Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Whine, Rinse, Repeat

                I would have forgotten all about it were it not for some DJ running his yap this morning, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was last night.  In and of itself, this is barely worthy of note: last I checked, they couldn’t even manage to broadcast the ceremony on a higher profile station than VH1 Classic, if even that. (This year, it appears to have not been broadcast at all.)  In a broad sense, that’s my point: who really cares?

                Two groups of people, apparently: DJs trying to fill out talk time on their shift, and middle aged men on the internet who feel that [insert classic rock act here] has been unfairly slighted, year in year out, by the Hall’s voters.  The DJs can be forgiven: you’ve gotta fill a few minutes with something other than Charlie Sheen, right?  The whining fans are another shade of obnoxious entirely.

                For most of them, it’s not enough to simply be annoyed that their favorites have been thus far denied entry to an oddly shaped building in Cleveland.  It’s a conspiracy!  I mean, after all, look at all the CRAP that Jann Wenner and his friends let in.  Even worse, some of that CRAP is [c] RAP.  Sometimes, I as an angry aging music fan use “clever” spellings like that to barely mask my inherent racism!  Why won’t Wenner and his lackeys listen to me and vote in Peter Frampton already?

                [As I realize that sometimes sarcasm faces detection challenges while hurtling down the inter-tubes, I’d like to take this moment to make explicit the fact that all but the first sentence of the preceding paragraph was myself adopting the persona of a pissed off forum dweeb.  And now, back to the in-progress skewering.]

                Okay, Tex, let’s check out what you’re saying.  First off, let’s have a moratorium on this “[c] rap” spelling: it’s not only exceedingly un-clever, it marks you as both an out of touch old man and a likely bigot.  Disliking rap and hip-hop based on your own musical tastes is fine; that’s why they’re called personal preferences.  Claiming that it’s not music, or even if it is that it has nothing to do with the continuum of rock ‘n’ roll is blathering idiocy.  So what’s next?

                “...the CRAP that Jann Wenner and his friends let in.”

                The latter half of that is the only point that Tex may really have in his semi-favor here.  Wenner and Rolling Stone have been borderline useless for at least a decade and a half now.  [Guess that’s one writing gig I can now forget about.  Oh well.]  Which begets the question: how can you get your panties that far in a twist about the opinions of the publisher of the Justin Bieber special?  Personally, I can’t, but just for laffs let’s put this year’s list* through the crap detector anyway.

                Alice Cooper.  Undoubtedly belongs in the Hall of Fame; the only question here is how it possibly took this long.  Every performer since the early ‘70s who has tried to either shock the nation or merely add a dollop of theatricality to their presentation owes the Coop a Christmas card and a round of golf at the very least.  Plus, he and his band wrote “Schools Out.”  And “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”  And “Under My Wheels.”  Next.

                Neil DiamondHe’s never been my particular size of sequined pants, but his influence over decades of rock-leaning pop is absolutely pervasive.  The only thing I find shocking about this one is that, in the year 2011, there were still Brill Building-associated songwriters who hadn’t yet been inducted.  Worthy?  He is, I said.

                Dr. John.  Again, not exactly my personal bowl of gumbo, but he’s the first name that comes to mind when New Orleans rock ‘n’ roll is mentioned.  I’m not incredibly familiar with a lot of his music, but in a way that makes the point for his induction: I don’t need to be to know that he’s legendary.

                Darlene LoveIn five words and two parentheses: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”  Most rock ‘n’ roll holiday music is lame beyond belief, but only the Grinch himself could dislike this one.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the only indispensible rock holiday song in the music’s history.  The fact that her voice is all over several of Phil Spector’s other most beloved classics is merely icing on the cake.

                Tom WaitsAt the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m not a huge fan of Waits the recording artist.  To me, he’s the musical equivalent of creamed onions: I enjoy a small amount of them a few times a year, but any more would be too much for my system to handle.  Regardless of my opinion, he’s one of the most enduring cult artists in rock, and he’s bequeathed to the genre two of its most enduringly covered standards in “Ol’ 55” and “Downtown Train.”  Hard to argue with any of that.

                Leon RussellInducted as a side-man, which is appropriate enough for the man who orchestrated Joe Cocker’s legendary Mad Dogs and Englishmen ensemble amongst many others.  Still, that feels like a bit of a back-handed compliment, given that Russell was also responsible for some fine platters of his own.  Honestly, I thought he’d already been inducted years ago.

                Why won’t Wenner and his lackeys listen to me and vote in Peter Frampton already?

                Honestly, Tex, I don’t know.  Look, I understand that it’s fun to argue about who should be in this or any other Hall of Fame that isn’t, but the above list is fairly unassailable.  I’m saying this as someone who owns more than two recordings by only one of the above artists (Cooper), and whose personal all time favorite classic rock band has been repeatedly snubbed year after year.  I’m also saying this as someone who doesn’t really care one way or another.  Cheap Trick’s 1977 debut made them Hall worthy the second I heard it as a fourteen year old and it upped the ante on everything I demanded from my music, but that’s another story.

                The fact that Jann Wenner et al don’t hear it that way doesn’t dull its luster for me one bit.  That, my friends, is my point.

* Non-performers category purposely omitted: no one has ever argued over why their favorite label head hasn’t yet been inducted, and with good reason.

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