Monday, April 11, 2016

Rock'N Us

The 2016 inductions to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were clearly all about nostalgia, with the inductees being mostly rooted in classic rock but also including a veteran rap group.  And here I am to offer my opinions on who deserved to get in and who didn't, in the aftermath of the recently held 2016 ceremony.  My opinions on popular music have been known to offend and exasperate the easily offended and exasperated, so if you're one of those, do yourself a favor . . . and don't read this post!
Thank you,  and God bless.
For the rest of you, here we go:
Steve Miller.  Miller helped popularize the blues in his early records and also gave us Boz Scaggs.  His mainstream hits from the mid-seventies - "The Joker," "Fly Like an Eagle" - have a nice, feel-good charm to them, and even though he ripped off Free's "All Right Now" to write "Rock'N Me" and Cream's arrangement of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" to conceive "Jet Airliner," you can't help but love how he recycles well-worn riffs in a fresh way.  Yeah, he deserves the honor.
Cheap Trick.  Power pop-rock at its finest and its most idiosyncratic, Cheap Trick belong in here simply for their humor and good cheer.  Their energy and drive are evident in songs such as "I Want You To Want Me" and "Way of the World," and the witty lyrics of "Dream Police" and "Surrender" are as fun as the music that backs them.
Deep Purple.  It was a long time coming, but the darkest hour has passed; the greatest heavy-metal band that isn't Led Zeppelin have finally gotten their due.  They budded in the late sixties with their spirited renditions of Joe South's "Hush" and Neil Diamond's "Kentucky Woman" but blossomed in the seventies with songs like "Highway Star" and "Smoke On the Water," the latter perfecting the guitar riff that every aspiring young guitarist must know how to play if he or she wants credibility as a rocker.
N.W.A.  No. Way.  Absolutely.  Because they're not a rock group!  I'm sick and tired of hip-hop being legitimized as rock and roll.  N.W.A.'s O'Shea Jackson - also known as Ice Cube - claimed that his group is "damn right" rock and roll, but Kiss's Gene Simmons isn't buying it, asking if the Cube Man would acquiesce to Jimi Hendrix ever being inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, which does in fact exist. Naming other rappers inducted earlier in the Hall, Simmons said, "You're killing me! That doesn't mean those aren't good artists. But they don't play guitar. They sample and they talk. Not even sing!"  Exactly!  Imagine that - the frequent inductions of rappers into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame actually have me agreeing with Gene Simmons!  I'd like to ask the following rhetorical questions: How do you justify inducting rappers and not inducting Family?  Okay, they're not famous, at least not in America.  Why not induct the Move?  Why not induct Jethro Tull?  Or Fairport Convention, or Steeleye Span, or any of those other seminal British folk-rock bands?  Because that would require you to induct Mumford & Sons in 2035, and you'd rather not do that?  Enough, already.  Cut it out with the rappers, it's bad enough they're driving rock stations off the air, do they have to clutter up the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?  Okay, I'm done.  And, remember, I told you, this blog entry would be offensive and exasperating.  (So is Simmons; he just became the latest veteran white male rocker to be taken to task for committing the cardinal sin of saying that rap sucks.)
Chicago.  They don't belong in here either.  And I like their old seventies hits.  So why don't they belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? For the same reason N.W.A. don't belong in it - because they're not rock.  They're straight pop.  And their standard brass arrangements became predictable and bland over time.  Yes, I'll play air guitar to "25 or 6 to 4" and pump my fist to "Make Me Smile" or "Saturday In the Park" when I hear them on the radio, And I even appreciate how the piano notes in "Colour My World" meld into one another.  But it's still just pop, not rock.  This induction only makes it possible for anyone who used to be on the nineties version of "The Mickey Mouse Club" to be inducted later in the century, as well as anyone else with good hooks but no capacity to rock out.  Also, Chicago the group, while enjoyable, hardly reflects the best music that emanates from Chicago the city.  Having made the case against Chicago as well as N.W.A., I think I've made it clear that my musical opinions are stylistically motivated and not motivated by anything else.
Bert Berns. The only complaint I have about this groundbreaking songwriter and producer being inducted in 2016 is that it should have been done sooner. Berns, who died in 1967, wrote and/or co-wrote "Twist and Shout," "Piece of My Heart,", "Hang on Sloopy," and "Under the Boardwalk," all essential rock and roll classics, and he produced Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl."  This induction is what is commonly known as a "slam dunk."
So that's my take on the class of 2016.  What is in store for 2017?  I can only tell you who won't get in next year, and I believe I just mentioned some of them in this blog entry.
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.  But then, you already knew that.

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