There is still hope for the Rock Hall

By Phill Marder

There is hope.

The 2011 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees have been announced and, as usual, the group responsible for choosing those whose accomplishments are most deserving have opted for the cult favorites at the expense of those proven popular with the masses, otherwise known as the music-buying public that does little but support the music industry financially.

With two notable exceptions. Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond are in.

There is hope.

And “Shindig” graduates out-numbered Atlantic Records alumni.

There is hope.

In with Alice Cooper and Diamond are Dr. John, Darlene Love, Tom Waits as performers, Jac Holzman and Art Rupe as non-performers and Leon Russell as sideman. Left out were Bon Jovi, Donna Summer, Donovan, The J. Geils Band, Joe Tex, Chuck Willis, Laura Nyro, Chic, the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J.

My five picks were Diamond, Bon Jovi, Summer, Donovan and Alice Cooper. I batted .400, which would be great in major league baseball, but not so good when it comes to predicting future Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees.

But…there is hope. Some years I’ve whiffed completely.

Alice Cooper deserves induction, the band blazing new trails in shock rock with its outlandish stage show. Kiss, Rob Zombie and a host of other ghoulish rockers should thank Alice. But then, they should all thank John Zacherle and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, not that they belong in the Rock Hall of Fame mind you.

Neil Diamond deserves induction more than anyone on the list. The songs he has written will preserve his legacy long after he’s gone, and few have matched him in quantity or quality of material. His work has been covered by countless artists – see previous blog entry “Diamond and 3 other gems survive Rock Hall’s first cut” – his records have sold in the gazillions and his concerts still sell out.

With Dr. John, Tom Waits and Leon Russell, we have three of the worst voices ever recorded. If these three sing together at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the mute button should get a record number of visits from viewers, assuming the Hall can find somebody to televise this year’s event. However, Waits is a personal favorite whose croak adds rather than detracts from the charm of his recordings. Dr. John, however, hits me like nails on a chalkboard. To me, his material just doesn’t overcome the Randy Newman-like vocals. Russell’s songwriting holds its own, but his work as a sideman – and I’m talking long before his Joe Cocker days – is quite impressive. If you want a real treat, get the recently released “Shindig” DVD series and check out the short-haired, clean-shaven Russell at the piano leading the “Shindig” orchestra through its rapid-fire backing of acts ranging from Bobby Sherman to the Righteous Brothers. Russell eventually was followed by Billy Preston.

Another “Shindig” regular in this year’s induction class is Love, whose group The Blossoms appeared on almost every show. Not many could tell you who Love or the Blossoms are, but most know her songs. “Today I Met The Boy I’m Going To Marry” and “Wait ’Til My Bobby Gets Home” were minor hits under Love’s name, but “He’s A Rebel” and “He’s Sure The Boy I Love,” recorded by the Blossoms but released under the Crystals’ moniker by Phil Spector, were out and out smashes, “He’s A Rebel” sitting at No. 1 for two weeks. Spector also used Love as lead on the No. 8 “Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah” by Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans.

A “Shindig” segment has the Blossoms backing Linda Carr on “Da Doo Run Run.” The song became a classic by The Crystals, though Love reportedly sang the original lead. Watching Carr (remember her? Didn’t think so.) butcher the classic with Love and the Blossoms cheerily singing backup was nothing short of surreal. Talk about taking one for the team.

Rupe and Holzman founded Specialty and Elektra records, respectively. Specialty was the home of Little Richard, but also gave us several hits by Larry Williams (“Short Fat Fannie” & “Bony Maronie”) and some early efforts by Lloyd Price and Sam Cooke. Elektra was the home of the Doors, Queen, Harry Chapin, Carly Simon, Tom Rush, and Judy Collins, among others.

Bon Jovi, Donovan and Summer are just examples of how those who choose the inductees just don’t get it. It doesn’t matter if “you think” they’re any good. Facts are facts. Bon Jovi is one of the world’s most popular bands and has been for quite some time. Donovan is a 60s legend whose work remains innovative to this day. Summer is one of the most successful female recording artists of all time. And millions and millions recognize them immediately and “think” they’re good. Record sales and concert attendance has proven it.

On the other hand, I’m still trying to figure out how the J. Geils Band was nominated when there are so many more popular and more competent bands to choose from. Same goes for Laura Nyro, who has multiple nominations when there are scores of more successful and better known singer-songwriters. The nearly annual nomination of Chic is a joke and Joe Tex and Chuck Willis are really minor artists in the history of Rock & Roll context.

The Beastie Boys and LL Cool J? There are just two musical forms I can‘t listen to – Opera and Rap. It’s a stretch just for me to refer to Rap as a musical form. But then, my dad said the same thing when I was listening to Elvis, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly and the like.

Who should make the Hall of Fame next year? Keep reading this blog. Chances are 40 percent of my choices will sneak by the induction committee.

There is hope.


For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store:
• Get a Goldmine collective on The Beatles, “Meet the Fab Four CD”

• Get the new John Lennon book: “John Lennon: Life is What Happens, Music, Memories & Memorabilia”

• Buy the brand new edition of “Goldmine Standard Catalog of American Records 1948-1991, 7th Edition”

• Order the latest Ozzy book,“The Wit & Wisdom of Ozzy Osbourne” (estimated ship date: 9/30/2010) Very witty. Very funny. Very Ozzy.

8 thoughts on “There is still hope for the Rock Hall

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  2. Joe Tex and Chuck Willis are really minor artists in the history of rock and roll context? I don’t mean to be insulting with this reply, but that really shows a lack knowledge of the subject which you are writing about, and I would not say that if it weren’t so blatantly true! Do a bit of homework on these guys, especially on Joe Tex, and write me back and tell me if I’m wrong. Joe was one of the few musicians who could give James Brown a run for his money in the early 60s. Check ‘em out!

  3. Dear Mike –
    I remember Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding holding their own with James Brown. But Joe Tex? Of course, my lack of knowledge may only be rivaled by my lack of memory. So let’s do some homework.

    Hot 100 singles – James Brown 99, Joe Tex 28.
    Top 10 singles – Brown 10, Tex 2
    Top 100 Albums – Brown 33, Tex 2.
    R&B hit singles – Brown 109, Tex 17.
    No. 1 R&B singles – Brown 17, Tex 4.
    United Kingdom top 40 albums & singles, – Brown 15, Tex 1.

    I can’t give you concert ticket sale statistics over the years, but I’ll draw from my “lack of knowledge” and make a wild assumption that James Brown has sold many, many more concert tickets than has Joe Tex. I’ll also make the wild assumption that most of today’s general public could identify Brown, but not Tex.

    Unfortunately, Chuck Willis died at the age of 30, just one year after his first hit. Who knows if he would have gone on to a great career or disappeared the next day. Do you induct Willis on the basis of what he might have accomplished – ala Ritchie Valens – at the expense of those who actually did make the accomplishments? I should hope not. Do you induct Tex because you think he was almost as good as James Brown? I should hope not.

  4. Dear Phil,
    If it were only about record sales and concert tickets sold, I would hazard a guess and say that many of the folks presently in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame would not be in there, so your comparisons of Joe Tex and James Brown based on these factors misses the point. Joe Tex, as a writer, song stylist, and a live act is ALMOST as inportant as James Brown in those early, formative years of soul music (and I say that as a huge James Brown fan). To me, it is not about who I think is almost as good as a more established star. It is about an artist who helped to shape the musical landscape that we now know to be rock and roll, and I think that Joe Tex, far from being a minor player, fits that description. As far as Chuck Willis dying at 30, we don’t need to list the Hall of Famer’s who died before 30, because that list would be way too long. I think that part of the problem, as I see it, is that your article above seems to center around artists that you personally like and dislike. When considering the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, I think that one has to go beyond that.

  5. Dear Mike –

    I like Joe Tex, never said I didn’t. In fact, my band played “Show Me” for 15 years. We couldn’t do “I Gotcha'” ’cause no one was good enough to sing it.

    I’m not sure what factors you wanted me to use when comparing Tex with James Brown (you brought it up, I didn’t). Was he a better dancer, did he have a better band, was he a better singer? I don’t know. Did Joe Tex help shape the landscape of Rock & Roll as you claim. I can’t answer that either.

    I can tell you that every reference book I checked – and I have quite a few – barely mentions Joe Tex, if they mention him at all. And I don’t have access to the final results, but I do believe the recent Goldmine poll on which candidates should be inducted this year had Tex and Chuck Willis near the bottom.

    My point is – there is a difference between having Hall of Fame talent & having a Hall of Fame career.

    You write “Joe Tex, as a writer, song stylist, and a live act is ALMOST as important as James Brown in those early, formative years of soul music and I think that Joe Tex, far from being a minor player, fits that description.”

    That’s your opinion.

    I wrote “Joe Tex and Chuck Willis are really minor artists in the history of Rock & Roll”

    That’s my opinion.

    Just because we have a difference of opinion, doesn’t mean one of us “lacks knowledge” or “didn’t do his homework.”

  6. and “think” they’re good……. that does not make them Rock hall worthy Phil. I have nothing against Summer, Bon Jovi. But Summer is Disco, Jovi is crappy rock and lets just leave it at that. If the hall is just about sales then lets compile the billboard numbers and call it a day. A lot of great people never sold too well but inspired others that watered down the real deal and ran with it, selling piles of records and tix in the process. That, however does not make them “good”…
    Tex, for my money should be in as well, and okay, I’ll spot you Donovan. But that’s all I can “do for you” ;-)

    Hey, just my 4 cts.

    On another note, fun post that we can argue about forever.

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