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Jesus of Cool: Rousing the Rabble for the Rock Hall of Fame

Rock Hall logoPatti Myers wants her favorite band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — and she wants you to help get them there. “If you are fortunate enough to own any of [their] music, then you have been blessed with a precious gift,” she says. “If you’re not familiar with their music, you’re missing a beautiful experience. [They have] a way of drawing you into the song, holding you captive, then releasing you, feeling better for it.”

Myers has even posted an online petition that she one day hopes to submit to the hall’s selection committee, extolling the band’s achievements and concluding, “Their classic music is still heard on the radio today all around the world, proving that they have earned their place in the Rock Hall of Fame.” That petition has attracted 94 signatures to date.

Patti Myers’ favorite band is Player.

Just in case you can’t make it through the year without one more sighting of celebs in tuxedos and bolo ties, tonight the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts its newest members during a ceremony broadcast live on VH1 Classic at 8:30 p.m. Eastern. (Apparently the ceremony isn’t quite important enough to knock “Flavor of Love” and “The Salt’n’Pepa Show” off the mothership: VH1 proper is waiting until March 22 to air the induction ceremony, presumably in heavily edited form.)

All this week, my colleagues at Popdose will be discussing who’s in, who’s out, who should be in, who shouldn’t be, and whether or not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a good idea in the first place. We begin today with the story of Patti Myers and other music fans who, on a wing, a website and a prayer, have undertaken to build a groundswell for their favorite acts to gain admission into rock’s hallowed Hall.

First, though, a preview of this evening’s festivities. Regardless of your opinions on any of the issues raised above, tonight’s inductees are quite a diverse lot: Madonna, John Mellencamp, Leonard Cohen, Philly Soul godheads Gamble & Huff, the smokin’ blues harpist and Muddy Waters cohort Little Walter, and those massively influential ’60s supergroups…the Dave Clark Five and the Ventures.

Dave Clark FiveMaddy and Mellencamp are the obvious popular headliners, and Cohen the hipsters’ fave; Justin Timberlake’s introduction of Madonna may provide the evening’s one shot of contemporary relevance. However, the DC5 might provide the most compelling moment. For one thing, they’ll be introduced by Tom Hanks (who knows something about second-rate mid-’60s rockers, having directed That Thing You Do!); for another, vocalist Mike Smith died from pneumonia just a couple weeks back. (I’m taking it on faith that he wasn’t done in by my rant against their hit “Over and Over” in this space, which appeared just three days before his death; hey, I did give Smith props by comparing his looks to Hugh Grant’s.) Smith apparently had been planning to try to make it to the ceremony from his home in Spain; it wouldn’t have been easy, as he was paralyzed in a fall several years back and had only left the hospital two months ago.

Still, Smith’s death probably will cast no more than a momentary pall over the ceremony. Frankly, it will be just as interesting to see how many of his former bandmates will even show up to pay tribute, considering the band’s many business disputes and Dave Clark’s reputation for douchebaggery. (He apparently wanted to tour as the DC5 during the ’90s, but was thwarted by Smith, who was touring on his own until just before his accident; Clark also has kept the band’s catalog out of print for years, which can’t have helped with Smith’s medical bills — not that Clark ever shared profits evenly with his cohorts.)

More important, Clark’s appearance likely will be accompanied by a collective “What the fuck?” over his band’s inclusion in what should be rock’s most exclusive club. (Or, at least, its most exclusive club that sits on the waterfront in Cleveland and shuts its doors by 5:30 p.m. nightly, 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and summer Saturdays.)

Any Hall of Fame enterprise is going to engender arguments about the standards of excellence and achievement an honoree should be expected to meet. Baseball’s hall is famously stingy; football’s is perhaps a bit too inclusive; the International Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis is…well…unnecessary, isn’t it? But I digress. This year’s inductees invite all sorts of arguments: Is Madonna a “rock” star? Is Leonard Cohen any more “rock” than Madonna? Should John Cougar be inducted separately? But the DC5 were brilliant at nothing besides riding the crest of Beatlemania, while the Ventures had precisely three Top 10 hits, two of which were the same song. Their inclusion in this year’s class begs one overriding question: Who can’t get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Rock Hall logoOpinions differ. Some question the merits of past inductees such as the Ronettes, Gene Pitney or Del Shannon and fear for the future, particularly now that most of the greatest acts from rock’s golden era have already gained entrée. Others say what the hell, open the floodgates! “Hell, yes, the Dave Clark Five should be in there,” says Eddie Money. “They were almost as big as the Beatles for a while there. Gerry and the Pacemakers should be there, too, just for ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey.’ Herman’s Hermits? Put those fuckers in! Put ’em all in!”

Of course, Eddie might have an ulterior motive for his beneficence — “By the time they put me in there, I’ll be in an urn on my wife’s fireplace,” he laments. (Check back into Popdose on Thursday for more bon mots from the Money Man.) Still, maybe he has a point. How else to explain Patti Myers’ Player fetish or the plethora of other fan websites that have sprung up to petition the Rock Hall to admit one act or another?

Should you so choose, you can hop on the bandwagon for Yes, Rush, Heart, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Warren Zevon, the Hollies, the Monkees, the Osmonds, Tommy James, Adrian Belew, Canned Heat, Link Wray, Ritchie Blackmore, Suzi Quatro, Wanda Jacksonthe CarpentersWeird Al… Manfred Mann’s Earth Band drummer Chris Slade…I’m gonna stop now, but I could go on.

Not that you’ll get anywhere by signing your online John Hancock. “We hear about those types of petitions all the time, but they have no impact on what we do,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation’s president/CEO, Joel Peresman, told me last month. (The Hall instead relies upon the judgment of 600 music-biz luminaries and critics.) The process is not without its hiccups: Fox “News” reported that the Dave Clark Five were actually voted in last year, but hall co-founder Jann Wenner used a technicality to induct Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five instead, in order to quell criticism about the lack of rappers in the hall. (The foundation denied the story.)

The hall’s obvious anti-grass-roots (and, to date, anti-Grass Roots!) elitism likely won’t slow down devoted fans like the Player-obsessive Myers. Yes, this time she’s in it for love (Oh, come on! How was I supposed to resist?), but she’s also managed to turn her fetish for frontman Peter Beckett into a steady gig creating and maintaining official websites for Beckett and former Player bassist Ronn Moss, as well as the Player hall of fame petition. (Give the woman some credit: On her Beckett website, she has the audacity to feature my Popdose colleague Jason Hare’s “Mellow Gold” takedown of “Baby Come Back”!)

The way Myers describes her experiences as a Player fan, it’s like she’s imagining herself onstage at the Waldorf, inducting the band into the hall. Well, Patti, this is probably the closest you — or Player, for that matter — will ever get to that stage, so go ahead and make your case:

Player“The first time I heard ‘Baby Come Back’ playing on my radio, I was completely mesmerized,” she says. “It was as if someone had pressed my ‘pause’ button, and there was no moving until I heard every word and note of this song… It was 1977, and although there were many bands out there playing similar music, there was ‘something in everything about’ Peter Beckett and Player. He sang in soft, sultry whispers, yet with a soulful intensity to his voice. The words were clear and simple, the music melodic and pure, with the backing harmonies and haunting guitars bringing it all together.

“Since the British Invasion in the ’60s, I had always had a fondness for English accents, long hair, and guitar players. Like fate, it was in the cards for Peter Beckett to be my favorite band member, and I have followed his career ever since. Twenty-eight years later, and with more knowledge of and appreciation for good music, I am still taken in by the beautiful words and melodies. He is intoxicating and inspirational. With every word he sings, he hands you his heart and soul.”

Suck on that, Jann Wenner and the Rock Hall Elitists! As for everyone else, next time we’re in Cleveland on a Wednesday night, let’s hook up for a killer dose of rock’n’roll. (I’m gonna have to bail by 9 o’clock, though; I’ve got to work tomorrow.)

Madonna – Rain (Amazon)
Madonna – Ray of Light (Amazon)
John Mellencamp – Do Re Mi (Amazon)
John Mellencamp – Jailhouse Rock (Amazon)
Leonard Cohen – Bird on a Wire (live 1968)
Leonard Cohen and U2 – Tower of Song (Amazon)
Dave Clark Five – Glad All Over
Dave Clark Five – Because
The Ventures – Walk, Don’t Run (Amazon)
The Ventures – Hawaii Five-O (Amazon)
Little Walter – Key to the Highway (Amazon)
Little Walter – My Babe (Amazon)

Produced by Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff:
Jerry Butler – Only the Strong Survive (Amazon)
Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes – If You Don’t Know Me By Now (Amazon)