[15 January 2009]
Arkon Beacon Journal (MCT)
Year after year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame adds new names to its illustrious membership.
And year after year, folks who still care find a reason to complain about said new names.
The Class of 2009 should elicit the usual griping from pop-music fans whose favorites have yet to be honored. The 2009 inductees are Jeff Beck, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Metallica, Run-DMC and Cleveland native Bobby Womack.
Also, Wanda Jackson will be inducted as an early influence, and former Elvis Presley rhythm section drummer D.J. Fontana and bassist Bill Black and lauded songwriter/session keyboardist Spooner Oldham will be inducted as sidemen.
Artists are eligible for induction 25 years after their first released recording.
Overall, it seems a pretty solid list that should make for a pretty entertaining VH1 television show and ceremony April 4 at Public Hall in Cleveland - and don’t think that doesn’t matter to voters.
Beck has long been considered one of the most versatile guitarists in rock. From his beginnings in the British Invasion blues of the Yardbirds through his own rockin’ blues band the Jeff Beck Group fronted by Rod Stewart and his fusion-oriented solo albums of the 1970s, Beck never got as much commercial love as fellow former Yardbirds guitarists Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, but he is certainly a member of the rock guitar pantheon. His 2009 honor adds him to the list of multiple inductees that includes three of the Beatles, Clapton and Michael Jackson.
Also, Beck, whose famous line while inducting Rod Stewart in 1994 (“Rod and I have a love/hate relationship - he loves me, and I hate him.”) is used every year in the rock hall’s time-killing montage, is almost sure to deliver an entertaining speech.
Rock hall voters’ soft spot for the doo-wop groups of the 1950s and 1960s continues with the induction of Little Anthony and the Imperials. The group, featuring Jerome Anthony Gourdine’s lovely vocals, had such hits as “Tears on My Pillow”; “Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko-Ko-Bop”; and “Goin’ Out of My Head.”
It’s hard to argue against these inclusions as a lot of the old singing groups were essentially robbed by record companies and publishers during their heyday and, even today, many are being robbed of potential income by a slew of unauthorized imitators using their names.
Expect the yearly inclusion of at least one old doo-wop group to last for a while.
The rock hall folks don’t seem to really know what to do with heavy metal (look how long it took for Black Sabbath to be included), and it’s apparent that the genre is not a favorite of many voters. But Metallica’s first-time ballot inclusion is no real surprise. The band not only helped bring thrash metal to arenas and commercial radio, but it also was a major influence and managed to cross over, selling several truckloads of records.
Also, I still think somewhere a few voters are dreading having to consider the more commercial hair metal of the ‘80s and would like to at least get the metal wing started off right before having to vote on Motley Crue (first eligible in 2006) or Poison (2008).
Run-DMC is the logical follow-up to the hall’s embracing of hip-hop with the 2007 induction of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Flash and company took hip-hop out of the party with “The Message” and then Run-DMC took the music into arenas and used its Adidas to permanently kick open the door to pop radio, mixing rap and rock in a way that is considered standard these days.
Between hits such as “King of Rock,” “My Adidas” and the 1987 cover/duet of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way,” which helped revive Aerosmith’s commercial fortunes, Run-DMC cemented its place in pop-music history.
Bobby Womack is a half-century veteran of music and is widely respected among old soul fans and music-industry folks. His career has covered several genres, including doo-wop, R&B, gospel and rock. As a songwriter, sideman and producer, he has worked on classic albums by artists such as Aretha Franklin (“Lady Soul”), Sly & the Family Stone (“There’s a Riot Goin’ On”) and Janis Joplin (“Pearl,” which also includes “Trust Me,” co-written by Womack).
He also had some hits of his own with “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha’”; “Across 110th St.”; and “If You Think You’re Lonely Now.”
So with the 2009 inductees taken care of, how about a little love for the 2009 rejectees: Chic, War and the Stooges.
OK, it’s griping time.
As much as I enjoy the music of Chic and War, I can’t feign surprise that they didn’t make the cut. But even the most optimistic, positive-minded music fan has to be a little riled up by the continued exclusion of the Stooges. The band’s influence is undeniable as it is one of the roots of the hard rock, metal and punk trees that have sprouted since its 1969 debut album. Additionally, the rock hall had the audacity to invite the band to induct fellow Detroit native Madonna but still couldn’t collectively bring itself to induct the Stooges.
At this point, it’s pretty hard to not assume there is some kind of effort on the part of at least a few voters to deny the Stooges its rightful place in the hall.
Some fans will probably blame the recent inclusion of hip-hop legends as artists who were given the Stooges’ spot. But with the hall expanding its scope to more resemble a “Pop Music Hall of Fame,” both Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five and Run-DMC have earned their relative spots.
But the other Motor City madmen fronted by Iggy Pop has been eligible since 1994. Back in the mid-1990s, the backlog of beloved classic rockers and legendary soul men (and Bob Marley) was still being cleared with huge names such as John Lennon (1994), Led Zeppelin (1995) and Iggy Pop buddy and Stooges fan David Bowie (1996).
But as the eligibility years have risen into the late ‘70s and early ‘80s (the current year is 1984), the rock hall’s decision making has become more questionable. Among the folks who have made it in before the Stooges are Dusty Springfield (1999), the Lovin’ Spoonful (2000), Traffic (2004) and the Stooges-influenced Sex Pistols and Blondie (2006). While those artists might all be deserving of enshrinement, the Stooges are, too.
The band might have sold only about 100 copies of its early albums during its initial run, but like the already inducted Velvet Underground (1996), the Stooges have had an enduring influence on rock music, evidenced by the number of Facebook and MySpace bands that list the band under “influences.”
Maybe next year.