The Rock & Roll Hall of Shame
There are subjects we are, as responsible adults, supposed to care about and then there are those subjects that we really do care about. Like, do you really care about the gubernatorial campaign? They're all goobers to me. But talk about rock & roll, well, that's what people really care about. There's an official Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland that's become a major tourist attraction but there are some badly needed additions to this fine edifice if it's truly to be the home of rock & roll. Sure, there are some really great performers enshrined there, but hey, what about some of the other, less celebrated rockers who should also be remembered?THE HALL OF LAME: TEEN IDLESNobody wants to even acknowledge that these bimboys with great hair sold millions of records and yes, dominated the charts for many years. Today their records sound so lame that they're hardly ever played on oldie stations, much like some weird relative you don't want to admit is part of your family. Here are just some of the inductees to the Hall of Lame:* Pat Boone: Six Number 1's and 16 Top 10 Hits* Bobby Vinton: Three Number 1's and Nine Top 10 Hits* Frankie Avalon: Two Number 1's and Six Top 10 Hits* Gary Lewis: One Number 1, Two Number 2's and Seven Top 10 Hits* Bobby Vee: One Number 1 and Six Top 10 Hits* Tommy Roe: One Number 1 and Six Top 10 Hits* Bobby Rydell: One Number 1 and Five Top 10 Hits* Fabian and Jimmy Clanton: Three Top 10 Hits eachAnd then there were the one-hit wonders like Tommy Sands ("Teen-Age Crush" / Number 2 - 1957), Ed "Kookie" Byrnes ("Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)" / Number 4 - 1959), and Robin Luke ("Susie Darlin" / Number 5 - 1958), among others too humorous to mention. Forgotten but not gone.THE HALL OF SAME: THE BEST RECORDS THEY NEVER MADEPop Music is, after all, a business, and when an artist scored with a hit, imitators came forth who often managed to sound almost exactly like the original -- almost.The Best Record the Beatles Never Made: "Lies" by the Knickerbockers / Number 20 - 1965.The Best Record Elvis Never Made: "You Don't Know What You've Got (Until You Lost It)" by Ral Donner / Number 4 - 1961.The Best Record Jan & Dean Never Made: "GTO" by Ronny & the Daytonas / Number 4 - 1964.The Best Record the Beach Boys Never Made: "Beach Baby" by First Class / Number 4 - 1974.The Best Record the Monkees Never Made: "Western Union" by the Five Americans / Number 5 - 1967.The Best Record Neil Diamond Never Made: "Nice To Be With You" by Gallery / Number 4 - 1972.The Best Record Bob Dylan Never Made: "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel / Number 6 - 1973.The Best Record the Four Seasons Never Made: "Rhapsody In The Rain" by Lou Christie / Number 16 - 1966.The Best Record the Rascals Never Made: "Expressway To Your Heart: by the Soul Survivors / Number 4 - 1967.And a very special acknowledgement of the group "America": The Best Record Neil Young Never Made: "A Horse With No Name" (Number 1 - 1972) AND The Best Record Paul Simon Never Made: "Sister Golden Hair" (Number 1 - 1975).THE HALL OF SHAME: WHEN BAD RECORDS HAPPEN TO GOOD ARTISTSIt's not news when a truly talentless performer makes a terrible record; after all, that's why they're in the Hall Of Lame, but what about when a really talented performer makes an awful record: These records belong in the Hall of Shame where the sun never shines.BJ Thomas - "Mama." This is the real mother of all bad records by good performers. It's a howler, and there's no way around it. Dreadful.Del Shannon - "Swiss Maid." This is a Roger Miller song that Del should have run-away from fast. Some of us are just not born to yodel. Execrable.The Four Seasons - "Don't Think Twice." Defines "folk shlock," a record so incredibly bad that this truly talented group issued it under the name of "Wonder Who?" but a better question is wonder why? Heinous.I could probably come up with more of these abominable recordings but I have a delicate stomach. There's just so much of this sort of crap that one can even think about before becoming ill. Let's move on, shall we?THE HALL OF NAME: MY REAL NAME IS...There should be a separate wing for artists who had hits under names other than their own, or were uncredited for work they did. Typical of this group was Bobby Bare who recorded "The All American Boy" which made it up to Number 2 in 1958. Sadly, Bare -- like the character in the song -- was drafted, and the record company sent out Bill Parsons to lipsync it. Proving there is cosmic justice, Bill Parsons was never heard of again, and Bobby Bare went on to a successful career as a country performer and entrepreneur of a Nashville shop that sells, what else, teddy bears.A special niche should be reserved here for Dean Torrence. Back in 1958 he recorded "Jenny Lee" with his buddy Jan Berry, and then was drafted. The record became a smash hit, and Arnie Ginsburg stepped in so, although the record reads "Jan & Arnie," it was really Jan & Dean. In another case of cosmic justice, Mr. Ginsburg was never heard of again.But poor Dean's troubles weren't over. It's he who sings lead on "Barbara Ann," the Number 2 single from the 1966 album Beach Boys Party! By the way, it was recorded in a studio, not at a party.And perhaps there should be a space devoted to artists who successfully recorded under a variety of names. Prominent here should be the guys who were the Jayhawks ("Stranded in the Jungle" - 1956), the Vibrations (the original "My Girl Sloopy" - 1964), and the Marathons ("Peanut Butter" - 1961). While experts insist that this same group was not the Olympics who recorded "Western Movies" in 1958, I'll go to my grave convinced they were. And speaking of "Western Movies," there's a spot reserved for it in the next hall.THE HALL OF BLAME: THE SONG IS WRONGSorry to have to break this news to you, but some of the most popular records include wrong information. As a public service, we set the record straight.WESTERN TV SHOWSIn their 1958 smash hit, "Western Movies," the Olympics (or whoever the hell they really were) sing about how the girlfriend won't pay attention to the boyfriend because she's more interested in watching television shows with a western theme like "Maverick" and "Have Gun Will Travel." OK, except the song isn't titled "Western TV Programs" its called "Western Movies" but it isn't about movies, it's about television shows. Hey, listen, this stuff bothers me.MEMPHIS CATSJohn Sebastian took the Lovin' Spoonful to the top of the charts in 1966 with his "Nashville Cats," a tribute to the music and the mothers of Nashville. In the song he sings about how as a young boy he got blasted sky high by those "yellow Sun records from Nashville," a tribute to the legendary Sun recordings of Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and other rockabilly legends. But wait a minute, Sun Records came from Memphis, 218 miles across Tennessee from Nashville. Shouldn't the record have been called "Memphis Cats"? I'm sure all the folks at Graceland, located down in Nashville, really agree with me on this one.SWIVEL YOUR HEAD AROUND, HONEYAnd let's not forget a very young Michael Jackson who closes the Jackson Five's great 1970 record "I'll Be There," with the advice to his girlfriend to "Look over your shoulders, honey." Michael, most people can only look over one shoulder at a time. The only people who can look over both their shoulders simultaneously are people possessed by the devil like in The Exorcist, who can swivel their head around. Michael, could it be, Satan?THE HALL OF DIRT: SEX AND THE SINGLE RECORDIn the early days of rock & roll, many preachers spoke about how the music teens were listening to was dirty, overtly sexual and should be banned. Junior High kids snickered over the allegedly dirty lyrics to the Kingsmen's 1964 record of "Louie, Louie" which got up to Number 2. In truth, the lyrics weren't dirty although eager kids insisted they were.However, "Quarter to Three," the smash hit by Gary "US" Bonds which made it to Number 1 in 1961, is exactly what the preachers warned us about, but nobody has revealed the sordid truth about it until this very day. In the beginning of the record, a bunch of guys are having a good time, laughing, chanting and clapping. You can very clearly hear somebody -- maybe Mr. Bonds, maybe Bob Dole, I don't know who -- saying, "Hey, hey, baby, open your legs, yeah, right now...yeah, whip it to me."Now, perhaps there's a good explanation for this, a nice wholesome family-oriented explanation for this. But if so, I don't want to know about it. Rock & roll is, after all, supposed to be dirty. It belongs in the gutter, not in some $52 million building. Is nothing sacred?