Saturday, October 30, 2021

Rock Hall Snubs: Dick Dale


purchase [ Miserlou ]

In a way, Seuras' post about the UK Music Hall of Fame belatedly informed me about my choice, causing me to question the point of our snub selections. There is an authoritative, well-linked site named that has a list of snubs. From the handfull of back and forth checks I did with musicians I was curious about the official and futurerocklegends agree: Dick Dale has never been nominated and the snub count stands at 34 years. But before taking off on lambasting the Rock Hall for their omission, it is worth pointing out that Dick Dale did not leave this world unrecognized for his contributions and that Rock Hall of Fame is but one of many: elected to the Library of Congress Hall of Records, the Hollywood Rock Walk of Fame, the  Musicians Hall of Fame and the Surfing Walk of Fame, that collection of recognition of that sort doesn't include accolades such as working with Leo Fender to help develop electric guitar sounds in the early 60s.

I confess that if I had ever heard of Dick Dale before this week's posting began, the name was lost in the fog of a fading memory. His online bio is cause for me to hide my tail between my legs. As someone who calls himself a guitar player (mind you - never more than amateur) I really should have known at least a little about the man who is/was known as the King of the Surf Guitar. That is the guitar style of the classic Beach Boys as well as an influence for Hendrix and Townshend.

Influence or not, the technique he developed and played just about right up to his death 2 years back is - as the 'pedia says "unmatched"

Thursday, October 28, 2021


Still puzzling over the R&RHoF shindig and the hotness under the collar as to who and who hasn't been elected. I even read a little about the electoral college that issues the shortlist for the great and good to then dissect. And, yeah, disquiet and discomfort as to how and why the great and good are deemed so, and how much they have, or not, a clue. It sort of wants me wishing I had paid attention during the brief life of the UK equivalent, that you missed reading about here. I would love to be railing and rallying at those nameless visigoths, as they revive the career of some long forgotten bar band from Birmingham with one sweep of their Sharpies, simultaneously forgetting the contribution of some once mighty dinosaur, now deemed uncool and forgettable. There is a terrific site I found, dedicated to this very state of affairs in the US hall: . The name sort of gives it away, but it gives an exhaustive list, with commentary, of those forsaken and left to moulder in the roadway. I shall ignore how many in the first few pages of the list seem to come from as far away from rock as I can see; Eminem, Willie Nelson and John Coltrane, FFS, irrespective of their undoubted capabilities elsewhere, commending them otherwise on the thoroughness of their exhortations. (Plus, for those inclined, they do the same for other halls of fame, such as Country, where Willie surely must be and belongs, Hockey, Baseball and Bubble Gum. (OK, not bubble gum.) And where I learnt what a chum of mine calls The Mighty Tull have many times been proposed and never yet inducted. Which seems, um, odd.

The "real" Jethro Tull, agriculturist and doyen of crop rotation, 1664 - 1741

Let's get this straight, I am not the greatest fan of this band, I only have a few of their albums, a phrase that must instantly mark me down as a music nerd. But, for any lack of overt love, I have a ton of admiration: you don't get to be one of the biggest draws, both sides of the atlantic, have 11 discs go at least gold, 13 if you include live outings, based on luck and timing alone. Especially when that timing covers from 1968 to today. (Yup, you may have thought the band dead, but a bun is in the oven for next year, so hold your (heavy) horses, I'll get to that.)

Starting off as just another blues rock band at the tail end of the 60s, the UK being an incredible fertile breeding ground for that style at that time, exporting container loads of coal from their british roots to Chicago, Memphis and all the other homes of the blues. But they had a secret weapon, in the maverick flute wielding frontman, Ian Anderson, a manic scarecrow, wobbling on one leg in the spotlight, all billowing hair and beard, gurning, grimacing and gesticulating like the man possessed he seemed to be. Plus he could play, tootling barrages of notes out his instrument, hardly, Canned Heat notwithstanding, a usual instrument for the genre. Or, indeed, in rock music then much at all. Which isn't then to say he didn't have a crack band behind him, with Mick Abrahams amongst the more accomplished guitar wranglers of the day. But that first iteration didn't break much beyond the clubs and halls of London, Abrahams seeking a more authentic delta plough to furrow, whilst the wildly ambitious Anderson had folk, classical and prog-rock ideas aplenty in his head. Abrahams went his separate way, only ever achieving moderate acclaim with Blodwyn Pig and his eponymously named band, defiantly and definitively blues, blues, blues. And not half bad. The Tull, meanwhile, regrouped, coming to the attention of a 12 year old boy on the south coast of England, who found the single below right up his street, the first he ever bought with his own money. Martin Barre was now on guitar and would remain as Anderson's right hand man for many a long year.

Living in the Past 1969

Over the next few years they remained, for me, a singles band, with an unblemished run over the next decade. The albums, sort of, passed me by, but I couldn't help but hold a soft spot for 1971's 'Aqualung', a favourite amongst my school chums, not least for the dirty old man persona of the title track, the image of which seemed to fit so well the streetsleeping appearance of Anderson at the time. To be fair, it is only that and 'Locomotive Breath' I can readily bring to mind from then, but I will defend the right to call it a classic. I sort of lost interest in the albums thereafter, having other infatuations to delve into, but they remained good guys. Later still, as Dave Pegg, from and contemporaneously in Fairport Convention, a band I really did adore, joined, my appreciation from afar went up a further notch, even if I couldn't hum you a single tune.

Aqualung 1971

Throughout the last century they were just always there, one of THE bands, guaranteed to sell out a tour and to be making waves both sides of the ocean. Members came and went, dozens of members, actually, came and went. Strangely, I don't think I ever caught them live, bar Anderson, Barre and sometime drummer Doane Perry appearing at a Cropredy Festival. This yearly shindig, hosted and curated by Fairport, always ends in a Saturday night finale, where the band and members past and present parade for up to four hours, guest called in to add to the glamour. Robert Plant is one such regular guest, Ian Anderson another, and, that year, the augmented Fairport nailed a triumphant 'Locomotive Breath'. (Sadly I can't find a clip....)

A bizarre star of affairs arose in 1989, with the Grammys inaugurating a recognition of hard rock and/or metal, with Metallica pump primed for the award. Some consternation, thus, when Tull won this, their most recent material neither heavy nor metal, if anything, having a tang more of Dire Straits. But it kept them in the spotlight.

Crest of a Knave 1987

Into this century and new material has slowed right down. Indeed, in 2011/2, the b(r)and was officially put to bed and the band broke up. The b(r)and has been kept alive by each of the original discs of their heyday being released, in glorious and garish boxsets, remixed, with added oceans of offcuts and demos. Ian Anderson has toured and made records, in his own name, but tell that to the promoters, as the words Jethro Tull invariably appear, in as big or bigger fonts than does his own name, in th publicity. Next years 'The Zealot Gene' bows to the inevitable and revives the Jethro Tull name. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, Martin Barre, after his decades of service, has found himself a useful career, where he too can tour, if again finding the JT words always getting equal billing.

Spiral 1999

The above is the opening track from their last full album of new material, 'J-Tull Dot Com', in 1999, but a Christmas selection of traditional and rejigged old material did appear later. Anderson has said he has no interest in the artifice of the Hall of Fame. I say give Jethro Tull a place and see if he changes his tune.


Rock Hall Snubs: Joe Cocker

First there’s the organ and drums, followed by the gut-busting notes from the electric guitar, then everything slows down and you hear the raspy words, “What would you do if I sang out of tune.” So begins Joe Cocker’s epic cover of the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends.” This track always makes me think of the ‘60s, specifically the flower-power era that everyone has spent the last five decades trying to relive or completely forget.  

The reason for this strong association is, of course, because the track was used as the theme song for the nostalgic T.V. show The Wonder Years, set in that tumultuous time. But it also conjures images in my head of a very sweaty Cocker belting out the song at the Woodstock Festival.  

I was surprised to learn that Cocker is not a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I found out by accident while fact checking a blurb about the tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. I noted how multiple artists on the record were inductees. When I did my initial count I automatically included Cocker in my tally. When I rechecked everybody’s name against the official site, I discovered Cocker was not listed. Even now, as I write this, I find myself rechecking multiple times just to make sure he’s still not there.   

It was a surprise on multiple levels. For one, Joe Cocker is a white British guy who spent his entire career emulating the sound of black American artists. That’s the essence of what rock n’ roll and the Hall itself are all about, for better or for worse. 

But it’s his body of work that deems him worthy of inclusion. He’s a multi-platinum artist who scored hit songs and albums across multiple decades from the ‘60s through the ‘90s. Tracks such as “Feelin’ Alright,” “The Letter,” and his Beatles covers “With A Little Help From My Friends” and “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” are staples of classic rock radio. Then there’s his ballads “You Are So Beautiful” and “Up Where We Belong,” which both received extensive airplay on adult contemporary format radio.  

It’s possible that time has simply moved on. These days the Hall is focusing on second and third generation artists. One of this year’s inductees, the Foo Fighters, formed in 1994, thirty years after Cocker released his first single.  

Since Cocker died in 2014 he could not lobby for himself or offer to appear at the induction concert. If the Hall won’t consider him on his merits, then a very strong argument can be made for including him in the early influencer category. Rock Hall inductees Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre famously sampled Cocker’s  “Woman to Woman” for their smash hit “California Love.” With friends like those, he at least deserves another look.

Rock Hall Snubs: Richard Thompson and Los Lobos

Richard Thompson: The Poor Ditching Boy
Los Lobos
: Will The Wolf Survive?

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[purchase How Will The Wolf Survive

When I posted my first piece in this theme, about King Crimson, I posted it in a King Crimson fan group on Facebook, hoping to draw some readers to the blog (and it seemed to work! One point for Facebook, although with the news the last few weeks, I think that its score is below water). I was heartened to receive a number of positive comments and likes, but I was also not surprised to also get a different reaction—essentially that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is rubbish, just a tourist attraction, and really, who cares if Crimson isn’t in? It was a combination of disdain for an organization that while going out of its way to induct lesser known artists, many of color (particularly in the Early Influences and “Sidemen” categories), is also filled with commercially successful shlockmeisters, and a Groucho Marxist feeling of not wanting to be in a club that would admit them as a member. 

I get it. Really—in fact, as an acknowledged Rock Snob, I mentioned in my original piece that I have trouble taking seriously an organization that inducted Bon Jovi, but not King Crimson, as a musical arbiter, and add to that, just as a few more examples, Def Leppard, Journey, and Depeche Mode, none of which would be in my HOF (much less in my collection). On the other hand, a pretty good case can be made for most of the inductees based on a combination of popularity and influence, even if I don’t particularly care for their music. The same way that when looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame, I can appreciate the talent of most of the players, even if some of them were Yankees, or Ty Cobb.

With all that extraneous background, as the theme heads towards its conclusion and we likely turn to something Halloween related, I wanted to briefly recognize two members of the Jordan Becker Rock Hall who have been unjustly snubbed by the bigger, more famous one in Cleveland, Richard Thompson and Los Lobos, a Brit best known for his folk based music, songwriting prowess and incredible guitar playing, and a band whose music has expertly spanned many genres, but is firmly rooted in their Mexican-American heritage. Showing the breadth of the “Americana” genre, both have won Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Awards (Thompson for Songwriting and for his entire career; Los Lobos for Performance), and they’ve even done a song together

I’m going to try to keep this short. But you know how hard that is for me to do. 

Thompson, whose first schoolboy band included his friend Hugh Cornwell, later of the Stranglers, first became known as one of the founders of Fairport Convention. He was all of 18, and already his guitar playing was remarkable enough to convince producer Joe Boyd to sign the band. Eventually, Fairport Convention became a major musical force in Britain, first covering mostly American folk artists such as Bob Dylan, but later focusing on originals, many written by Thompson, that had strong British folk music influences (as well as covers of traditional songs). Thompson left Fairport in 1971, and began releasing solo albums and work with his wife Linda Thompson, until their marriage collapsed publicly and spectacularly, but also led to Thompson writing some incredible songs. 

Thompson has continued to release solo albums, participate in the occasional collaboration, including with his extended family, and tour regularly, as a solo artist and with bands of various sizes. He’s even covered 1000 years of popular music, and recorded sea chanteys. Renowned as a guitarist and songwriter (particularly for dark-themed songs), he’s also become a more than capable singer. I’ve seen him a bunch of times, have never been disappointed, and have usually been blown away by his talent, his encyclopedic knowledge of music, and his humor. In addition to his AMA awards, he has won guitar playing awards, and often appears on lists of the greatest guitarists of all time. Considering all of this, and the number of years that he has been performing at an astoundingly high level, RT deserves to be in the R&RHOF. 

Los Lobos grew out of the high school friendship of David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, who bonded over music, including Fairport Convention. They formed a band with some other friends, Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles, releasing their self-titled first album, of mostly traditional Mexican songs, in 1973. Playing numerous live shows, including weddings and dances, they forged a sound that mixed American popular songs with Mexican music, and also began to incorporate influences from punk bands popular in Los Angeles in the late 1970s. 

Throughout the 1980s, they released a string of well-regarded and increasingly commercially successful records that continued to add influences to their sound. Of course, their recording of “La Bamba,” (and other songs) for the soundtrack of the Ritchie Valens biopic, La Bamba, shot them to greater prominence. Rather than follow up a No. 1 single with more of the same, they released an album of Mexican music, for which they won a Grammy, if not more English language airplay. After that, they’ve continued to release excellent albums, including a few that were a little experimental, while touring regularly. 

In addition to writing great songs and being pioneers of Latino rock music, they are one of the best cover bands, participating in various cover projects, including contributing a great version of “Bertha,” to Deadicated, and Disney covers. Not to mention a cover of “Down Where The Drunkards Roll,” on a Richard Thompson tribute album. In fact, their most recent album, created during the pandemic, is a cover album, focusing on California bands (with one original), 

Back in 2014, I wrote about Los Lobos for Cover Me, describing them as having 

demonstrated that not only can they play pretty much any style of music, they can play it very well. They have excelled with albums that have included blues, rock, R&B, experimental sounds, numerous styles of Mexican folk music, American folk music, Americana, and Tex-Mex, all performed and played brilliantly. They play acoustically and electrically. Their songs can be simple rockers, sinuous jams, complex sound collages, or heartbreaking stories of life on the margins. 

I then said that it is “sinful” that they are not in the Rock Hall, and I still believe that (despite the one time I saw them live, and they were having a rare off night). 

OK, not so short, but it’s really a twofer.