential band.  It wasn’t even because it was their biggest hit on the pop charts.  Simply put, I’m not a huge fan of Blondie.  I don’t like “Rapture” or “The Tide Is High,” not that big on “Heart Of Glass,” but I absolutely love “Call Me.”  That’s the song of theirs, along with “Dreaming,” that makes me really happy, and the fact that it was their biggest hit single clearly means it made a lot of other people happy, too.

Miles Davis:  When it comes to artists like Miles Davis, the task gets a bit trickier.  It’s especially problematic to award a tribute song to justify an artist’s induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame when that particular artist stated that they never considered anything they ever did to be any kind of rock and roll.  Miles Davis said he was jazz and only jazz.  He never even considered anything he did to be “jazz fusion.”  Just jazz.  Of all the “parent” genres that helped create rock and roll, jazz, especially Miles Davis’s style of jazz, is generally regarded as being less important than gospel and folk, but slightly more important than chamber music or barbershop quartet singing.  It’s not an easy sell.  Miles Davis himself had a few phases of his career, similar to Picasso’s periods.  That made choosing a song even harder.  Even though I used “Rise” for Herb Alpert, “So What” was just a little too long for me to want to use and put on a CD.  And anything from Bitches’ Brew which features Davis's horn is waaaaayyyy too long, especially to try and put on a specialty broadcast on commercial radio.  Additionally, his disavowing of being any kind of rock and roll makes the selection difficult, so with artists like Miles Davis, as you’ll see in the years to come, I tend to gravitate toward songs that at least have some rock and roll like elements to them.  I was originally using “The Doo-Bop Song,” his sole chart hit, on the R&B charts, with initially uncredited rapping done by Rappin’ Is Fundamental.  However, the notes from Miles’ electric trumpet just don’t come through as prominently as they should, so I went in another direction.  My encounter with the album Backyard Ritual was completely by chance, but when I listened to the whole album, it occurred to me that works like this may have had the kind of influence that Herbie Hancock spoke of in his induction speech for Davis.  The title track, especially, seems to sum it up relatively well.  The trumpeting is nice and cool, reminiscent of his early work, the instrumentation behind it is such that it could just about pass for fusion, and the different elements just complement each other well.  And so, that title track became the official song to salute Miles Davis and justify his induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Lynyrd Skynyrd:  One of the most influential and commercially successful Southern rock bands after the Eagles, it surprisingly took seven nominations to get this band in.   Southern rock has proven to be more influential upon mainstream country, such that a syndicated country program that focuses on ‘70’s and ‘80’s country might throw on an occasional Lynyrd Skynyrd song.  Their tale is tragically short, but their legacy is long.  The music of this outfit lives on with classics like “Gimme Three Steps,” “What’s That Smell,” and “Free Bird.”  Their anthem, though, is unquestionably “Sweet Home Alabama,” a song whose lyrics defending Southern pride may be a large part of why they were so influential upon country music.  It sadly is also scapegoated for an anthem of pride for some of the less honorable parts of Southern heritage, but let’s not be rehashing those strawmen.  Let’s simply celebrate their music and their induction with their anthem as their Song Of Proof.

Jerry Moss:  The M in A&M Records and the partner of Herb Alpert.  Together, they formed what was known as the biggest independent label in rock and roll.  That legacy eventually died, when the label was sold to PolyGram, and in turn to the Universal Music Group, but the music created during the time of Alpert and Moss has continued to stand the test of time.  Like a lot of great executives, they were willing to take risks, trust their instincts, and take responsibility as well as credit.  Surprisingly though, few of the artists that were on A&M have been inducted themselves.  The Police and Cat Stevens are the biggest names that have been inducted, but if anyone on the Nominating Committee ever has a brain fart and can't think of someone to nominate, they can always look at the roster of big names that were on A&M.  Among those names is the one belonging to arena rockers Supertramp, and while the credentials of Supertramp are dismissed by some as questionable at best, their song "Breakfast In America" remains an interesting, somewhat bohemian kind of song to create and take out to left field and see what happens--similar to the way Alpert and Moss were willing to take chances with their artists.  And so, I honor Jerry Moss with this unusual song from a somewhat unusual group, and it just seems fitting all around.

The Sex Pistols:  Sometimes considered a one-trick pony for having just the one album, but if that was all there was to their story, it'd still be impressive.  Nevermind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols is a furious album that took aim at everything from the hand the fed them to the figurehead of their own government.  They rejuvenated the impetus for rock and roll to be critical of the world around it.  And while their angry letter fired at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame when they were being inducted is part of their whole modus operandi, I refuse to believe that it is anything other than their way of saying "Thank you."  John Lydon could scream at me face-to-face for an hour telling me why I'm wrong, and I will still believe that letter calling the Hall a piss stain is simply their way of expressing gratitude.  For their song, I chose "God Save The Queen."  Many seem to think that "Anarchy In The U.K." is the better choice, but with a faster tempo, rawer screams, guitar licks more similar to what is considered punk, and crude harmonies, "God Save The Queen" makes a much better choice for the filthy lucre band.

This concludes the Class Of 2006.  The artists inducted are ones that a lot of people were hoping for, and their wishes finally came to fruition this year.  Do you agree with the selections made here?  If not, what would you go for?  Express your opinions in the Comments section below.  P.S. I'm still working on my write-up for the 2018 induction ceremony; sorry it's taking so long.  Recapping this class:

Herb Alpert: "Rise"
Black Sabbath: "Iron Man"
Blondie: "Call Me"
Miles Davis: "Backyard Ritual"
Lynyrd Skynyrd: "Sweet Home Alabama"
Jerry Moss: "Breakfast In America" by Supertramp
the Sex Pistols: "God Save The Queen"

This class didn't have any Vocal Group Hall Of Famers, but the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame did have their own Class Of 2006:

America: "Ventura Highway"
Bread: "Let Your Love Go"
the Byrds: "My Back Pages"
the Deep River Boys: "Recess In Heaven"
the Duprees: "You Belong To Me"
the Fleetwoods: "Mr. Blue"
the Haydn Quartet: "In The Evening By The Moonlight"
the Hi-Lo's: "My Baby Just Cares For Me"
the Hollies: "Look Through Any Window"
Journey: "Lights"
the Lovin' Spoonful: "Nashville Cats"
the Moody Blues: "Ride My Seesaw"
Queen: "Bohemian Rhapsody"
the Shangri-La's: "Long Live Our Love"
Simon And Garfunkel: "Scarborough Fair/Canticle"
Billy Ward And The Dominoes: "Have Mercy Baby"

Monday, May 21, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 2005

The Class Of 2005 is particularly special to me for a few reasons.  This is a class that I was very interested about knowing who made it, because a band I was very hopeful for was becoming eligible for the first year.  And that act did get nominated and inducted that first year.  And because they were going in, I was fully committed to watching the full ceremony, or at least the full broadcast as shown on VH1.  Prior to this though, I made a list of a hundred names, across the various categories, that I wanted inducted at the time.  Looking back, there are several names that I now see need to come off the list for lack of merit.  I was enthusiastic for the Hall, but I didn't really understand what the powers-that-be look for, or what really makes an artist worthy of induction.  That list was extremely heavy with '60's acts.  So some need to come off the list... some you could still argue for, and some still need very much to be inducted, in my opinion.  But every year since that original list, at least one name has come off it because a name has gotten inducted.  Just to satisfy curiosity, here are the names that have come off each year since I first created the list.

2005: the O'Jays, U2
2006: Black Sabbath, the Sex Pistols
2007: Van Halen
2008: the Dave Clark Five, John Cougar Mellencamp, the Ventures
2009: Little Anthony And The Imperials
2010: Jeff Barry And Ellie Greenwich, Genesis, the Hollies, Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil, Mort Shuman
2011: Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Leon Russell
2012: Donovan
2013: Rush, Donna Summer
2014: KISS
2015: Ringo Starr
2016: Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller (Band)
2017: Electric Light Orchestra, Journey
2018: the Cars, the Moody Blues

Just to clarify, this is the from the list as first compiled in 2004, so a lot of acts now in were not eligible at the time.  Anyway, I find it interesting that every year, at least one name has come off.  It began with 2005, the first ceremony that I watched the entirety of.  I only saw bits and pieces of the ceremonies from 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004, but this one, I committed to watching the full ceremony, and the performances by Jerry Lee Lewis and Bo Diddley need to be remembered, too, in addition to what we got from our inductees.  This is also the first class since the early '90's where there are more inducted Black artists than White, but between two bands, there were more inducted White people than Black in the Performer category.  For this project, the selections are a little on the cliche side: four of the five Performer inductees are saluted with their biggest hit on the pop or R&B charts.  Sometimes though, the biggest hits are solid choices that should be used.  Looking at this class in more detail now, our smallest class to date, it breaks down as such.

Frank Barsalona:  To my knowledge, the first and only inductee to have been inducted by a fictional character. He's also the only inductee from this year to not perform at the ceremony.  Credited as the man who made concerts something worth going to see, his concert promotions company helped make shows properly exhibit and encapsulate the elan that the songs are supposed to give to the audience and the performers alike.  Among the acts that he helped make a spectacle to behold were the Who, so I chose a song by the Who to salute the man.  No real reason why I chose this particular song. It's a fun song, one I love, I chose "Squeeze Box."  It's not the most theatrical song, not like "Who Are You," "Won't Get Fooled Again," or "Baba O'Riley," but the lyrical double-entendre lends a certain theatricality to the song, so I'm using it.

Buddy Guy:  A fantastic blues musician.  I could have listened to him, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King jamming together for another hour.  Great speeches, fantastic jamming, he made the blues come alive on stage.  That's part of what makes him so influential, as well as the tremendous records he made.  His sole hit single on the R&B charts was "Stone Crazy," and it's a song with pained vocals, great guitar licks, a melancholy horn line, and an electrifying atmosphere.  It's a song that screams, "Damn right, I got the blues!"  Sometimes the obvious choice works beautifully.

The O'Jays:  One of my all-time favorite soul acts, the O'Jays were a stellar group that spent a lot of years paying their dues before breaking through in the early '70's.  The years spent honing their craft combined with finding the proper home as part of Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International family, they broke through big with sweet harmony, catchy melodies, arrangements that depending on the need would underscore or enhance what's being sung, and of course, their messages.  They hit big with their socially conscious opuses like "Back Stabbers," "For The Love Of Money," "Put Your Hands Together," "Listen To The Clock On The Wall," and "Family Reunion."  Not every song was full of morals in the music, though, such as "992 Arguments," "I Love Music," and "Use Ta Be My Girl."  Their sole #1 hit on the Hot 100, "Love Train" is the song being used to represent them here because the idea of love permeating their music, whether it was religious, romantic, familial, or social; it's a powerful theme for them... you might even say it's the very soul of their music.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Put Your Hands Together")

The Pretenders:  The Pretenders are, in my opinion, the perfect example of the "No X Before Y" fallacy when discussing the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Most people are fine with the Pretenders being inducted; the only quibble being that they were inducted on their first year of eligibility.  But if you agree that they should be inducted, does it really matter when?  For the sake of the ceremony, probably.  And with the classes being kept purposely small, it does force people to be a bit more choosy.  All that aside, when it comes to the Pretenders, people are fine with acknowledging their brand of rock and roll that embraces the influences of both punk and the Beach Boys and makes a melodic and driving combination, topped off with the beautiful voice of Chrissie Hynde.  "Back On The Chain Gang" is the song used here, as it's a perfect example of those qualities.

Percy Sledge:  The inductee everyone loves to hate.  The inductee everyone holds to be the poster child for cronyism running the Hall.  There have only been two defenses for Percy Sledge that I've heard, and one of them is mine, and even that was argued from a devil's advocate position, an exercise in Lorenzo Valla-esque dialogue.  A friend of mine once said that Percy Sledge was a decent call because if you're going to program an Oldies station, "When A Man Loves A Woman" is one of the three songs you absolutely must have.  He didn't mention what the other two were, but based on how much the songs were overkill on Oldies stations in my area growing up, I guess that means he'd be okay with inducting Los Bravos and J. J. Jackson, as well.  My argument for Percy Sledge, again, done just for the sake of argument, is that "When A Man Loves A Woman" was a fairly innovative and influential record, and kicked down the door, making it possible for smooth soul like that of the Dells, the Stylistics, the Chi-Lites, Donny Hathaway, and many, many others to be heard by the masses, ushering the style into the conversation and the cultural zeitgeist.  And naturally, I'm using "When A Man Loves A Woman" for him, because duh.  And the man's dead now, too, so let's let him rest in peace.

Seymour Stein:  In case you don't remember, or didn't see the 2005 ceremony, when Seymour Stein took the podium to accept his induction, he sang a song, presumably one traditionally sung at bar mitzvahs.  I really don't know what the song was or if it is traditional at bar mitzvahs--if you've ever seen my picture, I'm exactly as WASP-ish as I look.  But even he sang at his induction, making the aforementioned Frank Barsalona the only one to not perform this year.  Stein said why shouldn't he sing, he felt like he was at his bar mitzvah again, and that rock and roll helped him keep young, a sentiment that Dick Clark also shared.  Ice-T said it wonderfully in his speech, about Sire Records, which Stein founded, becoming home to artists with a certain kind of edge, whatever that edge was.  The music best known for its edge might possibly be punk, and because Seymour said rock and roll made him feel young, I chose Ramones' cover of "Do You Wanna Dance" to salute Seymour Stein.

U2:  My second-favorite act, behind only the Four Seasons.  I love their music, though maybe not every song.  I admire everything they've tried to use their celebrity to accomplish, even when it seems to border on the edge (see what I did there?) of farcical.  I was a member of a U2 Yahoogroup for several years, and when they were inducted, I transcribed Bruce Springsteen's induction speech and posted it in the group's file section.  I love their music, but even in the U2 community, I'm a bit of an oddball.  U2 fans usually say The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby is their favorite album by this band.  Me?  My favorite is one of the lesser loved albums by the community, and the one right between those two, Rattle And HumZooropa is probably my all-time favorite concept album, depicting the concept of a city with no soul, where national mottos are advertising slogans, too much is not enough, and the denizens are dead inside, living for only what they can get out of others.  I might argue that it's the perfect description of American society, but it might possibly be accurately said to some degree about most Western nations.  I also once hypothesized that the album is about a city without the Ten Commandments, and each song represents to some degree, a violation of a commandment, though they don't go straight from first to tenth, but instead jump around a bit.  Their songs have frequently been infused with the spirituality of their faith, while also had something to say about living in the world.  This is the only Performer inductee from this class that I didn't use the biggest hit as the representative.  Going a different direction, I decided to use a song that shows rock and roll still going strong, remaining current and relevant, and when U2 was inducted their most recent huge hit was "Vertigo," a song that people don't like as well as the favorites from the earlier years, but is still a powerfully driving song with a spiritual theme and shows them as a band that still has something to say.

And with that, we have wrapped up our look at the Class Of 2005.  Is there a lesser known favorite by any of these inductees that you'd have chosen instead?  Got another viewpoint to defend the induction of Percy Sledge?  Tell all in the Comments section below.  Recapping:

Frank Barsalona: "Squeeze Box" by the Who
Buddy Guy: "Stone Crazy"
the O'Jays: "Love Train"
the Pretenders: "Back On The Chain Gang"
Percy Sledge: "When A Man Loves A Woman"
Seymour Stein: "Do You Wanna Dance" by Ramones
U2: "Vertigo"

Meanwhile, the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame also had a Class Of 2005 that was quite a bit bigger.  Their songs selected are as follows:

the Angels: "'Til"
the Brooklyn Bridge: "Blessed Is The Rain"
the Chiffons: "One Fine Day"
the Chi-Lites: "Have You Seen Her"
the Crystals: "Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)"
the Del-Vikings: "Whispering Bells"
Fleetwood Mac: "Say You Love Me"
the Hilltoppers: "Marianne"
the Mel-Tones: "Where Or When"
the Neville Brothers: "Dancing Jones"
the Pointer Sisters: "Fire"
the Rascals: "A Girl Like You"
the Righteous Brothers: "Just Once In My Life"
the Sons Of The Pioneers: "Tumbling Tumbleweeds"
the Spaniels: "Goodnite Sweetheart, Goodnite"
the Tymes: "Wonderful, Wonderful"

Monday, May 14, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 2004

As we continue on in our celebration, we have now arrived at the Class Of 2004, which at the time was been as small as the classes had been.  Eight inductees, seven in the Performer category.  It's mostly classic rock, but aside from disco, which the Hall seems to be avoiding at this point, classic rock is pretty much what's newly eligible, so it doesn't seem like much of anything to complain about.  Blues rock, socially conscious rock, working man's rock... it's not stylistically stagnant, at least.  You'd be pretty surprised to see any two of these artists do a double-bill together, at least I would.

And for those who are wondering, either in the middle of this week, or the middle of next week, I hope to have my thoughts on the 2018 induction ceremony posted.  We'll interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for some more commentary.  In the meanwhile, it's 2004, and we're saluting this class with the following songs.

Jackson Browne:  A man with conscientious a view of the world that comes through as much in his music as in his politics, as evidenced by his No Nukes work.  His Running On Empty album is considered one of the seminal albums of the '70's.  And while many hate the song, I actually don't mind "Somebody's Baby" too much.  He was something of a blend of self-conscious and socially conscious, and I think the song that best depicts this balance between the two is his big breakout hit, "Doctor My Eyes," a song about the external causes of world-weariness, and the effects it has on the person suffering from it.  A plea for more right to be done in the world, and exasperation of how much it's killing the person on the inside.

The Dells:  For some reason, this remains one of the more unpopular inductees with fellow hobbyists.  Maybe it's because the Hall took so long to getting around to them that they're not viewed as nearly as essential.  Maybe it's because there're other soul acts they feel are more worthy, or maybe they just don't respect '70's soul vocal groups all that much, period.  Or it may just be a matter of them having a laundry list of acts that they've given higher priority.  Either way, I cannot think of a better way to show how the smooth soul of the '70's has its roots in the doo-wop of the '50's, and is therefore absolutely appropriate to honor in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame; than to induct a group that started out in the '50's singing doo-wop and by the late '60's, was leading the way in consistent, excellent, smooth soul that continued on through the '70's and beyond.  After the Flamingos got inducted in 2001, this was the second induction for Johnny Carter, making him one of the lesser known Clyde McPhatter Club members, and one of the few for whom neither induction was an eponymous effort of any kind.  Fun bit of trivia: this is the only group that was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame in the same year.  For this institution, I am using the late '60's re-recording of "Oh, What A Night," with which they originally charted on the R&B charts in 1956.  It's their classic song updated in a newer style, and ties the two eras together splendidly.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Stay In My Corner")

George Harrison:  I have never been apologetic or anything less than adamant about the merits of all four members of the Beatles getting a second induction for their solo careers.  One was already inducted and a second about to be inducted when I learned of the existence of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and a third one by the time I discovered the community of fellow hobbyists.  In my entry where I described at length why Ringo Starr deserved better than AME, I depicted the Beatles as a house of love.  The group effort was both the foundation and the capper, the roof of that house which served as a starting point for the solo careers, but a group whose success was held up by their individual talents, and each wall that is a member is a facet of love that holds up the roof and makes the structure firm.  George Harrison's solo career, in terms of love as a universal theme, really delved into both the spiritual and intellectual aspects of love, perhaps proving that spirituality and intellectualism are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  He pondered its existence at a subatomic level, and also sought to connect with the source which gives it purpose.  And while everyone else's mind might instantly jump to "My Sweet Lord," I actually chose to go with the more "rockin'" song that still probes deeply into the matter, "What Is Life."  Love that song so much, and a sizable hit to boot.

Prince:  The purple one.  As proof that geniuses aren't always the most stable at times, I would point to Kevin Smith's "A Night With Kevin Smith" movies where he does the gab session.  The two that became movies talk about his getting inside Paisley Park, and spending time with Prince and his staff and getting to know what drives the man a little more.  It's comical, revealing, but also inspiring in a weird sort of way.  In terms of his music, I'm actually a bit in the middle ground.  I like "I Would Die 4 U," "Delirious," "Let's Go Crazy," "Raspberry Beret," and "Little Red Corvette;" but I think "Purple Rain" is boring, "Kiss" is annoying, "1999" is slightly overrated, and "When Doves Cry" is ho-hum.    I realize I'll now have to go into witness protection for those comments, but he's neither deity nor villain to my ears.  I purposely made sure the song I used for Prince, though, is one that is not additionally credited to the Revolution or the New Power Generation.  With the Sideman category, which has become Award For Musical Excellence, the possibility of either of those outfits getting their own separate induction someday remains a possibility, and I wish to leave those doors open.  The song I'm actually using is "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man."  It's a song I just flat-out love because it's so reminiscent of earlier rock 'n' roll, despite the subject matter about turning down the chance to score with a sure thing.  It's about being smart, and for guitar aficionados and dilettantes, Prince's solo is amazing in its rhythmic steadiness and in how Prince just shreds.  Fantastic song, and one of the few that went big on the pop charts, but completely failed to make the R&B charts.

Bob Seger:  By now, most of you know that I'm from Michigan.  Little quirk about Michiganders: we like to refer to the rock and roll legends from our state as relatives: Uncle Bob, Uncle Ted, Uncle Alice, Uncle Iggy, our crazy Aunt Madge whom we try not to acknowledge too much in public but give big hugs to at family get-togethers... and if it didn't off as HORRIBLY racist, we'd openly refer to the Boy Genius Of Motown as "Uncle Stevie."  Back when we looked at the Class Of 1990, I mentioned that the Hall has yet to recognize any real stars from the Cameo-Parkway empire, but they have inducted two artists who were once briefly part of that family.  One of them was the Kinks (hence, mentioning it in that particular post), and this man is the other.  "Heavy Music" was a big enough regional hit that it almost broke the Hot 100.  His first band was the Last Heard, and as part of the Cameo-Parkway family, they had some interesting songs, like "Chain Smokin'" and "Persecution Smith."  With the Bob Seger System, and then his Silver Bullet Band, he carried on the tradition of working man's rock and roll that the Four Seasons began.  His music had a bluesy edge, and the catalog includes classics and non-classics alike with "Lookin' Back," "Her Strut," "Turn The Page," and even after his induction with "Wait For Me," which sounds very similar to "Against The Wind."  Some are probably gonna smack their foreheads or shake their heads, but I did go with the obvious one here.  It's the first song of his I encountered, it salutes the great music of yore, it's a guitar rocker averring what should be once and for all that blues, funk, and soul are ALL part of what we celebrate (though he did diss disco), and it's one everyone knows and most everyone loves if they aren't sick of it being played so much.  Yep, after avoiding the cliches for Prince, we go straight to cliche for Bob Seger with "Old Time Rock And Roll."

Traffic:  When it comes to the circumstances involving an act's induction, it sometimes helps to step back and take a look at more than just the act itself.  In the case of Traffic, it's worth noting that lead singer Steve Winwood had been nominated the previous year as a solo artist, but didn't make it.  It does make one wonder if the selection of Traffic was part of an effort to induct Winwood in some capacity, and if Traffic hadn't gotten through on this try, would the Nominating Committee have tried putting the Spencer Davis Group on the ballot for 2005?  We may never know, but I do wonder if that was why Traffic even ended up on the ballot in the first place.  And like the Yardbirds and the Buffalo Springfield, this is band that is also possibly more well-known for the people in the band than for their music itself.  In addition to Steve Winwood, you have Dave Mason, who had a solo career and was one of the "friends" with Delaney And Bonnie; as well as Jim Capaldi, who also had a few hits as a soloist; and Chris Wood, whose aerophonic talents allowed the band greater versatility.  That versatility could also be a key part of what got them into the Hall.  Not a band I'm really a fan of, and one that I can't understand the words to half the time, but I do respect their ability to shift from prog to roots to blues rock.  The key to this band though, really seems to be the keys.  The keyboard playing by Steve Winwood is a big part of most of their songs, and with his vocals, I chose to go with "Empty Pages" to salute this eclectic outfit.

Jann S. Wenner:  If not the most controversial Non-Performer (well, Lifetime Achievement, technically), certainly one of the top three.  If this doesn't plain reek of cronyism, what does?  I mean, besides the E Street Band, Nile Rodgers, Frank Barsalona, Seymour Stein... okay, I've made the point  Nevertheless, there is some truth to the idea that the ones who had the passion, the knowledge, and the wherewithal to found this institution in the first place, probably also had the passion, the knowledge, and the wherewithal to play a part in the evolution of the music they were honoring.  Even while taking potshots at Wenner while inducting Bon Jovi, Howard Stern, the self-proclaimed King Of All Media, also had to acknowledge the importance of Rolling Stone, and how its coverage of the music scene, as well as the political scene, helped bring those worlds together even more tightly, as well as helped bring a lot of up and coming artists to the forefront.  For the longest time, it was considered a rite and privilege, proving that you had made it, to be put on the cover of that magazine.  That's one of the reasons I chose the song that I did.  Another is that it's just plain obvious.  But the third reason for choosing the song I did is that much like getting on the cover of the magazine, getting into the Hall almost seems to require a little bit of sucking up.  After releasing "The Cover Of 'Rolling Stone'," Dr. Hook And The Medicine Show managed to make it onto the cover, which almost certainly would have never happened if it hadn't been for that song.  It's probably also the reason that the band has been considered, though never nominated, for the Hall, under their shortened, later name, "Dr. Hook."  Written by Shel Silverstein, this song may have been a satirical stab at the shallowness of how success can be measured, as well as poking fun at the lifestyle offstage, but it's still a fun song, and is used for the former head of the whole shebang.

ZZ Top:  As much as I enjoy good blues-rock, ZZ Top is really more one that I respect, rather than love.  "Sharp Dressed Man" is alright, but I'm not big on "Tush," "Cheap Sunglasses," "Tube Snake Boogie," or the songs in those veins.  The song I do love though is "Legs."  That's a song that gets me dancing, or at least my best attempt at dancing.  A rhythmic pulse that sounds a helicopter off in the distance, staccato guitar licks that accentuate the space between vocals, and yet a smooth flow to it.  That's my jam right there.  No shame to my game, that's the reason I chose that song to represent the band here.  I know it's not typical of their sound, but it's a fantastic song, and I won't apologize for the selection.

And ZZ Top is about as alphabetically last as any musical list gets, so that's gonna put a bow on this one.  Hope it made you think as well as entertained you.  Which songs would you have chosen?  The Comments section below awaits you.  Recapping:

Jackson Browne: "Doctor My Eyes"
the Dells: "Oh, What A Night"
George Harrison: "What Is Life"
Prince: "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man"
Bob Seger: "Old Time Rock And Roll"
Traffic: "Empty Pages"
Jann S. Wenner: "The Cover Of 'Rolling Stone'" by Dr. Hook And The Medicine Show
ZZ Top: "Legs"

And as for the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame, their Class Of 2004 reads as such:

Alabama: "Love In The First Degree"
the American Quartet: "Moonlight Bay"
the Beatles: "Nowhere Man"
the Cadillacs: "Speedoo"
the Crests: "Sixteen Candles"
the Dells: "Stay In My Corner"
the Diamonds: "She Say (Oom Dooby Doom)"
the Doobie Brothers: "Black Water"
the Everly Brothers: "When Will I Be Loved"
the Four Tunes: "Marie"
the Jordanaires: "(There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)"
the Marvelettes: "Beechwood 4-5789"
the O'Jays: "Put Your Hands Together"
the Penguins: "Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)"
the Ronettes: "Be My Baby"
the Stylistics: "You Are Everything"
the Tokens: "Tonight I Fell In Love"