Rock Hall Disaster

localrhythmsnew.jpgIt started hopefully. Jann Wenner gave an emotional tribute to Ahmet Ertegun, and a memoriam reel rolled a list of the dead – Sneaky Pete, James Brown, Brad Delp and a handful of industry types most outside the Waldorf Astoria ballroom had likely never heard of.

But the show in New York isn’t about rock music’s fans, it’s about the industry.

Stephen Stills told a nice story, and Aretha Franklin gave a sincere three song tribute – OK, I fast-forwarded it, having seen Aretha perform this type of schtick more times in the recent past than I’ve heard “Stairway to Heaven.”

But when Keith Richards swaggered out with an unlit cigarette and an incoherent story of meeting the Ronettes in 1964 (how does he remember anything?), it all went rapidly downhill. The former Ronnie Spector made such a show of reading her prepared remarks that it was painful to watch, and it lasted almost longer than the Ronettes’ career.

I wanted to believe in Patti Smith, despite the relentless criticism of her inclusion in the Rock Hall while other worthies wait. She’s less a creative force than a spiritual mother for all that is redemptive about rock and roll. But it’s hard not to think, as Bob Lefsetz has pointed out, that it’s New York arrogance that got her a nod, but not Alice Cooper or Genesis.

Tonight, she reinforced the worst perceptions of her threadbare artistry by choosing two covers out of the three songs she performed. Right, Miss Rock Poet, I thought, Bruce Springsteen wrote your biggest hit, and the Rolling Stones had a quietly revolutionary song five years before you sang a note, which you’re conveniently playing tonight to promote your forthcoming album – of cover songs.

You poseur, move over and let Blue Oyster Cult take over.

Only Zach de la Rocha’s passionate induction speech provided comfort, by reminding me what an inspiration Patti Smith had been to the nascent punk scene and the artists that came after her. That and Ms. Smith’s own exhortation at the end of “Rock and Roll Nigger” to remember future generations.

However, Van Halen and Grandmaster Flash brought the problems back with a vengeance. Halen’s induction reminded me of that Michael Keaton movie where he makes copies of himself – I was watching clone number three or four here. What business does Velvet Revolver have flogging their album in this context? Why on earth was Sammy Hagar given the privilege of accepting an honor for a band he didn’t join until its 10th year? What was Sammy thinking when he sent kudos to Gary Cherrone, who spent something like 20 minutes as Van Halen’s frontman before they recognized their predicament and broke up?

As for hip-hop breaking and entering the Hall, via self-promoter extraordinaire Jay-Z’s induction – this is rock? I don’t think so.

I’ll get called a racist for this, but as far as I’m concerned, a turntable isn’t a musical instrument, it’s a record player.  While talking over a record collection can at times be entertaining, it’s not art. Rap is a cultural force, but it isn’t rock and roll. Political correctness is the only reason Grandmaster Flash is in the Rock Hall. By the way, the industry is about 25 years late to complain about music piracy – these guys invented it.

REM, whose induction I haven’t watched as I write this, is the only band tonight deserving of the honor. They played because they wanted to, got big in spite of themselves, and used their influence to help other bands get a foothold. Michael Stipe isn’t a rock star, which is why REM is a great rock band.

Update: Eddie Vedder’s induction speech kind of reinforced the whole Patti Smith thing for me.  Michael Stipe and Peter Buck met in a record store, during a discussion of Patti Smith’s first four albums.   However original her own art is,  Smith lit the path for plenty of musicians.  Courtney Love wouldn’t exist without her.

Wait, is that a good thing.

More complaints … No sidemen nominated, no producers. Where’s Stan Cornyn? Leon Russell? Little Feat?

The highlight reels between the inductions were good. God, Prince played the SHIT out of his instrument during “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in 2004, and some of those crowded stage gatherings are pretty awesome. But tonight, they just serve as a reminder of how weak the class of 2007 is, at least the ceremony part of it. I’m sure sure DLR and a sober Eddie Van Halen would have kicked some serious ass had it happened.

Shameless Plug – On WNTK.com Tonight @ 6

newglasses2.jpgTonight, yours truly is a late add to the “Twin State Journal” program on WNTK (www.wntk.com). I’ll be talking about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, since the induction ceremony is happening later – 8:30 on former music channel VH-1 and streaming live on AOL.

I’m not a big fan of the Hall, I mean it’s a good idea that’s been hijacked by an industry more infatuated with music executives than musicians. The fact that David Lee Roth will be outside the building while Velvet Revolver covers Van Halen songs inside, is just one of many insults.

Hugo Burnham’s riposte to Bob Lefsetz’s 2007 Hall rant quite sums up the whole Rock Hall sham:

I remember being at the event when Creedence Clearwater Revival were inducted. I was so psyched – they were the first band I ever saw live (at the Royal Albert Hall in like, 1970 or something), and I had all the albums and the 7″ singles and the clippings, and god knows what else – so you can imagine I was truly looking forward to seeing them all together again after years of rancorous bullshit.

Then I see Fogerty up onstage playing with all the usual suspects BUT WITHOUT DOUG CLIFFORD AND STU COOK! WHAT A CUNT!! I lost all respect for fucking Springsteen that night, too…he participated in the bullshit. Man of the under-trodden, my arse. I left and went out for a drink.

There at the bar were my ‘first love rhythm section’, Stu Cook even had his damn bass guitar in a bag on his back. I strode up, introduced myself and offered to buy them a drink. I said I was truly pissed off at what was going on in the big room. Then I blathered on to Doug Clifford about catching one of his drumsticks at that gig so long ago, and how I became a drummer, blah, blah…truly boring the poor bugger, I’m sure. But he was gracious and chatty and my night was somewhat saved.

As for DLR…Clem Burke introduced me to him one New Year’s night (we were crowded round a club toilet doing…aah – I can’t remember…), and he got down on one knee and sang ‘I Love A Man In A Uniform’ to us. Hilarious, and fucking great. A REAL rock star.

You’re right, it’s all gone down the shitter. Wot a waste.

Not to mention the absence of Alice Cooper, Chicago, Genesis, the Moody Blues and I could go on and on. But I don’t want to give away too much. Listen at 6 for more.