Monday, June 18, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 2009

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has certainly endured its share of criticisms and controversies.  Even by the time we get to the Class Of 2009, eyebrows have been arched over this or that.  Whether it was Jann S. Wenner getting inducted, past NomComm members such as Frank Barsalona and Seymour Stein getting inducted, or the alleged vote controversy that got rap in and held off the Dave Clark Five for another year.  But it is perhaps the Class Of 2009 that really marks what could be called the real downward spiral.  2009 is when the Hall really started playing fast and loose with their categories and how they defined them.  It's the year we saw the voting process be incrementally devalued via the "side door" induction.  It's the year that hobbyists start saying, "You know what no one has ever said? 'This class is just too large!'"

And yet there is still some hope.  R&B and soul get represented this year.  '80's metal busts through, and a rap act is inducted not only on their first nomination, but on their first year of eligibility!  Throw in a guitar god and top it all off with the spirit of Elvis Presley, and you've got this class summed up.  It's a solid salute to the past, capped off with "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" as the all-star jam, while looking forward and keeping up with fairly recent eligible acts.  Overall, a good class, with mostly obvious songs used by me, but ones that are classic for a reason.  And once again, I will be sharing my original prediction post on the ballot, unedited as it stood in 2008, in which I slipped further down, going only 3/5.

Jeff Beck:  Of all the nominees from the ballot that this class comes from, Jeff Beck was probably the most intriguing.  The man had a lengthy career following his departure from the Yardbirds, but it was sporadic and unpredictable.  He was inducted as a soloist, and not inducted with other members from his eponymous group, including what could have been a then-second and potential one of three for Rod Stewart.  What makes choosing a song for Jeff even tougher is that as a guitarist, his albums often feature guests vocalists, who get credited alongside of him, and songs with shared credit is something I've tried to avoid as much as possible.  Whether he was teamed up with Donovan, Rod Stewart, or Kelly Clarkson, or even with uncredited help like Jimmy Hall on the fantastic "Ambitious," his work on the axe is legendary.  And even without the guests, songs like "Freeway Jam," "Escape," "Plan B," and "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" stand out.  I personally love "Hi-Ho Silver Lining," a little known song that made the Bubbling Under charts.  It features Jeff doing the singing, as well as playing a searing solo.  It was my initial choice, but in the end, I succumbed to conventional wisdom and flipped that 45 over for the more famous, but non-charting "Beck's Bolero" to represent him in this set.

Bill Black:  The bassist from Elvis Presley's early combo, his work is probably the easiest to take for granted, but make no mistake, it was his bass that really gave the bouncy rhythm to so many great Elvis songs from the '50's, including "Paralyzed," "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear," and "All Shook Up," just to name a few.  He was such an accomplished musician, he also had his own successful instrumental combo, which continued to bear his name even after he died.  Like his work with the King, his combo's work had a lot of bounce to it, and whether the keyboard was playing the melody or the saxophone, Black's bass was relentlessly driving the music forward.  Now, if a Sideman or Non-Performer inductee had a hit or two, I like to use a song that they had a hit with.  But Bill Black was much more famous for his part in the band behind Elvis's early hits.  So, what to do?  How about we kill two birds with one stone.  The Bill Black Combo had a Top 20 hit with an instrumental cover of "Don't Be Cruel," which for Elvis, was half of the landmark 45 RPM, along with "Hound Dog."  So, instead of Elvis's #1 smash, we're going with the combo's cover version.

D.J. Fontana:  The longest surviving member of the band, we sadly lost him this past week.  The drummer gave a solid backbeat to those legendary records with his sticks and skins.  You may not always notice the presence of his drumming, but on some of the slower songs by Elvis, such as "Old Shep," the lack of drumming is very noticeable.  His subtle touches were just as crucial as his pounding it out.  He didn't get much in the way of solos, or even fills, but he always provided the necessary support.  Fontana showed that a great drummer didn't need to be a showboat, they just had to make a great song even greater.  I think a terrific example of this in Fontana's case, and hence it is the song chosen here, is the Elvis record "Too Much."  Most of the time, D.J. just provides a simple back-and-forth beat with Bill Black on bass, but in the instrumental bridge, he suddenly ramps it up, then effortlessly slides back to his previous pattern, keeping the song going.  It's fantastic drumming, and it stands in for Fontana in this project.

Wanda Jackson:  There was a sense of ominous dismay when Wanda Jackson was announced as an Early Influence inductee.  With the spirit of Elvis looming large with the inductions of Bill Black and D.J. Fontana, it seems that Wanda Jackson was destined to get in one way or another.  And that's exactly what happened.  The rockabilly queen, the Fujiyama Mama, was nominated for only her second time, championed by artists such as Elvis Costello, and she apparently didn't get enough votes to be inducted in the Performer category.  That's when someone had the reality-altering idea to induct her as an Early Influence.  That's when the music dropped with the awkward scratch of a needle.  The Hall had an agenda, and it was now okay with breaking its own rules to accomplish that agenda, and not even subtly.  The same opportunity stood before them that they turned down in 2007; they could have simply inducted a sixth Performer inductee with nobody the wiser.  The Hall could have used their lack of transparency to avoid further controversy.  Instead, they went this route.  It was the first time an act had been inducted in a separate category after having been nominated as a Performer on that class's ballot.  The results of this decision have been in primarily two directions: one, hobbyists are now always on the lookout for potential side door inductions in the annual ballot, or previous nominees getting a side door treatment; two, it's caused a terrible backlash of confusion over potentially redefining what constitutes an "Early Influence," suggesting a more fluid understanding of being early.  The circumstances of her induction have overshadowed her merits as an artist that got her inducted.  Her work doesn't really fall under the scope of being an Early Influence, so I just chose a song that would have justified her induction as a Performer.  "Let's Have A Party" is a great rockabilly jam in Wanda's catalog with such great energy, it kind of sounds like it runs away from the band for just a brief moment.

Little Anthony And The Imperials:  The last non-rap R&B group that got voted in via regular ballot, to date.  This was a group that was perhaps mildly underappreciated in their day, at least by the White audiences, but their influence upon smooth soul is monumental.  If the floodgates can ever be opened to get the Delfonics, the Chi-Lites, the Stylistics, the Moments, the Dramatics, and others to be inducted, they will all most likely acknowledge the influence of Little Anthony And The Imperials.  A group that sounded like they themselves were influenced by the likes of the Penguins and the Five Satins, they are something of a bridge between the doo-wop of the '50's and the smooth soul of the '70's, fronted by the unusually high, but not quite falsetto, voice of Anthony Gourdine.  When you listen to the song I've chosen, "I'm On The Outside (Looking In)," you hear all the elements that helped influence '70's soul, and it's certainly a more credible song than "Shimmy Shimmy Koko Bop."  However, if you want to hear another amazing song, give "Take Me Back" a listen. So many terrific songs, one really doesn't care how long it took to get them in, only that they are.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Tears On My Pillow")

Metallica:  The popular theory about this band not being nominated for the previous year is that the Hall didn't want to pit them against Madonna.  That seems like a pretty flimsy excuse, considering it took them six more years after Metallica to get around to Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble.  In any event, fans of metal, even those who don't care for Metallica, were stoked about the representation of '80's metal.  Metallica is one of four bands that are widely credited with redefining heavy metal, a new generation of it unfolding from their records.  So far though, this is the only one of those four that has been inducted.  Perhaps that's because they made metal more accessible to the public, having more hit singles than the others.  That's what makes "Enter Sandman" a prime choice to use to salute this band, although it may be regarded as a bit cliche.  It serves as a quintessential link in the evolution of heavy metal music.  That's not to take anything away from "Master Of Puppets" or "Jump In The Fire," but at least I'm not using "Nothing Else Matters," right?

Spooner Oldham:  Paul Shaffer really did a terrific job inducting this organist.  Oldham played the organ on several soul classics, and whether he was doing slides on the keys or adding a bubbling touch that help the soul stew simmer, he always knew how to sweeten a song just a little more.  He's also a songwriter and a producer, but it's his organ playing that got him inducted, as he was inducted as a Sideman.  In addition to soul, he's also played with Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Linda Ronstadt, just to name a few.  The song selected for Oldham was something of a happy accident for me.  This is one of those instances where not using the more obvious choices really pays off.  Since I don't like using the same song for more than one inductee, it often proves to be beneficial to use lesser known songs for the Performer inductees, and the better known songs for the Non-Performer and Sideman inductees.  When it comes to touting the accomplishments of these other two categories, it often works well to use a mammoth hit and link it to the inductee saying something to the effect of that without this person, this song wouldn't have been what it was or is.  In the case of Spooner Oldham, his slides across the keys are as much a key identifier for Wilson Pickett's soul classic "Mustang Sally" as the saxophone part, or the background singers, and it sure makes me glad that for Pickett's induction back in 1991, I chose the lesser known but incredibly infectious groove of "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You."

Run-D.M.C.:  The induction of Run-D.M.C. was such a huge relief for many of us.  After the Beastie Boys missed for 2008, and the controversy surrounding the induction for Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five, which was after three nominations, it was very refreshing to see a rap act get inducted not only on the first nomination, but on the first year of eligibility.  No controversy, no shenanigans, just a clean, worthy induction done by the book.  Too bad there was no performance from Darryl and the reverend.  Nevertheless, if you were asked to name three acts that showed the familial link between hip-hop and conventionally understood rock, Run-D.M.C. would invariably be on your list.  My first memory of them was while watching Saturday morning cartoons, and in the commercials, they showed the video for "Walk This Way" with Steven Tyler.  Even at a young age, the metaphor about breaking down that wall was absolutely clear: we're more alike than we are different.  But that would have been too close to using a duet for my comfort.  Instead, let's go with the song that had the video all about how rap is a part of rock.  All hail, it's "King Of Rock."

Bobby Womack:  The embarrassing part about my predictions for this class is that my top seed missed out, and my lowest ranked seed got in.  I think I just expected Bobby to get lost in the shuffle.  But the Soul Preacher rose to the top.  However, back in 2008, I also didn't consider industry respect.  As a songwriter, producer, and occasional session player, Bobby Womack is extremely well connected in the industry, and that may have been a part of what got him inducted.  Or maybe it was his incredible string of soul records through the '70's and '80's.  Six of one, half dozen the other.  From "Harry Hippie," to "If You Think You're Lonely Now," to "Across 110th Street," Bobby Womack's brand of soul is smooth and extremely high quality, but never treacly or overwrought.  The song chosen for him is his solo version of "Lookin' For A Love," which is a cover of the song he recorded with his family group, the Valentinos.  It speaks to his roots in the industry, and also speaks to his gospel influences, as it was also done by the Womack Brothers with different lyrics and called "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray."  It's a bit atypical for his solo career, but it somewhat serves as a hub for all the cache his name has in the music industry, and it's a fun little groove beside.

And that puts the capper on our look at 2009.  I hope you've enjoyed reading my thoughts on how the Hall handled things and on the songs chosen for each inductee.  Would you have chosen different songs?  If so, which ones?  Let me know in the Comments below.  Recapping below:

Jeff Beck: "Beck's Bolero"
Bill Black: "Don't Be Cruel"
D.J. Fontana: "Too Much" by Elvis Presley
Wanda Jackson: "Let's Have A Party"
Little Anthony And The Imperials: "I'm On The Outside (Looking In)"
Metallica: "Enter Sandman"
Spooner Oldham: "Mustang Sally" by Wilson Pickett
Run-D.M.C.: "King Of Rock"
Bobby Womack: "Lookin' For A Love"

And here it is, my 3/5 prediction post, as it was nearly ten years ago.  Enjoy:

The nominees for this year are out. Alphabetically, they are:

Jeff Beck (Solo efforts)
Wanda Jackson
Little Anthony And The Imperials
the Stooges
Bobby Womack

As for my thoughts...

Pros: Apart from being widely influential in punk rock, they're now in "practically guaranteed" territory. No act has been nominated 7 times and not eventually been inducted, even if it took an eighth or ninth nomination. This is their 7th nomination. Moreover, the 2007 induction ceremony ended with the inductees doing an impromptu jam of "I Wanna Be Your Dog," and Madonna has them performing in her place. This isn't Chubby Checker, Sonic Youth, or Heart complaining to reporters about their not being in... this is other high-profile artists taking up their cause.
Cons: Really none. Only thing is maybe since Black Sabbath had to wait an eighth time, the Stooges should too. 
In the end: No Stooges song ever made any of the Billboard singles charts, but with the Sex Pistols and Leonard Cohen getting in recently and given the competition in the field, and everything else, the pendulum's swinging too hard in their favor for them to miss out this year. I place their odds of making it this year at 90%

Pros: Widely recognized as one of the groups that really gave heavy metal wheels in the mainstream market. Quite possibly the most influential act on this year's ballot
Cons: Napster. Everyone felt Metallica was a symbol of anti-establismentarianism, and Lars and co. proved that they were a happy part of the corporate machine. 
In the end: Their influence reaches way too far, and this isn't exactly the strongest-looking ballot we've seen in the past few years. I place them as a pretty likely pick. Odds: 80%

Jeff Beck
Pros: Guitar legend. With the Yardbirds, and the other two revered guitarists/members of the Yardbirds have been inducted twice in some form or another. He also has at least one, maybe more, song inducted in the Hall already. About time to put the artist in himself?
Cons: How much innovation and influence did his solo stuff actually have? Some, yeah, but he kind of pales in his own shadow.
In the end: He's still a rocker, and when you look at each year's class, there's a disputable name in the list, but for the most part, those listed WERE rock 'n' roll at one point or another, and he was consistently so. Odds: 75%

Pros: Really helped make rap mainstream. Also, most Rock Hall purists don't mind this rap group, since they actually teamed up with Steve and Joe from Aerosmith. A lot of us still have fond memories of that video they made back in the 80's. Their contributions were germane to the perpetuation of rock and most recognize that. On top of that, the nominating committee were smart enough not to split the ballot this year between two rap acts. They tried that last year with the Beastie Boys and Afrika Bambaataa, and they both fell short.
Cons: They weren't actually "rock 'n' roll." And you still come across the people who say "This isn't the Rap Hall of Fame!! BOO!" Also, when Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five got in, it was under a cloud of suspicion involving vote tampering, and had it not been for that, some say there STILL would be no rap group in the Hall. So, can a rap group get in completely cleanly?
In the end: If there's going to be a token rap group in the Hall, more people would name these guys than any others, including the already inducted Flash And the Five. I think these guys are in the house this year. Odds: 66.7%

Pros: Crackerjack producers fronting, backing and overall making this band, and Niles Rodgers is revered as a blueprint-laying funk guitarist. He was also on the original nominating committee back in 1985. Also this is nomination numero cinco for Chic. Only artists to get this many noms and not get in are fellow ballotmates the Stooges; King Curtis, who was later inducted as a Side-Man; and Chuck Willis, who's been forgotten since the 1989 ballot/1990 ceremonies.
Cons: With all that crackerjack talent, they couldn't come up with better songs than "Dance Dance Dance (Yowzah Yowzah Yowzah)" and "Le Freak"? I've heard it said that the real stuff they should be remembered for is album deep and came after the disco heyday. Well, unfortunately that doesn't save them from being filed as a throwaway disco act whose lyrics were slightly less intellectually insulting than the Ohio Players'. Also, this is a political thing, really. Most voters, I think, recognize that the current nominating committee is giving Niles the reacharound for having been on the committe in the past.
In the end: I think they stand a chance to get in if for no other reason than to keep from seeing their name reappear every darn year, so they can finally get to some real rock acts. Maybe not. Someone else nailed it: it's more about honoring Rodgers and Edwards than Chic as a whole. There's just as much that they DO deserve induction for as there is that says they DON'T deserve induction. Mathematically, that makes it an even split with odds at 50%.

Little Anthony And The Imperials
Pros: 2005's induction of the Ronnettes and 2008's inductions of the Ventures and the Dave Clark Five proves that the voters want their 60's acts. They probably want their 50's acts too. Also, the Dominoes and the Five Royales are the only nominated doo-wop groups to not be inducted yet. Also, a fairly influential R&B/vocal group with more commercial success than just about any other 50's R&B/vocal group that has been inducted.
Cons: Almost no doo-wop group has made it on their first nomination. The Dells took two, Moonglows and Flamingos needed five, and Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers needed a wopping eight. Also, of all the 50's R&B groups to make the ballot, these are by far the most white pop-sounding. "Tears On My Pillow" and "Take Me Back" are great songs, but hardly the most convincing examples of rock 'n' roll cred. Their true R&B remains largely obscured, though sometimes that actually works in their favor.
In the end: The fact that they're from the 50's weighs pretty well in their favor. Last year, my #6 pick ended up making it, making me 4/5. They're the likely upset special, but I just don't think this'll be their year. Odds: 45%

Pros: Cool funk. Memorable classics like "Low Rider," "The Cisco Kid," and "Why Can't We Be Friends" are all pleasers that make them likely candidates. 
Cons: Santana's already in. Can another Latin group make it? Also, innovation and influence are considered somewhat questionable. Plus, in comparison to other artists, and the politics of the Hall, they may just not make it.
In the end: I want to see them make it, but it may not happen. Still, there's a good chance for them to be the upset as well. So, I'll put them at odds of 40%.

Wanda Jackson
Pros: The only female on this year's ballot, unless you count the female singers of Chic, and the Rock Hall people like to be PC. She's also revered as the female Elvis, possibly being the first white female rocker. Furthermore, she's got Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen in her corner, so those voters who really revere them might just vote for her.
Cons: There've been about five years so far without having any female Performer inductees, so it's not like it couldn't happen. Also, generally regarded more as country than rock'n'roll. She didn't manage to stay rock'n'roll while doing her country thing. 
In the end: She was nominated in 2005 and lost out to Percy Sledge. This being only her second appearance on the ballot, I daresay it won't be her last. Odds: 33.3%

Bobby Womack
Pros: You could induct him as a Performer, a Non-Performer, or a Side-Man. Truly versatile talent. Smooth soul. One of the last great soul singers before soul became this neo-soul type stuff.
Cons: The fact that he IS one of the last great true soul singers kinda hurts him in the influence category, as well as the innovation category. Plus, there are other great soul artists before him still waiting.
In the end: I don't see it happening. It's been awhile since they inducted any soul artists, so that could go either way, but with the continual push to get both Chic and more rap acts in the Hall, and the other three picks being the real rockers on this year's ballot, Bobby Womack's gonna get screwed this year. Odds: 30%

I've seen this year's ballot called weak. Honestly, other than Chic and maybe Wanda Jackson, I don't see an act on here I don't want to get in. Which again, shows the real need here: we need to put the number of inductees per year back up to at least eight.

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."