Tag Archives: Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

Cleveland?

This past February my lovely wife surprised me on my birthday with a planned vacation – ALL ABOUT ME. My reward for turning a half century old included us visiting Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked, “Cleveland? Why Cleveland?” after sharing the news with others, about the generous birthday present I had received, before our impending June departure. The answer to that incessantly proposed question is easy: because Cleveland rocks! The Ohio city is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and as a former music store owner, music connoisseur veteran, and Rock and Roll historian (I aced my Rock and Roll History class during my one year of community college) it makes perfect sense that I would desire to one day wander the esteemed museum’s halls.

There’s an immediate aura of greatness when entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The phenomenal facility exudes energy and excitement. There’s also an overwhelming feeling of unity amongst the sea of assembled fans; People of all shapes and sizes, age, and color have come together in celebration of Rock and Roll. The sizable, uniquely designed building boasts seven levels filled with all things music related. Inside the remarkable museum is the complete history of Rock and Roll and how it relates to the world. There’s also numerous exhibits and displays, countless memorabilia, and a few mini-theaters that continuously show video clips of those who’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The first theater my wife and I just so happened to enter was showing some footage of my beloved Prince, so we quickly found a couple of empty seats and nestled into them with anticipation. Seeing my all-time favorite performer on the big screen was surreal. I was fraught with mixed emotions as I watched the recently passed, enigmatic superstar wailing on his guitar. Not even my wife was aware (until now) how close a teardrop, balancing on the rim of my right eyelid, was from toppling over and trickling down my cheek. Thank goodness the auditorium was dark.

Prince’s accomplishments and contributions to Rock and Roll are extensive, but The Hall also recognizes the “Rude Boy’s” significance in how the Parental Advisory labels on recorded music came to be in 1985. The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was a committee whose goal was to slap warning stickers on any music they deemed too sexual, violent, or drug related. The organization compiled a list, known as the Filthy Fifteen, which included the most “objectionable” songs during that time, and Prince was on it for his sexually explicit “Darling Nikki.” Supposedly, PMRC committee member, Tipper Gore, had found her 11 year old daughter singing the words to Prince’s less than wholesome song when she decided the government should intervene to prevent minors from listening to such “filth.” (Here’s a novel idea: maybe parents should better monitor their children’s choice of music rather than getting the government involved.) The results of the mandatory Parental Advisory labels were far from what the PMRC had intended. In fact, there was an increase in sales of Rock and Roll music after the warning stickers were introduced.

I know there’s been some pushback over the years concerning Rock and Roll music. I’m well aware Elvis Presley was initially banned from The Ed Sullivan Show due to the King’s inability to control his swaying hips. However, I did not realize the extent as to how long it has been going on or how relentless politicians have been in their attempts to silence Rock and Roll. It does appear politicians and the music world have mended some fences in recent years though. The saxophone that former President Bill Clinton played, during his first presidential campaign in 1992, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Clinton became somewhat of a “rock star” after integrating music with the political world. The unlikely partnership between the two entities has flourished ever since. I’m not too keen on government officials attacking the music industry, but I certainly don’t care for entertainers publically endorsing politicians either.

After 6 hours of leisurely roaming The Hall (bless the missus for humoring me that long) I decided I had probably had my allotment of all the sights and sounds the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had to offer. My wife and I then set out for a nearby duct tape event. The aptly named Duck Tape Festival was precisely what one might expect from the event’s unambiguously titled celebration. The Duck Tape brand festival featured all things duct tape. There were seemingly endless rolls of every color and design imaginable of Duck Tape for sale, duct tape crafts for the kiddos, and several famous landmarks crafted from the sticky stuff. My field of expertise is not critiquing works of art, but I must say the Eifel Tower, Liberty Bell, and Mount Rushmore displays, concocted almost exclusively out of the “fixes everything” product, were truly sights to behold. “Mt. Duckmore,” an amusing and clever replication of South Dakota’s magnificent landmark, included Trust E. Duck, Duck Tape’s mascot, sculpted alongside the carved busts of the four former U.S. Presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.

The Duck Tape Festival was interesting enough (and FREE), but we were actually there to see the evening’s musical guest (also FREE). The event ended with a performance by 80’s MTV darling, Lita Ford. The Heavy Metal queen began her set over an hour and a half late, but it was worth the wait (at least to me). It was a little hard to complain since the price was right (FREE). FREE is good. Besides, attending a Rock and Roll concert just seemed like the perfect ending after an entire day spent at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cleveland? Absolutely!


Prince

This summer marks the 30th Anniversary of Prince’s career-defining Purple Rain, both the album and the movie, so in commemorating this special occasion I would like to share a portion from a paper I wrote, about the eccentric artist, during my one year of college. It’s titled, “Rock’s Majestic Years.” It is not a coincidence I have chosen today to post this blog, but it is in celebration of Prince’s 56th Birthday. I hope you enjoy this essay whether you’re a fan of the legendary artist or not.

It was the summer of 1984, and my beautiful girlfriend and I were making our usual date night plans consisting of dinner and a movie. After hearing my girlfriend’s preference as to which movie she wanted to see I reluctantly responded with the question, “Isn’t that the one with the short, gay, black guy?” I was correct, at least about his stature and skin color, but as a teenage boy with raging hormones I figured honoring her request would be in my best interest. That evening the star of Purple Rain became my favorite singer, musician and performer, and as the movie credits scrolled down the screen I insisted we stay and watch it again.

Prince Rogers Nelson, named after his father’s jazz trio, entered the world on June 7th, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to his awaiting parents, John Nelson and Mattie Shaw. When Prince was seven years old his musically-gifted father left the family, but fortunately he left behind his piano which the young boy then used to teach himself how to play it by ear. At the age of fourteen Prince moved in with his friend, Andre Cymone, and the teens taught themselves to play several instruments. The talented teen added guitar, bass, and drums to his repertoire, and the boys performed at school events and small local venues as the band Grand Central . In 1976, Chris Moon, a little known promoter and record producer, invited Prince to his house to experiment with a four-track recording desk that he kept in his basement. Realizing the budding artist’s talent, but not having the resources to sufficiently expand his career, Mr. Moon referred Prince to Owen Husney, a key figure in the Minneapolis advertising industry.

Mr. Husney founded a management company, American Artists, after meeting Prince and listening to his demos, so he could enable his client a clearer path to success. He then negotiated a guaranteed, three album, six figure deal with Warner Brothers in 1977. Owen Husney insisted Warner Brothers allow Prince, although he was only 19 at the time, to produce his debut album on his own because he thought Prince should be presented as a prodigy similar to how Stevie Wonder had been marketed. His first album, For You, was released in April of 1978, and credits Prince as the album’s producer, arranger, composer, and performer (something that has continued throughout his entire career). In addition, the debut album’s credits confirmed he played all 23 instruments heard on the recording, and the album itself was later credited as introducing the “Minneapolis Sound” (a distinctive synthesized horn sound) to the public.

Prince Rogers Nelson has been an electrifying, and many times controversial, entertainer since the beginning of his well-documented career. His very first tour featured a simulated sex act between a white woman and a black man which fueled the taboo fire since mixed relations were extremely frowned upon during that era. Adding more contention to his reputation, after performing on American Bandstand, Prince refused to answer any questions from legendary host, Dick Clark. In 1981, the Rolling Stones invited the “Rude Boy” to be an opening act on their tour along with George Thorogood and The J. Geils Band. This was viewed as a great opportunity for him to attract a wider audience, but on opening night, in front of over 100,000 restless and unimpressed Stones’ fans, Prince left the stage in defeat after only twenty minutes. Two years later Prince found the success he was aiming for with the release of his fifth album, 1999. The double-album contained the hit single “Little Red Corvette” which is thought of as the song that changed the dynamics of his audience from a predominantly black fan base to a much more multiracial one.

Prince finally reigned over the music industry beginning in the summer of 1984: after “When Doves Cry,” the first single from the forthcoming album, Purple Rain, was released. The song eventually became his first U.S. #1, selling over 2 million copies, and remains the best selling single of 1984. Likewise, the album, Purple Rain, erupted worldwide as it spent an incredible six months at #1 in the United States. The movie, Purple Rain, (a somewhat authentic depiction of the life of Prince) opened nationally on July 27, 1984, and eventually grossed almost $70 million. A trio of other tracks emerged triumphantly from the album with “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Purple Rain,” and “I Would Die For You” obtaining the #1, #2, and #8 positions respectively on the U.S. Charts. The success of everything Purple Rain is even more amazing when considering Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Lionel Richie, the other legendary performers of that time, were all competing for chart success as well.

Contrary to his justifiable reputation as a sexually expressive artist, both lyrically and on stage, Prince unveiled a portion of his religious side to the public with his album, Lovesexy, released in May of 1988. “Lovesexy is the feeling you get when you fall in love, not with a girl or a boy, but with the heavens above,” was his quote professed on the inner sleeve notes of the album. Controversial once again, he posed naked on the album’s cover, although not explicitly, and his supporting tour was dubbed as a combination of lust and salvation. During the numerous band personnel changes, throughout Prince’s career, one constant has always remained: he strives to have a racially mixed band made up of both male and female musicians (even if they’re not the best musically) because he appreciates diversity, and he desires to maintain fans of every race.

On June 7th, 1993, his 35th Birthday, Prince announced he had changed his name to an unpronounceable Symbol. It was suggested by some that the name change was a strategy on his part to void an unprecedented, multi-million dollar contract he had recently signed with Warner Brothers; however, Prince claimed it was God’s idea. He then added his own suggestion to the media that they should now refer to him as “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” or “The Artist,” for short. Say what you will about Prince, Symbol, The Artist, or whoever, but he has purposefully maintained his visibility in the music industry, through creative and clever marketing, for many years.

Prince is not only a musical genius, but he’s also an entrepreneur, innovator, and has written countless songs including the “Uhh-huh” song used as a jingle by Ray Charles in a Diet Pepsi commercial. Prince wrote the rock ballet, Billboards, performed by the Joffrey Ballet, is a designer of clothing and jewelry, and was the first musical artist to issue a cd-rom, “Symbol” Interactive, in 1994. Borrowing a famous quote from the movie, Forrest Gump, I’m inclined to say, Prince “is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” Prince Rogers Nelson has been a deserving recipient of numerous awards including seven Grammy’s, an Oscar, and in 2004, his first year of eligibility, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Thirty years have now passed since that incredible date night, at the movie theater, during the summer of 1984. My hormones are still raging, that girlfriend is now my lovely wife, and Prince is still one of my favorite singers, musicians, and performers of all-time.

Sources
Clarke, Duncan. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.
Connecticut: Longmeadow, 1995.
Nilsen, Per. Prince: A Documentary . London: Omnibus, 1993.
Michaels, Scott. Find a Death . Rick. 28 Sept. 2009.
The Smiley Group. 2004-2009. 20 July 2009. 28 Sept. 2009.


Hall Of Fame

While recently perusing The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website I found their criteria for bestowing the prestigious honor. To be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame, established in 1983, the artist under consideration must have released their first recording at least 25 years prior to their nomination. There are typically five to seven artists chosen annually from the ballots of 600 people comprised of other artists, historians, and members of the music industry. The listed essential qualifications for induction into The Hall are musical excellence, and the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions. That sort of standard for admittance seems somewhat confusing because the quality and importance of any given artist is mostly subjective. Determining who is worthy of such an honor is about as easy as trying to solve a Rubik’s cube, unless of course you’re one of those puzzle freaks, and probably explains why I couldn’t find any consistent correlation between those who have been inducted and those who have not.

I am not attempting to challenge the merits of previous inductees, but I would like to know why similar artists aren’t included, and I would also like to explore what I find to be some noteworthy omissions from The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jackson Browne and Cat Stevens are winners of the award but many others who have sold more records, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, and who appear more deserving of the honor continue to remain on the sidelines. I thought I had possibly solved the mystery of the real reason for their induction after discovering both Mr. Browne and Mr. Stevens were not only singer-songwriters but were humanitarians as well. However, upon further investigation I ascertained John Denver likewise was regarded as a humanitarian, and he had comparable record sales, yet he has continued to be overlooked. Another inductee with similar talents, James Taylor, has acquired only one #1 song and zero #1 albums throughout his lengthy career compared to Mr. Denver’s four #1 songs and three #1 albums obtained during his tragically shortened career. Those two artists are tied on the R.I.A.A. list, so I don’t understand how John Denver can be excluded.

I also cannot comprehend how some bands like the Pretenders, Talking Heads, and Steely Dan made the cut while so many other groups with equal or better record sales have not. The Eighties’ band, Loverboy, and the Spice Girls have very similar figures (obviously, only in a financial sense) to that of Steely Dan’s, but I would be extremely leery of adding either Loverboy or the Spice Girls to the elite club; therefore, maybe Steely Dan should lose their Hall of Fame status. I guess I did decide to challenge the validity of some inductees after all, didn’t I? I could present a strong case for the inclusion of Foreigner, Chicago, Journey, Motley Crue, and Bon-Jovi over current Hall of Famers such as Genesis, Heart, The Police, and even The Who when taking into consideration the amount of sales and the number of chart-topping hits. During my extensive research, as much as my laziness would allow, I was surprised to learn Cheap Trick was not nearly as successful as I had assumed. I found out they weren’t all that revered in the United States, but they were referred to as the “American Beatles” by the Japanese press.

Speaking of the Beatles, I learned something very interesting about them in my Rock and Roll History class during my one year of community college. Brian Epstein, who coincidentally was one of the 2014 Hall of Fame inductees, was managing the Beatles in January of 1963 when he had a brilliant idea for the not yet thriving band from Liverpool. Up to that point the Beatles had only achieved moderate success with the release of their first single, “Love Me Do,” so Mr. Epstein purchased all 10,000 copies of their next recording, “Please Please Me,” which during that time was the magic number to force a #1 ranking on the London charts. The “manufactured hit” then created a major buzz in the U.S., and led to the beginning of Beatle mania which continued throughout America for many years thereafter.

I can appreciate the Beatles and their influence on Rock and Roll, and I can even respect the genius of Brian Epstein, but the band was slightly before my time, and I must admit I only care for a handful of their songs. I also confess, at the risk of being slammed by music lovers everywhere, that I do not have even one Beatles’ cd in my entire collection of approximately 1,100 compact discs. Beatles’ fans shouldn’t fret too much though since my extensive music collection is also void of other Hall of Famers including The Who, The Doors, Pink Floyd, and Nirvana. I am painfully aware of Nirvana’s contribution to the history of Rock and Roll, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. In fact, I actually despise the band because of it. Those flannel wearing, grungy guys were almost single-handedly responsible for killing the Glam Metal craze, or as I typically refer to it as the greatest music of all-time.

We all have our favorite artists, and preferred style of music, but trying to sort it all out for the purpose of determining who qualifies for induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is an impossible task. I don’t have a better alternative to the current nomination process, but it does seem like something needs to change. KISS guitarist and vocalist, Paul Stanley, mentioned in his recent Hall of Fame acceptance speech he would like for the fans to have a more significant role in the election process than the “old guys” on the committee who don’t even buy music anymore. In addition, he believes his band would have been inducted many years sooner if that had been the case. I don’t disagree with the rock star’s logic of allowing the fans to have a stronger voice in the matter, but my greatest fear would then be knowing what might happen twenty-some years from now with the vast number of “Beliebers” running rampant out there. Enough said.


KISS

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recently inducted nine new artists including the legendary but controversial “psycho circus” that is KISS as members of its elite institution. Many say this honor is a long time coming, they’ve been eligible since 1999, but others argue there is no place for a band like them in the Hall of Fame. I was close to finishing my tenure at Aurora Heights Elementary School when I first learned of the make-up wearing foursome. I’m not exactly sure how I discovered them, or how I was even able to, since my mother was still listening to her Beatles records, my father was and assumingly always will be stuck in the 1950’s, and my older sister was listening to the hippest Disco music of that era. On second thought, I probably received my KISS education on the school playground (quite fittingly) where a young boy can learn a lot about life during recess.

Ricky, whose last name is being withheld to protect the innocent (or more likely in his case the guilty) always seemed to be the one kid teaching the rest of us the important happenings in pop culture. I remember once when he was sent to the principal’s office after bringing KISS’ Love Gun album to school because it included a cheesy cardboard cut-out of a “love gun” packaged in with the record. I guess even way back then the schools frowned upon having guns on campus. I recall Ricky having to make another trip to the principal’s office for bringing his Farrah Fawcett poster to school and showing it off to all of us hot-blooded male classmates who were eagerly awaiting our turns to take a peek. He had the classic poster with Farrah posing in a swimsuit. My parents only allowed me to have the one with her wearing blue jeans and a white sweater, but of course that did not stop me from hanging the treasured picture above my bed.

Because of Ricky I knew about KISS, but the first time I really experienced the group for myself was when I purchased their album, Rock And Roll Over, which at the time was only the second record I had ever bought. The Hard Rock album was most definitely in stark contrast to the first record I had previously acquired, Endless Summer, by the Beach Boys. I certainly was never a big fan of their style of Surf music, so I must’ve gotten it only because I knew it would’ve met with my parent’s approval; therefore, I have absolutely no idea how I got away with owning a KISS record on my parent’s watch. Maybe because the album cover was cartoon-like in appearance; hence, not showing the full magnitude of the band’s scary persona, or possibly my parents simply had more pressing issues to deal with at the time.

Either way KISS had become my favorite band, at least for awhile, and I still thought the group was somewhat cool several years later when one winter I taped a photo of them to the inside of my high school locker. The picture captured all four members wearing black attire with a generous portion of artificial snowflakes falling down on and around them. Written in bold, blood red lettering on the accumulated fake snow, mounded in front of them at the bottom of the photo, was the clever and seasonably relevant phrase, “Merry Kiss-mas!” I thought the picture, taken from a music magazine, was awesome, but many of my peers thought it was lame and had no trouble telling me so.

KISS was and still is quite tame, compared to many if not most Rock and Roll bands, especially by today’s standards. Sure they’ve written countless songs featuring double-entendres, and I believe they coined the phrase, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” However, they have rarely used profanity in their songs and never the f-bomb that I am aware of. The majority of their songs seem to be less focused on complicated lyrical content and aimed more towards simply rhyming words, but most importantly the band longs for their audience to feel like partying every day. Gene Simmons, bassist and vocalist, as well as the fire-breathing and blood-spitting member of the band freely admits KISS has always been about capitalism. He has done so in the past and will continue doing anything for a buck such as silly movies (check out “KISS Meets The Phantom Of The Park” sometime), reality television, and stamping the KISS logo on every type of merchandise known to mankind including genuine coffins for burying the ultimate KISS fans.

I thought KISS was harmless enough, so I never read all that much into their perceived aura. The church I attended during my youth obviously felt differently about it because I can remember one particular weekend when my Sunday School class devoted the entire hour to denouncing Rock and Roll music to all of us teenagers in attendance. I was told AC/DC stood for bi-sexuality, The Eagles’ hit song, “Hotel California,” was an ode to the devil, and KISS was actually an acronym for Knights In Satan’s Service. I’m not sure how much merit any of those claims hold true that my youth pastor made so many years ago, but interestingly enough all three of the aforementioned artists are now members of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For me, the excitement of KISS has long since worn off, like the intricate make-up that once graced their faces, but there’s not one doubt in my mind a band like them has earned their place in history as inductees into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.