Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Well, congrats to the next class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees:   Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, Dr. John and Darlene Love. And Neil Diamond.

I'm glad that Alice Cooper is finally being inducted, and it is the band and not just the man who are being included. It was one of the greatest bands of the early '70s: the late Glen Buxton on guitar, Michael Bruce also on guitar, Dennis Dunaway on bass and Neal Smith on drums.

Alice (the band) doesn't get enough credit because Alice (the man) kind of "sold out" early on, in the '70s, when it wasn't cool to do so. He did Hollywood Squares, The Muppet Show, etc. and more recently has shilled on commercials for office supply chains. But facts are facts, the original Alice Cooper (the band) influenced everyone. Not just heavy metal and glam rock, and yes, their silly bastard son hair metal. But also punk rock: The Sex Pistols, The New York Dolls and The Ramones, to name a few. Alice (the man) never felt the need to follow the orthodox rules of rock and roll, he also loved show business and decided not to sweat it. Listen to 1971's Love It To Death and Killer, 1972's School's Out and 1973's Billion Dollar Babies, all with the original band, they're amazing. Even Alice's first "solo" album, 1975's Welcome To My Nightmare, is great. I like some songs since then, and I won't front like I don't love the hair metal-ish "Poison" from 1989's Trash. And his recent anthem "Keeping Halloween Alive" is awesome. Alice Cooper would have been my #1 choice on my ballot if I were a voter.

Tom Waits is one of the only artists who has gotten weirder as he has gotten older, instead of the other way around. I've said this before, but I think that "weird" is an important part of rock and roll, and Tom Waits brings the "weird" like no one else. Of course there have always been a lot of artists who try and get by on "weird." But the thing about Tom Waits is, he has an incredible catalog of great songs. Artists from Rod Stewart to Sarah McLachlan to Bruce Springsteen recognizes this and has covered his amazing songs. Trends? If he's even aware of any, you wouldn't know it. Although he occasionally works with younger artists (notably kindred spirits Primus, on their classic collab "Tommy The Cat"), he's not really looking for what's hip. He seemed old even when he was young, and only seems to occasionally intersect with rock music. But he is sort of a big part of "alternative rock" in my mind. Not "alternative" in the marketing sense of course. But as an artist who rocks, but is going in a different direction than everyone else. Tom surely would have been on my ballot. A lot of people who love Tom, their favorite album is something from the '70s or '80s. Mine is 1999's Mule Variations. If I were a voter, I would have absolutely voted for Waits, and I would have done it long ago.

New Orleans is always cited as a big influence on early rock and roll, but other than Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint, I don't think there are many New Orleans artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But the good doctor isn't getting in as a token for the proud city. Don't believe it? Start with his debut, Gris-Gris, it is bad ass. He is combining more traditional R&B with psychedelic rock, kind of like a New Orleans version of what so many other rock acts were doing. Younger fans may recognize the song "I Walk On Guilded Splinters," which was sampled by Beck on "Loser." Another great one to check out is 1972's Dr. John's Gumbo, which has one of his more famous songs, "Iko Iko" (like most of the album, it is a cover). The album is a great introduction to New Orleans music, and I imagine that it did, in fact, introduce lots of people to these songs, just like Eric Clapton introduced people to the blues. He still makes great albums: 2008's The City That Care Forgot and this year's Tribal both are rockin'. If I were a voter, I would definitely have thought about voting for Dr. John.

Darlene Love, well that's an interesting one. You hear her a lot these days, because in December you hear lots of Christmas songs, and she sang one of the best ones ever: "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" (later covered by U2). She was an important part of Phil Spector's "wall of sound," singing on "Da Doo Ron Ron Ron," "He's A Rebel" and "Today I Met The Boy I"m Gonna Marry." Artists love her: she's sang backing vocals for Elvis, Cher and U2. Some people know her best for her acting: she played Danny Glover's wife in all four Lethal Weapon movies. Little Steven loves her, and I'm pretty sure he campaigned for her this time around. Well, good for him and good for her. Artists like her who were around at the beginning don't need to have a huge catalog, but when the songs they did count as much as Darlene's did, I guess that makes them Hall of Fame caliber. I look forward to Little Steven's speech about her!

Neil Diamond? I won't put the guy down, and I don't contest that he belongs in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. I just don't think he's rock and roll.  I'm sure Robbie Robertson campaigned for this, and while I really admire Robbie, I don't usually agree with his taste.  Yes, Neil plays guitar and is backed by bass, drums and etc. But for my money, LL Cool J and The Beastie Boys are way more rock and roll, and they should have been voted in. Well, maybe next year.  The Red Hot Chili Peppers should get in next year also, so maybe it will be a rocking ceremony.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad 2 of my favorites Alice Cooper & Tom Waits made it. What would of made it even better was if J.Geils been picked as well. Great RnR band & Peter Wolf as showman.

But very happy for Alice who should been in years ago.