Monday, May 7, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 2003

When it comes to listening to the playlists, whether on CD or on my computer, the Class Of 2003 is one of my favorites to listen to.  I think I picked some really excellent songs on this list, and a lot of it has to do with who got inducted.  Classic rock is largely the story of this class, where the only minority inducted is in the Sideman category.  Still, the classic rock format isn't nearly as uniform as it's been in more recent years.  Blues-rock, punk, and reggae-influenced are represented here, as well as an artist that isn't really isn't played on classic rock stations, but is a contemporary of those other three.  The Sideman category is a solid salute to some of the finest from the golden era of rock and roll.  Our class also has no women, and is one of the relatively few to have none, but it's still a solid class despite that glaring omission.

On a personal note, I also feel it necessary to let you know that I may not be able to maintain the pace of a class a week.  Over the past week and a half, something has flared up in my real life.  Something very serious that threatens to disrupt the steady flow of posts and reviews of the classes of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  I will make every effort to continue on the steady pace that I've set for myself, but just in case I disappear suddenly and you're wondering what has happened to me, you'll at least know that I warned you about it ahead of time.  I hope this turns out to be a lot of anxiety and warning over nothing, but just in case it's not...  I don't want to get into the details here, but those of you who are closer to me, if you're curious, you know where to find me.  But enough of the ominous and grave.  As I said, this class's playlist is one of my faves, and it's because of songs like these.

AC/DC:  To give you an idea about my small town, AC/DC was considered heavy metal while I was growing up.  Also giving you an idea how small my hometown was, there were people upset about this band being Satanic, which is saying something, given that Angus Young looked like a Catholic schoolboy on stage.  The first song I remembered from this band was "Moneytalks," because that's exactly how young I was, and just discovering the world of Top 40 radio.  This is a band that I would describe as one of those that epitomizes the rock and roll attitude, whether it's a hardcore attitude with "Back In Black," sophomoric in songs like "Big Balls," or saluting the ladies with the song I've chosen to represent them here, "You Shook Me All Night Long."  It's bluesy, it's full of attitude, and it rocks your socks off.  Powerful stuff.

Benny Benjamin:  There are still many stellar musicians from the Motown house band that still need to be inducted, but thankfully Benny Benjamin is not one of them.  A drummer for the legendary Funk Brothers during the golden age of Motown, it's somewhat telling how the change of the decade affected this label, not the least included the death of this man in 1969.  No less than Berry Gordy, Jr. considered Benjamin an indispensable member of the Motown family.  He played for all the big names, and probably the smaller names of Motown too.  The song I've chosen for him is one that his drums make hot right from the opening and keep going, whether it's his treatment of the cymbals, the occasional fill, or the steady pace giving it energy.  Take a listen to the Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" and see if you don't agree with me.

The Clash:  By order of the prophet, the song for this band is "Rock The Casbah."  I'm not saying that the Clash got in just on the strength of this song alone, nor could they have, but this is the song that just absolutely lays it on you what this band is all about.  Even in songs like "Train In Vain (Stand By Me)" or "Should I Stay Or Should I Go," there was a power to their sound that could be felt all the way around the world.  Remembered as a punk band, the Clash were arguably the most influential band of this sub-genre... it's a tossup between them and Ramones, that's for sure.  It's absolutely no surprise that these guys got in on their first year of eligibility, not with a sound as explosive as Spanish bombs.

Elvis Costello And The Attractions:  This is actually one of the groups that I'm not as familiar with as I'd like to be.  I know a few of their songs, but I readily admit that I need to spend more time delving into their work.  Part of it is because of former co-workers, who ruined "Watching The Detectives" for me.  Still, what I do know can be described as "regularly irregular."  Whether it was ballads like "Everyday I Write The Book" or the more straight-laced rock of his solo efforts, like "Veronica," or politically charged like "Oliver's Army."  Still, as a group, the outfit's overall sound is kind of quirky.  Maybe it's the keyboard lines that seem to borrow from ? And The Mysterians at times.  It's just such an interesting experience every time you hear them.  That quirky edge seems best exemplified in a song that never charted, but is an undisputed classic, "Pump It Up."  So quirky, you could do the Farkel to it.  And yes, when I sing along to it, I try to sneak in a line of "Gimme gimme wild west/Gimme gimme safe sex!"  Total lifting there.

Floyd Cramer:  The man was inducted into the Rock And Roll hall Of Fame and the Country Music Hall Of Fame the same year.  Sadly, both inductions were posthumous, as he died in 1997.  Having taken piano lessons as a kid, I am familiar with the concept of grace notes.  But the lengths to which Floyd Cramer took it, it goes beyond grace notes, to what has been called "slip note" or "bent note."  And it permeates everything he played on, whether it was for rock and roll musicians, or for country singers.  He was inducted as a Sideman, but he had quite an extensive career as a performing artist too, and if you need any proof that he could rock out, you need to hear his "On The Rebound."  Sadly, YouTube uploads of this song just do not do it justice.  It's one you'll need to find on CD or vinyl to truly appreciate it.  Such a cookin' song, with its rollicking piano from Cramer, a smokin' rhythm section behind it, and even "Oohs" and "Aahs" from background singers to all add layers to it.  If it weren't for his signature slip note style on the keys, you might even swear you were listening to the Ramsey Lewis Trio.

Steve Douglas:  You might not think of the saxophone as having much to do with the sound of surf, but Steve Douglas was on the early Beach Boys albums, and also helped drive the youth culture with his sax on records from Jan And Dean.  And just like the Funk Brothers, more members of the Wrecking Crew need to be recognized, but thankfully this man has gotten his due as well.  The song I chose from him though, is a bit earlier than that.  Steve Douglas was also the preferred sax man for Duane Eddy records, and I've chosen "Peter Gunn" to pay tribute to this session player, because in all honesty, it should have been credited as a Steve Douglas record.  Duane Eddy lays his twangy guitar on the iconic, relentless rhythm line of this legendary television theme song, but as the song goes on, it's Steve Douglas's wailing and improvisations that you're really listening to, not the pulsing of Eddy's axe.  That's not taking anything away from Duane, but Steve Douglas's lips are what really bring this record to life.

Mo Ostin:  When it comes to Non-Performers who were record executives, it's the standard to recognize all the labels they had a hand in, and all the artists that rose to prominence under their reign over the label.  And it's fitting.  Why salute a Non-Performer with a song by an artist that they really had absolutely nothing to do with, or no lore that attaches them to it?  When it comes to Mo Ostin, who was a key part of the Warner empire and getting their share of the rock and roll industry, it's almost a matter of picking a name out of a hat.  But what makes Mo Ostin special was his legacy as being a friend of the musicians, appreciating and respecting their talent, and pushing them to the artistic heights that maybe even they didn't know they were trying to reach.  In that respect, my choice of song for him is appropriate; however, it might have also been a misstep, albeit a minor one.  For some reason, I could have sworn coming across something that stated that Mo Ostin, as a musician's friend and record mogul, had a hand in popularizing the singer/songwriter movement of the '70's.  Maybe it was the speech for his induction in 2003, or the bio on the Rock Hall's website's previous layout.  Somewhere, I got that impression.  And even if I'm wrong about that, Mo Ostin is a big reason why we know who James Taylor is, and so, the choice of "Fire And Rain" to salute Mo Ostin, rather than James Taylor, remains.

The Police:  One of my oldest brother's favorite groups.  He once lent me his box set of the Police to share his love of them.  And I fell asleep trying to listen to it.  In all fairness, I fell asleep quite a lot during those years.  It wasn't narcolepsy, just puberty; I needed a lot of sleep then.  The Police are one of those acts that I don't particularly love, but don't particularly hate either.  But I do respect what this trio has done, the fact that they have been so influential, and they are still instantly recognizable.  Their reggae influences have been very noticeable, and the way they infused it and absorbed it into their sound is something that is perhaps the deft strokes of their signature sound.  Possibly the most noticeable example of this would be the song that took two tries, but eventually introduced America to the Police.  "Roxanne" is still a classic to this day, and it's my choice  in this playlist to symbolize their achievements.

The Righteous Brothers:  Awww yeahhh.  Unlike the journalist Bill Wyman, I haven't taken the time to really rank the Rock Hall Performer inductees; however, if I did, I would forgo even trying to be objective, because there's just so much.  My list would be totally subjective, based on whom I love listening to, and the Righteous Brothers would easily make the Top 20, maybe even the the Top 10.  My playlist on Spotify for when I'm at work includes "Hung On You," "Go Ahead And Cry," "You Can Have Her," "Try To Find Another Man," "Stand By," "Rock And Roll Heaven," and I think I'm gonna add "Melancholy Music Man," "Give It To The People," and "Dream On,"  too.  There are also two great uncharted songs that I want to plug for them.  One is their cover of "Something You Got," which I've only been able to find on a 2CD anthology, and the other is "American Rock And Roll," which was released on the 1990 Curb Records anthology/album that included the re-recording of "Unchained Melody."  I actually chose to avoid all the obvious choices for them, though, and decided to honor them with their breakout hit "Little Latin Lupe Lu," because it really irks me how ignorant people are about the roots of soul music as part of the rock and roll diaspora, and though the Righteous Brothers are blue-eyed soul, they get it, they gave it, and they were awesome, even on the one song with Jimmy Walker of the Knickerbockers, instead of Bill Medley.  Anyway, this song points out how soul men rock out just as well as the guitar bands.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Just Once In My Life")

And with that, we end our salute to the Class Of 2003.  One of the best years for Songs Of Proof, in my opinion.  So much great music.  Do you agree?  What years so far have you preferred?  Which songs would you swap out?  Mention it in the Comments below.  Recapping:

AC/DC: "You Shook Me All Night Long"
Benny Benjamin: "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" by the Temptations
the Clash: "Rock The Casbah"
Elvis Costello And The Attractions: "Pump It Up"
Floyd Cramer: "On The Rebound"
Steve Douglas: "Peter Gunn" by Duane Eddy
Mo Ostin: "Fire And Rain" by James Taylor
the Police: "Roxanne"
the Righteous Brothers: "Little Latin Lupe Lu"

And for the Vocal Group Hall Fame, their Class Of 2003:

the Association: "Everything That Touches You"
the Charioteers: "So Long"
the Commodores: "Easy"
Danny And The Juniors: "Twistin' U.S.A."
Earth, Wind, And Fire: "Serpentine Fire"
the Five Satins: "To The Aisle"
the Four Lads: "Moments To Remember"
the Impressions: "People Get Ready"
the Isley Brothers: "Twist And Shout"
Martha And The Vandellas: "Quicksand"
the Merry Macs: "Mairzy Doats"
the Peerless Quartet: "I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier"
the Whispers: "Lady"

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