Tag Archives: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – The Final Chapter

Oh boy! Have we got some good ones today awaiting us in the final six-line section of Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament’s shirt from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony this year. In case you’re new or you’ve been away for a while, I have been taking a look and listen to the artists written upon Ament’s shirt whom he and many others believe are worthy of inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You can recap the first and the second and the third posts in this series if you so choose before we round out the last leg today in what might be the most fun quarter yet. Let’s rock to it.

The Jam – We begin the end with a good one I have not heard from previous to reading Mr. Ament’s attire. For 10 years in the 70s and early 80s, they dabbled in a few rock styles including punk, modern, and psychedelia, and helped form the new wave of 1980s rock. Let’s start this finale show appropriately with “That’s Entertainment”. These guys definitely know how to live up to their name.


The Smiths – Speaking of that new wave, The Smiths were at the forefront of the post-punk movement that shifted into early alternative rock and was one of the signature styles of the 1980s. Picking up during the same year The Jam spread out (1982), The Smiths were a force driven by background instrumentation and effects that are easy on the ears like a summer’s breeze coming off the ocean with more than a touch of melancholy, all the better to accentuate the haunting vocals of lead singer Morrissey. They have been in the voting discussion for Rock Hall induction for the last few years, and it is understandable why when you listen to “This Charming Man”, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”, and “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”. Yet my favorite will always be “How Soon Is Now?”


Descendents – Between the United Kingdom and southern California there have been a lot of punk bands making a lot of noise aimed at the government, teachers, parents, and other sources of authority preaching agendas the punk rockers don’t share. Descendents (yes, it’s spelled like that; even the English language isn’t safe!) hail from SoCal and on and off since the late 70s they have been protesting authority and hypocrisy while also embodying teenage angst and life well beyond their own teen years in an energetic punk style. I like “Clean Sheets”.


Kraftwerk -Oh those wacky Germans and their electronica! Kraftwerk helped lay the foundation of avant garde heavy synthesizer electronic pop and rock from as far back as 1969. You can hear pieces of their work sampled in many a hip-hop jam and it’s easy to see why with tunes like “Man Machine”. Daft Punk would not be around without the road these guys constructed, especially the “Autobahn”. Yes, that song is over 20 minutes long.


Sonic Youth – Some people, including Juno and myself with some tracks, hear Sonic Youth as “just noise”. The American post-punk rockers do definitely have some good stuff though, and much of it is intended to be experimental noise. I heard one radio host on Little Steven’s Underground Garage refer to them as the greatest American rock band and one of the most influential music acts of their time. If enough people feel that way, then these guys deserve a spot in the Rock Hall. Listen to “Teenage Riot” and “Superstar” to see what you think of their noise.


Todd Rundgren – Another “oh that’s that guy’s name!” entries on Ament’s shirt, you have heard Todd Rundgren before but probably did not know exactly who he was, and almost certainly did not connect one of his most famous songs to him given its wildly different tempo and style from his other works. Aside from his solo song work, Rundgren served as a producer for albums for Badfinger, The Band (which he almost joined), Hall & Oates, and Grand Funk Railroad, to name a few. Yet, he will best be known for three songs: “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me” which fit within his more mainstream soft, easy style, but his most notable song is one of the most fun songs you’ll ever hear and has helped sell more than its fair share of Carnival cruises:


Ted NugentI have made this argument before, and I will make it again, but this time I’m not alone.  Ted Nugent is cray-cray to be sure, but he is a guitar god and a highly entertaining and influential musician. He deserves inclusion in the Rock Hall. I’d say more, but his music speaks for itself:


The Cure – One of my favorite bands not yet in, and more importantly, one of the best and blackest of the 1970s through today, but especially in the 80s and early 90s. Singer/guitar player Robert Smith has been the primary dose of The Cure since their formation in 1976, and he is the only original member of the band today. His gothic makeup and haunting lyrics can lead observers to believe The Cure are morose, and they can be, but mostly their work is a surprisingly varied blend of new age and alternative rock and roll that can be equally uplifting and devastating. There have been some masterful uses of The Cure’s songs in TV and film that serves a testament to their incredible emotional power. Plus, Smith is the key to stopping Mecha-Streisand when she gets her hands on the Triangle of Zinthar. Disintegration is one of the best albums ever, and these are some of the best songs ever: “Boys Don’t Cry”, “Lovesong”, “Pictures of You” (I was bawling when they played this in Season 1 of Mr. Robot after showing the flashback of Elliot meeting Shayla; perfectly used), “Friday I’m In Love”, and my favorite, “Just Like Heaven”:


MC5 – One of the earliest and most influential (I know that I’ve used that word a lot, but seeing as that is one of the two requirements for Rock Hall induction, it bears repeating for so many of these artists) garage rock bands that emerged from the Detroit-area like so many other garage rockers throughout the years, MC5 will always be remembered for their fanatical energy and “Kick Out the Jams”. One of MC5’s guitarists, Fred “Sonic” Smith is half the namesake of Sonic Youth.


Captain Beefheart – In my research on all of these artists, I cannot think of any other artist not already in the Rock Hall whose name I came across as frequently as Captain Beefheart; seems like he also has the influence box checked. Born Don Glen Vliet in Glendale, California in 1941, the man who would become Captain Beefheart and command his Magic Band, had a noticeably kooky style similar to his frenemy Frank Zappa, and like Zappa Dappa Doo, he dived into multiple styles of music and in the process contributed to making a few. I was not supremely familiar with him and his stuff prior to writing these posts – and I’m still not an expert now – but just like when I first listened to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, I can tell this guy and his group belong with the rest of the rockers already in Cleveland. Give a listen to “Sure ‘Nuff ‘n’ Yes, I Do” which I like for its bluesy opening and flow and rocking pickup, but mostly for the mention of my oft-overlooked hometown!


Warren Zevon – Speaking of weird and wonderful, ain’t nobody fits into that category quite like Warren Zevon. Ever the showman, it’s no wonder that David Letterman was such a big fan of Zevon and had him on his show so often over the years before Zevon’s death in 2003. Like too many rock and rollers, Zevon struggled with addiction, and like a few others he translated his internal dependency struggles into his music, but not to the degree that his songs all focus on drugs and alcohol. In fact, it’s not always clear where his bombastic lyrics stem from, but I’ll be damned if they’re not poetic and beautifully sang and perfectly paired with a bevy of instruments to create some truly great music. You really can’t go wrong with Warren, but try “Lawyers, Guns and Money”, “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”, “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me”, “My Shit’s Fucked Up” (you can see where the drugs and booze may have influenced that one), his cover of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, and “Night Time in the Switching Yard” – a funky take on a classic blues trope. However, his greatest and most popular is indubitably the gorgeously goofy “Werewolves of London”. Even if Kid Rock pulled a Vanilla Ice with the melody of that music, it only whets my appetite for the real deal from Zevon’s brilliant bodacious mind.


Link Wray – You may not have heard the name, but you sure as hell have heard his music. Wray was one of the earliest influences in modern rock music, playing guitar with distortion and tempo that could often classify as surf rock or rockabilly. With his band, the Ray Men, he crafted music akin to his contemporaries Dick Dale and Duane Eddy. Though you may not have heard it by name, you have undoubtedly heard “Rumble” before.


Weather Report – This may come as a shock, but they did not actually report the weather. They did, however, make some funky fresh jazz fusion that is a whole lotta fun. Take a trip to “Birdland” and let me know if it gets you flying.


DEVO – If Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a band it would resemble this band of brothers (and Alan Myers) from Kent and Akron. DEVO may be as famous for their unique outfits, stage showmanship, and videos as they are for their unique new wave music. They have a collection of sweetly strange songs, including one of my favorite covers with “[I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction”, but they will always be best known and beloved for “Whip It”. It seems certain that DEVO will secure their rock and roll legacy not far from where it began in northeast Ohio.


Flaming Lips – An inventive bunch from Oklahoma whose style is hard to peg down, but undeniably they are good. They sound reminiscent of The Pixies. Roll with the spacey sounds of their continued act with songs like “She Use Jelly”, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1”, “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”, and mostly “Do You Realize??” which in 2009 was honored as the official rock song of Oklahoma. I guess they figured to follow the example of the superior “O” state. Shots fired. I do really like “Do You Realize??” though, and it has a message that just might be worth repeating at the end of the year.


Nick Drake – A brightly-burning musician who made some remarkable music in a short timespan before his suicide at the age of 26. A sufferer of depression, Drake channeled his strong emotions into his softly played guitar. I liked what I’ve listened to so far, including “Northern Sky” and “Things Behind the Sun”, but I really like “Pink Moon”.


Harry Nilsson – Frequently simply referred to as Nilsson, he’s another one of the “that’s who that guy is!” artists. Predominantly a songwriter, he started his success by penning hits for other artists like the Little Richard, The Monkees, and Three Dog Night. Nevertheless, his own songs made even bigger waves, and like fellow “that’s his name” rocker Todd Rundgren, Nilsson had a trifecta of hits: “Without You”, “Coconut”, and  definitely “Everybody’s Talking” which won a Grammy after it was used in Midnight Cowboy.


NEU! – Oh those wacky Germans are at it again! In fact, it is the same wacky Germans I spoke of earlier, as NEU! was formed by Kraftwerk members Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother after that band’s breakup. Kraftwerk and NEU! each represent the epitome of krautrock, the German electronic experimental rock that they manufactured and helped to create future subgenres of rock and roll with. They were inspirational to many other rockers over the years, perhaps most notably David Bowie who was a big fan of their song “Hero” and reflected it in his own Berlin-made (with Brian Eno) album Heroes. I much prefer “Super 16” which will be familiar to any Kill Bill fans for its use in Volume 1 of that story, a choice that stems from the use of NEU!’s songs “Super 16” and “Super 78” (slowed and sped up versions respectively of their own song “Super” all off their second album) being used in the 1976 classic martial arts film Master of the Flying Guillotine which features a martial arts master who wields a mace of sorts with a razor blade encircled around it, the exact same weapon that is favored by sadistic schoolgirl Gogo.


Chad Channing – An interesting inclusion, and possibly one meant partly as a jab to Pearl Jam’s (superior) crosstown rivals, Nirvana. Channing was the fifth Beatle if you will of Nirvana. He was the band’s original drummer, and did most of the drum work on their introductory album Bleach, as well as “Polly” on Nevermind, an album he also helped lay the drumming groundwork for his replacement, Dave Grohl. Now I say it may be partly meant as a jab to Nirvana for eschewing Channing (a collective and civil decision made by the band over creative differences), however, I think Ament and the rest of Pearl Jam are including Channing more as a condemnation of the Rock Hall for not including him alongside Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Grohl when Nirvana were inducted a few years ago, especially considering his early involvement in the band – not to mention that he performed alongside of them when they were still called Bliss. Ever the good sport, Dave Grohl personally thanked Channing for his work with Nirvana at the 2014 Induction Ceremony which Channing (also a good sport) attended.

While Channing may be best remembered for his brief time in Nirvana, he has since played in bands called Fire Ants, The Methodist, and Before Cars, and previously with Tic-Dolly Row.


Sweet – Are you ready, Steve? Uh-huh. Andy? Yeah. Mick? Okay. All right fellas, let’s go!

Oh yeah, let’s get some glam rock up in this biotch. Not to say I’m not a fan of the predominantly punk and new wave bands this shirt list has contained, but it is nice to mix it up, and especially so when it such a fun group. Sweet turned more than a few heads with more than just their gaudy attire from the late 1960s to early 1980s, producing a few notable hits that are all worth a listen. “Fox on the Run” had a major chart revival last year after its inclusion in the first few trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and “Love Is Like Oxygen” has also received some love over the years, but nothing will ever match the wild energy of their oft played and covered classic “Ballroom Blitz”:


Raymond Pettibon – Similar to Hipgnosis, Pettibon, born Raymond Ginn, is an artist artist who created posters and album covers for a number of artists, including a few on this list, most notably punk and alternative bands on the independent record label SST, or Solid State Turners, an electronics provider turned music label founded by Greg Ginn, Raymond’s brother and frontman of Black Flag, another entry on this list.


Oasis -Originally led by Liam Gallagher and eventually featuring his older brother Noel who would become the leader after some of I-think-I’m-the-second-coming-of-John-Lennon Liam’s antics, Oasis was one of the preeminent bands of the 1990s, and one of the few that did not tap into the angst and anger of grunge to do it – not that there’s anything wrong with that. It is all the more impressive though, given the well-publicized in-fighting among the Gallagher brothers, that Oasis soared as high and long as they did. Easily the top of the Britpop bunch that included rivals of sorts in The Blur, Pulp, and Suede, Oasis kept ahead of them all with easy to listen to music that frequently delved deeper into human emotion than its poppy rhythm would lead listeners to believe. Find refreshment in anything from “Stand By Me” to “Supersonic”, or “Champagne Supernova”, but mostly in their two best: “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Wonderwall”.


Bad Company – Finally we have come to the end, for better or worse, but as I promised, we round this lengthy list out with one of the best, and frankly one of the most shocking omissions yet. I have stated that Steppenwolf is the most heinous exclusion from the Rock Hall, but these guys are not far off, and personally I like them better, thanks mainly to a more expansive discography, some inventive guitar work mixed with a great medley of other classic rock instruments, and Paul Rodgers inimitable vocals. Previously I discussed Free, the band Rodgers and Simon Kirke left to join Bad Company, and if they ever get in (which they probably will) then Bad Company are a lock (as if they are not already) Rodgers and Kirke may be on the outside currently, but they very well may be placed in twice in the near future.

Bad Company played with power, even in their softer songs, and brought their heart and soul to every note. Their strong showings on stage and in the recording booth, coupled with their obvious influence on ensuing acts should be more than sufficient for inclusion, but their best argument is found in their excellent music with songs like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy”, “Burnin’ Sky”, “Silver, Blue, and Gold”, “Run With the Pack”, “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad”, “Rock Steady”, “Ready For Love”, “Shooting Star”, “Can’t Get Enough”, and “Feel Like Makin’ Love”. However, their best will always be the song off their debut album that shares its name with that album and their band:

Thanks for reading and listening, and for rocking for rolling with my extended four-part series studying the names on Jeff Ament’s shirt more closely than their text. This really was a lot of fun for me, and I have discovered some new artists that I would not have otherwise, so thanks to Ament for helping to introduce me to those while also bringing awareness to other acts that may or may not have been known or considered for rock and roll royalty by most casual music lovers. I have no doubt that most of these guys and girls will get in, especially those who have been under consideration for voting in the past, but perhaps this small showcase of their names and others will spark the fuse that blows the walls of the Rock Hall open to them. Bravo to you and Pearl Jam for expressing your opinion, and cheers for crafting a list of candidates from a number of musical styles and countries not to represent diversity, but because they are worthy as contributors to rock and roll which is the most diverse collection of music that has ever existed.

Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or suggestions at monotrememadness@gmail.com, and be sure to windmill swing your way back here next week for – oh God, what I am going to write about now!?! Eh, I’ll think of something; I always do.

Rock on,

Alex

R.I.P. Chris Cornell, frontman for Soundgarden and Audioslave and his solo projects. Take small comfort in the thought that he’ll be inducted someday.

Waiting in the Wings Of Rock and Roll – On Being the Third Part of Jeff Ament’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Shirt

Cry baby cry, make your mother sigh, we’re old enough to know better than the likes of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Induction committee, so cry baby cry… for the likes of the best rock and rollers and musical maestros who have not yet been welcomed in to the pyramid-shaped temple commemorating their grand contributions to the culture of the greatest music genre. I speak of course of the many bands and artists who are not yet inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, quite a few of whom were listed on Jeff Ament’s shirt when he and the rest of Pearl Jam were received in this year’s Induction Ceremony, and today I am continuing to take a closer look at the likes of the next quarter of the men and women Ament and others believe are worthy of making it in with them. If you so desire, you can reread the first and second six-line sections before continuing on here.

Hipgnosis – This is an interesting mention on Ament’s shirt in that it is not a musical artist, but an artist artist. Hipgnosis is an art design company that has created numerous album covers for many musical artists over the years, and let me tell you, their handiwork will not make you sleepy. They have helped form the face of some of the most iconic album covers from the late 1960s through the early 1980s, including most of Pink Floyd’s, each of Led Zeppelin’s from Houses of the Holy until their final Coda (with the notable exception of Physical Graffiti), a collection of Bad Company, Genesis, Styx, ELO, Peter Gabriel, The Police, and even post-Beatles Paul McCartney albums. Their name is a juxtaposition of “hip” and “gnosis”, the former being cool and current, and the latter being the Greek word for knowledge and a hearkening back to older exploration into the Divine as with Gnosticism. You are undoubtedly familiar with some of their stuff:

dark_side_of_the_moon       


Thin Lizzy – Believe it or not, there are other Irish rock bands besides U2. Furthermore, Thin Lizzy is one of them, a fact that is a bit more surprising. No matter where they hail from, it’s a safe bet we know they are going to be hanging out on the shores of Lake Erie someday, especially with songs like “Jailbreak”, “Cowboy Song”, “Whiskey in the Jar”, and of course “The Boys Are Back In Town”.


The Waterboys – This Scottish folk/rock group was founded by Michael Scott! Okay, he goes by Mike, and no, he doesn’t run a paper distribution office in Scranton, Pennsylvania. What he does do is play some of that Celtic influenced folksy rock and some that might be considered prog rock. Take a look at “The Whole of the Moon”.


Bad Brains – Talk about embracing a change in style, these guys have shifted their tonal focus in music and lyrics over the years, and have even changed their name from Mind Power after hearing The Ramones song “Bad Brain”. Punk became their jam until hearing Bob Marley jam led them to infuse it with reggae and go Rastafarian. They are truly eclectic, not just in complete discography, but within the length of one song! Listen to “I Against I” and enjoy the ride.


Dead Kennedys – Most notable punk rock bands in the early days of the punk movement came to United States from the United Kingdom, but these boys are American born and bred and made quite a splash when they hopped across the pond. It’s not hard to hear why when you listen to the likes of “Kill the Poor”, “California Uber Allies”, their twist on “I Fought the Law”, and most of all “Holiday in Cambodia”.


Bauhaus – Named after the German art school, these guys were part of the back end of the British punk roll where things dialed back a bit and got more modern. They churned out some signature songs including “Dark Entries”, “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything”, “She’s In Parties”, and a pretty great cover of “Ziggy Stardust”, but their best known is “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”.


The Replacements – Punk/alternative from the far northern reaches of Minnesota, The Replacements were not necessarily replacing anyone, but rather taking what they loved of their favorite bands and turning out their own influential style in songs like “Waitress in the Sky”.


The Pixies – This is one of my favorite bands not yet in the Rock Hall, and probably one that does not need that distinction for my favoritism, and definitely does not need to be distinguished as not being in the Rock Hall any longer. Put ’em in the next class, Rock Hall! How can you not with hits like “Here Comes Your Man”, “Hey”, “Debaser” “Monkey Gone to Heaven” (man, Doolittle is enough to qualify them for inclusion in just one album!), and “Gigantic”? If their discography is not enough already, look at the likes of Nirvana, Weezer, Radiohead, and many more alt-rock bands to follow them that have been trying to master their mojo with The Pixies as their guide. Hell, Kurt Cobain said on more than one occasion that he was trying to “rip off” The Pixies, which is a major reason I first looked into their stuff. Another is bassist/backup vocalist Kim Deal whose other projects like The Breeders had previously piqued my interest.

My personal favorite from The Pixies is “Here Comes Your Man”, but I’m guessing most people are fans of their excellent song that ends that movie no one’s allowed to talk about:


The Black Crowes – One of the first bands I thought to list on my own “who’s who of who’s not in” post when I first talked about the Rock Hall a few years ago, these guys are also one of the more recent staples of classic rock stations, meaning that they have received near constant radio playtime since they started, so it’s not a stretch to suggest they also are bound for the Rock Hall. Hear it for yourself with the likes of “Remedy”, “Twice As Hard” “She Talks to Angels”, and “Jealous Again”. However, my favorite is their hard rockin’ cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle”.


Black Flag – Don’t Panic in the presence of this punk band from southern California because you might have a “Nervous Breakdown” the likes of their song, but perhaps some “Black Coffee” would bring you back up to speed. If not, a “Six Pack” or “TV Party” might be more what you’re looking for. Okay, enough punk puns, just take a look and listen to the moshy majesty of “Rise Against”.


Big Star – Another someday soon addition thanks to the lasting influence and a song on the Rock Hall’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. Check out any of Big Star’s stuff, from “Thirteen”, “Ballad of El Goodo”, “I’m In Love With a Girl”, “When My Baby’s Beside Me”, “Nighttime”, “Lady Sweet”, and especially that aforementioned featured song, “September Gurls”.


Billy Idol See, Billy Idol gets it, I don’t know why she doesn’t get it! My introduction to this bad boy of the ’80s was in his cameo in The Wedding Singer, still one of the best of Adam Sandler’s movies. Outside of Happy Glimore and Billy Madison that’s not a tremendously high mark, but they’re still worth a watch, and Billy Idol’s songs are definitely worth a listen. “Rebel Yell”, “White Wedding”, “Eyes Without a Face”, “Rock The Cradle”, “Flesh For Fantasy”, and his cover of “Mony Mony” are all great, but my favorite is “Dancing With Myself”. Don’t worry, Billy, I’ll dance with you.


Bjork – I love Bjork and I love Jeff Ament for rightfully including her in this discussion. In between Madonna and Lady Gaga we tend to overlook the gorgeous vocals belted out and wild outfits belted up on Iceland’s wonder. Remember that swan dress at the Oscars? It doesn’t matter if you do or not, because what you should remember is her incredible music, a unique blend of styles that highlights her unbelievable singing range and helped move forward rock and rolls many subgenres. Starting with The Sugarcubes in the late ’80s, Bjork went solo in 1993 and became Iceland’s best selling musician ever. I’ll go so far as to say she is not just the best selling but the best from there altogether. Her voice is filled with power and passion, her music videos are fucking balls to the walls bonkers, and I love every second of both. Check out her album Post; you will not be disappointed. Give a listen to “Army of Me”, “Hyperballad”, her cover of “It’s Oh So Quiet” (the best version of that song), “Possibly Maybe”, and “I Miss You” (all off Post), as well as “Human Behaviour”, “Venus as a Boy”, “Violently Happy”, and my favorite, the Fluke Mix version of “Big Time Sensuality”.


Bon Jovi – One of the biggest eyebrow raisers of “really, these guys aren’t in the Rock Hall?” They will be, if for no other reason than “Livin’ on a Prayer”. Just don’t forget “Runaway”, “You Give Love a Bad Name”, “Bad Medicine”, “It’s My Life” and my fave “Wanted Dead or Alive”.


Smashing Pumpkins – I’ve never been the biggest fan of these guys, but I cannot deny their influence and popularity over the years. The one I do like is probably their most popular, “1979”.


Blue Oyster Cult – I got a fever! And the only prescription is… inclusion into the Rock Hall for a band that truly deserves it. Hear for yourself with the song in that famous SNL skit, “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, or any of their other hits like “Burnin’ For You”, “Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll”, “Fire of Unknown Origin”, or my absolute favorite:


Public Image Limited (PiL) – After The Sex Pistols broke up, Johnny Rotten formed this band and is still making music with it, although he has been the only steady member over its existence. Listen to “Public Image” a song he wrote when he was still with The Sex Pistols.


The Melvins – This Washington (state) based band was a precursor to grunge and undoubtedly helped create the Seattle Sound of the late ’80s and ’90s. No wonder Jeff Ament and Pearl jam thought of them. Listen to “Lizzy” for a sample of their stuff that blends soft and hard rock elements.


Fugazi – Like Minutemen, Fugazi makes a lot with not a lot, playing punk rock on the cheap in a do it yourself kind of way, that helps reflect their disgust with the corporate side of music management. My favorite from them is “I’m So Tired”.


Dio – Ronnie James Dio belongs in the Rock Hall for one simple reason. Sure, he performed as the lead singer of many metal bands like Rainbow, Black Sabbath after Ozzy Osbourne left and its reworking into Heaven and Hell, and the eponymous Dio. Yeah, he was the guy who rocked that dance at South Park Elementary and sent Jack Black’s Jables on his quest to form the greatest rock band of all time. You bet he was the man who sent spines down Ritchie “Smoke on the Water” Blackmore when he sang with their band Rainbow. Yet most importantly of all, Dio was the man who made the metal horns gesture that resonates around the world at every rock show now and forever. His best known songs are “Rainbow in the Dark” and my fave “Holy Diver”.


Elliott Smith – Smith fits within the least desirable yet not uncommon category of blossoming musician who died too young. He was only 34 when he died probably at his own hand. In his brief career, he channeled his pain and depression into his music including in “Miss Misery”, a song that was nominated for an Oscar for its inclusion in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting. Yet I prefer “Between the Bars”, the sad song of perspective that reawakens Old Rick from Tiny Rick in season 2 of Rick and Morty.


Psychedelic Furs – This British band scored some notice with songs like “Dumb Waiters”, “Love My Way”, and “The Ghost in You”, but I personally like the song “Pretty in Pink”, which John Hughes evidently liked too as he named his movie after it and featured the song in it!


X – There were actually two punk rock bands named X that formed in 1977, one in America and one in Australia. I feel safe in assuming the one referred to on Ament’s shirt is the American band from Los Angeles considering they have a couple of albums on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, including Los Angeles which features the song “Los Angeles” that is also on the Rock Hall’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll list that I keep bringing up. It just so happens that this is also my favorite song from them:


Free – Before he was in Bad Company (stay tuned for the final band in this series’ final post), lead singer Paul Rodgers was the frontman for Free. Free did not play together for many years, with Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke leaving to form Bad Company, and guitarist Paul Kossoff and Andy Fraser also going off to form their own bands. While they were together though, Free cut one megahit that still receives a ton of radio playtime on classic rock and some oldies stations alike in “All Right Now”, which, yes, is on the 500 Songs list.


New Order – Formed out of the ashes of Joy Division after Ian Curtis’ suicide, New Order carried on the electronic infused rock scene Joy Division had been such an integral player in. The song “Blue Monday” encapsulates their essence, and is also the best selling single ever put on a 12-inch record.


As I stated before with my annual Rock Hall Induction post, Ament’s shirt had one name that is already written on the spiraling hallway in that funky structure on the shore of downtown Cleveland. Tom Waits was inducted in 2011’s class, but he is certainly worth a special mention, so I’ll invite you to take a taste of “Chocolate Jesus”:

Truly a poet of inventive means and music, who has also composed and acted, Waits has reported on the world in a creative and carnivalesque manner that never fails to entertain. Watch this interesting entry in PBS’ “Blank on Blank” series that brings to life one of Waits’ interviews that in turn brings to life his humor:


Emerson, Lake, and Palmer – Let’s end this segment with some prog rock and one of the most important bands of the genre. Keith Emerson and Greg Lake each had their own bands in 1969 (Lake’s was King Crimson, one of the earlier discussed bands on Ament’s shirt). They left their respective acts and joined together with the likes of drummer Carl Palmer and embarked on a journey of electric fantasy that helped rock and roll evolve and inspired many artists to follow. Only Palmer is alive today, as both Emerson and Lake died last year a few months apart, but their legacy lives on in their music, especially in songs like “Lucky Man”, “Still…You Turn Me On”, “The Gambler”, their inventive cover of “Peter Gunn”, “Tiger in a Spotlight”, and everybody’s favorite overly titled track “Karn Evil 9 1st Impression, Pt. 2:

I was contemplating saving that last one as the beginning of the next and final post in this series so that I could open with “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!” Oh well, we’ll still have some fun with the last leg of rock and rollers on Ament’s shirt, and I will end on one of my favorites, and every great story needs to have a great ending, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. It’ll also be nice if you stop on back here next week to see the end of this rockin’ show. In the meantime, send any questions, comments, or requests to monotrememadness@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading and listening!

Alex

 

Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – Vol. 2

Yesterday I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and once again the Guardians of the Galaxy did what they do best: put together a kickass soundtrack. The best song they have playing in their adventures this time around is Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me” which prompts man-hunk Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord to declare Cooke one of the greatest singers of all time. I agree, and this song is a major reason why:

Props also to Lou Rawls who sang the backing vocals and would go on to release his own version later.

In keeping with the music spirit, today I will be continuing the closer look at artists listed on Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament’s T-shirt at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony that I started two weeks ago. This post will peruse some featured discography of those listed in the seventh-twelfth lines of Ament’s torso top. Once again, feel free to dig deeper into all of these acts. Who knows? You just might find your new favorite song or artist.

Love – These Los Angeles guys are known to get trippy from time to time, but they always stay chill. Their best known is probably “Alone Again Or”.


Lenny Kravitz – This guitar guru is one of the first artists I ever liked. Growing up in the 1990s I heard a lot of music that derived from rock and roll, but Lenny Kravitz rose above the rest by tapping into the hard and heavy roots of garage rock while infusing his own stylings. He managed to produce music that blended powerchords with ’90s pop, and he definitely influenced the music culture of rock and beyond. I like a lot of his stuff, including “Dig In”, “Again”, “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”, and his cover of “American Woman”, but his best still remains “Fly Away”.


The Cult – These Brits added to a rich alternative hard rock atmosphere in the U.K. during the ’80s and ’90s and still perform today. They nabbed a few hits, but none so deservingly notable than “She Sells Sanctuary”. Trust me, you’ve heard it before.


Dinosaur Jr. – They are not actually young dinosaurs, but don’t let that disappoint you because they had to change their name from its original Dinosaur because they were sued by a supergroup made of rockstars from other bands. They still aren’t actual dinosaurs of any age, but they did make “Feel the Pain” which is not at all painful to listen to.


King Diamond – Named after the stage name of their lead singer who seems to have done the juggalo makeup thing first, this Danish heavy metal band has a bit of a Metallica vibe. Try “Welcome Home” on for size.


Minor Threat – This D.C. group shows that punk is for Americans too. Take a listen to “I Don’t Wanna Hear It”.


Minutemen – More proof that Americans can play punk rock, these guys were known for playing on the cheap, which inadvertently led to them helping usher in alternative rock. Take a taste of “This Ain’t No Picnic”.


Misfits – This U.S. punk group has a little more metal in them, which you can hear even in the doowoppy  “Saturday Night”.


The Monkees – The fabricated American answer to The Beatles in many respects, The Monkees were an odd creation of entertainment marketing. The four man band was formed as the focus of a television show about band trying to hit the big time. Funny thing is, they actually did. So much so that they continued to be a band years after the show ended. However, their greatest achievement was undoubtedly surpassing The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in sales for a time in the late 1960s.

The Monkees scored some memorable hits like “Daydream Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville”, but my favorite is “I’m a Believer”.


Motorhead – No offense to The Monkees and the aforementioned punk groups, but let’s get back to the heavy metal sound of hard rock and roll. Motorhead is one of the best of these from the U.K. or anywhere yet to be placed in their rightful spot in the Rock Hall. With the gruff vocals of leadman Lemmy Kilmister powered out hits like “Overkill”, “We Are the Road Crew”, and “The Game”, but you can always count on their best to be at the top of the deck:


Mountain – Let’s keep the hard stuff out and roll on down the steep peak that is Mountain. Formed in New York in 1969 (giggle), these rockers brought their big guns to Woodstock and the avalanche that ensued laid the groundwork for heavy metal bands of the future. I’m sure you remember this one from Guitar Hero:

Always a trusty cure for fevers that need more cowbell.


Mudhoney – The Seattle Sound was a major movement in American music in the late 1980s and early 1990s helping to from grunge and hard alternative rock. Acts like Nirvana and Jeff Ament’s own Pearl Jam may have been the biggest to come out of the Emerald City (no, really, that’s its nickname), but plenty of other groups helped make that sound happen, and Ament and his buddies clearly remember the influence of Mudhoney. Take a dose of “Touch Me I’m Sick” and call me in the morning.


Nick Cave – The man at the front of The Bad Seeds, Cave is known as the “Prince of Darkness” of rock and roll because of his often occult subject matter. If you feel like crawling down into the depths to take a listen might I recommend “Red Right Hand”?


Nina Simone – Ooh yeah, sing that soulful music, Nina! This bluesy, jazzy stuff has got me “Feeling Good”, how about you?


Nine Inch Nails – Trent Reznor started his band in Cleveland, and it seems that it’s going to end up there in the not too distance future. Reznor is and always has been the primary producer of NIN’s work which is the epitome of industrial rock. It takes an acquired taste or at least the right mood to dig through Reznor’s library for those of us who aren’t David Fincher, but it can be rewarding. Still, my favorites are a little more well known like “Closer”, “Head Like a Hole”, and “The Hand That Feeds”, yet the soft strings and devastating lyrics and finish of “Hurt” will always be his best.


PJ Harvey – Polly Jean Harvey is her full name, and she has performed with a few bands, including the aforementioned Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but her own act is the best example of her musical mojo. Try on “Dress” and see how it fits you.


Richard Hell – Another punk rocker who is on track for inclusion thanks to his song “Blank Generation”, which he made with his band The Voidoids, being selected as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.


T. Rex – Just as is the case with Dinosaur Jr., none of these guys are actually dinosaurs, however, they did make “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”, so that’s gotta count for something.


Roxy Music – Remember Brian Eno (old sourpuss) from a couple weeks ago? He played synthesizer in the original lineup for Roxy Music! And they made some fun songs with an eclectic electric feel that helped shape many genres. My favorite is one that still gets a good amount of radio playtime:


Judas Priest – These guys are in for sure and it shouldn’t be long, especially since they have been on the ballot before. Not to mention a litany of hits such as “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”, “Breaking the Law”, and “Painkiller”. My favorite is “Living After Midnight”.


The Sonics – This ’60s garage rock band made a name for themselves with a selection of inventive covers on songs like “Have Love, Will Travel”, “Louie, Louie”, “Night Time is the Right Time”, “Walking the Dog”, and “I’m a Man”, but they rollicked plenty with their own jams too. The Sonics have served as inspiration for many famous acts as from Bruce Springsteen to Jack White, and undoubtedly many garage and grunge rock performers to follow will also cite them as an influence. Try some of their stuff like “Strychnine”, “Psycho”, “The Witch”. My favorite of theirs is “Maintaining My Cool”.


Soundgarden – Another fellow of Pearl Jam from the Seattle Sound grunge movement, Soundgarden is driven by frontman Chris Cornell whose vocals and lyrics are an excellent compliment to any rock act. Soundgarden has many well known songs like “Fell on Black Days”, “Spoonman”, “The Day I Tried to Live” and “Blow Up the Outside World”, however, their best is the surreal, non-sequitur nonsense of angst that is “Black Hole Sun” with a music video to match:

The tuning of the sixth string doesn’t seem to be the only thing dropped in that song….


Steppenwolf – One of the most incredible omissions to date, Steppenwolf is hugely influential as one of the premiere hard rock bands of the 1960s. Hits like “Magic Carpet Ride”, “The Pusher”, “Rock Me”, and “Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam” pushed the bounds of rock and roll with power, psychedelia, and all around top quality lyrics, vocals, and music. John Kay has been at the forefront of the band from its rise in the late ’60s to the present, and Steppenwolf has been at the forefront of rock and roll influence for the same timespan, and looks to be forever, so their inclusion is going to come, hopefully sooner than later because Steppenwolf is the most deserving of all the acts on Ament’s shirt. Look no further than the fact that they created the term “heavy metal” in what is often considered the first heavy metal song, their immortal “Born to Be Wild”


The Damned – We finish today’s post by moving from the first heavy metal song to the first album releasing British punk band. The Damned churned out Damned Damned Damned in 1977, but they sent this shot to the airwaves the previous year:

“New Rose” is another of the Rock Hall’s 500 Songs the Shaped Rock and Roll, and The Damned are another band that will be in there someday.

Thanks for reading and listening again! Send any questions, comments, or suggestions to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Unless something crazy happens in the next week, part three of this Jeff Ament’s shirt study will continue next Monday.

Keep rockin’ that roll,

Alex

When the Hall is a Rockin’ Don’t Bother Knockin’

The latest of the greatest rock and rollers have officially been welcomed into the open arms of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The most recent to join the ranks of rock immortality are as follows:

ELO (Electric Light Orchestra)

Joan Baez

Journey

Pearl Jam

2Pac

Yes

Nile Rodgers (with the Award for Music Excellence)

The Rock Hall’s website has a pretty good description of each of the artists, complete with a Spotify playlist and recommendations of signature songs.  Guess my work was over before it started. Either way, I’ll provide some of my own input and earbud encouragement where applicable. I have known of most of the new class, and many I have been rooting for over the years to get their well-deserved admission. If you are not familiar with any of the aforementioned inductees for 2017 – and even if you are – check out this year’s video montage:

Like my first and second previous posts about the Rock Hall’s annual induction class, I’ll provide a bit of insight into each act. As has been the case from the beginning of the process, the requirements for inclusion are essentially two simple steps:

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

Okay, so achieving either of these are not simple, especially the latter, but the point is that there is no fine print protocol to get called up onto that stage in Cleveland, Los Angeles, or this past weekend in Brooklyn. You just have to rock hard enough and inspire others to aspire to your oeuvre. This group of people have been recognized for doing just that.


ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) – Truly unique in their bombastic overtures that justify their name, ELO combined the styles of classical music and rock and roll like no one had before or has done since. Comprised of the trio of Bev Bevan, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Wood, ELO conducted such classic rock masterpieces as “Evil Woman”, “Livin'” Thing”, and my personal favorite, “Don’t Bring Me Down”.


Joan Baez – This pre-cat surgery Maureen Ponderosa look-alike was a major force in the American folk movement and helped to bring Bob Dylan up to the forefront of the genre he is now synonymous with, not to mention that Joni Mitchell owes her some props too. Really, every folk singer that followed Baez owes a debt of gratitude to her influence. However, her greatest contributions were to the cultural and political causes she gave a lovely voice to, especially the civil rights rallies of Martin Luther King Jr. where she would often perform her rendition of the gospel standard “We Shall Overcome”.


Journey – My favorite of this year’s class of inductees, the San Francisco collection of former bandmates from Santana and Frumious Bandersnatch (yeah, that’s a real band) is one of the greatest bands of the 1980s. Formed in 1973 with some notable hits prior to their peak in the early 80s, Journey was driven by Steve Perry’s legendary voice as much as their combined energy and harmony. The band continues to dominate the airwaves of radio stations, personal playlists, and wedding receptions with the likes of “Any Way You Want It”, Wheel in the Sky”, “Lights”, Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin'”, and “Stone in Love”, but there is no other song that can elicit a karaoke performance from anyone at anytime the world over like the greatest song of the 1980s:


Nile Rodgers – A dual-threat performer-producer, Rodgers co-founded Chic with Bernard Edwards and composed the dance anthem “Le Freak”.  The duo and eventually Rodgers on his own shifted gears to producing albums for other artists. Rodgers was a major creative force helping perfect the likes of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Madonna’s Like a Virgin, and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories where he played the guitar for “Get Lucky”.


Pearl Jam – Nirvana may be the best band of the grunge movement and the whole of the 1990s, but not far behind them was the next greatest purveyor of the Seattle Sound, Pearl Jam. A shoe-in for inclusion, Eddie Vedder and the boys from the Pacific Northwest rock hard and fast with a varied lyrical assortment of songs, including “Jeremy”, “Even Flow”, “Alive”, “Black”, “Daughter”, Yellow Ledbetter”, and “Last Kiss”. I love all of these, but their best for me will always be “Better Man”.

At last weekend’s induction ceremony, Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Arment wore this shirt that listed the names of numerous artists who are not yet in the Rock Hall that he and the band believe should be, and I agree with most of them. Tom Waits is already in, but he probably could go in again for something.


2Pac (Tupac Shakur) – What to say of this poet of the streets? His rocky life experiences and observations of social inequity pertaining to race relations, poverty, gang violence, and so much more provided the tragic muse for his music. The Rock Hall’s biography describes him as an “irresistible contradiction” because of his dual roughness and tenderness toward those around him. Regardless of the final sentiment the world may have for him, there is no denying that his all too short life and career were briefly phenomenal. Listen to the likes of “California Love”, “Keep Ya Head Up”, “Dear Mama”, and especially “Changes” to hear the truest 2Pac.


Yes – Another overdue inductee, Yes remain as the epitome of progressive rock band. Pink Floyd may have earned more commercial and critical success while pushing the boundaries of experimental music, but nobody, and I mean nobody did it quite like Yes, and they managed to score a number of big hits along the way, especially “Owner of a Lonely Heart”. Throw in “I’ve Seen All Good People”, “Long Distance Runaround”, “The Fish”, and “Yours is No Disgrace”, and you’ve got an impressive resume. But all memes aside, their best for me is unquestionably “Roundabout”.

Thanks for reading and listening! I hope you enjoyed the offerings from the latest class of legendary rockers and music contributors. Please peruse their discography beyond the taste I’ve provided here. They made it into the hallowed Hall of Rock for a reason, after all.

Send any questions, comments, or suggestions to monotrememadness@gmail.com, and roll on back here again next week for a new adventure of words, images, and sounds!

The Cure and The Pixies best get in soon,

Alex

I Want That McNugget Sauce, Morty!

Bringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbringbring!

Guess who’s back? It’s the R&M. Some of that real Mr. Poopy Butthole, ooh wee!

The  newest class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have all waited at least 25 years to be inducted; they can wait another week for me to discuss their discography. Right now, we have much more pressing business to get to. Rick and Morty are back in the hizzouse!

I pray that you were able to partake in the inexplicable airing of the first episode of the latest season of Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s sci-fi/comedy cartoon Rick and Morty on Saturday. In case you missed it, follow this link to Adult Swim’s website where the entire series, including the season three opener, is airing right now. If you were able to catch the long-awaited episode we had all given up hope on any time soon, much like the next Song of Ice and Fire book (goddamnit, George!), well, you should probably go binge through the series and watch it all again anyway, but at least you got to take part in the greatest April Fool’s Day prank ever.

I’m not much of a fan of the dipshitted antics that are traditional of April 1st, in fact, on this blog I once included this webclip from Last Week Tonight that discourages carrying on the pranks usually pulled by people who enjoy having some social license to mess with others for one day a year. Furthermore, no information can be taken seriously without double-checking it to verify its authenticity. This is why it was so madcap brilliant for Roiland and Harmon and Adult Swim to suddenly air the third season opener of Rick and Morty on the one day when the unexpected announcement of the series’ long-awaited return would be brushed off by most as bullshit.

Only it wasn’t!

Rick and Morty really came back and gave us one of the best episodes in the series yet! Featuring a virtually omniscient and omnipotent Rick battling wits with an insect intelligence agent voiced by Captain Tightpants himself, Nathan Fillion! And yes, just as he declared, the powers that be delivered this episode roughly a year and a half after Mr. Poopy Butthole speculated how Rick would get out of his cliffhanger jam and proceeded to roll in pepperoni pizza spilled on the floor.

Now it is worth noting that we still will have to wait longer for the rest of season three, but it has been advertised as airing this summer, and while those promises of return in the past 1.5 years have been empty, this one seems to hold a bit more water given that we have now seen a fully-fledged premiere episode.

After constant questions regarding the return of the beloved series, the show’s creators and staff finally got nagging revenge on the rabid fans by sneaking episode 3.01 out when any of us least expected it. I can see them smiling smugly as their handiwork was broadcast over the internet on a loop for four hours and people scoffed at the idea that such a ridiculous occurrence would ever happen. I bet they laughed as jubilantly as Rick did when he manifested that butt in a coffee mug. The creator is always in control of his work of art, after all.

I for one am glad I took my friend’s excited text serious (thanks, Chris!), and I am excited for what the future holds for Rick, Morty, and the rest of the Smith family across the multiverse, although it’s nice to see that some things never change:

1.01

3.01

There is now a bizarrely adamant assembly of people demanding that McDonald’s bring back the Mulan-inspired McNugget dipping sauce that Rick claims to be his “one-armed man”, the driving motivation of his life’s every action. I don’t remember if I ever tasted the apparently delicious condiment during its brief tenure, but I do know that I can get on board with nine more seasons of the smartest, funniest show on television.

If summer is too long for you to wait for the continuing adventures of this daring duo, then you can get a sneak peak at some of this season’s offerings that Adult Swim has already released:

And who can forget this gem:

Thanks for reading, now get to watching some Rick and Morty! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please send them my way via monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to portal back here next week for the previously promised coverage of the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class. Stay beautiful in the meantime, and remember…

He who controls the pants controls the galaxy!

Alex

Just Let Me Hear Some of That Rock and Roll Music

All due respect to Elvis Presley, we lost the true King of Rock and Roll this past Saturday, March 18th. Charles Edward Anderson Berry, better known simply as Chuck Berry, graced this Earth for 90 years during which he helped create and refine Rock and Roll music by combining the best the blues, R&B, country, jazz, and swing had to offer and throwing in plenty of his own energy and electric guitar to boot. The primary influence to the first round of rock and rollers the world over, Chuck Berry was a force in the genre throughout his life, even completing another album that he announced the release of on his 90th birthday last October. This album, Chuck, will be released in the near future, but Berry’s already cemented legacy will live on forever as a rock pioneer, guitar god, and crowd pleasing entertainer. We’ll miss you, Chuck.

Berry attributed his success and the peak of the growth of rock and roll to greater radio playtime throughout the country reaching a wider audience. Indeed, Berry had a grand appeal to many whites which helped to connect black and white culture during a time of racial turmoil. He ushered in an era of vibrant new music that was infused with the essence of the genres that came before it and in doing so provided something that everyone of all walks of life could love. He especially found a following in America’s youth, who serve as the subject matter of many of his songs. Young Americans flocked to the fast-paced, guitar and piano-fueled mania of early rock, and Berry and his fellow first generation rock and rollers like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis. Of course it was not just Americans who raved over Berry and his buds as every major act of the British Invasion was heavily influenced by them, with many scoring hits of covers of Berry’s songs. Ever heard of these guys?

It did not stop there either. The years went on, rock and roll evolved and incorporated new sounds and sensations, branching off into styles like psychedelia and birthing other genres like hip-hop, yet artists continued to aspire to follow Chuck Berry’s shining example of how to capture the essence of rock and roll. Just as every test pilot wanted to be Chuck Yeager, every girl and boy with a guitar wanted to be Chuck Berry. The greatest guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix, played some Berry tunes, most notably Berry’s best known hit “Johnny B. Goode”. AC/DC covered “School Days” and called for all of us to Hail Hail Rock and Roll in their own brutal powerchords. George Thorogood and the Destroyers did a rollicking rendition of “It Wasn’t Me”. Softer acts like Nina Simone and Linda Ronstadt gave some of Berry’s songs a go, and ELO had a hit with their always inventive style worked into Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” featuring some of the eponymous composer’s own opus. Rod Stewart made his own version of “Memphis, Tennessee” with The Faces. Hell, even Motorhead paid their dues to the man and brought Berry into metal with “Let It Rock”.

Berry’s riffs may have been basic in composition, but the now familiar formula they follow make it so that his music serves as the building blocks of rock and roll music. Furthermore they are easily transferable to any style of music, as you can hear from any of the aforementioned covers (and any of those not mentioned). Nowhere is this better proven though than in the classic scene from Back to the Future (1985) that has been the source of many amusing musings on Berry’s life. Through an enthusiastic Marty McFly, Michael J. Fox (and Mark Campbell who is doing his singing, and Tim May with the guitar) show us the 30 year evolution of rock and roll in three minutes complete with a clever time travel related reference to the man who made all this music possible.

Honestly, he was doing everything Chuck Berry would have done up until he starting leaping and shredding like Eddie Van Halen, but hey, Chuck Berry’s indelible impression is found in that joyous noise from the 1980s too. Through his long and illustrious career, Chuck Berry made a name for himself not only as a great musician, but as a stage presence who demands to be seen as much as heard. He was natural at engaging an audience and entertained all with his humor, honesty, and signature duck walk – the oft copied, never duplicated solo strut that is synonymous with Berry. You can see it and his many other exploits on display in these clips from live performances over the years:

You know you are popular when everybody wants to play alongside of you. Over the years, many who grew up loving Berry were able to share the stage with him at one point or another. Keith Richards got that wish granted much to his excitement considering he has said that Chuck Berry made The Rolling Stones. He was the one who got to induct Berry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s first class in 1986. Chuck Berry was actually the first person to be inducted into the vaunted Rock Hall, and his legacy shows why. He shared the honor of being in the inaugural class with Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmy Yancey, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke, talent scout (and not dinosaur park owner) John Hammond, producer Sam Phillips, and disc jockey Alan Freed. That’s quite a class to be at the top of!

The Rock Hall wrote a great biography of Berry, including a clip of his induction which I encourage anyone who enjoys Keith Richards high to watch.

Beyond his influence on other artists, Berry had some scintillating songs that are essential for any rock and roll fan to hear. In addition to those already mentioned, be sure to check out these terrific tunes:

“Maybellene” – One of the first rock and roll songs, Berry’s first hit was a reworking of  a song called “Ida Red”. Berry livened it up with music and lyrics that became the standard for other rock songs of the early rock era.

“Brown Eyed Handsome Man”

“I’m a Rocker”

“Woodpecker” – This instrumental piece takes an easier pace than most of Berry’s lightning striking introductions and riffs and remains one of his more jazzy and unique song.

“No Particular Place To Go” – I first heard this as a kid in a commercial for a Power Wheels car. You remember those toy cars that kids could drive? Those were the envy of every child’s eye when I was a wee lad, and I was fortunate enough to get one for Christmas one year… until the goddamn battery died and the electric system fizzled out and I was left with a oversized Hot Wheels car too heavy for child me to push out of the garage. Anyway, I grew to love this song which details an evening of teenage love that never really gets anywhere because the narrator cannot unbuckled his date’s seatbelt.

“School Days” – Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Nobody said that Chuck Berry was a widely varied artist, but when you invent the go-to licks for rock and roll, you can run through them as much as you need. I mentioned the AC/DC cover earlier, but this song bears repeating for its encapsulation of the musical zeitgeist of the days of early rock.

“Run, Run Rudolph” – One of the few songs that I look forward to hearing every Christmastime, this original seasonal song has stood the test of time as a classic in both rock and holiday music.

“Shake, Rattle, and Roll”

“Soul Rockin'”

“Little Queenie” – If you’ve heard T. Rex’s hit “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” then you’ve heard a part of “Little Queenie”. The riff is taken from Berry’s song, as are the closing lyrics, “Meanwhile, I’m still thinking….”

“Almost Grown”

“You Can’t Catch Me” – I love The Beatles, but I do not love all of their songs. The most played of their that I just cannot get on board with is “Come Together”. You may feel differently, but no matter what you think of the song, it has some Chuck Berry influence. Like some of their other non-sequitur songs from the era, The Beatles drew upon many pop culture references to fill the cryptic lyrics, and “Come Together” has some of “You Can’t Catch Me” in it, namely old Flattop.

“Back in the U.S.A.” – The Beatles once again drew upon Chuck for inspiration when they twisted this song’s title to be a little more Russian. The lyrics of their superior “Back in the U.S.S.R.” are mostly a parody of The Beach Boys though. Then again, where did The Beach Boys get their soul-of-American-youth-summer-jams style from?

“Thirty Days”

“Route 66” – Being a native of St. Louis, Missouri, Berry undoubtedly took a few trips down the legendary highway that runs from his hometown to Los Angeles, California.

“You Never Can Tell” – Who knew this would be a hit that would be covered by numerous artists and danced to so successfully by Uma Thurman and John Travolta? C’est la vie say the old folks….

“Reelin’ and Rockin” – This song makes for great rock and roll and the title makes for good fishing advice.

“Johnny B. Goode”– The song that is synonymous with Chuck Berry and early rock and roll. Covered by countless individuals, professional and amateur musicians alike, and brilliant featured as one of the most memorable movie moments ever, Berry’s song about a little country boy with a natural talent to play the guitar is one of the greatest songs ever made. Originally, the lyrics were going to be “little colored boy” but Berry changed them to avoid it being shunned by disc jockeys afraid of potentially poor or angry reception. the song is partly about Berry himself, but mostly based on his bandmate Johnnie Johnson, who gave Berry his big gig and eventually let Berry take charge of his band since he recognized the natural talent he had not just at playing and writing music, but at energizing the crowd.

This song also has the honored distinction to be the only rock and roll song on the Voyager Golden Record. The phonographic record included on both Voyager spacecraft features a selection of images and sound recordings, with music from around the world to showcase the varied cultures on Earth to whomever finds the records. Whether it be intelligent extraterrestrial life or humans in the far future, the recoverers of the Golden Record will be able to hear Chuck Berry’s best song. This opportunity almost did not happen though, as many on the selection panel that decided the Record’s content thought rock and roll was “adolescent”. Fortunately Carl “Sick Burn” Sagan pointed out “There are a lot of adolescents on the planet.” Damn Carl, that’s you tell ’em!

Chuck Berry left a lasting legacy of music, but his impact on others both musically and culturally, especially in helping incorporate harmony in the diverse youth of America, is what really raises him up to the level of icon. His death was not by any means sudden, and he certainly lived a full life, but he will still be missed by his many adoring fans. Thanks for the music and memories, Chuck Berry!

Thanks for reading and listening! Please send any questions, comments, and requests to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Rock and roll on back next week for what will hopefully not be another eulogy for one of my heroes.

Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!

Alex

 

Get the Led Out

Tomorrow is a momentous occasion for my fellow Americans and I, but not one that all of us are enthused about. It comes as no surprise that many people, including myself, are looking forward to this 2016 election day to be over and done with so that we can finally be free from the flurry and fury of political projectile vomiting that has consumed our major media sources over the last… uh, it feels like this has gone on since I first started forming memories, actually. I’m not sure what I remember existing in my life before this election started winding up, yet I do remember a happier time, even in the political process. I think regardless of your general governmental sentiment, you probably agree that this presidential election is, putting it mildly, a rough one.

As unbelievable as it may seem, there is hope on the horizon. My friends! We are at the precipice, ready to cast our vote and finish this dreaded decision and all the others listed with it. Let us not allow tomorrow to be remembered as the day America had to pick between a Douche and a Turd Sandwich, let us remember it as the 45th anniversary of one of the greatest compilations of eight of the greatest songs ever produced. Enough with the election from Hell, let us climb the Stairway to Heaven!

Tomorrow, November 8, 2016, marks the 45th anniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin IV, universally regarded as not simply one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time, but as one of the greatest albums of all time. Dropping into record stores in 1971, this was Led Zeppelin in their prime. Okay, Led Zeppelin was in their prime for a few albums, which is a major reason why they are my favorite band, however, this album is generally considered the best and most complete of their works, and it’s hard to argue with that sentiment. It has a seamless flow from one song to the next, and features many of Zeppelin’s best songs ever recorded. A perfect balance of power and calm, with poetic lyrics, intricate musical styling on multiple instruments, especially Jimmy Page’s always brilliant string work, this was the album that brought Led Zeppelin back to and propelled them beyond the acclaim they received for their first two albums. Like most Zeppelin fans, I love their first six albums, and greatly appreciate much of their final three, but many critics were underwhelmed by Led Zeppelin III. They felt differently after hearing IV.

While commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, the album is actually untitled. Partly in reaction to the lackluster critical reception of III, Jimmy Page – who in addition to founding the band, playing guitar, and writing or co-writing most of the music, produced every album – wanted to leave a title off of the album cover. And the band’s name. And everything else. The tracks aren’t even listed on the cover! A painting of an old man carrying a bundle of sticks on his back hanging in a dilapidated shack of a house is the only thing that graces the front and back of the album, thereby giving no indication of what it is beyond an enigmatic record. (Atlantic Records, the company that released the album, had to slap a sticker on the back plastic covering listing what order the songs were in.) Ironically, nowadays this image is synonymous with the band’s, and it is instantly recognizable. Everybody who has listened to Led Zeppelin knows that somewhere in that ramshackle house is the grandest rock and roll song ever made, along with its friends who are magnificent company. The bandmates chose this cover art to not only throw those who were critical of their art off the scent until the album established itself, but to also capture the blend of influence from the city and county that they felt in their creative process, especially on their previous album, Led Zeppelin III.

A couple of years ago, I was going through a stack of my parents’ old records from over the years because my mother had purchased a multimedia music player that is able to play vinyl records. I was beyond overjoyed when I found two Led Zeppelin albums. The first was my favorite album ever, Physical Graffiti, the double album that I wrote about last year. The second was Led Zeppelin IV, still unopened and wrapped in plastic. I almost screamed like I was watching The Beatles step off a plane in America for the first time (I was also quite happy to find a few of their records!). On the back was the aforementioned track listing sticker; on the front a price sticker declaring the album to be a whopping $4.99 (I’m sure I could resell it for more today, but NEVER will), and a bright, yellow sun of a sticker that announces “Contains ‘Stairway to Heaven'”. Looking at this for the first time with a widely open jaw, I’d felt like I’d just ascended that stairway.

Now, let us walk up it together as we listen more closely to each of the eight incredible songs that fill this classic piece of rock history.

Side 1

“Black Dog” – Obviously quite a salacious song, the meaning of the title is less apparent. Story goes that it was inspired by a black Labrador retriever that was old yet active in a way that matches the tune. Robert Plant explained at a concert how everyday at their recording studio at Headley Grange Mansion the band would watch this dog make its way to its girlfriend’s place, do its thing, and be so worn out on its return home, that occasionally the band members would carry him back to his dwelling.

The song endures as one of Led Zeppelin’s most well known and often played tunes, and just might be my favorite on the album, although it has some competition from the next song….

“Rock and Roll” – If you’re going to name a song after the most popular music genre of the day you’d better make sure it nails everything that genre stands for. Mission fucking accomplished. “Rock and Roll” is just that, a great rock and roll jam that stands at the top of a long list of songs that makes you subconsciously accelerate irresponsibly on the highway until after it ends and you scream out, “Holy shit! I was going how fast?!”

The song is a send up to early fast-paced rock and roll hits like the ones Little Richard used to wail, but not one that took a long time to craft. In all, the song was laid down in about a half hour with credited composition contributions from all four members of the band. When they recorded it, they enlisted Rolling Stones pianist Ian Stewart to accompany the almost pure jam on the ivories.

“The Battle of Evermore” – Tapping into their Tolkien influence and Jimmy Page’s enjoyment of John Paul Jones’ mandolin, this song brings our racing hearts down from the previous explosion of adrenaline to a manageable level to hold us captivated as if we are hearing a song retelling a tale of medieval heroes fighting dark forces. Some specific mentions of beings such as ringwraiths tie directly to the band’s favorite fantasy book, The Lord of the Rings, but other pieces were made up by Page and Robert Plant. Plant felt he needed an additional voice to help him properly convey the storytelling theme, so they brought in folk singer Sandy Denny for the only duet the band would ever record.

The song serves as a perfect return to calm to prepare us for the build back up to full on rock and roll we will get with the next song, which is for many people the greatest song ever made.

“Stairway to Heaven” – This song sends chills down the spine with its first acoustic notes, especially if you’ve heard it before and are anticipating the guitar solo ahead. This song better than any other builds anticipation for what is coming, and then executes it perfectly as it shifts gears from easy acoustic with other instruments chiming in, to full on power electric as it blasts the greatest guitar solo ever played. If someone asks you what the best rock and roll song of all time is you probably will think of this one first. Even if you pick something else (“Purple Haze” for me), “Stairway to Heaven” will enter into your mind and it is thanks almost exclusively to that brilliant guitar solo. The solo works so well because the build to it works so well, and the faster pace and louder vocals that follow it work so well. The whole song is a symphony of Led Zeppelin’s design that is so masterfully put together that it’s easy to overlook how empty the lyrics are at times because who cares when the music sounds so good? I mean, John Bonham is playing a recorder and making it fit the theme like the perfect flavors intertwining in a cake. Yes, the first instrument you and your fellow first-grade music class horrendously butchered “Hot Cross Buns”, a song made to be butchered by children, features in one of the greatest rock songs ever made.

Side 2

“Misty Mountain Hop” – I just wondered why the recording on this link was so loud before I remembered that I cranked my headphone volume all the way up during “Stairway to Heaven.” Which begs the answer to the question, how do you follow “Stairway”? Why not finish with that masterful piece? We will get to the latter question in due time, but the answer to the former is you follow “Stairway” the same way you followed “Rock and Roll”, a lighter song, but this time the bouncier “Misty Mountain Hop” is the perfect following course to the meal that was “Stairway”. Didn’t I just call it a cake? I’ve got to keep my food metaphors consistent. Man, I must be hungry! Maybe a reason why is because in addition to the even more obvious Tolkien influence of this song is the lesser known toking influence. The narrative within the song is a loose description of the goings-on of marijuana legalization rally in Hyde Park in London in 1968. Robert Plant invoked memories of the friendliness of that day that was quashed by the authorities  in the hope that someday we wouldn’t worry about silly little things like pot. Spirit of the Sixties Led Zeppelin style.

“Four Sticks” – Another unusual rhythm for another unusual title. The unique timing on this track wreaked plenty of havoc for the band. Page at one point during recording went off script and improvised a riff that they would later turn into “Rock and Roll”. The signature role of time issues for this song though no doubt came in the form of repeated screw ups from drummer John Bonham. Okay, not screw ups, but takes that he was not satisfied with because the drum sound just was not right. He eventually grabbed a second pair of drumsticks and pounded the living hell out of it, and that is the track they kept. Because he had double the drumsticks, they called the song “Four Sticks”.

“Going to California” – After the mild pickup with “Four Sticks”, “Going to California” keeps it mellow with a fairly self-explanatory song about longing for escape from the wildness of life as a rock star. Not sure if 1970’s California is the place to go for that, but then I’m not the rock star. Robert Plant apparently was pining for folk singer Joni Mitchell and wrote the song with her in mind. Plant said in an interview that the song was a bit embarrassing at when looking back at it, but he is still proud of it as it “did sum up a period of my life when I was 22.” I don’t know about you, but I like it and how it melds into the end of the album which is capped off excellently with a classic Led Zeppelin hard rock infusion of the blues.

“When the Levee Breaks”Originally a blues song written and recorded by  Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie  in 1929 about the 1927 Great Mississippi Flood. The husband and wife duo’s song has been covered by many artists over the years, but none as iconically as Led Zeppelin, whose retooled version is frequently assumed to be an original song. I guess you could say they made it their own. The pounding drumbeats, warping harmonica, and heavy metal guitar. The song’s tempo was slowed down post-recording to give it a slow churning sound reminiscent of an overflowing river. The drumwork is what is most notable and sets it apart from other versions. The characteristic sound of the drumming came from an inspired idea by sound engineer Andy Johns to set Bonham and his set at the base of a stairway and the microphone on the floor above. After adding an echo, it gave the track its signature percussive sound.

I’ve said it a lot with this album, (on half of it, in fact) but this may be the best and my favorite song on the amazing album. I remember hearing it for the first time early on during my freshman year of college and thinking that I had better dig deeper into Led Zeppelin’s discography. I’m glad I did, even if my personal discovery of most of Led Zeppelin’s works took precedence over my studies. How often do you use differential calculus anyway?

Thanks for reading and listening! If the election gets you down, just remember you can always give a listen to this masterwork from four men across the pond to help you take flight up above the shitstorm. Not to mention, you can always write-in the candidate who is as mellow as a glass of bourbon. And you can always reach me via email at monotrememadness@gmail.com with any questions or suggestions.

Rock that vote,

Alex

P.S. I understand that differential calculus is exceptionally important and actually rather enjoyed derivatives. It even plays a role in recording the same music I just discussed. I hope any mathematicians will understand my desire to end on a spirited joke. I will not, however, under any circumstances, now or ever, apologize for my disgust of logs. Fuck you, logarithms, and your inverse operation to exponentiation!