Monday, February 19, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 1992

Continuing headlong in the project now, we come to the Class Of 1992.  It's a class with a dozen solid inductees, including some slightly less than obvious choices.  A couple big ones, and the second instance of inducting an artist in a different category after failing to get them inducted as a Performer.  Sadly, not the last time we would see it happen, but as often happens, there is something of an argument to be made for what they did.  Classic rock is represented, but in no way does it dominate the story here.  There's blues, country, acid, soul, and more.  With all that said, what songs would you choose to honor the inductees?

Bobby "Blue" Bland:  Bobby "Blue" Bland is one of those surprisingly good calls by the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  A name that many probably wouldn't think of right away, which may have something to do with why it took so many nominations to get him in.  But despite being such a blues artist, beginning with his Beale Streeter days, he also cut a lot of great commercially friendly R&B.  He's in a league among some other great artists like Solomon Burke.  His is a catalog that people need to spend more time getting to know, myself included.  Meanwhile, some great songs like "Ain't Nothing You Can Do," and the song I chose for him, "Turn On Your Love Light," are fantastic introductions to his work.

Booker T. And The M.G.'s:  When the Future Rock Legends community started their "Revisited/Projected" project, they inducted this outfit in the Sideman category for their work as the house band for the Stax/Volt family.  That's a valid argument right there, but their catalog of their own material is pretty incredible too.  Their "In The Christmas Spirit" album is mandatory listening for me every December.  "Soul Limbo" is one of the most fantastically festive songs ever.  And of course, their signature song, which introduced them in their own right to the music listening public, and really helped shape a lot of their songs to come afterwards, "Green Onions," is a quintessential song to understanding rock and roll in the '60's, which is why it is the chosen song for this interracial band.

Johnny Cash:  It's been said that Johnny Cash is absolutely universal.  Nobody doesn't like Johnny Cash.  There are people who hate Elvis, others who hate the Beatles, and amazingly, even some who don't like Nickelback.  But nobody doesn't like Johnny Cash.  At least, so I've heard.  I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't like the Man In Black, at least.  So, it's no surprise that even though he's more of a country legend, that his early recordings which skew toward rockabilly, as well as his overall influence, would vault him into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame after only three nominations.  I didn't choose one of his early rockabilly songs though.  As proof that he was important no matter what he did, I stuck with one of his all-time classics, "Ring Of Fire," to salute the man and his legacy.

Leo Fender:  There is an ongoing battle in rock and roll.  The Hall itself sends a mixed message regarding rock and roll with respect to the guitar.  No one would say that Jerry Lee Lewis, Elton John, Billy Joel, and Ray Charles aren't rock and rollers in their own right, and yet from their logo, to the design of their museum, they seem to be saying that the guitar is the end-all, be-all for what defines rock and roll.  Another log in that fire is that Leo Fender is the only instrument pioneer inducted, and not, for example, Dr. Robert Moog or Adolphe Sax.  That said, no one would deny the importance of Fender guitars and the players who electrified audiences with them.  I love my choice for this one too, because in terms of eligibility, I chose a song from an artist who wouldn't become eligible for induction for another sixteen years, and even then, not inducted for another seven years beyond that.  It's such a disconnect, but that's how far reaching the influence of Fender's designs are.  To honor Leo Fender, we have "Crossfire" by Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble.

Bill Graham:  Like Leo Fender above, Bill Graham died in 1991 and was inducted in 1992.  It's inductions like this that give rise and popularity to the "Death Fairy" mythos.  As a concert promoter, he was big enough a name to give credence to events by putting his name on them.  He also managed a few bands too.  He is best remembered for promoting events at the Fillmore, and I chose the studio version of a song from a band who did indeed have a live album from the Fillmore.  The song, however, wasn't recorded until two years after that album.  Still, overall, I feel it's a good choice to pay tribute to Bill Graham.  "Oye Como Va" by Santana fits the bill here.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience:  If you know anyone who doesn't consider anything pre-Beatles to be "truly rock and roll," who have a very limited definition of what rock and roll is, then Jimi Hendrix is probably the only African-American they can name that they think belongs in the Hall.  It's sad, but there are people like that out there.  When originally trying to promote this idea for a radio broadcast, I was all but forced to select "All Along The Watchtower" for this band; however, having a little more freedom now, I quite comfortably made the switch to the more venerated and quintessential "Purple Haze."  As a P.S., kudos to the Hall for inducting all three members of this group and not letting this one fall victim to Front Man Fever.

The Isley Brothers:  Another act that doesn't always roll off the tongue right away when discussing the big names, the Isley Brothers are a more than deserving group for their versatility as much as the messages in their music.  They've been in the Billboard Hot 100 for six consecutive decades (in some form), and have a diverse catalog that includes jumping '50's R&B, Motown, funk, protest, and beyond.  They've been all over, and doing it all well.  That's just their thing.  And that's why "It's Your Thing" too.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Twist And Shout")

Elmore James:  Nominated for the Performer category the previous year, he was inducted as an Early Influence after that failed attempt.  It's one of those thorny gray areas.  He broke through in the early 1950's, and had a posthumous Bubbling Under The Hot 100 hit in 1965, with one of his many recorded renditions of "It Hurts Me Too."  It's actually interesting though, that he was inducted as "Elmore James" rather than "Elmo James" which is how he was billed on his early records... you know, the ones that get him credited as an Early Influence inductee.  In any event, the King Of The Slide Guitar certainly had more than enough influence from that breakout record, "Dust My Broom," that he maybe could have even gotten in for that song alone.  Maybe not.  Either way, it's in the playlist for him.

Doc Pomus:  And now for the reason why the songwriting teams and production teams are broken up when it comes to the Non-Performer category.  Doc Pomus was inducted in 1992, possibly because, like the other two Non-Performers from this year, he also died the year before he was inducted.  It wouldn't be for another twenty years that his partner, Mort Shuman, would be properly and also posthumously recognized as well.  Meanwhile, to give this half his due, I chose a song with a special story attached to it.  Doc Pomus was a wheelchair-bound man (or on crutches), due to polio as a child.  His wife, however, loved to go out dancing.  He wrote this song as a love song for his wife, reminding her that he still loved her very much, despite being unable to be her dancing partner, and pleaded with her, even if only metaphorically, to "Save The Last Dance For Me," which the Drifters made a pure gold classic, giving voice and emotions to the words Pomus wrote and the love in his heart for his wife.  Truly no better song to use for the man.

Professor Longhair:  Jazz and blues come together with this man's music.  He's one of the musicians who helped influence and define the sound of New Orleans as we know it today, whether it was with songs like "Tipitina," or fun bits of raunchiness like "Bald Head," or with the eponymous song that I chose to use for him, wherein he sings about himself a bit.  I gotta admit, I'm a bit hit-or-miss on how much I like listening to his music, but songs like "Professor Longhair Blues" are great records to throw on every once in awhile.

Sam And Dave:  Another great Stax/Volt act.  Of all the acts from this year's class, this one is probably my favorite.  The story of how they came together to be an amazing soul duo is kind of a funny one though.  But their music is no joke.  This is a case where fate proved to be a better decider than me.  I wanted to use "Hold On, I'm Comin'" because it is such an awesome song.  But at the time, I couldn't download a decent copy of it.  Going to Plan B, I went with the song they are best known for, and sadly one that has been co-opted by the semi-fictitious Blues Brothers.  It really is an amazing song that crosses the social gap, just not the one I originally wanted.  Ultimately, it probably is best that I use "Soul Man" to prove the merits of Sam And Dave.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby")

The Yardbirds:  Well, we can't ignore the British Invasion outright, now can we?  The Yardbirds are something of a strange case, though.  They're ultimately better remembered for the guitarists that cut their teeth in that band than for the music that they recorded as a band.  And yet, when you listen to those records, there's more than enough musical excellence and experimentation to give them the green light here.  For their Song Of Proof, I chose a song that is somewhat psychedelic in its guitar-work, but also beautifully expresses the anguish of the lyrics that Keith Relf conveys so well.  Yes indeed, we go from "Soul Man" above to "Heart Full Of Soul" here.

And I'm afraid that's gonna put a bow on it for this installment.  I hope you've enjoyed reading about my selections for each of these inductees and why I've chosen them.  It's never too late to get in on the fun.  Even if you've never commented on my blog ever, you're more than welcome to weigh in on these inductees, and tell me what songs you'd use to honor them.  The Comments section below awaits you.  Recapping:

Bobby "Blue" Bland:  "Turn On Your Love Light"
Booker T. And The M.G.'s:  "Green Onions"
Johnny Cash:  "Ring Of Fire"
Leo Fender:  "Crossfire" by Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble
Bill Graham:  "Oye Como Va" by Santana
the Jimi Hendrix Experience:  "Purple Haze"
the Isley Brothers:  "It's Your Thing"
Elmore James:  "Dust My Broom"
Doc Pomus:  "Save The Last Dance For Me" by the Drifters
Professor Longhair:  "Professor Longhair Blues"
Sam And Dave:  "Soul Man"
the Yardbirds:  "Heart Full Of Soul"

Monday, February 12, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 1991

We now plunge headlong into the '90's for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  The previous year saw the biggest class we would see for another full decade.  The sizes of the classes would hold pretty steady for the next decade, holding steadily near the double digit threshold.  Some a titch higher, some a mite lower, some dead on the ten-mark itself.  But class size isn't the only thing that's been consistent.  The quality of the classes themselves maintained a certain level.  A good, high level.  While the classic rock backlog is still a few years from becoming a problem, it's also nothing anybody is worrying about.  In fact, right now, the focus is on unclogging the backlog of great '50's artists, something we'll see almost every year of induction classes this coming decade.  But the Rock Hall is humming along pretty smoothly right now, and we're gonna honor this class with some great songs of theirs.

LaVern Baker:  We start with "Little Miss Sharecropper."  Like many hit-churning R&B acts from this era, she is sadly relegated to a couple of songs that she's remembered for.  And while the omission of the Gliders (also known as the Cues) isn't the biggest omission, they were behind her on her biggest hits, in consistent lineup, so at some point, they probably should be honored for the energy their rhythmic vocals provided.  If you want a hilarious example of musicians having fun, check out the "X-Rated" version of "Think Twice," her duet with Jackie Wilson where you hear F-bombs, C-words, and both of them laughing by the end of the record.  Keeping in line with the aim of this project though, "Jim Dandy" is a landmark standard of rock and roll, and is a terrific salute to this leading lady of rock and roll.

Dave Bartholomew:  Inducted as a Non-Performer, primarily as the songwriting partner of Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew both proves that many great Non-Performers are respectable musicians in their own right and gives credence to those outraged at the continued omission of Bernie Taupin.  Of course, the oldest living inductee did more than just write songs with the Fat Man, he worked with a lot of R&B and teen idol stars.  But as I mentioned, he also was a musician, and to give you an idea of his sound, and why it clicked so well with what would become Fats Domino's trademark sound, give a listen to his sole hit on the R&B charts, "Country Boy."

Ralph Bass:  The Class Of 1991 marks the turn in the Non-Performer category toward names that aren't as well-known in their own right.  In the entire first five classes of the Rock Hall, John Hammond and Ahmet Ertegun were the only two I hadn't heard of before finding out about the existence of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Getting into this decade though, the names aren't as well-known.  Dick Clark, whom we'll honor in a couple years' time, is of course a household name, and I knew who George Martin and Johnny Otis were, and had even heard the name Allen Toussaint, and could infer from the surname Fender who Leo was.  Point being though, these aren't as big of names, but they are no less deserving.  In the case of Ralph Bass, based on the career timeline of John Hammond, it's something of a wonder he wasn't also inducted as a Lifetime Achievement inductee.  Working with some of the big names that are considered pre-rock, it's also quite noteworthy that he worked with some of the biggest names in '50's R&B to bring them to a wider audience.  Among those whose careers he helped launch was James Brown And The Famous Flames, and with that, I've honored Ralph Bass with "Please, Please, Please."

The Byrds:  Folk-rock.  The signature sound of the 12-string guitar.  Those impeccable harmonies.  They're the only act on this list that a rockist would approve of.  Originally, going with as many songs about rock and roll as I could, I intended to salute the Byrds with "So You Want To Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star," but it just couldn't stand up to my own scrutiny.  I had to go with a song that really captures their whole brand of folk-rock, and maybe all of folk-rock.  Based on the first eleven verses of the third chapter from the Book Of Ecclesiastes, it's "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)."  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof:  "My Back Pages")

Nesuhi Ertegun:  This one has been a frustrating case.  I'll tell you that right now.  All the research regarding him highly touts him as a jazz producer.  So how did he end up inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, let alone a Lifetime Achievement inductee?  Occam's Razor would tell you nepotism.  Fortunately, having worked with Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, and Bobby Darin, there's just enough rock and roll material there as well to justify an induction of his own.  Keep in mind that I first undertook this project back when "Google" wasn't a verb yet.  Whatever search engine you used, you still weren't guaranteed to get any satisfying results, and trying to find records that Nesuhi produced or had SOMETHING to do with was not easy, and still isn't easy as neither his rockhall.com nor his Wikipedia page by themselves actually list landmark songs or albums that he produced.  Simply put, this is one I have to change next time I get around to burning the CDs again.  Knowing that he came to Atlantic in the '50's, and worked with Ray Charles, I chose to honor him with "I Got A Woman" for want of better information.  And that's what I've still got.  As I look over his actual credits now, I will probably swap it out for Bobby Darin's "Beyond The Sea."  Sometimes we all hit a bump in the road.

John Lee Hooker:  Because there is no cut and dry start date for rock and roll music, the confusion between the categories of Performer and Early Influence is a problem that occasionally has to be wrestled with.  The Class Of 1991 is of particular interest to that debacle because they inducted this prolific bluesman, with a career going back to the early '40's, whose early records were much more primitive to the point of not even being able to be called "proto-rock-and-roll," as a Performer.  I suspect this mainly has to do with his later collaborations with musicians who would eventually become some of the higher muckety-mucks of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Foundation.  So, in keeping with some sense of consistency, I chose a great bluesy record that was his only hit on the pop charts during the "rock era" as it is traditionally regarded.  It's a fun song, give "Boom Boom" a listen, and then go back to his early catalog to ponder this conundrum.

Howlin' Wolf:  On the other side of the coin from the previous entry, we find an Early Influence inductee whose first release was in 1952, in that epoch that some argue should be considered part of the rock era, and whose biggest contribution was the song "Smokestack Lightning," from 1956.  Mysterious are the ways of the Rock Hall sometimes, especially when one of the Performer nominees from this ballot ended up being inducted the next year as an Early Influence.  Anyway, since this is an Early Influence inductee, I went back as far as I could, and found a song that may have even served to give the man his stage name.  Like a howling wolf, "Moanin' At Midnight" sets the tone for the man's career.

The Impressions:  If the seeming switcheroo of the previous two inductees weren't enough, we have an instance here of the Hall going bigger to keep it smaller.  Despite departing after the first big hit, Jerry Butler was inducted as a member of the Impressions, presumably so there wouldn't be a need to induct him a second time, as a soloist.  This is especially hilarious and tragic when you remember Chad Channing's omission from Nirvana's induction, and Denny Laine's near omission from the Moody Blues' induction later this year, just to name a couple.  Sadly, it seems to have worked.  Jerry Butler's name has seemingly never even been officially considered at Nominating Committee meetings since.  Still, I'll keep "Only The Strong Survive" saved up just in case they decide to do the right thing and make him a double inductee.  As for the Impressions, their unique brand of soul, with a breezy feel and tight harmonies, is extremely well exemplified in "It's All Right."  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof:  "People Get Ready")

Wilson Pickett:  The Wicked Pickett.  Or Wicked Wilson.  It works either way.  A great R&B singer with so many good records.  I was a little less than objective on this one.  I didn't really want to use some of the more obvious choices that you most easily recognize, and had I been a little more objective while still refusing to be obvious, I probably would've used "She's Looking Good."  However, I chose a great soul record with an amazing feel to it that is still fun listening to.  Think there are better choices to use than this one?  Well.... "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You."

Jimmy Reed:  One of those blues players that's easy to take for granted because he got inducted relatively early in the Rock Hall's history.  Several blues classics that have been covered by the likes of Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, just to name two.  As much as I love his big hit, the bluesy ballad, "Honest I Do," the best song to honor him is his classic, "Big Boss Man."

Ike And Tina Turner:  Admittedly, this is an act I haven't spent nearly as much time researching as I should have.  I love Phil Spector's productions, I love soul music, this is one I feel like would be one of my favorites if I could find a decent compilation on all their work, both together and apart.  Although, I am a little more familiar with Tina Turner's solo work.  Honestly, if not Carole King, I want Tina Turner to be the first female member of the Clyde McPhatter Club.  As for this effort, it didn't take much effort to find their version of "Proud Mary," which has some great horn work, frenetic vocals from Tina, and I understand even some rare vocals from Ike.  It's a big yes all the way around, just means I can't use CCR's version for them when they come up in two years.

And that will do it for this year.  The inductees aren't always gonna be so obvious from here on out, though they will contain several no-brainers.  Hope you've been stimulated by this list.  Now's your turn to do the same for me and share your thoughts in the Comments below.  Recapping:

LaVern Baker: "Jim Dandy"
Dave Bartholomew:  "Country Boy"
Ralph Bass:  "Please, Please, Please" by James Brown And The Famous Flames
the Byrds:  "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)"
Nesuhi Ertegun:  "I Got A Woman" by Ray Charles  (but will be changed to "Beyond The Sea" by Bobby Darin in due time)
John Lee Hooker:  "Boom Boom"
Howlin' Wolf:  "Moanin' At Midnight"
the Impressions:  "It's All Right"
Wilson Pickett:  "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You"
Jimmy Reed:  "Big Boss Man"
Ike And Tina Turner:  "Proud Mary"

Monday, February 5, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 1990

Welcome to the nineties.  Or the last year of the eighties.  Yeah, I know, but there are those who think of decades from 1-0 or 10, rather than 0-9.  Either way, we're coming to one of the biggest induction classes for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  This is the year that the British Invasion acts that took America by storm really started to become eligible, and we see that twice here.  Groups with vocal harmonies are big this year too, as three groups (four if you count duos) and the front man from another are all inducted, along with a perceived teen idol who turned out to have more musical chops and savvy than people gave him credit for.  Two songwriting teams were our Non-Performers, and as I enforce the Mort Shuman rule here, what probably should only amount to two songs here becomes five, as Gerry Goffin And Carole King each get their own song, as do each of three men of Holland-Dozier-Holland.  Speaking of songwriters, my two all-time favorite songwriters are in the class too (in the Performer category, that is).  The Early Influences show a massive legend, a blues pioneer, and the weirdest case of Front Man Fever to date.  This is a fantastic class, rife with acts I both love and respect.  So, how do we honor them?  With these songs:

Louis Armstrong:  The great Satchmo.  Arguably the biggest jazz legend of all time.  His Hot Five/Seven were not included with him, but that's the way it goes sometimes.  He was an Early Influence inductee, so it wouldn't be proper to select "Hello, Dolly" or "What A Wonderful World," even if the former has the distinct honor of being the first non-Beatles song to knock the Beatles out of the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.  No, the proper thing to do is to actually research his legendary work prior to rock and roll.  Armstrong's rise to fame predates Jackie Robinson's breaking the color barrier in baseball, Jesse Owens' run to Berlin, and the vast majority of inductees in this Hall, though not all.  For him to be popular with his style of music is no small feat and carried no small amount of influence.  For this set, he is honored with his smash hit version of "All Of Me."

Hank Ballard:  After Smokey Robinson, this is the biggest case of Front Man Fever in the Performer category.  While Ballard did have a separate solo career, it didn't happen soon enough for him to be eligible as a soloist for the Hall by the time he was inducted, and even on his two solo hit records, there was a backup group credited with him.  So, I assume with that, there's no dispute about me using a song credited to "Hank Ballard And The Midnighters," and I chose "Finger-Poppin' Time," which while not the most revered record from this outfit, did go a long way in introducing the wider audience to his style of R&B, which Ballard himself always insisted was tinged with country influences too.

Charlie Christian:  In the past two decades, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has almost seemed to make a point of being controversial and otherwise weird about their inductions.  For my money, however, this is the most bizarre of all.  Charlie Christian wasn't the leader of a band, he was a hired hand.  He was a guitarist with the Benny Goodman Orchestra for a couple years before he died.  He probably could have gone on to a fabulous solo career or leader of his own combo.  We'll never know, and so, we have to work with what we have.  There are two songs that Christian is featured on that are most heralded as influential and impacting.  "Seven Come Eleven" is a fine song, but Charlie's guitar work is pretty heavily mixed with the aerophonic back and forth between Goodman and other players.  No, it is truly "Solo Flight" that really features Charlie Christian in a starring role, and thus is rightly used as the song for him here.

Bobby Darin:  Probably the most maligned of the inductees in this class.  The songs most clearly identified as rock and roll are written off as teen idol pop pap, and the more mature and finely crafted songs are dismissed as not being rock and roll.  It's all Bobby Darin's fault, really.  If he hadn't lived such a clean-cut life, trying to get the most out of his life because he knew he didn't have long to live with his heart condition, and had just been more of a horrible person, he would be regarded as a rocker through and through.  I mean, according to Dick Clark, Bobby even taught the other stars on the Caravan Of Stars tours how to do their own taxes!  The nerve of the guy!  Being serious now, those who put down the music of this man are those who simply either have a terrible working definition of what constitutes of rock and roll, or simply haven't taken the time to listen to his body of music at large.  It's excellent stuff, and one tune which is still a fun rocker, though a bit lyrically dated, is the solidly rolling rocker "Queen Of The Hop."

Lamont Dozier:  And this is where we start breaking up the songwriting teams.  It's actually pretty hilarious that for the three songs for the members for this songwriting trio, only one of them is actually a Motown song.  The truth is, when I first compiled this list, I was trying to use hit songs by Non-Performer inductees as much as possible.  And when I got to the Invictus stuff released by Holland-Dozier, and Lamont Dozier's work on ABC, I knew I wasn't going to use the Motown songs that made them such famous songwriters.  Maybe I did that wrong.  But they wrote the stuff they themselves recorded for the most part, and once you hear Lamont's "Tryin' To Hold Onto My Woman," you might not judge my choices too sharply.

The Four Seasons:  This one was pure executive privilege, through and through.  Not even gonna apologize for it.  They may have had three of their five #1 hits in the early goings, but in terms of quality, the Vee-Jay years are vastly inferior to their opuses on the Phillips label.  So, no, I did not use "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," or "Walk Like A Man."  And I seriously hope none of you do either.  Their music got amazing beginning with "Dawn (Go Away)," and 1964 was an amazing year for them with such incredible songs like "Ronnie," "Rag Doll," and "Save It For Me."  But in fact, the song I chose for them is my favorite song.  It's a lesser-known song, but cracked the Top Ten, is a rarity for this group, in that it's the guy telling the girl that she's the one who's no good instead of him being worthless, and has an amazing arrangement.  When I first heard it, I thought the instrument simulating a thunderclap was a cello!  Turns out it was actually a keyboard, but wow, what a great song.  I'm not backing down.  I won't change it to a better known or bigger hit song.  "Tell It To The Rain" it is.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "I've Got You Under My Skin")

The Four Tops:  Truth be told, I've never liked the Four Tops all that much, at least not their Motown stuff.  Part of it is Levi Stubbs' voice, which I always thought sounded a little syrupy and saccharine, especially on "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)," which is even weirder because I do like "It's The Same Old Song."  I guess the arrangement is just different enough, and Levi's vocals aren't as sugary sweet.  That said, I chose a song that was their other number one hit, my favorite song overall by them, and just a great song with a straightforward message and fantastic arrangement that evokes a mental image of actually trying to reach out and find a way out of the darkness.  "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" is for the Four Tops.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Walk Away Renee")

Gerry Goffin:  The "Oh yeah, them too" half of the songwriting duo.  Together they wrote some amazing songs covered by a myriad of artists.  So many great songs, writing a lot for the girl groups of the early sixties, I nevertheless deviated and went with a song that when you pay attention to the lyrics, probably could have been a girl group song with a little tweaking, but is not.  Since we're honoring the male half of the duo, let's go with a song sung by dudes.  The Animals, to be specific, and the life they brought to "Don't Bring Me Down." 

Brian Holland:  I'm not entirely sure what special thing each member of the trio brought to their songwriting, but considering they literally punched the clock and sat down together to write, it's a pretty safe bet all three of them coded every word and every initial piece of instrumentation to their arrangements.  This of course, continued when the left Motown and started the Invictus/Hot Wax family.  And Brian's vocals are beautifully heard on Holland-Dozier's "Don't Leave Me Starvin' For Your Love."

Eddie Holland:  Part of what made the trio such great songwriters is that each of them were very musically inclined singers in their own right.  Before the trio became a household name, Eddie himself had a few solo hit records on the Motown label.  He probably could have been a much bigger R&B singer if he didn't sound so much like Jackie Wilson, or been trying to copy Jackie Wilson.  That said, when you hear "Jamie," you get an idea of the songwriting style that Holland-Dozier-Holland would become legendary for.

Carole King:  The first woman inducted in the Non-Performer category, and the only one for twenty years.  It wasn't until Ellie Greenwich and Cynthia Weil joined her in 2010 that there was another woman inducted in this category, and the only one before the category was renamed the Ahmet Ertegun Award.  And the first White woman inducted period, the only one until Donna Godchaux was inducted as a member of the Grateful Dead in 1994.  But those statistics don't matter.  What matters is that she is an amazing songwriter who wrote and co-wrote many great songs.  I still hold out hope for her to be inducted as a Performer for her fantastic work.  In the meanwhile, I salute her with one of her own records, "I Feel The Earth Move."

The Kinks:  Among the big snubs, I'm pretty upset at how the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has ignored the Cameo-Parkway legacy, both ignoring founders Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann, and also at the very least Chubby Checker, with possibilities of Bobby Rydell, Dee Dee Sharp, and the Orlons in the distant future.  So far, the Hall has only inducted two artists that were ever affiliated with Cameo Records.  One of them is the Kinks.  The Kinks had their first distribution deals in the States with Cameo Records, including such huge smashes as "You Do Something To Me," "You Still Want Me," and their cover of "Long Tall Sally."  Yeah...  Anyway, onto the music that they're actually famous for.  I'm both proud and embarrassed about this selection.  Ray Davies is my all-time favorite songwriter.  I love his wit, his keen observations of humanity, and his turn of phrase.  UK Jive is an absolutely fantastic album, brilliant.  The song I've used, however, is utterly lyrically simplistic, both in subject matter, and in its total void of anything resembling a rhyme scheme.  But I'm also proud to use this song because it's so raunchy in its instrumentation.  Not just Dave Davies' roaring guitars, but the drums, and even the unbridled drive in Ray's voice as he sings.  This was a song that announced to the United States that the British were coming, and things weren't going to be the same.  So, to honor the Kinks, I selected "You Really Got Me."

The Platters:  When I checked out a doo-wop box set from the local library a few years ago, and perused the liner notes, I read a comment about how when people think of doo-wop music, the Platters never spring to mind for anyone.  I think part of it is because they were so big, that they kind of rise above being classified with other groups, but perhaps also because doo-wop is usually thought of as an upbeat style, and the Platters made their money primarily in slow ballads.  This may mean that "doo-wop" is a misnomer, and that sticking with the original categorization, "vocal R&B" is more accurate.  That said, the Platters did have some great upbeat songs, from "I Wanna;" "Bark, Battle, And Ball," which is a female response song to "Shake, Rattle, And Roll," featuring Zola Taylor singing lead; to "With This Ring," their comeback hit in the late '60s with the snubbed Sonny Turner out front.  The song I've chosen to honor the Platters is a lesser known Top 40 hit, that showcases Tony Williams' amazing voice in all its gymnastic excellence and artistic panache, while also having a slight backbeat to it, to solidly identify it as R&B.  "It Isn't Right" is the right choice for me here.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Twilight Time")

Ma Rainey:  A very old-time blues legend, so old-time, we're not even entirely certain where or when she was born, because American racism in the first decade after Reconstruction included makeshift torches instead of tiki torches from Home Depot and Lowe's.  As one of the first Black women to be recorded, she quickly built up a catalog that included a lot of songs that are now standards, including "See See Rider Blues," which I've used here.

Simon And Garfunkel:  One of the all-time greats that sometimes gets overlooked because they only put out five albums in just five or so years, Simon And Garfunkel is a name that's easy to overlook, but thankfully has not been.  I love all five of their studio albums, their hit in the mid-'70's, "My Little Town," and their reunion concert.  I even enjoy their album they recorded as "Tom And Jerry."  I have to admit, I briefly considered using "A Hazy Shade Of Winter," but decided to use something slightly more well-known, but not overtly obvious.  "I Am A Rock" is a solid piece of folk-rock with great lyrics and metaphor from Paul Simon, my second-favorite songwriter of all-time.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Scarborough Fair/Canticle")

The Who:  If the early years of the Rock Hall were governed primarily by Oldies stations' playlists, the Who probably wouldn't have been inducted in their first year of eligibility  However, there is no denying the importance of the Who to rock and roll music overall.  And you'll be pissed to know I did not use "Who Are You," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Baba O'Riley," or even "Pinball Wizard."  No!  Again, going back to the special programming origins of this whole project, we are saluting the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, which is essentially also honoring rock and roll music itself at large.  "Long Live Rock" ... be it dead or alive!

And that draws this year to a close.  The next time we'll encounter a class this large will be 2000, when the Sideman category is introduced.  Start thinking about your selections for 1991, while you're sharing your 1990 playlists in the Comments below.  Recapping this year:

Louis Armstrong:  "All Of Me"
Hank Ballard:  "Finger-Poppin' Time"
Charlie Christian:  "Solo Flight" by the Benny Goodman Orchestra
Bobby Darin:  "Queen Of The Hop"
Lamont Dozier:  "Tryin' To Hold Onto My Woman"
the Four Seasons:  "Tell It To The Rain"
the Four Tops:  "Reach Out (I'll Be There)"
Gerry Goffin:  "Don't Bring Me Down" by the Animals
Brian Holland:  "Don't Leave Me Starvin' For Your Love" by Holland-Dozier featuring Brian Holland
Eddie Holland:  "Jamie"
Carole King:  "I Feel The Earth Move"
the Kinks:  "You Really Got Me"
the Platters:  "It Isn't Right"
Ma Rainey:  "See See Rider Blues"
Simon And Garfunkel:  "I Am A Rock"
the Who:  "Long Live Rock"

Monday, January 29, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 1989

Another week, another year.  We come now to the Class Of 1989.  We're still a year away from the British Invasion from becoming eligible en masse, but yes, it's already poking through.  The Beatles were inducted the year before, and now w e have the act most widely considered their rival.  Some even call them, "The World's Greatest Rock And Roll Band."  Besides these British bad boys, we've got a double dose of Motown, some solid Southern soul, a Bronx boy, and we even run up against a tremendous wall.  We're still in that strong era where these are no-brainers... but maybe not so obvious to some of the sectors of John Q. Public.  Still, even the Early Influences are legendary names that pretty much everyone has heard of.  It's another quick round of nine, so let's run through them and honor these legends of rock and roll music.


Dion:  Dion is one of the more unique cases of Front Man Fever.  Unlike many of the others, Dion was absolutely eligible as a solo artist when he was first nominated, and his solo career was bigger, more commercially successful, and arguably more worthy of induction into the Hall Of Fame.  That said, I absolutely still want to see the Belmonts inducted; however, I don't want another Special Committee selection for them.  Dion's solo career was worthy of induction, and he should be inducted a second time as a member of Dion And The Belmonts.  And while many thought the Del Satins were the Belmonts on his biggest hit, it is indeed a solo record.  Addtionally, "Runaround Sue" may employ the quintessential rock and roll melody.  Its earliest form was as "A Night With Daddy G" by the Church Street Five, and is also heard in variations on Gary "U.S." Bonds' "Quarter To Three," Chubby Checker's "Dancing Party," and Ernie Maresca's "Shout! Shout!" to name a few.  But the best known rendition, the most enduring version is Dion's, and so it is used here for him.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof for Dion And The Belmonts: "I Wonder Why")

The Ink Spots:  They are one of those acts that their influence is tied very much to their commercial success.  That might not sound like much, but considering they were a Black vocal group in the United States during the 1940's, the fact that they appeared and performed in the movies that they did, (TWO numbers in Abbott And Costello's Pardon My Sarong... HUGE!) is an amazing accomplishment.  They not only influenced, but emboldened many of the vocal R&B groups that made the formative sub-genre of rock and roll now known as doo-wop.  Though "The Gypsy" was a huge record for them, one of their best known songs is their version of "We Three (My Echo, My Shadow, And Me)," and that is what is used here.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Don't Get Around Much Anymore")

Otis Redding:  I implore participants in this endeavor to be respectful of others' opinions on these lists.  That said, anyone who uses "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" for Otis Redding, I would have to assume simply hasn't done their homework on the man.  His songs were the blueprint for the sound of Muscle Shoals, as far as I'm concerned.  A song much more representative of his overall style, is the original, pre-Aretha masterpiece "Respect."  Aretha's is the more famous version, but I love this one so much more.  Immaculate horn work, solid percussion and bass line, and soulful pleas delivering the lyrics.  Has to be this one.

The Rolling Stones:  The bad boys of rock and roll, as they were known.  Directly marketed to be different from the Beatles, their songs have been the soundtrack for those who wanted to be known as bad boys themselves.  The song I've chosen isn't one of the more obvious choices, but it's a solidly great song, with a bluesy guitar feel, incomprehensible singing from Mick, and lyrics that from what you could discern, are about vice as a metaphor for sex and/or love.  Just to shake things up (you'll get the pun in a second), I went with "Tumbling Dice."

Bessie Smith:  Probably the most overall famous Early Influence not inducted in 2000, because she transcends the blues and her influence on rock and roll, and shoots straight through into the discussion of Americana as a whole concept.  Despite how early in the recording industry her career was, her songbook is pretty well preserved.  When I first made the CD set, I found a couple decent quality copies of "Downhearted Blues" from her.  That's how important her records are: recorded in 1923, you can make out more of the lyrics than the aforementioned song for the Stones, recorded almost 50 years later.  A legendary song from a legendary singer.  

The Soul Stirrers:  This is one I still kind of want to change.  Sam Cooke was not inducted a second time as a member of this gospel outfit, so I really want to find something from their years on Aladdin Records, before Sam joined, and not some great song that still has Sam singing lead at some point, like "I'm So Glad (Trouble Don't Last Always)".  Sadly, any worthwhile compilation of those songs is prohibitively expensive.  In lieu of that, I chose a song that Sam isn't lead singer on, though you can distinctly hear him in the backing vocals.  It's still a great song that shows their influence towards the styles of soul and secular R&B.  "Wade In The Water" is a fantastic song that you need to check out right now.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "The Last Mile Of The Way")

Phil Spector:  It's funny, when you consider all the illegal acts committed by Rock And Roll Hall Of Famers, it's almost ridiculous that Phil Spector stands out as the worst of them all.  That's not turning a blind eye to his heinous deeds; it's just addressing the kneejerk objections to honoring him in this CD set.  His character aside, the music he produced is absolutely phenomenal.  So many fantastic songs, from the girl groups, the Righteous Brothers, working with John Lennon and George Harrison in solo efforts, Ramones, and as a bonus, I encourage you to give another listen to Sonny Charles And The Checkmates' "Black Pearl."  For years, Phil Spector worked to keep acts he produced out of the Hall, arguing he was the real artist.  And he was a musician, too.  He played guitar on the Drifters' "On Broadway" and the Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire," and began his musical career as a member of a doo-wop group.  This is one of those songs that is a holdover from my efforts to turn this into a daylong program on an Oldies station.  Since he was a member of the Teddy Bears, and since he learned much from the producer of the Teddy Bears' records, I chose to honor him with "To Know Him Is To Love Him."

The Temptations:  The Emperors Of Soul, as they were sometimes known.  So many great records in their early days, where they recorded polished soul masterpieces, they went on to a longer, very successful albeit slightly less revered era of funky songs, many of which had lyrics of social conscience, or at least conscientiousness.  I kind of combined the two.  A love song that's funky!  Apologies to omitting David Ruffin, who was gone by the time this was recorded, but let's honor this mammoth of Motown with "I Can't Get Next To You."  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "I Wish It Would Rain")

Stevie Wonder:  The Boy Genius Of Motown.  I suspect many of you would go for his '70s jams, whether it's "Superstition," "Higher Ground," "I Wish," "Sir Duke," or "Living For The City."  Naturally, I ignored all those choices and went with an earlier record.  Again, Oldies station program.  Still, there's nothing wrong with using "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" as it's a great early song from Stevie, with the signature Motown accentuation of every beat.  Fun stuff.


And with that, we've finished our salute to the Class Of 1989.  Start thinking about 1990.  It's a big year.  But also think about 1989 here and now.  What would you do differently?  Where do you agree?  I'm all ears.  Comments section at the bottom; recap immediately below.

Dion: "Runaround Sue"
the Ink Spots: "We Three (My Echo, My Shadow, And Me)"
Otis Redding: "Respect"
the Rolling Stones: "Tumbling Dice"
Bessie Smith: "Downhearted Blues"
the Soul Stirrers: "Wade In The Water"
Phil Spector: "To Know Him Is To Love Him" by the Teddy Bears
the Temptations: "I Can't Get Next To You"
Stevie Wonder: "Uptight (Everything's Alright)"

Monday, January 22, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 1988

We now jump from the all-time largest induction class from the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame to a class that is among the smallest.  Both this class and the one after it had nine inductees each, a record that would stand until the Class Of 1998, with its eight inductees.  But even with its small size, it's a monumental class.  Legendary titans of the genre became eligible, and even though there were a multitude of worthy artists overlooked for the previous two classes, this is when the Hall really started creating the backlog of artists.  But there's a lot of important stuff to work with just in this class as it stands.  Folk rock starts becoming eligible.  The British Invasion acts that changed our understanding and definition of rock and roll are starting to become eligible.  For most rock fans, this is when the acts they care about start becoming eligible and getting inducted.  It's a wonderful time to be a rock and roll fan, so let's pick a playlist.

The Beach Boys:  Often nicknamed "America's band," this is one of the first bands that engaged youth culture beyond catchphrases and teenage romance.  Even more than a band about surfing and being on the beach, the Beach Boys were well-attuned to the attitudes of the youth, and the song I've chosen encapsulates pretty much that entire ethos... despite the fact that it doesn't actually mention surfing at all.  Maybe it's heretical to make the song for the Beach Boys something that isn't about being out on the sand or the waves, but I felt the song that best captures what they were about was the first song of theirs to grab the coveted brass ring, the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100, "I Get Around." (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Wendy")

The Beatles:  Possibly the most difficult song to choose.  Their catalog in its entirety is so well-known, that choosing their Song Of Proof cannot be a casual matter.  Indeed, I gave this one a lot of thought.  What the Beatles brought to rock and roll music was first of all a revival.  Music historians like to claim the early '60's as the time when rock and roll was losing ground and possibly on the verge of extinction, and the Beatles came along and gave it new life.  So their chosen tune should be a song with a decidedly rocking beat.  They were experimental, innovative as it were, testing new waters.  They were influential, and still are.  And you cannot overlook the fact that they were popular.  They were everywhere, they were a hot product, they were all over both the singles and the albums charts.  And I think I have a song that indeed captures all of that.  It's got a solid beat, and notable guitar work for those who think that the guitar is the most important characteristic of rock and roll.  Exemplifying their influence, it's one that gets covered a lot, including one or two that have also charted.  Experimental... somewhat.  It's by no means garden variety in terms of pop formula, except for having three verses--in fact, there aren't really even any other Beatles' songs that sound like this one (except maybe "Get Back," which was ineligible since Billy Preston was also credited on it).  And it's officially recognized as one of their twenty #1 hits, though some would say the other side was the real #1--and even if you do, this song did make it all the way up to #2 on its own before Billboard magazine changed their chart methodology, combining A- and B-sides.  Ladies and gentlemen, for the Beatles, I chose "Come Together."  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Nowhere Man")

The Drifters:  In my opinion, one of most of the most underrated groups in all of rock and roll.  No one in their right mind would deny them their place in the history books... at least in some capacity.  But just spend some time with a box set of their stuff, and you'll be treated to some amazing music, discovering immense greatness.  So, it's pretty well understood that they belong.  But do you induct just the original Drifters?  Do you induct the group that was first known as the Five Crowns, and were renamed by the man who owned the rights to the name, "the Drifters"?  Do you induct both groups, but separately, as the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame did?  The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, in a move of both wisdom and folly, chose to recognize both eras in a single induction, while selecting only a few members from either era.  So, how on earth does one choose a song for this group?  Well, this is NOT the inductee that I gave two Songs Of Proof, surprisingly.  Nope, just one.  One interesting thing about this group is that the two eras had a member in common: Johnny Moore.  he first joined in 1955, and after a stint in the army and a subsequent minor solo career, he rejoined the group in the '60's.  Maybe you'd call it a weaselly move on my part, but I figured the best way to represent both eras simultaneously was with a fantastic song that Johnny Moore sang lead on.  And with that, I decided on "Saturday Night At The Movies."  (The Vocal Group Hall Of Fame did two different inductions with this legacy, and so they have two songs on that CD set of mine: "Honey Love" and "Please Stay".)

Bob Dylan:  I have to admit, this is another artist that I recognize the importance of, would never deny it, but not one I particularly enjoy listening to.  He's not the most blessed singer ever, but his songs were absolutely important.  As I've said, I was originally trying to make this playlist a day-long program to play on an Oldies station, so once I settled on using "Like A Rolling Stone" for that original effort, I never saw reason to change it to anything else, especially since it's arguably his most important and most influential song (and certainly his biggest chart hit).  

Berry Gordy, Jr.:  The mastermind behind Motown records, with so many artists that themselves ended up being enshrined, and a few who've been nominated or considered, but haven't broken through yet.  What song do you possibly choose to honor this man?  How do you choose from so many Hall Of Fame artists?  I admit, I strongly considered using "Pops, We Love You," but I ultimately decided against it.  The funny thing though, is that the Motown empire gave us so many great songs, even from artists who will probably never get nominated, much less inducted: solo David Ruffin, his brother Jimmy Ruffin, Rare Earth, the Velvelettes, etc.  Motown was the record label, more than Chess, Atlantic, Cameo-Parkway, or Columbia; that symbolized the union of youth culture and Black culture.  And however worthy you may feel they are, at this point it is pretty unlikely the Contours will ever be submitted at Nominating Committee gatherings.  So I feel pretty safe and secure using the phenomenal and timeless "Do You Love Me" to represent everything given to us by Berry Gordy, Jr.

Woody Guthrie:  Yes, he wrote a lot of songs, but honestly, would you use anything other than "This Land Is Your Land"?  I learned the chorus and first verse back in elementary school.  They teach (or used to) this song to elementary school kids.  That's how important this song is in the American songbook.

Lead Belly:  It's been spelled as two words and as one.  I prefer one, since it's basically a mispronunciation of his last name "Ledbetter;" however, the man himself preferred it as two words, and we'll honor that.  Anyway, I suspect many of you would rather use "Goodnight Irene" for this man, but I think that even though his wasn't the original, his version of "Rock Island Line" is a much more seminal record.  And that's what I'm going with here.

Les Paul:  The man wasn't just a guitar legend, but an innovator, bringing double-tracking to the world of music.  Both are ably represented by his instrumental, "Nola."  As a postscript, I would love to see him inducted a second time as a duo with his wife Mary Ford.  The songs they recorded together, the way her vocals were double-tracked, there's no way those records weren't influential too.

The Supremes:  Funny thing, this is a group that it was harder to decide on my Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof for than for this set.  Diana's ego was so prominent that it dominated through the songs, not allowing for much harmony to be heard from the other Supremes.  Anyway, back to this Hall.  I much prefer the post-Ross Supremes to the Diana-led era, but there's no way I could getaway with using "Stoned Love" for them.  My conscience just wouldn't allow it.  As a classic Motown group, a song with a classic Motown style seems most appropriate, and so I chose "Stop! In The Name Of Love."  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes")

It seems so strange to be done after only nine inductees, but that's how it is this year, and next, and several other years to follow.  Do you agree with my selections?  Disapprove of my rationale for any of them?  Post your thoughts and choices in the Comments below!  And to recap:

the Beach Boys: "I Get Around"
the Beatles: "Come Together"
the Drifters: "Saturday Night At The Movies"
Bob Dylan: "Like A Rolling Stone"
Berry Gordy, Jr.: "Do You Love Me" by the Contours
Woody Guthrie: "This Land Is Your Land"
Lead Belly: "Rock Island Line"
Les Paul: "Nola"
the Supremes: "Stop! In The Name Of Love"

Monday, January 15, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 1987

Happy Martin Luther King, Junior Day everyone!  We come now to the second class of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, the Class Of 1987.  This is notably the largest class to date, and quite possibly the largest there ever will be.  And wow, are there a lot of legends.  Many of whom could just as easily have been considered important enough to have been inducted in the charter class, the year before.  This is also the year where we get our first female inductee, our first group of more than two members (and with it, the first run-in with snubbed members), as well as the biggest and most egregious case of Front Man Fever that hopefully we will ever see.

But still, a class with a size that we would like to see more of.  It's fairly diverse, about as diverse as it can be given how many rock and roll acts were actually eligible at that time, and plenty of name recognition to go around.  So many artists with so many good songs, it's hard to choose just one song for each inductee.  Fortunately, it's also hard to go wrong with any of them.  So, what's the playlist for this class?

Leonard Chess: The man behind Chess Records (one of the two, anyway), and considered the driving force.  Hoping that Phil gets his due someday, too.  Meanwhile, as it was Chess Records that introduced the world to Chuck Berry, among other artists, it seemed only right to use "Maybelline," Chuck's introductory record to honor this Non-Performer.

The Coasters:  The first group with more than two members inducted, and a terrific, albeit unlikely selection.  The Clown Princes Of Rock And Roll used humor, particularly urban humor of that era, to reach the youth of America.  The coming together of African-American culture and youth culture is probably what best defines rock'n'roll, particularly early rock'n'roll.  So, I chose the song of theirs that I thought was funniest, and that every teen can relate to: "Yakety Yak."  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Poison Ivy")

Eddie Cochran:  A great star that we lost too soon, who wrote and first recorded the song about three stars that we lost too soon, pun intended.  On "American Gold," Dick Bartley avoided using the obvious "Summertime Blues" and chose a different song.  I did that too.  A great, underrated jam from Cochran, in my opinion, is "Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie" that just captures youthful exuberance.

Bo Diddley:  Of all the inductees from this class, there are three that I felt were important enough at the dawn of rock and roll to deserve enshrinement in the first class: Bill Haley, Clyde McPhatter, and this man.  Originally, I was using "You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover," but let's be honest, the song, the man, and the beat are all inextricably tied to each other, "Bo Diddley."

Ahmet Ertegun:  Again, while no man is an island, this man was the main force that helped Atlantic Records become so prominent.  Whatever you may feel about the cronyism surrounding the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Foundation, the importance of Atlantic Records to rock and roll cannot be denied.  Among the legendary artists he brought to the world are the Drifters, so I've chosen to salute him with a classic from the original lineup.  "Fools Fall In Love" is a fantastic song and wonderfully salutes the man, in my opinion.

Aretha Franklin:  If ever I have to explain the difference between liking and respecting something, Aretha Franklin's music is a fine example for me to use.  As much as I respect her impact and accomplishments, I'm not a fan of her music, at least not her voice.  Just don't like it.  So much so, that the opening bars of her cover of "Respect" have me reaching for the dial.  That said, every inductee gets a song.  Her stature for the empowerment of women is intertwined with her musical legacy, and I believe that "Think" fits the bill quite adequately.

Marvin Gaye:  Gonna say it right out front, this is one I'm actually thinking of changing at some point.  I'm not a huge fan of Marvin Gaye, and my favorite song by him is "It Takes Two," his duet with Kim Weston.  Since that violates the guidelines, I had to look elsewhere.  Now,  the obvious answer is to go to his work from the early '70's, right?  Yeah, I didn't do that.  Marvin's gospel influence and the way it could be heard and felt in his early years created some pretty decent toe-tappers as well.  In all honesty, if I'm gonna change it, it'll probably be to "That's The Way Love Is," but for right now, the song I'm using for him is "Can I Get A Witness."

Bill Haley:  And sometimes you have to go for the patently obvious.  The man and his band made a lot of great music together, but ultimately, the legacy he leaves the deepest is for "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock."

Louis Jordan:  Front man fever in the Early Influence category.  If the Tympany Five ever get tacked on and enshrined at some point, I'll give them "Five Guys Named Moe."  Meanwhile, the man's wit and sensibilities, as well as much of the DNA of rock and roll, is pretty evident in a great song like "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie."

B.B. King:  One of the greatest bluesmen of all time.  Some might consider it a little too commercial, but no one can deny that "The Thrill Is Gone" follows a solid blues format, is soulfully delivered, and has the great guitar work that he was known for.

Jerry Leiber:  As I said, Non-Performer teams are broken up in this set.  The songwriting duo wrote a lot of songs that Elvis is known for, but the Coasters were also another act that recorded a lot of songs they wrote.  As a bonus, on "That Is Rock And Roll," the song I've chosen for this half, it's Jerry Leiber himself who sings during the bridge, since the group member who was supposed to sing it was having trouble nailing it down, so Jerry sang it himself.  This wasn't a chart hit, but it is regarded as one of the group's non-charted classics, so I think this is a fine song to use to remember Jerry Leiber.

Clyde McPhatter:  A talented musician that I have tremendous respect for, and hope he is inducted a third time someday.  There was no one that sounded like him, and still really haven't been any who do.  Even as a soloist, he gave us some immortal songs.  I chose "Lover Please" because it's got a great beat to it and showcases his ability to work a lyric so that it suits him impeccably.

Ricky Nelson:  The legend among other teen idols.  Got into the business to impress a girl, and made a very respectable career out of it.  A lot of his songs had a country or rockabilly tinge to it, and to that end, I've chosen "Believe What You Say" to exemplify him as a rock and roller.

Roy Orbison:  Another artist that it's really hard to go wrong with, no matter what you select, to such a degree that picking a song for him is rather difficult.  Originally, I went with his version of "Mean Woman Blues," but I ended up changing it to something a little closer to his overall general style, that song being "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)."

Carl Perkins:  He's had a lot of great songs, to be sure, but in the end, I had to go with the obvious.  The one that really impacted rock and roll.  Yup, "Blue Suede Shoes."

Smokey Robinson:  So, this is one that I intentionally went with a solo record of his, even though this original induction clearly was about all of it: his solo work, his work with the Miracles, and his work as a songwriter.  If the Award For Musical Excellence category had existed then, he would have been inducted there, most likely.  Anyway, when I first created the project, I held out hope for an induction of the Miracles at some point, and I felt Smokey's solo career really deserved recognition too, so "Being With You" fills this slot.

Mike Stoller:  The other half, the surviving half of this duo, and one of three inductees in this class still alive as of this writing (Aretha and Smokey being the other two).  For this one, I simply went right down to the bone and went with Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog."  If Big Mama Thornton ever gets her due as an Early Influence, I'll happily use another song for her, since I'm sure she'd like to be remembered for more than just doing the original version of this song.

Big Joe Turner:  Another one of those interesting cases.  Here, he's considered a Performer inductee, but as a blues pioneer, so... kinda Early Influence?  It's clear the Rock Hall was really still figuring out what was what at this point.  Either way, the original "Shake, Rattle, And Roll" represents the man's contributions wonderfully.

T-Bone Walker:  A highly influential blues performer, one of his most enduring songs, one that John Mayer sang a piece of during his induction speech for Albert King, no less, is "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday's Just As Bad)," and I use that one here.

Muddy Waters:  Another artist that it's so hard to go wrong with, that there's no one right song either.  That said, I think "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man" is a song that will always be tied most strongly to him, no matter how many covers there have been or will be.

Jerry Wexler:  One of the first professional producers, at least as we understand the concept today.  This is a Song Of Proof that I chose based on a piece of lore.  It's an urban legend, sure, but I love the story of the tuna fish sandwich.  The story goes that the first time he heard "There Goes My Baby" by the Drifters, he threw his tuna fish sandwich up against the wall in disgust.  He was wrong about that song, as it became a big hit for the new incarnation of the Drifters; so, fishmongers everywhere, rejoice, I chose that song for Mr. Wexler.

Hank Williams:  Given how early the man recorded, his discography is surprisingly well-preserved.  A lot of good songs that still get covered to this day, and still good to listen to.  He was inducted without his Drifting Cowboys, so if they get their due for backing him, I'll give them "Move It On Over."  Meanwhile, for the man who has been inducted, I've decided to honor him with "Hey, Good Lookin'."

Jackie Wilson:  The man was nicknamed "Mr. Excitement," which is kind of odd, too, because he did a lot of ballads, a few of which include adaptations of classical melodies.  That said, whether his music was low and lovely or jumping, he was an intense R&B performer.  So, with that intensity in mind, I've gone and saluted him with "Baby Workout."

The biggest task is now complete.  Hope you haven't strained your brain too much.  Don't forget to share your list in the Comments below.  And now for the skimmers, the recap:

Leonard Chess: "Maybelline" by Chuck Berry
the Coasters: "Yakety Yak"
Eddie Cochran: "Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie"
Bo Diddley: "Bo Diddley"
Ahemt Ertegun: "Fools Fall In Love" by the Drifters
Aretha Franklin: "Think"
Marvin Gaye: "Can I Get A Witness"
Bill Haley: "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock"
Louis Jordan: "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie"
B. B. King: "The Thrill Is Gone"
Jerry Leiber: "That Is Rock And Roll" by the Coasters
Clyde McPhatter: "Lover Please"
Ricky Nelson: "Believe What You Say"
Roy Orbison: "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)"
Carl Perkins: "Blue Suede Shoes"
Smokey Robinson: "Being With You"
Mike Stoller: "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley
Big Joe Turner: "Shake, Rattle, And Roll"
T-Bone Walker: "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday's Just As Bad)"
Muddy Waters: "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man"
Jerry Wexler: "There Goes My Baby" by the Drifters
Hank Williams: "Hey, Good Lookin'"
Jackie Wilson: "Baby Workout"


Monday, January 8, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 1986

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Foundation began in 1983, and the first round of inductees were in 1986.  So, logically, I should wait three weeks from when I announced the project.  But we won't do that.  We're going to leap right into this.  Just as reminder, this is show and tell, not a voting matter.  The reasons for choosing songs vary between inductees, Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Songs Of Proof will appear in parentheses, and have fun.

We begin with the inaugural class, the one inducted in 1986.  Pretty obvious list of people inducted, and yet, still not without controversy.  A couple glaring cases of Front Man Fever to begin with, and right out of the gate, a seemingly ambiguous category whose specifications are not altogether clear.  Nevertheless, a tremendous case to begin with.  So, what songs would I use to represent these inductees?  What songs have you chosen?

Chuck Berry:  So, these are in alphabetical order, and this man comes first in the first class, because I go by last name, not first names.  We've gotta start strong.  Luckily, you can't get too much stronger than Chuck Berry.  To honor the great Chuck Berry, we're going with the semi-autobiographical classic.  Arguably his signature song, and the one that went aboard Voyager 2 to demonstrate the sounds of Earth.  "Johnny B. Goode" gets this project underway.

James Brown:  I will probably hear no end of it from fellow monitor Bill G., but I did in fact choose "I Got You (I Feel Good)"  I realize this is a song that credits the Famous Flames, but they're nowhere to be heard on this one, so as far as I'm concerned, it's a solo James Brown song.  Anyway, a great R&B classic with lyrical structure that borders on actual verses.  Maybe it's better to go with this song, as Brown as a soloist wasn't technically eligible either.  So, this only serves to perpetuate that problem further.

Ray Charles:  This is the first of many, many instances of deviating from the incredibly obvious.  The choice of "Unchain My Heart" is only semi-obvious.  A hit on the Pop charts, but a #1 hit on the R&B charts.  This is a great song with a solid beat behind it, but sadly one that isn't remembered as well as it should be.

Sam Cooke:  There are several good choices here, and I honestly question my choice for this one.  Rather than using "You Send Me" or even "A Change Is Gonna Come," I chose to show how intrinsic soul is a part of rock and roll, and used "Twistin' The Night Away," a fantastic song with a solid beat that was part of the dance craze during the early '60's. 

Fats Domino:  While this choice also keeps up with the trend of rollicking R&B, rather than the songs the artist is best known for, the truth is my selecting "I'm Ready" is really more because this is my favorite song from the Fat Man. 

The Everly Brothers:  The fact that they were pretty young when they broke big allowed them to plug right in to youth culture, which made them a part of the rock and roll discussion, rather than being remembered primarily as a country and western duo, (though they've been inducted into that Hall Of Fame too!)  So, my choice for them was a fairly countrified selection with subject matter that comically spoke to youth culture while also framing it as a victimhood of circumstance.  "Poor Jenny" is a song you need to give a listen if you can't easily recall it.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "When Will I Be Loved")

Alan Freed:  Our first inductee outside of the category people care most about.  A great legacy with a tragic end.  A White deejay who made a specific point to feature Black records.  Sadly, it's not entirely without blemish in that nobility either.  Still, the fact he helped bring R&B to the forefront should overshadow his weaseling songwriting credit for songs like "Sincerely" by the Moonglows, and I've chosen to honor the man with this fantastic song.

John Hammond:  So, what makes this man a "Lifetime Achievement" inductee, and not another "Non-Performer" inductee?  It's all speculation, but my hypothesis is that much of what he achieved was accomplished before the conventionally accepted beginning of the "Rock" era.  He helped jumpstart the careers of many music legends before rock and roll became part of our vernacular, and worked toward desegregating the music industry prior to rock and roll going mainstream.  So, since he was more a "Pre-Rock Non-Performer," they may have originally felt uneasy calling him a regular "Non-Performer" inductee.  That's just speculation.  Similarly though, he did a lot for rock and roll, including bringing Bob Dylan to Columbia Records, so I've chosen to use the lead-off track from the classic Blonde On Blonde album.  That would be "Rainy Day Women #12 And 35."

Buddy Holly:  Unlike James Brown, I was a bit more meticulous with my selection here, in that I made sure the song I chose was in fact credited to only Buddy Holly, and not to the Crickets.  And he did have plenty of hits, too, but the nice thing about Buddy Holly's legacy is that there aren't too many songs of his that are considered obscure.  Therefore, I'm pretty happy with my selection of "Rave On," which barely scratched the Top 40, but is a widely loved cut from the man.

Robert Johnson:  Another inductee that it's hard to go wrong with.  I still can't understand all the words to "Terraplane Blues," but I enjoy trying to sing along with it, and it's considered a pretty important record; ergo, I'm calling this one good.

Jerry Lee Lewis:  The man really was a lot more than just two songs, but even the most thorough of Oldies radio stations will have maybe only four songs by the Killer.  And in order to make this into a radio show, as I originally wanted to, this one would almost absolutely have to be "Great Balls Of Fire," which still isn't a bad call, in the end.

Little Richard:  The wild man!  The man who changed our language, giving new, nonsensical interjections and the whoop that is unmistakably his.  Is it any wonder that I'd go with "Tutti Frutti"?

Sam Phillips:  And once again, we choose to bait and switch here.  Widely remembered for bringing the world Elvis Presley, and yet, when I think of him, I think more of the overall legacy of Sun Records.  When I think of the sound of Sun Records, I really think more of Jerry Lee Lewis than of Elvis Presley.  So, Jerry Lee Lewis is used twice in the same year, and I really don't have a problem with that.  "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" for Sam's sake.  Besides, Elvis is used many times throughout this series.

Elvis Presley:  A lot of people hate Elvis Presley, or what they think he stood for, what he symbolizes to them.  As someone who wasn't born until after his death, I don't have nearly quite that level of attachment to that debate.  Objectively, though, you cannot discuss the history of rock and roll and omit the man and his contributions.  His sex appeal spoke to the girls who wanted him and the guys who wanted to be him.  Heck, even Ricky Nelson got into the music business because his girlfriend at the time was so big into Elvis.  He knocked down doors and had such a prodigious output that he kept rock and roll thriving during the early years.  And if you think of rock and roll in terms of albums and not singles, well, you have Elvis to thank as much as the Beatles.  Billboard made the album charts, the Top 200, a regular feature in their weekly publication originally to keep track of Elvis's success.  He's the King Of Rock And Roll, not just in the '50's, or '60's, but also in the '70's too.  So, it is with sincerity, not mocking, that I chose to honor Elvis with his version of "Burning Love."  (Sidebar: the Jordanaires have yet to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but they have been inducted into the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame, and their Song Of Proof there is "(There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)".)

Jimmie Rodgers:  Sometimes you strike gold on the first try.  The first song from him I found on filesharing services was "Blue Yodel," which is also known as "T For Texas."  It was a good copy, and it's a country song with the classic blues A-A'-B format.  If that isn't the proteins and amino acids coalescing in the primordial soup to help make rock and roll, then I don't know what is.

Jimmy Yancey:  Originally, I was using "Cuttin' The Boogie" because it was the only song I could find on firesharing servers!  Thank goodness for iTunes, as using "State Street Special" is much more fitting, and considered much more important of a song.

That's the first year right there.  Sixteen inductees, sixteen songs.  I'll recap below for anyone who simply chose to skim.  Meanwhile, think about what songs you'd use for these inductees, and share them below.  And start to think really long and hard about the next class, the biggest one the Rock Hall has had to date.  Look forward to your sharing your choices in the Comments section below!

Recap:

Chuck Berry: "Johnny B. Goode"
James Brown: "I Got You (I Feel Good)"
Ray Charles: "Unchain My Heart"
Sam Cooke: "Twistin' The Night Away"
Fats Domino: "I'm Ready"
the Everly Brothers: "Poor Jenny"
Alan Freed: "Sincerely" by the Moonglows
John Hammond: "Rainy Day Women #12 And 35" by Bob Dylan
Buddy Holly: "Rave On"
Robert Johnson: "Terraplane Blues"
Jerry Lee Lewis: "Great Balls Of Fire"
Little Richard: "Tutti Frutti"
Sam Phillips: "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" by Jerry Lee Lewis
Elvis Presley: "Burning Love"
Jimmie Rodgers: "Blue Yodel"
Jimmy Yancey:  "State Street Special"