Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why I will never set foot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and why I will never set foot in it.

Last week there was another round of inductees of the Rand Roll Hall of Fame (RRHOF.) Among the list were some artists who really deserved to be there. Also among the list (as with years past) there were some entertainers who made me shake my head by their inclusion---and not in a good way.
Mitch Ryder is not in the RRHOF.

Face it, the RRHOF is an organization run like an exclusive country club by some good ole boys of the industry. I don’t believe any of them were musicians in their career but they wrote extensively and in many cases wonderfully about rock music. Contrary to what most people think, being a rock critic is difficult and requires talent and creativity. Those guys did it well and that's where it should have stopped---at the by line. Because quickly it became obvious that the good ole boys were playing favorites. But it wasn’t so much that they were bringing all the crappy bands in; it’s that they were leaving too many great artists out.

A full disclosure: I hate rap and loathe hip hop with dance music a close third.

Kansas is not in the RRHOF.

Steve Miller’s tirade went viral last week as he described the terrible experience of his induction. Some people criticized him while I backed his sentiments 1000%. It wasn’t the people in the induction class he had a beef with, but rather, the entire process. The entertainers “the Black Keys” now regret inducting Miller into the RRHOF. Fuck You Black Keys. Come back when you grow up and write something relevant like Steve Miller has done for 40 years.

Electric Light Orchestra is not in the RRHOF.

After Miller’s complaints became widespread, the responses from the RRHOL representatives were arrogant and offensive, downplaying Miller’s beefs rather than responding by saying “Sorry you had a bad time Steve, we agree with you that this process that we’ve been running has some major flaws and we know it really sucks, but we’ve only been doing it 30+ years., so give us a break. . .oh, a new Green Day record is coming out? Excuse us while we start a circle jerk.

The Moody Blue and Yes are not in the RRHOF. Getting mad yet?

There are still many of us too naive to know what a fucked up, dysfunctional place the music industry is and believe bands should be inducted upon merit. If that were to be true, then what merit are we talking about? Record sales? Records made? Pffft. The group Chicago has created arguably what is one of the most versatile and compelling catalogues of music by anyone. They’ve melded jazz, fusion, big band, pop and rock and roll all into a well-traveled and well received revue. But up until last year when they were inducted, their career was ignored --- and you can thank the good ole boys for that.

The Doobie Brothers, Bad Company, the Guess Who and Journey are not in the RRHOF.

On the other hand bands like Green Day and. . .well, let’s just use them as an example for now, as they are probably the biggest offender of terrible music there known to exist on the planet. Chicago already had 18 albums under their belt by the time Green Day was formed and rode some novelty act wave of success while delivering such memorable tunes as---wait, there aren’t any. Like the world really needed a punk rock opera. Green Day is and was nothing more than an exploited brand of God awful noise who somehow rose to success shouting incoherent drivel, you guessed it, thanks in part to some of the good ole boys.

America, Jethro Tull and Dire Straits are not in the RRHOF.

In the meantime, Chicago’s early work driven by Terry Kath went unnoticed (they've been eligible for almost 30 years.) Don’t believe me? Go to youtube and watch Chicago, live at Tanglewood from 1970 and come back once you’ve been schooled in rock and roll. The omission of Chicago and so many other bands is a crying shame and injustice of magnitude proportions. Meanwhile. . .Joan Jet? NWA? Guns and Roses? Who’s next Bjork? The Dixie Chicks? Miley Cirus or will it be the Gogos for that amazing body of work (3 albums) that totaled just over 94 minutes of music?

King Crimson, Roxy Music and ELP are not in the RRHOF.

Ever hear of Bert Berns before last Sunday? Didn’t think so. As if Van Morrison and Neil Diamond wouldn’t have been discovered by someone else. But at least I was glad to his his work acknowledged.
Yes, I understand they have different categories in the RRHOF to broaden the spectrum of what acts are inducted. This year the pissing wars were between Gene Simmons and NWA. Simmons didn’t think the “music” that rappers and hip hoppers make would be around in ten years. God, I hope he is right.

The inimitable and scarcely elegant Ice Cube said this in response to Gene Simmons, citing how Simmons predicted (or hoped) the novelty or rap and how it will be gone and how music is cyclical.

“The question is, 'Are we rock 'n' roll?' And I say — you goddamn right we rock 'n' roll. Rock 'n' roll is not an instrument. It's not even a style of music. It's a spirit that's been going on since the blues, jazz, bebop, soul, rock 'n' roll, R&B, heavy metal, punk rock, and yes, hip-hop.”

Thank you Mr. Cube. It that’s the criteria, by that logic shouldn’t Pavarotti, Domingo and Maria Callas in the RRHOF too?

Gram Parsons, Dan Fogelberg, Joni Mitchell and Glen Campbell are not in the RRHOF. Neither is Ted Nugent, the MC5, Todd Rundgren, Warren Zevon, The Spinners, Boston, Three Dog Night, The Guess Who, J Geils band, Joe Cocker and Peter Frampton.

I am not alone in thinking NWA (and other entertainers of that wretched ilk) should not be included in the RRHOF. While I am not a huge fan of Simmons I agree with him 1000% about what he hopes will be the death of rap and hip hop. Hip Hop and Rap “artists” and I use that term lightly should not be in the RRHOF anymore than Madonna or the Beastie Boys. I know at least one friend who will call me a racist, close minded old white guy for saying that, but my response is let Hip Hoppers and Rappers start their own Hall of Fame hopefully in a place as far away from me as possible, like Florida. It can be funded by the gangs, thugs and drug pushers and pimps it is made up of.

I am still hoping the next big trend in the music industry is talent. I’m glad a few of the 2016 inductees are finally there. At least the good ole boys club gets it right once in a while.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Franklin Elementary School, Royal Oak, MI

I still dream about Franklin Elementary School in Royal Oak. It was where I learned to read, write, play kickball and occasionally build up enough courage to jump off the swing to see what it was like to fly.

We lived at 821 Mohawk, about 12 houses away from Franklin and though it was an easy walk, sometimes I’d catch a ride with our Twin Pines delivery man or our neighbor, Mr. George, who drove a cab. I don’t know why I did, then again, who remembers these things from their youth?
My mother went to Franklin, as did my brother and sister. I absolutely loved that school and remember almost every inch of it in great detail, from the marks on the gym floor and smell of the gym to the tiny room we used for band practice.

I remember the Campbell’s Soup label drives, the Scholastic book orders, Dynamite Magazine, hot dog lunches, fluoride treatments, the area near the fallout shelter where they kept the used erasers, the multi lined chalk holders, Mr. Penrod’s goalie equipment that he kept in his office, the Sesame Street record being played by Miss Meyers, the magic square across the street, the square someone painted on the side of the school that we used for a strike zone, the barrels, Ms. Hooker, the lunch monitor who meticulously went through the milk money to separate the wheat pennies from the others, Saturday morning basketball in the winter as the smoke chugged from the tall stack on the building and how Mr. Judd, the music teacher, picked me twice to dance during the special concerts. One was a waltz and the other was a square dance. Pfft.

In kindergarten I could not skip, as was often required, so I’d ditch into the bathroom/coat room until Miss Meyers came and dragged me back out. I remember my friend Freddy giving her grief one day when she did not perfectly fill in her drawing when she was teaching us to color. She promptly and defensively gave the excuse that it was “much harder to color on an easel.”

Like most of the schools south of 11 mile road in Royal Oak, Franklin is gone and newer homes now occupy the sacred space where we learned, played and reminisced.

The first photo is a classroom as it appeared in the 1930s when my mother attended. The second photo is my mother’s “class photo.” She is in the first row, second from the right.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Remembering Mike Kudreiko

I remember the first time I saw my friend Mike Kudreiko naked.

I’ll bet you’re thinking, did he really just say that? Yep. And when you examine that statement you may wonder what is more shocking---that I saw him naked or that I saw him naked more than once.
Like all of you I was upset with the sad news we received last week. Mike and I had not seen each other or spoken in several years. It was simply a common drift that happens with a lot of friendships over time with kids, careers, family and life. And when I think about Mike’s life I truly believe the world was cheated when he left us.

If you knew him, you know he wasn’t shy about mincing words or telling you what he thought about things. Though we were polar opposites in politics in the last meaningful message I had with him (when we agreed to stop talking about politics) was that friendship is more important than partisanship. He agreed.

So back to the naked part.
Actually, no, not just yet.

For reasons unknown, March has always been Robb Roy month in my house for at least the last ten or more years. I don’t know why and can only guess that one March I was obsessing on one of the CDs and from that point forward I always associated that time of the year with the band. I was fortunate enough to work a bit with the band back in the late 90s, helping them get their records out etc.

When “Heroes and Cocktails” came out I was blown away. When “Happy” came out, I was like “fuck, these guys are awesome.” When “Days of Pride and Hunger” came out I was like, shit, I’ve know that for ten years! I continued to beyond blown away and marvel at how those tall dudes could make such great records, with high production values and songwriting that was as good as anybody’s.

 Truth used to be forever, in the days of pride and hunger.
It’s sweeter when the task is harder
In the days of pride and hunger.

Since you were a fan of Mike’s you know their music was not of the ephemeral. The title track Days of Pride and Hunger is a tune that has always stuck with me for its simple complexity and poignancy. Like a majority of their songs it will always remain lyrically relevant.
Euphoria never tasted better, in the days of pride and hunger

Days…became my mantra for a while as I struggled and worked hard on my own path while becoming a writer. It is not an exaggeration to say that some days that song made me see through the very obstacles that made me want to give up, or helped me work around them.

All of us know the struggles of musicians and creative types. We have this bullshit music industry that gets worse by the day and those most deserving continue to suffer for their art.
Hold on just a little longer, to the days of pride and hunger.

So back to our friend Mike and being naked. It happened not because of a “bromance” but because we played hockey together and shared a locker room. He was a great player and always stuck up for his teammates. In fact, he excelled in everything he did from music to film to hockey. He was a unique talent, with the Pete Townsend nose, rock and roll guitar moves and the chops to back them up. Those are just a few of the things that I will miss about Mike.

I was always hoping for a Rob Roy reunion, but I will continue to cherish the CDs I have and the memories tucked away in my Robb Roy rock and roll reservoir. Thankfully there are plenty of them--- far more those those that took place when we were naked.

Don’t lose yourself to the past.
Cherish the road and don’t look back.
It’s not the end but how you arrive.