rock and roll hall of fame

First, we can eliminate Stevie Nicks, John Prine, and Rufus with Chaka Khan. Nicks is already in for Fleetwood Mac. Her solo work consists of "Edge of Seventeen", a hit with Tom Petty, and an album that on its own wouldn't be enough to get her in, even if was tremendous, which it is not. I love John Prine. He's probably my favorite artist on this year's ballot, and he's the only one I've seen live (OK, I saw Stevie with F.Mac, and Tom Morello with Bruce). But as much as I like him even now, in his later years, his reputation rests mainly on his first album. It's great, but it's not enough. Rufus had a few fine singles, but they never made a truly great album. 

The Zombies had a few great singles in the 60s, and one great album. Not enough for the Hall of Fame. I've never quite understood the MC5 ... influential, but there's only three albums, all overrated in my mind, but even if they aren't, three albums doesn't make them one of the five best artists on this list. Devo was a lot like the MC5 ... attention-getting first album, innovative presentation, but after three albums they lose their touch. I appreciate that metal fans feel left out, rightfully so, and I don't know enough to effectively evaluate the genre. For me, though, Def Leppard is easy to pass on.

That leaves eight, and fans are allowed to vote for five at one time. Who do I drop? All eight are good. Todd Rundgren certainly has his champions, and his output in the early-70s is why he's on this list. But I have to drop somebody, and I don't see enough in Rundgren's career after 1974 to win my vote. I have argued for LL Cool J in the past. He's this year's token rapper. It wouldn't bother me if he got in ... I'd like it, actually. If I was voting for 7 artists instead of 5, he'd make it. I admit I'm surprised I've kept Rage Against the Machine on my possible list this long, which is probably reason enough to pass on them.

And then there were five. These are the artists I'd vote for. They aren't all favorites of mine, but even when I'm not a fan, I understand why they are important. When I make my own Hall, John Prine will be there. In the meantime:

  1. Radiohead
  2. The Cure
  3. Kraftwerk
  4. Roxy Music
  5. Janet Jackson

Honestly, I think they are all no-brainers, which is why Todd and LL and Rage don't make it. I'm one of those old Nick Hornby guys re: Radiohead. "Creep" is the only song of theirs I would recognize right off (it is a great song, of course). But Acclaimed Music, which collates critical opinion, lists Radiohead as the 6th-best artist of all time. The only ones above them are The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and Bruce Springsteen. Even if you want to quibble about Acclaimed Music's methodology, it's hard to argue with that kind of company. The one Cure album I treasure is Staring at the Sea, their first singles collection. Seventeen tracks and not a dud among them. I prefer Singles Going Steady by The Buzzcocks, but I'm not being asked to vote for them, so The Cure wins. "Autobahn" by itself practically places Kraftwerk in the Hall, and that's not their only song, plus they get points for innovation and influence. Roxy Music has belonged for a long time, and it's nice to see them on this list. As I said on Facebook, I don't dislike them, and I appreciate that they elicit wonderful reactions from their real fans, so I don't feel I could add anything to that. I can say that I have a favorite Roxy Music song, by far my favorite. I can also say that I never remember which one it is, so I'm always confusing it with another song on the same album. (It's "Out of the Blue".) Finally, Janet Jackson has had a bunch of great albums and lots of great songs, and her peak arguably lasted more than a decade.

One last thing. I'm trying to be "objective" here (impossible, I know). But then there's the question of what I actually listen to. So, off I go to to see what it tells me. Here are the 15 artists, ranked by the number of times I've listened to them since 2005. This is the real Steven:

  1. John Prine
  2. Radiohead
  3. The Cure
  4. Todd Rundgren
  5. The MC5
  6. Roxy Music
  7. LL Cool J
  8. Devo
  9. Janet Jackson
  10. Kraftwerk
  11. Rufus with Chaka Khan
  12. Rage Against the Machine
  13. Stevie Nicks
  14. The Zombies
  15. Def Leppard

Finally, a nod to someone who didn't make the 15. If they had, they would replace The Cure on my list. The following song ... I love it so much, in my fiction-writing days I wrote an entire short story about someone who played "Temptation" over and over. I saw them in 1985, and it's one of my great regrets that they didn't play "Temptation" that night. Considering it's the most-played song of theirs in concert, I wonder why they hurt me like that. I mean, they played "Sister Ray"!

music friday: 2007

M.I.A., "Paper Planes". Straight to hell.

LCD Soundsystem, "All My Friends". Covered on the B-side by Franz Ferdinand and John Cale (not together).

MGMT, "Time to Pretend". Supposedly inspired by a praying mantis.

Arcade Fire, "Keep the Car Running". When Bruce Springsteen invites you onstage, you better bring a car song.

Kanye West, "Stronger". After his visit to Donald Trump, his past work may be reevaluated.

Feist, "1234". I dare you to click on the video link.

UGK, "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)". Featuring OutKast.

Robyn, "With Every Heartbeat". For some reason, this video is from a Nobel Peace Prize event.

The National, "Fake Empire". By this point, there will always be at least one song about which I have nothing to say.

Bruce Springsteen, "Livin' in the Future". Magic wasn't his best album, and this isn't the best song from that album. But I've always been intrigued by the line, "We're livin' in the future, and none of this has happened yet."

Spotify playlist: 

perhaps i need to go out tonight

Quiet around here.

Partly that's because I had written a post about the movie The Look of Silence, only to have the draft disappear (user error, but still frustrating). I was already struggling to write about it, and lost all inspiration when I had to start over. Short take: definitely see it if you've seen The Act of Killing. Don't see it if you haven't seen the other film ... you need to watch that first.

I'm sure I'll have a post about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In fact, I've already written a bit in a Facebook thread, but that's doesn't fill space here, at least not yet.

I'm finished Heather Havrilesky's new book of essays, What If This Were Enough? Again, I wrote elsewhere, in this case in an email to a friend. I'll cut-and-paste ... this is incomplete, but better than nothing:

Her title bothered me at first ... was this going to be an ode to accepting the world as it is (which turned out to be partly true) without questioning the parts of that world that are destructive and dangerous? But she isn't interested in sticking her head in the ground and ignoring injustice. Nor is she promoting navel-gazing. She's arguing against the ever-present idea in our culture that we must always strive for more, that the best is just around the corner. She doesn't only mean consumer culture, but rather, the ways in which our acquisitive culture never allows us to stop and ask if what we have and where we are is enough.

At the end of the book, she writes:

We are called to resist viewing ourselves as consumers or as commodities. We are called to savor the process of our own slow, patient development, instead of suffering in an enervated, anxious state over our value and our popularity. We are called to view our actions as important, with or without consecration by forces beyond our control. We are called to plant these seeds in our world: to dare to tell every living soul that they already matter, that their seemingly mundane lives are a slowly unfolding mystery, that their small choices and acts of generosity are vitally important.

Finally, I just listened to this, which made me feel good for some reason:


music friday: 2006

Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy". Grammy winner. Pazz & Jop winner. Best song of the year in Rolling Stone.

Amy Winehouse, "Rehab". Three-time Grammy winner. Pazz & Jop winner. She said she wouldn't go to rehab. How's that work out?

Hot Chip, "Over and Over". I'm getting old, Exhibit A: I've never heard of these guys.

Ghostface Killah, "Shakey Dog". OK, I know this one. Christgau gave the album an A+.

The Hold Steady, "Stuck Between Stations". First line namechecks Sal Paradise.

Pink, "U + Ur Hand". I'm not here for your entertainment.

The Raconteurs, "Steady As She Goes". By 2006, Jack White's presence meant a band was called a "Supergroup".

Cat Power, "The Greatest". She was already a veteran, having released her first song 13 years earlier.

Lupe Fiasco, "Kick Push". On the other hand, this was his first single.

Bruce Springsteen, "O Mary Don't You Weep". First recorded in 1915. No, not by Bruce.


Spotify playlist: 

music friday, first kiss edition

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first kiss between me and my future (and still) wife.

Honestly, I don't know what to say about this. I'm pretty sure if you'd asked me in 1968 if this would be the case, I'd say I doubted I'd even be alive in 50 years, much less married to that girl. I've never been good at seeing into the future ... I've never been good at thinking/knowing the future would even happen.

But here we are. Thank you, Robin.

Here is the song that was Number One that week (for the first time ... it lasted for nine weeks):

And, since this is supposed to be Music Friday 2005, here's a song from an artist we saw that year in a little club called Cafe du Nord. It was just her and a guitarist, and they were having trouble making the electronics work, so the guitarist switched to an acoustic, and she came down off the stage and sang to us without a mic.


music friday: 2004

Franz Ferdinand, "Take Me Out". Some of the comments on the video, which is of a live performance: "When the crowd sings the know you made it" ... "this crowd is so good It makes me want to cry" ... "The video does not do justice to how amazing this was live".

Kanye West, "Jesus Walks". Video, from Dave Chappelle's Block Party, one of the best movies of 2005. So good I'm willing to ignore the fact that the picture is reversed.

Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone". Clarkson won the very first American Idol.

Arcade Fire, "Rebellion (Lies)". For many years, I wondered if I loved Arcade Fire. Eventually, I realized I just loved this song.

Loretta Lynn, "Portland, Oregon". 72 years old in 2004. It's pretty impressive when you're the oldest artist on a list that includes Willie Nelson.

Usher, "Yeah!" I always forget that this isn't a Lil Jon song.

Willie Nelson, "Midnight Rider". Only 71 years old in 2004. We saw Willie in concert that year ... not sure, but he might be the oldest headliner I ever saw.

Gwen Stefani, "Hollaback Girl". In an interview that year, Courtney Love said, "I'm not interested in being the cheerleader. I’m not interested in being Gwen Stefani."

Prince, "Cinnamon Girl". The New York Post called the video the most tasteless ever.

Green Day, "American Idiot". Feels ten years past their prime, but that's just me.

Spotify playlist:

music friday: 2003

OutKast, "Hey Ya!" A favorite song of so many, a favorite video of so many ... count me among the many in both instances.

The White Stripes, "Seven Nation Army". Amazing that two such iconic songs came out the same year.

Beyoncé, "Crazy in Love". Amazing that three such iconic songs came out the same year.

Nacho Vegas, "En la sed mortal". New to me, which happens more often as I get closer to the present.

Bruce Springsteen, "Waitin' on a Sunny Day". Cheating a bit ... from a 2002 album, released as a single in 2003. Popular with audiences, but not much of a favorite to the hardcore fans.

Missy Elliott, "Pass That Dutch". Never sleep on the importance of Missy in her prime.

The Thrills, "Big Sur". The first two tracks on their debut album were "Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far)" and "Big Sur". They are from Ireland.

Pharrell, "Frontin'". His first solo single. Jay-Z pops up on this list for the second time, which is pretty good considering I didn't include any of his own records.

Girls Aloud, "No Good Advice". Huge in the U.K. (20 straight top-ten singles), a nonentity in the U.S. (as far as I can tell, they never released any music in the States).

Dizzee Rascal, "Fix Up, Look Sharp". A story similar to Girls Aloud, in terms of chart presence.

Spotify playlist: 

music friday: 2002

Bruce Springsteen, "My City of Ruins". The ultimate 9/11 song, except it was written in 2000 about Asbury Park.

The Roots, "The Seed 2.0". Who would have guessed that a dozen years later, The Roots would be the house band on The Tonight Show.

Missy Elliott, "Work It". Ti esrever dna ti pilf, nwod gniht ym tup.

Solomon Burke, "Don't Give Up on Me". The album earned Burke his first Grammy, at the age of 62.

Eminem, "Lose Yourself". My choice as his greatest song.

Ms. Dynamite, "Dy-na-mi-tee". A Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Nirvana, "You Know You're Right". Released 8 years after Cobain's death.

Sleater-Kinney, "Sympathy". Corin Tucker's finest moment, and another ultimate 9/11 song.

Norah Jones, "Come Away with Me". The album earned Jones her first Grammy, at the age of 23. Also her second, third, fourth, and fifth Grammy. It was her debut album.

Pink, "Don't Let Me Get Me". I obsess over this video. I used it in the classroom. I've written about both the song and the video before. After seeing her live for the first time, in 2002, I wrote:

The show had many highlights ... the oddest one for me came with the final song of the night, "Don't Let Me Get Me." This was the anthem all the girls had been waiting for, and seeing and hearing them sing along to this complex song was bizarre. What does it mean when a bunch of kids happily shout out "I wanna be somebody else"? The closest thing I can think of is when the audience would sing along with Johnny Rotten's "No Future!" ... as if in the act of proclaiming our nihilism, we were expressing our love of life. Except I don't ever remember wanting to be Johnny Rotten, while I think a lot of people in that audience would have been happy if the "somebody else" they got to be was in fact the woman who introduced those words to us in the first place: Pink.

Spotify playlist: 

music friday: 2001

Missy Elliott, "Get Ur Freak On". Finished #1 in the Pazz and Jop singles poll that year.

The Strokes, "Last Nite". Tom Petty's "American Girl" is the world's best Byrds rip ... I guess this is The Byrds, one step removed.

Kylie Minogue, "Can't Get You Out of My Head". Besides the expected Australia and New Zealand, this went to #1 in every European country except Finland. No word on why Finland was a hold out.

Pulp, "The Trees". Part of a two-sided hit with "Sunrise". Not sure why I find this amazing, but Jarvis Cocker is 54 years old.

Lucinda Williams, "Essence". The definition of a critics' fave (as long as you ignore G. Marcus). We've seen her four times and have never been sorry, but for me, her best album remains the self-titled one from 1988.

Roots Manuva, "Witness (1 Hope)". Never heard this one before.

Mary J. Blige, "Family Affair". Don't need no hateration. Video is a great performance from Letterman.

Jimmy Eat World, "The Middle". Christgau: "Jimmy Eat World are who Blink-182 want to be when they grow up."

R.E.M., "Imitation of Life". It says something about my taste that I often try to find videos of the artists playing live, instead of just linking to "Official Videos".

The Gossip, "Hott Date". Saw them headline in February of that year, after seeing them open for S-K (they were one of the best opening acts I ever saw).

Spotify playlist:

music friday: 2000

It's been an odd week ... my wife has been away, I've turned totally hermit. This is my first post since last Music Friday. No commentary here, just video links and a Spotify playlist.

OutKast, "Ms. Jackson".

Eminem, "Stan".

Aaliyah, "Try Again".

Radiohead,  "Idioteque".

PJ Harvey, "This Mess We're In". For people who can't get enough Thom Yorke.

D'Angelo, "Untitled (How Does It Feel?)".

Boards of Canada, "In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country".

Nelly, "Country Grammar". Donald Trump, let me in now.

Madonna, "Don't Tell Me".

Sleater-Kinney, "You're No Rock n' Roll Fun". Saw them twice in 2000, #4 and #5 overall.

Spotify playlist (no Aaliyah):