Monday, January 08, 2007

Hey hey, my my — the Rock and Roll Hall will never die

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just announced a new gaggle of inductees. Here's how we assess the about-to-be-enshrined:
  • Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The first hip-hop act to be inducted — mostly because the RockHall only considers performers eligible 25 years after their first recorded work — and there probably isn't a better place to begin acknowledging the genre. If DJ Grandmaster Flash (real name: Joseph Saddler) and his crew of MCs (Melle Mel, Kid Creole, Cowboy, Mr. Ness, and Raheim) didn't invent hip-hop, they certainly gave it the flavor that made it the juggernaut it became. I was a college radio DJ when "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel," the group's first landmark single, was released, and we all knew then that this was the start of something mammoth. Turns out we were right. (Interestingly enough, Flash himself doesn't actually perform on the group's best-known track, "The Message.")

  • R.E.M. Okay, I'll confess: It took me a long time to grasp R.E.M.'s appeal. The first few records of theirs I heard were just a bit too weird for my (plainly unsophisticated) tastes. It wasn't until the band started cutting more accessible — and, yes, more commercial — fare along the lines of "Stand," "Losing My Religion," and my favorite R.E.M. tune, "Texarkana," that I began to appreciate their musicianship and phenomenal creativity.

  • The Ronettes. Three words: "Be My Baby." No less an authority than Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys once dubbed it "the most perfect pop record of all time." The Ronettes became Phil Spector's launching pad for his innovative, industry-changing Wall of Sound recording technique, which influenced artists from John Lennon to Bruce Springsteen. It'll be interesting to see what mention Spector gets at the induction ceremony. (In case you've forgotten, Spector is scheduled to begin trial next week for the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson.)

  • Patti Smith. Not a fan myself, but I can't argue with the selection. Frankly, I'm one of the people who often confuses her with Patty Smyth, the lead singer for the '80s band Scandal, and current wife of former tennis superstar John McEnroe. I always liked Patty-with-a-Y better than Patti-with-an-I, anyhow. She was way cuter, and could actually sing. Plus, she turned down the chance to replace David Lee Roth as lead singer of Van Halen. How cool is that? Oh yeah... this is supposed to be about Patti Smith. Umm... "Because the Night" was a good song.

  • Van Halen. Speaking of Eddie, Alex, and company, the chartbusting arena rockers round out this year's RockHall field. When I was in college in L.A. in the early '80s, regulars of the local club scene spoke about Van Halen in the reverential tones most of us reserve for Deity. I suppose now that's appropriate — when it comes to crank-it-up, decibel-busting American hard rock, VH is about as close as it gets. I'm in the minority who liked the band equally well whether Diamond Dave or Red Rocker Sammy stood out front. (It's interesting that the RockHall's official press release mentions both Dave and Sammy but excludes third lead vocalist Gary Cherone, who replaced Hagar in the late '90s. Man, it sucks being Gary Cherone.)

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1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Janet offered these pearls of wisdom...

I always felt bad for Gary Cherone. He not only had to replace a singer, he had to replace a guy who replaced a guy, both of which had excellent reputations. Poor Cherone:(

3:42 PM  

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