http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial/20 ... 017086.asp
Out of TUNE
No Neil Diamond? No Connie Francis? No Chubby Checker? Rock Expert offers a dozen names he says belong in the Hall of Fame
By ED LEVY
Special to The News
As a disc jockey, musician and unofficial rock-music historian, I've found it increasingly painful to see the direction the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been taking. The most troubling problem is the most basic: Artists who deserve to be inducted are - year after year after year - unjustly passed over. At the same time, many groups and artists have been inducted who, based on their body of work, simply don't deserve the recognition.
The Rock Hall has ignored growing demands by fans and experts for a more accurate, trustworthy and realistic process of choosing nominees and inductees. It almost seems that the Hall is deliberately trying to create music history rather than report it. The Rock Hall has a cultural responsibility to report the facts, and do so accurately.
A case in point: Ritchie Valens is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However, he certainly does not have the credentials to be there. His entire musical career was only nine months long. He had one Top 20 song, and died when he was 17 years old. I like Ritchie Valens and own most of his music, but his body of work is just too small.
By contrast, you have Neil Diamond. His career spans more than 40 years. Beginning as a writer at the Brill Building in the early '60s, his first hit was in 1966 ("Solitary Man"), and he had a long line of hits including several No. 1 songs and many Top 10s. He has written songs done by the Monkees, Barbra Streisand, UB40, Lulu, Deep Purple and countless others. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and given a special achievement award from that body. He has sold more than 120 million albums.
His body of work is obviously Hall of Fame worthy. Yet Diamond has never even been nominated. Many of Diamond's fans are so upset and disillusioned, they won't even acknowledge the Rock Hall, nor will they visit there.
When you multiply the fans of other obviously deserving groups and artists who shun the Rock Hall, the numbers become staggering. This has translated into steadily declining attendance and is one reason why the Rock Hall has not been a financial success. If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wants to restore its credibility, it will induct Diamond and these other deserving artists as soon as possible.
THE DESERVING DOZEN
1. Neil Diamond
- See Above.
2. The Guess Who
- Canada's all-time No. 1 rock 'n' roll group, which had a long string of hits from 1965 to 1975, including a No. 1 song in 1970 ("American Woman"). Their influence on subsequent Canadian artists is immeasurable. Burton Cummings possesses one of rock's greatest voices. Randy Bachman is perhaps one of the most underrated rock and jazz guitarists. Together Bachman and Cummings were one of the most formidable song writing duos of their era.
Their stature in Canada is at the superstar level, but like Diamond, the Guess Who has never even been nominated. It's another major oversight for the Rock Hall, one which has alienated many Canadian rock fans.
3. Connie Francis
- She was the undisputed top female teen idol of the '50s and the early '60s and sold more records than Elvis between 1958 and 1962. She had 35 top 40 hits (16 that went gold), including several No. 1s and many Top 10s. She had the first rock 'n' roll song by a female artist to sell over 1 million copies ("Stupid Cupid" in 1958). She was the female artist of the year for seven years in a row. Joel Whitburn rated her the 11th most important rock act for the first 10 years of rock 'n' roll. She has sold over 110 million albums worldwide. Add to that the quality of her voice and the influence she had on upcoming female rock artists. Her omission smacks of sexism.
4. Chubby Checker
- You cannot discuss the history of rock 'n' roll between 1959 and 1964 without prominently mentioning Chubby Checker.
A little history lesson: Rock 'n' roll was in severe trouble starting in 1958, when Elvis went into the Army. Quickly on the heels came the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly on Feb. 3, 1959. That was followed shortly thereafter by the payola scandal, threatening rock's credibility and future. Rock 'n' roll was at its lowest point. To the rescue came Chubby Checker and the "dance craze" era. He kept rock alive and kept America dancing. His influence spawned such things as the "Locomotion," the "Watusi," "Bristol Stomp," "Twist and Shout," "Twistin' the Night Away," "South Street," "Dance, Dance, Dance," "The Peppermint Twist," "Dancin' in the Street," as well as his own hits including "The Twist," "The Limbo Rock," "Pony Time," "Popeye the Hitchhiker," "Let's Twist Again," "Dancin' Party," "The Fly," etc.
Checker saved rock 'n' roll (with later help from the Brill Building, the Beach Boys, and the Four Seasons). In its infinite wisdom, the Rock Hall has never even nominated Chubby.
5. The Dave Clark Five
- Another history lesson: The British Invasion was the second most important event in rock history (behind the emergence of Elvis Presley, and just ahead of Woodstock). The Dave Clark Five is just one of many British Invasion groups who have been constantly slighted. Dave Clark's unique drumming style influenced the likes of Ringo Starr, Max Weinberg and Bruce Springsteen to various punk groups of the '70s, and can even be heard in '90s groups like Green Day.
For a while, the DC5 were as popular as the Beatles. They had a long string of hits between 1964 and 1968. Mike Smith (lead vocalist) of the DC5 is perhaps one of rock's most underrated voices. This year was the first year the DC5 was nominated.
6. The Moody Blues
- Considered by most rock experts to be the fathers of psychedelic rock, they were the first group to extensively use symphony orchestras in their songs. The members of the Moody Blues are all accomplished musicians who play nearly 100 different instruments. Between 1967 and 1972, the Moody Blues had seven consecutive albums that went gold and/or platinum. The Moody Blues has never been nominated for the Rock Hall.
7. Chicago Transit Authority (later known as Chicago)
- Their first year of eligibility was 1993. Since then, they have been nominated twice, but never inducted. Chicago has had more than 20 platinum albums and numerous hits including several No. 1s and plenty of Top 10s. Their first two albums are considered by many to be masterpieces. They were and are the premier "brass sound" band influencing many groups and artists along the way. Their career spans over 35 years.
8. The Hollies
- Another British Invasion group which gets no respect from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They actually pre-dated The Beatles (as did Gerry and the Pacemakers) in popularity in England, and had a huge string of hits from 1962 to the mid '70s. While they were far more popular in England than in the States, they still had six top 10 hits here. Their vocal harmonies (Graham Nash and Allan Clarke) are among the best in rock, with "Bus Stop" just one shining example. They were also one of the most prolific British Invasion bands, with over 350 songs. (The Beatles had 184). They have never been nominated for the Rock Hall.
9. The Carpenters
- Yes, The Carpenters! Consider these facts - three No. 1 songs, five No. 2 songs (second only to Elvis who had six), 12 Top 10 songs, eight gold albums, five platinum albums, 10 gold singles, the bestselling American group of the 1970s, 18 Grammy award nominations. At the first American Music Awards in 1973, they were voted the best group in the rock/pop category. The Carpenters also have their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Richard Carpenter, who was a classically trained pianist, was also composer, arranger, producer and background singer for most of their material. He has been described as a "musical genius" by the likes of Herb Alpert, Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach. Add to that Karen Carpenter's self-taught drumming and, most of all, the most pristine female voice in all of rock. While some may condemn the Carpenters for being too syrupy or squeaky-clean, if you judge them on merit, it is obvious they belong in the Rock Hall.
10. Jethro Tull
- Their first four albums ("This Was," "Stand Up," "Benefit," and probably their most successful opus "Aqualung") were all critically acclaimed by nearly every rock critic on the planet. They have released 40 albums in 37 years and are one of the most original, innovative and progressive rock groups in history. Ian Anderson is an unbelievable flute player. Even though they did not have much chart success, their music has withstood the test of time. Jethro Tull also has never been nominated.
11. Paul Anka
- One of the first and most successful rock teen idols, Anka was the only one who wrote most of his own songs. Even Elvis couldn't claim that. When "Diana" became a hit, Anka was only 15 years old. A prolific song writer, Anka has penned over 900 songs. He has had three No. 1 hits, and dozens of top 10 and top 20 hits. For others, he wrote "My Way" (Frank Sinatra), "She's a Lady" (Tom Jones), "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" (Buddy Holly) and "The Tonight Show Theme."
Anka has also never been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
12. Neil Sedaka
- After an initial career as a Brill Building composer, Neil Sedaka decided to try his hand as a performer with huge success. Between 1959 and 1963, only Connie Francis and Elvis Presley sold more records. He had three No. 1 1 hits, nine top 10s, and 15 top 20s.
When his popularity started to decline during the mid '60s, he returned to being a successful songwriter for other artists. ("Where The Boys Are," "Workin' On a Groovy Thing," "Love Will Keep Us Together," "Bad Blood" etc.). He even managed a few hits for himself ("Laughter in the Rain," the slow version of "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do").
Sedaka, too, has never been nominated.
The omission of these (and other) artists leads to the question: Just who are these voters, what are their credentials and why do they show favoritism towards punk acts and R&B artists? The beauty of early rock 'n' roll was the inclusion of a variety of styles (country and western, rhythm and blues, folk, pop, soul and even gospel). The Rock Hall's voters seem to have forgotten this.
The latest group of 15 nominees leaves much to be desired. The mere idea of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five being nominated before Chubby Checker makes most rock fans cringe. Miles Davis is great. I own several of his albums. They are located in my jazz section. Does he deserve to be in the Rock Hall? As a rock performer: No. As an influence: Absolutely. Why is he repeatedly nominated as a performer?
Does a group like the Sex Pistols, who self-admittedly were not very good musicians, deserve to be in the Rock Hall based on one big album? What has the Sir Douglas Quintet done to warrant nomination, with only one top 20 hit? Moves like these have undermined the credibility of the Rock Hall to many members of the baby boom generation, who witnessed the evolution of rock 'n' roll and who remember the importance of those mentioned here.
The biggest bone of contention for nearly every person who loves rock 'n' roll, and wants the Rock Hall to succeed, is the constant friction between the "administrative offices," which are located in New York City, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself in Cleveland. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the only major (or minor) hall of fame that does not induct its inductees at its own site.
Can you imagine the Baseball Hall of Fame having its induction ceremony anywhere but Cooperstown (population 2,033)? A reasonable person might think that you would want to showcase the beautiful venue in Cleveland designed by I. M. Pei, which cost millions of dollars to build. But Terry Stewart, the Rock Hall's CEO, claims the Hall in Cleveland has "other issues to worry about, such as drawing its own crowd."
That is first-degree doubletalk. Having the induction ceremonies anywhere other than Cleveland diminishes the museum - another reason why the Rock Hall has suffered from declining attendance and financial troubles. It has also alienated the people of Cleveland, one of the birthplaces of rock 'n' roll, who feel there is not a concerted effort to make the hall a success in their city.
Finally, one of the Rock Hall's most shameful acts was its failure to induct George Harrison as a solo artist while he was still alive. Even though everyone knew how ill he was, the Rock Hall did not induct him, when they had two chances to do so. Harrison died in 2001. He wasn't inducted until 2004.
I hope the Rock Hall will learn from that glaring mistake, and will move quickly to induct some of the aging artists listed above. They deserve to be inducted before they die. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will never be considered legitimate by knowledgeable rock fans until these oversights are rectified.
It is time for accomplishment and substance to prevail over image and style.
Copyright © 1999 - 2005 The Buffalo News™