Tag Archives: Ted Nugent

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.

Don’t Forget to Bring a Towel

Is it December 18th yet? I have never been so eager to just skip all of summer as we’re finally upon it in order to get back to the unforgiving cold and mounds of snow. Summer is my favorite season for a few predictable reasons such as the nice weather, but I also love the blockbuster movie season, and as I said before, this year has me very excited for many a summer film, especially sequels and reboots of old and new classics like Avengers 2 and Jurassic World. Go ahead and add Mad Max, Ant-Man, and Fantastic Four to that list after the latest wave of trailers. I’m very excited to go to the theaters and watch all of these and more films this summer, yet I would be willing to skip them all, even November’s continuation of the Bond franchise, Spectre, and all the summer holidays and vacations I have planned to get to frigid mid-December because the prospect of seeing a good Star Wars movie released in my lifetime has me so excited that even adhering to the reminder I’ve used as a title was insufficient as preparation for what just happened as I typed that sentence. It’s not even related to the subject of today’s post but watch this for the hundredth or so time:

Yes we are Han, yes we are.

While my world is abuzz with visions of stormtroopers vainly trying to improve their atrocious aim, for many people today, the world is abuzz in a more illicit way except in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, for today is the twentieth of April, more commonly known as 4/20, the day that caused the Colorado Department of Transportation to create a highway sign that marks the 419.99 mile on I-70 because of the constant theft of the original 420 signs.

I have never been a partaker in any drug culture, thanks very much to my upbringing at the hands of a police officer and a nurse, but as I made clear in last week’s post, and others before it, I love rock and roll, and I can appreciate the effects that drugs have had on the genre in good and bad ways. The bad very much outweighs the good, as too many musicians have lost their talents, friends, and even lives to drug abuse. I do not condone the use of any drugs beyond what is prescribed by a doctor (and some of that is more than what is necessary), however I will not deny that many great songs contain their fair share of drug discussion in one way or another. Some are very obvious; you don’t see too many Harvard professors analyzing the depth of the lyrics of Afroman’s “Because I Got High”. However, even some of the more overt introspections into drug use and abuse are highly entertaining, deeply moving, and some just fuckin’ rock. Many are autobiographical, telling tales of the troubles that plagued the band members when they got into heroin/cocaine/etc. Some are pioneers of psychedelia, the sub-genre of rock and roll that flourished in the late 1960s along with the increased use and availability of drugs from naturally growing plants like marijuana to synthetics like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). So whether the artists were blazing, snorting, inhaling, tripping, or tying off, here are my favorite songs about drugs and a little information about each of them.

“The Pusher” by Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf scored big with the 1969 classic film Easy Rider. Their biggest hit, “Born to Be Wild”, was the anthem to that film and motorcyclists riding across America since its release, but the beginning of the film, which shows Peter Fonda’s character Wyatt profiting from transporting some drugs in his chopper, plays Steppenwolf’s version of the Hoyt Axton song about the man who “don’t care if you live or if you die”.

“Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails – This is the “Quiet” version of the song which sounds a little smoother through headphones than the warping original appropriately released on the album The Downward Spiral in 1994. “Hurt” offers a somber glimpse into the decaying life of a heroin addict. Trent Reznor’s original is often overshadowed by the excellent cover version performed by Johnny Cash which he made his own by looking back at his legendary career and often troubled life in a very Last Supper kind of way. Of course, the Man in Black had his own drug-inspired contribution to make many years early.

“Cocaine Blues” by Johnny Cash – Based on the traditional song “Little Saddie” written originally by “Red” Arnall, Johnny Cash famously played the song at his concert at Folsom Prison. As with many of his songs, Cash breathed such passionate life into his performance it feels as if he’s singing about himself, adding a feeling of authenticity to the tale he tells.

“Cocaine” by Eric Clapton – Slowhand showed his stuff more impressively on the instrument he is a god with more than he did with the lyrics on this one, but the guitar work is so solid that we’re able to overlook the shortcomings and enjoy it for what it is: a simple jam with a great solo.

“Journey to the Center of the Mind” by the Amboy Dukes – You’ll recall this song’s inclusion in last week’s post when I, among other things, argued for guitarist Ted Nugent’s inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Detroit band scored their biggest hit with this hard rocking song that is so obviously about drugs to everyone except Ted Nugent. Whatever Ted, this song wouldn’t be the same without you so you can live in your own little world as long as you come up for a string shredding breath in ours every once in a while.

“Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers – This song has picked me up many a time I’ve felt down, but lead singer Anthony Kiedis went through much worse with his addiction to and withdrawal from heroin. He also felt separation from his bandmates and longing for his ex-girlfriend Ione Skye (I wonder if he tried winning her back by holding a boombox over his head outside her window). Kiedis drew upon all of these troubles of his past and the pain of his present to craft what might be the Chili Peppers’ finest song. It is certainly one of their most played; it’s second only to the wildly sexual “Give It Away”, the coda of which contains the riff from our next song.

“Sweet Leaf” and “Snowblind” by Black Sabbath – Ozzy Osbourne has tried just about every drug that has ever been invented, so you can trust him as an authority on the subject of marijuana and cocaine. “Sweet Leaf” is a love letter to pot and has one of the best riffs. The coughing at the beginning of the track is apparently Tommy Iommi coughing after a drag on a joint.

“Snowblind” is a love letter to cocaine and that’s just about it. Awesome song.

“Got to Get You into My Life” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles (this is the live version Lennon performed with Elton John at Elton’s Madison Square Garden Concert in 1974) – The former sounds innocent enough but according to Paul McCartney it is an “ode to pot”.

The latter sounds much more drug-based and is a psychedelia classic that’ll leave you wondering if Lennon and McCartney took one lump or two with their tea. The Beatles fan in me loves this song for being another incredible compilation of musical styles and beautifully poetic lyrics that don’t have to mean anything, and the biologist in me reveres it for being the origin of the namesake of the most complete skeleton of early hominid Australopithecus afarensis that was discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia (anthropologist Donald Johanson and his team frequently listened to a tape of the song in camp near the excavation site).

It is widely believed that the song describes a vivid acid trip as the nouns in the title begin with the letters “LSD” and its narrative is filled with the fantastic. Despite all the psychedelic speculation, John Lennon always maintained that the song had nothing to do with drugs and was derived solely from a drawing made by his son, Julian, that he made of a girl in his class named Lucy – sidenote: the real Lucy died in 2009 at the age of 46 from lupus. For real, fucking lupus! Somebody call George Costanza and Dr. House! –  and inspiration from the Wool and Water chapter of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the book which continues the tale of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland that would also serve as the basis of another 1967 psychedelic classic that was much more upfront about the influence drugs had on it.

“White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane – My dad and his Marine buddies referred to the quartermaster at their base in Vietnam as “White Rabbit” because he took all the pills he could get his paws on. Of course the original White Rabbit is from the aforementioned Carroll stories of Wonderland, and Jefferson Airplane used the already trippy tales to parallel the active drug culture of the flower power era. This brilliant song is a hallmark of psychedelia and acid rock thanks to lead singer Grace Slick’s clever lyrics and haunting and ringing vocals.

“Mother’s Little Helper” by The Rolling Stones – This one is a bit different in that it addresses the real-life increase of prescription drug abuse by housewives that occurred in the Sixties. Keith Richards may be the only man on Earth to have used more drugs than Ozzy Osbourne, but the standout guitar work on this song is done on a 12-string by Brian Jones.

“Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” by Kenny Rodgers and the First Edition – As you can see from that clip, this was the song The Dude danced to in his erotic bowling dream in 1998’s comedy noir The Big Lebowski. Dude culture is especially prevalent today (and I mean specifically on this day), and this song is another great addition to the list, albeit a different one. Instead of singing praises for a drug or recounting the pain it’s caused, “Just Dropped In…” was actually written as an anti-drug song to advise against “dropping out” via LSD. The Dude’s dream sure looks… interesting, but we’re not really sure what drug was in his system to trigger the hallucination as he didn’t take it knowingly. Listen for symbolic lyrics like “eight miles high”, which is a reference to The Byrds’ influential song of the same name.

“Little Green Bag” by George Baker Selection – What d’ya mean you don’t tip? This catchy little ditty was the introductory song for Quentin Tarantino’s wide release directorial debut Reservoir Dogs, but it’s not actually meant to be about drugs. The lyrics are actually “little greenback” meaning dollars, not marijuana, but a mistake led to the song being mislabeled and misconstrued. Either way, it’s a pretty awesome tune and further proof that while Tarantino may be weird as fuck, he’s got a great taste in music.

“Low” by Cracker – This was the closing song I heard at a Counting Crows concert in Richmond, Virginia and I remember thinking, “Why the hell did they end with a song they didn’t write?” and then “Wait, is that song about heroin?” The meaning of the line “a million poppies gonna make me sleep” had never registered in my mind before then. At least I picked up on the “junkie cosmonaut” and “like bein’ stoned” parts previously.

“The Needle and the Spoon” by Lynyrd Skynyrd – The boys from Alabama (actually they’re from Jacksonville, Florida) had a few songs that placed drugs like heroin in the crosshairs, but this one is the best and has more finesse than “That Smell”. Still, the man who infuriated them so much they wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” in retaliation managed to top them with a warning against picking up the needle.

“The Needle and the Damage Done” by Neil Young – Young actually wrote and performed this song three years earlier than Skynyrd put out the previous listing. He had already been part of a number of bands by 1971, and he had seen many of his fellows wage a losing war against heroin, specifically his friend Danny Whitten, who served as his guitarist for the band Crazy Horse. The night Young kicked Whitten out of his band in 1972, Whitten died from an overdose of Valium, which probably wasn’t helped by his years of using the potent opiate.

“Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd – Pink Floyd are the epitome of progressive rock, as well as the kings of music that makes you ask, “Should I be high right now? Is listening to this making me high?” Many of their songs delve into the inner workings of the human mind under the influence of psychotropics or psychosis, and this is the most forthright of the former. David Gilmour’s guitar solos (is it still a solo if there are two of them in the same song?) are incredible and considered some of the best in any rock song.

“Purple Haze” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience – My favorite song on this list is also one that supposedly has no basis in drugs. Jimi Hendrix claimed to have written this song based on his dreams, like one he had of walking under the ocean, but when a man soaks his headbands with LSD so that it drips into his eyes as he sweats onstage, you can bet his song lyrics are probably at least partially influenced by his drug habits. The final cut of the song, which is one of the greatest songs ever produced in any genre, has a narrative about a man so caught up with his affections for a woman it makes him dizzy. Just how he came to be so compelled by her and the nature of his tumbling mind is left up to the listener, and ultimately, as is often the case with Hendrix, who the fuck really knows or cares; this song is extraordinary.

“Cold Turkey” by Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon and wife Yoko Ono briefly dabbled in heroin and didn’t enjoy the comedown and withdrawal, so he wrote this song about that experience and how hellishly racking it was. Like “Purple Haze” it’s coda features the protagonist of the song expressing his pain and confusion in a less melodious way than the words he just sang. Gotta love that riff.

“Heroin” by The Velvet Underground – Lou Reed’s magnificent musing on heroin addiction is the best song definitively about drug use I’ve ever heard. Simple, even crude, yet artistically incredible, it neither condemns or condones heroin use, but rather gives what I imagine to be an accurate representation of the rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, terrifically represented here by changes in tempo. The simple chords, the bongo backbeat, the growing hum, the scratching guitar, and the rambling trail of thought that comprises the lyrics, these all meld together perfectly to create a visceral song that is horrifying and beautiful all at once.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed the last two rockin’ and rollin’ weeks and that you stay safe with whatever you do today, especially if you’re rockin’ or rollin’. My sympathies for those working the window at Taco Bell today. If you have anything to say about anything, say it to me here or at monotrememadness@gmail.com. Make it back here in less than 12 parsecs if you can by next week for more fun.

Only 242 days to go,

Alex

This Guy Is Crying… No More!

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.

“I Hate Myself For Loving You”

“Bad Reputation”

“Crimson and Clover” – A much louder cover of the Tommy James and the Shondells original.

“Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”

“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:

“Journey to the Center of the Mind”

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:

“Great White Buffalo”

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 monotrememadness@gmail.com. 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,

Alex

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”.