June 21, 2021

Grant County Herald

Community news from the prairie to the lakes

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame scandal

BY C. A. RAY
Editor

In a world full of scandals, let me introduce one more: The pitiful way the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame picks artists for this honor. This year, fans will get to vote on which of 16 musicians, or bands, will  be inducted during the ceremony, this fall, in Cleveland, OH. While it is a good start to have fans vote, it does not make up for the shameful way some of the greatest bands and musicians from the 60s have been ignored.

The most frequent criticism of the Hall of Fame is that the nomination process is controlled by a few individuals who are not themselves musicians, such as founders Jann Wenner and Suzan Evans, and writer Dave Marsh, reflecting their personal tastes rather than public opinion as a whole. I wonder if these folks may consider themselves too “hip” to consider public opinion for something this important.

Let’s take a look a three examples of musicians who should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but are not: Paul Revere and the Raiders; Tommy James and the Shondells; and, Johnny Rivers. All three were massive hit-makers in their time and influenced an entire generation of musicians. 

Paul Revere and the Raiders were an American pop-rock band, from Oregon, that saw considerable U.S. mainstream success in the second half of the 1960s and early 1970s, with music veering from garage rock to psychedelic pop. Signature songs include multiple major mid-1960s chart hits – “Just Like Me”, “Kicks” (ranked no. 400 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time), “Hungry”, “Good Thing”, “Him or Me – What’s It Gonna Be?” – plus the platinum-certified 1971 comeback number one hit “Indian Reservation.”

Paul Revere and the Raiders were known for their outrageous stage show and popular television show “Where the Action is.” They also wore goofy Revolutionary War uniforms, all things that  branded them as a not serious kiddie act.

They were quite the opposite. The original lineup included keyboards and horns and they played plenty of Rhythm and Blues, along with some great guitar rock, featuring influential guitarists “Fang” who pioneered double-tracking on guitar solos in the studio.

Also, going against them, was the fact that as the band aged, they changed members so muchfans did not know the names of band members. Soulful singer Mark Lindsey embarked on a solo career in the early 70’s and Paul Revere himself passed away in 2014. The “band” still plays as “Paul Revere’s Raiders.”

Tommy James and the Shondells were an American pop rock / psychedelic rock band, formed in Niles, MI, in 1964. Hits include No. 1 singles “Hanky Panky,” and “Crimson and Clover.” They also charted twelve other Top 40 hits, including five in the Hot 100’s top ten: “I Think We’re Alone Now”, “Mirage”, “Mony Mony”, “Sweet Cherry Wine”, “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” and “Draggin’ the Line.”

While Tommy James wrote many of these songs, he also experimented in the studio developing several technical innovations that are still being used today. Listening to a greatest hits album with headphones should be required for any wanna-be recording engineer.

And talk about an influence, to date, over 300 musicians have recorded versions of James’ music. Covers of three of James’ songs went top ten on the Hot 100 in the 1980s: Joan Jett with “Crimson and Clover”, Tiffany with “I Think We’re Alone Now”, and Billy Idol with “Mony Mony.”

Tommy James, who currently lives in Monroe, WI, still performs with the Shondells throughout the U.S.

However, neither of these slights can compare with the Hall of Fame’s rejection of Johnny Rivers.

Johnny Rivers is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. His repertoire includes pop, folk, blues, and old-time rock ‘n’ roll. Rivers charted during the 1960s and 1970s but remains best known for a string of hit singles between 1964 and 1968, among them “Memphis,” “Mountain of Love,”  “The Seventh Son,” “Secret Agent Man”, “Poor Side of Town” (a US #1), “Baby I Need Your Lovin,”  “Summer Rain,”  “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu,” and “Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancing),”

Rivers came to popularity just as the Beatles and other English bands began their invasion of America. Rivers, unlike most other American musicians, however, held his own, recording hit after hit.

He was, and still is, loved by musicians he has influenced. In fact, in early 2000, Rivers recorded with Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, and Paul McCartney on a tribute album dedicated to Buddy Holly’s backup band, the Crickets.

Johnny Rivers is still playing concerts, mostly on the casino circuit, including stops in Minnesota nearly every year.

Johnny Rivers was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. His name has been suggested many times for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but he has never been selected. 

These three have not been selected because they are not “edgy,” or “hip” enough. While the New York Dolls are edgy enough to be nominated this year, name one hit record they had. The artists mentioned above concentrated on producing hit songs, songs that sold, songs that were played, loved, and became the soundtrack of the 1960s. To ignore them is like picking Dock Ellis, the major league pitcher who never pitched unless he was high on drugs and once threw a no-hitter while on acid, for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and ignoring Kirby Puckett.

There are many others who have been forgotten, including great British groups like the Moody Blues, Jethro Tull,  and Herman’s Hermits, who should be inducted.

While the Hall has nominated some great “older” musicians this year, including Tina Turner, Dianne Warwick, and Carole King, they need to consider more of the bands and singers who defined American Top 40 popular music and made it the greatest music in history.