Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rock Hall of Fame Surprises

One good lyric line can hook me on a song or a performer in a New York Minute. The other night on The Daily Show it was the ageless Mavis Staples when she sang, “I like the things about me that I once despised.” That seemed a hopeful pick-me-up for aging boomers.
And if laughter is the best medicine, Dr. (Randy) Newman was making house calls recently during his set at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame presentations in Los Angeles. Don Henley, looking like a psychologist from central casting in black frame glasses and white goatee, noted that Newman once told him he thought rock and roll was too serious and needed some good laughs.
Newman, who opened the show with “I Love L.A.” featuring those spring chickens, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and John Fogerty,” then proceeded to bite the hand of his contemporary peers with the song, “I’m Dead But I Don’t Know It.”
Newman said he wrote it because he was concerned that youngsters in the music business couldn’t get ahead because the touring stages and recording studios were filled with his buddies who wouldn’t retire. Here are some samples:

I have nothing left to say
But I'm gonna say it anyway
Thirty years upon a stage
And I hear the people say
Why won't he go away?

When will I end this bitter game?
When will I end this cruel charade?
Everything I write all sounds the same
Each record that I'm making
Is like a record that I've made
Just not as good

And the chorus in a call and response (with Henley and the band)

He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead
I don’t know it.

The Hall of Fame Show was a slick Hollywood style production that despite its three plus hours entertained with nice biographies of the honorees, tight musical productions and a few surprises.

--John Mayer displaying some hot guitar chops while presenting Albert King. I knew Gary Carter Jr. was good but my image of Mayer was as a heartthrob crooner.

--Harry Bellafonte still carrying the banner for equal rights and looking as young and handsome as when he was singing on stage with dock workers unloading bananas. He presented Public Enemy as “radical, revolutionary and fearless artists,” Chuck D reminded everyone, “Let’s all not forget, we all come from the damn blues.”
--Heart’s mega hits, "Crazy on You," "Magic Man" and "Barracuda" can still sound fresh when performed live, despite years of being scorched into your brain from top 40 radio. They, too, took a respectful tone for the evening when Nancy Wilson said, “Music is the real church. Music makes us all equal and perfectly human.”
--Rush, another radio staple, has not lost a beat or a step after 45 years on the road and 47 million albums. Guitarist Alex Lifeson’s acceptance speech, “Blah, Blah,Blah” was an instant classic, the perfect send up of every award ceremony ever. Look it up on You Tube.

It was nice to see Quincy Jones honored as well as Lou Adler, the legendary record producer who brought us The Mommas and Poppas and Carole King and led Paul Simon to write the line, “I’ve been Lou Adlered.” Donna Summer’s untimely death last year may have helped vault her to the head of line after others had been kept waiting for decades.

The finale included one last tribute to the blues with an all-band jam on "Crossroads." The show, which aired on HBO, may get another rotation in summer reruns.

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