Procrastination Nation

Things that Robert is thinking about that keep him from accomplishing anything.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Rock-n-Roll Rebuttal
My friend Jed Sutton in Ellicott City, Md. voiced his disappointment that Van Halen and Black Sabbath have yet to receive nominations. I consulted with my personal rock-n-roll historian, Bill Renfrew of Nashville, Tenn., and here is his defense of the recent inductees:

EVERYBODY born between 1950 and 1960 has a copy of ZZ Top's Tres Hombres. Probably the baddest, meanest, roughest mother fucker of an album anyone had ever heard. "Jesus Left Chicago..." What a line. Pure evil...and deliciously so. The other stuff later on was fluff created to set up the killer guitar. Tone and balls with a lot of soul...all from 3 pieces. Pretty impressive. They earned their wings early on and then they cashed in on Sharp Dressed Man. They peaked about then, laying down the best grooves under guitar licks anyone had ever heard...and they personified the lifestyle defined in it's most primary form: Sex drugs and rock and roll, with no holds barred on any of them. Then they all got hooked on coke and kept putting out Sharp Dressed Man over and over again until eveyyone got sick of them. The album that followed SDM was 10 songs, all of which had exactly the same beat, tempo and groove (and sometimes melody) of SDM. When it becomes more about money than music, that's what happens.

Traffic? Man, if you'd been a teen in 1968 you'd have thought about it very very differently. They offered something completely new. IT was strong musically and technically, but best of all if you had a good buzz on. Winwood wrote spectacular songs (Dear Mr. Fantasy, Low Spark of Highheeled Boys) when he was only 19 I think, and that record took over like no other. The longevity of that band combined with the number of later knock offs that paid homage to them by ripping them off (Styx, Kansas, Foreigner, any of the synth pop meets metal guitar rock wanna-bes of the early 80s). Traffic would jam for an hour and it never got old. I went to hear Free play in concert (All Right Now), and the lead singer broke his ankle so we were offered 3 hours of Traffic. I didn't really appreciate it at that time and felt ripped off, but listening back, I definitely began to get it. Free wasn't really worth following in the same way...except for the best vibrato technique ever (Paul Kossoff).

Bob Seger? He won my heart with Rambin' Gamblin' Man, LONG before anyone had heard the words Silver Bullet connected with anything other than vampires. He was the real thing. The gritty voice, the simple melodies, the killer guitar riffs, the great rock and roll songs. I didn't like the stuff later on as much, particularly the stuff on the radio, but the early stuff was incredible. Plus, I've heard some album cuts off early albums which were amazing. It was good music. That was the bottom line. It was original and new and good. Everyone after him like him just copied him. But Old Time Rock 'n' Roll is so overplayed it makes me want to throw up. Nevertheless, when I got requests to do that in wedding bands, I never failed to be amazed by how great a groove that song had. Same with Achey Brakey heart.

Van Halen? They will eventually probably be nominated. Eddie transformed the guitar into a completely different instrument than it had ever been thought of before, but not sure they influenced the music per se... There are more Eddie clones out there now than the world knows what to do with, and they're all boring. If he'd sparked real musicians it would have been one thing, but it became a race to see how many notes you could cram into a bar of 4 on the floor. Eddie had his pop sensibilities with his chops...great melody...and the songs were really good. Interestingly enough though, where is he now? Jeff Beck has put out at least 3 albums since I last heard any overwrought fingertapping from E.V.H. V.H. might be thought of as having fad appeal, but probably not much more than a great pop band in terms of their 'influence', etc.

In all, your comments reflect your youth rather than a close minded ness or anything like that. When these people made their marks, they mattered tremendously. Your generation watched and saw them cash in (and in some cases crash) on fame they earned legitimately long before your mother was invited to join your father to listen to his new 8-track in the back seat of his 66 Impalla.

A fair dismantling. I don't discount my age bias, though I would say I'm more hip to pre-70s music than the typical GenX-er. My bigger beef is with how easy it is to get in. They may be better bands than I realize, but in my mind, the HoF should be reserved for the truly amazing. For comparison purposes closer to my generation, Billy Joel has amazing work, but would I put him in the HoF? I'll just say, it's not a slam dunk like the other big bands of the 70s (Zeppelin, Eagles) or 80s (U2, R.E.M.), though, admittedly, they're clearly different acts than Joel. To analogize with baseball, he's not first ballot though he'd probably get in after 3-5 tries.

The other thing I object to is the clear generation-bias in the voting process. "Hey, Steven Stills or Eric Clapton was in this band at some point for a day and a half? Well, shit, let's put them in!" I mean, will we put Jane's Addiction in the HoF when they become eligible? Sure Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro are amazing, but I don't quite see it. Do Foo Fighters get in because Dave Grohl was also in Nirvana? I could sit down and make a list of a dozen acts from the 80s that I really like who have a decent body of work (for starters, Echo & the Bunnymen and Psychedelic Furs), but I'd be hardpressed to construct a story that puts them in the HoF. Just because you have enough songs to have a greatests hits album does not mean you're HoF-worthy.

And 5-7 bands a year? That seems like a real shitload, designed more to increase sales for artists rather than truly honor great work.

Also, on VH, if we're going to hold bands accountable for the shitty bands and musicians they inspire, would we be able to induct the Stones or Zeppelin?

But, then again, maybe I'm just full of shit and don't know as much about music as I'm fronting. Which, now that I think about it, is probably the case.

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