Different people hold different opinions on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I hear and understand all of these opinions, both the optimistic ones (such as how it’s such a prestigious honour) to the pessimistic ones (like how it doesn’t really mean anything and it’s arbitrary etc). I consider myself an optimist on the subject. Hell, I spend so much time paying attention to who has been inducted, which members of bands did and didn’t get inducted and who still hasn’t been inducted that the only way to justify spending so much time on the subject for mostly just personal knowledge wouldn’t make sense if I were a pessimist.
Songwriter and producer Bert Berns, hip hop group N.W.A., and classic rockers Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple and Steve Miller have been recognized by the hall this year and will be joining some esteemed company. I’m very excited to speak my opinion about these inductees, but before I do I’d like to quickly discuss some of the nominees that didn’t make it. Particularly two: Yes and The Cars.
Given that some of the biggest progressive bands in history are in the hall, like Genesis and Pink Floyd, I can’t help but wonder why Yes, who are usually mentioned in the same sentence as Genesis, aren’t in yet. As for The Cars, there haven’t been many new wave bands inducted. In fact, I can only think of Blondie and Talking Heads. I don’t know where The Cars fall in comparison to those two, but I know for sure I’m a much bigger fan of them then I am both Blondie and Talking Heads combined. Mind you I’m not a fan of the latter at all. I have no real opinion on the other artists on the ballot who didn’t make it, but names like The Smiths and Nine Inch Nails stood out. Janet Jackson also stood out for all the wrong reasons.
I’ll discuss the inductees simply in order of how much I have to say about them, from least to most. As I type this, I’m unsure if I’ll have paragraphs worth of stuff to say or just sentences, but we’ll soon find out.
Not surprisingly, I have the least to say about them. The hall always seems to induct a rap group. I don’t know why and this is one thing that people, including myself, can’t seem to get over. Looking at it from another perspective, though, comparing them to other rap groups in the hall of fame, it only seemed logical to include them based on their notoriety alone. Though I think the success of the Straight Outta Compton film had more than a little to do with this induction.
Cheap Trick are one of those bands, like Chicago, in which I really just needed a greatest hits album and then I was good. They have such a long string of hits, starting with their live version of “I Want You To Want Me” to their 80’s power ballad (and my personal favourite) “The Flame” as well as anything before, after and in between. They also have some awesome underappreciated tracks like “If You Want My Love” (which falls as a close second for me) “Tonight It’s You” and “I Can’t Take It.” Having seen them live opening for Poison and Def Leppard almost seven years ago, I can also say that their live show is one that shouldn’t be missed. They’re the kind of band I wasn’t sure would ever be inducted but I’m sure happy to see that it’s happened.
Upon hearing his name, I prematurely said I’d never heard of Bert Berns and I thought I’d have the least to say about him, but was I ever wrong. As a songwriter and producer, he’s quietly made a thunderous mark in the music industry. As a songwriter alone he’s written or co-written some classics and other songs that I love such as Solomon Burke‘s “Cry To Me” as well as “Here Comes The Night” which was originally written for Lulu but I recognize it better as having been covered by Van Morrison‘s band Them.
Perhaps the two biggest songs he’s written are more famous for their covers. The first being “Twist and Shout” most famously covered by The Beatles and “Piece of My Heart” which Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin covered. Bert Berns also served as producer for the original cuts of most of these tracks he’s written or co-written. This makes him a logical selection to be named beside other non-performers such as Phil Spector, Lou Adler and Quincy Jones.
I got into Chicago in high school. Now I don’t want to make it sound like I was in high school when they were making music. I graduated in 2008, but it was during that time that I first heard “Hard Habit To Break” (still my favourite song by them) which prompted me to listen to the Greatest Hits 1982-1989 CD that my dad has and I was hooked.
Unfortunately, the hall isn’t recognizing this era of Chicago. It seems to only be the founding members of the band that are getting inducted, which tends to happen with a lot of groups. I never really understand how this is determined. You look at Red Hot Chili Peppers who have almost every player that ever played with the band inducted, and Guns N’ Roses who have the founders as well as Matt Sorum who was with them a brief yet very successful period for the band. And don’t get me started on the confusion surrounding Fleetwood Mac. I’d, at least, expect Bill Chaplin to be included with Chicago. He was with them during a very successful period of the band starting in the early 80’s and served as the main face of the band after Peter Cetera left. Also, other than the four (out of seven) founding members of the band that still remain members today, Bill was with the band longer than any other founder.
Aside from that rant, their induction is long overdue. It’s obvious that it’s the classic jazz-rock era of the band that’s being inducted, rather than the AOR days of the 80’s. I get it, though, I can’t think of many jazz rock bands as successful and recognizable as Chicago.
The Steve Miller Band has had what you could call a revolving door of people who at some point in time were able to call themselves members of Steve Miller‘s band. Wikipedia shows me there were exactly 40, not including the man himself. That’s definitely why the hall has opted to induct Steve Miller as a solo artist despite him only having one solo album that I’m aware of.
I came to realize a few years ago that other than their song “The Joker,” The Steve Miller Band‘s success lies heavily on two albums: Fly Like an Eagle and Book of Dreams. I realized this when I saw that their Greatest Hits 1974-78 album that features every song I’ve ever heard from the band on the radio since I was a kid is almost completely made up of only songs from these two albums. The only reason it’s “almost completely made up of” these albums is because they included “The Joker” on it.
These are terrific albums and tempted me to listen to his other albums, starting at the beginning. As of now I’ve only gotten to know the first two of the band’s eighteen albums (Children of the Future and Sailor) well enough to talk about, both of which feature Boz Scaggs pre-successful solo career, and it’s interesting to hear how they started out as a very different kind of psychedelic rock band. They didn’t sound like hippie stoners, but like aspiring blues rockers who were making music at a confusing time. These aren’t the albums that Steve Miller is being inducted for but they sure helped him get where he is now, and as a fan of his hits since I was little, I’m thrilled to see him inducted.
I grew up under my dad and uncle who, especially my uncle, believe that Deep Purple is God‘s gift to the Earth. That’s why they’ve always been one of my favourite bands and why Ritchie Blackmore is one of my biggest influences as a guitarist. However, while growing up, I’ve realized that they’ve always taken a back seat to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. The latter I understand, they changed the face of music as we know it, but I’ve personally never been a big fan of Led Zeppelin and always hated hearing their name mentioned while Deep Purple‘s was always forgotten. That’s the main reason I always wanted them to be inducted into the hall so damn badly.
The details surrounding Deep Purple‘s induction are strange ones, which at this point doesn’t come as a surprise. I’m ecstatic that the Burn era of the band is being inducted, as David Coverdale is one of my favourite vocalists of all time, at times, I consider him my favourite. I also like his band Whitesnake even more than Deep Purple, so I’m just thrilled he gets to add “Rock and Roll Hall of Famer” to his name. Also seeing Glenn Hughes inducted after all of the historical bands and musicians he’s performed with, it’s great to see him get the recognition. That’s the furthest the hall is going in terms of members to induct – no Tommy Bolin, no Steve Morse, no Don Airey – which is perfectly fine with me, despite being a huge Tommy Bolin fan.
My confusion lies in the founding members getting inducted. Of course, the classic MK II line-up of Paice-Lord-Blackmore-Gillan-Glover is being inducted, and original vocalist Rod Evans is also being inducted, but founding bassist Nick Simper has been disregarded. I never understand this. Some bands have only founding members inducted, even if they’ve done the most minuscule amount of work to be included, as long as they’ve recorded an album with the band they’re in, yet then there are times like these or with Rush‘s original drummer John Rutsey or AC/DC‘s Mark Evans, where founding members are just disregarded.
We have to take both the good and the bad in I suppose. After a long wait, the name Deep Purple will finally be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m just curious as to who shows up for the ceremony. The band members don’t really seem to care, which I never really found fair to the fans. As I mentioned right at the beginning, many people – musicians and fans alike – as pessimists, but for the fans who have stuck by and fought and argued so long to keep a band’s name relevant, not showing up to something like this is a slap in the face. I’d best assume that enough of the surviving members of the band will show and hopefully put on a great performance.
The induction ceremony takes place April 8th. HBO always televises it about a month after.
Thanks for reading!