Wolfgang Van Halen’s Mammoth WVH Effort Solid, But Questions Remain; Liz Phair as Good as Ever with First Album in a Decade

As the world seems to come out of the COVID pandemic and the shutdowns that occurred (and hope they do not return), the music world is beginning to emerge from its 18-month slumber. This means that plenty of these artists and groups are looking to get out on the road and, perhaps more importantly, release the music that they might have been sitting on for some time (Garbage, for example, was planning on releasing No Gods, No Masters in early 2020; it just came out in June).

This is a cause for celebration, because both new artists and older ones are beginning to emerge from the coronavirus-induced lockdown. Two of those artists we are going to be looking at today, the son of the late Eddie Van Halen, Wolfgang, and his “band” (more on this in a moment) and the outstanding return of everyone’s favorite alternative darling from the 1990s, Liz Phair. Both of these new releases are well worth inclusion in your CD racks (or your digital downloads), bringing some great sounds to the rock world.

To say it has been a tough year for Wolfgang Van Halen would be a massive understatement. He has had to bury his father, the iconic Eddie Van Halen, in October of 2020, and it has fallen on his shoulders to try to carry on the family name. Wolfgang has done that through the creation of a new “band,” Mammoth WVH (the “Mammoth” moniker was the original name of Van Halen), and the release of a self-titled CD.

Let us start with the good stuff from Van Halen and Mammoth WVH. The reason we have quotation marks on “band” is a simple one: Wolfgang played all the instruments on the album. Wolfgang shows that he is an excellent multi-instrumentalist, more than adequately showing his proficiency across the board, and Van Halen also wrote all 14 of the tracks that appear on the disc.

By far the best song on the record is the current release “Don’t Back Down,” which had a video that showed Van Halen playing with himself on each of the instruments on the track. The tune itself is a driving, inspired rocker that is a perfect for a summertime drive. Another excellent track is “Horribly Right,” which starts off with a chugging sound reminiscent of some older grunge acts.

The biggest thing to note about the tracks on the CD is that Wolfgang is in no way trying to use his father’s success to get a leg up (although there are plenty who will accuse him of this). Musically he stays a wide distance from the Van Halen band musical styling. If you did not know he was Van Halen’s son, many people would be crowing about how good this record is.

Here is the downside of the album, however. It is reported that Wolfgang began work on this album in 2015. That is six years to perfect the record, a luxury that many young acts do not have, and Wolfgang certainly will not have when it comes to trying to duplicate the success of this record (it is also understandable that he didn’t want to release the record while his father was going through his issues). Wolfgang’s vocals are also a bit weak; his voice is OK, but it is nothing that blows you away with quality or strength. If he is going to continue as the vocalist for the group, he would need to improve that aspect of his game.

That said, his dad did pretty well for not singing, didn’t he?

Expect to see a lot of Mammoth WVH this summer and fall, as Van Halen is putting a band around him to serve as a headlining act. It is well deserved, but I am going to be extremely interested in seeing what he does when he doesn’t have the years to work on something. Mammoth WVH is an outstanding first salvo, however…let’s see what comes next.

You can be forgiven if you do not know the name Liz Phair. After all, her last studio album Funstyle was released over a decade ago (2010). But if you ask your older sibling or perhaps your mother or father, they can regale you with the stories about the blisteringly smart work that Phair did in the 1990s, from her debut Exile in Guyville (her reply to The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street) in 1993 to her equally outstanding follow up Whip-Smart.

After drifting too close to the sun for some of her fans – or, as the case may be, trying to be too popular, in their opinions – Phair’s success began to wane. Her label at the time, Capitol Records, forced her to work with songwriters who had penned tunes for Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne, which forced a more poppy sheen to her recordings. This didn’t sit well with Phair or her audience and, after 2010’s Funstyle, Phair stepped away from the recording industry.

Phair first began to emerge from her self-imposed exile with the compilation Girly Sound to Guyville, a 2018 25th anniversary celebration of her early work. That compilation, which brought some of her straight-to-cassette work on what was called the “Girly Sound” sessions, seems to have been a spark for Phair. In June, Phair released Soberish, arguably her best work since the Guyville/Whip-Smart 1-2 in the early 90s.

Always one who had a deft turn of phrase, Phair has not lost any of her talents in the decade-plus of wandering that she has taken. One of the more charming songs from the record is “Hey Lou,” her ode to the late Lou Reed told from the angle of his wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson (the video also featured a unique interpretation of the song featuring Reed, Anderson, and Andy Warhol puppets). The lyrical storytelling of Phair is priceless in the song, touching on not only the relationship of Anderson and Reed but also Phair’s appreciation of the duo.

By far the best song off the CD is the title track, “Soberish.” It is a confession from someone who is struggling with their sobriety but is taking the big step of getting back into the dating scene. Phair’s character in the song knows that it is not the thing that she should do, but she also knows that a little something from the bar will help to quell the questions dancing around her head. It is the story of the little inner battles that we all have faced at one point or another in our lives, sometimes in a romantic situation or sometimes elsewhere.

Lyrical dexterity spreads throughout Soberish like a rich tapestry, and the disc should be something that is in every record collection. “I meant to be sober, but the bar’s so inviting…” and other jewels abound on the disc, and it leaves you wanting more by the time you reach the end. Her voice is still tremendously resilient, showing the same toughness and delicacy that drew the music world to her back in the 1990s. We can only hope that Phair does not take another decade-plus sabbatical, because that would be a waste of an incredibly special treasure.

Why Record Store Day Means Nothing to Me

I wrote this two years ago, but it still applies today. After seeing some hit from the COVID pandemic last year, you would think that the Record Store Day people would try to be a bit more inclusive…alas, they aren’t. This Saturday is the first of two Record Store Days for 2021…and I won’t be at either.

Earl Burton

rsd+date_wide_2011For the twelfth year in a row, Record Store Day has come and gone. Since 2007, there has been one day in April, usually a Saturday, when the nation’s independent record stores – you know, those dying outlets that sell CDs, DVDs and, shock of all shocks, VINYL!! – throw a big party to celebrate their industry. Normally during these special days there are special releases, discounted materials, giveaways and other fun had by all that make it one of the most special days of the year for those who frequent independent record stores.

There’s only one problem…I’ve never been to one of them.

It isn’t because I don’t like music. Quite the contrary…I LOVE MUSIC! Looking back to my youth, my best high school friend DJ and I would cut out from field trips to Champaign, IL, to peruse the stacks at the local “mom & pop” outlet…

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K-Pop Genre Demonstrates Problem with 21st Century “Fans”

I am normally pretty laid back when it comes to music. I’ve been known to go from ABBA to Johnny Cash to Mozart to Slipknot, sometimes within a five-minute time span. I have always prided myself on this ability to appreciate all forms of music, but there is just something about one particular genre that has come out only very recently – or, perhaps more correctly, maybe it is the fandom of the genre that has turned me against it. It is that fandom that perhaps grates my nerves more than the music itself.

Korean pop, or “K-pop” as it has become known, is not a new phenomenon, although those who consider themselves fans today think they originated the genre. It actually goes back to the 1940s and 50s, following the end of World War II and the actions in the Korean War, when U. S. and European musical stylings first came to the peninsula. There was an original rush of interlopers who took on the stylings of 40s big band music to entertain U. S. troops.

As rock and roll began to take over, these same South Koreans (by this time the Korean peninsula was divided) simply migrated over to the rock sounds, singing Beatles songs and even coming up with their own “rock” bands such as Add4 and The Key Boys. Balladeers and folk ruled from the late 60s through the 90s, leading to the changeover to today’s “K-pop” sound that has become prevalent.

Perhaps because of the 90s “boy band” acts, K-pop has been pretty much dominated by male artists and bands. Psy was one of the first to strike with this new, danceable “K-pop” sound with “Gangnam Style,” but it really seemed to take off when the “boy bands” took up the mantle. Many of those failed in capturing the attention of Europe and the U. S….that is, until BTS came along.

BTS is a SEVEN-MAN group that follows the playbook of the 90s U. S. “boy bands” like NSYNC or New Kids on the Block. They harmonize, dance and put on a show with pop pablum that is rather unremarkable in its blandness. But, if you listen to their “A.R.M.Y” (yes, stripping that title from the hard rock band KISS), they are the greatest thing to hit music since the introduction of amplification.

Now, a little disclaimer…

Today’s pop music is not supposed to cater to the taste of people over the age of 18, maybe 25 years of age tops. Pop music has always been the arena of the young and it can simultaneously be mindless drivel and serious socio-political commentary. You just have to find those tracks that do it for you, is what I am saying. Still, there is not much that happens in the pop music arena that I say “WOW!” about.

BTS is one of those things that definitely doesn’t even register on the “WOW” scale. The band has been able to make a breakthrough in the U. S. and Europe over the past few years, however. They won a Billboard Music Award in 2017 as Top Social Media Artist (a fan-based award) and became the first Korean act to score a #1 hit on the Top 200 album chart in 2018 with Love Yourself: Tear.

The band has not slowed down since then. “Dynamite” became a #1 song on the Hot 100 (and finished 2020 as the #38 song for the year) and BTS has earned acclaim by performing during this year’s Grammys program, where they were nominated for an award in Best Pop Duo or Group Performance. It was this incident that perhaps set me against the band – and their fans – permanently.

That Grammy category was arguably one of the toughest lineups for a newcomer to break through in the 2021 awards. BTS went up against J Balvin, Dua Lipa and Bad Bunny, Justin Bieber and Quavo, Taylor Swift and Bon Iver, and the eventual winners Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. For pop music, that is a hell of a list to even be considered with…but many in the “A.R.M.Y” felt that the award had been “stolen” from the group.

Allegations of racism, anti-Korean sentiments, and other -isms flowed from the “A.R.M.Y,” despite the fact that there were only two dozen or so Grammys won by the competitors they were up against. In other words, come with quality work. “K-pop,” and especially the 21st century version of it, has not come up to speed with the quality of efforts from many other artists.

There are other things that you can ding BTS for. First off, I could not tell you who is who in the band. None of them have stepped out, such as Justin Timberlake from NSYNC or Harry Styles from One Direction, to demonstrate that they have talents as a solo artist. You can do a lot with studio stunts and sweeteners, and that is what BTS has depended on – none of their membership has shown any solo talent.

Second, when you have seven people in the group, there is an issue that something is being hidden somewhere. Maybe someone isn’t as good a singer; that can be hidden. Not a good dancer? They can be on the side singing while the rest of the group grooves. The band is just too large to take seriously.

Finally, the history of “boy bands” is not a lengthy one. The aforementioned NSYNC lasted for all of seven years. England’s “boy band” export, One Direction, made it to eight. BTS is now into their eighth year, about the time that these “boy bands” can’t survive any longer on the “pop music” dime, one of the members decides that they do not need the others, or basic internal strife takes over and detonates the group.

It is the “A.R.M.Y” and their perception of privilege that gets me more than anything else, however. All pop bands have their “fan units.” Taylor Swift has her “Swifties,” Beyonce has the “BeyHive,” even Ed Sheeran has his “Sheerios.” Even the most ardent fans of those and many other acts, however, have not demonstrated the sense of entitlement that the BTS fans have shown, and often shown in ugly ways.

There is no grand scheme against BTS in the western world, A.R.M.Y. As I stated before, do better quality work and you will be recognized for it. Trying to bring the nationality of the members of the band into the argument is a disingenuous argument when you are competing against the world. There is also not a ruthless group of record label honchos and music experts sitting in a stunning executive suite somewhere trying to keep BTS down.

For BTS to take the next step, they need to chill out their fandom. “Fan” is the shortened version of “fanatic,” and the A.R.M.Y. takes their support too far with some of their accusations. Folks may look better on BTS if their fans were not such children, for lack of a better explanation. But alas…we are talking about pop music, not the bastion of adults with critical thinking skills.

Five In, Five Out – Making Changes to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Everyone currently is ensconced in discussions about who will be the Class of 2021 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I am going to step onto a rail that I often do not like to look, however. Imagine the scenario: suddenly John Sykes, the Chairman of the Rock Hall, has become incapacitated and you have been put in charge as only the third Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. For your first day, you can, on a ONE TIME ONLY basis, add five artists or groups to the Rock Hall. The trick is…you also must remove five artists or groups from the pantheon of rock gods.

Usually, I am not one who enjoys these mental exercises. Besides the fact that it is demeaning to an artist or group that worked their ass off to reach this pinnacle in their career, it also is a worthless use of brainpower because it isn’t going to change anything. At the end of the day, what I am thinking is not going to change what has already gone before – about the only way I am going to fix that is becoming good friends with Doctor Emmett Brown and tooling around in his DeLorean for a few hours.

It is human nature, however, to wonder about an “alternate history,” something that does fascinate me. There are plenty of books out there that offer a supposition of what the course of humanity would have been if a particular point in history changed. It is something that is also done in the military (wargaming is all about trying to deduce what would happen IF), in business and in gaming (figuring out what an opponent will do from different approaches).

One of my favorite streaming shows was The Man in the High Castle, the Amazon Video adaptation of the Philip K. Dick book. In that show, the Axis Powers won the Second World War and divvied up the States of America. A huge chunk of U. S. became a Nazi territory, the Pacific states were occupied by imperial Japan and a thin strip down the Rocky Mountains was left as an “Unclaimed Territory” that was essentially a “no man’s land” for those who looked to continue the war against the Axis. It was a terrifyingly realistic possibility, including the way that Dick saw how easy it would be for “Americans” to turn against their own, especially with a ruling Nazi Party or Imperial Japanese Army occupying the country.

What if the South had won the Civil War? What if John F. Kennedy had not been assassinated? What if 9/11 had not happened? These are things that many minds have considered, some realistically and some for dramatic effect. While it does not even come close to some of these monumental historical events in the human timeline, it is why I decided to change my mind and take on the question of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, at least on this occasion.

The only rule I held myself to is that, in my opinion, that the change I was making would be an IMPROVEMENT to the Rock Hall. I am not going to be intellectually lazy and say “(insert artist/group here) isn’t RAWK enough to be inducted” or “they don’t play RAWK music.” People who make this argument are simultaneously intellectually bereft and have no understanding of “rock and roll” history. I’ll try my best to make the argument for whoever I put in and whoever I take out – but it will not be based on the genre of music they do.

Let’s get it started, shall we?

Judas Priest IN – Bon Jovi OUT

There is plenty of other hard rock/metal bands that had much more impact and relevance on the development of the genre than Bon Jovi. A few of them are the aforementioned Judas Priest, Motorhead, Iron Maiden (on the ballot this year), Slayer, Anthrax, and Thin Lizzy, among many others. Judas Priest has, for 50 years, been the standard bearer for the music and, as such, they deserve to receive the acclaim they deserve while they all are still able to enjoy it.

Bon Jovi did little to have an impact on the genre. Basically, all Bon Jovi had was sales, which is not supposed to be a criterion for induction into the Rock Hall. It is reported that, upon hearing that the band had been nominated in 2018, Bon Jovi said “About fucking time.” That is not someone who is showing respect for the honor that induction into the Rock Hall is. If it had been my choice, they would have been waiting for a while longer, if not permanently.

Warren Zevon IN – Laura Nyro OUT

Zevon was one of the developers of the “California sound” that became prevalent in the 1970s. Many of the prominent artists from that decade – Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, The Eagles, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen and others – collaborated with him on his and their music or they performed his song. His storytelling and lyrical content were beyond compare; very few writers could come up with the twists of storytelling that Zevon could concoct.

Can you name a song that Laura Nyro had her hands on, either as a songwriter or as a performer? I know Nyro is one of those that is staked to the whipping post when it comes to inductions that the Rock Hall has made, but I have literally gone through her discography and cannot recall ever playing one of her songs or a song she wrote. It seems to me that Nyro was one of those inductions made by the Rock Hall to appear more “artistic.” That isn’t always a good idea.

Tina Turner IN – Stevie Nicks OUT

Tina Turner completely reinvented herself from her 60s image. In the 80s, she became a strong, vibrant performer who completely stunned audiences with the power of her work. It was such a departure from her previously inducted self (with Ike Turner, something that she might want to forget, too) that it more than deserves a second induction as a solo artist.

While Nicks is a tremendous performer, her solo work wasn’t that outstanding, to be honest. Already in with Fleetwood Mac, I do not believe that her solo efforts were that groundbreaking…entertaining, yes, but not groundbreaking. If you do not think Turner is a qualified choice for a second induction, then you would have to argue that Diana Ross as a solo performer was more deserving. Either Turner or Ross should have been the first female double inductee, not Nicks.

Kraftwerk IN – The Lovin’ Spoonful OUT

One of the biggest oversights by the Rock Hall has been its inability to induct the German band Kraftwerk into its hallowed halls. If there is a group that is identified with electronic rock – keyboard-based music – it would be Kraftwerk. Outside of Europe, however, the group had a difficult time finding success, especially in the U. S. This may be the exact reason that they have yet to be inducted into the Rock Hall despite being nominated six times and influencing entire generations of performers with their innovation.

The Lovin’ Spoonful were the beneficiaries of timing. Inducted in 2000, the band was around in an era when the Rock Hall voters were already through the truly immortal artists and were beginning to scramble around a bit to find qualified inductees to honor. In the years prior to the induction of The Lovin’ Spoonful, such questionable choices as Gene Vincent, Lloyd Price, Dusty Springfield, and Del Shannon were ushered into the Rock Hall. Just because you were struggling to come up with inductees should not be a reason to put someone in.

Joan Jett IN – Joan Jett OUT

I am sure that you are looking at that and saying, “How could you do that?” The simple fact is that Jett deserves to be in the Rock Hall. She was just inducted with the wrong group.

Jett’s work with The Runaways was by far more deserving of induction into the Rock Hall than Jett’s work with The Blackhearts (sure the guys in The Blackhearts enjoy hearing someone say that). The Runaways carried on the work of Fanny, The Pleasure Seekers, Janis Joplin, and Grace Slick to the next level – an all-female band that wrote their own stuff and played their own instruments. They were the forerunners to The Go-Go’s, The Bangles, The Donnas and several other all-female groups that have had great success following the glass-shattering by The Runaways.

I would rather see all those that I said should be “in” be inducted in their own right and leave the others in, too. They have earned the right to be called a “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee” regardless of my personal thoughts. But if we are going to play the “alternate reality” game, who would you put in and take out?

The Best and the Worst of the 2021 GRAMMY Awards

It is arguably the biggest night for music during the year. The 2021 GRAMMY Awards were held for the 63rd time on Sunday night in Los Angeles. The awards look to honor the best that is in the music industry over a wide array of genres – rock, pop, rap, Americana, even classical – and offer a view as to what was the best of the year. In the very-COVID inspired show – the nominees were arranged in very spaced out (physically) tables while the performers were sequestered on a special five stage circle for performances – the Recording Academy arguably came out and put on one of the best shows of the past decade or so.

But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t downsides.

I’ve remarked on this before, but there certainly wasn’t enough “rock” oriented acts that performed during the program. But that is to be expected; rock music does not drive the needle (no pun intended) for music in the 21st century. It has become very much a pop and rap dominated show because that is what the people want to see (AKA those that have the disposable income to spend on streams, streaming services and the occasional CD). This does not mean that the GRAMMY Awards show is “trash” because these are the predominance of the acts that perform – it just means that is what is driving the industry nowadays.

Furthermore, if people did not watch the program, then they shouldn’t have a view on the show itself. You usually have to see something before you make any commentary on it – not five minutes, not a half-hour, WATCHED THE ENTIRE SHOW. It went slightly over three and a half hours (think it was closer to 3:45, if my memory is correct) and there were some moments that were exceptionally good…and very bad.

Without further ado, here’s The Best and The Worst of the 2021 GRAMMY Awards!

BEST

HAIM absolutely came out in the first half-hour of the program and blew away the competition. The sisters were nominated for Album of the Year for their work Women in Music, Pt. III and, with a very subdued set, proceeded to NAIL their tune “The Steps.” When the musicians and singers that were gathered on the stage are watching your performance and jamming just as hard as the band is, you have done your job. HAIM certainly carried the banner well for rock-oriented music and it was great to have them as the representative for the genre – there were not many more that graced the stage on Sunday night.

BEST

The partnership between Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars bears watching. They came out with a very 70s R&B style (including matching leisure suits!) under the moniker “Silk Sonic.” It was good to see Mars back on stage again; it had been quite some time since he had been on the musical scene and he seemed to be in impeccable form. The duo also came out later in the show and delivered a scorching tribute to Little Richard during the “In Memoriam” segment that was outstanding.

BEST

It has been getting trashed elsewhere, but I thought that the “In Memoriam” tribute to the late Eddie Van Halen was perfect. There were many directions that they could have gone with this, but the GRAMMY producers decided that a minimalistic approach was the best one. Thus, we got a sweeping shot of Van Halen’s “Frankenhalen” guitar, on a perch in a spotlight by itself, while a video played Eddie utilizing his finger-tapping technique on a video screen behind it. It was a perfect tribute to someone who made his complicated work look oh, so simple…and it was a hell of a lot better than having Machine Gun Kelly butcher “Eruption” onstage.

BEST

I would listen to Brittany Howard, the bombastic vocalist/guitarist of Alabama Shakes, sing the damn phone book. Her take on “You’ll Never Walk Alone” during the “In Memoriam” was a soul-stirring performance. Chris Martin of Coldplay provided accompaniment on piano for the segment and the two absolutely made the song their own – exceedingly difficult to do for a song that has been made famous by a British soccer team (Liverpool FC) and as the closing song to comedian Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy telethon for decades.

WORST

I usually like Trevor Noah, the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. He is extremely funny, has a great pulse on pop culture and, hey, let’s be honest…he is young, energetic and handsome. But he, on a couple of occasions, fawned a bit too much over the winners. He was nearly orgasmic when Beyonce won her first Grammy of the night, which tied her with Alison Krauss for the most Grammys won in a career. He was nearly beside himself when she broke the record later in the night.

Look, I am all for fandom. But, when you are hired to do the emcee job for a major awards show, you are supposed to put that fandom to the side and do the job. Noah failed on this account on a couple of occasions. If he hosts again next year, I certainly hope he tempers the “enthusiasm” and shows an equal appreciation to all the award winners.

WORST

While I did like the stage arrangement for the performances – five stages were arranged in a circle, with cameras in the center of that circle that could be directed at any stage chosen – you could still note the lack of audience excitement. Sure, watching Harry Styles jam to HAIM was cool, but the fans are a part of the experience. Seeing them enjoy it is more important than the artists themselves tapping their feet.

WORST

I am all for artistic expression. Having said that, I normally don’t like to see a reenactment of Thee Dollhouse in Tampa when I watch an awards show. Thus, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s performance of “WAP” wasn’t exactly a highlight of the show for me. I understand that the song was a MONSTER hit for the duo, but their interpretation of the song for the GRAMMY stage was a bit over the top. Like I said, if I wanted to go to Tattletales in Atlanta, I’ll go to Tattletales in Atlanta.

WORST

In a stark contrast with 2020, it seemed that the GRAMMY voters were not quite sure who to get behind this year. The four major awards were won by four different artists – Megan Thee Stallion for Best New Artist, Taylor Swift for Album of the Year, H.E.R. for Song of the Year and Billie Eilish for Record of the Year for “everything i wanted” – and it really did not seem that the voters had a clear favorite in mind. It was also painfully apparent that the best record didn’t receive any attention from the Academy at all – The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” and album After Hours would have dominated the show.

Overall, when the good outweigh the bad, you’ve done rather good. There was much more about the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show that was enjoyable than was not. Still, would like to see a rock award actually given out during the three-plus hours of programming – maybe that’s something they will get to in 2022!

Ranking the Nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: It’s a BIG Tent…

After a year like we’ve never seen, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is trying to get back to business…somewhat. The COVID pandemic that wreaked havoc on last year’s system is beginning to subside, which allows the Rock Hall to move forward with its activities. Along with those changes, however, the Rock Hall is showing that they’re spreading a BIG tent to cover their activities.

First, those changes. In 2019, the Class of 2020 was named and they would have been inducted in ceremonies in April of that year. Because of the pandemic, however, their induction was delayed until November, when it became a virtual party held on HBO. The Rock Hall used this delay to finally get all activities for a given year under a “calendar year” setting – nominations in February, name the class in May, induct in November – that should help in the future.

The changes aren’t just in the timing of certain mileposts on the way to naming the Class of 2021, either. This will be the first year that John Sykes, the former founder of MTV and current executive at iHeart Radio, will serve as the chairman of the Rock Hall. The original chairman and founder of the Rock Hall, Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone fame, resigned from the lead of the organization in January of last year. So, it is now Sykes’ ship to sail and, if the list of nominees for 2021 is any indication, he’s already putting his mark on the building.

For 2021, there are 16 nominees under consideration by the 1000-member strong Voting Committee, made up of the living members of the Rock Hall and a contingent of knowledgeable music veterans – musicians, label executives, historians, journalists, DJs, managers and the Fan Vote, who adds in one vote with the Top Five vote getters from their polling. These votes will be tabulated and, in May, the Rock Hall will announce five or six of these artists as the Class of 2021. They will also probably add at least one more inductee from their non-voting wings of the Rock Hall – the Ahmet Ertegun Award for non-musical industry influencers, the Award for Musical Excellence (formerly the Sidemen category) and the Early Influencers. The AME hasn’t been awarded since 2017, so it is probably due for an inductee.

Without further ado, I present my ranking of the nominees for this year’s honors, but I do have a caveat. My personal feeling on the artist DOES NOT impact whether they will get in or not. In some cases, they will probably get in despite my personal thoughts!

Let’s begin, from the bottom to the top!

16. Dionne Warwick – For the life of me, I’ve been trying to figure out how and why Warwick merited nomination to the Rock Hall. Yes, she’s had an excellent career that dates to the 60s. Yes, she’s recorded a couple of nice songs. But NONE of what she did was what you might call “groundbreaking” or “innovative.” She has a pleasant but not outstanding voice…hell, she doesn’t even have the best voice in her family (that honor would go to her cousin, Whitney Houston). And her best work was in collaborations and rarely on her own talent. This just reeks of “industry insider” BS, and that is not a reason to put someone in the Rock Hall.

15. Fela Kuti – To be brutally honest, I actually said “Who?” when he was announced, then zipped over to Wikipedia to learn more about him. He is a truly amazing individual who took on human rights and political abuses in Nigeria and created his own style of music – Afrobeat. If he is inducted, he would be the first African inductee into the Rock Hall.

With this said, I don’t see it. He had some influence on Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel, among others, but to say he was a seminal part of rock history would be an incredible stretch. Once again, with this said, he is probably going to be inducted. The Roots’ ?uestlove, who is on the Nomination Committee, has long been an advocate for Fela to be honored. Someone with the power of ?uestlove does not use his power to get you nominated unless he is going to use that same power to get you inducted.

14. Mary J. Blige – Definitely one of the preeminent female vocalists in R&B, but I tried to think of one song that she did that just blew me away. I came up with blanks. If they had used this nomination on Queen Latifah, then it would be much higher on the list. Blige seems like a “OK, she got a nomination – that’s enough” selection.

13. Chaka Khan – There have been several attempts to get Khan in with the band she was a part of, Rufus, and those efforts to this point have failed. This is wrong because the band, including Khan, deserves induction. Taken by itself, Khan’s solo career isn’t filled with material that stops you in your tracks.

12. Devo – The Rock Hall has an exceedingly difficult time with several genres. Funk, hard rock/metal and singer/songwriters are a few, but another would be electronic music. To this day, Kraftwerk is still waiting for the call to join in the Rock Hall (outside of Rick Wakeman and maybe Keith Emerson, has anyone used keyboards better?), and I do not expect there to be more love for Devo’s approach. The recently retired Daft Punk is sitting in the shadows watching this one.

11. Carole King – I personally think this is a more sentimental choice by the Rock Hall than a quality one. King’s masterful work, Tapestry, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021 and King is therefore getting more attention. But what did King do outside of Tapestry that made her a monumental figure in the history of rock? She’s already in the Rock Hall, a recipient of the Ahmet Ertegun Award with her songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, some would say that should be the extent of her recognition. Alas, don’t be surprised if she is voted in as a performer come May.

10. Tina Turner – If Turner wasn’t already in the Rock Hall with Ike, then I would be wholeheartedly behind this and it would be ranked much higher. But the tumultuous relationship between Ike and Tina is one that she would probably like to forget, and the Rock Hall would not be at all upset to get away from. Her 80s stylings were a complete departure from her previous heyday, so perhaps a second induction is appropriate for Turner.

9. LL Cool J – Someone who should have been in a lot sooner than this. The man known as James Smith has got another issue that he is going to have to deal with, however. There’s another rapper on the list who is all but a shoo-in to be inducted (more on that in a moment). But LL Cool J is being considered before a whole host of influential rappers that arguably should have been chosen first, including Eric B. & Rakim, Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock. That’s going to hurt his chances too.

8. Todd Rundgren – There’s a reason that Rundgren is this low on the totem pole. In recent interviews, the multimedia wizard has basically given The Bird to the Rock Hall, stating that it meant nothing to him to be inducted. The Rock Hall has absolutely no problem in abiding by the wishes of those that it is looking to honor – several years ago, Chubby Checker put a full-page ad in many trade magazines, talking about how the Rock Hall “wouldn’t define him.” They’ve never nominated the originator of “The Twist” (although the song was one of the first included in the Singles category at the Rock Hall) and Rundgren faces the same fate if this is truly his sentiment.

7. Iron Maiden – Much like LL Cool J, Iron Maiden is getting the nom over a litany of people who should have already been inducted – Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, and Motorhead, among others. They have also been quite loud in their distaste for the Rock Hall, so this may be a “one and done” nomination either way – either they’ll get in or they will be cast to the scrapheap because of their protestations. It’s too bad because they are more than deserving to be inducted.

6. Kate Bush – If the Rock Hall were in London, this would have been a no-brainer induction probably 15 years ago. Bush is arguably the most creative force in music from the 70s and 80s and has contributed heavily to the musical culture. Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and Jewel owe her a debt of gratitude for blazing the trail.

5. The Go-Go’s – Flat out, this is the easiest bio to argue of these nominees. The Go-Go’s were the first female band to write their music, play their instruments and go to #1 on the charts with their first album, Beauty and the Beat. They also served as a link between the punk rock of the late 70s to the more “pop” version that was found in The Bangles. A more solid inductee would be hard to find.

4. New York Dolls – Along with 2020 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees Marc Bolan and T. Rex, the New York Dolls carried the banner for glam rock in the early 70s. They have been cited as influential in U. S. punk rock and its hard rock/metal movement. Guns N’ Roses owes a huge debt to the groundbreaking that the Dolls did on the scene.

3. Rage Against the Machine – Merging the worlds of rap, hard rock and political activism together, Rage Against the Machine did more in four albums than most bands do in a lifetime of work. They took the lead from bands like Mr. Bungle and Faith No More and put their political edge to work, bringing a great deal of attention to several causes. Their influence can also be seen in bands in the 21st century, including Papa Roach, Hollywood Undead, and Fever 333.

2. Jay-Z – If there is a reason that LL Cool J will not get inducted in 2021, it would be Mr. Shawn Carter. Jay-Z had an astronomical amount of success and influence in the rap world (my personal favorites are “99 Problems” and “Empire State of Mind” with Alicia Keys), but that wasn’t enough. He became a billionaire through his business acumen. Either one of those would be enough to get him inducted but, when you add in the factor of him performing at the Rock Hall Induction Ceremonies with special guest Beyonce (his wife), the Rock Hall is salivating at the possibilities.

1. Foo Fighters – If there has been any rock band that has carried the genre over the past 25 years, it would be Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl and Company have compiled a resume that hasn’t been equaled, although you can sometimes say that they play it way too safe. Grohl himself could have packed it in after Kurt Cobain’s death and Nirvana’s induction into the Rock Hall, but he chose to blaze his own path further into rock history. If he is inducted with Foos, Grohl would become the 24th person to earn double inductions (to this date, only Eric Clapton has been inducted three times, for his work with The Yardbirds, Cream and his solo career).

Who Is Going to Be Inducted?

The Rock Hall is looking to diversify their membership. That was something that Sykes stated when he took over the chairmanship of the Rock Hall last year. It isn’t an indictment of the Rock Hall’s previous work, but it is time that more women and more minorities were recognized for their contributions to rock history. That is going to be reflected by who is inducted this year.

If you listened to my show at Greater Manchester Rock Radio, I already laid out the list of who I believe will be inducted (and not my rankings above). Jay-Z and Foo Fighters are guaranteed inductees and, if there were two near-locks on the list, I would say that Carole King and Tina Turner will be joining the Rock Hall again. That leaves two more to consider (we will go with six inductees). The Go-Go’s will probably earn one of those two slots. Their history in the industry is just too influential to overlook – but that never stopped the Rock Hall from doing that! For the final slot, and just because I’d love to see what the band would do, I think that Iron Maiden will earn induction. But I wouldn’t at all be shocked if Fela Kuti wound up in somehow for the reasons I presented above.

Who will get in? If it is those artists who have trashed the Rock Hall previously, will they show up? Would it be another farce, such as Steve Miller’s induction in 2016? It would provide a spark to what is the 25th anniversary (the first induction ceremony was 1986) of inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021!

My Choices for the Nominees for the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is like no other Hall in existence. It is one of the few Halls that basically has only one criteria – that your first commercial release be done no later than 25 years prior (for 2021, that means artists whose first release was in 1996 or earlier are eligible). Most other Halls base their entry on the number of wins you’ve had (World Golf Hall of Fame), mystical statistical performance (any sports Hall) or that you were from a certain area (self-explanatory). Not the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – if you’re good enough, if you had an impact on the shaping of popular culture and music over the last 70 years (or so) and you can get the votes, you get in.

This fact in itself makes the discussion over not only those elected to but also those who are nominated of great interest to many music fans. With the COVID-19 outbreak, it pretty much fucked up the entirety of the 2020 schedule for the Rock Hall, delaying and then canceling the 2020 Induction Ceremony for a very good list of artists (Whitney Houston, the Notorious B.I.G., The Doobie Brothers, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and T. Rex – Jon Landau and Irving Azoff were Ahmet Ertegun Award winners and named to the Rock Hall) before they were “virtually” inducted in November. Because of the late induction, the announcement of the 2021 Nominees is being pushed off as well, to probably February 2021.

You can lament this, but I think it is a great idea. It stretches the entirety of the process by the Rock Hall to cover a whole year instead of parts of two. With the naming of the nominees in February, that means the new Inductees won’t be announced until more than likely around May or June. Then they can induct them (hopefully in a live ceremony) in November. This works much better than announcing the Inductees in December and holding the Induction Ceremony in April or May (how it has worked in the past).

The delay also allows pundits, historians, fans, and critics to come up with their selections for who will be in the Nomination Class for the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve studied over the last few years of nominations, who has gotten in, what kind of “buzz” is going around in the music world, and other intangibles to come up with a list of 15 artists and groups that should be nominated come February. Those in BOLD print are going to be the five choices I would make for entry and I’ve also tried to include some reasoning for the nomination.

Without further ado, here’s who I believe will earn nomination in 2021:

Jay-Z – Not only will Jay-Z earn a first year eligible (FYE) nomination, but he will also earn a FYE induction into the Rock Hall. It is a tough decision as to which part of the industry that Jay-Z has had more of an impact on – the rap world, where he has been a force for 25 years, or the recording industry itself through his ownership of Tidal and forays into label ownership and artist development. And, since the Rock Hall enjoys a great show, imagine Jay-Z trotting the boards with Beyonce? The Rock Hall is salivating at that thought.

Foo Fighters – If there’s been anyone to carry the banner for rock music in the past 25 years, it would be Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl could have easily packed up shop after the death of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana and just made guest appearances on records for the rest of his career. Instead, he forged on with his own sound and added to the legend of rock. Add in the factor that Grohl is a hell of a music historian himself and that he is on the Nomination Committee (he will have to abstain from voting for himself, likely), it would be odd if they aren’t a FYE nominee but also a FYE inductee.

Pat Benatar – Benatar has been snubbed by the Rock Hall for far too long. Her nomination last year was her first after 15 years of eligibility and it was considered that she was a “lock” for entry. Then they took the vote…Benatar was not only a choice by many but she was the runner-up in the Fan Vote from 2019 (hold on, we’ll get to that) and the Rock Hall has caught hell over bypassing her. With a chance to redeem themselves, I don’t expect the Rock Hall to get it wrong twice (then again, the Rock Hall does have a way to surprise you).

Dave Matthews Band – The top vote getter from the Fan Vote, which has been around for at least six years previous (I could be wrong), usually had been inducted by the Rock Hall. That included such entries as Bon Jovi, Rush and KISS, among others. DMB were the top vote-getters in 2019, but that and $1.50 got them a cup of coffee at McDonald’s – they were bypassed for entry into the Rock Hall, the first time that it had happened. I personally don’t see where DMB has earned entry – I’ve never been a jam band fan – but, since the Rock Hall caught shit for not inducting them with the 2020 class, I can’t see them keeping them out twice.

Judas Priest – This is one that the time is ticking on. The Priest has only been the driving force behind heavy metal for 50 years and, eligible since 1999, they’ve only received two nominations. I would hate to see them fall by the wayside like Kraftwerk (who, after being nominated six times, might have run out of chances), MC5 (nominated five times) or even Chic (nominated 11 TIMES), but it is a realistic possibility.

Rage Against the Machine – The practitioners of the hybrid rap/rock scene of the 90s, RATM combined their aggressive stylings with a socio-political bend that enraptured their fans. Or…maybe not so much. As they prepared for a since-postponed tour in 2020, some RATM fans became outraged at the political stances of guitarist Tom Morello and the band. In one of the funniest exchanges on Twitter, Morello, who holds a political science degree from Harvard, responded to an upset follower who said “I used to be a fan until your political opinions come (sic) out,” “What music of mine were you a fan of that DIDN’T contain “political BS”?” Gotta love that!

Kate Bush – Ah, to have more than five votes (then again, I might have used it on RATM)! Bush is one of the long-overlooked female vocalists from the 80s who should be recognized for her achievements. Her work with Peter Gabriel preceded an excellent solo career in the 80s, but she’s never gotten the acclaim that she deserves (Cyndi Lauper, Annie Lennox and others fall in this category). I’d love to give her a vote, but with some of the others that are on down the list, it makes it difficult.

Eurythmics – Falls into the same category as Bush. One of the many 80s acts that we should start inducting into the Rock Hall. In many cases, these artists have been eligible for 15 years and they’ve never even received a nomination, let alone induction. Time to start fixing this situation and quit bleeding the rock dry from the 1960s/70s.

The Go-Go’s – They came thisclose to getting one of my five picks. The first all-female band to have a #1 album on the Billboard charts, The Go-Go’s were groundbreakers for women in rock. Although they have a litany of women that they owe a huge amount of credit to (Fanny, The Runaways, Suzi Quatro), The Go-Go’s got there and inspired many others. Add in the recent documentary on Showtime and it is quite conceivable that The Go-Go’s earn an induction seat in 2021.

Duran Duran – Anyone who was alive during the 1980s was impacted by Duran Duran. They helped to shape the musical landscape of the 80s, not only with their music but also with their videos on MTV, and had a hand in fashion also, among other things. This is a band that has NEVER been nominated previously – that should be corrected this year and they should take a seat in the Rock Hall.

Alice in Chains – This is a group that may sneak into the Nominations because of recent buzz regarding the group. Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) inducted the band this fall into their rolls and, since there are only Nirvana and Pearl Jam currently carrying the banner for the Grunge Era of rock, a third would be nice (Soundgarden could fit in this category too). Unfortunately, grunge looks like it is going to get the same treatment that hard rock/metal has gotten over the years from the Rock Hall.

Todd Rundgren – Personally, I would love to see Rundgren get in. He’s more than deserving of it for his performing career, his usage of multimedia (witness his upcoming virtual concert tour) and his producing credits. Perhaps the only way to get this man in may be through the Award for Musical Excellence, which hasn’t been awarded since 2017 (to Chic’s Nile Rodgers).

The Smiths – Politics aside, The Smiths are more than worthy of nomination for their career’s labors. However, Morrissey’s tirades seem to have tarnished the potential induction of the band into the Rock Hall, and that’s unfortunate. They get on my list because they are one of the artists from the 2016 Nomination Class that hasn’t been inducted yet.

Beck – I’ve personally never been a huge Beck fan, but I can recognize his artistic creativity and the impact he’s had on other artists. The devotion from his fans are hard to ignore too. He was a FYE nominee, but he failed to go that extra step – he will get in, but will it be this year or in the future?

Daft Punk – A driver of the synth rock/electronic rock scene since the 90s, Daft Punk should be a slam dunk nominee/entry. But Kraftwerk…well, let’s just say that people would like to see them get in first rather than Daft Punk. It isn’t out of the question for the Rock Hall to commemorate those that have achieved great success over the originators, however – just look at how rap’s forefathers have languished behind some of those that have been inducted.

Alanis Morrissette – Another one who could sneak in and get a nomination, if not inducted. Morrissette’s been white hot of late, with a Broadway show (you know, when Broadway was actually performing) and a critically acclaimed album in 2020. She was first eligible in 2019 but was bypassed…the Rock Hall might want to correct that oversight.

Guess we’ll find out in 2021 just how close to right I am!

The “Go The Fuck AWAY” Club

GTFA

Recently one of my close friends, comrades, and “brother in arms” Nolan Dalla, penned a list of people that he wished, to be frank, would just go the fuck away (I even stole his doormat for this article!). Because he has a penchant for politics (as befitting someone who was in the diplomatic service corps for the States of America in the 1980s) and in tribute to the current virtual Democratic National Convention, he came up with a list of right- and left-wing politicians that he bestowed his inaugural class honors on. With such an impetus, how could I avoid not doing the same thing.

I chose several right- and left-wing politicians (and celebrities too) that have certainly overstayed their welcomes. Their schtick has gotten tiresome and, either for that reason or for the fact they’ve been around too goddamn long, they need to head to the exits. Thus, without further ado, here’s my choices for the “Go the Fuck AWAY” Club.

The Right

Ted Nugent & Kid Rock: I decided to start with these two because they are trying to stay relevant in their careers and they’ve chosen fuckwit politics as the way to do it. Nugent wasn’t this bad back in the 80s, it’s a persona that he has festered into the worm he is today. Robert Ritchie (AKA Kid Rock) is a white boy who glammed onto a gimmick and is waiting for Nugent to die to take over the “white racist redneck” market. While I enjoy their musical contributions (and I’ve written about that before), they’ve both gotten a bit tiresome with the routine.

LahrenCoulterConway

Tomi Lahren, Ann Coulter and Kellyanne Conway: The three stages of a crack whore who sells their soul to promote a dying conservative agenda. Willing to say anything for a dollar, even though Coulter recently is trying to redeem herself with an “anti-Orange Foolius” stance so she can stay relevant in the party after he’s gone. And Kayleigh McEnany is moving up on this list.

Louie Gohmert, Ted Cruz & Tom Cotton: If there were any other better examples of “ignorant fucking redneck racist,” I haven’t seen them yet. They have absolutely NO scruples other than “what’s the party line” while they try to sell their “good ol’ boy” bullshit with their Ivy League diplomas (OK, Gohmert gets a pass here as far as Ivy League). If you told these three that a Democratic idea would bring back Jesus, they’d want to arrest Christ on immigration charges.

The Left:

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer: The very example of what is wrong with the Democratic Party. There is some great faces and knowledge coming up from the grassroots, yet these two think that the ideas they’ve tried for decades to put through is the ONLY way to go? I’ve never been one of those for an “age cap” on being in Congress – Pelosi (at over 80) and Schumer (70) this year aren’t the future of the Democrats, they are the past and they should realize this and GTFA.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Campaigns In Las Vegas

The Clintons: Yes, Bill…you were arguably one of the best Presidents of the 20th century for the eight years of your office. But your peccadilloes and dalliances thoroughly damaged everything you did and even trashed Hillary’s (arguably the most qualified person to even run for President) chances at the office. And this doesn’t even touch on the facetious and duplicitous manner that you (and Hillary, for her political career) handled some of those cases. Do like Jimmy Carter…find a charitable cause to get behind and go do it…just stay the fuck out of the operations of the Democrats.

Late night talk show hosts: There’s a handful I toss in here – Samantha Bee, Bill Maher, John Oliver, a couple of others – that, while I enjoy them very much, have pretty much ruined their futures in any other pursuit. Political comedy is best handled in short doses, much like what George Carlin did or Lewis Black does today, not as a weekly bitchfest for the left. It also locks you in a box, as Maher is learning, that the extreme left can turn on you when you actually show that you’re not the uber-lefty that they thought you were. (To be fair, Oliver does sometimes branch out from politics into trying to help his fellow man, so he has moments of redemption.)

This won’t be the last time we deal with this subject. In fact, we may come back with either weekly or monthly nominees. Who would you put on the list?

Time to Make Systemic Changes to a Damaged Law Enforcement System

PoliceOfficers

The job of a police officer, county sheriff deputy or other member of the law enforcement community is not an easy nor a thankless job. Day in and day out, the men and women who stand the “Thin Blue Line” subject themselves to the scorn of criminals, politicians, and sometimes even the everyday person, all for a pretty small payday (the starting pay for a police officer in New York City is around $41,000; by comparison, the starting salary for a schoolteacher in New York City is around $57,000). To be honest, any job that you do that you might not return home from in the evening (or the morning) deserves to have some level of respect given to it.

The problem is that Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) have pretty much pissed this goodwill away through their actions. Dating back to the days of Prohibition, when cops pretty much turned a blind eye to the wrongdoings of organized crime and bootleggers because they got a piece of the action, LEOs have frequently straddled the line between criminality and following their credo of “to protect and to serve.” While some might think it is a recent occurrence, a look back at history shows that “bad cops” have long been a problem in U. S. society.

Smithsonian Magazine looked at this ugly history and, in many instances, some of the examples they came up with could be transposed to today’s environment without much effort. The well-done article cites a 1929 study of the Chicago police force and found that, although blacks made up only 5% of the population of the Second City, they accounted for 30% of the police killings between 1927 and 1929. Further study by the administration of President Herbert Hoover acknowledged the plague of police brutality, summed up in a report in 1932 from the Wickersham Committee called “Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement.”

John Lewis

The advent of the civil rights movement only accentuated and accelerated the abuses by police against those they are supposed to protect. Violent race riots across the South and the usage of weapons, police canine units and fire hoses – because they didn’t have military style rifles, armored vehicles and tactical gear back in those days – became the norm as blacks sought equality, looked for the civil rights, the basic rights of humanity that were granted by President Abraham Lincoln 100 years earlier. These actions always seemed to have one note of difference – these actions weren’t taken against white offenders, usually just minorities.

It has only gotten worse since these days. It seems today that we can’t go but a few months without some sort of police shooting because a cop “feared for his life” (one of the most ludicrous things that I’ve ever heard – you don’t walk into a war expecting to find cotton candy waiting for you). The lineage of people who have died at the hands of inappropriate police shootings is a long one – Tamir Rice, a 12-year old BOY with a toy pistol; Philandro Castile, who was a licensed gun owner and TOLD cops he had a weapon in the car; Eric Gardner, choked out because he was selling singular cigarettes; and, most recently, George Floyd joined this list of infamy, having his larynx crushed because he MIGHT have passed a counterfeit $20 bill. In most of these cases, LEOs walked away with no punishment and those involved in the Floyd case are just beginning to answer for their actions.

George Floyd's Brother Holds Prayer Vigil At Memorial Site

It is time that there is change to the way that police, that law enforcement officers of ALL uniforms and organizations, perform their duties.

Some people have suggested that we require that anyone who joins a police or sheriff’s department has equivalent military experience before being considered. The problem there is that is where the “power issues” begin, in many cases. Handing a badge and a gun to a person barely eligible to drink, in most cases, isn’t the answer because they haven’t had adequate training. Others have thought that a college degree should be required, but we already have that in “Criminal Justice” majors that do not teach law enforcement.

No, it is time that there were some changes to the oversight of Law Enforcement Officers, monumental changes that are stringently held to and are completely and thoroughly implemented. First, the entirety of a police department must go through psychological exam YEARLY, from the Chief down to the newest rookie. Second, all LEO must report all their online social accounts and club memberships, both online and in their normal lives. Third, they would be subjected to a YEARLY review of their conduct professionally – arrest history, commendations, both the good and bad – and with the general public. If any LEO has a problem with these things, they are immediately dismissed from the force and not allowed to be licensed as a LEO, detective or security personnel anywhere in the U. S.

Additionally, each community, city and town would create a Citizens Review Board, a seven-member board with three people chosen by law enforcement officials, three people chosen by the people of the city and overseen by the mayor of each city. This board would have subpoena powers and could, if they deem so, force the District Attorney to file charges against those who have been determined to have done wrong. They would be a sitting Grand Jury that never recesses and holds the equivalent powers of such an organization.

Finally, there would be MANDATORY usage of body cameras by Law Enforcement Officers, and those cameras would be on 24/7. If, for any reason short of the camera being broke, that it is manually shut off (and these cameras are smart enough that they can tell when they are shut off through human action), the LEO is immediately fired. There would also be a disbandment of police unions who, although advocating for fair wages and treatment of their members, has devolved into a roadblock that tarnishes the “Thin Blue Line” into what the Mafia called omerta.

PoliceBuffalo

People are angry, and justifiably so. Law enforcement officers like the 57 pansies in Buffalo who resigned their positions on the Buffalo Emergency Deployment Force after two of their members were charged with assault for shoving a 75-year old man to the ground and cracking his skull open to the point he was bleeding on the concrete (and, to be honest, they should have turned over their badges right there instead of this pussy-ass demonstration) need to clean up their act. These suggestions aren’t as extreme as “defunding” police departments and LEOs across the nation and maybe even around the world should be smart enough to figure out that their shit isn’t going to be taken anymore.

Why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Needs a Veteran’s Committee

RockHall3

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has been around for almost 40 years now. It was established in 1983 by 2020 Rock Hall inductee Ahmet Ertegun and the first class was inducted in 1986. There was not an actual physical Rock Hall until it was built and opened in Cleveland back in 1995. It has served to be the pantheon of rock history, honoring the artists that have contributed to rock (and other) forms of music – truly the crème de la crème of music history.

There are something along the lines of 235 artists, groups and assorted industry insiders that have been inducted by the Rock Hall over the years, so you would justly be correct in that the truly immortal have been inducted into the hallowed shrine already. Still, there are those that have complained that “(insert your personal favorite artist here) hasn’t been inducted into the Rock Hall!” While there is some credence to some of these arguments, overall the Rock Hall, its Nominating Committee and the Voting Committee (a roughly 1000-strong contingent that is made up of the living members of the Rock Hall and select industry executives, music historians, DJs, music journalists and others) have gotten it right.

Metallica1988

One thing that could be done better – and would put an end to some of the complaints – is a way to handle those from the past that some think should be in. The Baseball Hall of Fame has (or used to have) a Veteran’s Committee – a group whose sole raison d’etre is to look at the distant past and see if there are any credible entries for the Hall that have been overlooked. The Rock Hall would be well served in looking at creating such an entity like this, but there would have to be some significant parameters set on what this Veteran’s Committee would look like and how they would come to their decisions.

With that said, here are the initial parameters that should be set.

1) The Veteran’s Committee will consist of a 100-member panel, of which 10 members will nominate 15 artists, groups, early influences, industry executives or “insiders” (DJs, normally, or producers/managers) for induction. This Veteran’s Committee would be much like the Voting Committee that chooses the inductees for the Rock Hall – a group of artists from more than 50 years ago (more on this in a minute), DJs, industry executives, music historians and the like.

The nominations will have had to have made their first actions in the industry – a record release, entry into the business, something like that – no more recently than 50 years prior to the current calendar year. For example, if the Veteran’s Committee were to come to life this year, eligible artists for the first ballot cannot have had their first impact after 1970 – anyone who had their first interactions in the business prior to 1970 would be eligible for consideration.

Under the current rules for consideration, a candidate must have made their first release more than 25 years ago. That gives current candidates a 25-year period for consideration by the Nomination Committee of the Rock Hall and, if they are nominated, by the Voting Committee. It doesn’t infringe on their work and can truly be said to be reexamining what the two Committees might have missed. Thus, the 50-year guideline is an important one.

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2) The Veteran’s Committee is allowed ONE (1) inductee per year. That inductee will have had to have earned 80% of the 100-member Committee’s votes (80). If no candidate gets 80% of the vote, then the Veteran’s Committee does not get an induction slot that year. If there are more than one candidate that gets the 80% voting margin, then the one who gets the most votes will be inducted – the runner up is going to have to wait until next year.

This is done to ensure that there is an overwhelming consensus of quality of the inductee. It would not be right for someone to simply get a majority of the vote from the 100-member Veteran’s Committee – that isn’t a hugely significant number (51). There has to be a slam dunk majority to signify that there is nearly a unanimous agreement to bypass both the Nomination Committee and the Voting Committee to induct someone they passed over.

3) If an artist, group, early influence or industry executive or “insider” is on the nominee list and receives under 10% of the vote from the Committee (10), that person is removed from consideration for the Rock Hall forever.

GordonLightfoot

This is arguably the biggest criteria and the one that would put an end to some discussions of “they should be in the Hall.” Once again using the Baseball Hall of Fame as an example, if you can’t get a certain percentage of the vote once you become eligible (in baseball it is five years after your retirement), then you are stricken from future ballots. The same criteria should be used by the Rock Hall…if you cannot get 10 people to vouch for you in a 100-member group, you are not a viable candidate and should be removed from overall consideration.

This part of the criteria will upset some who back fringe artists (not saying that Gordon Lightfoot, pictured above, is a fringe artist, in fact, he should already be in the Rock Hall…wait, that’s why this essay exists!) that they believe should be inducted. Those who are this vehement on a particular artist, group or other person are the true definition of “fan,” which is a shortened version of “fanatic,” or someone who has an unnatural support for a cause or person. “Fanatics” should not be allowed to overwhelm the vote of any organization that looks to honor those that were truly immortals.

There are probably some other rules that could be put into place, but these would be the baseline that a Rock Hall Veteran’s Committee should be founded under. The above rules will maintain the integrity of the Rock Hall vote because the threshold of induction is high, would allow for consideration of artists from the past that some might believe have been overlooked and will eliminate those who aren’t able to garner support to warrant induction. If the Veteran’s Committee were something along these lines, I could support it. Anything less would be an insult to the Rock Hall and its inductees who actually earned the honor the first time around.