I 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…
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 our downtown lakefront — but that only makes such an injustice a more personal matter.
Tommy 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.
How 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.
Besides 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?
And 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.
Honor 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.
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.
Actually, 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.
My 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…”
After 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.
No 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:
I 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”.
I 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.
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.
Long 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
Without 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.
Sadly, 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”.
From 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
Dick 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 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.
You 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
Not 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.
At 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.
I 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
Johnny 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.
Johnny 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.