Monday, January 21, 2008

Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Hurtling Toward Irrelevance?

Sorry I've been away for a while. Between the holidays, not much live music during the holidays, kids not sleeping and my grandmother passing away, I've been pretty busy. But I'm back and will hopefully get back into the swing of things.

This week's headliners are Ween at Toad's Place on Thursday. Doors at 8, show at 9. Tix are $25 in advance and $30 day of show. Ween has touched on just about every type of music during their long career and you'll probably hear it all during their show. Whether its parody or tribute or both is up to you to decide. They've done metal (It's Gonna Be A Long Night), to psychedelia (Mutilated Lips), to funk, folk and punk, all with their twisted sense of humor. As I've started to learn more about Ween, I find myself hearing one of their songs and going, "Huh? That's Ween? That sounds nothing like the other stuff I've heard." And that's a good thing.

On Saturday night at Capital Ale House Downtown, Buckwheat Zydeco brings his zydeco greatness to town. Show starts at 9 and is $20. If you wanna dance and just feel damn good about things, this is the way to do it. Good beer, Saturday night, and the hoppin' music of zydeco. Here's the blurb on the Capital Ale House site about Buckwheat:

Buckwheat Zydeco (born Stanley Dural, Jr. on November 14, 1947) is an American accordionist and Zydeco performer. He is one of the few to achieve mainstream success. In 1971, he founded Buckwheat & the Hitchhikers, a funk band that he led for five years before switching to Zydeco. He began backing Clifton Chenier, one of the most legendary Zydeco performers. He set out on his own with The Ils Sont Partis Band; they debuted with One for the Road in 1979 and were nominated for a Grammy Award for "Turning Point" and "Waitin' for My Ya Ya" (1985) after switching to the Rounder Records label. He soon signed to Island Records, the first zydeco act on a major label, and released On a Night Like This, a critically acclaimed album that was nominated for a Grammy as well. The band soon appeared in The Big Easy. Buckwheat's latest album, Jackpot!, was released on June 7, 2005 on the Tomorrow Recordings label.

An especially powerful and haunting version of the Classic "Cryin' in the Streets" appears on the Benefit album for Hurricane Katrina recovery, "Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast".

Also at the Capital Ale House downtown this week are:
- 3 Borne on Friday at 5 PM for free.
- Virginia Coalition on Friday at 9:30 for $15. I know these guys built a large fan base but I haven't been impressed the couple times I saw them. I heard they were better when they were a four-piece.
- Dixie Power Trio on Sunday at 5 PM for $5.

At Toad's Place:
- Friday it's Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime. Show starts at 8 and tix are $18.
- As I Lay Dying on Saturday at 6 PM for $18.
- HELLYEAH on Sunday at 7 PM for $28. You may have heard their catchy little number "Alchohaulin' Ass". This band sounds like they would be a good band to get drunk to/with.

My rant this week is on the increasing irrelevance of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I enjoy my rock and roll history so I've enjoyed the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and what they do. However, the cracks started to show in 1995. As you may know, a band/artist must be 25 years past their first release to be eligible to be inducted. In 1995, Black Sabbath became eligible. Whether or not you personally like Black Sabbath, you cannot deny that they have been one of the most influential bands. They helped invent heavy metal. Every guy around my age went through an Ozzy/Sabbath phase during high school. Mine came freshman year and Ozzy was my very first concert (Feb. 1983 at Atlantic City Convention Hall). However, it took 11 years for them to be inducted. Why? The Board and voters are largely made up of baby boomers who vote in their heroes or bands that appeal to them. You can see this whenever you come to those periods in rock and roll when new sounds arose that didn't appeal to the boomers. Cases in point: Black Sabbath, and the Sex Pistols (eligible 2002, inducted 2006) who, while inducted, should have been easy first-time inductees.

What has been more apparent is some of the inductees who can't make a case as an influence at all. This year they inducted the Dave Clark Five. I have never heard a band, even a contemporary of that band, say they were influenced by the Dave Clark Five. Yes, they had some hits (8 top tens between '64 and '67) but hits aren't the only, and shouldn't be the only, decider of induction. If the British Invasion was a basketball team, the Dave Clark Five would have been second string at best (the starters = Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Yardbirds) and would probably have been more like the guy who sits on the end of the bench and cheers and plays 2 minutes every other game. They also inducted John Mellencamp this year, and while I am a fan, I'm just not feeling that he has been a great influence on the history of Rock music. Another case is when Percy Sledge was inducted in 2005. A fine soul singer, sure, but he got in because he had one big song. Can anyone point to a body of work that would have justified his induction?

Let's take a closer look at this years inductees. Leonard Cohen certainly was an influence on a large number of artists (see the movie "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man"). It probably helped that his song "Hallelujah" has been covered numerous times and been in tons of movies & TV shows. Madonna is probably the most influential female artist of the last 25 years. One could certainly argue that she's not Rock & Roll. However, the Hall has already shown an inclination to include pop singers, so I have no argument against her inclusion. The Ventures surf rock was hugely influential, especially for guitarists, so again no argument. I already mentioned Mellencamp and Dave Clark.

Eligible but not getting in were the Beastie Boys. How the Dave Clark Five gets in and the Beastie Boys don't is beyond me. The Beastie Boys have been critically acclaimed and hugely popular over the last 25 years. They took sampling to a new level on the "Paul's Boutique" album. They have at least one of the greatest music videos of all time (and a damn great song) in "Sabotage". They've been politically active, setting up the Concerts for Tibet. Doesn't all of that trump "Glad All Over"?

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is at a turning point. The acts eligible this year had their first release in 1983. That is when most of the boomer artists began to be relegated to oldies stations or the repetition of classic rock radio. That is also two years after MTV and a new generation began to fragment the pop music/rock & roll world into rap, heavy metal, dance, alternative and the other genres that fall under the "rock/pop" music of today. At the very least, it will be harder to determine what is "rock & roll". Will the Hall begin to reach back and induct marginal artists from the 60s and 70s who may hold a fond place in boomers' hearts but have no impact on the music of today? Or will they embrace those artists who had a great influence but may not meet the 60s rock template of three guitarists and a drummer playing blues-based music? Besides the Beasties and Afrika Bamaataa (big influence on rap & dance but no hits), up for induction next year for the first time or eligible already are The Cure, Run DMC, Husker Du, Judas Priest, Los Lobos, Metallica, The Replacements, The Smiths, Sonic Youth, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. That list there shows the variety of genres in the 80s that all fall under the "rock and roll" umbrella but any one of them may have a hard time getting enough of the vote (must be voted in by more than 50% of the voters) to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Tony Jordan