YOU CAN MAYBE UNDERSTAND WHY WOMEN GO A LITTLE CRAZY SOMETIMES…

Semi-random connection:

I was looking for Kathy Valentine’s web-page to see how the Go-Go’s Sept. 29 Hollywood Bowl show went off without me. Went to Wikipedia and didn’t find it but did come across this (italics mine):

Kathryn “Kathy” Valentine (born January 7, 1959, Austin, Texas) is the American bass guitarist for the all-girl rock band, The Go-Go’s.

And right next to it: Born: January 7, 1959 (Age 53)

Which put me in mind of this snippet from the Norton Records interview with the leader of the Shangri-Las (2007):

Mary Weiss: At least you didn’t say Girl Groups.

Interviewer: …No, I know better than to mention Girl Groups.

Mary Weiss: Oh, kill me now.

Bear in mind that Weiss was actually fifteen when she made her first records…So, much as she has/had a right to hate it, the term might at least be excused on grounds of expedience.

On the other hand, when the Go-Go’s recorded Beauty and the Beat, they were roughly the same average age as the Beatles when they landed in America.

I’m betting if I go over to Paul McCartney’s Wikipedia page it won’t have him listed as “the British bass guitarist for the all-boy rock band, The Beatles.”

Just a wild guess mind you….

QUICK THOUGHTS ON THE 2012 ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME NOMINATIONS…

(NOTE: The Future Rock Legends site has posted this year’s nominees. Please check it out and consider participating in the fan vote.)

You can go here, here and here to see who I think should have been nominated. The only overlap this year between my list and the actual nominating committee’s is Donna Summer so, obviously, she’s a no-brainer. In past years, death worked for the equally deserving Dusty Springfield and the hardly deserving (as a solo performer) George Harrison, so here’s hoping this will be her time.

I also voted for N.W.A. (along with Public Enemy, eligible for the first time), the Marvelettes, Heart and Deep Purple.

For the record, I don’t agree with the folks at FRL that this is an exceptionally strong ballot, especially not given the long list of the more deserving who have once more been left off.

However, I never have a problem finding five worthy candidates.

Heart was close to making my own list and N.W.A. were outside my consideration because they are just becoming eligible, so those were easy picks.

The Marvelettes are not, to my mind, as important as the Chantels or the Shangri-Las to either rock history or my personal pantheon. But they did have Motown’s first #1 hit, made lots of great records and are fully worthy of induction (as is Mary Wells). They are also the only pre-Beatles act on this year’s ballot and that ever more tenuous connection needs to be kept alive until the dozen or so still-deserving acts from that era get their due.

Deep Purple seemed the most worthy of the remaining acts since they did have a certain amount of weight in the early days of what’s now called (rather arrogantly and narrowly) “classic rock.”

As for the rest:

Newly eligible Public Enemy are a virtual shoo-in and Rush will probably get the most public support. I don’t have any problem with these two acts being in, though, to be fair, I probably don’t know enough about either act to truly judge their music.

Reactionaries who dream of a world where we all run back to the tribes tend to have a distancing effect on me.

On the other hand, Albert King and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band seem extremely marginal. If pure blues acts are going to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as performers, I think they should at least be giants in their own field. Not sure that really applies to either of these, though both, of course, made lots of fine music and had a monumental side or two. I’m just not sure history is any different without them.

Chic keeps getting nominated and they deserve to be in, but I would put them a long way behind Barry White and a shade behind K.C. and the Sunshine Band in the disco sweepstakes.

The Meters are fine. I probably should listen to more of their music, too, but I doubt I would rank them anywhere near War.

Kraftwerk represents an area of rock-as-machinery/machinery-as-rock that’s never been my cup of tea, but I find it hard to believe they should be put ahead of Roxy Music (and I’m not even sure I would vote for Roxy Music if they were on this relatively weak ballot).

Randy Newman is fine. His best music is the equal of anyone’s best music (though most of it was made a very long time ago and, for someone who is supposedly uncompromising and iconoclastic there sure has been a lot of inexplicable mediocrity over the ensuing decades). But he’s not as deserving as Jackie DeShannon or Carole King and he represents a disturbing trend of voters seemingly banding together and continually electing marginal singer-songwriters (Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Laura Nyro) in hopes whichever one they really want in will be on next year’s ballot.

Procol Harum? Again, I probably need to listen more, but I’ve listened enough to feel pretty confident they aren’t hiding any Sandy Denny or Richard Thompson level geniuses in there. Save them for later. Put the Fairport Convention in first.

That leaves Joan Jett and her band, the Blackhearts. Very tricky case. I like her a lot, but maybe more as an icon and personality than for her actual records. Still, the moment when “I Love Rock and Roll” and “We Got the Beat” sat at #1 and #2 on the singles charts was a great, great breakthrough in the way half of the human race could imagine seeing themselves. And the fact that so many assumed Jett and the Go-Gos were cultural inevitabilities rather than visionaries who–taking very different paths–decoded and blew apart some of the world’s oldest hack prejudices and preconceptions at the exact same moment, has been long since belied by the “inevitable” culture’s inability to produce more than a tiny handful of worthy heirs for either.

So while I would put the Go-Gos in first, Jett’s worthy and I would make her my first alternate, just ahead of Chic.

All in all, this is by no means a terrible list to choose from (there’s never been a terrible RRHOF list to choose from, no matter what you might have heard). But the Hall’s most persistent patterns–inexplicably prejudicing writers and players over the singers who actually gave rock and roll its unique identity, resistance to women who do not long to be part of some boys’ club or other and the preference for cultish white acts (or white liberal approved acts like Public Enemy) over far more significant black ones–all generally continue.

Setting Donna Summer aside, War, Spinners, Jerry Butler, Dionne Warwick, Cyndi Lauper, Carole King and Linda Ronstadt were each big stars in their respective eras and at least matched the artistry of anyone else on this list. Those patterns are shifting ever so slightly, but until they are addressed more thoroughly, the hole in the side of the Hall’s leaking boat will only grow larger.

And given what a great and necessary institution the RRHOF is–and how vital it is becoming to the preservation of rock’s central, somewhat contradictory, idea of bringing the tribes closer together without obliterating their identity altogether, that’s a real shame.

 

SO MUCH LEFT TO DO…(The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, seventies and early eighties edition)

(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.)

Barry White “The Trouble With Me” (Live)

Spinners “We’ll Have It Made” (Studio)

The 70s:

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.

 

ONCE UPON A TIME A VERY SMART MAN GAVE A LITTLE ADVICE TO A VERY SMART WOMAN…(Great Quotations)

…and the key turned in the lock.

“He had the idea to do the staggered guitar part and he was the one who told me how he thought I should play bass. He said, ‘Watch Gina’s foot. Every time she hits that kick drum, play a note.’”

Kathy Valentine on the advice she got from producer Richard Gottehrer during the recording of Beauty and the Beat. (Liner notes: Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat, 30th Anniversary Edition, 2011.)

Beauty and the Beat reached #1 on the Billboard “Hot 200” Album Chart on March 6, 1982.

The highest position previously attained by an all-female band in the history of the album chart (begun in 1945) was the Runaways’ Queens of Noise, which reached #172 in 1977.

No self-contained female band has had a #1 album since.

Thus proving the maxim that when there is only one of something, there’s usually a reason….

The Go-Go’s “Can’t Stop The World” (studio)

TIME COMES FOR US ALL…(Dick Clark R.I.P.)

I don’t have any really deep personal memories of Dick Clark. He was one of those people like Walter Cronkite or Johnny Carson who was always there and seemed, at some point, a bit more institution than man. There are plenty of dyed-in-the-wool rock and rollers who held him in something less than esteem, insisting that he merely played Pat Boone to Alan Freed’s Jerry Lee Lewis.

The truth was way more complicated than that and I highly recommend John A. Jackson’s definitive bio-histories of both Clark (American Bandstand) and Freed (Big Beat Heat) for an enlightening and nuanced view of the men, their times and the birth of rock and roll media generally.

I also don’t agree with those who think early rock and roll needed Clark more than he needed it. I’ve met too many people who bonded with their moms listening to Elvis and Chuck Berry on the radio after school I guess, to assume Bandstand saved the day.

All that being said “it’s got a beat and you can dance to it” is a greater legacy than any post WWII American president can lay claim to.

And the world was certainly better for his having helped make–and maintain–room for certain things:

The Go-Gos on American Bandstand-1982