WHAT THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME REALLY SHOULD BE DOING ALONG ABOUT NOW, PART 2 (The Sixties)

Continuing my personal list of the acts I think have been MOST overlooked by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to date.

(The basic philoophy, as before: If I can see China and China can see me, I advocate plugging the hole.)

Fairport Convention (“Nottamum Town”–studio)

Jerry Butler (“Got To See If I Can’t Get Mommy (To Come Back Home”)–studio)

The 1960s:

Dionne Warwick: Eligible for decades–and should have been in decades ago. It’s possible she’s being punished for all those psychic commercials she used to make which creeped everybody out and also suggested any future honors awarded in her name might run a very real risk of being delivered to the mantle of a pod-person. Be that as it may, it’s time to end this notion of excluding her, which is way more surreal than those commercials ever were.  (Tried It, Can’t Deny It: “Who Can I Turn To”)

Jackie DeShannon: Peter, Paul and Mary invited her to a Bob Dylan concert in 1963 and she subsequently went back home and planted the musical and social seeds of what would become “folk-rock” all over L.A. (She’d eventually even talk up a new band called the Byrds to anyone who would listen–which was quite a lot of important people–and the band would ultimately pay her back with a shine-forever version of her “Don’t Doubt Yourself Babe” on their cataclysmic first album).

Then–with her producers striving mightily for girl-group hits in the manner of Phil Spector, she brought the concept to full flower on “Needles and Pins” and “When You Walk In The Room.” All this before the Beatles arrived in America. Which is to say, she delivered America’s basic answer to the British Invasion before the question was out of John Lennon’s mouth.

A few years down the line she more-or-less invented the Zeitgeist that became known as “singer-songwriter” (which very specifically does not merely mean singers who write songs or songwriters who sing–confounding such obviousness is what a Zeitgeist, not to mention a marketing department, is for). Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Laura Nyro and the solo George Harrison are all in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I don’t question their worthiness–I’m a “big hall” advocate all the way–but DeShannon’s career likely weighed more than all of them put together and, deep down, I suspect even the apostates know at least half the existing Hall couldn’t hold her coat. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “I Can Make It With You”)

The Shangri-Las: I said in the last go-round that the Chantels were the alpha of an ethos that has had no omega and that’s true enough

But the ethos did have an apotheosis and it was here. I could make a strong case that Shangri-Las ‘65 has gone more places in the real world than Rubber Soul or Highway 61 Revisited. I mean who else joins, say, the Ramones and Madonna at the hip?

And I could also make a case that anyone who made up an entirely new way to be–a way that was accessible to anyone who had the guts to grasp it–out of their own teenage heads and Greenwich Village thrift shops defined something even bigger and grander than “girl groups”–and maybe even something bigger and grander than “rock and roll.”

But all of that–plus every other powerful, rational argument anyone could ever make (and there are plenty)–will forever pale into insignificance when their records are playing. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Never Again”)

Paul Revere and the Raiders: Sorry, but–as the one truly successful “garage” band (and also one of the very first and best)–aren’t they at least as significant as the Dave Clark Five or the Hollies? Nobody was rooting harder for those bands to be recognized than me, but at what point do we stop giving points just for being British?…Or taking away points just for being American? (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Steppin’ Out”)

Love: Arthur Lee set much of the style for the Sunset Strip–the most important American scene in sixties’ rock. Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, among others, would have been living in a very different universe–musically and sartorially–without him. And I’m big on including any act that made an era-defining album, which Forever Changes is. Especially if it’s also a genuinely great album. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Andmoreagain”)

Jerry Butler: What is now comfortably referred to as “soul” music was principally created and nurtured in four major “scenes” between the early sixties and mid-seventies.

The biggest, of course, was Motown.

Of the others, two–Curtis Mayfield’s Chicago and Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia–were literally built on the foundation stone of Butler’s voice. All he contributed to the remaining third (Memphis/Muscle Shoals) was a writer’s credit on Otis Redding’s personal signature song (“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”) and the basic lyric idea for soul’s signature song (“Respect”). As a vocalist, he’s probably alone in being a genuinely major stylist and/or influence in every black radio style from fifties’ doo-wop to sixties’ soul to seventies’ quiet storm to eighties’ urban.

Naturally, his current Rock and Roll Hall of Fame membership acknowledges the single 45 he made with the Impressions in the fifties and nothing else.

That 45 was “Your Precious Love” and it would justify ten memberships, but it’s still a raindrop in the mighty ocean of Butler’s career. Maybe, just maybe, it would be possible to rectify the situation before we put Ringo Starr and Mick Jagger in as solo acts?

Just saying. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Got To See If I Can’t Get Mommy (To Come Back Home)”)

The Fairport Convention: In a funny way a nice companion group to the Shangri-Las, with whom they shared the distinction of being the only other truly scarifying group of rock’s most truly scarifying decade. Often described as the progenitors (or exemplars…or something) of “English folk-rock.”

One listen to Sandy Denny on “Nottamun Town” certainly blows that and all other comforting notions to hell and gone. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Sloth”)

(NOTE: As before, there are other acts–including non-performers–deserving of consideration. I’m only prioritizing here….Next month, the seventies–where the real fun begins!)

(UPDATE: Just to be clear…This has nothing to do with who I think will be nominated. Just my idea of who is most deserving from each particular time period.)

2 thoughts on “WHAT THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME REALLY SHOULD BE DOING ALONG ABOUT NOW, PART 2 (The Sixties)

  1. Interesting post. I’d say a lot of what you argue is explained by your preference for a “big Hall”. And there’s the most basic question, which works for baseball and, I think, for music as well: peak value or career value?

    But, specific to this post, I think you’re up against a problem shared with the baseball Hall. “If X is in the Hall, and Y is as good as X, then Y should be in the Hall.” Except maybe X shouldn’t be there in the first place. For instance: Paul Revere and the Raiders may be as significant as the Dave Clark Five, and I’m always happy to hear both of those groups. But (and here my own preference for a small Hall pops up), the Dave Clark Five has no business being in the R&R Hall of Fame, and one reason is that now people can use the “if X, then Y” argument and fill the Hall with artists only as good as the Dave Clark Five.

    I think a case can be made for the Raiders … I wouldn’t make it myself, but your comments on their place in garage band history are on target. But the Dave Clark Five, god love ’em, shouldn’t make the case for anyone.

    But then, I prefer Love’s first two albums to Forever Changes :-). Good as Paul Revere and the Raiders were, they never came close to “7 and 7 Is”.

    • Yeah, I think the Big Hall/Small Hall debate is always interesting–probably worth a post of its own. (To me, for instance, even a Small Hall should include Warwick and solo Butler. Since they aren’t in the existing Big Hall–and haven’t even been nominated as far as I know, obviously a lot of people disagree!)…I do agree that the “X is in so now Y should be in” is not a reason that should stand on its own, but I don’t mind buttressing a more central argument with it (if that makes sense.) One thing that has begun to bother me in the last few years is the increasing likelihood that some voters are putting X in just so they can support someone else they DO care about….Something like “Okay, I don’t care much for Leonard Cohen, but he’s on the ballot and if I vote for him and he gets in, then there’s a stronger argument for Laura Nyro or Warren Zevon whichever marginal singer-songwriter I really love!”…I mean I hope that’s not happening, but it would explain a lot!

      On Love–I wouldn’t want to have to make some sort of Desert Island pick between their early albums (especially the first) and Forever Changes–close call for me. But I do think Changes is a real touchstone of its era and that counts for a lot in my book.

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