OK–the best part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction process is arguing about the decisions–pro and con. It’s like the sabermetric guys going ballistic over ballplayers inducted (and not inducted) into Cooperstown–except with rock stars! On this post, I’ll limit myself to the decisions on the 6 that made it into the Hall. The next post will be on the 10 that were snubbed. Oh–but one note on a band not nominated. J. Geils Band, dudes! C’mon!!!
Of course, the big news this year is for award for Musical Excellence. Formerly the category known as “sidemen,” this is the category to honor the bands that play for big names, the actual musicians rather than just the rock stars. We’re talking groups like the Funk Brothers who played on scores of great Motown hits and The Wrecking Crew that did the same for untold bands recording in LA studios in the 60’s and 70’s.
The Hall of Fame announced that they will be inducting the best live band in the history of rock and roll–THE E STREET BAND!
“The heart stoppin’, house rockin’, earth quakin’, booty shakin’, history makin’ LEGENDARY E STREET BAND!” For forty years they’ve been the most amazing ensemble ever, playing three hour shows, able to play obscure rock chestnuts at the drop of a hat and backing up the most incredible performer of our time. (some guy named Bruce!) The best part of this: the April induction ceremony televised on HBO will feature a live performance by Bruce and the E Streeters!
The Winners A very strong class, with only one undeserving winner.
1. Nirvana Grunge makes it’s first appearance in the Hall with the most famous and most deserving of the Seattle area bands of the late 80’s/early 90’s. Kurt Cobain’s suicide took a musical genius from us and the band only put out 3 studio albums–but few groups get to change musical history. No one hated the star-making machinery and the hype of the music business more than Kurt Cobain, but the band and the music he helped create deserve our respect and the honor. “Here we are now–entertain us!”
2. Peter Gabriel Gabriel is already in the Hall as part of the prog rock group Genesis (he was the genesis–ha!–of the band’s early work–the stuff that merits the honor. When he left when they became the Phil Collins Top 40 show.) This vote is for his solo career. An amazing amalgam of rock, prog, world beat and electronic music, Peter Gabriel is one of a kind. Add to that his championing of world musicians through his WOMAD (World of Music and Dance) foundation and tours, his support of Amnesty International, his mastery of music video–and above all his astounding anti-apartheid song “Biko” and you have one of the most important musicians of this era.
3. Kiss Probably the most controversial of the inductees–no one is neutral about KISS. I think it was a good choice for several reasons. The band created a worldwide fan base “The Kiss Army” that is as loyal and widespread as those that follow the Grateful Dead and Phish. Of course, just having crazy fans alone doesn’t merit induction–I doubt we’ll ever see the Insane Clown Posse in the Hall–juggalo’s notwithstanding. But how KISS created that fan base is worth noting. They did it the old fashioned way–extensive touring. The key to their strategy was playing everywhere. They knew that millions of rock fans never get to see their heroes because they don’t play anywhere but the east and west coasts. In the 70’s and 80’s–if your town had a basketball arena or a community hall, KISS played your town. And they brought all the gear–the fire, the explosions, the face paint. They brought rock and roll excitement to the people. Now go back and listen to the early stuff–it kicks ass. “Deuce”, “Strutter” and especially “Detroit Rock City” are all undeniably great rock songs. Top it off with one of the most popular anthems of all time and you have a worthy Rock Hall inductee.
4. Linda Ronstadt A wide-ranging career, to say the least. America’s pop sweetheart. Jazz. American Songbook standards. 70’s California rock. A great traditional country singer. An amazing foray into the canciones of traditional Mexican folk music. What a voice, what a range, what a great pick for the Hall. Christopher Loudon of Jazz Times noted in 2004, Ronstadt is “Blessed with arguably the most sterling set of pipes of her generation … rarest of rarities – a chameleon who can blend into any background yet remain boldly distinctive … It’s an exceptional gift; one shared by few others.” Alas, all that has been cut short by her diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease that has left her unable to sing.
5. Hall & Oates Another pick that many people may cause some to shake their heads–but I’m a big fan of Philly’s blue-eyed soulsters. Even Daryl Hall expressed surprise at their induction, they’ve been eligible since 1997–and didn’t seem like likely inductees. Many folks only know them for their string of radio pop hits in the eighties, but they’ve been playing for years and were always respected by their peers. Daryl Hall was once named R & B performer of the year in the 1970’s–and he was chosen by both Smokey Robinson and the Temptations to give the speeches for their inductions into the Hall. Their live album from the Apollo Theater with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations is a masterpiece!
6. Cat Stevens OK, really? A couple of pleasant, but nondescript, easy-listening folk rock albums gets you into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Really? Then, just to top it off, when he converted to Islam he was in support of the Iranian fatwa against the author Salman Rushdie. He supported the murder of an artist because of his ideas and art. Why is he being elected to any cultural Hall of Fame? And he wasn’t that great a musician either! Let’s give Salman Rushdie the last word–his May 2007 letter to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper:
Cat Stevens wanted me dead
However much Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam may wish to rewrite his past, he was neither misunderstood nor misquoted over his views on the Khomeini fatwa against The Satanic Verses (Seven, April 29). In an article in The New York Times on May 22, 1989, Craig R Whitney reported Stevens/Islam saying on a British television programme “that rather than go to a demonstration to burn an effigy of the author Salman Rushdie, ‘I would have hoped that it’d be the real thing’.”
He added that “if Mr Rushdie turned up at his doorstep looking for help, ‘I might ring somebody who might do more damage to him than he would like. I’d try to phone the Ayatollah Khomeini and tell him exactly where this man is’.”
In a subsequent interview with The New York Times, Mr Whitney added, Stevens/Islam, who had seen a preview of the programme, said that he “stood by his comments”.
Let’s have no more rubbish about how “green” and innocent this man was.
Salman Rushdie, New York