By Phill Marder
The 2012 nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame have been announced.
No Monkees...no E-Street Band...no Deep Purple...no Todd Rundgren...no Moody Blues...no Chicago...no Guess Who...no Mary Wells...no Yes...no Rush...no Miracles...no Linda Ronstadt...no Dionne Warwick...no s&#t.
But...we do have some who were on our list of suggestions this past year. They are: The Cure; Donovan; Heart; The Red Hot Chili Peppers (they were coming up, I swear-really); Donna Summer; and The Spinners (they were coming up, I swear-really...no, I mean it).
The rest of the nominees are: The Beastie Boys; Eric B. & Rakim; Guns 'N Roses; Joan Jett & The Blackhearts; Freddie King; Laura Nyro; Rufus with Chaka Khan; The Small Faces/The Faces; and War.
Overall, I'd consider the entire group one of the weakest set of nominees offered by the Hall of Fame nominating committee thus far...and that's saying a lot.
Except for The Peppers and the Spinners, I've already put forth arguments why the first group should be in. The Peppers and the Spinners would also be on the list, though there are many groups already profiled that should probably go before them. Here's a brief synopsis:
HEART - Ann Wilson is the greatest female singer in the history of Rock & Roll. She can belt out the heaviest of rock and she’s equally adept at carressing the softest of ballads. Not only does she have an incredible voice, she knows how to sing. She avoids the temptation to try to cram every note she can hit onto every word of the song. There are other great female vocalists in the Rock Era, but none even approaches Ann Wilson.
That folks is just my opinion. But it’s just my No. 1 opinion. Let’s move on to opinion No. 2…Nancy Wilson is the foxiest guitar player in the history of Rock & Roll and her playing ability matches her looks. Of course, if you’re a straight female, I would expect a different outlook on the appearance factor.
Personal view No. 3…The Wilsons set the bar for bands led by females. Fans of the Pretenders may have a strong argument as will followers of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Bangles, the Go Gos and others. But I’ll put my money on Heart.
And finally, opinion No. 4…It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female, the Wilson sisters belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
DONOVAN – Nominated last year, he failed to get in. Hopefully, that mistake will be corrected this year.
Of all the artists who made it big in the ’60s, perhaps none represents the “flower power” age better than Donovan. A folkie considered a European clone of Bob Dylan at first, Donovan quickly discarded his guitar/harmonica approach and branched into other areas much as Dylan did by going electric. But the music Donovan created was much more diversified than his American counterpart as far as style and instrumentation was concerned. And while his music was all over the map, his voice proved an anchor. As soon as you heard it, you knew it was Donovan, from his ominous breathing/hum countdown at the start of “Hurdy Gurdy Man” to the “Elec Trickle Banana” of “Mellow Yellow.” From his “Ah, when I look outa my window” vocal start of “Season of the Witch” to his ” “Superman or Green Lantern ain’t got a-nothin’ on me” from “Sunshine Superman,” Donovan made an unmistakable mark on the musical landscape.
No one before or since sounded like Donovan and his recordings, particularly the “Sunshine Superman” and “Mellow Yellow” albums, stand up to any recordings made even today. They remain as distinctive now as they were back then.
Donovan was close to the Beatles, contributing lyric help on several key tracks through the years. In addition, "Hurdy Gurdy Man," supposedly marked the first occasion the instrumental portion of Led Zeppelin worked together. Jimmy Page, who had played earlier on "Sunshine Superman," is rumored to have contributed guitar work and John Bonham claimed to have contributed some of the track's distinctive drum work, but John Paul Jones, who played bass and arranged the track said Clem Cattini drummed and Alan Parker played guitar and that was it. Given the results of the session - I consider "Hurdy Gurdy Man" one of the 10 best single recordings in Rock & Roll history (I'll get to that list as soon as I have time) - I sure wish Led Zeppelin had recorded an LP or more with Donovan writing and singing lead.
Later Donovan’s lead vocal led the Jeff Beck Group on its biggest single hit, “Goo Goo Barabajagal (Love Is Hot).” Only fitting from the man who gave us such memorable phrases as:
“Color sky havana lake
color sky rose carmethene
And he made that a hit!
A major staple of the British Invasion, Donovan placed 17 singles on the Hot 100, a dozen reaching the top 40 with three climbing to the top five – “Sunshine Superman” (No. 1), “Mellow Yellow” (No. 2) and “Hurdy Gurdy Man” (No. 5). Ten LPs cracked the top 30 between 1965 and 1973, including the two-record set “A Gift From A Flower To A Garden.”
His compositions were also covered, The Animals recording of “Hey Gyp” being one of their strongest efforts and “Museum” proving a hit for Herman’s Hermits.
DONNA SUMMER – She has been nominated a couple times to no avail, but “The Queen Of Disco” eventually will make it. She not only dominated the disco era, she also carried her huge success through the ’80s. Fourteen top 10 singles, including four No. 1s.
Donna Summer is proof that the disco era did produce some fabulous music, though her first success “Love To Love You Baby,” which hit No. 2 in 1975, is best forgotten. It took Summer almost two years to recover from the stigma of that sex tape, but talent won out and she returned to the Top 10 in 1977 with “I Feel Love.”
The next year her “Last Dance” from the movie “Thank God It’s Friday” became a classic, climbing to No. 3, and the floodgates opened. She followed with an unlikely disco version of “MacArthur Park” and it reached the top of the Hot 100 and remained there for three weeks. While the follow-up “Heaven Knows” stalled at No. 4, Summer wasn’t through with dominating the radio.
In 1979, “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls,” both more hard rock than disco, were back-to-back chart toppers and while “Dim All The Lights” just missed at No. 2, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough),” a collaboration with the always hard-rocking Barbra Streisand, gave Summer another No. 1.
During a 14-year domination of the charts, she also posted 12 top 40 albums, closing the 70s with three straight No. 1s.
Still recording and making personal appearances, Summer continues to please her many fans around the (disco) globe. She may not be a bad girl, but she’s still hot stuff and she’s still working hard for her money.
THE CURE - Led by lead singer, songwriter, guitarist and romantic favorite - Robert Smith.
Who else should be inducted? Bass player Simon Gallup certainly. He’s been there almost as long as Smith. Lol Tolhurst held down the drums from 1978 to 1984, when he moved to keyboards for close to another five years. In 1984, Boris Williams settled in for a 10-year stay on drums, his replacement, Jason Cooper, lasting since. Perry Bamonte started on keyboards, then switched to guitar, totaling almost 15 years of service. Keyboardist Roger O’Donnell was on hand for two stays, first in the late ‘80s, then again in the mid ‘90s. And not to forget Porl Thompson, keyboardist and guitarist in the original lineup and still present today. While all this was going on, Smith found time to play guitar for Siouxsie & the Banshees.
In 1992, Britain’s New Musical Express declared The Cure “a goth hit machine (19 to date), an international phenomenon and, yep, the most successful alternative band that ever shuffled disconsolately about the earth". So successful that Smith, or references to Smith, have turned up in some far-out places, South Park, for instance, where Kyle reverently refers to “Disintegration” as “the best album ever!”
Does Kyle qualify as a music critic? Why not? The qualifications are rather minimal - know how to type and turn on a CD player or an IPOD or whatever. “Disintegration” did reach the top 10 in seven different countries, the 1989 release marking the first Cure LP to conquer the US, most of Europe and the Pan Pacific. And Rolling Stone ranked it one of the top 500 albums of all time as it did with the “Boys Don’t Cry” LP.
In spite of a three-year break after “Disintegration,” the follow-up, “Wish,” did even better, topping the charts in the UK and Australia and reaching No. 2 in the States. It hit the top 10 in five other countries, including Germany, where it established the band as a top seller. Never a band to produce hit singles, The Cure, nonetheless, broke Spain in 2008 with three No. 1s and a No. 2, all pulled from the group’s LP “4:13 Dream.”
THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS - The Peppers released their first album in 1994, but didn't break through to the bigtime until 2001 when "Blood Sugar Sex Magic" soared to No. 3 on the U.S. album charts, No. 5 in the U.K., No. 2 in the Netherlands and No. 1 in Canada and the Pan Pacific area.
After that, it was nonstop blockbusters, five straight LPs hitting the top of the charts in almost every country that keeps charts, including their recently released "I'm With You."
They hold the record for most No. 1 singles on "alternative" charts with 12 and have won seven Grammy awards.
Rejected before, this may be the year The Red Hot Chili Peppers gain entrance to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Just a great band that combines every genre of music to give you a real fun listen that continues today.
THE SPINNERS - I started listening to The Spinners back in 1961 when I purchased the single "That's What Girls Are Made For." For a long time, it appeared as if the group was destined for the one-hit wonder rack.
In 1965, they served notice they were still in existence with a minor hit for Motown, but little else happened for them until 1970 when they scored big with the Stevie Wonder-Syreeta Wright composition "It's A Shame." This success garnered the attention of Atlantic Records, which signed them as soon as their Motown contract expired.
Teamed with producer-songwriter Thom Bell (also scheduled for an appearance in this series), the Spinners became radio giants, churning out 11 top 20 singles and seven top 40 albums between 1972 and 1979, including a No. 1 collaboration on "Then Came You" with Dionne Warwick, who should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame years ago.
The bias favoring artists on Atlantic Records has been well documented in this blog, but in the case of The Spinners Hall of Fame recognition would be well deserved. Perhaps they would be going in before a lot of more deserving acts this year, but of those nominated this year they rank right up near the top.
GUNS 'N ROSES - I don't like the lead singer at all, but if we knew each other he probably wouldn't like me much either. But fair is fair, and Guns 'N Roses would be a first-round selection in any year.
This band epitomizes what the Hall of Fame should be about...great success, recorded and live, and great recognition. Guns 'N Roses had the magic ingredient...star power. This pick is a shoo-in.
As for the remainder of this year's field:
The Beastie Boys - Have been nominated before and probably will be again if they don't get in this year. Should they get in? Not this year.
Eric B. & Rakim - Who?
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - C'mon. Over all the truly great artists we've profiled this year? Revisionist history at its worst.
Freddie King - The only blues guitarist not yet inducted?
Laura Nyro - May have more nominations than memorable songs written. Evidently, someone on the nominating committee is determined to get her inducted. Maybe she deserves it. But before Burt Bacharach & Hal David, Bob Crewe, Jimmy Webb, PF Sloan, Thom Bell and countless other songwriting greats?
Rufus with Chaka Khan - In all the years I've studied this subject, never once have I seen or heard this group or Chaka Khan mentioned as one that should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Not once. Just who is on the nominating committee?
The Small Faces/The Faces - Rod Stewart's already in. To promote the rest of this group before all the truly super groups never mentioned is just...
War - A good, solid band that could be considered years down the road, but not before scores of others who are being ignored.