Friday, October 26, 2012

Number 9

Why I don't like voter ID Laws

At first thought, the push to require voters to produce identification when voting seems fairly benign.  Why not?  I mean I have to flash my driver's license if I want to cash a check, sometimes when I make a charge on a credit card, or when I purchase alcohol (unfortunately this last one doesn't happen much anymore... sigh).  Everybody carries around their driver's license, right?

Well, no.  Believe it or not, there are many adults that don't have a car, and thus no driver's license.  For many who live in urban areas and are of modest means, the cost of an automobile is an extravagance they can't afford.  For many of these folks, it's not a foregone conclusion that they can reach into their wallet or purse and produce a picture ID.

It doesn't matter to me that these folks primarily support Democratic candidates (well, not much).  These laws, whether by design or coincidence, skew the access to the voting process that all Americans (should) treasure.  And not only is that unfair, it sounds like it should be illegal. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Number 8

Rock n’ Roll Hall of Bullsh*t

This rant is dedicated to the rock n’ roll critics and snobs who believe they know better than everyone else.  They tell you that the HoF is only for the most deserving artists, but when you follow that up with the question of “who decides?”  They quickly declare, “we do – and what’s more, we don’t care what you think”. To my mind, The HoF has become a private club.  This wouldn’t bother me so much, but for the fact that the RnR HoF Foundation positions itself as the ultimate arbiter of what’s deserving and what’s not; who’s in and who’s out.  Why do they get a voice and you and I don’t? 

Ultimately, this has meant that a few (IMHO) undeserving people have gotten in; while a huge number of people and groups that should be in, are left marginalized on the sidelines of RnR history.  To my mind the opposite should be true.  Of all styles of music, RnR (and perhaps country), best exemplify the spirit of populism.

What makes this so galling is that music is one of the most subjective art forms in existence. What you enjoy, might gag me; while my tastes may lead you to plug up your ears.  Which one of us is right?  I would argue that we both are.  And here is the crux of the issue.  I believe that music, at its best, is transformative.  Music in general (and RnR specifically), has been a powerful force in my life.  I believe strongly that RnR artists and groups that have, through their music, provided that transformative experience, deserve to be inducted.

With that in mind, throw open the doors and let the following inside:

1.  Rush           
For some reason critics hate Rush.  I’m not a huge fan, but I know several who are, and boy, are they passionate.  Rush have created their own niche and sound in RnR (and for the record – if you create your own niche and sound, you belong in the HoF), while making and playing music at a high level for decades.

2.  Deep Purple
There are three groups that are primarily responsible for the development of hard rock/heavy metal.  Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and these guys.  If you were going to play five songs to someone who’d never heard RnR before, “Smoke on the Water”, would be one of them.  And there is so much more to these guys than that.  (Again, for the record, if you record of the RnR’s definitive songs, you’re in the Hof)

3.  KISS
Sure, a lot of their music is lame, but can you deny the image.  That image has become an integral part of RnR history.  (To those of you who say, “Yes, but the RnR HoF is about music and not image”, I say: “Do you really want to argue that image is not part of RnR?”)  BTW if the Monkees aren’t in the HoF, they deserve to be in for this reason alone.

4.  the Raspberries
Power pop is a woefully under-appreciated genre.  It’s too bad these guys couldn’t hold it together longer than they did in order to create a larger body of work, but go back and listen to the guitar lick that opens “Go All the Way” and tell me they don’t belong.

5.  Cheap Trick
As I said above, power pop doesn’t get much respect.  I disagree.  By mixing the sensibilities of a pop song with rock instrumentation you can create a tasty treat.  Cheap Trick is the definitive power pop group.

6.  Yes
I don’t much care for Yes, but they are the definitive prog-rock group, hence their inclusion here.

(Yes, I know, I’m using the word definitive a lot; it’s kind of my point.)

7.  Jethro Tull
Ian Anderson and his band of henchman have an impressive body of work, and have played at a high level for decades.  They’re in.

8.  Iron Maiden
Heavy Metal is another genre that critics love to hate.  Any heavy metal group that they now claim to admire is revisionist history.  Don’t believe me – go back a read the initial reviews of Zeppelin and Sabbath. (By the way, Queen was another group that the critics absolutely loathed during their heyday.  Now that they’re in, those same elitist snobs talk about how wonderful they were.  This is further proof that sometimes the ‘regular’ fans know more than the critics).   In any event, Iron Maiden has a huge catalogue of epic songs and have inspired countless heavy metal/hard rock bands, so they’re in.

9-12.  Styx, REO Speedwagon, Def Leppard, & Journey
What’s wrong with music that lots and lots of people like?  It may not be the most challenging, but what the hell’s wrong with people dancing and singing and having a good time?  These bands are part of the story of RnR, and sometimes the people know something the critics don’t.  If you want to throw Foreigner in there, too, go ahead.

13.  Mott the Hoople/Ian Hunter
One of the few times on this list where I pretend to know more than you (the Raspberries would be the other).  Mott was a great band in the late 60’s/early 70’s.  Their big break came when Bowie gave them “All the Young Dudes”, but they were making great primal RnR long before that.  They were punk before punk was cool.  In fact, they were so punk, they would often play slower and more thoughtful songs.  The group’s songs were primarily written by Ian Hunter, a tremendously under-appreciated artist who is still making great RnR at the age of 72.

14.  The Doobie Bros.
Try putting together a definitive list of  RnR from the 70’s without them and you can’t do it.  (The RnR of the 70’s is not the complete wasteland that critics like to claim it is, BTW).  They are often forgotten about, which is a shame.  They should be in for no other reason than their appearance on “What’s Happening?”, which coined the immortal phrase:  “Which Doobie you be?”

15.  Dire Straits
Great songwriting, great musicianship, and boy can Mark Knopfler play a guitar.  Don’t believe me?  Search out a live version of “Sultan’s of Swing”.

16.  The Cars
Combined the best of new wave and pop music sensibilities.  If Blondie and the Police are in, there’s no way you can keep them out.

17.  Link Wray
So you’ve never heard of him?  Trust me, you’ve heard his influence.  Link Wray invented the power chord.  Without the power chord, RnR does not exist.  Also, he had a wonderfully nasty sound.  His one big hit, “Rumble” managed to get itself banned from radio stations in the 50’s despite the fact that it’s an instrumental.

18.  Joan Jett
A true believer.

19.  Chicago
The case against these guys is that they stuck around too long.  I’m not listing them for the slop they’ve put out since the mid 80’s, but for the impressive boy of work they put together in the 70’s.  They were the most successful group to blend jazz and rock.

20.  Steve Miller
I wore out the grooves of his “Best of 74-78” album.  Seriously, if you’re at a dud of a party, put this on and you will make people happy.  Also came up with the line “Abracadabra, I’m gonna reach out and grab ‘ya”.  Besides being a great writer, the guy is a fantastic guitar player. 

21. Electric Light Orchestra
John Lennon himself thought highly of ELO.  ‘nuff said.

22.  the Moody Blues
A little pretentious for my tastes, and some people think that symphonic rock is an oxymoron, but they do have an impressive catalogue.  Besides they had many moments when they legitimately rocked out.

23.  J. Geils Band
"Ain't Nothin' but a Houseparty".  Goodness knows we all need a party, now and again.

24.  Slade
Once upon a time, a group of four lads from the backwoods of England got together and had #1 hit after #1 hit.  The crowds went crazy, made a lot of noise, and had a great deal of fun.  Certainly, these boys are the least sophisticated entry, but what the hell, they knew what RnR was all about.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Number 7

An Open Letter to "The Nuge"

Dear Ted,

I've thought it over and I'll not be attending your concert this evening.  It's true that Mankato doesn't get a lot of rock n' roll artists to stop here while on tour, and I genuinely like many of your songs, so I really did consider showing up.  Whether or not your interested in the reason why, I thought I'd tell you anyway.

It's not because we disagree politically.  Talk about cutting my nose to spite my face.  If I eschewed all entertainment produced by those with whom I disagree politically, I'd be missing out on Charlton Heston's "get your paws off me, you damn dirty ape" or "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" by Meat Loaf, (among others).  I'm sure some of my more conservative friends just shrug their shoulders when Bruce Springsteen goes on one of his populist rants, thinking "that's the price I pay for coming to his concerts".  The point is, political differences should not keep us for enjoying one another's talents.

So if it's not politics, what's the reason?  The easy answer is civility.  Or rather the lack of it.  I believe the lack of civility demonstrated by our national leaders has become a national crisis.  It's not enough to disagree with one another these days.  Disagreements need to be accompanied with crude epitaphs and gestures, which only serve to harden the hearts of the recipients, which in turn makes necessary compromise even harder to come by.

You don't like President Obama.  That's your right.  But when you state that either "you or he will be dead" if he's re-elected serves no purpose other to inflame an already tenuous political environment in which the most that gets done in a typical day is finger pointing and name calling.  Seriously, it's OK for us to disagree with one another, but could you please use your fame and the accompanying bully pulpit to engender a less combative dialogue?

Until you do, I'll stay away.

Rock on,


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Number 6

The Senator Has No Clothes

I just saw a news clip of Rick Santorum being interviewed by Chris Wallace regarding his desire to re-impliment "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".  Santorum's position basically boiled down to his fear that homosexual soldiers aren't able to keep their, uh, equipment in their trousers for more than five minutes at a time.  I was dumbfounded by his logical inconsistencies.  It was interesting to note that Wallace (who works for FOX), seemed equally incredulous, and was actually asking some challenging follow-up questions.

Two observations.  One:  I have many gay and lesbian friends in my life, and I know next to nothing about any of their sex lives.  This notion that equates civil rights with rampant acts of homosexual lovemaking is ridiculous.  Two:  Santorum is an idiot.  Whether I agree with their political positions or not, surely the religious right could have a more articulate and thoughtful individual as their spokesperson.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

number 5

Who's your Bruce?

I've had the title of this entry for awhile - it was just a matter of setting down and writing it.  My thanks to Heather and Janet for nag, I mean inspiring me to get going.

I was 13 in the summer of 1979, and was remotely familiar with the song "Born to Run" by some dude with a weird last name.  I was browsing in the record store(!) and picked up an album called "Darkness on the Edge of Town", by this Springsteen dude.  It didn't include "Born to Run", and the guy on the cover looked a little sketchy, but I decided to give it a shot.  For those of you who've known me a long time, would it surprise you to find out that I didn't like it?  I ended up trading with my brother for J. Geils "Greatest Hits."  The album, however, didn't give up on me.  Within six months, whatever I hadn't heard the first time, I began to notice.  My brother and I traded back, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Bruce Springsteen's music (and the integrity with which he performs it), became hugely important in my life.

For me music is not a pleasant, little diversion - it is something that feeds my soul.  Although I listen to all types, for the most part I'm listening to rock n' roll.  I think I was supposed to grow out of this stage at some point, but it still hasn't happened and I've given up worrying about it.  Someday I'll probably be asked to leave the retirement home for playing Iron Maiden too loudly.

Some of my favorites include the Who, the Beatles, Dire Straits, Ian Hunter (and Mott the Hoople), the Michael Stanley Band, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Lou Reed, Warren Zevon and Van Morrison.  In my opinion,  Buddy Holly's birthday should be a national holiday.  I love silly pop songs, I love metal, I love southern rock, but it's the music of Springsteen that has resonated in my life the most.  It seems to fit whatever my mood might be, and there have been times in my life when it's felt like the only friend I've had.

Which leads us to the title of this entry.  Knowing what the man and his music have meant to me, it is my hope that all of you have your own personal "Bruce".  A person (or group) whose music makes your life better.  Goodness knows we all deserve that.  Please share your thoughts in the "comments" section.

Happy New Year