(This year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations are due out soon, so I’m stepping up the pace and finishing my series on who I think has been most shunned by the process so far–either by not being discussed, not being nominated or not being voted in on the final ballot. As before: If I can see China and China can see me, I’m for filling the hole. See the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame category at the right of this page to access the lists for the fifties and sixties.)
War: One of the few truly cosmic bands ever assembled on American soil and the only major artists in any medium who told their L.A. stories as though every person in them mattered.
And in case you think their word didn’t carry–that it was somehow limited in time or space–here’s a transcript of a fondly recalled conversation that took place in the lunch-room lobby of a Deep South high school, circa 1977 (WARNING–boys’ division high school language included):
Incidentally, this was the conclusion of an argument about white music versus black music….they were way past the Bee Gees by then and, for what it’s worth, the white kid was not me:
Black Kid: Oh man! Black people write their own music!
White Kid: You sayin’ the Beatles didn’t write their own music?
Black Kid: The Beatles?…The Beatles older than dog doo-doo!
White Kid: Alright then. Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Black Kid: I’m talking about the Commodores!
White Kid: Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Black Kid: I’m talking about Oh-i-o Players!
White Kid: I’m talking about Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Black Kid: I’m talking about Earth, Wind and Fire mother fucker!
White Kid: I’m talking about Lynyrd Skynyrd mother fucker!
Black Kid: (finally up against it, reaching for the last card in the deck)…WAR mother fucker!
White Kid: (pausing…finally nodding his head)…War…Now that’s some bad-ass mother fuckers!
Look, all I’m saying is that, in the Deep South, in 1977, you couldn’t hold your own with a white boy in a Lynyrd Skynyrd argument by playing the Led Zeppelin card.
For that, you needed War.
The word traveled. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Where Was You At?”)
Carole King: (inducted as a non-performer with Gerry Goffin)…Which, you know, ignores her making one of the three or four most important albums of the seventies and pretty much defining an entire genre (James Taylor helped, but frankly, she could have done it without him–I’m not at all sure he could have done it without her). I mean, with her, even the usual, nonsensical, “yeah but she didn’t write it” doesn’t apply. Yet she’s rarely, if ever, so much as discussed. What gives? Is there some kind of rule against inducting someone as both a performer and non-performer?…and is that what’s keeping Smokey Robinson from a double-induction as well?(Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Way Over Yonder”)
Big Star: The old saw had it that the Velvet Underground’s first album only sold 3,000 copies but everybody who bought it started a band. The band Chris Bell and Alex Chilton started was the only one of those that leapt out of the trace and no one–not R.E.M. or the Replacements or the Bangles or X or the Minutemen or Nirvana–has quite got past them. In the city where blues, rockabilly and soul music found their surest footing before marching out to conquer the world, Big Star made something completely new under the sun and that something (on three albums and a handful of asides) is the umbrella that nearly all forward-looking white rock has played under ever since. Seems like that should be enough. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Life Is White”)
Spinners: The greatest vocal group of the last decade when that meant something. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “We’ll Have It Made”)
Barry White: Who else (excepting James Brown in his Godfather-ing role) was a monster in both funk and disco. And isn’t he responsible for about half of the planet’s population growth? Or is that the real problem? Does the Hall really think the one thing worse than dance music is make-out music for adults? Man, this anti-disco thing is beyond ridiculous. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “The Trouble With Me”)
Linda Ronstadt: Never even nominated so far as I can tell and don’t get me started….
Okay, I’ll start this far….Reportedly black-balled year after year by (among possible other Nom-Com members) Jann Wenner and/or Elvis Costello, both of whom made a mint off of her back in the day (in Costello’s case a mint that, by his own admission, allowed him to tell his record company to take a jump so he could make the two albums that would one day insure his own induction into the Hall–unless, of course, you think he made it on the strength of “Veronica” and “I Write the Book.”)
I hope none of this is really true. That it’s really just something else. Because, gee, if it were true, it would mean they thought they could make her out to be a whore without becoming pimps when really it would be the other way around wouldn’t it?
…Like I said. Don’t get me started. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Roll ’Um Easy”)
Donna Summer: The Queen of Disco, among many, many other things. Supposedly, “disco” acts just can’t get in because they aren’t “rock and roll” enough. Leaving aside just how “rock-and-roll” say, Pink Floyd, is for a moment, what this has thus far meant in practice is that black disco acts can’t get in (unless, of course, you think the Bee Gees made it on the strength of “Holiday” and “I Started a Joke.”)
I once read an article (published in a major city newspaper) by a Hall voter who described Summer–she of the several dozen hits across a handful of genres–as a one-hit wonder. (See my article on Summer in the R.I.P. section for the actual link).
It was the totality of his explanation for not voting for her on a past ballot.
I find this sort of reality denial….bizarre. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’?”)
The (early) 80s:
The Go-Go’s: First all-female this, first all-female that, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.
All true, of course. But what I really know (because I’ve stuck them in some truly testing places on mix tapes over these last thirty years and also taken secret trips in time machines) is this:
They–and no one else–were able to do what they did because they were a staggeringly great pedal-to-the-metal rock and roll band and if you plan to knock them off the stage at the Battle of the Bands that will be taking place during the Cosmic Sock Hop at the End of the World, you better bring Keith Moon and some really big amplifiers and hope the sophomores would rather fight than bop. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Beneath the Blue Sky”)
Cyndi Lauper: The last really inventive rock vocalist who commanded a mass audience. The arc of her career is sort of like Carole King’s: One great era-defining album followed by a solid, successful career which glimmered with shining moments even if it never quite matched that original impact. Guns N’ Roses was deservedly elected in their first year of eligiblity with an eerily similar resume. but Cyndi’s the natural heir of Brenda Lee and Brenda only had to wait sixteen years to get in.
So maybe I shouldn’t start holding my breath just yet. (Tried It Can’t Deny It: “Iko, Iko/What’s Going On”)
NOTE: Summer, Dionne Warwick (who I included on the sixties list), Ronstadt, King and Lauper were all more-than-worthy artists by any standards (let alone the Hall’s existing ones) and genuine superstars of their respective eras. Every single white male artist of even remotely similar stature from the same period is in the Hall (Neil Diamond–the last white man for whom such a case could have been made, albeit with great difficulty, was elected last year).
Believe it or not, there are folks who insist the Hall bends over backwards to include as many women as possible.
Like I said. Bizarre.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: This concludes my take on the Hall’s membership for this year. I’m planning a post on the Big Hall/Small Hall debate fairly soon…after I get my floors done!
Also please note that, while I believe in my picks, I’m in it for fun. No disrespect for anyone else’s ideas, be it the Carpenters or Motorhead …They each have their advocates after all–not to mention their merits–and that’s my idea of rock and roll.