What has my life become?!?! Eight years ago, I retired from teaching, very begrudgingly, due to some stupid complications to a failed back surgery. Up to that point, I had transitioned from a high school athlete to a college student who still dabbled in sports to a medical technologist to a teacher and coach, and I was truly digging my life. I was a very fortunate person as I was following a calling into teaching and coaching when I could have been making some serious cash if I had stuck with the science world. But I felt I had to teach, and coach. And, I got to play a role, albeit a very minor role, in the lives of some terrific young people who are now great parents and people. As one of my colleagues once told me that my disappointment with this new path was that I never got to control when I bailed on the professions. There is nothing more frustrating than waking up from a dream in which you have developed a new basketball out of bounds play or a training method for a pole vaulter only to realize that you can no longer do those things. And, boy, did I ever have teaching down to a scientific art form. I was on the cusp of getting this gig mastered, only to have the rug pulled out from under me. And, I must admit, I did spend many years pissed off by the whole thing.
Then, one day, a dear friend of mine, Larry Wilson, and his former wife, Heather Gemmen, suggested that I should begin writing. Larry wrote a blog that I liked to contribute to in the comments. Since both were writers, they thought I might have some untapped talent and encouraged me to develop it. Now, I had been on the high school newspaper staff where I was constantly being told to stop editorializing in my sports articles. And, I really don’t remember how many times I was told to stop my snide sarcastic comments in those very same articles. Yet, for some reason, I was named the Sports Editor my sophomore and junior years, giving me a monthly column for all of those silly comments. And, I also got to write my first album reviews under the very original “Dr. Rock N Roll” moniker (See?!?! Juvenile!). Writing was always something of a joke to me, a subversive method to see just how far I could push the boundaries. My theme papers were mostly written to get under the skin of some of my English teachers or to humor my classmates. But, if you properly used a semi-colon and sentence and paragraph transitions, cut down on the run-on sentences and had creative moments of insight and use of metaphors, you could easily get great grades. If I had only known that you could really make a living doing this if I had properly honed my skills, I might have been writing for The National Lampoon.
Anyway, Larry suggested that I write about music or sports. Now, being a former coach and something of a former athlete, sports would have seemed to be a more natural place for me. But, watching sports at the time was an emotionally painful activity for me, so I went with my hobby, which had always been an emotional refuge for me. So, now, here I am writing about music as though I really know what I am talking about.
In addition to science and math, I have had a long love of history, so I began tackling rock history with great vigor in college. Originally, I did it to earn a place on a college bowl team that I ended up not trying out for. Subsequently, I have spent nearly 40 years devouring all kinds of books on rock music all the while never learning to play any instrument (Fear of failure? Probably!). Now, I have nearly a thousand vinyl albums and another thousand or so CDs, with a whole bunch of 7-, 10- and 12-inch singles and EPs. Needless to say, I have an issue, but it does give me a perspective that I now share. So, here we are.
Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally announced their inductees for the Class of 2020. In the past, they used to announce the class before Christmas, but for some reason decided to extended their inanity for another month. The whole process is wrought with problems, which is a whole other issue, but we do finally have the nominee list of 16 artists pared down to six inductees. Why six? I have NO idea. All I know is that there is a HUGE backlog of artists awaiting their moment, and no one has a plan with how to deal with it.
Anyway, the six artists being inducted are Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G. and T. Rex. At first glance, I am both satisfied and underwhelmed. First, I am satisfied that each artist deserves to be inducted. But, I am underwhelmed by the lack of female inductees and the lack of truly landmark artists. Sure, we got some musical and racial diversity, but the whole class seems a little vanilla to me. We are not getting arguably the most influential band of the past 40 years, Kraftwerk, inducted. We are not getting one of the first dominant female rock voices in all history, Pat Benatar, inducted. We are not getting one of the pioneers of punk rock, The MC5, inducted. We are not getting one of the first heirs to Aretha Franklin’s throne, Chaka Khan, inducted. We are not getting a true rock renaissance man in Todd Rundgren inducted. Hell, we are not getting two of metal’s most important cornerstones, Judas Priest and Motorhead, inducted. And, finally, the fans’ top vote-getter, Dave Matthews Band, wrongly or rightly, is not being inducted for the first time in history.
I mean, WTF!?!?!? It’s no wonder the Hall gets blasted by the critics and Hall watchers on an annual basis. And, the whole nomination and voting process is completely done in secret. At least the Baseball Hall of Fame, which has its insipid reputation, has a voting process that is somewhat open; we at least get to see some ballots and percentages are released for every player receiving a vote. But, the Rock Hall, based upon the music of the people, is done behind closed doors? What?! Is this a Russian thing? Or a Trump White House thing?
It’s okay Keller! Come down, or you will have to double up on your blood pressure meds! Deep breath! Remember: stress leads to back spasms, and God knows you don’t want those again! Be in the moment. Exhale. Deep inhale! Slow exhale. Calm. Down.
Okay, the BP is down, but I’m still pissed. Anyway, let’s take a look at the inductees.
Depeche Mode. The synth poppers who morphed into goth rockers influenced everyone from Nine Inch Nails to heavy metal icons to even having Johnny Cash cover “Personal Jesus.” I have been a huge backer of DM and am very excited for their induction. Remember, their career would not have happened if Kraftwerk weren’t around to influence them! And, they would admit it too.
The Doobie Brothers. Many people my age grew up on the Doobies. They were a great boogie band at the beginning of their career who evolved into one of the first Yacht Rock masters after some lineup changes. I do remember arguing with a high school-aged neighbor that “Long Train Running” was a better song than Seals & Crofts’ “Diamond Girl.” I was a fourth grader, so how would I have ever understood at the time what a make-out song was? Throw in “Black Water” and “What a Fool Believes” and you’ve got a pretty good case for the band without ever bringing up their stellar compilation Best of the Doobies. I am wondering if the inducted members number will rival the number inducted with Parliament/Funkadelic?
Whitney Houston. The Voice of My Generation. Next!
Nine Inch Nails. Mastermind Trent Reznor took the angst of The Cure, the Goth stylings of Depeche Mode and Siouxsie Sioux with the industrial sounds of Ministry and KMFDM to create the sound of the Nineties. NIN set the stage for Marilyn Manson and so many others. Plus, you can now hear Reznor’s influence in his thrilling soundtrack work and in that sample of his in that stupid Lil Nas X song that’s everywhere.
The Notorious B.I.G. Oh, I can hear a couple of my former athletes now filling up my inbox that Biggie and Whitney are NOT rock and roll. And, no matter how many times I try to explain that “rock and roll” and “pop” are synonymous terms, I just tell them that it’s classic rock radio’s fault for their limited definition. Anyway, Biggie’s casts a huge shadow over hip hop, and rock. Too bad that Kurtis Blow,LL Cool J, Eric B & Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Wu Tang Clan are all still on the outside.
T. Rex. I can hear it now, “What the heck is T. Rex getting into the Hall for?” C’mon now! They are a very important band in the whole Glam Rock movement of the early-Seventies, which begat that stupid Glam (or Hair) Metal movement of the Eighties. T. Rex was as important an artist in the UK as Bowie to a whole lot of musicians, from Def Leppard, the New Romantic bands to Oasis and the other Britpop artists. Sure, we Americans only know “Bang a Gong (Get It On),” but their story is so much larger.
Well, there you have it, the RRHOF Class of 2020, for better or for worse. This is what they gave us, and we’ll have to live with it for another year. And will I watch the HBO Special this spring? You bet! I’m that sucker that’s born every minute Mr. Barnum.