50 Things I Loved About 2014

1. Daniel Bryan vs. Bray Wyatt at the Royal Rumble.  Two stellar talents putting on a clinic in the first match of a pay-per-view that easily bested the disappointing WrestleMania 30.

2. Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ WWE Hall of Fame induction speech.  Poignant, cathartic, painfully honest & even funny.  A much deserved honour for a superior ring psychologist.  Thanks for “masturbating our emotions”.

3. Coldplay’s Ghost Stories.  Who knew a “conscious uncoupling” would lead to a lovely set of tunes?

4. Rob Ford is no longer the Mayor of Toronto & Doug Ford is no longer on Toronto City Council.

5. Dylan Farrow’s powerful statement on the New York Times website against her estranged father & childhood abuser, Woody Allen.  It opened up a wide ranging public conversation about sexual assault & the celebrity assailants who often get away with it.

6. The executive summary of the CIA torture report was finally released after multiple delays.  Despite excessive redactions, its shocking revelations should inspire worldwide pressure to prosecute all guilty parties, past and present, even though the Obama Administration is very reluctant to do so themselves, the fucking depraved cowards.

7. Bruce Springsteen’s long awaited studio recording of American Skin (41 Shots).  His timing couldn’t have better.  The song of the year.

8. Germany won the World Cup for the 4th time while defending 2010 champions Spain didn’t even get out of their own group.

9. Jian Ghomeshi & Bill Cosby were finally exposed for the serial predators they’ve secretly always been for decades.  More proof that “nice guy” images are powerfully deceptive.  May their many victims finally get justice after all these decades.

10. Glenn Greenwald’s thoroughly frightening No Place To Hide.  The book of the year.

11. The ending of the final Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.  Very funny homages to The Drew Carey Show, Newhart & The Sopranos.

12. “We’ll Meet Again”, the charming, strangely moving celebrity sing-a-long from the last Colbert Report.  The fake conservative pundit character might be resting in a coffin somewhere but the lid isn’t sealed.

13. Daniel Bryan vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 30.  The match of the year.  The post-match steel chair beatdown by H on Bryan’s arm was brutality at its finest.

14. Daniel Bryan winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, his 4th such title, at that same event.  Despite a slow start, the Triple Threat match with Randy Orton & Batista ultimately evolved into an entertaining main event featuring the pinnacle of the most unlikely babyface superstar of all time.  The right guy went over that night.

15. Interpol’s El Pintor.  Still plumbing the darkness for sexual release, this time without Carlos D.  Let’s not take another four years for album number six, ok guys?

16. Being asked to become a Huffington Post Contributor.  Seven posted pieces, thus far, with hopefully many more to come.  Talk about a big career break.  If only it was a paying gig.

17. Robyn Doolittle’s Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story.  Just a small, fascinating taste of the insanity that is the Ford Family, plus a revealing look at how a difficult series of stories came together at The Toronto Star.  I’d love to see a sequel.  God knows there’s more than enough material for one.

18. Canada’s performance at the Winter Olympics.  Winning 25 medals four years after winning a record-setting 26 in Vancouver is pretty god damn impressive.

19. The eruption sequence in Pompeii.  Too bad the rest of the film isn’t as fun to watch.

20. U2’s Songs Of Innocence, the two-disc version.  There’s still plenty of vitality flowing through these middle aged bodies.

21. Weezer’s Everything Will Be Alright In The End.  The record Blue Album fans have been waiting 20 years to hear.  Rivers Cuomo’s voice hasn’t aged a day & he still has a trunkful of catchy melodies to share with the world.

22. Green Day is going into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame next year.  Fuck you, Johnny Rotten.

23. The astonishing fall of former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling.  What took so long?

24. Invisible Children is on the verge of extinction.  You won’t be missed, phony White Savours.  Kony 2012 was an absolute fucking failure.

25. The #BlackLivesMatter movement.  The spirit of Martin Luther King lives on in a peaceful yet rightfully pissed off community tired of systemic mistreatment & disrespect by governments & law enforcement.  May they succeed in their ongoing quest for real change.  A tip of the hat as well to protesting fast food workers, Canada’s native community for demanding an inquiry into missing women & girls as well as fighting against the construction of new gas & oil pipelines and Palestinians for fighting their evil Israeli occupiers.  Righteous, moral courage is contagious.  May we all catch it.

26. Sloan’s Commonwealth.  More melodic elegance from The Canadian Beatles.

27. Belle Knox.  Smart, honest, defiant, ballsy & incredibly sexy.  After being outed by an asshole schoolmate at Duke University, she made the absolute most of a scary situation.  An excellent writer whose young voice will only grow stronger & smarter over time.  She’s also very sweet.

28. Mr. T’s hilarious yet completely sincere WWE Hall of Fame speech, an incredible tribute to his mom.  He shouldn’t have been cut off, though.  Let the man get all his thoughts out, for Christ’s sake.

29. CNN’s explosive reports on Veteran Affairs hospitals in the US shamefully covering up long waiting lists for patients, an uncomfortable reminder that governments still don’t give a shit about the damaged people who implement their heartless & failed foreign policies.  Drew Griffin deserves much praise for his dogged work.

30. Edward Snowden’s prime time interview with NBC’s Brian Williams.  He is the strongest, living reason to impeach President Obama.

31. The continuing bombshell reports on the NSA’s illegal, immoral mass surveillance programs.  Snowden’s whistleblowing continues to reverberate around the world.  Keep sweating, President Obama.

32. Recreational marijuana became legally available for sale in Oregon & Washington State.  The beginning of the end of the war on pot.  How much longer before everyone wants a piece of this lucrative action?

33. Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL.  If only he had beaten up little kids & grown women, he’d be on a team right now.

34. The Intercept.  Finally rolling with regular updates, it’s the best new news site out there right now.  Fiercely adversarial & consistently revelatory.  Glenn Greenwald was absolutely right to leave The Guardian for this venture.

35. Kim Kardashian’s beautiful bare ass.  I like big butts & I cannot lie.

36. Damien Mizdow, The Miz’ stunt double.  Hilarious, despite being somewhat of a comedown from “The Intellectual Saviour of the Masses” gimmick.  On the plus side, however, he’s finally gotten a title push.

37. Big Wreck’s Ghosts.  Yes, Ian Thornley can scream like Chris Cornell but that’s part of the appeal.  Nearly 20 years after In Loving Memory Of…, they can still bring the rock.

38. Lana Del Rey’s inescapably dreamy West Coast.  I finally get it.

39. Police in Holland arrested a man they believed shamed & tormented Amanda Todd online to the point of suicide.  As CBC’s The Fifth Estate revealed, there are dozens more victims in multiple countries including Canada.  It is such a shame his arrest couldn’t have happened much sooner.  Todd may very well still be alive.  God knows it was possible.  But in a story full of so much tragedy, this very positive development may finally get us closer to understanding the full truth.

40. Antonio Cesaro bodyslamming The Big Show over the top rope to win the first ever Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 30.  Also, the handshake at the end was classy.  The Swiss Superman should’ve turned ‘face that night, one of the many fuck-ups the WWE made in 2014.

41. Barack Obama apologist Sophia Bush is still blocking me on Twitter, 18 months and counting.  My second proudest writing achievement next to becoming a Huffington Post Contributor.

42. Edward Snowden was given permission to stay in Russia for three more years, far away from the corrupt tentacles of Obama’s evil National Security State.  Plus, his girlfriend is now living with him.  Suck on that, Michael Hayden, you lying, spying, torturing, bald piece of shit.

43. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s numerous, growing political scandals including the now infamous George Washington Bridge closing.  May his political reputation continue to take the critical beating that it deserves.

44. Eric Cantor surprisingly lost a primary and resigned from Congress.  Now he can enjoy all the Britney Spears concerts he wants.

45. Eric Holder announced his forthcoming resignation as Attorney General.  His legacy will be decidedly mixed.  His constant hounding of whistleblowers & journalists, James Risen in particular, should not be forgotten or forgiven.

46. Egypt’s sham “justice system” which punishes critics, members of the Muslim Brotherhood & journalists doing their jobs like the Al Jazeera Three, & Obama’s continued financing of it.  Disgraceful on so many levels.

47. Lenny Kravitz’ Strut, which features some of his sexiest & most soulful arrangements.  Glad he’s still rocking out.  It’s not fair that he’s better looking than me, though.

48. Rachel Nichols’ welcome, adversarial grilling of serial woman beater Floyd Mayweather on CNN.  I wish every journalist treated him like the disgusting misogynist that he is.  Iron Mike Gallego’s stinging round-up of his criminal acts on DeadSpin deserves high praise, as well.

49. Sheldon Cooper telling his girlfriend Amy Farrah Fowler that he loves her for the first time, then kicking her out of his bedroom because girls aren’t allowed in there on The Big Bang Theory.  Perfect.

50. Eugenie Bouchard & Milos Raonic’s grand slam breakthroughs.  How long before either of them take home a major championship for Canada?

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 29, 2014
3:06 a.m.

What Mattered In 2012

1. Glenn Greenwald left Salon to start writing for The Guardian.

2. The Tragically Hip’s Now For Plan A CD.  Man Machine Poem is a killer standout.

3. CM Punk’s second WWE championship run, now the sixth longest in company history.

4. Prometheus.  Michael Fassbender does it again.

5. Egyptian protestors demanding nothing less than a real democracy.  If only American Liberals had as much anger, courage and energy to thwart Obama’s own awful agenda.

6. Big Wreck’s Albatross CD.

7. Beth Phoenix and Kharma left the WWE.  A huge vacuum for women’s wrestling that is yet to be filled.

8. Paul Heyman returned to the WWE to represent Brock Lesnar and later CM Punk.  An absolute promo master, even if he does look like an evil chipmunk.

9. Private Bradley Manning and his defense team. 

10. Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle’s revealing expose on doping in cycling, The Secret Race.  Essential reading for understanding the Lance Armstrong era of the Tour De France.

11. Augusten Burrough’s This Is How.

12. The backlash against Rush Limbaugh’s dumb, cruel, dishonest comments about Sandra Fluke.  Long overdue.

13. The Canadian Women’s Olympic Soccer team winning Bronze.  It should’ve been a Gold.

14. The New York Times’ expose on President Obama’s Muslim “kill list”.  Where is the outrage?

15. Jerry Sandusky’s conviction.  Better late than never.

16. Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.  Hilarious.  (“Fuck you Steven!”)

17. Those fast-acting CMTs who saved Jerry Lawler’s life during a live broadcast of Raw.  He should put them in his will.

18. Adele’s Rolling In The Deep helped a young girl come out of her coma when she was expected to die.  The power of music.

19. Hurricane Sandy and the considerable damage it left behind in three countries.  Time to rebuild.

20. Lance Armstrong finally getting caught using performance enhancing drugs after 20 years.

21. LiveStrong completely severing its ties with the disgraced Armstrong.

22. Dolph Ziggler won the Smackdown Money In The Bank briefcase.  Amy Schumer would be proud.

23. Damien Sandow.  Not an ignoramus.

24. Daniel Bryan’s funny promos.  (“Yes!”  “No!”  “Yes!”  “No!”)

25. The Elimination Chamber matches.

26. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 28.  Best match on the card.  (“Hey Punk!  How’s your father?”)

27. The Syrian civil war.

28. The war in the Congo.

29. Heroic Pakistani human rights activist Mala Yousafzai survived an assassination attempt at age 15.

30. Israel’s heartless, needless aggression against Palestinians in Occupied Gaza.  It has to stop.

31. Sheamus won The Royal Rumble.  Good match, too.

32. Ryback.  Feed him more.

33. Michael Hastings’ Afghanistan reporting.

34. The Big Bang Theory.

35. Muse’s The 2nd Law CD.

36. AJ Lee, the kissing bandit of the WWE.  I want to be her next victim.

37. Counter-protesting the hatefully misguided Westboro Baptist “Church” at funerals.  They never show up when they feel the heat.

38. The bad officiating during the boxing competition at the Summer Olympics.  Ditto that Canada/US women’s soccer semi-final.

39. The backlash against the hapless NFL replacement refs which led to the return of the striking originals who were actually missed by irate fans, coaches and players.

40. Oscar Pistorius competing at the Summer Olympics and the warm reception he received by everybody.

41. The Jimmy Savile scandal.

42. George Zimmerman finally getting arrested for killing Trayvon Martin after mass protesting in America.

43. The WWE return of Brock Lesnar, especially that brilliant pre-taped “I’m an asskicker” promo.

44. Lex Hives by The Hives.  Worth the five-year wait.

45. Keane’s Strangeland CD.  More dreamy pop confections in less than an hour. 

46. Usain Bolt.  Can anyone catch him?

47. Soccer dynasty Spain won their second consecutive Euro title.

48. Chris Brown’s outspoken critics.  He can never shut them up.

49. The Killers’ Battle Born CD. 

50. Ric Flair’s return to the WWE.  Make him the General Manager of Raw.

51. Eve Torres’ heel turn.  Unexpectedly convincing.

52. Nate Silver.  Singlehandedly puts all other pundits to shame.

53. Green Day’s Uno CD.

54. Rhianna’s uncomfortable, annoying and defiant reunion with Chris Brown.  Her safety and sanity remain at risk.

55. Paula’s infamous ball cake to The Situation on the Jersey Shore finale.  Ronnie’s right.  She is the Prank War Champion.  Hilarious.  Her philandering ex got his just desserts.

56. Rush will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame next year.  About fucking time.

57. The growing popularity for the American gay marriage movement.  How long before every state in the union recognizes it?

58. Republican Todd Akin lost his bid for the U.S. Senate.

59. Super PACs (except American Crossroads).

60. Democrat Alan Grayson won back his Senate seat after losing it in 2010.

61. MTV’s It Gets Better 2 special.  Honest, fair, deeply moving and extraordinarily helpful.

62. Billy Crystal hosted the Oscars.  He’s still funny.

63. Kofi Kingston’s brutal Trouble In Paradise kick to The Miz’ head on Raw.  A move so devastasting the former WWE Champion became a babyface.

64. The Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania CD.

65. Wrongly incarcerated Torontonian Omar Khadr was finally transferred from Guantanamo back to Canada where he belongs.  He should be free from prison, though.  Warren Kinsella (among many other fools) owes him an apology and restitution for needlessly harming his young reputation.

66. Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton was pelted with tomatoes by Egyptian protestors during an official visit to their country.  For someone who once considered ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak “a member of my family”, she got off easy.

67. Julian Assange’s legal limbo.  The man the Obama Administration fears the most and with good reason.

68. Anonymous.

69. Adrien Chen for exposing Michael Brutsch, AKA Violentacrez, on Gawker.

70. Wade Barrett’s shoulder injury.  It not only derailed his program with Randy Orton, it killed his momentum for much of the year.  Right now he’s stuck in the mid-card fighting for a title he’s already won.

71. Gene Simmons Family Jewels was cancelled.  Writing numerous pieces about it boosted this website’s fortunes considerably.

72. Felix Baumgartner’s skywalk.  Impressive, especially that perfect landing.

73. Daniel Bryan & Kane won the WWE tag team titles.  The division has finally been revived.

74. Brad Maddox and The Shield.  They’re the latest reasons CM Punk is still WWE Champion.

75. The “F” in old WWF footage is no longer silenced when spoken nor blurred when seen during Attitude Era retrospectives.  Finally.

76. America’s two-tier justice system and its out of control surveillence state.  It’s getting worse.

77. Mick Foley returned to the WWE.

78. The final build-up to The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania 28.  Far better than the match which was good but not great.

79. The Undertaker defeated Triple H for the third time at WrestleMania, this time in an entertaining Hell In A Cell match.  The Streak, now 20-0, remains intact.  But for how long?

80. The Driver Rehabilitation Centre on Canada’s Worst Driver 8.

81. LeBron James won his first NBA Championship with the Miami Heat.

82. Wyatt Cenac left The Daily Show.

83. Great Britain’s Summer Olympians.  The home nation had a great run this year.

84. Michael Phelps won his 22nd medal at the Summer Olympics, an all-time individual record.

85. The billion hits Psy’s Gangham Style video received this year on YouTube.  No way he can follow it up, though.

86. Justin Bieber’s Twitter promotion of Carly Rae Jepsen.  As a result, Call Me Maybe became a big hit.

87. Andy Sandberg and Kristen Wiig left SNL.

88. Denise Wade from The Canadian Home Shopping Channel.  Sigh.

89. John Cusack’s strong Obama criticisms.  Pay attention, Sophia Bush.  You might learn something.

90. The growing international backlash against drones. 

91. The death of Adam Yauch.  Great rapper, greater defender of Tibet.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 28, 2012
4:42 p.m.

CORRECTION:  Number 58 originally read: “Republican Todd Akin lost his House Of Representatives seat.”  (He’s the dope who made this infamous comment during an interview.)  That’s not accurate.  He actually resigned his seat to become the Republican nominee for the Senate race in Missouri which he lost.  The corrected line notes the latter.  My apologies for the mistake.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 31, 2012
3:02 a.m.

Latest Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees Announced

In September, The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame announced its latest list of possible inductees.  Nine acts were shortlisted for consideration.  For my part, I went through each contender and predicted who would get the necessary votes for induction and who would come up short.  (You can read that entry here.)
 
Nearly three months later, the results are in.
 
As expected, Madonna has made the cut.  As this website noted at the time the nominations were announced, “…of all the artists up for induction, Mrs. Ritchie is the surest bet of them all.”  Indeed, it would’ve been a remarkable surprise had she been excluded.
 
John Mellencamp is joining her, another deserving artist I expected to be inducted.
 
Canadians will be happy with Leonard Cohen’s acceptance into The Hall.  It’s been a long time coming for the 73-year-old Montreal native.  As I noted back in September, “He’s already in The Canadian Music Hall Of Fame and The Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame.  This year, it’s The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s turn to honour him.”
 
Unfortunately, Donna Summer was snubbed as were The Beastie Boys.  (I expected both to be accepted.)  The latter choice is particularly puzzling considering how widely influential they’ve been musically on the rap scene and as activists for a free Tibet.  With Chic once again turned down for induction and Afrika Bambaataa given the cold shoulder (which I correctly prognosticated), there won’t be any disco or hip hop representatives heading into The Hall Of Fame this time out.
 
However, contrary to what I predicted, The Dave Clark Five and The Ventures are being welcomed with open arms to The Hall.  The former is probably best known for their 60s hit, Glad All Over, while the latter’s signature tune from the same decade is Walk Don’t Run.  The Ventures’ acceptance will be particularly gratifying to hardcore fans who have long campaigned on their behalf for the Hall Of Fame honour.
 
So, I batted 3 for 5, just like last year.  Not bad but not perfect.
 
Madonna, John Mellencamp, Leonard Cohen, The Dave Clark Five and The Ventures will all be officially enshrined March 10th in a special ceremony in New York.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 13, 2007
7:42 p.m.
Published in: on December 13, 2007 at 7:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who’s Next To Be Inducted Into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?

The latest batch of nominees for The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame have been announced and once again, Iggy Pop and The Stooges have both been excluded.  One of these years Jann Wenner and company will get it right.  Maybe.  For now, these much luckier acts, nine in total, will be counting on enough votes to put them through.  Let’s go over the names one by one:
 
Afrika Bambaataa
 
When you mention his name, few will recognize it.  Even less people have heard his music.  But all should be aware of the importance of this pioneering hip hop artist.  A former gangbanger turned peace activist, the once-named Kevin Donovan (according to the Internet Movie Database) paved the way for the global emergence of rap.  30 years ago, according to Wikipedia, he started having “block parties” in the Southern Bronx area of New York.  In 1978, he established his own group: the Zulu Nation.  By the start of the next decade, he began his long recording career.
 
Like many influential artists, he rarely enjoyed commercial success.  His most important single was his first.  Planet Rock was issued in 1982 and featured a sample of Kraftwerk’s 1977 single, Trans-Europe Express.  Hip hop was never the same.  The following year he released Renegades Of Funk which was covered nearly 20 years later by Rage Against The Machine.  (The latter was a rock radio hit.  The former was a flop.)
 
One of the most profilic rap artists, his most recent releases were two versions of the same album.  In 2005, there was Metal and Metal Remixes.
 
What are his chances for rock immortality?  Not very good.  With more prominent names on the ballot this year, his chances are quite slim.  Since this is his first nomination, it’s quite likely he’ll have another chance in the years to come.  He’s only 50 years old so it’s also very likely that by the time he gets inducted, he will be alive to enjoy the honour.  But not this year.
 
The Beastie Boys
 
Imagine it.  Three upper class white guys with Jewish roots combine their mutual loves of punk rock and hip hop into one obnoxious yet irresistibly commercial mix.  Far less productive than Afrika Bambaataa, Mike D (Mike Diamond), Ad Rock (Adam Yauch) and MCA (Adam Horowitz) have nonetheless done for rap music what Elvis did for rock and roll.  They brought it to the mainstream.  The same year that Aerosmith remade Walk This Way with Run DMC (another important hip hop trio), The Beastie Boys unveiled their debut, License To Ill, which was produced by the great Rick Rubin.  It became the first rap album to top Billboard’s sales chart.  It would not be the last.
 
What was once exclusively the terrain of Black Americans is now a truly international music movement.  Vanilla Ice aside, white rappers like Kid Rock and Eminem are equally as respected as guys like Ludacris and LL Cool J.  And that’s all thanks to The Beastie Boys.  (Did you know that “Beastie” originally stood for Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Internal Excellence?)
 
Paul’s Boutique, the 1989 follow-up to License which was produced by The Dust Brothers, was a late bloomer, an album that was initially not as commercially or critically acclaimed as its predecessor.  Today, it’s considered a highly influential album.  Other full-length releases like Check Your Head (which featured the band playing traditional rock instruments while rapping), Ill Communication and Hello Nasty kept the trio’s profile high throughout the 1990s.
 
Initially believed to be sexist brats who hated gay people (according to Alan Cross, the working title of License To Ill was Don’t Be A Faggot), The Beasties became far more socially and politically conscious in the 1990s.  Freeing Tibet from the clutches of imperialist China became an important personal cause (which inspired the star-heavy annual Tibetan Freedom Concerts).
 
With rap starting to get its due at The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five were inducted last year), The Beastie Boys are the strongest hope this year for a hip hop act to be so honoured.  It’ll be a total shock if they don’t make the cut on this, their first nomination.
  
Chic
 
A return nominee, this four-piece from New York still hasn’t got any respect from voters.  (Check out what I wrote about their chances last year here.)  Will their fate be different this time around?  I say no for the exact same reasons I gave in 2006.
 
The Dave Clark Five
 
Another rejected act from last year, Tom Hanks cited them as inspiration for his 1996 directorial debut, That Thing You Do!  (This was my view on their previous nomination.)  Unfortunately, like Chic, they’ll have to settle for just being nominated.  With so many highly successful names on the ballot this year, it’ll be very difficult for this British Invasion-era quintet to break through.
 
Leonard Cohen
 
The lone Canadian nominee, it’s remarkable that this long-admired poet has yet to be enshrined in The Hall Of Fame.  Like The Beastie Boys, he comes from a Jewish background, although his upbringing was more middle class.  Born in Montreal in 1934, Cohen would initially make his mark with books of prose in the 50s and 60s.  Near the end of the decade, he started a solo musical career with his album, Songs Of Leonard Cohen.
 
Never a huge or reliable hitmaker on his own, nor terribly productive for that matter (he’s only made 11 studio albums in 40 years), he found greater success through other people’s interpretions of his material.  Judy Collins scored a hit with Suzanne.  The Neville Brothers remade Bird On A Wire for the 1990 movie of the same name.  Bono and the much missed Jeff Buckley, among others, took individual stabs at Hallelujah.  Jennifer Warnes trumped all of them by making a whole album of Cohen tunes.  (He made a guest appearance on the most famous song from the record, First We Take Manhattan.)  According to Wikipedia, there are over 30 Leonard Cohen tribute albums.  I’m Your Fan and Tower Of Song are the best known titles.
 
That being said, his music has found a greater audience through movies than it ever did on the radio.  McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Pump Up The Volume and Natural Born Killers are just three of the many films to showcase particular numbers in his catalogue.  His unmistakably foreboding baritone is the dead giveaway.
 
And if that’s not enough to convince voters to induct him, why not throw in a couple of his sexual conquests, as well?  There was a one-night stand with Janis Joplin (immortalized in Chelsea Hotel #2) and his ’90s relationship with the beautiful Rebecca DeMornay.  Eat your heart out, Hugh Hefner.
 
Then again, he might be a sentimental favourite this year, thanks to his victorious lawsuit against his former manager who screwed him over money he may never collect.  (Many in the business can relate to that awful mess.)  A master lyricist who’s long suffered from depression and dark thoughts (a point not lost on comedian Roger Abbott of The Royal Canadian Air Farce who’s humourously impersonated Cohen for years), it’s no wonder so many alternative acts have drawn inspiration from his work.  Besides, his name still carries a lot of weight.  He’s already in The Canadian Music Hall Of Fame and The Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame.  This year, it’s The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s turn to honour him.
 
Madonna
 
She can be a monster, a colossal pain in the ass, and egomaniacal.  She can make questionable decisions (speaking with a faux-British accent, agreeing to be photographed with Vanilla Ice, dating Vanilla Ice).  And she doesn’t always have the courage of her convictions (like cancelling the original video for American Life because of its anti-war sentiment).  But of all the artists up for induction, Mrs. Ritchie is the surest bet of them all.
 
Just look at these career stats:  12 number one singles in America and Britain (19 in Canada and 22 in Japan, her highest individual total in a single market).  39 number one dance hits in America.  Of the 47 songs that have hit Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart, 36 peaked in the Top 10.  Every studio album she’s ever released has gone platinum.  (Like A Virgin remains her biggest seller with over 10 million copies sold domestically.)  Six of them topped Billboard’s sales chart.  (Only Barbra Streisand has more with eight.)  Overall, she has sold between 200 and 250 million records, an estimated figure but incredible nonetheless.  She’s batting 6 for 25 at the Grammy Awards.  And she’s won a simply astounding 68 MTV Video Music Awards.
 
Not bad for a woman who wasn’t supposed to have all this success.  Believe it or not, Cyndi Lauper was supposed to be the bigger star.  But while Lauper pretty much disappeared from the mainstream at the end of the 1980s, Madonna continues to be highly regarded and controversial.  From her entertaining self-titled debut in 1983 to 2005’s Confessions On A Dance Floor, her much appreciated return to form, with memorable moments in between, she’s had quite the career.  The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame honour is hers for the taking.
 
John Mellencamp
 
Before the release of his first album in 1976, his first manager, Tony DeFries (who was guiding David Bowie simultaneously), changed his last name to Cougar, a temporary annoyance that would inevitably be discarded 15 years later.  In the end, while it made this Indiana singer/songwriter sound cooler, the change was unnecessary.  The songs were the real star of the show.
 
Another cantankerous American superstar, who hit the Top 40 a number of times before the decade was through, Mellencamp’s massive success really begins with American Fool, his fifth album, in 1982.  (It remains his only number one seller.)  Smash hits like Hurts So Good (which peaked at number two in America) and Jack & Diane (his only number one single) were all over the radio.  The videos for those tracks were endlessly played on video channels, which also helped sell tons of albums.  The following year came Uh-Huh and a name change.  For the rest of the decade, he would be John Cougar Mellencamp.  (He’d drop “Cougar” altogether for the release of Whenever We Wanted in 1991.)
 
From American Fool to Mr. Happy Go Lucky, Mellencamp made a strong, lasting impression with rock radio audiences.  Seven of his biggest songs (Hurts So Good, Lonely Ol’ Night, Paper In Fire, Cherry Bomb, Get A Leg Up, Again Tonight and What If I Came Knocking) all hit number one on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Chart.  Since then, it’s been very difficult for him to compete with the next generation of rockers.  After Your Life Is Now was issued in 1998, Mellencamp struggled to crank out more hits.  Things have gotten so bad for him that he broke one of his longstanding rules (never licensing his music for TV ads) to sell records.  In the end, Our Country only succeeded on Adult Contemporary stations, despite being heard in those famous GM Truck commercials.  (It peaked at #88 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart and failed to break through on rock radio.)
 
Nevertheless, his back catalogue speaks for itself.  He’s written and recorded lots of good songs, he’s well-respected (especially for his association with Farm Aid) and he’s a genuine rock and roll bad ass (multiple marriages since he was 17, bad personal habits, rabid perfectionist), all strong reasons why he’ll receive the Rock Hall honour this year.  He deserves to be inducted, regardless.
 
Donna Summer
 
Disco music owes a great debt to this woman.  Without her contributions to the genre, it might not have survived.  (The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack would most certainly not be as popular as it turned out to be.)  After paying her dues in Europe for the first half of the ’70s, Summer was signed by Casablanca Records in 1975 where she would conquer her own country’s music charts.  The song that changed everything was Love To Love You Baby, a cheeky epic produced by Pete Bellotte and co-written by Summer and Georgio Moroder with a strong emphasis on rock, an unusual approach for a dance single.  Featuring her own multiple orgasms (something she was reluctant to go through with and which later freaked out her uptight Christian parents), the almost 20-minute track singlehandedly extended the life of the growing underground dance scene.  Prior to its release, disco songs were short and tight like old school rock.  It was hard to really get going on the dance floor when these numbers only lasted a few minutes.  Summer’s debut American single changed all that.  Now it was possible to dance to a single song for a far longer period of time.  (DJs appreciated these epics for reasons that should be obvious.)  As a result, more epics were issued.  The Saturday Night Fever album is loaded with them.  (Disco Infernal by The Trammps remains a classic standout.)
 
It took two years but Summer would follow up that pioneering breakthrough (a number two smash on the Hot 100) with a number of substantial Top 5 mainstream successes starting with I Feel Love in 1977.  Her commercial peak came at the end of the ’70s and the start of the ’80s.  Last Dance, Bad Girls, a remake of MacArthur Park, Hot Stuff, Dim All The Lights, On The Radio, The Wanderer and even a duet with Barbra Streisand, No More Tears, became radio staples.  From 1975 to 1979, Summer accumulated twelve number one dance singles and topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart four times.
 
Another important commercial achievement were the three consecutive number one double albums she had starting with Live & More in 1978 and followed by Bad Girls and her greatest hits set in 1979.  As the phony Disco backlash started gaining momentum in the early ’80s, Summer switched record labels (she became David Geffen’s first signed act) and inevitably re-tooled her sound.  In 1983, She Works Hard For The Money became a Top 5 hit and in 1989, This Time I Know It’s For Real hit the Top 10.
 
Despite many periods where Top 40 success was stubbornly elusive, Summer has remained a popular dance artist.  Since 1994, she’s had three more number one dance hits.  Still active in the new millennium, her most recent single, I Got Your Love was a Top 5 dance hit in 2005.
 
In a year where the most recognizable names are the best bets for induction, Donna Summer should be one of the honourees. 
 
The Ventures
 
You know their biggest hit:  Walk Don’t Run.   What you might not know are the number of lives that number two single changed.  George Harrison, Gene Simmons, Joe Walsh, Steven Stills, Joe Perry, Elton John and many others, if Wikipedia is to be believed, all have cited this one song has having a strong influence in their young lives and future musical careers.  While this Seattle-based instrumental outfit did have other hits (their version of the Hawaii Five-O theme was a Top 5 smash, for instance), nothing topped their 1960 signature blockbuster.
 
After failing to find an audience initially with a singer onboard, they eventually decided to stick with bare instrumentation.  Incredibly, it was the best decision they ever made.  They’ve sold well over 100 million records worldwide.  Although they were most prominent in the ’60s, the band have experienced a couple of resurgences.  First, during the punk explosion in the late ’70s and again in the mid-90s after Quentin Tarantino threw in some surf instrumentals on the soundtrack to his terrific Pulp Fiction.
 
The band is still active today despite line-up changes and deaths.
 
But is this the year they get honoured?  I don’t think so.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, September 30, 2007
10:20 p.m.
Published in: on September 30, 2007 at 10:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Assessing My 2007 Rock Hall Predictions

The votes have been cast and counted.  5 more acts are headed to The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame this year, but I have mixed feelings about the official selections. 
 
On November 1st, when the list of 9 nominees were announced, I went through all the performers to determine who deserved to be inducted and then made my predictions.  I felt that The Dave Clark Five faced “stiff competition this year.  I think the more familiar American acts will earn more votes and as a result, The Dave Clark Five will not be accepted.”  I was right.
 
Regarding Chic, I noted the following:  “Their chances for acceptance all depends on how many die-hard Chic supporters there are among the thousand or so voters deciding their fate.  They weren’t there for them a few years ago and I doubt they’ll be there this year.  Their time will come, I’m sure, but not this time.”  2 for 2.
 
There were two, pioneering hip hop acts on the short list of potential nominees.  I predicted that, of the two “up for the induction honour, I would think Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five are the strongest bet.”  Indeed, they have received enough votes to enter the hall.
 
“Unlike U2, who are back to making important records worthy of their earlier triumphs, R.E.M. seems stuck in a creative and commercial rut,” I wrote in that November piece.  “Maybe an official invite to The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame would stir up their passions again.  I think it will happen and there’s no question they deserve it.”  4 for 4.
 
“They are the cockroaches of Rock, surviving every apocalyptic musical trend over the past 30 years…I can’t imagine them being passed over again.  Besides, David Lee Roth could use some cheering up.  And everybody wants to see Eddie play again.  They will make it and they deserve it.”  Unsurprisingly, Van Halen will be joining Grandmaster Flash and R.E.M. when they all become official members of The Hall Of Fame this coming March.
 
Unfortunately, I’d like to forget the rest of my predictions considering how wrong they turned out to be.
 
Let’s start with The Ronettes who I can’t believe will be inducted in 2 months.  After I posted my November entry, I started to have second thoughts about them.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized there was a chance they could make it this time around.  After much hemming and hawing, a filthy habit if ever there was one, I decided to firmly (and stubbornly) stick with my original thoughts.  Big mistake.  The Ronettes are in and I’m not happy about it.  (More on my unhappiness in a moment.)
 
Much to my surprise, Patti Smith is being inducted this year.  Despite being refused entry a couple of times previously (for both her solo and “Group” work), she got the necessary votes for acceptance this time.  There’s no question she’s been an enormous influence on women in music for decades.  Just look at Courtney Love, Nina Hagen, Veruca Salt, Alanis Morissette, Kate Bush, Tori Amos and countless others for the evidence.  But I would’ve preferred a different performer taking her place. 
 
I should’ve known I was pushing it when I suggested that Joe Tex was going to get recognized for all his underappreciated pioneering career moves.  And indeed, the long deceased musician just didn’t get the votes required for induction.
 
That leaves The Stooges.  Poor Iggy Pop.  Who does he have to blow to get into The Hall Of Fame?  I mean, really.  I genuinely thought this was his year.  The Stooges have reunited.  (Their new album, the first since 1973’s Raw Power, is out in March.)  His influence on music is far more significant than Patti Smith’s contributions.  And he has one of the greatest song catalogues in music history.  I have heard the vast majority of his recorded output and it continues to sicken me that he can’t convince enough voters to enshrine him in the hallowed hall.  It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t had that many hits.  It doesn’t matter that he’s only had one decent selling album.  It doesn’t matter that he almost never wins awards of any kind.  He is one of the greatest frontmen in rock and he continues to be snubbed. 
 
So, all in all, I correctly predicted 3 of the 5 nominees for this year’s induction ceremonies.  Not great, but not bad either.  R.E.M., Van Halen, The Ronettes, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and Patti Smith will be officially inducted on March 12. 
 
The Stooges should be joining them.  Then again, there’s always next year.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, January 8, 2007
10:01 p.m.
Published in: on January 8, 2007 at 10:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who Will Join The Hall In 2007?

It’s that time again.  The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has announced the next batch of finalists for its 2007 induction ceremony. 
 
For some strange reason only 9 acts made the list this year.  (Normally, there are 15.)  In the end, only 5 will be officially invited to live forever in the hallowed halls of Cleveland’s popular tourist attraction.  Let’s examine the finalists and determine who deserves to be inducted, who will be inducted and who will get the shaft.
 
Chic
 
“Le freak c’est chic,” declared this New York quartet which Rolling Stone considers to be the best disco band of its time.  Led by axeman Nile Rodgers and late bassist Bernard Edwards, Chic released 7 studio albums in 6 years to much success and acclaim.  (Luther Vandross sang for them from 1977 to 1979.)  Besides the aforementioned Le Freak, probably their best known hit, they also scored with Dance Dance Dance, Good Times, I Want Your Love and many others.  Rodgers and Edwards, who produced and wrote their own material for the group, also wrote hit singles for other artists including Diana Ross (Upside Down), and Sister Sledge (We Are Family).  Rodgers later became a very successful producer on his own working with David Bowie and Duran Duran among others. 
 
Having said all that, what are the band’s chances for induction?  Not good.  They’ve been denied before and I have a feeling it will happen again.  I only remember a few of their singles so I can’t make a stand on their music personally.  All I know is their music is still very much alive today thanks to its endless sampling.  (The bass line from Rapper’s Delight, the most influential hip hop song, is taken from Chic’s Good Times.  Many rap songs have used that very same sample.) 
 
Their chances for acceptance all depends on how many die-hard Chic supporters there are among the thousand or so voters deciding their fate.  They weren’t there for them a few years ago and I doubt they’ll be there this year.  Their time will come, I’m sure, but not this time.
 
The Dave Clark Five
 
It must suck to see all of your contemporaries (The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones and many others) easily secure the keys to rock and roll eternity while you’re still waiting to get the go-ahead.  But that’s been the fate of The Dave Clark Five, who quietly built up a large catalogue of pop hits during their heyday in the 1960s.  They’re one of my parents’ favourite groups.  Tom Hanks is a fan, too.
 
Despite releasing hit after hit on both sides of the pond, this British quintet (named after their drummer who also served as their manager) were always in the shadow of The Beatles.  Probably best known for Glad All Over, their other big hits include Because, Over And Over (their only number one single in America), Bits And Pieces, Anyway You Want It, Catch Us If You Can, and You Got What It Takes. 
 
I can’t say personally whether they belong in the hall or not, based on the quality of their music.  They are certainly a staple of Golden Oldies stations and chances are, even if you’re not familiar with their name or the titles of their songs, you’ve heard them endlessly on those particular types of stations. 
 
According to Wikipedia, Glad All Over is the official anthem of Crystal Palace, a British soccer team.  (Other clubs like Port Vale and Blackpool play the song when either team scores at home.  Think of the song as their Song 2 or Rock And Roll Part 2 or Vertigo.)
 
But they have stiff competition this year.  I think the more familiar American acts will earn more votes and as a result, The Dave Clark Five will not be accepted. 
 
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five
 
In 1982, with an assist by guest rapper Melle Mel, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Flash unleashed one of the most important rap songs in music history.  The Message was the ultimate ghetto travelogue, a litany of horrible images inspired by tough times in tough neighbourhoods in Reagan’s America.  Nearly 25 years later, it remains just as powerful as it was when it first appeared.  Also successful was their anti-drug anthem, White Lines, later covered by Duran Duran for their Thank You CD.
 
Successful before the emergence of Eminem, N.W.A and Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash might be the most important DJ in rap history.  According to the All Music Guide, he established three basic DJ moves – cutting (“moving between tracks exactly on the beat”), back-spinning (“manually turning records to repeat brief snippets of sound”) and phasing (“manipulating turntable speeds”) – all of which are standard practice by today’s DJs. 
 
He wasn’t a commercial behemoth like the aforementioned acts but he did establish “the basic vocabulary” for the modern rap DJ which will live on long after he passes.  Let’s face it, rap is the number one style of music today.  It’s bigger than rock, pop and even country.  One of two rap pioneers up for the induction honour, I would think Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five are the strongest bet.
 
R.E.M.
 
I’ve been a fan of this longtime Athens, Georgia quintet since the 1980s, well before they became one of the biggest and most respected bands of the 1990s.  Many talk about “the R.E.M. model”, how they’ve been able to maintain artistic integrity for so many years without having it chiselled away by an increasingly greedy and impatient music business and how they divide all their profits evenly.  True, it appears their best music is behind them but what a catalogue.
 
Peter Buck said it best in the liner notes of the band’s second greatest hits package in 2003.  He mentioned that there were 2 distinctive periods of R.E.M.:  before Losing My Religion (pre-1991) and after (1991 to the present).  Before the band’s biggest single success (a top 5 single), they were on the now-defunct indie label, IRS.  Steadily building a fan base for 6 years, beginning with the Chronic Town EP in 1982 and ending with the first greatest hits release, Eponymous, in 1988, they then wisely switched to the artist-friendly Warner Bros., where they experienced their greatest successes.  Their most acclaimed and commercial records appeared between 1991 and 1994.  Out Of Time was an unlikely smash in a year filled with eclectic blockbusters.  Automatic For The People is considered their best album and Monster lived up to its name.  A terminal fixture on the radio and TV, it was during this period that R.E.M.’s star shone brightest. 
 
Then came the Aneurysm tour of 1995 where 3 of the members all had to deal with sudden, dreadful health scares.  As a result, the band’s longtime drummer, the unabrowed Bill Berry (author of the deeply moving Everybody Hurts), ended his tenure just before the recording of the Up album.  Since then, despite some terrific singles, (and the entertaining New Adventures In Hi-Fi CD in 1996) the band has pretty much peaked at this point.  Unlike U2, who are back to making important records worthy of their earlier triumphs, R.E.M. seems stuck in a creative and commercial rut.  Maybe an official invite to The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame would stir up their passions again.  I think it will happen and there’s no question they deserve it.
 
The Ronettes
 
Even though they weren’t nearly as successful as other girl groups of their era like The Supremes, The Ronettes may have had more influence.  Led by the charismatic Ronnie Spector, this all-female trio with the beehive haircuts scored their biggest successes in the 1960s with Ronnie’s then-husband, the eternally psychotic Phil Spector (now awaiting his fate in a murder trial) orchestrating everything in the studio.  The remarkably perfectionistic Phil gave them their biggest triumph, Be My Baby, Brian Wilson’s favourite song.  (Wilson responded with the similiar sounding, Don’t Worry Baby, which he recorded with The Beach Boys.  Before The Beach Boys made it a success on their own, Wilson offered the song to Spector and The Ronettes.  They turned it down.)
 
Be My Baby hit number 2 in 1963 and has been a staple of pop culture ever since.  No other single they released during their 7-year run ever finished so high on the pop charts in America.  And now I understand why they’ve never been inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  One big song is not good enough to be accepted.  I think they’ll be snubbed.
 
Patti Smith
 
She is the most unglamourous chick rocker and yet the most influential in rock and roll history.  She once proclaimed on record, “I don’t fuck much with the past, but I fuck plenty with the future.” And indeed she did.  Everyone from Debbie Harry in Blondie to modern bands like Hole, Kittie and The Donnas owe a lot to “the godmother of punk”.  Best known for her 1978 Top 10 smash, Because The Night (co-written with Bruce Springsteen), this Rimbaud-worshipping, hairy-pitted punk pioneer became the Dylan of the New York punk underworld. 
 
Her solo work has been snubbed before.  Even The Patti Smith Group has been rejected in the past.  Despite influencing U2 (who have their own version of Dancing Barefoot), and R.E.M. (Michael Stipe was obsessed with her first record, Horses, as a teenager) and continuing to see her work interpreted by other artists (Marilyn Manson did a version of Rock N Roll Nigger for the Smells Like Children CD), I suspect only one important punk icon will get recognized this time.  And it won’t be Smith.
 
In terms of influence, certainly she belongs there.  Any time you hear Alanis Morissette, Kate Bush, Courtney Love, Fiona Apple or Peaches voicing their views through their lyrics, chances are Smith showed them the way.  (When Roseanne Barr talks about her 1988 hit, People Have The Power (an idea her late husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, challenged her to write about) on an episode of her self-named sitcom, you know her influence goes beyond music.)  
 
But I’ve not heard enough of her music to know for sure whether or not her catalogue really compares with some of the other acts up for induction this time around.  That being said, she will be passed over.  Her induction will have to wait another year.
 
The Stooges
 
On April 21st of this year I voiced my displeasure at the fact that neither Iggy Pop nor his groundbreaking band, The Stooges, had been officially invited to join The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  I felt then (as I do now) that he should be honoured twice:  for drafting the blueprint for disagreeable yet strangely accessible alternative music with The Stooges and for his much superior solo work.  
 
This year, once again, Iggy, the solo artist, has been snubbed but not The Stooges, who have yet another chance to be terminally enshrined.  Their odds have never been better.  They’re only competing with 8 other acts for the honour this time around, not the usual 14 like in past years.  And with a reformed version of the band working feverishly in the studio to prepare their first studio album in 34 years (not to mention all the live gigs they’ve been doing from time to time), they’ve been keeping a high profile.
 
Iggy is a bonafide living legend, a true original, a survivor despite everything good and bad that’s happened to him.  He’s a devoted student of the blues who twisted and manipulated this style of music into something much more corrosive and dangerous, and ultimately, more satisfying.  Like Howard Stern, he was an outsider who influenced the mainstream’s future and showed the world there was another way of providing good entertainment for the people.  Many have imitated him and his ideas resulting in more commercial success for themselves than Iggy himself has had.  Indeed, The Stooges never had a hit during their two previous incarnations.  No commercial radio airplay, no gold records.  But like The Velvet Underground, a large number of disenfranchised and ambitious musicians worshipped their records, covered them frequently in concert and in the studio, and corrupted the mainstream by following his lead.  We’re all better for it.
 
The three studio records that The Stooges produced – The Stooges (1969), Funhouse (1970) and Raw Power (1973) – never sounded like products of their time.  They sounded like the future.  They still do.  During this period, they gave us Search & Destroy (later heard in a Nike ad), No Fun (covered by The Sex Pistols), I Wanna Be Your Dog, Raw Power (covered by Guns N’ Roses), 1969, 1970, Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell and many others.  Many of their disciples like The Ramones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, U2 and countless others are already in the Hall.  It’s time to correct this oversight and induct The Stooges into the Hall Of Fame.  I think it will finally happen next year.  Iggy, make it the speech of your life.
 
Joe Tex
 
I am unfamiliar with this rap pioneer who died 24 years ago, not too long after celebrating his 49th birthday.  A successful soul singer of the 1960s and 70s, according to Wikipedia, he actually coined the term “rap” to describe “[h]is style of speaking over music…”.  The All Music Guide says he “made the first Southern soul record [Hold What You’ve Got] that also hit on the pop charts [number 5 in 1965]…”
 
The Texas-born pioneer struggled through the 1950s despite winning a talent contest in 1954, but found his niche the following decade after hooking up with “Nashville song publisher Buddy Killen”, says the All Music Guide.  Tex wrote Baby You’re Right for James Brown and it peaked at number 2.  He recorded at Muscle Shoals studio before it became a popular place to cut records.  He also wrote and cut the first successful anti-Vietnam War anthem, I Believe I’m Gonna Make It, in 1966. 
 
I have a strong feeling that Tex is gonna make it.  I don’t know if he deserves it – I’ve never heard of any of his songs – but based purely on the pioneering moves he made as a performer and writer, he probably belongs there on that basis alone.  It’s too bad he’s not alive to enjoy this honour next year. 
 
Van Halen
 
They are the cockroaches of Rock, surviving every apocalyptic musical trend over the past 30 years.  And like R.E.M. and The Stooges, they’re one of my favourite all-time groups.  Originally called Mammoth, it was Indiana-born singer David Lee Roth who convinced Dutch brothers Alex and Eddie to name the band after their surname.  A wise move.  Alex was the original guitar player and Eddie played drums.  They ended up switching.  Another wise move.  Gene Simmons liked this band enough to champion them and have them tour with Kiss.  From their first studio album, Van Halen (1978), to their second greatest hits package, Best Of Both Worlds (2004), they’ve known instinctively how to win us over time and time again. 
 
The secret weapon is Eddie Van Halen, a guitar player so good that when Michael Jackson wanted him to play the solo on Beat It, he nailed it on the first take (and stupidly, refused to take any money for the lucrative gig).  Neither a failed marriage nor tongue cancer has stopped him.  Nor has putting up with 3 different singers.
 
Gary Cherone was the least successful, lasting only one album (the much-drubbed Van Halen 3 in 1998).  Although Sammy Hagar had his detractors during his initial decade-long stint with the band (they made up a few years ago), it didn’t hurt the band’s record sales or their creativity.  But, without question, Roth was the definitive frontman, fearless and lovably obnoxious in equal doses.  Eternally quotable, he gave many a memorable interview during his time in the band.  He gladly won over the women while the rhythm section won over the men.  
 
Their best album remains 1984 which features their two greatest singles, Jump and Panama.  22 years later, it’s still killer.  The self-titled debut comes a close second.  (Their version of You Really Got Me emasculates The Kinks’ original.) 
 
I can’t imagine them being passed over again.  Besides, David Lee Roth could use some cheering up.  And everybody wants to see Eddie play again.  They will make it and they deserve it.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
10:49 p.m.
Published in: on November 1, 2006 at 11:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Induct Iggy – Twice

When I listen to his music I feel like his priest. I feel as though he is confessing to me intimate thoughts that he doesn’t even share with people in his personal life. He reveals painful memories of love affairs gone wrong, of immoral behaviour now regretted, of the difficulties in getting the music business to understand what he’s tried to accomplish with his music.

What will it take to get Iggy Pop inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? He’s been a trailblazing musical eccentric for 5 decades now and has yet to receive the ultimate thank you for all of his tireless efforts. Without his indelible prints the terminally cyclic world of rock and roll would be very, very different.

Personally, I’d like to see him honoured twice. First, for his work with The Stooges and second, for his much superior solo work. If Eric Clapton can be accepted three times for being in The Yardbirds and Cream and for his own solo work, why can’t Iggy be recognized once? I’d settle for that. I’m sure he would, too.

So, what gives? How is it that Patti Smith is in and Iggy remains shut out? That the artists and groups he inspired – among them, U2, The Ramones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols – have been voted in and he’s still waiting? Why do the disciples get more respect than the original? Even his peers, David Bowie and Lou Reed, have been acknowledged. But not Iggy and most definitely not The Stooges, despite the latter being selected a few times as a finalist. (The required number of votes to seal the deal were not achieved.)

Those in the music business who consider themselves to be cutting edge or, at the very least, vastly different from the fluffy darlings of the mainstream pop world, owe a considerable debt to Iggy Pop. There are many poseurs in the world of music that I’m sure Iggy would like to run over with a bulldozer, most especially those who disgrace the open-ended genre of alternative rock. But he’s the real deal, warts and all.

Everything you need to know about the man himself is exposed in his lyrics. I don’t know of anyone else, except maybe John Lennon, who can be tender and thoughtful one moment and heartless and cruel the next. He is the Sigmund Freud of music, forever frustrated and confounded by women. He can be merciless in his observations and he can be generously complimentary. He’s written songs like Tiny Girls and Look Away which deal with his hebophilia, his fascination with underage ladies. He seemed to be at his lowest when he made Tiny Girls with David Bowie for The Idiot album. Singing with deep solemnity, he rattles off all the reasons he despises women. 2 years later, he wrote and recorded Girls for his New Values album. It radiates with love and affection and quiet appreciation. This love/hate dynamic is evident throughout his catalogue.

Iggy Pop is a master lyricist who spares no one, not even himself. Each studio album he’s made is a time capsule capturing the man at his most naked. Some records are more accessible than others but I find myself drawn to all of the ones I’ve heard so far. (Kill City is now the only album he’s made that I’ve not yet experienced.) A curious thing happens to me when I listen to certain Iggy Pop records. This pretty much began in 1996 when I seriously started getting into his back catalogue. I remember buying the first two Stooges albums and coming home to play them. The second one, Fun House, sounded demented. The arrangements were loose and chaotic. The last song on the record, L.A. Blues, featured nothing but screaming and fragmentary noises. I liked a few songs off the record but the rest didn’t connect. Years later, I listen to it again and I find a few more songs grow on me, except L.A. Blues which remains the worst song Iggy ever wrote.

I remember getting The Idiot for Christmas one year and only liking a couple of songs. I ended up selling it (along with a bunch of other CDs) in order to raise money for a Beach Boys box set I wanted. Last year, I gave the album a second chance after getting a public library copy. I ended up liking half the record. This year, after listening to that same library copy several more times, my appreciation for The Idiot has grown to the point where I feel there are no bad songs on it anymore. I should’ve never sold my copy in the first place. I’ve had similiar experiences with Brick By Brick, Avenue B, Zombie Birdhouse, Raw Power, and Lust For Life. These are much better albums today than they were when I first listened to them.

Iggy Pop’s music is like wine. You like it better when it’s aged. He exemplifies that part of the human spirit that more sensible people keep under wraps. Despite revealing ugly personality traits, there’s an undeniable beauty to his melodies. They’re guided along effectively by his unvarnished vocals. He once wrote in a record company bio that when he heard Frank Sinatra sing at age 5, he wanted to do the same thing. During his most tender moments on record, like his only American Top 40 hit, Candy, or Ordinary Bummer, or Beside You, his most surprising influence comes shining through.

His best song remains Lust For Life, also his most familiar thanks to its constant licensing. His best album? American Caesar. Better than any of his solo work and most especially, the three records he made with The Stooges. All facets of Iggy Pop’s personality are heard on that eclectic, magnificent record.

The use of that album title is a good example of another recurring Iggy theme: the use of literary references. American Caesar is the name of Douglas MacArthur’s biography. In Lust For Life, he makes a reference to “hypnotizing chickens” which was something William S. Burroughs wrote in The Ticket That Exploded. The Idiot was a famous Dostoevsky novel. Dostoevsky is name-checked in the American Caesar version of Louie Louie. The line “exterminate the brutes” in Wild America is a nod to Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness.

Besides sex and literature, Iggy is never afraid to tackle his dealings with the music business. Kill City, Neon Forest, and Butt Town say things no one else has the balls to declare. His disgust is palpable and unmistakable. Despite working with David Bowie, Steve Jones, Don Was, Green Day, Sum 41 and members of Blondie among many others, he’s never had the consistent commercial acceptance lesser artists receive and take for granted. The music business has never understood him and vice versa. Confusion breeds no support. And no support means a life of struggle for acceptance. But struggle builds character, he once sang. And he’s still going strong, still making good music for real people of all persuasions.

All that’s missing is an invitation to the hall of immortality. Iggy Pop has earned the right to be there. Twice.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, April 21, 2006
1:41 a.m.
Published in: on April 21, 2006 at 1:39 pm  Comments (2)  

Ungrateful Sex Pistols Incapable Of Saying Thank You

On March 13, 2006, The Sex Pistols will be among a small number of musical notables who will be formally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.   (The others are Blondie, Black Sabbath, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the founders of the now-defunct A&M Records, Herb Alpert & Jerry Moss.  There will also be some Sidemen inductees which haven’t been announced yet.)   It’s an incredible honour for a notorious foursome known for only one proper studio album, Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols. 
 
And yet, there’s a problem.  The band has announced they will not attend the ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.  On John Lydon’s official website, as well as the official band site, there’s an unsigned, crudely handwritten, one-page message that looks like it was written by a drunken, failing English student.  (More on that shortly.)
 
Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten because he’s a dentist’s worst nightmare, is the band’s long-time frontman.  One wonders what he and his on-again/off-again bandmates are thinking by publicly posting this badly expressed rant against those in the music business who would dare to honour their achievement by voting them in democratically.  Think about it.  You’re in a band that made one big splash and faded away, only to return every now and again for the occasional reunion tour.  A group of music industry notables decide now is the time to honour that terrific album you put out nearly 30 years ago and your response is to badmouth them and your honour?  Then again, graciousness has never been this band’s strength.
 
Not once have I heard any of the members express any gratitude to the people who’ve supported them at any time during their careers.  Not for any of the good reviews they received, for musicians who cite them as an important influence, for anyone who dares to give them an award and certainly, not for anyone who pays them a compliment for anything they’ve done.  (John Lydon once publicly complained that he gets tired of people saying “Great gig, man!” after a show.  He is the only person in the world who has allergic reactions to positive feedback.)
 
But this railing against the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the most embarrassing thing they’ve ever done.  Why is it so difficult to say “thank you” for being considered?  True, it took 6 tries but so what?  At least your band won’t be forgotten.  Would it kill the band once, just once, to show some appreciation after years of bad press, boycotts, government bans and even violent attacks from passersby?  Isn’t it better to receive this honour than getting stabbed in the hand so bad you lose all feeling in it?  (Ask John Lydon about that.)  Isn’t it also better than being in a coma?  (Ask John Lydon about that, as well.)
 
This message that they’ve endorsed (without any of their signatures present) is childish and dumb.  Calling rock and roll and the Hall of Fame “a piss stain” in comparison to the Pistols is the height of undeserved arrogance, particularly from a band so stupid they fired their original bass player (Glen Matlock, an important songwriting contributor) and replaced him with a guy so out of his mind on drugs he couldn’t play on stage or in the studio.  That move plus the ill-fated US tour in 1978 assured the band’s swift demise.  (Sid Vicious, the replacement would-be bass player, died in 1979.)  It’s clear they think they’re better than everybody else in the Hall which might explain the long delay in honouring them.  If they’re truly the best, how come they haven’t written a new song in 30 years? 
 
Riddled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, not to mention a whiny, sucky-baby attitude, it’s hard to take any of their ungraciousness seriously.  It’s also a bit hard to understand.  What is so bad about being recognized for a great album? 
 
Then, there’s this: “Fame at $25,000 if we paid for a table, or $15,000 to squeak up in the gallery, goes to a non-profit organisation [sic] selling us a load of old famous [sic].”  Are they saying this isn’t truly an honour because they have to pay for it and if they did cough up the dough, it would go towards preserving an important history they refuse to recognize?  This requires a more cogent explanation.  I’ve always believed that getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is no honour because you have to pay $10,000 (and be voted in by a committee) to get one.  I have never heard of paying your way to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The Sex Pistols would’ve made a much stronger case for snubbing the induction ceremony if they provided actual proof that this is no honour and is actually a scam to get money out of aging rock stars.  But because none of them are capable of putting coherent sentences together, their statement meanders and annoys, instead of winning you over.   And as I said, they’re incapable of saying thank you at any time for anything remotely positive whether it’s geniune or not.  The words “graciousness” and “Sex Pistol” are never found in the same sentence.
 
Also confusing is this:  “If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons.  Your [sic] anonymous as judges, but your [sic] still music industry people.”  And your point would be?
 
Finally, the annoying message ends with this: “Were [sic] not coming.  Your [sic] not paying attention.”  And the last line once again emphasizes the band is better than everybody else because they’re not part of the mainstream.  They’re probably more upset they can’t compete with the mainstream considering it took 19 years for their album to sell a million copies in a country that has 300 million inhabitants.     
 
There’s no better way to say this.  The Sex Pistols are a one-album wonder and are lucky to even be talked about today in any kind of reverent tone considering how many more important performers who’ve had actual, fulfilling, long-term careers (like Iggy Pop) remain locked out of the Hall. 
 
I hope they reconsider their foolishness and attend the ceremony.  I also hope they learn to say “thank you” at some point in their life.  I know I’m wasting my breath.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, February 24, 2006
6:59 p.m.
Published in: on February 24, 2006 at 7:23 pm  Leave a Comment