THOUGHTS ON THE 2015 ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES

Posting has been light the last couple of weeks as I’ve been crunching towards some self-imposed deadlines on a number of personal fronts…should be back to speed within the next few days. Meanwhile, I wanted to at least give a quick comment on this years class of RRHOF inductees.

For my thoughts on all the nominees and who I preferred you can go here.

For lists of un-inducted artists who I feel are most worthy (i.e., most “overlooked” you can go HERE, HERE and HERE. (The “5” Royales–who were merely back-doored, decades after they should have been voted in, can now join Donna Summer (who had to die) and Linda Ronstadt (who had to get Parkinson’s) in being crossed off the list.)

Inducted as “Performers”:

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Worthy as keepers of the flame. I didn’t vote for them on my five-nominee (unofficial) ballot, but they were a close call and, if I weren’t so concerned about the Hall getting whiter by the minute (even the blues acts are white now), I might well have voted for them anyway.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: Fine band, but I haven’t understood the nominating committee’s love for them in the performing category (this was their fourth nomination). They would have been a perfect candidate for my proposed Contemporary Influence category (though, even there, one could ask why not John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, who came first in the white-boy blues parade and were an even bigger cultish deal? Granted, I’m not anxious to see Eric Clapton inducted a fourth time, but still!) On the plus side, Mike Bloomfield needed to be honored some way (just wish he hadn’t needed to take up a “performer” space). And, it’s truly great that Elvin Bishop–one of rock and roll’s great characters–is going in. The Elvin Bishop Band were headliners at the only true “rock concert” I ever attended (a local act called The Fat Chance Band and pre-fame .38 Special were the ndercard). I got in free (I’ve never been keen on spending money for transitory events when there are so many recorded events to buy…including a lot of awesome recordings of live events!) and nearly got thrown out for not having a ticket.  Other than that, I remember the smell of ganja, a couple of extremely beautiful girls who were dressed for the smokin’ seventies and looked bored out of their skulls (whether by their thuggish looking dates or the music I was, alas, never able to determine), a disco ball that lit up for the band’s big hit (“Fooled Around and Fell In Love”) and copious amounts of vomit, chicken bones and beer bottles strewn around the floor in the dressing room the next morning, (which the African-American cleaning crew at the Orlando-Seminole Jai Alai fronton was tasked with cleaning up–leaving me to wonder, then and now, if it is not out of such things that riots are made). For giving me all the “seventies” experience I really needed, Elvin Bishop, you are, eternally, the man!

Green Day: Can’t really say much. I kind of like Dookie, which is the only music of their’s I own. I don’t think they’ve been terribly harmful and, given when they came along, that’s saying something at least.

Bill Withers: The only inductee I voted for so, of course, I’m very happy to see him go in. I’ve only really gotten to know his music past the hits in the last year or so (an experience that began with what I posted here) and he’s both great and unique. If there’s a caveat, it’s that, in the great scheme of things, he’s not quite as worthy as War or Spinners, seventies’ contemporaries who remain among the Hall’s three or four most egregious oversights.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: Not long after I wrote my piece on this year’s nominees, linked above, in which I noted that I’ve always liked the idea of her better than her actual music, I caught her lengthy interview/performance on Guitar Center. Look, what she had to put up with, she’s very, very worthy. I take it all back! Suzi Quatro and the Go-Go’s can wait! But, beyond that, she does something that’s almost unheard of post punk. When she plays rock and roll, she acts, looks and sounds like she’s having the time of her life. Good on her!

Lou Reed: No particular objection, except that he’s already in for his even more deserving work with the Velvet Underground. Excepting really monumental exceptions (like Michael Jackson and, maybe, Eric Clapton) why, oh why, does the Hall keep nominating people who are already in? Oh well. At least Sting didn’t make it.

Inducted for “Musical Excellence”:

Ringo Starr: I, too, love “It Don’t Come Easy.” Also his drumming for a band that, believe it or not, has already been inducted. But…Wh-a-a-a-?

Inducted as “Early Influence”:

The “5” Royales: If you’ve been following along here, you know how I feel about this one. They were a direct, key influence on James Brown, Eric Clapton, Steve Cropper and many, many others. More to the point, they were artists who could easily stand tall in that, or any, company. They should have been inducted years ago, and as performers. I’m glad to see them inducted some way at least. And they did have important records before 1955 so this isn’t the complete stretch that Wanda Jackson was (God bless Wanda and I’m glad she’s in, but naming her an “early influence” which is supposed to be saved for pre-rock giants, was ludicrous). But having the nominating committee put them in, after the voters rejected them several times, is a sad commentary on the process.

Anyway, here’s to the most cosmic records/performances by this year’s inductees:

The obvious:

And the not so obvious:

 

WHAT IMPRESSED ME THIS WEEK (Tommy James Goes Deep as the Ocean)

In prepping for a Vocal History of the Naked Truth (about which more later), and reading Mr. James’ autobiography (about which also more later), I’ve had the second disc of Rhino’s 2-disc Pop Collection in heavy rotation.

I always thought Tommy James was great, but, as usually happens when I dive deeper on practically anybody from this period….I find out I sold him short. This was #23 Pop in 1970 and previously unknown to me, which makes it the sort of half-hidden gem I’m especially drawn to.

Things are hectic just now. With or without period video, it’s good to be reminded that rock and roll is bottomless. Peace.

WHAT IMPRESSED ME THIS WEEK (The Memphis Boys’ American Vision)

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This actually came in the mail in time to accompany me to Memphis last week and it made such a strong impression that even a new level of appreciation for Otis Redding (via Rhino’s old box set, which I’ve had for a while…and, yes, I’ve always liked Otis Redding, but I’m starting to connect with him more and more) didn’t lessen the impact of Ace’s superb selection and sequencing.

Although, Chips Moman’s studio’s output cries out for a box set, this sampler does give a real taste of his vision, which was something like: Come one, come all.

Which might mean he had the most appropriately named studio of all.

Where else would you find garage band classics next to deep soul singers (including the blue-eyed version), next to country rock next to straight Top 40 pop next to late period girl group hits next to, you know, the greatest sessions of Elvis Presley’s career?

In all of that, nothing struck me–either in the twilight gloaming of South Alabama or (upon my return), the late night comfort of my den, quite like the genius segue of this…

into this..

I know, I know. Music and Things are just as good now…

Except, you know, really they’re not.

CLOSING THE BOOK…

…on my nephew’s Hall of Fame induction…

If I tried to add a lot of verbiage, I’d probably just start getting stuff wrong, so I’ll let however many pictures be worth however many words:

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We repaired to the Memphis Hilton…

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For a banquet and a really well done ceremony…

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and official photos…(this is the class of 2014)…Chris is third from the right, standing. The guy at the far left, standing, held the world record in the hundred yard dash between Jesse Owens and Bob Hayes (fast company, no pun intended)….

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..and a gathering of the old crew…

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..and the moment of truth…

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Truth be told, I was gonna save this for myself and whenever my first novel gets published. But every once in a while you gotta make a little sacrifice.

So here’s to long journeys:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOT JUST A COUPLE OF YOBS (Bobby Keys, Ian McLagan, R.I.P.)

Bobby Keys started out backing Buddy Holly and became one of the revolution’s handful of “go-to” sax players in the sixties and beyond.

The act who went to him most memorably was the Rolling Stones (who have posted several heartfelt tributes to him on-line today). He drove their toughest, most uncompromising record, “Brown Sugar,” which made the impulses to rape and slavery inextricable from each other (and far more primitive than the “profit” motive now routinely assigned to the latter by intellectuals who really ought to know better), went #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K., and was the most notable omission (among several) when they finally played the Super Bowl and proved, once and for all, that heartfelt tributes to the dead were all they would ever be good for again.

Just in case you think there was ever a time when they (“they” always meaning Mick, the only one whose decisions count) weren’t willing to play the man’s game the man’s way, here’s a scorching version from the BBC in ’71, with Keys and any reference to what a “black girl” should do (as opposed to a young girl), notably missing.

…And here’s the real, full-blown, scary thing:

McLagan was an ace keyboardist for two great bands, the mod-ish Small Faces and the bloozier Faces. He was the source of one of my favorite anecdotes. After the Faces broke up, he was asked to join the Grateful Dead. He took several of their albums home and listened to them for several hours. He told NPR’s Terry Gross some years back that if he were forced to listen any longer he would have slit his own throat.

My kind of guy, basically.

His own greatest musical moment? Well, identifying that is a tall task. But I’m willing to bet he never had a better one than the intro here, which kicks off a fabulous duel of a duet between Steve Marriot and P.P. Arnold.

Keys passed yesterday at age 70. McLagan today at 69.

Consider this joint they left behind fully rocked.

MORE UNDERGROUND NOTES FROM THE STORY THAT NEVER ENDS (Various Shangri-Las Misidentified….Shock Reverberates!)

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This photograph is reproduced in Tony Fletcher’s All Hopped Up and Ready to Go, published in 2009.

The caption in the book reads:

The Shangri-Las, comprised of identical twins Margie and Mary-Ann Ganser, and sisters Liz (not shown) and Mary Weiss.

Fletcher conducted the remarkable interview with the Chantels’ Arlene Smith which I linked here. He seems like a conscientious journalist and historian and a nice man. I’d like him if that interview was the only thing he ever did and it’s on the basis of the impression it made that I just acquired his book (a history of New York’s street music scenes from 1927 to 1977), which I’m very much looking forward to reading.

But….

You know how this goes.

Anyone who encounters this picture and caption in the state of pre-existing confusion I’ve written about periodically on my Shangri-Las’ page (accessible under SHANGRI-LAS FOREVER at the right), will have to assume that the (apparently-not-very-but-at-least-possible) “identical” Ganser twins mentioned here are the two girls on the right, and the girl on the left must, by process of elimination, be Mary Weiss.

Of course, the girl on the left is actually Marge or Mary Ann Ganser (I’m not sure which), the girl in the middle is Liz Weiss (usually called Betty in the period when the picture was taken and definitely not “not shown”) and Mary Weiss, one of rock’s greatest voices, is on the right.

Mistaken captions are not the world’s most uncommon screw-up, of course, and very likely this one was not even Fletcher’s responsibility. It certainly isn’t going to color my anticipation of his book.

And it’s actually not the worst sin on the page where it appears, which has a photo of the Chantels with a caption that identifies Arlene Smith–quite possibly correctly but I can’t swear to it and why should I assume?–but does not name the other three girls, once more cloaking them–as they have been for half a century and counting–in needless anonymity.

I mean, how hard could it have been?

Apparently harder than misidentifying Liz Weiss as an “identical” Ganser twin.

Like I said….I’m not holding all this against anybody. Big project. Mistakes happen.

Funny, though, how these misidentifications of girl group singers generally–and the Shangri-Las in particular–keep cropping up, decade after decade.

It’s almost like we really, really don’t want to know.

 

CAREER ARC…(MEMPHIS BOY MAKES GOOD, PART II)

Ah, yes, the good old reliable Career Arc….Everybody’s got one!

(For anybody who missed it, last week’s Part I is here.)

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(Chris Ellsworth…in training, circa mid-sixties)

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(And at the peak, 1994, third from the right, standing, accompanied by an especially motley crew!)

Which leads me to the real purpose of this post.

No way I’m letting my family’s #1 fan go into the Memphis Amateur Sports Hall of Fame without dedicating at least one Elvis song….

…So there!

IT JUST TAKES ONE…(Mike Nichols, Jimmy Ruffin, R.I.P.)

They both did plenty of fine work (in Nichols’ case, much of it with his partner Elaine May).

They each had a moment of singular genius in them.

And, as Orson Welles said–it just takes one.

So, then,  now–and a thousand years from now, if the world’s still worth living in–here’s to singular moments: