Thursday, December 21, 2017

Just What I Needed

The Rock and Roll Fall of Fame inductees for 2018 were just announced, and they are a mixed grill at first glance, but they make sense after you look closer.  The inductees are Bon Jovi, the Cars, Dire Straits, the Moody Blues, Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
So you have three bona fide classic rock bands, a band that debuted in the MTV era, and two female influences on rock and roll - Nina Simone for her sultry soul and Sister Rosetta for her folk-gospel guitar playing.  And, in case you haven't noticed, the inductees are all either white men or black women - a perfect summation about how the sisters influenced those of us who aren't exactly brothers.
Which is why I wasn't very happy when I heard about complaints about Nina Simone being included because she wasn't rock and roll. Uh, dudes, could I see you in my office?  Nina Simone sang the blues, the music that gave rock and roll its meaning, and she influenced every white male rocker with open minds and open ears - including the Beatles.  "Michelle" would have been a straight and uninteresting ballad if John Lennon hadn't convinced Paul McCartney to emphasize a different syllable in the song's English-language lyrics after hearing Nina Simone do something similar in her recording of "I Put a Spell On You."  Here I am trying to stick up for rock and roll, and you're not doing me any favors by spewing out the sort of racism and misogyny that makes me feel bad for Omarosa Manigault-Newman.
But, in discussing the merits of the inductees, I'm getting ahead of myself.  Suffice it to say that I'm glad the Cars are in, though I'm not sure about the Moody Blues.  But the induction ceremony is in April, so I'll expand on the class of 2018 at that point.
A lot of folks are bound to be ticked off by who wasn't chosen; nominees got voted down include Rage Against the Machine, the Eurythmics, Radiohead, Judas Priest, Kate Bush, Depeche Mode, the J. Geils Band, the MC5, The Meters, Rufus, Link Wray and the Zombies.   There's bound to be rage against Rage Against the Machine's failure to get in, people are probably yelling "Judas Priest!" over the snub against Judas Priest ( the band took its name from Bob Dylan's song "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest," although it's also a wholesome curse used in old Hollywood movies in place of "Jesus Christ").  But of course, I have to, as always, note who wasn't even nominated - Jethro Tull, the seventies British band critics love to hate, and Family, the greatest band you've never heard.  Especially Family.  Rock acts have to have released their debut records no sooner than twenty-five years before to qualify for induction, and Family released their first record fifty years ago this past September - "Scene Through the Eye of a Lens."   I will also note that July 2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of their debut LP, Music In a Doll's House, the greatest debut album of 1968 that isn't the Band's Music From Big Pink.  Twenty eighteen would have been the perfect time to correct this long-overdue snub of the greatest band to come out of Leicestershire, but since American record buyers couldn't be bothered with Family back in 1968, the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame can't be bothered with them today either.
But here's a modicum of hope for fans of any non-American rock act who didn't have the good fortune to achieve commercial success in the U.S.  Billboard magazine reports that the 2018 class was voted on by over nine hundred artists, historians and record-business members who "weighed factors including musical influence on other artists, and length and depth of career and body of work," as well as "innovation and superiority in style and technique."  Look, Family influenced other artists - Freddie Mercury, I understand, was a fan, as is Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen.  Length and depth of body of work?  Seven albums in five years.  Good enough for me.  Innovation?  Superior style?  Listen to A Song For Me and Fearless and you'll see that Family had both in their favor.  And the fact that not just Americans but people from other countries are now voting in these Rock Hall induction elections means that British acts we Yanks aren't that familiar with should be able to get a shot.  The Soft Machine?  Kevin Ayers?  Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel?  Lindisfarne?  Pulp?  Why not?
But Tull?  If they can't get in now despite their huge American fan base, they never will.  But Family might one day get in . . . in their own time.     

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