100 Essential Albums of All Time – Boston, Boston (1976)

***WRITER’S NOTE*** I originally did this series on my personal website. As it deals with music and its history, I felt that I should have it here too. You can catch up with the rest of the entries at the end of this essay!

There is a term in the music industry – a “one hit wonder” – for an artist or a band that has one massive hit that simply overpowers everything that the act does for the rest of their career. But there are also those that had that one massive hit and, despite their best efforts, are unable to equal the quality or success of that masterpiece. The self-titled album from the band Boston falls into this category.

Released in August of 1976, Boston was a monumental occurrence in the world of rock and roll. What makes it even more impressive is the backstory to the album. That backstory would not have been heard, however, if it weren’t for the fact that the record was an immense moment in the passage of rock and roll time, making it truly memorable and worthy of this list.

In the early 1970s, guitarist Tom Scholz and singer Brad Delp had put together several songs that made the rounds of the labels, but there were no takers for what they were offering. Their demo tape would eventually make its way to Epic Records, who took a flyer on the duo and signed them to a deal. Indicative of the upcoming history of the band, the issues started almost immediately.

Epic, having spent the money to sign the duo, naturally wanted to keep an eye on their purchase in having them record in Los Angeles. Scholz wasn’t having that, however, preferring to work in his sanctuary of a home recording studio back in Boston. Scholz was not just being a tempestuous artist – he actually had developed recording concepts, without the usage of synthesizers, keyboards storing sounds or other electronic trickery, which could only be recreated in his basement studio, thus requiring the creation of the album on the East Coast instead of the West. Using his co-producer, John Boylan, as an intermediary with Epic Records, Scholz set about recreating the demo tapes for the inaugural album.

Scholz played nearly all the instruments on that debut album, with Delp’s soaring vocals carrying the tunes to meteoric heights. There were other players who would contribute to the record and, in fact, be listed as members of the band “Boston” (including Barry Goudreau on guitar, bassist Fran Sheehan, and drummer Sib Hashian), but the original work was all Scholz.

The album was an instant success. Boston would go on to become, at the time, the biggest debut album in the history of the industry, eventually selling over 17 million copies. All eight of the tracks on the record were constantly played on Album Oriented Rock (AOR) radio, and three of the songs, “More Than a Feeling,” “Long Time” (often played with its intro, “Foreplay,” on AOR radio), and “Piece of Mind,” were Top 40 hits. The band Boston would become a touring force on the “arena rock” circuit, alongside such bands as Foreigner, Kansas, and REO Speedwagon.

So, what made the album so special? It is difficult to quantify this, but simply put each song on Boston was given meticulous attention by Scholz to make it as perfect as possible. Part of the charm of the album, especially in the era of disco and its overdubbed drums and bass beats, what the factor that there was no computerization or electronic effects on the record. It was purely Scholz and Delp, doing what they did best.

It certainly helped that each song would have been a singular masterpiece in its own right. “More Than a Feeling” kicked off the record, followed up by the acoustic/electric work on “Peace of Mind.” Then you had the epic “Foreplay/Long Time,” which would have been a wasteful excess in the hands of another artist but served as a triumphant and exciting close…to just the first side of the album.

The second side of Boston could have been forgiven if it were filler, but Scholz’s meticulous nature would not allow that to happen. In fact, the second side of this album puts to shame pretty much anyone else’s FIRST side of an album. You had the dual guitar rockers “Rock & Roll Band” and “Smokin’” to lead off Side Two, before segueing in to a slowdown to the ending climax in “Hitch a Ride” and “Let Me Take You Home Tonight” (“Something About You” would have been better placed ahead of “Hitch a Ride,” but this is a quibbling point).

To put it bluntly, it was eight songs of excellence from a perfectionist (maybe two, counting Delp). But it was also unsustainable.

When you have the type of success that Boston did, it was almost automatic that you would be back in the studios to do a follow up. Scholz, Delp and Company did just that, following up this masterpiece two years later with a decent but uninspired Don’t Look Back. It had its share of success, especially with the title track, but it did not have the same cachet that the Boston album garnered.

Then began Boston and Scholz’s Long Exodus. Frustrated with the pace that Epic wanted regarding the band’s album releases and touring schedule, Scholz would enter the courtroom to battle it out with Epic (the band and Scholz would eventually win the lawsuit). A long eight years would pass before the band Boston would release another album (the intriguing Third Stage) but, by that point, the music world has passed the band by.

It would be another eight years before the final Boston album was released, 1994’s Walk On, which was empty with the lack of Delp on the vocals, and Boston was essentially over. Sure, Scholz has continued to issue albums under the Boston moniker, but they lack the same vitality that was found in the early work of him and Delp. The last album by this version of Boston, Life, Love & Hope, was released in 2013.

Here is a subject that comes up frequently when Boston, the band, is discussed. If their debut was such an impressive album, why aren’t they feted with induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? The reason is a simple one – the music that the band performed didn’t break any new ground, they were minimally influential, and they did nothing to change the direction of “rock and roll.” Boston was a good rock band, but they were far from an immortal (you could also discuss Scholz getting more attention for his production and guitar innovations, but that is a subject for another time).

There is no shame is having one of the great albums in the history of rock and roll, however, and that is what Boston, the album, was. The record was a monumental piece of 70s arena rock folklore that deserves to be respected. It is also critical that any record collection should have the album to capture that snapshot in time.

Previous Essential Albums:

Queensrÿche, Operation: Mindcrime (1988)
Johnny Cash, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (1968)
The BusBoys, Minimum Wage Rock & Roll (1980)
Rockpile, Seconds of Pleasure (1980)
Metallica, …And Justice for All (1988)
Rick Wakeman, Journey to the Center of the Earth (1974)

Who SHOULD Be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2022? And Who WILL Be?

There’s approximately two weeks to go in the Fan Vote for the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Currently leading the way is first time nominee Duran Duran, who is dominating the standings with almost 850,000 votes. In a distant second is Eminem, who has gotten an impressive 650,000-plus votes, while Pat Benatar hangs in third with slightly more than 559,000. Rounding out the Top Five are Eurythmics and Dolly Parton (who, despite her protestations, might have to live with the title “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Member”).

The reason this Top Five is important is that those finishers will each earn one more vote onto their total from the overall Voting Membership towards induction into the Rock Hall. That single vote is unimportant – the 1200-member Voting Membership’s decisions will not come down to one vote, to be honest. It is important, however, in setting the tone for what “the fans” want as far as the Rock Hall goes.

But who is going to be elected to the Rock Hall? We are going to look at that here, but first we must set a couple of criteria.

There is absolutely no clue as to how many people will eventually earn induction into the Rock Hall. It should hold true that six new Performer inductees will be named – that is what has consistently happened since the Hall was created. What will be the “wild card” is will the non-voting committees – the Ahmet Ertegun Award, the Award for Musical Excellence, and the Early Influencers – receive the same credence that they got in 2021.

Last year, those non-voting inductions accounted for more than half of the new inductees into the Rock Hall. Previously, the non-voting inductions were rotated between years, so as to give respect to those inductions. But 2021 blew that out of the water…it was a way for John Sykes (the new Chairman of the Rock Hall) to “clean the slate” (so to speak) by getting in several contentious and problematic induction issues. A band like Kraftwerk or an artist like LL Cool J, who had multiple previous nominations without induction, were able to bypass the vagaries of the Voting Membership and were inducted.

But will that hold true for 2022? I could see it going either way. For our purposes here, though (and to be able to get in as many people as possible), we are going to assume that the Hall will have the “mega-class” once again for 2022. That means we will go with six Performers inductees, three Early Influencers, three AME inductions, and a solo Ertegun honoree.

So, who is going to go in as members of the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? I have always had two lists for these types of issues – a list of who SHOULD be inducted and a list of who WILL be inducted. These two lists are extremely different, so it might be said that the “should be” list is my personal preferences, while the “will be” list is the one the Rock Hall’s Voting Membership will go towards.

Thus, without further ado, here is the list of who SHOULD BE inducted as the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

Performers

Judas Priest
Pat Benatar
Kate Bush
Rage Against the Machine
Eminem
New York Dolls

Early Influences

MC5
“Big Mama” Thornton
Dick Dale

Award for Musical Excellence

Warren Zevon
Thin Lizzy
Jimmy Buffett

Ahmet Ertegun Award

Rick Rubin, producer/label executive

The Rock Hall has been under consistent attack over the past few years for their “non-rock” inductees. Thus, I think this year they will try to lean towards the more “rock” oriented members of the nomination class. Even though Eminem will get in (he is on both the “should be” and the “will be” lists), the Voting Membership will push for more rock artists and bands like Judas Priest, Benatar, Rage, and the Dolls to get in (right now, Judas Priest is lurking behind Parton in the Fan Vote).

Taking MC5 in as an early influence for “garage rock” seems like a logical step because otherwise the band is not getting voted in. There just aren’t enough fans of that style of rock to get MC5 voted in as performers. Thornton has been overlooked for far too long for her influences on rock and roll. Finally, if you are going to have Duane Eddy in the Rock Hall, you also must have his cohort in the development of the “surf sound,” Dale, in there beside him.

Taking the trio of performers in with the Musical Excellence award – Buffett, Zevon, and Thin Lizzy – bypasses the issues that they have had in earning induction as performers. Both Buffett and Zevon have legacies and contributions far too numerous to mention here (it is arguable that, without Zevon, you do not have the “California sound” of Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, and others, while Buffett created a music genre of his own in tropical, or “trop,” rock). Thin Lizzy might be the weakest entry here, but if they are going to go in, it is going to be through a non-voting mechanism.

Rubin as an Ertegun inductee is something that would take the Rock Hall a bit of pushing to do. Rubin, as the creator and leader of Def Jam Records and the producer behind a slew of top rap acts, would not be the first choice of many in the music world. But the world of music would be lesser without his work and his influence on the industry, thus he is deserving of induction.

That gives us a list of thirteen artists, groups, and other miscellaneous entries for the SHOULD BE Class of 2022. But it is not likely to happen…not this year at least!

Now, the moment for which you’ve been waiting! Here are the people who WILL BE inducted in May as the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

Performers

Eminem
Dolly Parton
Eurythmics
Pat Benatar
Judas Priest
Beck

Early Influencers

MC5
New York Dolls
**WILD CARD**

Musical Excellence

A Tribe Called Quest
Thin Lizzy
**WILD CARD**

Ahmet Ertegun

Sylvia Robertson, founder of Sugar Hill Records

Eminem is a lock for induction in 2022, whether people like it or not. He has been one of the iconic figures of rap in the past 25 years, has brought attention and acclaim to his work, and has been a groundbreaker in many ways. Beck is in a comparable situation – he has been a formative figure in alternative rock, someone followed by many in that genre, and he has been an innovator in his field.

Judas Priest SHOULD already be in, but this could just as easily go to Rage Against the Machine. I am giving Priest the edge for their longevity and their body of work. And the Rock Hall still has the ringing in their ears for not inducting Benatar back in 2020; they will fix that this time around.

Much has been made about Parton’s nomination and potential induction into the Rock Hall. Whether she (or those who want to deny her history) realizes it or not, Parton has been a figurative force in the world of music, breaking ground for women in a male-dominated field (the same could be said of Benatar). If she does not go in through this manner, she could very well be one of the “wild cards” in either the Early Influencers or the Musical Excellence fields.

A Tribe Called Quest is a rap act that would probably never earn their induction through the Performers vote. Thus, it is time to nip this one quick and put them in with the Musical Excellence category. In fact, you could do this with several deserving rap acts, such as DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock, Eric B. and Rakim, and Kurtis Blow, to recognize their influences.

Robinson is a woman who took rap from the streets to the record stores in the 1970s and 1980s. Her creation of Sugarhill Records brought about The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Funky Four Plus One, icons in the world of rap (and, in the case of Grandmaster Flash, a Rock Hall inductee). The label was integral to the development of rap in the United States and Robinson should be recognized for what she did.

Finally, the reason that there are two WILD CARD choices there is for the simple fact that the Rock Hall can sometimes simply pull a rabbit out of the hat on the fans, especially with the non-voting inductees. Last year, for example, Randy Rhoads, Billy Preston, and Kraftwerk going in through the “side door” completely ambushed the fans. It is highly likely that we see something like that happen again with artists that weren’t even on the radar for this year’s inductions.

We will find out in May who will make up the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Then the debate will start on who is deserving of the honor, how the Rock Hall is a “sellout,” how the Rock Hall isn’t “rock”…you know, the regular ad nauseum criticisms that the Rock Hall receives. One thing is true, however – whoever is announced as the Class of 2022 will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this fall and take their rightful place beside the legends of rock and roll, regardless of what the critics or especially the fans think of the vote.

Picking the Winners at the 2022 Grammy Awards

It is that time of year again, one that brings with it its usual grousing and celebrations. Awards season is underway with the Oscars this last Sunday (did something happen that was noteworthy?), and it will continue with the Grammy Awards this week. The crème of the music world will arrive in Las Vegas (it was supposed to be held in Los Angeles back in February, but COVID guidelines at that time forced its move) on Sunday night, looking to celebrate the best in their industry (and hopefully not smacking the shit out of each other).

I always look forward to the Grammys, so I do not want to hear a lot of bitching about “rich, successful people patting each other on the back.” OF COURSE, it is rich, successful people patting each other on the back. These people work incredibly hard on their craft, not to mention the songwriters, producers, engineers, and other industry people who put together these musical creations for our entertainment. Why else do you think they give out MVP awards in professional sports? It is their way of honoring the best – and that is what the Grammys do.

Because my knowledge of the industry is in the rock field, I am going to concentrate on those categories first. At the end, I am going to offer my prediction for the four major awards – Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best New Artist. SPOILER ALERT!! It is going to be the same person, because…

Wait, I am getting ahead of myself. Here are my predictions for the major rock and metal awards for the Grammys 2022.

Best Rock Performance

“Shot in the Dark,” AC/DC
“Know You Better (Live from Capitol Studio A),” Black Pumas
“Nothing Compares 2 U,” Chris Cornell
“Ohms,” Deftones
“Making a Fire,” Foo Fighters

SHOULD WIN: “Ohms,” Deftones
WILL WIN: “Shot in the Dark,” AC/DC

With the passing of drummer Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters VERY recently, there is going to be a strong call for the group to be feted in some manner. Likewise, the posthumous release of cover songs by Cornell, the former singer for Soundgarden and Audioslave who committed suicide in 2017, is sure to draw some support. “Ohms,” however, was a magnum opus from Deftones and it should win…but it won’t.

That honor is going to go to AC/DC, who has been around now for 50 years and have only once taken home the trophy (for a rather subpar “War Machine” in 2009 for Best Hard Rock Performance). “Shot in the Dark” was an outstanding comeback for the group and it gives the voters in the Recording Academy an opportunity to say “Hey, we’re hip with the hard rock!” I’ll leave out my healthy does of sarcasm on this one!

Best Rock Song

“All My Favorite Songs,” Rivers Cuomo, Ashley Gorley, Ben Johnson and Ilsey Juber, songwriters (Weezer)
“The Bandit,” Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill and Nathan Followill, songwriters (Kings of Leon)
“Distance,” Wolfgang Van Halen, songwriter (Mammoth WVH)
“Find My Way,” Paul McCartney, songwriter (Paul McCartney)
“Waiting on a War,” Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Rami Jaffee, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear, songwriters (Foo Fighters)

SHOULD WIN: “Distance”
WILL WIN: “Find My Way”

“Waiting on a War” wasn’t even the best song on Foo Fighters’ “Medicine at Midnight,” so we cannot consider it here. Weezer and Kings of Leon are not going to get the award. It should go to Wolfgang Van Halen for the outstanding ode to his father, the late guitar wizard Eddie Van Halen, from Mammoth WVH’s debut record. It was a masterful piece of work that should be recognized (even though I think “Don’t Back Down” was a better song).

The rule with the Recording Academy is “if you can honor a Beatle, you do it.” And that’s why McCartney will win this award. It was not because it was a great song, it was not because “McCartney III” was a great album. It is simply because McCartney is, well, McCartney. I would love to be proven wrong, however.

Best Rock Album

“Power Up,” AC/DC
“Capitol Cuts – Live from Studio A,” Black Pumas
“No One Sings Like You Anymore Vol. 1,” Chris Cornell
“Medicine at Midnight,” Foo Fighters
“McCartney III,” Paul McCartney

SHOULD WIN: “Power Up”
WILL WIN: “McCartney III”

See above. While I personally believe that “Power Up” was the best record AC/DC has released in some time (arguably since “The Razor’s Edge”), this is where Foo Fighters would be best considered. “Medicine at Midnight” was a complete record, front to back, and this might be where they will slip in.

Unfortunately, McCartney is there too…

Best Metal Performance

“Genesis,” Deftones
“The Alien,” Dream Theater
“Amazonia,” Gojira
“Pushing the Tides,” Mastodon
“The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition),” Rob Zombie

SHOULD WIN: “Amazonia”
WILL WIN: “Genesis”

The category is Best METAL Performance and, as such, the only qualifier in these five songs would be Gojira. Gojira was nominated twice in 2017 for Best Metal Performance and Best Metal Album (not awarded any more), and they are more than deserving of recognition for their work. I would like to see Dream Theater or Mastodon get some respect, too, but they may be too much on the peripheral of some voters for consideration.

This one will probably be a makeup call for Deftones not winning in the Best Rock Performance category. Although I have always considered Deftones more on the alternative edge, Grammy voters are not known for their knowledge of musical genre (remember, these voters once “honored” Jethro Tull over Metallica for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance). Thus, this is the place where Deftones will probably be receiving their award.

Now, as to the Big Four…

Last year, it was a bit of a surprise. For the first time in 40 years, the Big Four awards – Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Best New Artist – were all taken home by the same artist, Billie Eilish. The last time that it occurred was in 1981, when Christopher Cross walked away with a truckload of Grammys for his song “Sailing,” and proceeded to be crushed by the MTV steamroller when it debuted in August of that year.

We’re not going to have to wait as long this time for it to happen. Olivia Rodrigo and “Driver’s License” was a MONSTER through the year, and the album it came from, “Sour,” provided a plethora of top hits. You might be able to question Rodrigo on her propensity for “borrowing” sounds from other artists (Taylor Swift, Hayley Williams of Paramore and Courtney Love of Hole is just a small list), but she has been able to concoct a debut CD that blew up the charts.

If you want to look beyond Rodrigo, there are two choices that are very apparent. The collaboration of Lady Gaga and the legendary Tony Bennett on their CD “Love for Sale” would be good candidates in the Record and Album categories as a sentimental “lifetime achievement” statement for Bennett. Meanwhile, Lil’ Nas X might make a run at a trio of awards (Record, Album, and Song of the Year) with “Montero.”

Unfortunately, a couple of the big favorites pre-Grammys are going to be overlooked. Jon Batiste and H.E.R. both received numerous nominations (eleven for Batiste, eight for H.E.R.), but I do not believe that either will crack through in the Big Four categories (they aren’t eligible for Best New Artist). This is unfortunate as both Batiste and H.E.R. have demonstrated their virtuosity as musicians and should be recognized for their outstanding work.

Set your DVR now if you do not plan on watching the 2022 Grammy Awards live – it is Sunday night at 8PM (EDT), airing on CBS. Musical performances lined up include Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak), Batiste, Eilish, H.E.R., Lil’ Nas X, Rodrigo, Chris Stapleton, John Legend, and Carrie Underwood (Foo Fighters were scheduled to be on the bill, but the death of Hawkins – which will have a “tribute segment” during the ceremonies, according to producers – has caused the band to withdraw). It should be a helluva show!

Ranking the Nominees for the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

It has been nearly two weeks since the Rock Hall Nominating Committee, under the auspices of Jon Landau, Tom Morello, Questlove and twenty-some odd other people, released the names of the artists and bands that are nominated for this year’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Class. It is arguably the best class that the Nomination Committee has produced in ages, giving the Voting Committee several differing artist and groups to consider for their place in the pantheon of rock and roll. In fact, it is going to be extremely difficult for the voters to pick only five choices for their ballots (traditionally the Voting Committee members are limited to only five votes).

Before we get into ranking the nominees for the Class of 2022, we have got to set one thing in stone. This is the ROCK & ROLL Hall of Fame, not the “Rock Hall of Fame.” Rock and roll is the overarching musical styling that has been popular since the 1950s, incorporating all forms of music including rock, jazz, country, folk, blues, electronica, funk, R&B, soul…I could go on all day listing the ingredients to the rock and roll gumbo, but we would never get to the actual point. “Rock music,” in fact, is only but a SMALL PART of what “rock and roll is.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was not created to be the personal jukebox of anyone. It is there for several purposes, none of them someone’s own personal glory. One of them is to honor those that have truly innovated in the world of rock and roll, those who had a massive impact on the music and society. Another purpose is to serve as a repository for the historical recording of these artists and the incredible music that they have done. The final, and arguably the most important part, is to serve as an area where this history can serve as a learning mechanism for those who come after us.

It is not about ticket sales. It is not about a great concert tour. It is not about being shit hot for three or four years. You have to have made your impact on rock and roll for a lifetime, not a flash in the pan. That is why many acts that people scream about have NEVER been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and, in all actuality, probably never will.

On that note, let us take a look, in reverse order, at the nominees for the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This is going to be one of those things that, even if you are the worst, you are still in a rarefied air of a nominee, at the minimum.

17. Dionne Warwick – Back for another run at induction and, just like last year, I’ve got to wonder why. Is this like the brothers in Trading Places, wagering on whether they can make a bum into a Wall Street fat cat and betting each other a dollar on the outcome? I could imagine Tommy Mottola and David Geffen making this bet with each other, with one advocating for Warwick and the other against.

Look, Warwick is a pleasant voice. She has had an extensive career. But there are several downsides to her even being considered. She does not even have the best voice in her own family – that would go to Whitney Houston, hands down, and Sissy would even give a run. Another fact is that, on her popular tunes, she was not even top billing – on “That’s What Friends Are For,” she tagged on the coattails of Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight. No, Warwick is not deserving of induction and, since someone has to take the bottom rung of the ladder, this seems like a good place to start.

16. Carly Simon – After Carole King’s induction last year, Simon has become the cause celebre of many in the music world. This is Simon’s first nomination for induction and, on the surface, she would appear to be worthy of being higher on the list (writing and performing the classic “You’re So Vain” will do that for you). But if you look deeper, you will see the score isn’t quite as high as many think it should be.

Simon’s timeframe of success was actually shorter than you would expect for a vocalist. She was only truly successful from 1972-1978, and when the songs she performed were hits, they sometimes were not even her own creation (“Nobody Does it Better,” arguably her most noted hit outside of “Vain,” was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager). Simon’s career is a case of one of those sayings that I often use – it is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, not the Rock & Roll Hall of Pretty Good.

15. Lionel Ritchie – I put Ritchie this low because he is not being inducted in the right manner. Yes, his solo career in the 1980s was quite good, one of the biggest pop stars of the era. But it is the complete and utter disregard of his early career’s work – and what he should be nominated for – that is my cause of disagreement.

Ritchie should have been nominated with The Commodores, the R&B/funk act that were one of the groundbreakers in the world of music during the 1970s. There are a few others that fall in this category – Parliament/Funkadelic is already in, while Kool & The Gang and the Ohio Players should be considered (and there is always the argument for Rufus and Chaka Khan) – and to bypass The Commodores and just put Ritchie in on his own completely overlooks this group that put him on the map. It is an error that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame makes FAR too often, not looking at the linear time of history, and one that should be rectified with the organization.

14. Beck – This is NOT an indictment of the talent, innovation and creativity of the artist known as Beck. It is more of a statement about the quality of the nomination class overall. SOMEBODY has to take the lower edges of the rankings and it sometimes comes down to individual preferences.

Beck has been one of the most creative artists of the 90s, but he always seems like he DOESN’T want the respect of anyone. If critics start to like him too much, he goes poppy. If he gets too popular, he breaks from his fans with a critically acclaimed effort. This constant zigzag of a career will allow you to make some really groundbreaking music, but it does not exactly endear you to anyone.

13. Devo – I can hear some wailing over this one right now. Devo has long been overlooked as one of the bands at the forefront of the synth rock/electronica era, serving as an influence on many who came after them in the 1980s and 90s. You could probably lay the inductions of The Cure and Nine Inch Nails on the mantle of Devo breaking the barriers.

Their minimalist stylings and quirky stage shows made the name of Devo in the late 70s/early 80s. But they were not really able to sustain that effort for an extended period. Mark Mothersbaugh, the founder and chief creator of Devo’s sound and vision, moved on to doing movie and television soundtracks, which might be where many know him best. I could see them being inducted if the ceremonies this year were held in Cleveland; as it is in Los Angeles, I think the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame might hold them off for a couple more years.

12. A Tribe Called Quest – I am going to be honest about this one from the start. My knowledge of rap is not outstanding, but I have heard of and recognize how influential the work of ATCQ has been. Because of my lack of knowledge, however, I cannot rank them any higher, especially with the talent that I believe is ahead of them.

The band incorporated different musical stylings into their rap product, with jazz and alternative music influences showing up in their tunes. They also took a different lyrical approach with some very astute commentary on inner city life and other social issues. Overall, they were a tremendously smart rap band and one that is deserving of a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – just not this year (or at least by the voting method).

11. Fela Kuti – There were a whole bunch of people who said “who?” when Kuti was nominated in 2021. He has long been advocated for induction by Nomination Committee member Questlove and I am sure that Questlove does not get people nominated to not take them all the way to induction. Kuti is one of the people on the list of nominees who could very well take the Early Influence route to induction, especially if it does not look like he will be voted in.

You can hear the Afrobeat stylings that Kuti originated in many performers that have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. David Byrne of Talking Heads has called Kuti an influence on his musical stylings, and Peter Gabriel falls in that camp also. Is this advocacy enough to get Kuti over the hump? That is definitely a question that needs to be answered.

10. MC5 – Garage rock is one of the genres that you can certainly say has been shorted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. MC5 is arguably one of the originals in that genre, along with some of the tunes from The Who and The Kinks, two of the British purveyors of what might be called “garage rock.” Mixing up surf stylings with their native Detroit R&B sound (and a heaping helping of political commentary), MC5 certainly set themselves apart from the pack in the 60s.

MC5, unfortunately, burned out rather quickly. They only got three albums under their belt in a brief three-year career and they’re basically known for one song – “Kick Out the Jams.” This seems more like a worthy entry for the Singles category (after not nominating any songs in 2021) rather than a full-fledged induction of the group.

9. Dolly Parton – What’s that? More screaming from the readers? This is why I made the statement I did at the start of our trek in this essay. Country music is an important part of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. To be honest, there should be more members of the country community inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – I can think of Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and even Hank Williams, Jr. and Garth Brooks as worthy of consideration.

But it should all start with inducting Dolly. She has had a monumental impact on music and her songwriting efforts are beyond compare. Her philanthropy is legendary (I wouldn’t want something like that to become a criterion for induction, but it works in Parton’s case). Considering that there are only 11 inductees from the country music realm among the 338 individuals and groups that have been previously into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I think it is time we considered some more.

8. Eminem – A first year eligible nominee, you are also going to see Eminem inducted come November. I will say this right now, he is the only lock that is in the 17 nominees for this year’s class. He has been a critical and commercial juggernaut and has helped to further music and, yes, has been the controversial figure that traditionally is needed in music – what is more “rock and roll” than that?

So, you might ask…why is he rated so low? It is something that also applies to several others on this list. The overall excellence of the roster is going to push some artists/groups down the ladder. I get that some may have Marshall Mathers up higher than this, and I respect that. It is a situation where I felt the artists/groups ahead of Eminem were more deserving.

7. New York Dolls – Another one of those long-overlooked acts that should have been inducted many years ago. This is something else that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has become famous for – bypassing the forebears of a musical styling while inducting those that come after the fact. Don’t hold your breath on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame changing this any time soon, either.

The Dolls were the forerunners of the glam rock/punk movement in the U. S., much like T. Rex pushed the genre in the U. K. The downside once again is a lack of longevity, something the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voters like to take under consideration. But give kudos where they are due – New York Dolls are more than deserving of entry.

6. Rage Against the Machine – The four-time nominated band out of Los Angeles would seem to be a lock for induction. They said that back when they were first nominated in 2018…and in 2019…and in 2021. What could be holding RATM out? Could it be the fact of Morello’s involvement in the Nomination process? If so, that is a pretty shitty reason.

Combining the stylings of rap and rock into a potent and explosive brand of rock and roll, Rage Against the Machine pointed out the hypocrisies they saw in the world, whether it is the financial system or politics as a whole. These ideas don’t come from the void – Morello is a Harvard educated political science graduate, and he is well versed in pretty much every area that the band offers commentary. They might be denied entry is because of that dreaded “lack of longevity” – four albums in eight years before they broke up – but they burned bright when the fire was on.

5. Kate Bush – I have often said that, if the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame were located in London rather than Cleveland, it would look tremendously different. There would be many artists that would be inducted if it were in England that cannot seem to crack through the wall here in the States. Bush would be one of these artists.

With her ethereal voice and offbeat musical styling, Bush has set her own course throughout her entire career. She worked with David Gilmour and Peter Gabriel before striking out on her own and her music has incorporated literary classics into a perfect setting (“Wuthering Heights”). Bush should be inducted, sooner rather than later, to pay tribute to her outstanding body of work.

4. Eurythmics – You might put this band down lower, but the reason I hold them in the regard that I do is that they were at the forefront of a musical revolution. They not only added to the “MTV Generation” of rock and roll, Eurythmics also benefitted greatly from that exposure. Along the way, they touched on every form of music and did so outstandingly.

Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart had their hands in electronica, synth rock, R&B, soul, ballads, even just plain ol’ rock and roll, and they excelled in every area. Stewart’s mastery in the studio was overshadowed by Lennox’s simply mesmerizing vocal abilities, but one would not have been as great a success if they hadn’t joined with the other (at least in the early 80s). You might suggest that Lennox get a solo induction, but the way she should enter the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is with Stewart and for their work in Eurythmics.

3. Duran Duran – Another beneficiary of the “MTV Generation,” it is hard to believe that this is the first nomination for Duran Duran to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Why? Well, from what many have said, their “pretty boy” looks were held against them. Furthermore, they were not looked at as “serious” musicians, despite the fact that the band were true musicians and not a “front” group for session acts.

The musical styling of Duran Duran was diverse also. They could hit you with a great rock song, then come with a ballad, then deliver the pop side of the equation. The one constant was that they did it all excellently. And let us not forget the standard they set with their video work – the Rio album alone, and the videos done for that disc, should be enough to punch the ticket to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

2. Judas Priest – If you look up “oversight” in the dictionary, you will find a picture of Judas Priest. They have been eligible for the Hall since 1999 and, in the time since then, have only earned TWO nominations, in 2018 and 2020. This third nomination should be their last, concluded with their induction.

Heavy metal would not be what it is today without the input of Judas Priest. From the “chains and leather” look to the driving, unruly sound of the dual guitar attack of Glenn Tipton and KK Dowling, it could only be topped with the operatic wail of Rob Halford to truly take it to the stratosphere. I would list the songs that would qualify them for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but we’d be here for hours if I did.

1. Pat Benatar – Benatar should really be a lA to Priest’s 1B, because both acts have been abused by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame oversight in ignoring their contributions. If the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is serious about inducting more women into its entourage, then why haven’t you already put in THE predominant woman rock star of the 1980s? If you talked about rock in the 80s, the conversation started with Benatar, and it finished there.

If there was one thing that is keeping her out, it would be a “conspiracy theory” that I’ve heard. Benatar, despite her greatness, might be holding out for having her husband/guitarist Neil Giraldo inducted alongside her. To put it bluntly, she might not take the induction if he is not inducted with her. I certainly hope that I am wrong in this case because, if it is true, it seems to be a rather silly reason (on both sides) to not induct such a legend.

This is the “best to worst” rankings of the nominees for the Class of 2022 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It is in NO WAY what I think is going to happen when the inductions actually come down, however! The issue is that I have “my list” of who I would like to induct, and then there’s the “reality check” of those who actually will be inducted. We will get to that another time, probably before the announcement in May of the Class of 2022, but we’ve got enough meat to chew on here for discussion for quite some time!

Stocking Stuffers – The Best CDs of 2021

It is that time of year again – the air is crisp with a chill, people are out buying their Christmas trees, and, for my Jewish friends, their menorah is lit a little early (Happy Hanukkah, guys and girls!). One thing that everyone is looking for, however, is ideas for presents. I have come up with a list that, just as a coincidence, also happens to be my picks for some of the best CDs that were released in the past year. There is something here for everyone, so take a look at the roster of albums I’ve selected and perhaps you’ll be able to take someone’s name off your list!

(As an aside, I DO NOT receive any money for these selections, even though you will find a link to how to purchase these items – these are truly some of the CDs that I have enjoyed over the year and think very highly of them.)

Let us get it started, shall we?

Up first we have a brand-new band that hit the scene like a hurricane in 2021 (no insult to Nita “Hurricane” Strauss intended!). Plush is a band that came together rather quickly in 2021, with all four of its members UNDER the age of 21 – that’s right, they cannot legally drink when they are out on tour! Singer/guitarist Moriah Formica, lead guitarist Bella Peron, bassist Ashley Suppa and drummer Brooke Colucci blew people away with their first song “Hate,” and followed it up in October with their self-titled debut CD.

This CD rocks from start to finish, but I came to a discovery. While listening to the song “Athena,” it finally hit me who Formica reminds me of as a vocalist. She is quite comparable in style, quality and strength to Ann Wilson of Heart. Add in the virtuosity of Peron, Suppa and Colucci on their respective instruments and they offer us a relived glimpse into the future of what rock music might look like. Plush just finished an opening tour set with Lzzy Hale and Halestorm and Amy Lee and Evanescence – if you are opening for bands like that, they also think you have got some talent!

I will be honest on this one…I was not initially sold on Wolfgang Van Halen, the only son of the late Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli. His work with his father and uncle Alex in the revamped Van Halen really did not show much of what he could do, thus I was skeptical when I heard he was coming out with his debut CD following the passing of his dad in late 2020. Let it be said now that I have been converted.

Mammoth WVH (Mammoth was the original name of Van Halen that Wolfgang asked if he could use for his group) was completely the work of the younger Van Halen, who played EVERY instrument on the record. Over six years, he slaved over the album and the time taken was well worth it. The self-titled debut is a perfect record, from the strains of “Don’t Back Down” to the tune that Wolfgang wrote for his father, “Distance.” The ONLY issue I can see is that this record sets the bar EXTREMELY high for Wolfgang when he comes down to doing the follow-up.

This list is not all about established artists. Through my work, I have been exposed to some independent artists that are putting their blood, sweat and tears into their music and trying to work their way up to multi-platinum albums and stadium shows. One of those groups that I have found is Austin, TX’s The Metal Byrds, who put out arguably their best effort in their fourth career album, naturally titled 4.

Vocalist Suzanne Birdie and guitarist Sly Rye both carry full time jobs (Rye is a first responder, Birdie works with an airline) while they pursue their dreams of musical glory. They write about many different issues on 4, from paying tribute to a young fan on “Spitfire Pete” to enjoying their time away from their “day jobs” with “Life of the Party.” The download can be found on Bandcamp (a GREAT place to find lots of new music), where you can also pick up some of the other music from The Metal Byrds. These guys deserve to get that major label deal – they have the talent, they’ve got the drive, and they’ve got the substance from their catalog.

Up next might be a surprising choice from me, at least to those that know me. During the pandemic shutdown, Americana legend Lucinda Williams did shows called “Lu’s Jukebox” where she performed music that has shaped her musical stylings. Those pandemic recordings have become a six-part series of CDs, with five of them already out and the sixth, a tribute to The Rolling Stones, coming out in 2022.

Of the efforts, my personal favorite has been Williams’ tribute album to the late Tom Petty. Running Down a Dream: A Tribute to Tom Petty took Williams a bit outside her comfort zone, especially when attacking such rock classics as Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and “You Wreck Me.” But she did an outstanding job throughout the album, which was the first one released of the series. You would be well advised to pick up ALL of the CDs, but especially Williams’ tribute to Tom Petty (in the series she also covers country music tunes and Bob Dylan).

OK, just suggested six CDs in that last segment, so I am going to name two in this one because the ladies are quite similar in their approaches. First up is the return of 90s spitfire Liz Phair, whose 2021 CD Soberish deserves a place on every “top album” list for the year. After a decade away from the game, Phair showed that she had not lost any of her prickly nature, nor her ability to craft a song. The title track in particular was outstanding, as was her ode to Lou Reed, “Hey Lou.”

The tandem partner to the Phair CD would be another discovery I found during my radio work this year. Tamar Berk’s the restless dreams of youth (yes, Berk is a Rush fan!) was simply an excellent demonstration of crafting an album. With turns of phrase that remind you of Phair, Berk still makes her music her own, especially on tunes like “Socrates and Me” and “Shadow Clues.” This is an artist that deserves more attention for her efforts – get to Bandcamp and give Berk’s work some love.

As Monty Python used to say “And now for something completely different…”

The band Ice Nine Kills carved a niche out in hard rock three years ago with an album called The Silver Scream. The 2018 album was Spencer Charnas and Company’s interpretations of classic horror and slasher films in a musical context. They did such an excellent job with it that it deserved its own sequel, as horror and slasher films are wont to do – hence, Welcome to Horrorwood: The Silver Scream II makes an appearance on our list.

You might think they would run out of ways to do these songs, but INK continues to produce inventive and entertaining ways to interpret these compositions. On The Silver Scream II, most notable are “Hip to be Scared” (an ode to the movie American Psycho), “Rainy Day” (taking on the Resident Evil franchise) and even the classic “The Shower Scene” (yes, about the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho). Can Charnas and Ice Nine Kills continue with the sequels? As they say, let’s tune in a couple of years down the road.

You cannot put together a “best of” list for 2021 without including Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters. Just when you think they are getting too old to play this game anymore, they come up with one of their best efforts in years in Medicine at Midnight. It has been a fantastic year for the band, with their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and other accolades, and the success of Midnight is well deserved.

This is another group that I found through my efforts in radio, coming out of Canada. Sumo Cyco is like No Doubt and Slipknot had a baby, and the resulting album this year, Initiation, was perfectly crafted to display the skills of the band. Such tracks as “Vertigo” and “Bystander” should have gotten much more airtime from mainstream radio – that they did not is a huge crime.

We are going to wrap this up with a couple of bluesy acts.

First up is the Jamie Porter Band, who released their latest CD MMXXI just last month. The band often gets lopped in with the NWOCR category (New Wave of Classic Rock) that is quite popular in the United Kingdom, but I think that Jamie Porter and his entourage just do some damn great blues rock. “Save Me” and “You Can’t Bring Me Down” are the best efforts off this CD, but the entirety is a joy to sit back and listen to with a drink in hand.

Finally, we have guitarist Samantha Fish, who released her newest CD Faster in the final quarter of 2021. Fish has already gained acclaim for her guitar prowess, and she is taking that talent to the next level in working with differing sounds and genres. She caught a little flak from the blues community for working with Tech 9ine on one of the best tracks on the album, “Loud,” but Fish was stubborn in her insistence on collaborating with the rapper. “All Ice No Whiskey” and “Crowd Control” further demonstrated that Fish is continuing to expand her world beyond just the blues box.

While these are the “best of,” I would be remiss if I didn’t name a few “Honorable Mentions” to the roster. Check these albums out too:

Lilith Czar, Created from Filth and Dust
Halsey, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power
Black Veil Brides, The Phantom Tomorrow
Garbage, No Gods No Masters
Chevelle, NIRATIAS

With that, go forth and do your shopping! Oh, and while you are doing that, what were some of your choices for the best albums of the year? It is always good to hear what others might think!

A Way-Too-Early Look at Who Might be Nominated for the 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Over this past weekend, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies for the Class of 2021 aired on HBO. It was a fine program, with just a few flaws (the Tina Turner tribute fell flat and Drew Barrymore’s drooling over the induction of The Go-Go’s was a bit much), and it seemed that the sellout crowd in attendance at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland had a damn good time. Even before the ceremonies had closed, however, speculation had already begun as to who will be nominated for the Class of 2022.

Considering the fact that this class will not be chosen until late January at the earliest, the speculation seems to be a bit premature. It is human nature, however, to always be looking towards the future. It is also human nature to try to “right wrongs,” as in those that had been nominated in 2021 but failed to get in. The problem with this theory is that those that have been nominated and failed to get in have a much more challenging time as their nominations (and subsequent rejections for induction) mount up – ask eleven-time nominees Chic or Rufus and Chaka Khan about multiple nominations and how that went.

But let us entertain the thought. Here are some of those that were nominated in 2021 and an honest look at their chances to come back to the ballot in 2022.

First off, we can immediately discount four of the 2021 nominees and they are all women, unfortunately. Mary J. Blige, Kate Bush, Chaka Khan and Dionne Warwick will not be back on the ballot in 2022 for a variety of reasons. For Blige, you only have to look at LL Cool J. “Ladies Love Cool James” had to be inducted by receiving the Award for Musical Excellence and he has had a career that was VASTLY superior to Blige. If there were someone who might have a chance to use the AME like that, it would be Khan, who has been nominated several times as both a solo artist and with the band Rufus. But neither of these ladies will be on the ballot come 2022.

For Bush, it is simply a matter that her incredible talents are more respected in Europe and, in particular, the United Kingdom than they are in the States. If the Rock Hall were in London, she would have been a first year eligible (FYE) induction. Alas, the Rock Hall is on the shores of Lake Erie, thus she will probably never get another chance. Warwick must have been some sort of cosmic joke to be nominated for the Rock Hall…she is not getting another chance.

Noting the longstanding prejudice of the Rock Hall against hard rock and metal, this is arguably the last time you will see Iron Maiden or Rage Against the Machine on the ballot (as you will see, though…that does not stop me from putting some harder edged bands on my choices for 2022). It seems that neither of the bands were able to garner much support for induction, so they might end up like Judas Priest, Motorhead, and Thin Lizzy, eternally on the “outside looking in” at Rock Hall membership, even though ALL of them deserve it.

That leaves three nominees from 2021 that all have a chance to be inducted – Devo, New York Dolls, and Fela Kuti.

These three are going to go in at some point in the mix. Kuti will be inducted, it is simply a question of whether he is elected as a performer or he takes the Early Influence or AME route. Devo is a selection that the Rock Hall Nominating Committee will hold in their hip pocket for an induction ceremony back in Cleveland. Inducting a band created in Akron, OH, would excite the local fans and draw a great deal of media coverage. That also goes for the Dolls, whose induction during a New York ceremony would be massive, not to mention that the Rock Hall may need another 70s relic to induct on some occasion – New York Dolls would cover both bases.

Now that we have covered the 2021 nominees and their chances at getting back on the ballot in 2022, we can move on. Here are the bands that I believe, in this way-too-early selection list, will be the nominations for the 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The ONLY guarantee for 2022 is Eminem, and he is also a shoo-in as an FYE induction. The former Marshall Mathers is recognized as one of the greatest rappers in the history of the genre and has expanded the scope of the genre into pop and rock effortlessly. The Rock Hall has recognized nine rap acts for induction, and Eminem will be the tenth to take a chair in rock’s Parthenon.

Duran Duran was one of the seminal 80s acts, and they have surprisingly NEVER been nominated for induction into the Rock Hall. That should change this year, especially with John Sykes, the new Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, now firmly in charge. Sykes made an impact with his first Rock Hall class in 2021 and now, with his history as one of the founders of MTV, will push hard for the inclusion of more of those 80s acts that have been overlooked for far too long. You could also slip Eurythmics or Joy Division/New Order into this slot.

Even though I said it would not happen, I would love to see the Rock Hall give both Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy one final shot. The Rock Hall has made some missteps over the years and, for at least the selection of Judas Priest, they could rectify it with their induction. Motorhead or Iron Maiden might be other selections if you want to have two hard rock/metal acts to choose from (but which in the past may have served as a detriment in dividing the hard rock/metal vote).

There are two acts from the 1970s that are worthy of consideration – War and the J. Geils Band. Both were outstanding acts in the 70s that garnered huge followings, and both had an impact on the development of rock in the decade. I used to be against both bands being inducted, but I took an honest look and spent some expanded time examining their resumes and…guess what? You can change your mind on some occasions!

If we are going full bore on the 80s – and start considering acts that should have been inducted over a decade ago – the place to start is with Pat Benatar. Nominated in 2019 and somehow passed over for induction, the Rock Hall is trying to make up for the lack of female inductees in the building (note the inductions of Tina Turner, Carole King, and The Go-Go’s in 2021). Personally, I think that Benatar should have been there years ago, but I think she might be the one standing in the way of an induction by insisting on being inducted with her husband, Neil Giraldo. If that is the case, that is unfortunate.

There are two men who merit consideration for induction into the Rock Hall. Sting’s solo career was so vastly different from his time with The Police that he deserves consideration for his work apart from the band. Additionally, it is time that Robert Palmer gets some kudos from the Rock Hall. He could croon a ballad with the best of them, could rock it up when he wanted to (“Bad Case of Loving You” and his work with The Power Station) and look oh, so suave as he did it (I am waiting for those fans of Phil Collinsto quit their wails of disbelief).

Now, if you want to get controversial, our final four choices would do it. Separate out the idiocy of their front man over the past decade or so and only look at the work of The Smiths. You will realize that Morrissey and Company were key to the development of alternative rock through the 80s and into the 90s. If you are going to have The Cure and Depeche Mode in the Rock Hall, then The Smiths deserve to be there, too. Additionally, Jane’s Addiction and, yes, Rage Against the Machine deserve to receive their kudos for their intricate and politically powerful work in the 90s.

Finally, if there is one rock band that is newly eligible in 2022 for induction into the Rock Hall, it would be Slipknot. The band fronted by Corey Taylor has many similarities to 2021 inductee Foo Fighters – carrying the rock and roll banner unapologetically for 25 years, sticking to their sound over the years, providing a linchpin between today’s rockers and past greats, and having an enigmatic focal point in Taylor (Dave Grohl did that for the Foos). I will say right now I do not expect them to be inducted even IF they are nominated, but who knows?

That is a total of 13 selections – but the Nomination Class is normally 15 or 16 artists and groups. I am leaving a few slots open for those “wild cards” that the Rock Hall seems to produce out of the blue (see Kuti, Fela and Warwick, Dionne from 2021). Right now, however, the only thing that is guaranteed is that Eminem will be inducted in 2022 – after that, it is a free-for-all.

Let’s Not Act Like the Tragedy in Houston is the First Time It’s Happened…

Over this last weekend, a concert in Houston ended in tragedy. At an outdoor show at Houston’s Astroworld Festival featuring rappers Drake and Travis Scott, two of the most popular performers in the world, the 85,000-person strong crowd became so enamored with the performances that they surged towards the stage. Unfortunately, the front of the stage is an unyielding barricade, resulting in eight people being immediately killed by crushing against that barrier and more than 300 were injured.

There is no doubt that this is a tragic situation. Any loss of life when people are gathered to enjoy something – whether it is a concert, a race, a festival of any sort – should not occur. But there is one thing that we should not be doing with the Houston tragedy, and that is trying to make it like it is the first time that it’s happened and that something needs to be done about it.

The list of concert tragedies is a long one and it is not limited to a particular genre of music or its fanbase. It is one borne of several different stimuli – the excitement of the fans, whether adolescents or chemically-altered adults, promoters and venues looking to maximize the revenues for the performance, and artists whose entire purpose is to entertain the audience that has gathered to see them. All one needs to do is to look back over the annals of music history to find similar issues have happened.

One of the most famous incidences that could be compared to Houston was the Cincinnati Massacre. On December 4, 1979, a throng of fans waited in the cold Ohio night for the doors to open to a concert from The Who at Riverfront Stadium. Inside, The Who did a soundcheck to prepare for the show and, spurred by hearing the guitars roar to life, the crowd in the back surged towards the door to get the best seats available – then called “festival seating,” or basically standing to watch the show. Eleven people were killed in the stampede and the promoters, scared shitless by the potential of having to cancel the show and lose a ton of money, did not inform The Who of what occurred and allowed them to take the stage for their entire show.

This isn’t just a “70s thing” or a “States of America” thing, either. On June 30, 2000, in Roskilde, Denmark, the band Pearl Jam took the stage during a major festival. The adoring crowd of Europeans rushed the stage, resulting in the crushing of nine men against the barricades encircling the stage. Pearl Jam, for their part, stopped playing as soon as they were alerted to the problems at the front of the stage and encouraged the fans to back up, but it was too late by that point for it to save those who perished.

In Rabat, Morocco, on May 23,2009, a concert was held to promote the “modern lifestyle” of the Moroccan nation. The Mawazine Festival, featuring the legendary Stevie Wonder and Kylie Minogue, was so popular that police began to close exits to try to control who could enter the festival. The fans, noticing the police closing some of the exits, panicked and the 70,000 people in attendance surged towards the exits that were still open. Eleven people, including two children, were killed in the resulting stampede, with 40 official injuries counted.

In 1991, AC/DC was struck by tragedy in, of all places, Salt Lake City, Utah. 4000 fans packed into a theater for a show from the Aussie legends flooded towards the front of the stage…three teens were crushed to death. Altamont, Woodstock ’99…they also deserve noting. But arguably the worst of all these situations came not because of crowd behavior, but because of a myriad of mistakes that were made.

On February 20, 2003, the 80s hair metal band Great White took to the stage of a small nightclub called The Station in Rhode Island. Great White was supporting arguably what was their last popular album, Desert Moon, and the promoters made sure to pack the club with adoring fans, in fact exceeding the limits that the fire marshals had placed on people being in the club. That was just the first of the problems that occurred that night.

The band used pyrotechnics for their stage show that fateful night, and it is a huge question as to whether they had permission to do this or they did it on their own (promoters blamed Great White for using the fireworks, stating they did not have permission; the band states they did). Regardless of this fact, the pyrotechnics set off caught the soundproofing materials ablaze around the stage in the dimly lit, tiny venue. The resulting fire and stampede killed 100 people and injured another 230, with another 132 people able to get out without injury.

As you can see, there is no rhyme or reason to such tragedies. But let us try to set some new rules.

First off, you cannot blame a particular genre of music nor their fandom. As we noted in recounting these cases, rock music, rap, and country (the Mandalay Bay mass shooting), it is not the music that is making people do these types of things. You also cannot blame the fans, who are all trying, through the rules that have been set at the venue they are in, to get to the best seat that is available. But there are things that can be done as far as the promoters and the venues themselves, but it is going to drive up the cost of concerts and, as a result, concert tickets.

I cannot believe I still have to say this, but there should never be another concert held that has “festival seating.” If you cannot provide seats for the fans to sit in – whether it is an indoor show or an outdoor event – then you do not need to have your concert. It is a simple act to allow people to enjoy a show without having to jostle amongst their fellow concertgoers, first off. Secondly, it makes sure that there are not huge throngs of people that can “bum rush” a stage and potentially cause the problems that occurred in Houston.

“But what about the mosh pit?” I hear many asking. To be honest, my mosh pit days ended long ago, but the mosh pit always had a “code of conduct,” surprisingly, that was adhered to. You did not “blind side” anyone, if someone fell you helped them up, and you didn’t constantly target the same person. I’m not saying that this has to end, but there has got to be some people who inform the “new generation” about the etiquette of moshing around the stage.

There has been another cry from promoters about having to put seats out for the people in attendance. “Well, the fans will use the chairs as a weapon!” If this is what is concerning you about putting seats in a field and the concertgoers then using those chairs against each other, you have bigger problems with your concert than festival seating.

If there is not “festival” or “open” seating, that takes care of many of the problems. Cutting down on alcohol sales (there are way too many miracles of modern chemistry around a concert, especially from the “older set” that wants to relive their youth), setting a MAXIMUM number of people who can be in a certain area of the concert arena or field at a given moment (or for the concert overall – outdoor shows that probably should be 50,000 people have been known to jam in another 25,000, potentially causing problems), and increasing security at these venues that are not only there to protect the artists but also the fans would be excellent additions (this is difficult because getting qualified security in the first place is extremely difficult). These changes, however, would also place a larger burden on promoters.

Already barely making a profit from these events, promoters would have to ensure that insurance (which would most likely go up) for these concerts is able to cover every potential instance. They would have to absorb the costs of more security, maybe even the extended training that they would require…these things would not be given for free. As a result, the base costs of a concert ticket, which are already high, would go even higher. And if the promoters and ticket sellers (ahem, Live Nation…your voice is necessary here too) are not making any money from the deal, then they aren’t going to put on the concerts.

The Houston tragedy could have been avoided, but it is not like it hasn’t happened before. It is going to take a concentrated effort by all parties involved to try to ensure that this does not occur again. But you know what? It will – whenever you have a massive throng of people entranced with the entertainment of their favorite bands or artists, there is always a potential for catastrophe. You can try to ensure that all your bases are covered, but there is never anything that ensures total safety in anything in life.

Billy Joel Continues to Show Why He’s the “Energizer Bunny” of Rock in Tampa Concert

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Billy Joel doesn’t give a shit. He doesn’t feel the need to record new music. He doesn’t feel the need to “impress” anyone anymore. The only thing he feels the need to do is perform, and he did his best “Energizer Bunny” routine in a sellout show at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL on February 7.

The arena was abuzz with the second stop by Joel in as many years at Amalie Arena (normally Joel will rotate between the main Tampa concert arena and Orlando’s Amway Center) and the “Piano Man” heightened the anticipation with a bit of a late start. Originally scheduled for 8PM, the show actually went off about a half-hour behind schedule. Once it began, however, Joel took the audience on a slightly longer than two-hour ride of a lifetime through his greatest hits (and some deeper cut gems).

Joel has been quite honest about his feelings regarding the current holder of the office of POTUS (and politics in general) and it was entirely predictable that, after the acquittal earlier in the week, Joel wanted to make a statement. He did just that with “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” getting asses out of the seats from the start while Joel himself grabbed a guitar and hammered out the tune rather than his normal seat behind a baby grand.

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From there, Joel took the audience on a tour of his 20 year recording history (and it is surprising that is the extent of it – from 1971’s Cold Spring Harbor to 1993’s The River of Dreams, it seems like the Joel Era went on longer than that). Along the way Joel reflected on his advancing age (“I just turned 70…FUCK, that’s old!”), the fact that he was feeling a bit under the weather (but fought through it) and kept the audience enthralled with his recollections of how some of the most memorable music in the history of rock came about.

Joel wasn’t above poking some fun at himself, either. At one point, he gave the audience the option of two songs. One was the FM-radio staple “Just the Way You Are,” while the other was the deeper cut from the same The Stranger album “Vienna.” When the crowd reaction overwhelmingly went with the deep cut, Joel seemed relieved in commenting, “I’m glad you chose that. I feel like such a hypocrite” – an unspoken nod to his multiple marriages – “when I play ‘those’ songs!”

To say that Joel is still the 1980s prime Joel would be a false statement. He’s lost just a touch off the fastball, but he is such a consummate performer that he is able to make it work. He also has surrounded himself with arguably the best “road band” that you could have, with music director/keyboardist Dave Rosenthal, guitarist Mike DelGiudice (who provided Joel with a break in performing an absolutely stunning classical vocal piece), percussionist Crystal Taliefero and saxophonist Mark Rivera (prowling the stage with his sizzling work) being the highlights of the show. But, compared to others from “his era” (including Roger Daltrey, Paul Simon and Bob Seger), Joel is taking care of his vocal instrument and can still bring it when he needs it.

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That’s a good thing because Joel is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon. He loves getting in front of fans and playing his songs (he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Mikael Wood that what he does today “isn’t touring. “Touring is when you go out and you stay out,” Joel said in that 2017 interview. “You miss your family; it goes on and on and on and on. Now I play and then I go home. It’s a pussycat schedule.”) and he enjoys not having the pressures of having to come up with new material, satisfying record companies and the fickle fates of the consuming audience. Billy Joel doesn’t give a shit about those things anymore – and his fans are the beneficiaries when he comes to town.

SET LIST

“We Didn’t Start the Fire”
“My Life”
“The Entertainer”
“Zanzibar”
“Vienna”
“Movin’ Out”
“Summer Highland Falls”
“Don’t Ask Me Why”
“The Downeaster Alexa”
“Say Goodbye to Hollywood”
“New York State of Mind”
“Modern Woman”
“She’s Always a Woman”
“Allentown”
“I Feel Fine” (Beatles cover)
“Just a Fantasy”
“Only the Good Die Young”
“The River of Dreams” (interspersed with ZZ Top’s “Tush”)
“Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”
“Piano Man”

ENCORE

“Uptown Girl”
“It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me”
“Big Shot”
“You May Be Right” (interspersed with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”)

Metallica’s James Hetfield Back in Rehab, Forcing Postponement of Tour Dates

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Unfortunately, fans of Metallica in Australia and New Zealand are going to have to put their plans on seeing the band on tour on hold for a bit.

According to reports from the band’s website, singer/guitarist James Hetfield has reentered rehab. Hetfield has long battled the demons of drug and alcohol usage and,  according to fellow band members, “had to reenter a treatment program to work on his recovery again.” The trip to rehab will postpone several dates the band had scheduled in October and November in Australia and New Zealand.

Full story here:

Metallica’s James Hetfield Back in Rehab, Forcing Postponement of Tour Dates

The Rise and Fall of Woodstock 50

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“You can’t ‘magic’ one of these into happening, and that’s what they tried to do with this.” – David Crosby, performer at the original Woodstock and scheduled to perform at Woodstock 50

It was supposed to be a celebration of one of music’s most iconic moments. It turned into one of its biggest fiascos. So what happened? Why did Woodstock 50 completely fall apart? A simple answer would be that it is 2019 and not 1969 and laws have changed since then. For a longer answer, look here:

‘It Was One Problem After Another’: How Woodstock 50 Fell Apart