Saturday, April 21, 2018

Money For Nothing

It's that time of year again, when I comment on the latest class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.  The class was officially inducted in ceremony last week (April 14).   This may the best class in a longtime, for one simple reason - no rappers are included!
And yes, I saw that Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize in arts and letters for his artless word salad, a distinction no rock and roller has ever achieved.  I can hear it now from rap fans - "White racists are upset that Kendrick got a prize no white guy with a guitar ever got - HA!"  Go jump in the lake, ya crummy clowns.
So what of this year's inductees?  Well, they're a mixed grill, but they're still more or less deserving of the honor of being enshrined in the great hall in Cleveland.  So let's take each act one by one:
Bon Jovi.  Bon Jovi were one of the most annoying bands in the 1980s.  Their songs were puffed up by lightweight pop-metal arrangements and their lyrics were weighed down by obvious clichés. So why do they belong here?  Their music got better over time. "Who Says You Can't Go Home," from 2005, has a good, fist-pumping vibe, and even some of their older songs sound better with age; the more you listen to "Livin' On a Prayer," the more meaning and heart you derive from it.  Also, Jon Bon Jovi is a nice guy who's donated to worthy charities.  He's not the arrogant jerk we remember from the Reagan years, and I don't think anyone misses that guy.  Also, he has a great sense of humor, Asked once what he thought of having inspired so many pop-metal bands of the late eighties and early nineties, he replied, "I'm sorry."  Not exactly contrition of the sackcloth-and-ashes variety, but I'll take it.  
the Cars.  This one's a slam dunk.  The Cars re-invented power pop with a sleek New Wave style and appealed to fans who'd thought they didn't like power pop or New Wave.  The brilliance of "Good Times Roll" and "Let's Go" cannot be denied, and the achingly beautiful "Drive" was a strong enough song for former Family frontman Roger Chapman to cover. Also, anyone who's seen the Cars' promotional videos can appreciate their ability to poke fun at listeners and themselves - and their video for their single "Tonight She Comes" made much better use of model Tara Shannon (full disclosure - she's a Facebook friend of mine) than Huey Lewis and the News's videos ever could. :-D
Dire Straits.  Oh, come on, how could you not induct this band?  Mark Knopfler is one of the most articulate songwriters in rock and roll,, a subtle guitarist who remained true to rock's traditions while the punks were questioning the old way of doing things.  That talent produced great radio hits like "Sultans of Swing," as well as  clever observations like "Lady Writer," the great ballad "Romeo and Juliet," and the wildly misinterpreted satire "Money For Nothing," a song from their 1985 album Brothers In Arms disguised as a lament of the influence of MTV on rock but actually a lighthearted jab at blue-collar music fans who envy rock musicians.  And Brothers In Arms, with its heartfelt tribute to fifties rock, "Walk Of Life," and its gentle ballad "Why Worry" (a song Art Garfunkel worked into his repertoire), is one of the most humanistic LPs of the 1980s.   
the Moody Blues.  A pompous and pretentious album like 1967's Days of Future Passed should have disqualified these guys for induction, as it inspired several other "concept albums" in which, as Jimmy Guterman and Owen O'Donnell wrote in "The Worst Rock and Roll Records of All Time," "a performer in love with his own ideas erects a wobbly album around a concept that could be summed up in a simple three-minute song."   Days of Future Passed revolved around the theme of a day from dawn to darkness; Family proved Guterman and O'Donnell right just a year after with "Mellowing Grey," the second track on their debut album Music In a Doll's House (the fiftieth anniversary of the release of which is this July).  That song summed up a dawn-to-dusk passage of time in less than three minutes, and with much more tasteful orchestration.  And oh yes, Family aren't being inducted this year either.  So why should the Moody Blues get inducted?  Because they also came up with some good records, like their cover of Bessie Banks' "Go Now" (sung by original member Denny Laine, who later joined Paul McCartney's Wings) as well as songs like "Ride My See-Saw" from their 1968 LP In Search of the Lost Chord and "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)" from their 1972 Seventh Sojourn album.  I'm sorry . . . I have to forgive them for Days of Future Passed when I hear "The Voice" from 1981's Long Distance Voyager - that is a great song that qualifies them for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction alone.
Nina Simone. Her social consciousness as a civil rights activist and her sultry delivery of songs such as "I Put a Spell on You" make her induction a no-brainer.  I have to wonder, though, what Simone, who died in 2003 (it was fifteen years ago today, in fact), would have thought of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the silly white boys mentioned above.  If anything, it would have been great, had she lived, to see her jam with the Moody Blues and hear her croon "Nights In White Satin" with Justin Hayward.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  Sister Rosetta got inducted for being an early influence. And why not?  She was one of the few female blues guitarists in the pre-rock era, and she used distortion and heavy riffs in her music, inspiring Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix.  That enough is reasons to induct Sister Rosetta, the "Godmother of Rock and Roll."
A class comprised entirely of white male performers and black female performers, with the white guys representing pop-metal, power pop, straight rock, and prog and the black gals representing soul, blues and jazz, makes for an interesting spin on the idea of diversity, and this is as interesting as it's going to get.  Because you can bet your sweet candy bar that the inductees for 2019 will lean more toward the pop side of rock and also include at least one rap act for honkies like myself to blow a gasket over.  And a lot of more deserving acts will be snubbed, and I've already mentioned Family.  And I really don't see a reason to mention other snubs again (*cough cough*, Jethro Tull, *cough cough*) when there are so many rappers that the Hall is bending over backwards to honor.  Which means that, when he becomes eligible, Kendrick Lamar will be inducted.
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. DAMN!

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