Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Next TV special is only a few months away

Fortunately, one's ability to appreciate great music (whatever genre) seemingly never dies. Studies show people with the most debilitating forms of dementia can comprehend the music of their youth with tremendous affection. I grew up loving music, particularly rock and pop/rock music; and it became my life's soundtrack as I'm sure many of you would acknowledge that a certain piece of music history is your life's soundtrack. There are some moments in my life (present life) where I can still feel certain times in my life (past life) as though I were living those moments as if in the present. I have several memorable music moments (the summer of 1970 and the spring of 1981 are high points). My most memorable musical past life was the summer of 1976. The visual of the summer of '76 moment usually has me driving in my car with the windows rolled all the way down. In the summer of '76 that vehicle was a dumpy silver Chevy Vega (my parents refused to buy me a new car - they wanted me to know what it was like to struggle, so they bought me an oil guzzling Vega - having said this I love my parents more than any other two people in my life)with a big black racing stripe canvased across the hood. Fortunately, my current car is a bit above my oil guzzling (not gas guzzling, but oil guzzling Vega - I had to put oil in the car every other day) Chevy model. Not that there is anything wrong with Chevrolet vehicles, but their experimental Vega didn't succeed. For some reason it is in this moment where summer is always remembered as though life never passes. The background of that time offers up a non-stop whistling of fireworks celebrating the Bicentennial of the United States of America. The skies were forever alight in shades of red, white and blue during that memorable historic period (the country's and mine). Sparklers were so present that they were a required accessory during that summer's experience. They were as much a part of that particular summer as ice cream cones, picnics and rides to the Adler Planetarium (to watch the rats hovering below the sewer surface (don't ask for an explanation - we were fascinated, I guess). During these moments I hear the strains of John Philip Sousa's "Stars & Stripes Forever" and of course the equally powerful "The Washington Post." I also hear Boston's "More Than A Feeling," Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs" and Peter Frampton coming alive. What a glorious time to be alive!

The other day I had a long drive up the Michigan coast and I had my XM Radio on. Love XM radio! I could write a dissertation on the many joys of having XM radio. I caught the Who's "Baba O'Riley" in its entirety. I also caught parts of the VH1 Rock Honors TV special honoring the mighty Who that aired last week. Music TV is everywhere in the summer if you look for it. PBS has been running the Soundstage performance of Stevie Nicks' 2007 tour which I saw while in Las Vegas last year. I bounced back and forth between the two specials, but I preferred the performance of the still vibrant queen of rock and roll. I'd rather watch Stevie sing her songs than watch younger bands saluting the Who. Keep Pete and Roger on longer.

The Who remains a shining, gleaming, I can't see straight example of rock and roll at its purest and finest. Pete Townsend wrote anthems of genuine rebellion and Roger Daltrey gave vocal interpretations to those uniquely crafted and arranged songs. If you ever question and who would ever question their contributions to the genre of rock and roll pick up a copy of The Who Live at Leeds. If you listen to only one song by the Who in your entire life listen to the live version of "The Magic Bus." I cannot even begin to muster up the courage to analyze this breathtaking and magnificent piece of teen aged frustration. "How much? Too much." They were the definitive rebel band with a message. They make the Clash seem tame in their political and social attitudes. Message music that doesn't hit you over the head is the best message music. They were punk before punk and they were far more gifted than any stated punk band could ever imagine being.

This of course leads to my point and I'm smarting over it as I write. Since the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees special will not appear again on television until the 2009 inductees are announced I thought I'd kick in some of my own angst and perhaps give us all enough time to get some additions in the Hall that should have been in years ago. I casually had a conversation with an acquaintance (I've had these conversations with multiple numbers of rock fans over the years) over who is in and who is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "The Flaming Nose" is a positive site and I will retain my positive air. Obviously, many worthy acts have been inducted into the Hall of Fame with some of my own personal favorites making it in on that first ballot, but way too many acts have yet to get their taste of respect by the Rock board. For a complete list of all who have made the list, click on this link.

According to all reports there are 1000 experts who nominate and vote on who will be inducted into the Rock Hall. Who are these experts? Academics, journalists, radio executives and producers.

I'd like to launch a campaign to make the most obvious omissions a thing of the past. In what world would Neil Diamond, Chicago, the Doobie Brothers, Heart, Linda Ronstadt, Pat Benatar, Connie Francis (my sister thinks it is horribly unfair to not have Connie in the Hall), Cat Stevens, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Hall & Oates, Peter Gabriel/Genesis/Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, the Monkees and Donna Summer not be included on this list.

Ann & Nancy Wilson, Connie Francis, Linda Ronstadt, Pat Benatar and Donna Summer are all obviously women and dare I say this, but I honestly do believe that an old boy's club has kept these women out of the Hall of Fame. Admittedly, there are some women in the RRHF, but either they are so obviously obvious or they fit that "critically acclaimed" group of non record sellers that the board just loves. How dare they keep out some of the most commercially successful women in the history of the rock era? I am not a woman who falls on the threshold of female victimization with any perceived slight of women, but this is a resounding insult to these artists.

Heart rocked with the best of any of the men on the RRHF list. Listen to "Love Alive" and then admit you agree with me. Connie Francis was one of the earliest of women rocking her way to the upper echelon of rock/pop success.

Linda Ronstadt made the cover of Wenner's Rolling Stone at least seven times. Wouldn't you think Jann Wenner would give her some space in the Rock Hall Heaven considering she obviously sold lots of issues of his magazine? (or else why put her on the cover?) Linda Ronstadt is one of the most versatile, durable and commercially successful acts of the rock era. How about all of those Grammy Awards? Not that I put much stock in the Grammy Award, but I'm sure the RRHF does. They probably share many members of their respective voting boards. She can sing rock, pop, the standards, folk, mariachi, country, Broadway and opera. Who else has accomplished this feat? Her pliable and impeccable voice are still staples across several genres of music. Linda had flawless intonation and an insightful understanding of lyrics.

Pat Benatar was a gifted rock vocalist who had a healthy run of success for a long period of time in the late 70's and early 80's. Donna Summer was the queen of Disco. Both Pat and Donna had outstanding technical skills. Pat had an expressive tone that went beyond the call of duty for rock/pop music. Her "All Fired Up" is one of the three or four best female rock vocals. Donna had a deeply expressive voice. She gave a focus and sophisticated spirit to all of her songs. I hated disco and I refused to listen to it during the 1970's, but I secretly liked Donna's voice. She was a talented stylist and phraser and those abilities easily could have landed her a gig back in the big band era with a Dorsey brother. Don't tell me Donna's a disco singer. That means nothing to this group. Lots of genres of music are represented on this list, so you can't keep her out because of the disco image.

I repeat I don't want to be negative on our positive site so I will not point out all of the people that shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame, but boy there are lots of them. One hit wonders abound on this list. Along with the the one hit wonders (and some of them aren't even wonders with one hit) are a few of the most inconsequential acts in the history of music. Go to the inductee list and point them out for yourself. I'd be willing to bet the average American (nothing against the Average American - my point is some of these acts aren't consequential enough) can't name one song by several of these acts.

I adore the music of James Taylor (I've seen his summer concert tours for years), but why is he in and Cat Stevens is not in? I, for one got through lots of times in my youthful years via the comforting spirit of "Peace Train," "Sitting," "Wild World," "Father and Son," "Morning Has Broken," "The First Cut is the Deepest" (the original and still best version of this heavily covered song), "Oh Very Young," "Can't Keep It In," "Hard Headed Woman," and I could keep going and going. He was a gifted songwriter, musician and performer and his music has survived quite nicely. He sold more than 60 million records and his actual recording career didn't even make it to ten years. "Tea For The Tillerman," "Teaser And The Firecat," "Catch Bull At Four" are some of the best albums of the 1970's. Jackson Browne's recording career is far less fluid than that of Cat Stevens and yet he is in. By the way, I like Jackson Browne and I'm clearly not saying he shouldn't be in the Rock Hall, but I'm saying it diminishes the club when Cat Stevens has not been brought in as a member.

Neil Diamond is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other Brill Building acts are in the RRHF and he out succeeded the most successful. The guy is now 67 and he is one of 8 or 9 acts on the planet that can still sell out 20,000 seat venues for two nights or more. Yes, there is something to be said for a long and successful career. Besides, what better act to karaoke???? Neil appears in the now classic Martin Scorcese documentary, "The Last Waltz" and Robbie Robertson introduces his friend with some gusto, so that alone should score you points with the voters. Who questions Robbie Robertson and The Band? Without Neil in the RRHF it is all vanity. Think of the legacy this man has and he hasn't even completed the path of his life. "Solitary Man," "Kentucky Woman," "Cherry Cherry," "Holly Holy," "Shilo," "Thank The Lord For The Night Time," "I'm a Believer" and of course the now rarely played, but truly monumental rocker, "You Got To Me." I just stopped writing since I had to listen to "You Got To Me" right this second and I'm going to have to jump around with joy in my heart due to its dominating pop rock greatness. I'll be back in a few...

Chicago - God forbid their absence. This is a band that recently celebrated 41 years in the business. They have continually been overlooked by the Rock Hall voting gods. Listen, I will admit that I quasi loathe the Peter Cetera dominated soft pop silliness of the '80s, but if you had to judge all bands that hang around this long for their creative spirit you'd have no one in the building. There are drags in all sustainable careers. Can we judge Lucille Ball for "Life With Lucy?" Can we interpret Paul Newman's career based on his appearances in "What a Way to Go," "The Secret War of Harry Frigg" or "When Time Ran Out?" Chicago should be judged by their output from 1967 through the 1970's. I repeat, go and look at who is in the Hall of Fame. Go see for yourself, since I don't want to be critical and oh I so could be. I'm restraining myself by not revealing some of the least worthy names. Go to their website and get mad as Heather Mills on a morning talk show!

Doobie Brothers - This is a huge, grand, whopping big "what the?" Behold - the Doobie Brothers aren't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Someone needs to explain this lapse of judgement. Their rock cred has never been questioned. They have been overlooked for no good reason. A gargantuan list of songs that millions of both older and younger boomers can sing word for word. They were a brotherhood of rock and roll musicians who deserve their spot in Cleveland.

I don't even like Alice Cooper's music, but I can be objective regarding the list. Cooper was immensely influential with his stage theatrics. His on stage antics led to Ozzy Osbourne, KISS and Marilyn Manson. Whether one likes Alice's music is not relevant. You cannot ignore his contributions.

Steve Winwood (he is in with Traffic, but this is a lobby for the solo work) is one of the most gifted musicians in the rock era and perhaps there is no better white soul singer; and that is saying quite a bit when you think of the vocal talents of some of his contemporaries. This is not a guy who wrote two chord simplicities (even though the Traffic classic "Feelin Alright" is a two chord classic - note: this song was written by Dave Mason, but I include it here for no other reason than to elevate Winwood's backing vocals on the song - even the backing vocal is a treat). His work is complex and thoughtful.

Peter Gabriel/Genesis/Phil Collins - Gabriel has long been a critical darling, so I don't understand this brush off. Gabriel has been influential beyond music. He pretty much made a real art form out of the music video back in 1986 with his great big tug of an album "So." Gabriel is also one of the downright weirdest live acts in rock. Normally I would not feel compelled to defend self-absorption and a big ego, but in his case it was downright appealing. Phil Collins is certainly as worthy as Billy Joel. Again, nothing against Billy Joel, but measure for measure they are sitting on the same scale.

Hall & Oates are the biggest selling duo of the 20th century. Hall's voice alone is worthy of the induction. "Sara Smile" is still so potent a ballad I can almost muster up a tear upon hearing it 33 years after its release. "Kiss on My List" dominated that eternal spring of 1981 like no song could dominate a season. At some point, they must be recognized.

Cheap Trick - I will not explain this at all. They belong in any hall of fame honoring Rock and Roll or else it just doesn't make intellectual sense. By the way, I'm not even that a big fan, but I get it.
Where are the Hollies, the Commodores, the Monkees (don't scoff since their music still sounds great and they created the music video long before the music video).

Where are Rickie Lee Jones and Todd Rundgren? Needless to say I love them both and I go way back with their music, but I'm shocked that they haven't been inducted since they were creative darlings of the critical elite. Both have been very influential, so where is their New York City gala award night? Todd Rundgren wrote deeply memorable tunes. A wonderful tunesmith and gifted lyricist. He was one of the most technologically gifted individuals in rock's history. His producing credits far outweigh even what he did himself as a recording artist and it is the most diverse list of credits your mind could absorb. (Meat Loaf, Badfinger, Cheap Trick, Hall & Oates, Grand Funk Railroad and about 30 other acts). Rickie Lee Jones was a listenable female version of Tom Waits. She created a style in song that cannot be duplicated. Her output of music is still original and thought provoking. An artist of the highest order.

I would like to end this by saying why are there so many people on the early influences induction list (many of whom are deserving and many of whom are not), but not the single greatest early infuencer of all - Frank Sinatra. How is it possible that Bono can idolize the man, Rod Stewart can do covers of his classics, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan - I will repeat that - Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan will show up and open and close the show for Frank's 80th birthday party. I was at the taping for this television special and as a side note this was my biggest celebrity sighting in my long TV career. I was standing approximately eight feet from Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen in deep conversation. Savor the moment!

Bruce inducted Frank into the New Jersey Hall of Fame and he nailed it when he said that Frank was one of the few artists that transcended genres and generations. In hindsight that is almost an understatement. Bruce added that when he hears Frank he hears America. The Boss saluting the Chairman of the Board. Very natural! When it comes to music Bruce knows all. How is it possible that Frank Sinatra has not been inducted as an early influencer? He was style and substance. His attitude reeks of rock star! They have people on this list that are highly admirable, but what are they doing on an early influencer list. I'd like to know who some of these people influenced.

Here is the entire list of inducted early infuences: Elmore James, Professor Longhair, Hank Williams, Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker, Billie Holiday, Nat "King" Cole, Charlie Christian, Louis Armstrong, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, The Ink Spots, The Soul Stirrers, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmy Yancey, Robert Johnson, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Jell Roll Morton, Bill Monroe, Mahalia Jackson, Pete Seeger, The Orioles, Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie and perhaps the most worthy recipient of all, Les Paul. I am not in a position to argue with anyone on this list, but my thesis is that Frank Sinatra should join them.

See what The Who and Stephanie Nicks started? I got all bent out of shape just watching them play their music again.

Lobby those associated with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Get mad as Howard Beale and send emails and make phone calls. You may or may not agree with some of my assessments, but I know you have your own ideas and base your madness on who you think has been omitted. The 2009 recipients will be honored in a few short months, so get hopping.

Please deliver comments. I want to hear your comments.


Jane said...

I can almost see Frank Sinatra (although I adore him) being omitted from the Rock Hall of Fame due to generational and genre differences. He would be on any pop, jazz, swing, American classic, showtune list though. But no James Taylor...Rickie Lee Jones, Genesis? The Beastie Boys, God forbid, have made the list, but no Cat Stevens or Doobie Brothers? What about Tom Waits, has he made the list? Where the heck is the list anyway, can we attach it as a link? By the way, you have mentioned my all time favorite and secret heart throb (Robbie Robertson) in this message. I may have to do a special post about old RR.

Judit, you could knock me over with a feather. I had no idea you had such passion for the recorded arts. Bravo on this post. I can't post any pix now, but will try by the time I get home from work if someone hasn't already beaten me to it.

Judith said...

Frank Sinatra should be on the list as an early influencer. None of the early influences were rock or pop stars. There are artists from country, blues, bluegrass and the big band era on this list and it is easy to say that Sinatra's career is as definitive if not more so (more so) than any other artist on the early influences list. Billie Holliday, Hank Williams, Nat "King" Cole and Robert Johnson have been inducted. I'm not arguing with these artists, but make note of many of the other early influences. The inductee list can be found on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's site.

Robbie Robertson is an old friend of Neil Diamond's, so you would think that the influential and powerful Mr. Robertson would lobby for his friend. Not that Diamond should need someone to lobby for him. You'd think he be a given. I love the Band. "The Weight" is such a complex and intricate piece of music it is almost impossible to analyse it several sittings. They were among the most gifted group of musicians ever, ever, ever. Music From The Big Pink still rocks out and is clearly influential.

Jane said...

To this day, I think Scorsese's documentary The Last Waltz is the greatest rock doc ever made. Lisa can confirm how I became completely unhinged over it and Robbie Robertson (and his ill-fated film career that followed) after TLW was released. This is a great topic and I expect to hear Scott chime in at some point, as he is a music guru and historian as well.

Judith, I've added pictures and links and have a big request to make. Every year I somehow miss the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame telecast. Please post a heads up on the Nose so I can finally catch it this year. In spite of their terrible omissions, it's still amazing that it exists (and in Ohio, for heaven sakes) at all.

Jane said...

Forgot to stood 8 feet away from Sinatra, Springsteen and Dylan at a TV special taping? Jeez Louise, you hit the absolute Trifecta of celebrity sightings. If I live to 100 I will never even come close, unless I spot Steven Spielberg having lunch at The Ivy with the ghost of Lucille Ball.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen this site?

You list some great snubs, but there are many more.

Judith said...

I have not seen the site you reference. I only listed artists that I personally feel have been left out for no apparent reason. In my mind, I'd even put in acts like Journey and the Grass Roots, but I attempted to list those who seem like they have a chance with the rock board voters.

As much as I love the Grass Roots I suspect that I will have to be satisfied with my cherished memories of a wonderful pop/rock band.

jpbenney said...

Your point about a large number of overlooked artists is valid. However, re Rickie Lee Jones I have one point.

If Rickie Lee was in the Hall of Fame her major influence Laura Nyro would have to get in, and if Nyro was in you would be looking at Kate Bush (and when eligible Björk).

Although I greatly admire the style of artists like Nyro and Bush and would be delighted to see them inducted, I know very well from years reading music criticism that their intensely feminine expressiveness and multi-line narratives are unpalatable to most critics. Even the interesting site 50 Unlikely Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame Candidates does not realise how hyperfeminine music (like its opposite, heavy metal) repels critics and the Hall judges. Both Laura Nyro and Kate Bush would I feel be better choices for such a site than many actual inclusions.