The Lonely Goatherd Blog And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats - Matthew 25:32
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March 10, 2008
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction 2008: John Mellencamp, Madonna, Leonard Cohen, Dave Clark Five & the Ventures, Little Walter Jacobs, Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff Today the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland officially inducts this years class, which includes: Leonard Cohen The Dave Clark Five (Dave Clark, Lenny Davidson, Rick Huxley, Denny Payton and Mike Smith) Madonna John Mellencamp The Ventures (Bob Bogle, Nokie Edwards, Gerry McGee, Mel Taylor, Don Wilson)
Little Walter Jacobs (1930-1968) had some r&b hits under his own name, but is being inducted here as a sideman, for his work with Muddy Waters among others.
Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff are being given the newly re-named "Ahmet Ertegun Award," formerly known as the "non-performing" category. Guess it depends on your definition of "performing," but as the proprietors of Philadelphia International records they wrote songs for and produced among others the O'Jays and the Blue Notes. For their part of creating Philly Soul, Gamble and Huff are probably the most clearly deserving Hall of Fame inductees this year.
Madonna has been treated as the biggest name in the batch, the first one mentioned in most of the stories about this group. Yeah, yeah. She's probably sold more records than any of the others, but she's just WAY overrated. She gets just ridiculously huge amounts of faux-philosophical crap written about her by even such as Camille Paglia. This stuff is largely devoid of any intellectual merit, and certainly doesn't represent any real intellectual depth on the part of Madonna Louise Ciccone.
On the other hand, she did manage to conjure up some outstanding pop songs on her first half dozen or so albums. All the cheesy celebrity personnae and such aside, "Like a Virgin" and "Papa Don't Preach" among others are undeniably good songs, defining hits of their era. Like a Prayer and the highly underrated Dick Tracy I'm Breathless albums especially are memorable albums. So she's earned her place in the Hall of Fame.
Note however that by rights, she should be sharing any kind of lifetime musical achievement award with Patrick Leonard, for one, as credited co-author of the lion's share of her best songs. She's not a particularly exceptional vocal performer, and barely plays any instruments. So the main point of actual musical achievement is in writing the songs - in which she had some exceptionally good help from Mr Leonard among others. Then again, these faceless collaborators might be seen as but conduits for the overarching force of personality that is Madonna Louise Ciccone.
Leonard Cohen is being inducted as a performer, but he's not really a very good one. I've barely ever managed to sit through a whole album of him singing at once. As a vocalist, he's maybe even a notch below Kris Kristofferson.
But Leonard Cohen is at least as good a songwriter as even the great Kristofferson. Cohen has more than earned a spot in the Hall of Fame just for writing "Bird on a Wire." Also, there's "Hallelujah" and a bunch of other heller good songs.
For a year or two, the Dave Clark Five were prime commercial competition to the Beatles. In 1963 or 1964, it wouldn't have been completely crazy to prefer the DC5 to the Fab Four. Dave Clark Five were pretty good with that basic British Invasion power pop. Hey, there's no arguing with "Glad All Over."
The Ventures first album came out in 1960, as did their nominally biggest hit, "Walk Don't Run." The main song that I usually run into is "Diamond Head" from 1965. Their other biggest hit was the 1969 theme for "Hawaii Five-O." That's a pretty good jam actually. This just reminds us all that we need more surf guitar in our lives.
Last in this year's class, but first in our hearts is our Hoosier hometown hero, the Little Bastard. John Cougar Mellencamp has been as good a songwriter as even Leonard Cohen. Mellencamp has not generally been as highly regarded among critic types as others in his mid-American 70s rock class, ie Springsteen, Petty, Seger. Mellencamp lacks the reputation inflating mythology of Springsteen.
But in terms of actual music, Mellencamp's songwriting catalog will go head to head with any of those other major cats. Those first half dozen albums have a lot of highly memorable songs. Hell, he's earned a place in the Hall of Fame just for the awesome excellence of "Paper in Fire." Then there's Uh-Huh and Scarecrow. That's some of the sharpest pop song craftsmanship of the era.
Besides being a great composer, he's fronted one of the best bands in the land. In terms of being a tight unit with an uniquely expressive sound, I'd take Mellencamp's band over the vaunted E Street Band. I'd especially take their peak era with the fiddles and dobro and black girl singers climaxing with The Lonesome Jubilee. Specifically, I'd take Kenny Aranoff even over the esteemed Max Weinberg.
In short, John Mellencamp is the main monkey in this crop from whom you'd really want to listen to a whole box set. You could probably about come up with 100ish memorable Mellencamp recordings to make one. Mellencamp is head of the class.