- I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org). As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia! Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton. I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times. I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me? My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored. Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.
Friday, October 21, 2016
The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame: A Hot 100
Let's face it: the perceived flaws of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and its failed, cockamamie track record of properly honoring rock 'n' roll's greatest heroes...well, none of that's going to change any time soon, if ever. Nonetheless, as fans of this music we love, we retain the right to keep on shootin' rubber bands at that glorified Hard Rock Cafe on the shore of the great Lake Erie. It's fun! And it's free!
As this week's final exercise in whining about Jann Wenner, let's imagine a do-over of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Now, this isn't just an excuse to throw out Madonna and put in The Monkees--although, um...that's kinda what's gonna happen here--but an attempt to review and refocus on one central question:
If The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame could only honor 100 artists, no more and no less, who should those 100 artists be?
As I've said again and again, I believe in a big tent approach to honoring artists and performers. If we want to limit the scope of a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, we can say its only honoree is Chuck Berry, and we could stop right there; if it's two or three acts, we include Elvis Presley, and then The Beatles would make three. If we wanna say a Rock Hall is 20 acts, then we add, say, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers, Ike & Tina Turner, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Who, David Bowie, The Eagles, The Ramones, and Prince, and we move all the furniture so we can fight it out without breakin' stuff. In real life, a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame should bestow as many honors as there are people who merit honors. Big tent.
But, as a hypothetical exercise, the number is 100. 100 shall be the number, for the number shall be 100. Who's in?
To simplify matters, we're moving all the Early Influences to a separate wing, along with all of the influential DJs, label owners, songwriters, and other varied but worthy hustlers who made this world rock, and we're concentrating just on the performers. We've left in one key producer (you know who), given a specific mention to one other key producer (as The Fifth Beatle), and included two groups of studio musicians, 'cuz, y'know...union rules. We try (try, I say!) to forget about our own favorites, and consider a person or group's impact: how different would the history of rock 'n' roll be if this specific artist had never done his/her thing? Popularity, artistic merit, and influence--these are the three qualities that comprise impact, and a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame performer needs to show evidence of at least two out of three.
Here, then, are the 100 honorees in our new Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. If many of your all-time Fave Raves are missing, please rest assured that many of my all-time Fave Raves are likewise missing.
[Entries in bold indicate an act that is not yet in the real Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but oughtta be, fercryinoutloud...!]
THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND
HANK BALLARD & THE MIDNIGHTERS
THE BEACH BOYS
THE BEATLES/GEORGE MARTIN
THE BEE GEES
BOOKER T & THE M.G.'s
CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL
CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG
DICK DALE & HIS DELTONES
DION & THE BELMONTS
EARTH, WIND & FIRE
THE EVERLY BROTHERS
THE FOUR TOPS
THE FUNK BROTHERS
GRANDMASTER FLASH & THE FURIOUS FIVE
THE GRATEFUL DEAD
BILL HALEY & HIS COMETS
THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE
BUDDY HOLLY/THE CRICKETS
THE ISLEY BROTHERS
MICHAEL JACKSON/THE JACKSON FIVE
JERRY LEE LEWIS
FRANKIE LYMON & THE TEENAGERS
BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS
CURTIS MAYFIELD/THE IMPRESSIONS
THE NEW YORK DOLLS
SMOKEY ROBINSON & THE MIRACLES
THE ROLLING STONES
SAM & DAVE
THE SEX PISTOLS
SIMON & GARFUNKEL
SLY & THE FAMILY STONE
THE SMALL FACES/THE FACES
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND
IKE & TINA TURNER
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND
THE WRECKING CREW
FRANK ZAPPA/THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION
Man, that hurt. I tell ya, it felt like heresy to remove The Four Seasons, Buffalo Springfield, Cheap Trick, The Staple Singers, The Go-Go's, KISS, Rick James, The Animals, Fleetwood Mac, Gene Vincent & the Blue Caps, The Hollies, Ricky Nelson, The MC5, Bobby Darin, Joan Jett, Al Green, The Clash, Yes, Deep Purple, R.E.M., The Patti Smith Group, and a very long, long-ass list of others. I confess that removing Metallica didn't bother me all that much.
This is an earnest attempt to create a list of 100 performers who collectively represent a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ideal, encompassing the mini-genres and disparate factions that have forged the history of rock 'n' roll music. I don't believe in click-bait, so there's nothing deliberately controversial on this list. I won't try to justify each choice individually (though feel free to ask me about any of them), but let's make note of the acts here that haven't yet been enshrined in Cleveland:
BIG STAR: Enormously influential, especially when you consider how few records the group actually sold. Big Star would be the poorest-selling act ever inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but the far-reaching, pervasive effect of those records is beyond measure.
CHUBBY CHECKER: The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has rightly honored Hank Ballard, the great R & B singer who recorded the original version of "The Twist" with his group The Midnighters. But Ballard's reputation as the purveyor of then-scandalous (and now tame) sex songs like "Work With Me, Annie" effectively blacklisted him from pop radio, and even a surefire hit record like "The Twist" wasn't gonna break through that blacklist. So Chubby Checker, safe and sanitized, had the hit instead. Checker went on to establish himself as a consistent hitmaker with a number of memorable singles in the '60s, and it's silly for The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame to penalize Checker for Hank Ballard's relative lack of pop success.
DICK DALE & HIS DEL-TONES: Dick Dale is the King of the Surf Guitar, and needs no further justification.
THE FUNK BROTHERS and THE WRECKING CREW: The two premier studio groups of the '60s, laying down the music for more unforgettable hits than any other two groups in history. Some individual members of each group have been recognized by The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame--James Jamerson and Benny Benjamin of The Funk Brothers, and Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer from The Wrecking Crew--but it's freaking nuts that both groups in their entirety haven't already been honored.
THE MONKEES: I've covered this already.
THE NEW YORK DOLLS: There's no Sex Pistols or Ramones without The New York Dolls happening first.
THE SHADOWS: If The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame were located in London rather than England, then The Shadows would have been inaugural inductees. Although The Shadows were non-entities on the American charts, they were (and remain) a British institution, and a significant influence on the development of British rock 'n' roll in the '60s. That influence certainly extended to The Beatles, whose first released original composition was a John Lennon-George Harrison instrumental called "Cry For A Shadow."
THE SHANGRI-LAS: Among all the great girl groups of the '60s, The Shangri-Las stood out as the bad girls, hanging out with the leader of the pack and rebelling and (presumably) having sex on the beach before (remember!) walking in the sand. Shangri-Las producer Shadow Morton (who also produced The New York Dolls' second album) is likewise long overdue for some Rock Hall recognition.
LINK WRAY: The dirty, gritty power chords emanating from Link Wray's guitar just may deserve their own separate Hall Of Fame.
While it was a lot of fun--a lot of grueling, thankless fun--compiling an essential Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Hot 100, it does nothing to dilute my conviction that The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame should be honoring more of our heroes and legends, not less. We should keep pressing The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame to recognize all of the great artists that have made an impact. So, as we pause to salute our Hot 100, let's reinstate everyone who's been inducted in to the real-life Rock Hall--yeah, even Madonna!--and work to recognize the many other worthies awaiting recognition. Maybe someday we can see Paul Revere and the Raiders in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, along with Jan and Dean, The Spinners, Wynonie Harris, Lesley Gore, and many more. Hell, we'll even go along with Chic. Big tent, people. Our capacity to honor the artists we love is as great as the boundless joy these artists have already brought into our lives.
And, for God sake, #inductthemonkees awready!