Happy Halloween all! I’m a sucker for holidays, especially now that I am getting to relive my childhood through a second generation. Unfortunately, trick or treat has been postponed in my little town in Central Indiana and rescheduled for Saturday. Well, Saturday happens to be the day that my younger son and I are going to see Bob Dylan while my older son and his wife go see Tool. That leaves daughter-in-law #2 and Grammy to take the two little ones out for Halloween fun. Regardless, our family Halloween party is on for tonight, which means that if we want a FAIR playlist for the party, I have to make it. My older son, bless his heart, is my musical Frankenstein, a little of a musical snob. So, instead of a constant barrage of excellent musicianship, I take over the music to interject some levity into the mix.
Now, why do I enjoy Halloween? I am not sure. Scary movies are fine. Playing tricks is fun. Eating candy has always been an unfortunate hobby. My recently departed mother loved to dress my brother and me in her homemade costumes only to enter us in Halloween costume contests if only to reinforce her artistic abilities. I had to endure many stupid costumes in my day. But, when I got to college, that’s when I found my voice in my Halloween costumes in addition to my classic mixtapes. Outside of my costume my freshman year, the rest were a cast of classic musicians. Probably, my finer two costumes were Boy George and Captain Fantastic-era Elton John. My sophomore year was Sid Vicious, and the year before was a juvenile attempt at a very inappropriate object. However, it was the mixtapes that became my calling card.
1982 was the year during which I hit my stride with these things. And, that was mainly due to the release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. After that, a deluge of Halloween-themed songs were finally released, and, since I am a huge music nerd, I started my collection. With that said, here’s my Top 30 Halloween songs.
30. “Candy” – Cameo
29. “Shout at the Devil” – Mötley Crüe
28. “Dead Man’s Party” – Oingo Boingo
27. “Spiderwebs” – No Doubt
26. “Dragula” – Rob Zombie
25. “She Wolf” – Shakira
24. “Clap for the Wolfman” – The Guess Who
23. “Heads Will Roll” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
22. “Disturbia” – Rhianna
21. “Magic” – Olivia Newton-John
20. “Monster” – Kanye West
19. “Kill for Candy” – Dreamcar
18. “Halloween” – Dead Kennedys
17. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” – Charlie Daniels Band
16. “Supernature” – Cerrone
15. “A Night with the Jersey Devil” – Bruce Springsteen
I am not officially spent talking about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lately, I have written many half-assed articles about the Hall and am officially running out of gas. I really feel like there will be seven inductees, though I do wish there would be more. But, as long as the Hall does a similar job inducting artists as I do writing this blog, then the whole process is in trouble.
Every year, the Nominating Committee descends from Mt. Olympus to present a list of 15 or so nominees. Then, they hand that list over to the members of the Induction Committee, who, in their infinite wisdom, will stamp five to seven acts for induction. The committee consists of inducted artists, rock historians, critics and journalists, industry insiders and this thing called a Fan Vote, which after millions of votes is distilled down to one single vote. So much for rock music being the voice of the common man. But, that’s a totally other conversation. Let’s stick with the current nominees, as flawed a list it is.
I have passionately presented six artists who I who love to see inducted, which means most of them will be passed over. But, when it comes to a seventh inductee, I have no idea whom to back. I really like nine of the ten remaining artists, but I switch every day as to whom it would be. So, today, it became very apparent that I am spineless with this seventh pick. So, instead, I will give you one album, one hit song and one deeper cut as the case for each remaining act, including the bane of my existence Dave Matthews Band. As the real announcement of the Class of 2020 nears in January, I will reveal who I think will actually be inducted, regardless of my tastes. But, until then, let me know who you think I should be voting for.
Doobie Brothers: Best Album – What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits; Best Song – “Black Water”; Song You Should Hear – “Another Park, Another Sunday.”
Judas Priest: Best Album – British Steel; Best Song – “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”; Song You Should Hear – “Metal Gods.”
Dave Matthews Band: Best Album – Under the Table and Dreaming; Best Song – “Ants Marching”; Song You Should Hear – “Busted Stuff.”
MC5: Best Album – Kick Out the Jams; Best Song – “Kick Out the Jams”; Song You Should Hear – “Teenage Lust.”
Motörhead: Best Album – Ace of Spades; Best Song – “Ace of Spades”; Song You Should Hear – “No Class.”
Nine Inch Nails: Best Album – The Downward Spiral; Best Song – “Head like a Hole”; Song You Should Hear – “Hurt.”
The Notorious B.I.G.: Best Album – Ready to Die; Best Song – “Mo Money, Mo Problems”; Song You Should Hear – “Big Poppa.”
Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan: Best Album – Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan; Best Song – “Tell Me Something Good”; Song You Should Hear – “Close the Door.”
T. Rex: Best Album – Electric Warrior; Best Song – “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”; Song You Should Hear – “Metal Guru.”
Thin Lizzy: Best Album – Jailbreak; Best Song – “The Boys Are Back in Town”; Song You Should Hear – “Do Anything You Want To.”
I hate this year’s ballot of nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Out of the 16 artists on the list, I would have voted for 15 in any year. Throw out the Dave Matthews Band, whose nomination I still cannot explain (though, I should be predicting their impending induction since the Hall seems to suck at times), the others should all be inducted. Why couldn’t the stupid Hall voters just go away and have the greatest induction ceremony ever and put everybody in except DMB. Oh, hell, even I’m not that cruel, just induct ’em all! Come on! How is anyone supposed to leave out the Doobies, T. Rex, Biggie, the Priest or Whitney, let alone MC5, Chaka Khan and Rundgren? Seriously people! At least they had the decency to nominate excellent but long shot artists like John Prine, Los Lobos and Bad Brains in the recent past. My long shot, DMB, has one of the most rabid fan bases this side of The Dead and Phish, so they really aren’t a long shot at all. They are just an a front to my sense of fairness.
With all my bitching and whining out of the way, my sixth inductee is Soundgarden. Back in the late-Eighties, I used to hear many of those great Seattle bands on 97-X like Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Nirvana and Soundgarden. And I remember thinking that these guys were all a breath of fresh air. They combines aggressive playing with a subtle dexterity that the alternative bands of the Eighties were lacking. You could hear the musicians’ love of all things punk, Zeppelin and Sabbath in their music. And, at the time, Soundgarden stood head and shoulders above them all, becoming one of the first from Seattle to sign with a major label.
They broke big in 1991 with the release of their third album, Badmotorfinger. But, it was not until 1994 when the band hit the big time upon the release of the sublime Superunknown. And, although they hit number one with their next release, Down on the Upside, in 1996, Soundgarden’s days were numbered. They would remain dormant until 2012 when the band regrouped to prove they still had fire in the belly by releasing the excellent King Animal. Unfortunately, they would only release one more album in 2014, Echoes of Miles. They band effectively came to an end when word broke in the Spring of 2017 that lead singer Chris Cornell had taken his own life.
Musically, Soundgarden had been blessed to combine the advanced skills of guitarist Kim Thayil, drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Ben Shepherd with one of the finest rock vocalists of any era, Cornell. In the early days of the band’s rise, they were often described as being the Led Zeppelin of the Gen X era. I never bought into that hype, although both bands had the ability to rock out and to turn things down acoustically without ever losing their muscularity. Yet, Soundgarden remained defiantly rooted in the punk esthetic as their musicality lead them to greater heights in the rock world. They may have helped end the whole hair metal era, but they became the one grunge band that metalheads could attached themselves to.
With Pearl Jam and Nirvana inducted, Soundgarden should rightfully become the third of grunge’s Big Four to be inducted (Alice in Chains should become the fourth and final of the grunge bands to be honored). This honor is long overdue for the band and should signal the go-ahead for both alternative and metal bands to follow in the near future. With that said, here are 25 reasons why Soundgarden should be inducted in 2020.
25. “Gun” (Louder Than Love, 1989)
24. “Storm” (Echoes of Miles, 2014)
23. “Bleed Together” (Down on the Upside, 1996)
22. “Get on the Snake” (Louder Than Love, 1989)
21. “Nothing to Say” (Screaming Life/Fopp, 1990)
20. “Ty Cobb” (Down on the Upside, 1996)
19. “Been Away Too Long” (King Animal, 2012)
18. “Room A Thousand Yard Wide” (Badmotorfinger, 1991)
17. “All Your Lies” (Ultramega OK, 1988)
16. “My Wave” (Superunknown, 1994)
15. “Head Down” (Superunknown, 1994)
14. “Hands All Over” (Louder Than Love, 1989)
13. “Birth Ritual” (Singles OST, 1992)
12. “Flower” (Ultramega OK, 1988)
11. “Loud Love” (Louder Than Love, 1989)
10. “Rusty Cage” (Badmotorfinger, 1991)
9. “Pretty Noose” (Down on the Upside, 1996)
8. “Fell on Black Days” (Superunknown, 1994)
7. “Outshined” (Badmotorfinger, 1991)
6. “Blow Up the Outside World” (Down on the Upside, 1996)
5. “Spoonman” (Superunknown, 1994). You know how great a song has to been when your fourth grade son loved it? Now, he is in his thirties with a 15-month old daughter who loves this song. As far as I’m concerned, case closed.
4. “Burden in My Head” (Down on the Upside, 1996). People, positive attitudes will never cover a chemical imbalance in your brain, especially if you’re an empathetic person.
3. “Jesus Christ Pose” (Badmotorfinger, 1991). Of course the public thought this was an anti-Christianity song since those people NEVER read the lyrics. This was a song decrying the lead singer pose during a concert.
2. “Black Hole Sun” (Superunknown, 1994). This psychedelic blow-out was everything that Sixties and Seventies rock wishes it could have been.
1. “The Day I Tried to Live” (Superunknown, 1994). This is one of the few songs that has ever truly given insight into the psyche of a depressed person, of how you go from one emotional extreme to another. I was worried about Cornell, although I thought he came through the darkness as I had. Unfortunately, I was wrong about him.
Two weeks before I started college in the Fall of 1981, I went to my second concert of that very August which was Pat Benatar with opening act David Johansen, the former lead singer of the New York Dolls. Personally, I was pumped about seeing both artists, but my buddies weren’t. Anyway, we had four carloads of guys in a caravan going to what ended up being the last general admission concert I attended in the aftermath of the The Who concert tragedy in Cincinnati of 1979. Like I’ve said before, Indiana is a little slow.
Anyway, I let out my guys, and they ran up the ramps to the concert doors while I parked my car. At the point, let me remind you that most of my friends were pretty fast distance runners. This was the last time us college guys were hanging out with the younger high school guys. The main point was we were all members of teams that had been ranked in Indiana’s Top 20 Cross Country teams. And, this caravan had a plan, and the plan was to release those younger guys to get us good seats. And, it worked to perfection that night as we snagged the whole tenth row stage right. All for a bunch of teenage guys to see one of the most beautiful women in rock history. Yep! I said it. We were sexist twerps back then.
That summer, Benatar released her first album to reach number one on Billboard‘s album chart. It was the pinnacle of a whirlwind of quick two-year run to the top. Starting in 1979, Benatar, with major contributions from her guitarist and future husband Neil Giraldo, was one of the biggest rock stars in the world for a good six years. Then, the husband-and-wife team pulled away from the career to begin a life of parenthood. Finally, the pair is being recognized for their contribution to rock music in addition to the ground that Pat broke as one of the first female rockers to become a huge star. And, all of that does not even mention the fact that she was a huge fashion icon in the early-Eighties, as depicted in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
If you remember, I did a profile on Benatar a couple of months ago. But, today, I want to tell everyone that she is my fifth inductee of the RRHOF for 2020. This honor is long overdo. Right now, Benatar leads the Fan Voting and, God willing, she will remain there, even though Dave Matthews Band is making huge strides right now. Today, I would like to honor Benatar with a ranking of her albums.
11. Go (2003)
10. Innamorata (1997)
9. Gravity’s Rainbow (1993)
8. True Love (1991)
7. Wide Awake in Dreamland (1988)
6. Seven the Hard Way (1985)
5. Tropico (1984). This was the album in which Benatar and Giraldo began to move away from the hard rock/punk sound they rode to fame and toward a pop life. Unfortunately, fans started to turn away, missing on the artistic growth the duo was displaying.
4. Get Nervous (1982). In many ways, this album was the final goodbye to the trappings of being a hard rock queen. However, it was a very strong, underrated album of great early-Eighties pop/rock music.
3. Crimes of Passion (1980). This was the album that brought Benatar the mainstream success that all of us who thought she deserved it on the first album. And, “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” quickly became her calling card.
2. In the Heat of the Night (1979). This was a strong opening salvo for her career. Everything about it just screamed Eighties-pop rock from New York City. As we all know, Benatar was more than a Debbie Harry knock-off that producer Mike Chapman was attempting to dress her up as.
1. Precious Time (1981). This was the album in which Benatar turned into the AOR star we all remember. This album was truly a mature statement, and she was rewarded with a number one album.
I totally get a younger person’s perspective about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If you had been raised after Lee Abram’s narrow radio programming lists, the destruction of the fairness doctrine in broadcasting by the Reagan Administration, the legislation of the Clinton era that threw away the limitations placed upon conglomerates to limit their influence in a market, the decline of video music outlets and the rise of classic rock radio due to Boomers being afraid of their “greatest music ever” being regarded as “oldies,” you would have a narrow definition of rock and roll. Hell, I should too. But, for some reason, I held onto the radio format of my youth and extrapolated it to my record collection and musical tastes. And, fortunately, those tastes were passed down to my boys, who love everything from Johnny Cash to Tool to Travis Scott. I admire them that they believe there are really only two types of music: good and bad.
Since the 2020 Nominee list for the RRHOF has been announced, I have read the great articles of the many whom I believe to be more in tune with the politics surrounding the Hall. Some are wondering why Whitney Houston, The Notorious B.I.G. and Rufus featuring Chaka Khan are all being nominated, while others are decrying those artists whose marginal sales should be disqualifying, such as MC5, Todd Rundgren, Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk. Sorry, but rock has always be more than the least common denominator; otherwise, why haven’t the Bay City Rollers, Mike + the Mechanics and The Association been nominated? There is room for the innovators in the Hall, especially a Hall for rock and roll. Sure, baseball doesn’t recognize the inventor of the curveball or split finger fastball, but music is different in that it is more subjective and reliant upon historians to help shape its legacy. That’s why diverse artists such as Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Robert Johnson, Bob Willis, Jimi Hendrix, Ramones, ABBA and Madonna are all members. Sure, metal and hard rock have been short-changed, but so have 70s soul, art rock, funk, new wave, hip hop, bubblegum and alternative musics.
I feel as though at least ten artists should be inducted each year until this traffic jam of deserving artists have been thinned a bit. So, one artist of whom I have written often, should be inducted this year and that person is Todd Rundgren. Rundgren has been THE Renaissance man of rock music. Not only has he been a recording artist, songwriter, member of three groups (Utopia, Nazz and The New Cars), producer and engineer, Rundgren led us into the video age and the computer age, being one of the first major artists to embrace new technology at seemingly every turn. If he will not be inducted as a performer, as many are predicting, at least induct him for Musical Excellence. Shoot, last year he finished third in the fan balloting, becoming only the third Top 5 finisher not to be inducted. Perhaps, no one artist on this short list has the resume that Todd has.
So, Todd Rundgren becomes my fourth 2020 inductee of the RRHOF. If you want to see my choices of his best songs, take a look at a couple of my earlier blog entries. Today, I want to give you what I feel are Rundgren’s Ten Best Albums, solo or with Utopia, AND his 15 Best Album Productions. To summarize, I have endorsed Whitney Houston, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk and, now, Todd Rundgren.
Rundgren’s 10 Best Albums
10. Liars (2004)
9. The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect (1982)
8. Deface the Music – Utopia (1981)
7. Swing to the Right – Utopia (1982)
6. A Wizard, a True Star (1973)
5. Adventures in Utopia – Utopia (1979)
4. Todd (1974)
3. Utopia – Utopia (1982)
2. Hermit of Mink Hollow (1978)
1. Something/Anything? (1972)
Todd Rundgren’s 15 Best Productions by Other Artists
15. TRB2 – Tom Robinson Band (1979)
14. Is Nothing Sacred? – The Lords of the New Church (1983)
13. Remote Control – The Tubes (1979)
12. Shinin’ On – Grand Funk Railroad (1974)
11. War Babies – Daryl Hall & John Oates (1974)
10. Wasp – Shaun Cassiday (1980)
9. The New America – Bad Religion (2000)
8. Love Junk – The Pursuit of Happiness (1988)
7. Wave – Patti Smith Group (1979)
6. Straight Up – Badfinger (1971)
5. We’re an American Band – Grand Funk Railroad (1973)
As a young teen in the mid-Seventies, I became an avid reader of Creem, Circus and Hit Parader magazines. While I was reading all the articles about KISS and Queen first, I would eventually read the other articles about exotic bands from far away lands. I found the descriptions of their music fascinating, even though most of the references were also foreign to me at the time. It’s a shame that the internet did not existence back then because my music collection would have been so much richer at an earlier age.
So, when I got to high school, I discovered Rolling Stone magazine, which further broaden horizons on a multitude of levels and not just musically. After taking a year of high school Spanish, which I found uninspiring, I switched to my family’s tongue, German. The cool thing about being in that class, besides properly learning to speak my grandmother’s native language, was the fact that their were a bunch of great people who were all searching for new forms of music. This group, whom we name “Spielt Mit Meinen Ballen” (I know, very juvenile. It loosely translates to “play with my balls.” Actually, I don’t think we were very correct because we anglicized every word we could not find a translation. Why? I don’t know, but someone thought it was funny.), had a purpose, and that was to find new music. That’s where we all picked up the New York City and London punk bands, musical oddballs like Frank Zappa and the Residents and, of course, for a group report, Kraftwerk.
First off, we love Kraftwerk because it got us an A on our group report about German exports. But, as we collectively listened to their singles (“Autobahn” was our initiation.) and albums, we became more and more impressed with the juxtaposition of the sounds of the dying industrial world colliding violently with the technology age. It was strange yet comforting, cold and distance still warm and familiar, much like the changing economic shift that was taking place at the time. Where I grew up, the main city in the county was GM country and factories were spread throughout the city. But as we reached our high school years, the factories were slowly dying and people were being laid off. And, both punk and Kraftwerk spoke directly about this change.
Okay, I get it that most Americans are not the least bit familiar with Kraftwerk. That’s understandable since their only real hit was released in 1975, the aforementioned “Autobahn,” and it only reached number 24. All of their other songs peaked outside of the American Top 40. But, they were huge all other Europe and continue to be to this day. But, what is most important about Kraftwerk is their looming influence all over music. You see, Kraftwerk may have been the first group of musicians to fully embrace the analog versions of today’s digital technology. Their use of synthesizers and sequencers and computers predated the whole Eighties musical boom. The first place I noticed the band’s influence was on what we now call David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, as well as his production work on Iggy Pop’s two albums from the same time period. Then, we began to hear the influences in the late-Seventies on all the new wave synth bands, like Devo, Gary Numan and one of my favorite one-hit-wonders M (“Pop Muzik”). That was all happening just as Prince and the rest of Minneapolis discovered the synthesizer, changing popular music forever. As the synthesizer and other technology became more affordable, you began to hear its influence upon hip hop, especially with Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock,” that actually used a Kraftwerk sample. And, within a year, blues rock gods ZZ Top created their most successful sound by integrating synthesizers.
After that, Kraftwerk’s influence could be found everywhere. Industrial music, EDM, House music, raves, Suicide, New Order and Joy Division, The Human League, Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark, LCD Soundsystem, Art of Noise, Daft Punk, Björk, Depeche Mode, all pop and hip hop today have to bow at the alter of Kraftwerk, for without that group, none of their careers would have been possible. I could, though I will not, argue that Kraftwerk may be even more influential Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Black Sabbath and James Brown combined. At least, they should be honored in the same manner as those heavyweights.
So, I fully believe that Kraftwerk should be inducted into the RRHOF’s Class of 2020. As a matter of fact, with their profound influence on music, they should have been inducted immediately when they were first eligible in 1995. In an effort to bolster my case for Kraftwerk, please take the time to listen to these 20 songs, which I believe to best represent their career and influence. Plus, I just love these songs!
So, now I am up to three inductees. I want to reiterate that I can make a case for 15 of the 16 nominees, but I will cover seven more. I really think there should be ten inductees in the Class of 2020, just to get this stupid logjam broken! Sorry Colin Quinn, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Back in the early part of the current century, after a nearly decade run of punk and post-punk artists started to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I was fully expecting a run on the rich vein of Eighties alternative musicians. The artists of my high school years, The Clash, Blondie, Talking Heads, Sex Pistols and Patti Smith had all been inducted. Then, R.E.M. was inducted, so I knew those artists that got me through my twenties would be dutifully following. Boy, was I ever wrong! Dead wrong! At least until this past induction ceremony during which The Cure were inducted. Maybe that logjam is beginning to loosen for my next artist to be inducted: Depeche Mode.
You see, as the Eighties progressed, the Boomers aged and with that came the usual reluctance to embrace the new sounds of a new generation. So, after the neo-glow days of the early Eighties new wave movement gave way to a darker version of rock music that was given the unflattering name of alternative rock, anything that did not sound like what had just been played on album rock radio was closed off by radio programmers across the country. Instead of hearing lovelorn lyrics of yesteryear, the so-called alternative artists of the alternative nation were much darker and more cynical. Collectively, they did not buy into the rosy would being sold by Reaganomics and Thatcherism. Instead, they were embracing changing technology (synthesizers, sequencers, samplers, computers) and turning rock music upside down. They were the children of disco, metal, pop, technology and commercialism, so their music reflected that generational change.
And, into that void stepped an English synthpop band called Depeche Mode. At first, there was very little different about them from the other synthpop artists at the time. They released what might qualify as the quintessential synthpop song “Just Can’t Get Enough.” But, as the decade wore on, that very song became more of an aberration than a blueprint. You see, the writer of that hit, Vince Clarke, quickly left the band to form Yazoo before settling on Erasure, two other large icons in the electronic war. When the band regrouped, they took a darker turn. Their lyrics questioned organized religion, the constraints of love and relationships and even dabbled a bit in masked S&M themes that were used to convey the ironies in the former two areas.
Needless to say, it took the band a few years to tighten their vision with their sound, but when they did by the mid-Eighties, they were on their way to influencing a wide array of artists. You see, Depeche Mode is not only influential across the board in the electronic world, but also in metal, industrial and even grunge. Sure, the band did cop some Gothic imagery, but they were much more than a Gothic band. How else do you explain their sold-out stadium tours since 1987’s prophetically titled Music for the Masses?
No matter how normal we all appear to be on the surface, many of us hold much darker thoughts and feelings underneath that veneer. And, Depeche Mode taught those of us who followed them to embrace that darkness as an important part of you, not to suppress it. As I have discovered over the years, that darkness in myself only allows my light to shine brighter.
With that said, allow me to give you 30 reasons why Depeche Mode is getting my second vote for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.
30. “Somebody” (Some Great Reward, 1984)
29. “Waiting for the Night” (Violator, 1990)
28. “Dream On” (Exciter, 2001)
27. “Martyr” (Non-album single, 2006)
26. “It’s No Good” (Ultra, 1997)
25. “A Question of Time” (Black Celebration, 1986)
24. “Stripped” (Black Celebration, 1986)
23. “In Your Room” (Songs of Faith and Redemption, 1993)
22. “Heaven” (Delta Machine, 2013)
21. “New Life” (Speak & Spell, 1981)
20. “John the Revelator” (Playing the Angel, 2005)
19. “Where’s the Revolution” (Spirit, 2017)
18. “Policy of Truth” (Violator, 1990)
17. “Walking in My Shoes” (Songs of Faith and Redemption, 1993)
16. “A Question of Lust” (Black Celebration, 1986)
15. “Black Celebration” (Black Celebration, 1986)
14. “Shake the Disease” (Non-album single, 1985)
13. “Blasphemous Rumours” (Some Great Reward, 1984)
12. “Behind the Wheel” (Music for the Masses, 1987)
11. “Route 66” (B-side of “Behind the Wheel,” 1987)
10. “Master and Servant” (Some Great Reward, 1984). Yes, this has the trappings of an Eighties new wave song, but it is the lyrics that separate it from the pack. Yes, this is an extreme relationship, but not any different than the one described in Fifty Shades of Grey, although lacking the detached humor.
9. “Everything Counts” (Construction Time Again, 1983). To me, this song represents the moment when new wave started to become darker, in a very delicious manner.
8. “Just Can’t Get Enough” (Speak & Spell, 1981). If I were to hold up ten songs to represent synthpop during the new wave days, this would definitely be one of them. On further thought, this is the ONE song I would use to represent that time period. It has all the hallmarks of that era, the innocence and the technology merging into one fantastic pop song. Thank God Depeche Mode grew beyond this!
7. “Strangelove” (Music for the Masses, 1987). I distinctly remember the first time I heard this song on the radio (WOXY-FM, 97-X) in my car on my way to work. It just exploded from my speakers like some sort of alien invasion. Whenever I hear it to this day, I time travel to that moment.
6. “Condemnation” (Songs of Faith and Redemption, 1993). This song is a total departure for the band. First, singer Dave Gahan is channeling his inner-Michael Hutchence, giving this a “Never Tell You Apart” feel. But, then there’s the whole gospel choir background singers taking this into U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” territory. Overall, this song is perhaps the most surprising one in the whole Depeche Mode catalogue, signifying that perhaps through Condemnation one can find Redemption.
5. “I Feel You” (Songs of Faith and Redemption, 1993). This one came out at the height of the grunge era, and, as the lead song on the album and single, it signaled that Depeche Mode were doing a U2 on Achtung Baby and incorporating new sounds into their standard fare. This is where it became obvious to the rest of us why the Mode were becoming one of the biggest bands in the world.
4. “Never Let Me Down Again” (Music for the Masses, 1987). The driving beat, the swirling synths, the longing lyrics, this represents everything that Depeche Mode music is known for.
3. “People Are People” (Some Great Reward, 1984). This tune is a veiled cry to stop oppression and for acceptance. And, I am not just talking about racial overtones but any type of orientation, creed or belief that takes one outside the mainstream. This song may be the starting point, albeit unwittingly, for the belief system of Millennials.
2. “Enjoy the Silence” (Violator, 1990). A song of this quality would be number one on any other artist’s list. And, it is on the very same album as my number one song! It’s nothing but a dreamy relationship tune, but, oh, how real the lyrics ring true.
1. “Personal Jesus” (Violator, 1990). How could there be any other song here? This is DM at their most subversive. Start with a driving, synth rhythm, then add in a critique of televangelists of the era that has not dated one bit. And, remember, Johnny Cash covered this song, proving just how strong of a song it is to this day.
I know that I am going to catch hell from many of my friends and former students who think rock music starts and stops with the artists played on classic rock radio here in Central Indiana. Of course, since I have a very liberal definition of what rock music entails, and since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has previously set up the parameters of rock music by inducting Little Richard and James Brown alongside Elvis Presley, then voting in Motown artists in addition to many of the soul, disco, funk and rap stars of the past then I feel extremely endorsing this artist for induction in 2020. So, today, I am covering the voice of my generation, Miss Whitney Houston.
Sure, Whitney is a pop diva, but no artist was made for the Gen X world of MTV like Whitney was. When she burst onto the scene in 1985, she matched her unparalleled vocals with the beauty of model. That package, along with Clive Davis’ magic touch in guiding her career, made her not only a pop superstar but a video star. Sure, the image was probably diametrically opposed to her true self, which might have contributed significantly to her untimely passing, but she became the video era’s own Aretha Franklin. And although she relied upon outside writers for her music, remember that Elvis Presley did as well. And, ever pop- and R&B-singing diva who has followed gets compared to Whitney, not Aretha. Go read any early reviews of Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera or Kelly Clarkson, and tell me they all were not compared to Whitney Houston somewhere along the line.
But, Whitney’s vocal prowess and beauty alone could not have made her a video star. No, it was her effortless relate-ability and vivaciousness that was contagious when her videos played between Poison and White Lion crap. Everytime one of her videos first played, they were like a breath of fresh air filled with joy and popping with optimism during a time of uncertainty.
So, sorry my friends, especially my huge Aerosmith fan of an All-State higher jumper Curt Martin, Whitney Houston does deserve induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So don’t complain that “she isn’t Rock!” Just revel in her timeless talent, even though some of her biggest hits still sound like Eighties soft rock radio hits. But, those great songs she left us are pure gold.
With all of that said, here is my first vote for induction into the RRHOF, Whitney Houston, as well as my 20 favorite songs of hers.
20. “Run to You” (The Bodyguard OST, 1992)
19. “Love Will Save the Day” (Whitney, 1987)
18. “My Name Is Not Susan” (I’m Your Baby Tonight, 1990)
17. “It’s Not Right but It’s Okay” (My Love Is Your Love, 1998)
16. “All the Man I Need” (I’m Your Baby Tonight, 1990)
15. “I Have Nothing” (The Bodyguard OST, 1992)
14. “My Love Is Your Love” (My Love Is Your Love, 1998)
13. “I’m Your Baby Tonight” (I’m Your Baby Tonight, 1990)
12. “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” (Whitney, 1987)
11. “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” (Whitney, 1987)
10. “Greatest Love of All” (Whitney Houston, 1985). The video absolutely made this song transcendent. It was a nice little song by George Benson in 1977, but Whitney found so much more in the song, creating an emotional vocal storm. Then, it was coupled to great effect in the video in which a young Whitney performing melds into the current Whitney in concert was an absolute stroke of genius.
9. “I’m Every Woman” (The Bodyguard OST, 1992). In the late Seventies, no one could touch Chaka Khan’s vocals, especially with this song being Khan’s calling card. Then, Whitney comes along and just steals the song from Chaka. This song alone should make Houston a RRHOF lock.
8. “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (Whitney, 1987). Just when the public was getting a little tired of all the powerhouse ballads coming off Houston’s classic debut album, she fires of this perky little pop/dance ditty that would have been lame in anyone else’s hands. Instead, this became a little dancefloor hit.
7. “Heartbreak Hotel” (My Love Is Your Love, 1998). I love this song! Everything about it, from the production, to the guest vocalists, to the hip hop vibe tells me to hate it. Yet, when Whitney sings, I just say, “Yes please!”
6. “Saving All My Love for You” (Whitney Houston, 1985). Once again, this was recorded by a lesser artist (former 5th Dimension lovebirds, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.), but Whitney just knocked it out of the park.
5. “How Will I Know” (Whitney Houston, 1985). This cute little pop ditty became something much more when Whitney got a hold of it, turning it into something of an empowerment statement.
4. “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” (Waiting to Exhale OST, 1995). When it came to taking a simple early-Nineties Babyface R&B song and making it into a song that sounds like a neo-Motown hit, Whitney was the singer to do. And, this was the song with the “shoop” hook.
3. “You Give Good Love” (Whitney Houston, 1985). This hit was Houston’s first big one, and it pulled me in immediately. Her soulful vocals showcased just how influenced by Aretha she was.
2. “I Will Always Love You” (The Bodyguard OST, 1992). How could I NOT have this one at the top? This will always be her calling card tune. Dolly Parton wrote it, but Whitney took it to heaven.
1. “So Emotional” (Whitney, 1987). As she sings at the beginning, “I don’t know why I like it, I just do!” That opening salvo just struck my twenty-four self right in the hormones at the time. This is Houston at her most rocking, but it’s the vocals that leave me stunned to this day. Block out all the mid-Eighties production gimmicks and simply listen to her vocals. This is the song that should have told us all that “I Will Always Love You” was coming. This tune is the John the Baptist foreshadowing to “Always” Jesus Christ. I know, that was a little blasphemous, and maybe a bit hyperbolic, but I’m a believer.
For a Hall Watcher, today is much like New Year’s Eve when you’re young and single and ready to mingle: the anticipation is great, the unknown is titillating, the buildup is thrilling, the endless booze is intoxicating but that midnight kiss…well…uh…it was nice but there’s really nothing there. Oh sure, your hormones get everyone through the night, but then at 10 AM on New Year’s Day, you just have that overwhelming sense of disappointment.
You know, upon first glance, my friends and I would believe that my over-inflated ego would be celebrating the fact that I did predict eight of this year’s 16 nominees, with a ninth artist who was on my Honorable Mention list. But, in spite of that good fortune, I am honestly disappointed. My disappointment lies in a couple of areas. Foremost, how could the Nominating Committee, after a year of catching hell concerning the lack of a female presence in the Hall, could nominate only THREE deserving women! Good Lord Boomers! This is the 21st century! Get with the program because women have been dominating rock in so many meaningful ways that I find myself gravitating to younger female artists like Billie Eilish, Charli XCX and Lizzo than any of the male-dominated artists, all of whom remain very redundant to me. And, the other reason is for the nomination of one artist: the Dave Matthews Band. To use one of my dad’s favorite phrase, “For Chrissakes!” Or, how about the modern phrase that my boys used to ask me and their mom, “WTF?!?!?!” With so many more deserving Nineties bands, and specifically jam bands (i.e., Phish!), available, why go with the homogeneous and bland DMB? Hell, I could make a better case for Hootie and the Blowfish or Wilson Phillips than I ever could for DMB. Once you heard “Ants Marching,” you’ve heard the band’s whole career. And you would think my boys would be the perfect targets for that band, but they have complained about DMB since that first album. Actually, my older son, Graham, has the uncanny ability to sing DMB lyrics from one song to another’s tune just to show how all their songs are the same, only slowed down or sped up. (By the way, he does that to Nickelback too. He should be doing comedy with this stuff, but his humor is way too British for America, especially in Larry the Cable Guy country.)
So, instead of Smashing Pumpkins, Carole King (again!), Tina Turner, Big Star, LL frickin’ Cool J, Eric B. & Rakim, Iron Maiden, Alice in Chains, The Jam, Gram Parsons, et. al., we got Dave Matthews Band, the future of bad yacht rock. Okay, Keller, deep breath! Deep breath! Hang on, my back is spasming so bad right now! And, I blame Dave Matthews for that too! As a matter of fact, when I coached, I coached a JV baseball team. We had played three poor road games in a row, when I discovered that some DMB song had been playing on the bus before all three games. I refused to let my team listen to DMB after that. If they came on the radio, the bus driver had to change the stations. I blamed DMB for my team’s crappy play because they all played as if they were asleep! Hang on! Deep breath! I need caffeine, which soothes those of us who are ADHD. No lie! Scientific fact. Ritalin, Adderall and caffeine all act the same way on those with this infliction.
So, besides the artist that I will no longer mention, here are the other 15 artists who have been nominated for the Class of 2020. In parentheses, I have where I ranked the artist in my Top 200, as well as whether I predicted their name on this list.
Pat Benatar – Once described as the 80s’ hard rock vixen, this woman, along with her collaborator/husband Neil Giraldo have been rightly nominated for the first time. (#24, yes)
DMB – ‘Nuff said. Oh, this is their first time too. (not ranked, no)
Depeche Mode – The goth synth rockers of the early ’80s who filled stadiums by the end of that decade. They have been nominated before. (#22, yes)
The Doobie Brothers – Finally, the hardest working band of the ’70s has gotten their first nod. (#12, yes)
Whitney Houston – The heir to, Aretha Franklin’s throne was the voice of my generation. This is her first nomination. (#42, Honorable Mention)
Judas Priest – The metal gods got their second nomination this year. The one time that Eddie Trunk is right. (#18, no)
Kraftwerk – I get it that most of my friends don’t know who they are unless they took high school German, then we ALL knew who they were. This is THE starting point for all forms of synthesizer usage. You don’t have to dig them, but you MUST respect them! They are burning a hole through the whole nomination-and-still-not-getting-induction process that it’s getting as old as Chic was (yet, another sore point with me!). (#1, yes)
MC5 – I’ve lost track of the number of times they have been nominated, so, for crying out loud, just put them in. That way, do the whole thing over with the New York Dolls, The Jam and Big Star. (#55, yes)
Motörhead – Another band that makes one scratch his head saying, “And Metallica is in?!” Don’t be surprised, but this is Lemmy’s band’s first nomination. (#47, no)
Nine Inch Nails – Yes! Again! (#27, yes)
The Notorious B.I.G. – Tupac’s in, so Biggie should follow since they will be forever linked together as the best M.C.s of the Nineties, as well as the whole East Coast vs. West Coast crap. Still, he was a generational talent and deserves the recognition. (#26, yes)
Rufus featuring Chaka Khan – How many more times must they be nominated before the voters put them in? Chaka was a miniature version of Whitney in the 70s. I still love to listen to her music, especially when she fronted one of the hottest funk bands ever Rufus. (#41, no)
Todd Rundgren – Rundgren and Paul Weller to the only two of my all-time favorite artists not in the Hall. He was third in the fan balloting last year and still did not get in. Make this right! (#4, yes)
Soundgarden – I fell in love with Soundgarden in the late-Eighties, and even turned on one of my nephews to them when I bought him a cassette of their Louder Than Love album. They should be the third of the Big Four of Grunge, with Alice in Chains still awaiting their first nomination. (#85, no)
T. Rex – In the States, these Glam band pioneers have been more of a footnote for “Bang a Gong,” but in the UK, they are gods. I am excited about this first-time nomination, especially after Roxy Music’s induction. (#87, no)
Thin Lizzy – This first-time nominee has me over the moon! I have always felt they might be viewed like many viewed my beloved Cheap Trick – a great band but not deserving of the Hall. Still, Cheap Trick got in, so Thin Lizzy, who are much more than “The Boys Are Back in Town,” could be following them soon. (#119, no)
Let the fun begin! And, don’t forget to vote daily on the Rock Hall website for your five favorites. My four locks are Pat Benatar, Todd Rundgren, Whitney Houston and The Doobie Brothers, with Biggie, Depeche Mode, Rufus and Judas Priest battling it out for my fifth vote. But, I will vote for everyone except that one band! FYI: Biggie is a shoo-in!
I know it is probably too late to influence the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominating Committee this year, since the nominations will be announced soon. And when you are a very minor voice in all of this, as I am, I should just “know my role.” But, I have spent the better part of my 56 years here on Earth swimming against the current, so why would I let such a thing as a deadline deter me.
My purpose in such an endeavor is to inform, and possibly even entertain. Well, honestly, this is seeming exercise of futility is honestly an effort to take my mind off my daily pain issues if only for an hour or two. In essence, this is an act of defiance and survival. And, instead of focusing on sports, I have turned to my hobby of music collecting for this stand.
After watching the 2019 RRHOF Induction Ceremony, I was taken with the lack of female representation in the Hall. Since women make up 50% of the world’s population, you would think the Rock Hall would have similar statistics. But, when I found out that only SEVEN PERCENT (!) of the inductees were female, that convicted me. You see, my older son and his wife, a year ago, had the first female baby in my family in about a century. And when I see her, I want her to see strong women in all aspects of her life so she knows that she has absolutely no limits to follow whatever path she desires in life. So, I have been making it a priority to fight this fight for her and every other woman on this planet, be they past, present or future. Am I a saint? By no means! I am a huge sinner in all aspects of my life, but I do have a sincere heart. So, I will attempt to make my white male-privileged voice heard.
Of course, it does not change the fact that I am still fighting for Todd Rundgren and The Jam. Nothing will thwart that! I simply want to see more women inducted. Hopefully, the Hall will one day begin inducting more than five to seven artists and get this logjam of artists in waiting cleared out soon, but I am not holding my breath. Not until the Rock Hall has many of the old guard cleared out of their influence.
With that said, I have 30 female-oriented artists who deserve induction soon. Actually, I probably could actually come up with 100, but in an effort to limit my lists, let’s begin with these 30. Additionally, I have another 17 women whom have played an important role in the advancement of this music we love. These women are all pioneers in the musical industry and should be recognized. That means I have 47 women who all deserve this honor for their contributions to rock and roll.
Big Mama Thornton
Rufus & Chaka Khan
The Carter Family
The Pointer Sisters
Other Important Female Contributors to Rock History
Alison Steele – First female DJ recipient of Billboard’s “FM Personality of the Year,” 1976.
Carole Kaye – Bassist of L.A.’s session musician collective known as the Wrecking Crew, the greatest collective of session musicians this side of the Funk Brothers.
Cordell Jackson – First female record producer for her own rock label.
Deena Weinstein – Screw Eddie Trunk! Weinstein is THE foremost expert of metal!
Donna Gaines – Rock critic extraordinaire.
Donna Halper – Noted for discovering Rush while a DJ at WMMS in Cleveland.
dream hampton – Before becoming a well-known filmmaker, she was “your favorite rapper’s favorite journalist.”
Genya Ravan – Producer of the Dead Boys’ Young, Loud and Snotty.
Holly George-Warren – Top notch rock journalist.
Jaan Uhelszki – One of my favorite rock journalists from Creem magazine (she was a co-founder!).
Lisa Robinson – My favorite rock journalist from the 70s, bar none! Her articles in Creem magazine were my rock & roll nirvana during my teenage years.
Maxanne Sartori – Hired by Boston’s WBCN as their afternoon drive DJ in 1970, credited with influencing the success of Aerosmith and The Cars.
Sharon Osbourne – Most famous for being Ozzy Osbourne’s manager.
Susan Rodgers – Engineer on most of the great Prince records of the Eighties.
Sylvia Robinson – Started Sugarhill Records, and subsequently, hip hop.
Sylvie Simmons – Anyone who has written for Mojo as long as Simmons has got to be a preeminent rock expert.
Vivienne Goldman – Covered the UK punk scene early on for NME and Melody Maker. The basis of my punk knowledge came from her writings.