Category Archives: History

WTF: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2020

p01hhmbk

So, here are the folks who will be enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class of 2020:

  • Depeche Mode
  • The Doobie Brothers
  • Whitney Houston
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • The Notorious B.I.G.
  • T. Rex

UnknownI’ve argued for the The Doobie Brothers in the past — so, right on! Go, Doobie Brothers! And I love Nine Inch Nails (for inspiring Johnny Cash alone), the Notorious B.I.G. (a seminal hip-hop godfather) and T. Tex (so much love for Marc Bolan’s groovy, grungy, proto-New Wave guitar sound) “Get It On”, etc., though he had only a few giant Top-40 hits.

But Whitney Houston and Depeche Mode? Really? Rock & Roll?

Did Whitney Houston — as prodigious a vocal instrument as she possessed — record a single rock and roll track? Did she chart a single rock & roll single? Did she ever rock?

How in the hell is Whitney Houston a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Let’s put it this way. Is Ella Fitzgerald in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Ella won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums — but she was a jazz singer — not a rock & roll singer. She’s not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Soulful, bluesy, risk-taking jazz singer Billie Holiday is in the Hall as a bold and fearless, raw and soulful early influence — but slick, pop-oriented Whitney Houston hardly qualifies. Especially when more deserving rockers have been, once again, overlooked.

There is a national shame and outrage that I must address here and now…

Tommy+James++The+Shondells+732311_356x237Why — oh why? — aren’t Tommy James & The Shondells in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

I’m a Cleveland boy, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a shining jewel on my hometown lakefront — but that only makes such an injustice a more personal matter.

2014-rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-ceremony-1024Tommy James & The Shondells have been waiting since 1991 to get a call from the Hall. For 29 years, they’ve had to endure the enshrinement of acts like Abba, Kiss and Whitney in an institution supposedly devoted to rock and roll – while the band that gave garage bands worldwide rock classics like “Mony Mony” and “Hanky Panky” is continually and criminally passed over.

Tommy James GERHow can it be that overproduced purveyors of techno pop-rock (Depeche Mode) and pure, chart-topping pop (Whitney Houston) win out over the inspired 60’s rockers who put “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Crimson and Clover” down on vinyl?

At the 2014 Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Rage Against the Machine’s lead guitarist Tom Morello – a man whose shredding virtuosity and politics I admire – made a convincing case for why Kiss had a rightful place in the Rock Hall. But while Kiss may have blazed a trail for visual and musical bombast and pyro in arena rock – their sound and fury signify nothing like the string of hits that Tommy James and his band delivered in the late 1960s.

tommy-james-and-the-shondells-on-the-ed-sullivan-showBesides their two #1 hit single in the U.S. – “Hanky Panky” in ’66 and “Crimson and Clover” in ’69 — Tommy James & The Shondells charted twelve other Top 40 hits, including five in the top ten. Remember a platter entitled “Crystal Blue Persuasion”?

How about 14 Top 40 hits during the greatest period in rock and roll radio history? All while competing with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone – and those Motown artists cranking out classics in Hitsville, USA.

All of those great rockers are in the Hall of Fame — so, why not Tommy James & The Shondells?

114774938And I don’t want to hear that Tommy James was “bubblegum”. Please. When was the last time you listened to “Mony Mony” or “Draggin the Line”? Guitars. Groove. Harmony. Drive. Horns. Hooks. Lots and lots of classic rock and roll hooks.

Tommy James & The Shondells should go into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fames very next class or the whole institution is a sham.

TommyJames2Honor Tommy James while the man is still alive and well and rocking.

I can wait no longer.

I’m just going to enshrine Tommy James & The Shondells here and now.

In fact…

I’m announcing The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2021 must include Tommy James & The Shondells — Eligible since 1991. And now about…

The Monkees — Eligible since 1991

The-Monkees-the-monkees-29786398-886-960Not even gonna argue about this.

The Monkees should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Hell, The Beatles respected The Monkees – so why should anyone else deny their undeniable greatness?

Morons who I have little patience for say The Monkees were a fabricated band – “The Pre-Fab Four” — surrounded by studio musicians. I know for a fact that The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, and others in the Hall of Fame were backed by the very same group of studio cats: the Wrecking Crew. So, what? I said I wasn’t gonna argue.

websbest060113_fullsize_story1At their peak in ‘67, The Monkees outsold The Beatles and Rolling Stones combined. 12 Top-40 hits, three #1 hits — and a TV show that brought melodic, witty, well-written and beautifully sung rock and roll music (and surprisingly subversive comedy) into homes across America.

The-Monkees-the-monkees-2846004-603-546I won’t even mention the songs by name. You know them. You sing them. You’ll probably hear one on the radio today.

“Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”. That’s just five.

And now I’m really not gonna argue any more.

The Rock N Roll Trio — Eligible since 1981

115163945Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio were the best damn rockabilly band that ever thumped a standup bass, whacked out the backbeat on a snare, and sang like drunken wildcats.

“Rock Billy Boogie”, “Rock Therapy”, “Train Kept A-Rollin”, “Honey Hush”, “Tear It Up” – Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio served up fundamental, elemental, essential rock and roll.

20131210092007-burnette_jJohnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio featured no frills, no gimmicks, no costumes, and no pyrotechnics — other than the fire they produced by their passionate playing.

Sorry, Depeche Mode, this is rock and roll with real, gritty, driving heart and soul. I don’t give a damn what hits they had or where they charted. When I need rock therapy — they give it to me.

They should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

5 Comments

Filed under Art, Beauty, History, Music, Politics, rock & roll, Uncategorized

The Practical Theatre Company Part 5: Brigadoon Returns!

sc0004b1d3When I first wrote the history of The Practical Theatre for this blog, I finished by saying, “The Practical Theatre in Chicago in the 1980’s — that was Brigadoon: a magical place that existed for a brief time and vanished. And I got the girl.”

sc0004fc38-bThat was true. I did get the girl. And because I emerged from that life-changing experience with Victoria Zielinski as my wife and collaborator, the Practical Theatre was ultimately due for a renaissance.

Alas, the PTC revival would take more than two decades.

The PTC had to wait as Vic and I raised our three wonderful daughters: Maura, Emilia and Eva. But by 2010, the year of our 20th wedding anniversary, with our girls old enough to spare their parents for a few hours a day — Vic and I began to consider whether we were still comedians who had something to say.

We decided it was time to bring the Practical Theatre back. Thus was born “The Vic & Paul Show.”

Vic & Paul 2Inspired by the classic work of Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Vic and I began improvising extended comic scenes in our kitchen, including…

  • A dull, dispirited married couple that die in a car wreck and wind up stranded in Limbo.
  • A sad sack single guy from Cleveland trying to pick up a Chicago cougar in a hotel lounge.
  • A frontier bartender serving a whiskey tasting to a dusty California cowpoke.

There were times when our improvisations were so lively, so passionate, and so LOUD – that our girls would rush downstairs to see if we were okay. Were we really fighting? Arguing? Drunk?

They’d never seen us performing comedy sketches.

We polished our routines, edited our scripts, and wrote some songs. A Practical Theatre revue had to include music. That meant involving our long-time music director, Steve Rashid. We booked a series of shows in a tiny local bar called Push Lounge in Woodland Hills, California.

img_0040-2That leap of faith launched a tour that took “The Vic & Paul Show” to Chicago’s Prop Theatre and Mayne Stage in Rogers Park, to Cleveland’s 14thStreet Theatre — and iO West in Hollywood.

After that, we renewed a collaboration with our fellow Northwestern graduate and Mee-Ow Show alum, Dana Olsen, starting with Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood at The Wilmette Theatre in 2012 — followed by “Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood” at 27 Live in 2013.

vpd-poster-bThen, Vic and Dana and I spent a solid year writing new material for “The Vic & Paul & Dana Show.” We were delighted that Steve Rashid and Rockin’ Ronny Crawford joined us for a Hollywood run at iO West in November 2015.

That show in LA revived a PTC comedy tradition that launched North Shore runs of “Mr. Olsen’s Holiday Party” in 2016, “Mr. Olsen’s Champagne Celebration” the following year and “PTC Radio Theatre On The Air” in 2018 – all staged at Bea and Steve Rashid’s fabulous Studio5 theatre in Evanston.

The Practical Theatre is alive and well at Studio5.

The PTC’s “Big Holiday Bag O’ Fun!” is the latest comedic chapter in a very funny history.

New Poster #8“Big Holiday Bag O’ Fun!” is a compendium of The Practical Theatre’s funniest sketches, dating from our “Mee-Ow Show” days at Northwestern University to “Bag O’ Fun” – our first improvisational comedy revue staged in the summer of 1980 at Evanston’s Noyes Cultural Arts Center – through “The Vic & Paul & Dana Show”.

Plus a few new bits written right up to opening night.

Brigadoon is back.

See you at Studio5!

2 Comments

Filed under Art, Comedy, History, Improvisation, Music, Politics, Uncategorized

The Fun Begins on December 28th!

Bag Banner A.png

2 Comments

December 18, 2019 · 9:30 pm

Two Weeks from a Big Bag O’ Fun in Chicago (or Evanston, to be exact.)

Screen Shot 2019-12-16 at 10.07.03 PMIf you haven’t gotten your tickets yet for The Practical Theatre Company’s Big Holiday Bag O’ Fun at Studio5 in Evanston, Illinois — now’s the time!

Tickets are going fast — so don’t delay.

It’s going to be the best party of the year. After an arduous political and social slog like we’ve all experienced in the past 12 months — we can all use a big, blow-out party with great music,  free-spirited laughs, and a great big, bag o’ fun!

Get your tickets now at: http://www.studio5dance/calendar

New Poster #8

 

3 Comments

Filed under Art, Comedy, History, Improvisation, Music, Politics, Truth, Uncategorized

The Right Words at the Right Moment

HerdmanI rarely publish the words of others on this blog. But there are rare times when somebody in a position of authority says the right thing at the right time in the right way – and there’s no need for embellishment or comment.

While announcing a single charge filed against a 20-year old self-defined white nationalist and would-be mass shooter in northern Ohio – U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman just delivered such words.

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman’s comments on recent Ohio cases involving political violence

Now let me speak generally to those who are advocates for white supremacy, or white nationalism.  I am talking directly to you.  The Constitution protects your right to speak, your right to think, and your right to believe. If you want to waste the blessings of liberty by going down a path of hatred and failed ideologies, that is your choice. 

Democracy allows you to test those ideas in the public forum.  If you want to submit your beliefs to the American people and get their reaction, please be my guest.  Keep this in mind, though.  Thousands and thousands of young Americans already voted with their lives to ensure that this same message of intolerance, death, and destruction would not prevail – you can count their ballots by visiting any American cemetery in North Africa, Italy, France, or Belgium and tallying the white headstones.  You can also recite the many names of civil rights advocates who bled and died in opposing supporters of those same ideologies of hatred.  Their voices may be distant, but they can still be heard.

Go ahead and make your case for Nazism, a white nation, and racial superiority.  The Constitution may give you a voice, but it doesn’t guarantee you a receptive audience. 

Your right to free speech does not automatically mean that people will agree with you.  In fact, you have an absolute God-given and inalienable right to be on the losing end of this argument.

What you don’t have, though, is the right to take out your frustration at failure in the political arena by resorting to violence.  You don’t have any right to threaten the lives and wellbeing of our neighbors.  They have an absolute God-given and inalienable right to live peacefully, to worship as they please, to be free from fear that they might become a target simply because of the color of their skin, the country of their birth, or the form of their prayer.

Threatening to kill Jewish people, gunning down innocent Latinos on a weekend shopping trip, planning and plotting to perpetrate murders in the name of a nonsense racial theory, sitting to pray with God-fearing people who you execute moments later – those actions don’t make you soldiers, they make you criminals.  Law enforcement doesn’t go to war with cowards who break the law, we arrest them and send them to prison. 

As I said, this case was made by a concerned member of the public and a responsive police officer.  That’s all it takes to stop you.  The men and women of our community are allied with law enforcement.  And every single member of law enforcement took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Many of us have taken that oath several times – as police officers, federal agents, prosecutors, military members, and elected officials. 

Together, we represent the absolute best of what America has to offer.  Our skin is every color you can imagine, our families come from a hundred different countries and a hundred different faiths.  What makes us different doesn’t split us apart, though.  Those differences are insignificant compared to what is the same about us – we are united in our commitment to each other, to our families, and to our communities.  We are the living embodiment of everything you say is impossible.

Together, we are united to ensure that you commit no further acts of violence in the name of your beliefs.  When you wake up tomorrow morning, no matter what time, I want you to remember something.  You can’t set your alarm clock early enough to beat us out of bed.  The men and women of law enforcement don’t wake up.  We never went to sleep.  We are always awake.  And arm in arm with the public, when your hatred leads you to break the law, we will do everything we can to be there to stop you.

 

2 Comments

Filed under History, Politics, Truth, Uncategorized

The Democratic Presidential Field & The Democratic Agenda

5050391_011019-cc-ap-possible-2020-dems-social-imgThis year, it seems like every week another candidate announces his or her bid for the Democratic nomination.

UnknownBernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Corey Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg, John Hickenlooper – and maybe Scranton Joe Biden

I say come one — come all!

Let there be a robust, upbeat competition for the Democratic nomination.

VIXFV2FORVCZLLASFYVF6EHGQILet there be a robust, upbeat dialogue about the Democratic agenda.

First and foremost, let’s define the Green New Deal— and then extol its virtues. We need a visionary agenda as ambitious as FDR’s bold antidote to the Great Depression.

This country (and our world) needs another spasm of liberal advancement like Kennedy and Johnson shepherded in the mid-1960s. In fact, a new Voting Rights Act is needed to overcome the damage done by the Roberts Supreme Court. When more American citizens vote it’s better for progressives.

694940094001_6016070216001_6016070379001-vsDemocrats! Progressives! Young folks who don’t relate to political labels!

We need a comprehensive progressive vision for reversing climate change, modernizing our national infrastructure and addressing criminal justice reform, equal rights, economic justice, fair taxation and voting rights – not to mention universal health care!

Let’s see which candidate embraces such an agenda.

Let’s see which candidate stands on an inspiring, revolutionary platform.

And let’s see which candidate can sell it to the American people.

US-POLITICS-ELECTION-HARRIS-VOTEBut, for *@#! sake, let’s not fall into the “Are Democrats moving too far to the left?” trap! Let’s not defend ourselves against charges of “Socialism.” Instead, let’s ask whether people like Social Security and Medicare – not to mention the Interstate Highway System.

The fact is that progressive Democratic reforms reflect mainstream American values. Most Americans want to see human beings survive – and, hopefully, thrive! That’s why tackling climate change is Job #1.

FILES-US-POLITICS-VOTE-TRUMP-BIDENProvided Democratic candidates are in ideological agreement, our 2020 ticket must balance race, gender, age and geography. And so far, I must say — I’m delighted with the casting pool.

Other than the fact that at least one woman must be on the ticket — and someoneon the ticket should notbe a white person — there’s plenty of time and room for any of the contenders to define a progressive agenda, inspire us and fire our imaginations.

Like Obama, a Democratic winner must motivate young folk, women, people of color, principled professionals and working families. Without the enthusiastic support of all these American voters, we don’t stand a chance.

6pZz_T3l_400x400That means American sanity doesn’t stand a chance.

Humanity doesn’t stand a chance.

So, come on Democrats!

We may differ on how we get there. But, despite our internecine disagreements — let’s not give the right wing anything to exploit.

Democratic candidates should promote their progressivism proudly. And they should put it in historical context.

ows_153920112233316FDR’s progressive New Deal” saved mid-century America from the Great Depression, won World War II — and saved worldwide Capitalism.

Democrats running for President or any other office must educate voters on the millionaire tax rates under Republican President and World War Two hero, Dwight Eisenhower. Ike’s highest marginal income tax rate was 91% — during the years that built the great American middle class. Taxing the rich works.

john-hickenlooper-speaks-onstage-at-conversations-about-news-photo-1129660942-1553170112The American people know these things in their bones. (At least the majority of us do.) And we’ll vote in overwhelming numbers for a progressive, forward-looking agenda.

And I haven’t even mentioned the Great Orange Disaster. Leave him to Mueller and Congress.

Democrats must embrace the Green New Deal and an Agenda for a Great American Future.

But, most of all, we must get out and vote for a DEMOCRAT in 2020!

The GOP has proven itself unworthy of governing this still promising country.

MarijuanaCollage

6 Comments

Filed under History, Politics, Uncategorized

Insect Extinction? What the hell?

10823418-16x9-largeScreen-Shot-2019-02-12-at-8.27.12-AM-e1549989084758On Monday, February 11, 2019, FOX News online ran a piece with this headline:

FOX News headline #2Wait.

What?

What the hell was that about the insects? And the survival of mankind?

According to the FOX News article, a “decline in insect populations happening across the planet has Earth’s ecosystems and humankind facing catastrophic consequences.”

“Catastrophic consequences.”

Did they say, “catastrophic”?

Smollett+caseI thought that among the burning issues of the day was whether some actor from the cast of “Empire” staged a hate crime attack on himself. And that according to sources, Senator Amy Klobuchar might be too hard on her staff.

But now I hear that “More than a third of the world’s insects are threatened with extinction in the next few decades.”

UnknownMore than a third of the insects could be gone in the next few decades? Shouldn’t we be hearing a lot more about our vanishing insects? Then again, maybe there’s just no time to address this insect extinction story – and still have room on our news broadcasts for breathless punditry about whether or not “Pocahontas” Elizabeth Warren tried to get ahead by claiming Native American heritage?

According to this same FOX online report, we humans have already “wiped out about 60 percent of the planet’s animal life since 1970.” Holy crap. I didn’t realize that? I must have missed those stories. Guess I was too busy reading about whether Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were gonna get back together. And all that stuff about Kanye and Kim. Somehow, I totally missed the reports about 60 percent of the world’s animal life going the way of the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon.

aoc1Of course, with all the time spent on television and in the print and online media arguing about whether Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is a Socialist who’s moving the Democrats too far to the left, maybe there’s just not enough time to worry about losing all our insects?. While the pundits and politicos dither about whether AOC is too extreme — there’s scant time to explore the fact that “Due to the high level off species loss, Earth is considered to have entered into its sixth mass extinction event in half-a-billion years.” That problem sounds a lot more extreme than the political philosophy of a 29-year old freshman congresswoman. But what do I know?merlin_150449823_e3d772b6-4db2-4eba-8875-8f0356db66be-articleLarge

Of course, I hate that The New England Patriots won another Super Bowl and I do wonder what NBA franchise Anthony Davis will play for next. I, too, am concerned that all of the Academy Awards be announced during the broadcast and not during the commercials. (And I still worry about Jen and Brad.) But when I see a headline like this…

100 years

…I gotta wonder about our priorities.

As discussed to death and important an issue as it is — will Trump’s southern border wall help to save our insect species?

Of course not.  In fact, it looks like it will actually make the insect situation worse.

butterfly

Dr. Francisco Sánchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney warns that, “If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind.”

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln – how did you like the play?Insects-on-Display

4 Comments

Filed under History, Politics, Random Commentary, Truth