Thursday, March 13, 2003
HALL OF LAME, SORT OF
by Wayne Robins
I applaud the admission of The Clash, Elvis Costello, and The Police to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this week, though it does make me tremble to recognize that all passed the minimum eligibility requirement of having first recorded 25 or more years ago.
The Righteous Brothers are a tougher call. They had all of two national number one singles: "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' '' (1964) and ("You're My) Soul and Inspiration" (1966). Their Phil Spector-produced renditions of standards like "Ebb Tide" and "Unchained Melody" were exciting in an operatic sort of way: I think we can say that on these tracks, Spector and the Righteous Brothers invented the power ballad.
But that's the problem: the Righteous Brothers were soulful balladeers. Even the flukey pseudo-novelty hit "Rock and Roll Heaven," in 1974 rocked only in theory. Their chart numbers match up well with that of Jay Black and the Americans. But I don't think Jay and the Americans have ever been on the ballot, much less been considered serious contenders.
It could be that Jay Black and the Americans appeal was more regional than the Righteous Brothers: "Cara Mia" might not have meant as much to someone living in Utah or Oregon as it did to someone in Brooklyn, or Philadelphia. Let's put Jay Black in the Hall of Fame, and I'm not saying this just because we're cousins.
Then there's the AC/DC travesty. C'mon, I like big, ballsy power chords as much as the next case of arrested development, and I'll always have fond memories of coming home on the Long Island Railroad from Newsday's New York office, listening to "For Those About to Rock, We Salute You" on the recently-invented Walkman headphones and and just knowing I was the only one on the train so engaged.
And while it's true that "Back in Black" (1980) Brian Johnson's first as singer after Bon Scott drank himself to death earlier that year, has sold more than 10 million copies, sales alone shouldn't determine qualification. Neither should label affiliation, though I suspect that they filled a slot usually reserved for an Atlantic records family artist. Frankly, I would have rather seen the spot go to Iron Butterfly.
(c) 2003 Wayne Robins. All rights reserved.