Sunday, April 19, 2015

Walk On the Wild Side

No record review this Sunday: I've written instead about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2015, officially inducted last night.
It has not escaped my notice that many of the artists who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last night have long since passed on.  It suggests that rock and roll is in fact dying as well as aging.  And after Green Day, there aren't that many rock bands that began recording after around 1985 that are left to take seriously for induction.  None of them last that long.  But the 2015 class is still a pretty good group, representing various styles of rock and roll and its taproot, rhythm and blues.  Sorry, still no Deep Purple.  And of course, still no Family.  Hey, this is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, not the Rock and Roll Hall of Recognition.  So let's review the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2015.  And their orchestra.
Bill Withers.  Withers must have seemed something of a novelty in the early seventies, when he had his first hit with"Ain't No Sunshine," a song distinguished by Withers singing "I know" 26 times (by my count).  But it still evokes the feeling of loneliness when your woman leaves you on your own.  Then Withers followed up with that with the inspirational "Lean On Me,"  one of those songs that lift you out of the worst possible mood and a song no one could ever tire of hearing.  But that's not why I'm glad to see Bill Withers inducted.  I'm glad because of his 1978 hit "Lovely Day."  And his orchestra.
Lou Reed.  After leaving the Velvet Underground - and his orchestra - Lou Reed came up with some of the most nihilistic records that captured the gritty street life of Manhattan in the 1970s and the 1980s, a period when New York was not the glamorous citadel of fashion and sophistication.  Quite frankly, it was a sewer.  And Reed helped rock and roll stay conencted to those mean, gritty streets - and kept it connected to New York after American rock headed west to LA. And because New York's rock heritage is being destroyed by hip-hop, New York University's expansion (clearing out the rock clubs in Lower Manhattan), and radio conglomerates  throwing new rock off the Big Apple airwaves, Lou Reed's induction is an important way to remind future generations that New York was where rock . . . lived.  Reed died in 2013.
the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.  The Chicago-born Butterfield, who died in 1987, was a white American blues musician who popularized the form at a time when the blues was being brought back by . . . the British.  Butterfield, along with black blues artists discovered by young white rock fans, helped bring the blues back home, and he also helped advanced the careers of his band members Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop.  And his orchestra.  This is a lead-pipe cinch for induction.
Green Day.  This San Francisco Bay-area trio brought punk to the masses and came up with some of the sharpest songs of the nineties and two thousand zeroes.  No American idiots, they!  They belong in the Hall of Fame.  And their orchestra.
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.  I remember when Joan Jett broke through on her own in the early eighties, after her old band the Runaways folded.  Her appearance suggested sitcom actress Joyce DeWitt on acid, she sang and played as menacingly as she looked, and her covers of Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me," Arrows' "I Love Rock and Roll" (which made her love for rock and roll crystal clear), and Tommy James' "Crimson and Clover" were so definitive that they became Joan Jett songs.  That alone would qualify her for induction, but the fact that she kept the 1980s from being a total loss musically makes her and the Blackhearts' (and their orchestra's) induction de rigeur.
Ringo Starr.  What took so long to get Ringo in to the Hall as a solo artist?  After his orchestra - the Beatles - broke up, Ringo embarked on a solo career that had no chance of success.  After all, he was just a drummer, he could barely carry a tune as a singer, and he wasn't much of a songwriter.  But he knew how to choose good material for his plaintive voice, he was down to earth as a performer, and he knew how to use music to make us smile.  And he still does; Ringo just released his eighteenth studio album, Postcards From Paradise, continuing a career that, in addition to his All-Starr Band tours, features memorable hits such as "It Don't Come Easy," "Back Off Boogaloo" (both Ringo originals!) "Photograph," "No No Song" and "Wrack My Brain."  And he shows no sign of slowing down.  The Energizer Bunny of classic rock, like the drumming rabbit itself, just keeps going and going . . . and should go in to the Rock and Roll hall of Fame. :-)  
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble.  Vaughan and his orchestra - er, his band Double Trouble - did for Texas blues what Paul Butterfield did for Chicago blues.  Vaughn put his own distinctive spin on it and created songs such as "Pride and Joy" and "Cold Shot." A gifted guitarist, Vaughan kept the blues base of rock guitar alive and well through the synth-happy 1980s.  Vaughan definitely belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  His death in a 1990 helicopter crash was a severe loss for rock.
The "5" Royales.   The "5" Royales - and their orchestra - also belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  As one of the first big R&B groups, they created enduing songs, most of which were composed by guitarist  Lowman "Pete" Pauling, that would be covered by others, such as "Dedicated to the One I Love" (covered by the Shirelles and by the Mamas & the Papas)  Their influences went from leading James Brown to form his first vocal group in the Royales' style, while Eric Clapton and Stax-Volt guitarist Steve Cropper have cited Pauling, who died in 1973, as an influence on their playing.  Without the "5" Royales, rock and soul music as we know it might not exist.
Not a bad choice in this entire class.  And not one hip-hop group, either.  There's pressure on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to induct more rappers in order to maintain its relevance - because we know in our hearts that current rock bands such as the Alabama Shakes (and their orchestra) aren't going to be around long enough to be inducted in the late 2030s.  Now, more than ever, we must resist that pressure and induct the Alabama Shakes when they're eligible anyway, if only for musical merit, as opposed to fame. Rap is so greatly divorced from rock and roll that the idea of the Hall acknowledging it any further than it already has is preposterous.  Let Russell Simmons or BeyoncĂ©'s husband - and his orchestra - start a Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, and leave us rock fans alone.
We also have to have Deep Purple inducted into the Hall.  And, despite what I said earlier in this post, we gotta get Family in there, as well as Streetwalkers - the band Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney formed after breaking up Family - and Chapman as a solo artist . . . and his orchestra. 
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was originally established to honor rock and roll performers but has since gone on to include performers representing a variety of pop styles. And his orchestra.

No comments: