Tag Archives: Jan & Dean

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2015

RR Banner 2RR BannerI know there’s a lot going on right now in Iraq and Syria and the Ukraine and Gaza and Ferguson, Missouri – but there’s not much I can do about those intractable geopolitical situations. I’ll let prudent, deliberative President Obama and his national security team sort out America’s proper role in all that madness.

But there is one source of national shame and outrage that I must address here and now…

Tommy+James++The+Shondells+732311_356x237Why 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 our downtown 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 that call from the Hall. For 23 years, they’ve had to endure the enshrinement of acts like Abba, Donna Summer and Madonna in an institution supposedly devoted to rock and roll – while the group that gave garage bands around the world rock classics like “Mony Mony” and “Hanky Panky” is continually and criminally passed over.

Tommy James GERHow can it be that slick, overproduced purveyors of disco and pop take precedence over the guys who put “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Crimson and Clover” down on vinyl?

At this year’s 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 2015 (if there were any justice in this freaking world):

Tommy James & The Shondells — Eligible since 1991

Chicago — Eligible since 1994.

cover_3548181012011_rActually, the Chicago that most deserves to go into the Rock Hall is the first incarnation of Chicago. The first version of Chicago was the band that was politically progressive and rocked harder than the late 70s and 80’s version – before their bluesy lead guitarist, Terry Kath died in January 1978 from an accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound. (Some say Russian roulette.)

That was the band that got me out to Blossom Music Center during my high school days to enjoy some of the first rock concerts I ever attended.

2013-1-30-terry_kath_3-533x402My favorite Chicago song during this period was “Dialogue (Part I & II) – a charged musical debate between a politically active guy (sung by Kath) and an apathetic college student (sung by Peter Cetera). Listening to that song now makes we weep for the current state of music on the radio. Remember that chorus? “We can make it happen…”

peter-cetera-64_smallAfter Kath died, Chicago lost currency with me because of the band’s over-reliance on Peter Cetera’s often-cheesy (but enormously popular) ballads.

The same thing happened to another Chicago band, Styx, when Dennis DeYoung’s ballads became hits – and smothered the rock in syrup. But the chicks dug it. And the arenas filled up.

Terry-Kath-ChicagoNo American band besides The Beach Boys had as many hit singles and albums on the Billboard charts as Chicago.

In fact, Chicago had more hit singles in the US during the 1970s than anyone else.

And they scored five #1 albums and 21 top-ten singles.

Put ‘dose Chicago boys in ‘da Hall.

The Doobie Brothers — Eligible since 1996:

the_doobie_brothersI remember with great humility the day in 1972 when my fellow Cleveland Central Catholic freshman (and soon to be band mate) Ed Dougan and I were discussing The Doobie Brother’s first big hit, “Listen to the Music”. I opined that The Doobie Brothers sounded like a one-hit-band to me.

For the next four years, The Doobie Brothers gave Eddie Dougan reason after reason to remind me how absolutely wrong I was – as songs like “Jesus is Just Alright”, “Long Train Running” and “China Grove” poured out of our radios and rocked up the charts, culminating in their inescapable, utterly sing-able #1 hit, “Black Water”.

22754_lgI graduated from high school in ’76. That same year, Michael McDonald became an official member of The Doobie Brothers – and led them to another string of soulful hits.

With McDonald singing lead, songs like “Takin’ It to the Streets” and “What a Fool Believes”, topped the charts in the US – and made Eddie Dougan smile once again, remembering what a fool I was.

Green Day — Eligible in 2014

Green Day should be first ballot Hall of Famers.greenday2_2319069b

If Green Day isn’t drummed into the Hall at its 2015 Induction Ceremony, then the whole building should just slink shamefully into Lake Erie.

e28880d04d9bbe6ae819a3f04dba1256-jpgLong before “American Idiot” exploded into the Zeitgeist, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool had already established themselves as the primary punks of the new millennium.

Green Day has sold more than 75 million albums and singles worldwide. There’s no reason to wait.

Put those punks in the Hall.

If these next two deserving honorees continue to be snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Southern Californians and fans of surf rock should get Eric Von Zipper to bust some heads.

Jan & Dean — Eligible since 1985

jan-deanWithout Jan and Dean there are no Beach Boys. It’s as simple as that. Beginning in the late 1950s, Jan Berry and Dean Torrence established much of what became the California surf rock sound, featuring big waves, hot rods, and girls, girls, girls.

Brian Wilson looked up to Jan – who was a studio production whiz kid – as a musical big brother. And that’s Dean’s falsetto on the Beach Boy’s party classic, “Barbara Ann”. (Carl Wilson says, “Thanks, Dean” at the end of the track.) Jan & Dean were cool. So cool they were chosen as the hosts of the legendary T.A.M.I. Show in 1964.

Jan BerrySadly, Jan & Dean’s hit-making ended in the spring of ’66 when Jan drove his Corvette into the back end of a parked gardener’s truck in Beverly Hills and sustained severe head injuries.

Shades of “Dead Man’s Curve”.

jan-and-dean-ride-the-wild-surf-1964-3From their first hit, “Jennie Lee” in ’58 to their last, “Popsicle” in ’66 – Jan & Dean charted 15 Top 40 hits, including 6 in the Top 10.

“Little Old Lady from Pasadena” went to #3 – and “Surf City” — the joyous anthem of surf rock — went all the way to #1 promising “two girls for every boy”.

Two girls for every boy? That’s reason enough to put Jan & Dean in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

And do it while 74-year old Dean can still get onstage and sing.

Dick Dale — Eligible since 1987

properleftyDick Dale is the The King of the Surf Guitar. He pioneered the surf music style, experimenting with reverb – and worked with Leo Fender to push the limits of electric amplification. (Riffmaster Van Wagner owes Dick Dale an unpayable debt for producing “thick, clearly defined tones” at “previously undreamed-of volumes.”

And it wasn’t just upping the volume in rock and roll that makes Dick Dale Hall-worthy – it’s also his style and technique. Just spin “Let’s Go Trippin’” – often called the first surf rock song – or “Jungle Fever” or “Misirlou”.

Dick DaleDick Dale’s records may not have been big on the national charts – but their influence was both immediate and far-reaching.

Like Chuck Berry before him, generations of guitar shredders copied Dick Dale’s licks.

Dick-DaleYou can put him in as a performer or an early influence – or for lifetime achievement – but The King of the Surf Guitar should be enthroned in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

And it should be done while Dick Dale can still perform — thrilling us with his pioneering sound.

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?

Hold on. 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, Kiss, this is rock and roll with real 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.




Filed under Art, History, Music

The Wrecking Crew

Is this the Greatest Rock & Roll Band in history?

Based on the number of hit records they played on over a quarter of a century, these four fabulous musicians just might be the best rock band ever assembled. But most people who bought those smash hit records in the late 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s had no idea.

Tommy Tedesco on guitar and Carol Kaye on bass (pictured at left), Hal Blaine on drums, and Glen Campbell on guitar: they were the cream of an incredible crop of L.A. studio musicians that came to be known (mostly to rock and roll insiders) as The Wrecking Crew.

Only a legendary group like The Wrecking Crew could have drawn me out into today’s torrential downpour. I drove down the Ventura Freeway through sheets of driving rain and 60 mph winds, past fallen trees and one emergency vehicle after another to Vitello’s Restaurant in Studio City. Come hell or high water – and the high water was already flooding the streets – I was taking my two rock & roll loving teenage daughters to see a screening of “The Wrecking Crew”, a documentary film by Tommy’s Tedesco’s son, Denny.

Denny Tedesco’s film is a wonderful, warm, musical, funny and revelatory labor of love. And, if you haven’t seen it yet, you can click here to see when and where there will be a private screening in your neck of the woods. These screenings are being held to raise money to pay for the music rights to all the fabulous songs in the film so it can be given a wide theatrical release. You can click on this link to find out more info about “The Wrecking Crew” and to make a donation to the worthy cause of getting this movie out to the masses.

The great Earl Palmer.

So, who were The Wrecking Crew?

Beyond the four luminaries listed above, there were also guitarists like Barney Kessel, Al Casey, James Burton and Bill Pittman; drummers Earl Palmer and Jim Gordon; sax players Jim Horn and Plas Johnson; keyboard men Leon Russell, Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John), Don Randi and Larry Knechtel; and bassists Joe Osborn and Chuck Berghofer; among others.

Brian Wilson plays Hal Blaine a song.

These guys (and Carol) played for everybody, from producers like Phil Spector, Jan Berry, Brian Wilson, Herb Alpert and Lou Adler to such varied artists as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, The Byrds, The Association, Jan & Dean, The Monkees, The Tijuana Brass, The Beach Boys, The Partridge Family, The Mamas and the Papas, Sonny & Cher, The Carpenters, John Denver, Simon and Garfunkel – and too many more to list. I mean, they played with EVERYBODY.

Chances are that the music you heard on a record by your favorite band in the 1960’s was actually played by The Wrecking Crew – especially if that record was recorded in Los Angeles.

I first became aware of the existence of studio musicians in the late 60’s when a controversy erupted over the shocking revelation that Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones didn’t play their own instruments on The Monkees’ albums. It seemed like a sinister thing to me at the time. After all, didn’t The Beatles play their own stuff? The Monkees rebelled and played their own instruments on Headquarters, which was released in May of 1967. Headquarters went straight to number one – until Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released the following week.

I had no idea at the time that it was The Wrecking Crew who were responsible for The Monkees sound, and The Beach Boys sound, and on and on and on…

I finally learned about The Wrecking Crew when I wrote and produced “Jan & Dean: Behind the Music”. Looking for people to interview, I made a habit of finding out who played on the albums – which led me to Hal Blaine and Glen Campbell. I knew a lot about Glen already, but I had no idea he had been a session guitarist before he became a huge star in his own right.

My interviews with Hal and Glen opened up a whole new world to me: this small group of amazing session musicians who spent their days going from session to session, from studio to studio, recording the soundtrack of my young life. When I interviewed early Jan & Dean producer Lou Adler (who later worked with The Mamas & Papas) he also hipped me to The Wrecking Crew.

Later, I wrote and produced “Behind the Music” episodes on Glen Campbell and The Monkees – and my Wrecking Crew education became more complete. (Though Denny’s movie certainly filled in a LOT of the blanks.) I fondly remember my conversations with Hal Blaine – and his generosity. He gave me so much of his time – and he lent me so many of his rare studio photos from those glorious sessions in the 1960’s.

A few years ago, Hal wrote a book about his legendary experiences: Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew: The Story of the World’s Most Recorded Musician. Buy it. Read it. Learn from the master.

If you love rock and roll like I do. Hell, if you love music at all – you owe it to yourself to learn more about The Wrecking Crew.

Tommy Tedesco & Hal Blaine. Incomparable.

For Baby Boomers like me, The Wrecking Crew laid down the marvelous groove that drove so much of our formative years. For my daughters’ generation, they are still an inspiration: a reminder of how all that great music on those cool oldies stations was made.

And the beat goes on.

Oh, by the way, they played on that one, too.


Filed under History, Music