Saturday, May 18, 2013

The 2013 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony


I don’t need to rehash the obvious: the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a sham, devoid of credibility and of questionable character.

It’s one thing to bitch and complain about it on a blog, or even to publicly challenge the Hall like Eddie Trunk does at every opportunity, correctly questioning why the RRHOF continually ignores progressive and metal acts in their yearly inductions.

But it’s another thing when Quincy Motherfucking Jones publicly challenges the Hall, right on its stage and on the same night that he is being inducted.

If you’re pissed enough to completely tune out any marketing event that the Hall creates-like HBO’s 2013 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony-then you have more will than I. In my mind, it’s worth watching, if not for the live performances then at least for the speeches, some of which are surely bound to create a stir.

Quincy Jones doesn’t create “stirs,” he initiates changes. More to the point, are we about to see a shift in the Rock Hall’s future inductions based on Mr. Jones’ very clear points about honoring the vast number of pre-rock artists that our responsible for nearly every level of what the Hall is supposed to represent.

Will we now see some of these artists lining the hallowed halls of…wait…who the fuck cares?

Which is exactly the point Jones was trying to make. Instead of being this yearly masturbatory event, what if the Hall was actually attempting to support the recognition of how vital our indigenous music is to this nation.

The words of Quincy Jones, as was his induction speech by Oprah Winfrey, was the evening’s most poignant moment-and most important. It was a challenge to Jann Wenner to raise the bar beyond the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame™ brand name, and we’ll see if he heeds the very clear Mission Statement that Mr. Jones was suggesting.

Because when you take a long look at the path that the Hall is on, there will become a point where music loses its ability to touch those that may need it the most. Quincy recalled his own moment of clarity and how that moment was a life and death decision for him. The promotion of music should be a priority for the Hall, if only for the recognition of its own self-interest.

The HBO broadcast unfortunately showed us how much our heroes and stars have aged. Jones is frail, Harry Belafonte used a cane to approach the podium to help induct Public Enemy, and even Randy Newman suggested that the rock and roll stage was filled with artists of “gray hair and width.” It would have resonated better if he hadn’t brought his friend Don Henley on stage to sing the old-and-in-the-way anthem “I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It).”

Hell, even Jackson Browne is beginning to show signs of aging.
But I guess being “indicted” as everyone kept referring to it throughout the evening as an aging contributor is better than being inducted after you’re dead, which was the case of two performers.

Out of those two posthumous entries-Albert King and Donna Summer-only Summer seemed like a charity case, with the disco diva’s induction coming only after not making the cut when she was still alive.

As much as I appreciate her talents and material, I still have a hard time accepting members of a genre that was once viewed as the antithesis of rock and roll. Admittedly, the over-the-top hyperbole of Steve Dahl’s “Disco Demolition Night” on a warm Chicago night in July of ’79 is a bad thermometer of actual evidence, you have to appreciate that Comiskey Park was overflowing with people (during a time when the White Sox couldn’t get more than 15,000 fans on a traditional evening) who clearly felt enough hatred towards disco music to disrupt a night of America’s pastime.

But in 2013, we now admit the genre’s most successful artist into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, while only one album-Bad Girls-qualifies as anything remotely similar to rock and roll.

To Quincy Jones’ point, I’m totally cool with cats like Count Basie getting inducted over Donna Summer. At least it’s justifiable.

“Albert King is the reason that guitarists break high E strings” is how John Mayer described the legendary guitarist Albert King, who finally got his induction. While I’m not a follower of Mayer’s music, I appreciated his history lesson during the induction speech and got a kick out of Gary Clark Jr’s performance of King’s material, even though the solo dual between him and Mayer ended up becoming an exercise of what not to do, particularly after you’ve seen that video footage of King and Stevie Ray Vaughn duking it out in a friendly spar of solos.

Mayer is spot-on in his assessment, as a guitar player of extremely limited skill, I can admit to housing a few extra E strings in the guitar case for this exact reason.

I can also admit that I’ve attempted to use the “Albert King tuning” on a few attempts, thinking that it would assist in bettering my guitar abilities as a player who plays a right-handed instrument with their left hand.

It made me sound worse.

To hear Albert King’s playing is to understand how powerful the instrument can be, as it turned a big, six-foot-four, two-hundred and sixty pound giant into an emotional bundle of bent notes and heart-wrenching solos. He is missed, and now he is recognized.

The Lou Adler induction was a hoot.

The Heart induction wasn’t.

While my feelings on disco run one way, I’m totally cool with rap artists being inducted. It is a genre that is a part of the same origin as rock and roll music and it has become a critical element in youth culture, often cross-pollinating with the genre to where the walls between them are paper-thin anyway.

I can remember the moment when I heard Public Enemy’s “Sophisticated Bitch” in college, and then, not more than a year later, I heard It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and became frightened of them.

Not frightened in a bad way, but frightened in the same way that I saw punk music in my early teenage years. Music can reflect scary things, and not just in an Alice Cooper way. They can reflect things that don’t shed a very positive light on society, and we can ultimately become better people as a result of listening to their discord.

Public Enemy’s discord served as much as a wake up call to white America as it did in channeling the anger and frustration of African Americans. To hear Chuck D’s speech was special, but for me, the most awesome moment was hearing him utter, “Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me!” on the same platform where Presley is ground zero of the genre that is rock and roll.

The progressive rock collective was granted its second entry, thanks to the tireless support of their fans and the fact that the band has now been around so long that you can help but admit, “Rush is pretty fucking awesome.”

Dave Grohl was right when he said that “Rush has always been cool” but there were moments when their material was certainly far from it. That’s no excuse for the fact that it should not have taken the Hall this long to acknowledge their influence.

Grohl and his wife Taylor Hawkins were the perfect fit for Rush’s speech, channeling the band’s penchant for humor and self-deprecation in a completely appropriate manner.

Rush then admitted that getting into the Hall was kind of a big deal for them with Neil Peart using his talents to pen a very heartfelt speech, while providing little explanation for why his nose was a completely different color than the rest of his face.

Meanwhile, Geddy Lee also failed to acknowledge why his nose was actually bigger than the rest of his face. He did correctly (and admirably) determine that it was the fans who were probably the biggest reason the band was even on the stage that evening.

And then guitarist Alex Lifeson gave what was probably seen as the most bizarre acceptance speech in Hall history, while anyone familiar with the band understands that humor is a big part of the trio’s longevity.
 
"Blah Blah Blah"
Lifeson gave a speech without even saying a word, removing language and replacing it with “blah blah blah” while acting out the emotions of the story of their journey into the Rock Hall that evening.

The Grohl-led Rush cover band (complete with 1975 era kimonos) was hilarious and the Rush suite of “Tom Sawyer” and “Spirit of the Radio” probably accounted for the closest thing that actually resembled “rocking” during the entire evening.

Rush’s induction was probably the most anticipated part of the evening, even the all star jam at the end of the evening (complete with more Flavor Flav vamping and an obligatory Tom Morello guitar solo-the dude seems to really gunning for Rage’s first year induction) seemed tepid compared to Rush’s by-the-numbers arena bombast.

The evening ended just like most other induction ceremonies: with a very tentative jam of everyone trying to make something transcendent in an impossible situation.

Regardless, at least Rush is in the dump and at least Q gave Wenner a much needed run over the coals. Whether or not he has the moral compass to actually heed those words is another matter, but one thing is for certain: Deep Fucking Purple better be in the place next year.

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