Hi everyone! Today I’m talking about the greatest style of music there ever has been and the official recognition of some of it’s great contributing acts who are finally being given a hall pass to a place they all helped to build.
Like most people, my musical interests are not confined to just one genre, but nothing compares to that blues-based, guitar-filled music that is both ever-evolving with new influences from around the world and continuously hearkening back to its rustic roots in the American South. Haven’t a clue what I’m talking about? Well allow me to deliver you some News: “everywhere there’s music, real live music, bands with a million styles, but it’s still that same old rock and roll music that really really drives ’em wild.” The heart of rock and roll is still beating in Cleveland, and it will be pumping faster and harder there this Saturday, April 18th when Public Hall plays host once again to the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Anyone who ever finds him or herself in my home-away-from-hometown in northeast Ohio should visit the fascinating structure that is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum located on the shore of Lake Erie next door to the Great Lakes Science Center and the Factory of Sadness.
Beside the Museum is an Ohio Historical Marker that tells of how disc jockey Alan Freed used the term “rock and roll” to describe the music he played on his midnight radio show “The Moondog House” which was named after this instrumental composition called “Moondog Symphony” by Louis T. Hardin a.k.a. “Moondog”. The original Moondog eventually sued Freed for infringement and was awarded $6000 on the condition that Freed got to keep the name Moondog. (To any basketball fans who have ever wondered why the Cleveland Cavaliers have a mascot that is a dog called Moondog instead of just a musketeer, there you have it.)
Thanks to the coining of the term “rock and roll” by a Cleveland DJ, and hosting the first large rock and roll concert (Freed’s Moondog Coronation Ball), as well as the numerous concerts put on there by the top acts in rock throughout the decades, the city is renowned as being a major hub of rock and roll music and is often referred to as “The Rock and Roll Capital of the World”.
Of course, that rock and roll music we love so much is universal and blares loudly and proudly all around the world. Many cities and areas have contributed significantly to the growth of the grand genre and its many sub-genres through artists, local culture, recording studios and their producers, and the overall sound of their specific town. Some of the hallmark American rock cities are named in the Huey Lewis and the News song “The Heart of Rock and Roll” I included an excerpt of earlier, such as New York, Los Angeles (which are the other two sites of the Rock Hall Induction Ceremony), and Detroit, Seattle, and San Francisco, as well as other significant contributors like Memphis and Chicago. We can’t forget international locations either, especially the likes of Liverpool and London across the pond in the UK. Yet today I want to begin by focusing on Austin, Texas and a man and his band which will finally receive their excessively overdue acknowledgement from the Rock Hall.
When I first decided to start this blog eight months ago, I had a few ideas for posts I knew I wanted to write, including this one. The theme was drastically different then than it is now as I had some strong words for the Hall of Fame committee. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came into existence on April 20, 1983 (yep, on 4/20) and the museum was opened on September 1, 1995. The official rules and criteria for being placed on the induction ballot to get into the Hall of Fame can be found here at the Rock Hall’s website, but the short answer of how to get in is:
1.) It must be at least 25 years since the release of your first album
2.) You must be an influence and a significant contributor to rock and roll music
Aaaaand that’s it. There’s not too much more than that. It really becomes pretty obvious over the minimum 25 year time span who is a mainstay in terms of style and popularity, and what effect they had on the music industry. Some artists are obvious shoo-ins, like Nirvana last year. They were the biggest name on the ballot in their first year on it and were rightfully voted in immediately. Similarly, Green Day was voted into this most recent class on their first year on the ballot. However, not always do artists get admitted on their first try. Sometimes it takes a few years to make the cut. And maybe, it’ll take seven years for you to be welcomed in when you should have been eagerly anticipated since the formation of the Rock Hall Foundation which you preceded. That is what happened to Stevie Ray Vaughan and his band Double Trouble. They formed in 1978 and released their first album, Texas Flood, in 1983, so for the last seven years I’ve been pitching the same fit in vain until finally, finally, SRV got his just desserts. Saturday will see him honored along with other deserving acts, and today will have me weeping with joy instead of sorrow.
In case you don’t know who Stevie Ray Vaughan is or haven’t heard much of his music, allow me to fill you in a bit. Stevie Ray Vaughan, often referred to simply as SRV, is nothing short of one of the greatest guitarists to ever live. With masterful skill on his Stratocaster, SRV was the driving force of the blues revival in the 1980s. He was a wizard on guitar on par with the best. Clapton, Page, Beck (as in Jeff), SRV could play right alongside them all. He even played a Hendrix song as well as Jimi (“Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”) and made a longer and better version of another (“Little Wing”)!
Here are some more of the essentials from SRV:
“Pride and Joy” – This most well known song of Vaughan’s is about his wife Lenny.
“Tightrope” – Juxtapositions abound in this rocking jam about a man struggling to stay upright in a madcap world.
“The Sky is Crying” – A wailing electric blues guitar pours out notes like a rain cloud.
“Crossfire” – Things ain’t the way they used to be in the world.
“Cold Shot” – Things ain’t the way they used to be with our love.
“Texas Flood” – a cover of bluesman Larry Davis’ song of the same name, it is regarded as one of the great modern blues songs.
This is just a sampling of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s work with Double Trouble. He had many more great songs with that band, and also had memorable work with other artists, most notably David Bowie who heard him at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982 and enlisted him to play guitar on songs like “China Girl”, “Modern Love”, “Let’s Dance”, and the “Let’s Dance” alternate track of “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”. That last one may strike you as a weird title, but if you saw Inglorious Basterds you’ve heard the original version of it. Of course, you’ve heard it if you saw 1982’s remake of Cat People that it was written for, but I’m guessing less people today have caught that one (it’s not about people who really like cats – actually, I guess it kinda is… I remember it more for the song and being one of the first movies I ever saw boobs in).
Unfortunately, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s wait to get onto the ballot was as long as his all too short career. Only seven years into his national prominence with Double Trouble, it all came to a literal crashing halt after an East Troy, Wisconsin concert with Eric Clapton. The helicopter Vaughan boarded after the show flew off course into a hill. Vaughan and Clapton’s bodyguard, assistant manager, and agent all died in the wreck. Vaughan was 35.
Whether ironic or intended, he’ll be placed into the Rock Hall 25 years after his death. Joining SRV in the 2015 class are seven other musical artists/groups. None are surprising additions and all are deserving, but there is one other who should have been in already. I’ll get to her, but first, here’s a list of the class of 2015 with a link to a well known song of theirs in each name:
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Formed in Chicago in 1963, they helped mix and match Chicago blues and electric blues and that style of music that you enjoyed hearing in The Blues Brothers with jazz and rock. I don’t know them as well as the other inductees, but considering they were comprised of members who had formerly worked with the likes of blues legends such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, it seems their induction was a long time coming also.
The “5” Royales – The “early influence” group for this class, The “5” Royales helped to kick off the rock era by drawing upon gospel, R&B, and doo wop. Many of their songs have been covered by artists like Ray Charles, James Brown, and Mick Jagger.
Green Day – The inclusion that will make Nineties kids feel old! If you grew up in the 1990s you heard a lot of Green Day and that was never a problem with me except at graduations when you inevitably heard “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” which is not a bad song the first 5000 times you hear it. Green Day was a lighter take on punk, but still challenged authority, especially President George W. Bush whom they did not like very much, to put it mildly. Their album American Idiot and the rock opera based off of it drew a considerable degree of inspiration from Mr. Bush. Green Day is one of the few acts inducted this year who are still performing, and they probably will be until they are swallowed up by sludge on Lake Springfield.
Lou Reed – Lou Reed is already in the Rock Hall with the Velvet Underground, the excellent and highly influential band he founded with John Cale in the early 1960s. Reed was the primary creative force in the band and it showed when he left to go solo in 1972. He had a long list of famous hits like “Perfect Day”, “Walk on the Wild Side”, and “Sweet Jane”. He was actually in Cleveland a few years ago to receive a liver transplant at the Cleveland Clinic. Too little, too late to make up for years of drinking and drugs it would seem; Reed died in 2013. Next week I’ll discuss more songs, including my favorite from Reed.
Ringo Starr – Like Reed, Ringo is being inducted into the Hall of Fame a second time, but the band he first got in with did a hell of a lot better commercially than Reed’s. While Ringo still receives a lot of crap for bringing up the rear of The Beatles, he is an excellent drummer and a jovial and amusing personality. Nevertheless, his post-Beatles career has undoubtedly been helped by him being one of the lads from Liverpool, and I’m sure that also factored into the Hall of Fame committee’s decision to bring him back in as a solo artist to join his three Beatles buddies who have all been inducted in as solo performers already. Even so, if you’ve ever seen a Beatles movie then you know Saturday should be fun because Ringo is the star when the cameras roll. It’ll also be nice to see him and McCartney hanging out again.
Bill Withers – Oh yeah! Sing it Bill! Withers hit it big with his melancholy song about how depressing life is when his baby isn’t there, but he has more that “Ain’t No Sunshine”. The soulful singer also has famous tracks like “Lean on Me” and “Just the Two of Us” and is still performing today!
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – You know this hard-rockin’ guitarist/singer; she loves rock n roll, doesn’t give a damn about her bad reputation, and is your ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb! She’s also another “it’s about damn time” nominee considering she first broke onto the musical scene in 1975 when she co-founded The Runaways. She would go on to a solo career before forming The Blackhearts who were rightfully known as Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Joan Jett is deservedly called a “Queen of Rock” and is considered to be one of the greatest guitarists. As she’s finally been nominated (with her second band The Blackhearts) I guess someone at the Rock Hall listened to Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic at last year’s induction concert. (Damn, Dave Grohl was banging the fuck out of that drum set. Hopefully he’ll bring some more of that energy to this Saturday’s ceremony.)
Joan Jett has had some great hits over the years, including:
“I Love Rock and Roll” – A cover of the original song by The Arrows.
“Crimson and Clover” – A much louder cover of the Tommy James and the Shondells original.
“Cherry Bomb” – My favorite from her career with The Runaways. Just makes you want to save the galaxy, doesn’t it?
You’ll notice that her music videos were also eye-catching and have many tough-look close-ups of the badass bitch herself.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the 2015 Class of Inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While it’s refreshing to see Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joan Jett have finally made it in, there are still some artists out there who should be in who aren’t. I was shocked to find that Deep Purple is not in the Rock Hall. There must be some serious smoke on the water on the north coast to keep them out. Also surprising is the lack of Bad Company, The Bangles, The Buzzcocks, The Cure, Dire Straits, Dr. Dre, Roy Harper, Iron Maiden, The James Gang, Huey Lewis and the News, Steve Miller Band, The Runaways, Soundgarden, Steppenwolf, Styx, Tears for Fears, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, The Violent Femmes, Joe Walsh, X, Yes, Warren Zevon, and The Zombies. I’m not suggesting that I believe that all of these acts are deserving to be inducted, or that I’m even a fan of them all, only that I am surprised to not see them included already.
For me, one of the most deserving names that has so far been omitted is Ted Nugent. Beginning as The Amboy Dukes in the late 1960s, the Detroit band would become Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes, before transitioning completely to being Ted Nugent’s band. Nugent and company have made serious and lasting contributions to rock, especially heavy metal and occasionally prog rock. Yet, they remain on the outside looking in. To that I offer this:
Do you want to get into the Rock Hall? Cause that’s how you get into the Rock Hall! Unless of course you also happen to be a radical gun-nut who comes across as very unstable and hates how Fox News isn’t harsh enough on Obama and the Democratic Party as a whole. Yes, Ted Nugent’s a wackadoodle, but God damn it, not just anybody can play guitar like that. So what if his political views are on the opposite end of the spectrum of the voting members of the Rock Hall? He has displayed an exemplary talent over the course of his career and he’s still got it today. His energy is incredible; just listen to some of his live albums. My favorite of his is a live cut of this bad boy:
Is Ted Nugent intolerant? Certainly. Is he crazy? Unquestionably. Should he be in the Rock Hall? You’re goddamn right, Bob. He fits the criteria and influenced the genre and other artists over many years. He’s a psychopath, but so are sooooo many others rockers and famous musicians. Whenever a Michael Jackson song starts playing do we condemn him for being a pedophile? No. The man made Thriller. Thriller! Being an unbelievable talent doesn’t forgive him for what he did outside of his music, nor should it do so for Nugent, but the Rock Hall was made to focus on the music and not the livelihood of the men and women who made it. They love the hell out of the insulting refusal letter they got from the Sex Pistols, why refuse a deserving musician who actually wants to be there?
Look for some bands and artists to be inducted in the future, especially Pearl Jam who are eligible for the first time for 2017 and should be at the top of that class. Also potential future inductees are: Beck, The Black Crowes, The Black Keys, Daft Punk, Eminem, Fatboy Slim, The Foo Fighters, Moby, Oasis, Radiohead, Weezer, Amy Winehouse, and The White Stripes, especially Jack White, who might be the most deserving artist for induction not yet in the Rock Hall.
Thanks for reading! If you’re hoping to see the Induction Ceremony on Saturday and you haven’t already shelled out thousands for a ticket…uuuuuh, hope you have HBO and get to watch the edited broadcast a few months later. Don’t worry, clips will make it online – hell, the whole thing undoubtedly will, and it usually is only good when they shut up about how great everyone is and just play (and show how great they are). Send any questions, comments, or future post requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to rock back here next week for more rock and roll, this time with a mellower flavor.
Rock on and off and any which way you can,
P.S. Congratulations to my cousin Josh, who, after years of receiving hands-on-hips sighs from many of our family members expressing a desire for him to stop fishing his way across the country and get his life together, won the 2015 National Bass Anglers Association (not to be confused with the lesser-known National Basketball Association) National Championship on Kentucky Lake! I applaud his passion and unceasing tenacity, and I also thank him for giving me a chance to forever say that I know someone who “got lucky in Kentucky”.