Monday, 26 November 2012

News, Views and Music Issue 172 (Intro)

December 5th:

Dear reader, here we are again, still crazy after all these issues. If you haven’t had a look yet then guess which album we’re reviewing this week!...
Meanwhile Cameron’s back on the war path again. Further to last week’s revelations – that plans are underway to prevent anyone appealing a Government decision, including all the awful ATOS assessments – comes the news that the Government have had the bright idea of signing jobseekers up to a new computer software that monitors what they do. Let me make this clear: Government computer systems do not work. The Coalition have nothing to gain from setting up this new system at a ridiculous cost to the taxpayer except to harass jobseekers into seeking jobs that aren’t there. Under this new system applications for each ob will be in the millions (and they were already too high in the tens of thousands) – doesn’t anyone else realise the harm this will do? Apparently not judging by the media reaction which, predictably, talks about the few pounds savings it will make from sanctioned jobseekers as opposed to thousands of pounds cost on a machine that won’t work properly (the Government have form at this kind of thing!) Not since Stalin have so many liberties been taken with democracy in the Western world in the space of one term in Government – and this in peace time with absolutely no reason for changing the system at all (compared to how in debt we were in the 1950s 70s and 80s is like comparing Steptoe and Son to Donald Trump). I guess the world is just like the F1 one – deeply unfair (Alonso the brave lion felled by Vettel the lucky bull). Even the leech Schumacher did well in his last race so there’s definitely something wrong with the world somewhere...

Moan over, we now pass you onto your normal newspaper-style news section which you can access by clicking this link. But before you go, remember – if people ask you why music is your life then reply to them that the real world is for people who can’t imagine anything better. More philosophy next week!



♫ Rolling Stones: A few words on the two Rolling Stones nights. The first part of Crossfire Hurricane was an interesting collection of early material drawn from TOTPs, Ready Steady Gos and newsreel footage that, like the ‘Early Beatles’ doc of 1982 told the story with ‘real’ footage without any hindsights added. That was all saved for the much more boring part two, which dragged like anything without Brian Jones to hold out attention and mainly repeated the Altamont story. Much more interesting were the red button interviews with three of the four band members as they are now (Charlie cried off) which was actually really sweet and had both Mick and Keef talking about their families. The BBC compilation of footage was short but sweet – I’m sure there’s lots more that could have been found over and above the 40 minutes but there were some little seen gems, including a fascinating documentary about pills from the mid 60s that used a long lost TOTP performance of ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’ as the soundtrack. The concert of the band with Muddy Waters in 1981 was, erm, interesting and nice to see, even though the band clearly haven’t bothered to actually learn any of Muddy’s songs. The best, however, was saved to last: the complete 1965 documentary ‘Charlie Is My Darling’ shown unedited at last and what a fab document of its age it is, following the band on their Irish tour. The band play two sets, both of which are interrupted by riots and the cameras are really up close, capturing the mayhem of the teenagers crushing their idols and each other while middle aged security men (and vicars for some reason) look on aghast. The scenes of the Stones backstage are revealing too, even though they’re either travelling (there’s a great scene of the band nearly getting mown down by a train as they try to escape their fans) and messing around and filling in time for the most part. Note how pally Mick and Keef are already, how thoughtful Brian is (‘The thought of growing older is incomprehensible’ he spookily adds near the end), how absent Bill Wyman is even backstage and how much of an outsider Charlie Watts tries to be, but fails, the others taking his bored looks and one-word answers as hilariously funny and Stones-like. A mixed night, then, but the last part (shown last Sunday) alone acts as a great tribute to the Stones’ character and a strong reminder of them on their 50th birthday.


ANNIVERSARIES: Birthday beneficiations to those AAA members born between November 28th and December 4th: Gilbert O’Sullivan who turns 66 on December 1st and Chris Hillman (bassist with The Byrds 1965-68) who turns 70 on December 4th. Anniversaries of events include: John Lennon’s last concert takes place – a three song cameo in the middle of a show by close friend Elton John. Lennon hadn’t been on stage for three years and only took part after Elton bet the ex-Beatle single his latest single ‘Whatever Gets You Thru The Night’ would make #1 in the American charts (November 28th 1974); Lennon is busted for possession of cannabis on the same day he and Yoko release their experimental LP ‘Two Virgins’ (November 29th 1968); The Beatles top the NME ‘favourite group’ poll for the first time – with the exception of 1966 when The Beach Boys win it, The Beatles will hold the title right up until their dissolution in 1970 (November 30th 1963); Wings release their second band single which is, incidentally, their second banned single – the controversial drug taking ode ‘Hi Hi Hi’ (most fans will probably know the B-side ‘C Moon’ better) (November 30th 1972); John Lennon and Yoko Ono release ‘Happy Xmas’ (War Is Over) on December 1st 1971, a date so close to Christmas that the single flops badly on first release before becoming a mainstay of the charts in the festive season of 1972; The Monkees score a record that has still to be broken when fourth album ‘Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones’ becomes their fourth non-compilation #1 record of 1967 (December 2nd); The Moody Blues release the last of their ‘original’ pre-split albums ‘Seventh Sojourn’ (December 2nd 1972); Members of The Who and associates are jailed overnight for causing $6000 of damage to a hotel in Montreal. John Entwistle is not amused – he slept through all the destruction and has no idea why there are policemen knocking on his door! (December 2nd 1973); Pink Floyd’s inflatable pig flying over Battersea Power Station (as seen on the front cover of the band’s 1977 LP ‘Animals’) breaks free from its moorings and disrupts airspace for a good few hours, confusing several pilots and getting the band a great deal of free publicity (December 3rd 1976) and finally, eleven audience members are killed and dozens are hurt during a rush for seats to see The Who in Cincinatti on December 3rd 1979, an event that contributes to the band’s eventual split in 1982.

Paul Simon "Still Crazy After All These Years" (1975)


“I met my old lover on the street last night, she seemed so glad to see me I just smiled, and we talked about some old times and we drank ourselves some beers, still crazy after all these years” “I sit by my window and I watch the cars, I fear I’ll do some damage one fine day, but I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers, still crazy after all these years” “In my little town I grew up believing ‘God keeps his eye on us all’, and he used to lean upon me as I pledged allegiance to the wall, lord I recall my little town” “Coming home after school, riding my bike past the gates of the factories, my mum doing the laundry, hanging our shirts in the dirty breeze” “After it rains there’s a rainbow and all of the colours are black, it’s not that the colours aren’t there, it’s just imagination they lack, everything looks the same in fact, in my little town” “In my little town I never meant nothing, I was just my father’s son, saving my money, dreaming of glory, twitching like the finger on the trigger of a gun” “The sting of reason, the splash of tears, the northern and the southern hemispheres, love emerges and it disappears, I do it for your love” “Slip out the back, Jack, make a new plan, Stan, no need to be coy, Roy, just listen to me, hop on the bus, Gus, you don’t need to discuss much, just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free” “Once in a while from out of nowhere, when you don’t expect it and you’re unprepared, somebody will come and lift you higher, and your burdens will be shared” “Some folks’ lives roll easy as a breeze, drifting through a summer night, heading for a sunny day, but most folks’ lives they stumble, lord, they fall, through no fault of their own, most folks never catch their stars” “Yesterday it was my birthday, I hung another year on the line, I should be depressed, my life’s a mess, but I’m having a good time!” “Goodbye, goodbye, I’m gone and here’s the reason why, I like to sleep with the window open and you like to keep it shut, so goodbye goodbye goodbye” “Silent eyes, no one will comfort her, Jerusalem sleeps alone, she is sorrow that burns like a flame, and she calls out my name”


Paul Simon “Still Crazy After All These Years” (1975)

Still Crazy After All These Years/My Little Town/I Do It For Your Love/50 Ways To Leave Your Lover/Night Game//Gone At Last/Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy/Have A Good Time/You’re Kind/Silent Eyes



“I met my old collection on the shelf last night, I was so happy to hear it I just smiled, and we talked about some old times when it brought a smile to my ears, still lovely after all these years”

‘Still Crazy After All These Years’ occupies an interesting place in my collection. It’s hardly the best album Paul Simon ever made – frankly there’ve been so many good ones it doesn’t even make the top half – and yet it’s one of the most important albums I own. This record has been unsung for far too many years despite being arguably the world’s first ‘middle aged’ rock album. Rock and roll was designed from the outset as a youthful genre, a generational rebellion filled with dissatisfaction from the adult world and most groups treat it as such long into their own middle age, perhaps never quite realising that they’ve grown up along with their music. As we’ve discussed before on this site, Paul Simon’s always been wise before his years, which is why he’s spent the past 20 years singing about old age and mortality on his new songs at a time when most rock and roll groups are only reluctantly accepting that they’ve reached middle age in their 60s and 70s. Paul was 33 when he made this record, but you wouldn’t know that from most of the songs which are full of regret, nostalgia and longing for times past. In short, a generation looked at this album and as one acknowledged it was time to grow up – an honourable principle which unfortunately in practice meant less sales for our 60s and 70s AAA legends still going and more sales for Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. Punk wouldn’t exist without this album and the idea that, against all the odds, the generation that set out a new manifesto at Monterey, made it a world movement at Woodstock and that had spent the past decade trying to get into power were now there as adults (with another younger, angrier generation coming up behind them, labelling the 60s youths as more adults to pass by).

Today people seem to neglect ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’, perhaps because nowadays it’s not so strange to hear a ‘rock and roller’ singing about his past and regrets about where his life might have taken him. Heck, some singer-songwriters like KT Tunstall and Alani Morisette do little else, despite being in their 20s when they made most of their records. We hear a song like the title track nowadays and it sounds perfectly natural, especially now we’ve got used to the idea of our heroes looking like the OAPS they now are (and the fact that we’re swiftly joining their ranks ourselves). But cast your mind back to 1975: there was nothing like this record around, full of bittersweet reflection and shadowy yesterdays instead of promising tomorrows and a long line of lyrics about how great it is to be young (in fact we’re only four years on from Jefferson Starship asking the adults to ‘get out of the way’ for the new generation on ‘Blows Against The Empire’). These sentiments aren’t linked to the title song either: several of the songs here deal with the ‘full course’ of a relationship, reflected on after the fact now a few years have past. There’s rarely been a better description of what it means to carry a relationship through thick and thin, past several year’s worth of obstacles than ‘I Do It For Your Love’; ‘You’re Kind’ takes the opposite tack, scratching its head over why people break up over the stupidest, smallest thing after being together for so long; Paul bemoans ‘hanging another year on the line’ on ‘Have A Good Time’; ‘Night Game’ is a baseball game where the players die of old age (I kid you not!); ‘Silent Eyes’ then rounds out the end of the album by imagining the end of mankind – and not in some hippie stop-them-before-they-drop-the-bomb-because-we-can-still-live-in-peace-for-eternity way but in a biblical, generational ending maelstrom.

There’s even a sound about this album that’s different – it sounds middle aged. The tempos are slow, the backing is more jazz lounge quintet than ‘Twist and Shout’ and frequently wanders into jazz and crooning styles, adopting a sound that – to most listeners in the 1970s – really was the sound of their parents (read that as ‘great-grandparents’ for anyone reading this under the age of 30). There’s rarely a guitar part in sight (possibly because of Paul’s ongoing problem with painful calcium deposits in his guitar strumming hand), never mind a solo and a production sheen that sounds overly glossy, like a coat of paint has been added to each of the songs to ‘touch them up’ (in the same way that only adults in the 60s, not their youngsters, cared about the wallpaper and furnishings) . Even the packaging adds to that effect, with a tinted, sepia-toned cover of Paul sitting not in some trendy beatnik basement or underground tube station (as per the first Simon and Garfunkel cover) but on the balcony of a nice middle-income apartment, his back to the tall buildings behind him at a jaunty angle as if he owned the place. There’s even a dash of ‘proper poetry’ in the back cover in the shape of a quote from a Ted Hughes poem (and, yes, it does indeed involve crows – did Ted Hughes never write about anything else?! I spent most of my first year’s creative writing class at university getting a crow named Ted Hughes into stories in revenge for having to study the flipping things on my English course! To look at this another way, this is the first album by a participator in the 1960s rebellion movement that could, conceivably, have been made without the sounds, styles and passionate ideals of the 1960s taking place at all, an obvious leap from the 40s and 50s without the sound of being fresh and innovative, without hope, without energy.

Which means that ‘Still Crazy’ is often a slog to sit through. I can’t say I often turn to Paul Simon records when I’m in need of excitement and power, but there’s usually some track that inspires me and proves that Paul can write rockers with the best of them (‘Late In The Evening’ which kick-starts the next, superior album ‘One Trick Pony’ is a case in point). You’d be hard pressed to find any sign of that on this album – even the celebrated, intricate pop song ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ only sounds like a rock song because of the fabulous drum part Steve Gadd came up with while ‘Gone At Last’ – the loudest thing here – is a gospel song, not a rock song. It’s easy to see why, influential and successful as this album was (it made #1 and - along with ‘Graceland’ - it’s the only Paul Simon solo record that ever won a Grammy award), few people copied it, because hearing all these similar songs together is hard work and makes the album sound an awful lot longer than its ungenerous 36 minute playing time (the closest AAA album to this in style is John and Yoko’s insipid ‘middle aged’ record ‘Double Fantasy’ but at least that had Yoko dabbling in new wave and dance forms to break the sound up). Indeed, its hard to imagine that only 18 months – and one album – before Paul was re-inventing the rock song with his work introducing world music to the genre at muscle shoals where, comparatively speaking, he sounded young and hopeful. By the end of the album you crave to hear something else, something completely different in style and tone – and for a writer of Paul’s high standards that’s a bad sign.

However, even though this album may not work as an ‘album’, if you take these songs individually there’s much to enjoy and there’s even a handful of songs that rank amongst Simon’s all time best work. The title track made such a splash at the time that everyone knows it (despite never being released as a single) for good reason – it humbly, mutedly sums up the hopes and fears for a generation growing older than any amount of retro rock or confessional songs could. ‘My Little Town’ – the first and most successful to date reunion for Simon and Garfunkel – is one of Paul’s most powerful songs, a prison in song where everyone is trapped and, ironically given the rest of this record, one of the best songs ever written about what it means to be young. ‘I Do It For Your Love’ is a sweet and tender love song to a partner whose moved on when the narrator hasn’t, desperately clutching at memories to make her come alive and featuring one of Paul’s simplest, most touching lyrics. Even the much maligned ‘Silent Eyes’ – the only overtly religious song the Jewish Paul Simon ever wrote – is a masterpiece of timing, its sombre mood singlehandedly sweeping away the frivolity of most of the album’s second side. Even the album’s best known song, the number one hit ‘50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ is a fun, novelty pop song (albeit one that really really doesn’t fit on this album). Swap a couple of the lesser songs (‘Have A Good Time’ and ‘You’re Kind’) for the almost-period single-only ‘Slip Sliding Away’ (backed by the hard-to-find rocker ‘Stranded In A Limousine’) and you’d have one of Paul’s strongest albums, so high is the standard across his work.

So why was Paul singing about loss and nostalgia in this period? Well, he reportedly did bump into an ‘old lover’ out on the street, just as he sings in the title track. Kathy Chitty may never have married Paul and they weren’t together that long (the pair split during the peak Simon and Garfunkel years) but nevertheless her name is well known to Paul Simon watchers. That’s her referenced in the title of ‘Kathy’s Song’, she’s the ‘Kathy’ that Paul sings ‘I’m lost!’ to on the classic S&G song ‘America’ and that’s a rare picture of her on the front cover of ‘The Paul Simon Songbook’. Paul’s earliest muse and the biggest single believer in Paul’s talent alongside Garfunkel. When Paul sings of meeting her accidentally and finding the two just ‘clicked’ he’s also singing for what might have been between the pair – if the romantic couple in ‘America’ had stayed together, dreaming of a better tomorrow (and, perhaps, of what might have happened had the hugeness of his success not scared the publicity-shy Kathy away). Paul was also in the process of breaking up with his first wife Peggy (namechecked in ‘Run That Body Down’ from his first album), with the pair officially splitting in 1975, the same year this album was released, and so perhaps inevitably was looking backwards rather than forwards in this period. Few songwriters had ever been quite as open about the subject as Paul is on this album however, referring to the relationship with a shrug of the shoulders on several tracks and creating several songs that span an ‘arc’ of the pair’s ‘love affair’ (to quote from an entirely different Paul Simon album). Several AAA musicians had split from their partners by this time, but most of them had married young and left without any long-lasting recriminations – this is, arguably, the first time an AAA star is truly pained that a relationship he thought was for life didn’t work out. As a result, the lyrics on this album are far more adult and sad than is usually the case and the split is a theme that’ll occupy Paul’s songwriting up to ‘Graceland’ and beyond, intermingled with an equally intense and fractious relationship with actress Carrie Fisher in the early 80s.

For possibly the only time on a Paul Simon record he’s overshadowed by his guests for the album. The reunion with Art Garfunkel was the talking point for most fans at the time, being the first point both men had been in the same space since their troubled break up at the tail end of 1969. Paul and Arty had always kept in touch, however, and had a keen interest in each other’s careers – this song was Paul’s idea to give Arty something ‘gritty’ to sing, something that’s ironic given that ‘Crazy’ is arguably the un-grittiest album Paul’s ever made (even his ‘new’ records made in his 70s feature more guitar and rock spirit than this one). The duo got round the idea of who could use the song by agreeing, for possibly the first time in rock history, that each singer could use the song on their own record of the time. Arty’s appeared with great fanfare as the start of side two on his 1975 work ‘Breakaway’; Paul’s was hidden away as this album’s second song – traditionally the point on a record when songwriters ‘hide’ what they consider to be their weaker songs when they think people are still listening to the opening song playing in their head). Interestingly, the song fits ‘Breakaway’ much more than it does this album (an album we’ve already reviewed – see the list below), an LP that features an impressive cornucopia of styles and a general vague theme of ‘obstacles’ towards happiness; on this album it always sounded out of place, both because its comparatively LOUD compared to the rest of the ‘Crazy’ record and because it’s a song about youth, not growing older.

A second guest is Phoebe Snow. A real up and coming gospel singer in 1975, she’s most famous now for giving up her career at the height of her popularity to look after her daughter who’d been born disabled and needed constant care (rather than bring in a nurse, Snow looked after her herself and only performed for charity events – a selfless act that brought her much respect in the industry until she dies last year, shortly after her daughter). It’s ironic, then, that Snow should suffer such misfortune so soon after singing joint lead with Paul on a duet about bad times being over. Ironically given how well he’s got into the head of so many cultures around the world, Paul’s always had a ‘sticking point’ when it comes to his beloved gospel music and to these ears has never quite successfully written well to the formula. As a result ‘Gone At Last’ is one of Paul’s weakest songs, one that plays with gospel rather than extending or fully understanding it and his vocal especially is something of a blot on his fine discography – even though Phoebe is a perfect fit for the record, her passionate spirit tearing through the holes in the song to deliver a career best performance (she ‘lives’ in this song so much more than Paul – and he wrote it!) Ironically, the song was originally meant by Paul to be a duet with another up and coming singer named Better Midler; thank goodness that never went ahead as Midler would have been even more of a misfit on this song than Simon is!

A third guest is session musician Steve Gadd. Few bands haven’t worked with Gadd at some point in their careers but few have been as close to the drummer as Paul Simon is – Gadd even stars in Paul’s ‘One Trick Pony’ film with him, stealing many scenes as the put-upon percussionist trying to reign in the antics of keyboardist Richard Tee! However his best known moment in musical history will always be that rattle of drums that kick-starts ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’, invented more or less on the spot after Paul admitted he was stuck for ideas to open the song. Clever, memorable, complicated and perfectly in keeping with the tongue-in-cheek nature of the song, it’s probably the best remembered moment on the album.

Overall then, how does ‘Still Crazy’ stand up now that it’s some 37 years old? Parts of it have aged better than others, with some tracks among the greatest things Paul has ever produced. Even the worst parts aren’t that bad – just a little shallow, really, compared to Paul’s best work and with noticeably more filler here than appeared on his first two albums (and that’s despite the ‘Paulo Simon’ record containing a three minute violin –guitar jam titled ‘Hobo’s Blues’!) What really grates is the surface sound that’s irritatingly sombre and MOR, especially for fans used to the psychedelic brilliance of ‘Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme’ or the energy found in ‘Rhymin’ Simon’ – it all comes in one colour and that colour is a muddy brown, like the sepia tinted cardboard the record came in. But it would be unfair to dismiss this album out of hand simply for that – this record is worth buying for the title track and ‘My Little Town’ alone and has several nuggets of great ideas along the way, even if you have to dig a bit harder for them than on most PS records. More than that, this album is important, a huge milestone in terms of the 60s/70s musical generation that never ever seems to get the kudos it deserves for ripping up the one great final taboo subject of the era that talked about everything openly; the idea of growing older and turning into the very same adults you’ve just spent a decade trying to overthrow. ‘Still Crazy’ is a brave, timely, impressive record that no one but Paul Simon would ever have dreamed of releasing as ‘early’ in a career as this – and yet, impressive as its greatest achievements are, there’s something about it that’s hollow compared to Paul’s other fine records of the 70s. Anyone whose ever seen a relationship fizzle out and die will still find great comfort from this record, however, which is as honest and autobiographical as they come, albeit in a more comfortable, pleasantly decorated environment Paul Simon way than a truly no-holds-barred ‘Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’ way.


Side one of the album is clearly the stronger side and there are few Paul Simon songs more polished and developed than the title track of the album. That’s interesting because Paul took longer to write this song than almost any other (he uses this song as an example of his songwriting on the Dick Cavett show in 1974 and tries to get the audience to think up ideas for the third verse – he never actually used any of Cavett’s ‘helpful’ suggestions and ended up writing a middle eight instead!) As we’ve discussed, the idea of being ‘old’ enough to meet a lover from the past in an unsatisfying present and wondering how things might have turned out is a gloriously new idea. Paul doesn’t press the point, saying how much they still love each other and all of that nonsense – her quiet smile on meeting him tells the whole story. The title phrase, which is now popular enough to be used in everyday conversation, came to Paul while in the shower trying to think up a hook line for the song and it perfectly sums up the song: slightly ragged and slightly worn by time, but acknowledging that people’s characters never truly change and the things that made you fall for someone never really die. Interestingly the second verse seeks to tell the opposite story from the first: this narrator is a loner, he hates meeting people and he ‘ain’t no fool for love songs’ which makes the bond he shared with the first love of his life all that much sweeter. The laidback melody and the jazz lounge backing (pinged synthesised keyboards and sweetener strings) suggest he isn’t all that bothered – but the middle eight, which switches unexpectedly into a minor key, suggests a different story. The narrator isn’t as confident lying awake at 4am as he pretends to be in the day and he spends his days longing my life away’, unsure how to do anything about it. This section then ends awkwardly on the line ‘it’s all gonna fade...’, as if every day spent without true love and happiness brings him a step further away from his ‘real’ self. On the surface this is a song about two lovers passing each other in the night, but at its soul its about identity and about how we can only really be our true selves with someone else who really believes in us. The last verse switches back to a major key, but it’s hardly any happier – the narrator is at the window imagining that ‘I’ll do some damage one fine day’ and clearly with suicide on his mind. Paul’s hapless narrator invokes one last thought that he might not be so alone however, turning wearily to the listener and adding how ‘his’ whole generation are going through the same thing and that ‘ I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers’. Paul hasn’t written a song about a generation since ‘America’, which was also in fact his last song about first love Kathy – it sends a shiver down your spine when you realise that he’s talking here about a generation falling down a hole, making all the mistakes they always vowed not to and that all the searching liberty-loving youngsters are turning out messed up middle aged losers like him. A brave, compelling song that ranks among Paul Simon’s finest and points towards how badly he really was affected by the break-up of his marriage to Peggy. By the way the song happened again for real when Kathy met up with Paul backstage at a S&G ‘Old Friends’ concert in 2001 for the first time in decades, discussing old times and inspiring a particularly vivid performance of this song the next night.

‘My Little Town’ continues the bleak theme even though it dates from much earlier. I’d love to know whether Paul wrote this deliberately for the reunion with Garfunkel or whether he already had the song in his pocket when the pair talked about working together again. What we do know is that this song was originally meant to appear just on Arty’s album but Paul loved the result so much the duo made a pact that they could both use the song how they wanted. This song is so different from the upbeat, hopeful pop songs Arty had been singing that it sounds a real jolt when heard in the middle of ‘Breakaway’, but it does work well as a song by two old friends remembering their childhood. The narrator of ‘Little Town’ is a teenager stuck in his hometown where nothing happens. Nobody dreams any more, everyone is stuck in their own tiny industrial world that’s covered black with more than just the soot of the factory chimneys and the boy dreams of escape, of making a ‘contribution’ rather than being seen as ‘just my father’s son’. The song shuffles forwards timidly and grows in stature bit by bit in perhaps the best example of why Paul Simon is such a great songwriter when it comes to dynamics. The song carries on steadily forward, even though it’s obvious from the slow tempo and sombre mood it would rather be anywhere than on this conveyor belt taking it forward. There are delightful dashes of colour added throughout – like the yelled chorus of ‘nothing but the dead and dying in my little town’ and the lovely rolling verse where the narrator saves his money, dreaming of glory’ and – in perhaps the best line about teenage life ever written – ‘twitching like the finger on the trigger of a fun’, ready to burst into full flower at a moment’s notice. Heard in 1975, at a time of comparative prosperity and the end of glam and beginning of disco, this song must have sounded off, with its bleak monochrome sound and its mournful piano lick. It must have sounded odd, too, to the millions of fans who’d been waiting for a follow-up to S&G’s amazing run of albums which – generally speaking – are merely thoughtful rather than bleak like this. But in 2012, with the Coalition in charge teenage unemployment at record levels and a recession on it sounds note-perfect, the soundtrack to another generation ‘twitching like the finger n the trigger of a gun’. It’s also the perfect track for the pair to sing together, remembering how life might have been had ‘Tom and Jerry’ not had a hit with ‘Hey Schoolgirl’ in 1956 and escaped the rat race so perfectly described here. The undisputed highlight of the album.

‘I Do It For Your Love’ is another heartbreaking song, with Paul remembering how he met Peggy and how perfect their live used to be. This couple used to share everything – even a cold – because everything was done for the sake of the marriage, including buttoning your lip when things go wrong. However the signs were there from the beginning (the song starts ‘we were married on a rainy day’) and even the kind gestures the narrator tries, such as buying a rug he’ll think she likes from a junk shop, are doomed to failure (the rain causes the colours to run on the way home in one of Paul’s most poetic phrases, summing up the ‘artificial’ front of the marriage as well as the rug and how even the ‘good’ things the narrator does drown in the tears of the relationship. By the end of the first verse the couple are signing divorce papers because that’s the best thing they can do for each other – they don’t hate each other; indeed, its because they still love each other they don’t want to see each other hurt. The melody to this song is gorgeous, among the best on the album, melancholic and anguished but in a muted, frustrated, confused way and with a production shine and mix that makes Paul sound like he’s singing in a fog. There’s even a delightful brass solo which really fits the song’s melancholic air and sounds like a funeral march, while Steve Gadd’s inventive struck-percussion accompaniment must surely be a reference to Brian Wilson’s similr song of loss ‘Caroline, No’, the last song on ‘Pet Sounds’. ‘The sting of reason, the splash of tears...love emerges and it disappears’ is one of Paul’s best lines hidden away right at the end of the song, but even in the midst of tears there’s hope, with the narrator imagining that love ‘emerges and it disappears’, hinting than in the future he and his beloved might still meet to ‘talk about some old times’ as he did in the first song on the album. A sensitive vocal, which would have floored lesser singers, is the icing on the cake on a gorgeous love song with a difference and easily the ‘best’ track on the album that fans might not necessarily know.

’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ is the best known song on the album – it’s still, to this day, the only #1 of Paul Simon’s solo career. Lighter than all the other songs on the album, it’s a more playful take on the same theme and treats divorce as a joke. The song famously started life when Paul was playing with his then-toddler son Harper (now a singer-songwriter in his own right) and features tight rhyming couplets based on a series of men’s names (‘Make a new plan, Stan, hop on the bus, Gus’, etc). Paul doesn’t get anywhere close to 50 names by the way (it’s actually five). The song actually starts out quite seriously however – not for the first or last time on a Paul Simon song the narrator seems to be talking to a psychiatrist who glibly mentions that there are plenty of ways to ‘leave’ if he really wants to (and – to keep with the rhyming theme of the song - Paul seems to want to use them all). We do mean ‘talking’ by the way – uniquely in Paul’s canon he speaks rather than sings the verses which gives them a casual, irreverent feel. The best part of the song is undoubtedly Steve Gadd’s fun-come-menacing drum pattern which is such an integral part of the song it surprised many when we learnt that it was added to the song late on in the sessions when Paul thought that he needed a better opening and asked Gadd if he could think of anything. Gadd arguably deserves a co-credit for creating one of the most popular elements of the song pretty much on the spot. However, fun as it is, there’s something slightly hollow about this song which always prevented it becoming one of Paul’s finest, a slight fudge in the lyrics (‘much’ and ‘Gus’ is a poor rhyme, even for a comedy lyric) and Paul is less than convincing with his sly vocal.

If ’50 Ways’ is the joker in the pack then ‘Night Game’ is the most solemn (what is the most solemn card in a deck by the way – the Queen of Spades perhaps?!) Paul has always been a big fan of baseball (its the ‘bond’ between estranged father and son in the ‘One Trick Pony film too) and it’s perhaps a surprise that he waited this long into his career before turning the sport into art. Few baseball fans probably expected a song like this one, however, especially coming after the last jokey track. ‘Night Game’ is actually about death and how everyone – even legends – have to lay down their baseball bats at some point in their lives. The pitcher ‘dies’ in the first verse – at first we think Paul means ‘he messed up’ but no, they’re burying him by the second verse. The details of what happens in the event are all recorded by the narrator, unsure which of them are relevant and which aren’t – the torn uniform lying on the ground, the team number left flying in the breeze, the sudden chill in the air. By the third verse the game is carrying on as normal, but with the team ‘three men down’ (presumably three legendary heroes, who count even though they’re too old to play) and the tarpaulin rolled over the pitch, turned black like a grave. Back in 1968 on ‘Mrs Robinson’ the player Joe Di Maggio was used as a metaphor for how a generation was disappearing and heroes were absent from America – here Paul uses the metaphor of baseball to show that death hits everyone, even heroes. The sombre and bleak lyrics are sung by a double tracked Paul barely at a whisper, while the melody is as bleak and unrelenting as the subject matter, barely there at all. A curious song, ‘Night Game’ is a strong idea that doesn’t quite come off – the images are too vague to tell a full story and the melody a little too shapeless to be memorable. However it’s still a worthy attempt at trying to do something different.

Side two starts with the only true rocker on the album in ‘Gone At Last’, a noisy gospel piece that doesn’t quite come off. After a full quarter hour of melancholy its odd to hear Paul seemingly letting loose and singing about his ‘bad luck’ turning, but his delivery sounds false and hollow when set against Phoebe Snow’s show-stealing vocal. A rollicking piano track and some more fine percussion do their best to add bounce to the song, but sadly its just not that interesting: Paul’s always a much more interesting writer when he’s talking about the bad rather than good in his life and the best part of this song is the opening verse, with Paul a weary driver on a road to nowhere covered with ice (now there’s a metaphor for you!) The narrator shrieks to the heavens about how he hopes his bad luck has ‘gone at last’, like a preacher looking for deliverance, but there’s no proof that his luck really had changed and there’s no attempt to reconcile this with a ‘higher’ entity’ as the song’s backing suggests. Paul had been trying to write a gospel song ever since ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ was ‘hijacked’ by the session musos into a full blown pop song (to my ears it still sounds better as a gospel demo sung by Paul in falsetto); sadly this song isn’t worth the wait and the fade, especially (a shrill high pitched shriek from Phoebe and pianist Richard Tee uncharacteristically losing his way, is an unusual lapse from the usually perfectionist Paul. I have to admit I actually prefer the slower, looser demo included on the CD re-issue as a bonus track, as long and slow as it is there is at least a fascinating percussion riff and the slower tempo gives the listener the feeling that the narrator is reaching to salvation from his weariness, not his certainty in something changing, making for a much more interesting song.

What a Coalition-friendly song ‘Some Folks Lives Roll Easy’ is, acknowledging how unjust the world can be sometimes. There are nasty, scheming, conniving people out there out for every penny they can get and they don’t care who they tread on to get it – and yet its the kind, gentle, helpful people who seem to suffer all kinds of disasters. It’s easy to hear Paul writing (and indeed singing) this piece after a melancholic night on the brandy, bemoaning the bad luck seemingly dispelled forever on ‘Gone At Last’ and looking for real heartfelt intervention from the Lord. Alas this strong idea for a song never really develops past the title of the song – there’s just two proper verses here and most of those discuss whether the narrator should be reaching out to God at all instead of the key theme of a better life for some compared to others. The sleepy tune also rambles rather than pounces, admittedly reflecting the sodden drunken heap of a narrator but not that interesting as Paul Simon melodies go. ‘Most folks never catch their stars’ is a good line, though and with a bit of work this song could really have been something, but then some songs they stumble, lord, and they fall – through no fault of their own.

‘Have A Good Time’ is a curious song indeed. It breaks the ultimate taboo of rock music (referring to growing older) and openly admits ‘I should be depressed – my life’s a mess’. Yet the narrator is quite genuinely upbeat and looking for good times in his life, dismissing those who (like the narrator of this album’s first three songs) are in the pit of despair. The song is slow and lazy, again, and seems to drift along rather aimlessly despite a quite noisy and unusually aggressive vocal from Paul trying to force his life into turning around. Paul even ends with possibly his only non-ambiguous sentiment about the greatness of America, blessing ‘our standard of living – let’s keep it that way’ and sounding quite genuine while singing (listen to this song back to back with, say, ‘American Tune’ and the difference is striking). Hearing someone with the depth of feeling, empathy and intelligence of Paul Simon writing ‘maybe I’m blind to the fate of mankind’ is deeply troubling too - there’s no way the person who wrote the likes of ‘The Boxer’ can ever truly switch off and have a ‘good time’, oblivious to the fate of the world (as a later PS song has it, ‘Maybe I Think Too Much...’) However, there’s a sense on this song of something not quite being right – the tension between the aggressive vocal and the laidback tune is usually a sign of something deeper lurking and the closing eccentric trumpet solo is curiously out of place, perhaps hinting at the pent up emotions of the narrator he’s been keeping hidden. A real curio this song – it’s hard to like on face value, basically telling everyone unhappy to get lost and turn a blind eye to the sins of the world, but maybe it’s a sign of how tired Paul was getting with having to come up with soul-searching weariness all the time. Even as escapism, however, this song fails, being too troubled and two-faced for us to truly believe what the narrator is saying to us.

‘You’re Kind’ is a more successful take on the same theme. Paul’s latest narrator has been deeply in love, he’s met the most wonderful girl he’s ever met and she overwhelms him with her kindness. However by the last verse they’re parting – not because he or she has changed but because the pair can’t agree on practical measures (‘I like to keep the window open and you like to keep it closed – so goodbye, goodbye goodbye’ sings Paul, in one of his career best lines. To the audience and perhaps even the narrator himself this all sounds awfully petty: if everything else is perfect then why break up over such a small point? But the real theme of the song is how love is so fragile it can break over the slightest thing and no matter how much there seems to be going for a relationship that’s no guarantee of it working. While not the best song on the album, there’s a lot going for ‘You’re Kind’; the opening rattle of percussion sounds like a rattlesnake waiting to pounce and its actually the optimism of the opening lines that takes us by surprise after hearing it for one; the sweet and lovely middle eight for another, the narrator that paranoid that he can’t except why one person whould be nice to him when everyone else in his life is so unkind. There’s another curious fade on this song too, where the horn part get their own solo and we seem to be heading for a final verse (perhaps even one of redemption with the pair getting back together after recognising their greater love for each other?) – but no, the song rambles on for 30 seconds or so for no apparent reason (it’s a good horn part, though, caught somewhere between genuine hurt and knowing sarcasm). The song rather loses something when you’ve learnt the joke and the ‘goodbye’ twist in the last verse, but it’s still a clever, impressive song.

Talking of impressive, most fans hate ‘Silent Eyes’ with a passion but it’s hard not to admire it’s icy tale of damnation and lack of any real emotion. This is a truly unique song in Paul’s canon, the only song that talks about his Jewish upbringing as anything more than a joke and seemingly telling how each of us is doomed to damnation when the end of the world arrives. The verses sound like a haiku but aren’t (each line is nine syllables long, not seven) and despite being from the wrong religion sound biblical, as an unseeing (uncaring?) God fails to intervene when his people need him most. ‘Jerusalem weeps alone’ seems to place this song in the present day, although the 1970s were a – comparatively – quite time, making the timing of this song curious (If there’d have been a Paulo Simon song like this circa ‘Graceland’ it wpould have made more sense; Israel being perhaps the most fought over country in modern times; she’s at war again as I write this and scarily close to Nostrodamus’ predictions of World War Three and the Bible Code ‘end of days’). Interestingly, I’ve just learnt researching this article that Jerusalem is twinned with New York, which might make even more sense why Paul seems so attached to it in this song. Most fans can’t make the bridge because this song throws out so many of the traditional Paul Simon elements: the religion isn’t ambiguous, the end of the world isn’t feared it’s really happening and with only a piano and drums for backing this simply doesn’t sound like a Paul Simon song. However, I’ve always been impressed by it for its sincerity and its sombre tone, Paul calling all his listeners up ‘before the eyes of God to speak of what we’ve done’. Interestingly, the only time Paul ever spoke about this song he claimed ‘it’s about the jews, but not about religion as such’ - that sounds like a contradiction but actually it isn’t; I can just imagine Paul reading about or watching a documentary about the persecution of the jews and the burning injustice of people being attacked for being different spilling over into this song. If you are a writer with as much depth and soul as Paul Simon then you can’t help but look back on the persecution of an entire people throughout history and not want to write on their behalf; being half-Jewish gave Paul a closer link to them than most, despite his ongoing 50 year discussion of religion and his doubts over who to believe. He clearly means this song too – the passion with which he flies in to the line ‘stand before the eyes of God and speak what was done’ is electrifying, an angry, demanding side to Paul’s character we’ve never heard on record before. The arrangement for this song is lovely too, the female chorus who join in on the line ‘She burns like a flame and she calls my name’ a perfect example of Paul’s attention to detail and far more impressive than the Christian ‘gospel’ choir on ‘Gone At Last’. Above all, the tune to this song is gorgeous, bleak as it is, and would have made for a lovely instrumental. Even if you can’t love this song, you have to admire it for its passion and its solemnity and it’s a great pity that, to date, Paul’s never written a song like it since.

Both sides of ‘Still Crazy’ end strangely, on the bleakest notes of any Paul Simon album. ’50 Ways’ ‘Gone At Last’ and ‘Good Time’ aside, this is easily the darkest of all of Paul’s albums. Usually I love the darkest records of my AAA artists the most: they’re the points when the songs are more personal, the choices more stark and the ephemeral have all been stripped away to leave the cold, bare truth. However ‘Still Crazy’ is only like this in lyrical terms: the arrangements to these songs are – if anything – busier than normal and suggest that Paul hadn’t quite realised the depth of what he’d written on this album and wanted to dress it up a little. It’s a shame that he did because it’s the stark and bare elements of this record that work the best: the mournful cry of ‘My Little Town’, the sighing suicidalness of ‘Still Crazy’ and ‘I Do It For Your Love’ and the pained hymn of ‘Silent Eyes’. There is much to admire on this record and like all Paul Simon records it goes without saying that its an essential purchase, but I can’t help feeling that it could have been better still, with a handful of ‘filler’ tracks removed and that awful cod jazz lounge sound kept to a minimum instead of dominating the album the way it does. I’ve always been surprised that this album still overshadows ‘One Trick Pony’ and ‘Hearts and Bones’, the best examples of Paul’s bare emotional confession side that never seem to get a mention these days (‘Rhythm Of The Saints’ is still his best work, however, with its exotic rhythms and elliptic surreal lyrics, even though its less personal than almost all the others). Perhaps this album’s greatest claim to fame, though, is that it made it fashionable to be ‘old’ (or at least middle aged) at a time when everyone thought the only decent rock music had to be made by the young; for that alone ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’ is a milestone in music that deserves it’s crown. Overall rating: ♫♫♫♫♫♫ (6/10).

Other Paul Simon (and Simon and Garfunkel) reviews you might be interested in:

'Wednesday Morning 3AM' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/news-views-and-music-issue-42-simon-and.html


'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-7-simon-and-garfunkel-parsley.html


'Bookends' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/news-views-and-music-issue-78-simon-and.html



'Paul Simon' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/news-views-and-music-issue-124-paul.html



'There Goes Rhymin' Simon' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-56-paul-simon-there-goes-rhymin.html


'One Trick Pony' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-78-paul-simon-one-trick-pony.html



'Hearts and Bones' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-85-paul-simon-hearts-and-bones.html



'Rhythm Of The Saints' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/review-94-paul-simon-rhythm-of-saints.html



'So Beautiful, Or So What?' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/news-views-and-music-issue-107-paul.html

AAA Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptence Speeches (News, Views and Music Issue 172 Top 21)


The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame has been going since 1987 and has been the cause of some highs and lows down the years for AAA men: it saw Neil Young become the first ever triple inductee of the hall of fame, saw tearful reunions of bands like The Byrds that we never expected, inspired Neil Young to work with Pearl Jam after a quick on-stage jam session and helped raise the profile of our fallen heroes and heroines like Otis Redding and Janis Joplin. Unfortunately it’s also caused huge unworkable rifts between bands like The Beatles and The Hollies and seen career suicidal acceptance speeches from the likes of the Beach Boys. Anyway here, this week, is our list of all the AAA Hall Of Fame inductees and what happened at each, in chronological order...

We’d planned this article for when the list of nominees for the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall Of fame in April have been announced, which they have been this month...and they’re terrible. Rush?! Public Enemy?!? Joan Jett?!?!? Heart?!?!?!?! And who the hell are ‘Chic’?!?!?!?!?!? Even the much missed Donna Summer is arguably only on the list because she died last year. I was really looking forward to the announcement so that I could piece this little tribute to the talented decisions made by the RARHOF over the years, but instead I’ve had to turn this piece into a harranguing match about how currently neglected AAA artists like 10cc, Cat Stevens, The Monkees, The Moody Blues The Searchers and Dire Straits could and should have made the list instead of people no one’s heard of (others like Belle and Sebastian and Oasis are too ‘young’ still to make the museum’s hall of fame as acts can only be inducted 27 years after their formation, making both bands eligible somewhere around 2021. I feel old...) Still, harangues over and done with, here’s this week’s handy guide to the rock and roll hall of famers in strict chronological order...

The Beach Boys (Inducted 1988)

Award presented by Elton John

“All of us in the room have the privilege of making music that helps or heals, to make music that makes people happier, stronger or kinder” Our first tale of RaRHOF tragedy concerns The Beach Boys, then going through the throes of a painful break-up. It was not a happy reunion. Dennis Wilson was dead five years by this time and Brian Wilson firmly under the control of his controversial counsellor-come-jailkeeper Eugene Landy. However it was singer Mike Love who caused the real upset of the occasion with his long rambling speech in which he managed to insult the organisers of the event (‘What I want to see is the whole room recognising there’s one earth here!’) and aimed a few pot-shots at other nominees including The Beatles and The Stones (‘We did about 180 performances last year _ I’d like to see the moptops match that...I’d like to see Mick Jagger get out on the stage and do ‘I Get Around’ versus ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ any day now’...He’s always been chicken shit to never get up on stage with the Beach Boys’) It was revealed in Brian’s autobiography ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice?’ that the meditation loving singer had only just returned from a month long fasting session and was feeling a bit grumpy and tired. I’ll say! That’s a shame because at the time seeing Brian back with his old colleagues (and wearing glasses on stage for the only time so far in his career) was amazing (we didn’t know about the 2012 reunion tour then!) and his speech - remembering the band’s early days, paying tribute to his brother Dennis and his debt to other RaRHOFamers is very sweet. What a pity Mike throws his cousin with a badly timed lunge at his microphone! Elton John, long an admirer of the band (and the creator of some rather odd sleevenotes for the band’s CD re-issue of ‘Carl And The Passions- So Tough’ (of all records!) gets to present the award and ends with the quip ‘I’m just glad Mike didn’t mention me!’

The Youtube link is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZSAQX2uuUY

The Beatles (Inducted 1988)

Award presented by Mick Jagger

“Why weren’t they playing ‘Octopuses’ Garden’ when we all came on?” Surely those nice moptops wouldn’t cause the same problems would they? Well, sadly the answer is yes. A longstanding court case between Paul and the other Beatles that started in 1970 had just gone into hyperdrive and Paul McCartney had elected not to turn up (because, in his eyes, the idea that the Beatles were a ‘band of brothers’ would have been ‘hypocritical’). This rather soured the event and George, Ringo and Yoko, Julian and a 12-year-old Sean (all representing John Lennon) are a bit lost what to say (even though Ringo’s rather drunken speech goes on for hours...and hours...and hours! In fact he starts up again twice in the middle of George’s speech to his colleague’s noticeable chagrin). Trust George to hit the subject head on though, saying ‘It’s unfortunate Paul’s not here...because he was the one who had the speech in his pocket!’ and adding ‘I don’t have to say much because I’m the quiet Beatle!’ Listen out too for the double dig ‘I’m sure John would have been here’ and ‘We all love John very much and (*sigh*) we all love Paul very much’. Sean steals the show from his mother and half-brother with the gag ‘I’m pretty proud to be up here today for doing nothing!’ Incidentally, Julian seems very close to Yoko here, despite what’s been said by him in interviews and by his mother Cynthia in her two books (or is that just for the cameras?!) Mick Jagger was an interesting choice to present the award given the media’s delight in creating rivalries between the Beatles and The Stones, but is actually rather generous with his introduction, noting how his band used to think they were unique until they heard about ‘some other band from Liverpool’ who were doing OK too. He also adds that George Harrison asked him backstage ‘you’re not going to say anything bad about me, are you?!’

The Youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/0rolz1VasS4 and http://youtu.be/NO-HK_csGwk


Otis Redding (Inducted 1989)

Award presented by Little Richard

“I gave Otis $50 at the Stanley Hilton Hotel and I autographed it for him...I wanted to meet him in his hotel room but he was scared to meet me by himself!” This RaRHOF induction from the following year was much more dignified, perhaps because nobody wanted to speak ill of the dead (that said, I’ve never heard anybody have a bad word against the ‘gentle giant’ of soul even when he was alive). Otis’ remaining family are there, including his widow Zelda Redding who gives a short but teary heartfelt speech, but the key figure here is 50s rock and roller Little Richard singing rock and roll ‘for the first time in 30 years’. Little Richard was a surprising influence on Otis back in the day, despite being pure rock as opposed to soul and the influence seems to have gone both ways judging by the long rambling speech which spends longer on Richard’s career than it does Otis’ (both men are from Georgia too). Much better is Richard’s inspired decision to sing several Redding classics like ‘In The Midnight Hour’ ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ ‘Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)’ and especially ‘The Dock Of The Bay’ (with added ‘whooos’!) which do the great legend proud. Most moving is Little Richard’s memory that when he heard Otis’ version of his song ‘Lucille’ on the radio ‘I thought it was me!’ Little Richard’s best compliment ‘The greatest songwriter that ever lived...and that’s even including me!’

The Youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/YUvHBirr1PI

The Rolling Stones (Inducted 1989)

Award presented by Pete Townshend

“Don’t try and grow old gracefully...it wouldn’t suit you!” Put members of two explosive bands together and you get fireworks right? Well, actually not. The only half-rift here comes in the shape of gags about the size of Bill Wyman’s book advance (unbeknownst to most people Pete was working as a ‘literary editor’ at Faber and Faber at the time!) and Ronnie Wood’s crooked teeth. Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman didn’t show but Mick Taylor made a rare appearance with the band which is rather heart-warming. Mick Jagger talks about moving the RaRHOF to Cleveland and pokes fun at old manager Allen Klein with the best gag of the night (as a ‘wing in his name will feature the best examples of re-packaging’!) Interestingly both Mick and Keith pay homage to ‘sixth Stone’ Ian Stewart (who died five years earlier) and said ‘it’s his band’ but neither mention Brian Jones. Keith spends most of his speech scratching his head while Mick Taylor only has time to talk about why Charlie and Bill aren’t there (notice the grin when he says they’ve been ‘unavoidably detained!’) As for Pete Townshend, his introduction is more about his own feelings than the Stones (‘Keith Moon once told me that I think too much...actually the truth is I just talk too much’) and he himself acknowledges that ‘I’m such a Stones fan I can’t work out what I want to say’, which shows how daft some of these rock and roll awards ceremonies are – and how Pete Townshend has the ability to talk about anything (his speech lasts 10 minutes, one of the longest introductions on this list and double the length of the Stones’ acceptance!) His memories of Brian Jones as ‘the first star who bothered to befriend me...I miss him terribly’ are one of the most moving on this list, however, the first time really we’d heard about the pair’s closeness. Watch out for Mick’s speech to Pete that ‘you’ll be in the hot shoe next year and someone will wind you up!’ Sadly that doesn’t quite happen...more on that story later

The Youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/WfFtACFYULU and http://youtu.be/k2Qlqq3GIqA

The Kinks (Inducted 1990)

Award presented by Ahmet Ertegun and Graham Nash

“They’re everything a fine band should be – they’re English, they’re really tough and musical, rebellious against the ruling class and parental constraints and most of all they’re from the street – and this is where their fans live and breathe” The Kinks should have signed with Atlantic as one of their many record labels down the years – they’re exactly the sort of wilful, eccentric but talented bands Ahmet made brought to great success and he was clearly a fan as his opening speech makes clear. He ended up in charge of Crosby, Stills and Nash instead and Nash puts in a great hilarious speech about the band where he manages to poke fun at 50s impresario Dick Clark, the audience and himself (at one point he says to the audience ‘I’ve dealt with Crosby for 20 years, I can deal with all of you!’) Nash is right about the Kinks being ‘outrageous’ too – non-fans forget how controversial this great band can be – but surprisingly their own speeches are rather subdued. Unusually for this list every single member of the original line-up took part including Ray and Dave Davies, Pete Quaife and Mick Avory, although inter-band tension is there from the first, Ray passing his brother a note and asking him ‘not to fuck up’ (causing Nash to quip from the wings ‘they’re fighting again!’) and Mick remembering how the band’s records always seemed to stick the price label over Pete’s face! Ray spends most of his speech talking about falling sales and reads out a sombre note from the band’s record label about how ‘they’re a hard band to promote and I recommend if their next single is not a success we drop the group’ before revealing that it’s an old document from 1964! (You rotter Ray!) Sweetly Ray is one of the few on this list to mention that ‘I’ve dressed up in this ridiculous garb for my fans’ and interestingly Ray spends longer talking about missing Keith Moon than his own band does! (perhaps because back in 1990 the band haven’t lost any of their own members yet!) Other best moments include Ray’s ‘Rock and roll has become respectable...what a bummer!’ and Dave’s modest comment ‘we really do deserve it!’

The Youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/h8X29_uV5-Q and http://youtu.be/o97SEYHdKnM

Simon and Garfunkel (Inducted 1990)

Award presented by James Taylor

“It’s mike height – that’s what split up this group!” Simon and Garfunkel are in a funny place in 1990. The duo last tried to get it together in 1983 and ended up further adrift than ever with an abandoned LP and a well received free concert in Central Park which found the pair arguing more than ever. The BBC has just broadcast ‘The Paul Simon Songbook’ retrospective at this point and Garfunkel is extremely critical and open throughout – in stark contrast to most other people’s rose-tinted glasses! As a result this meeting is edgy and awkward, with frequent insults throughout – intended and unintended. Art starts by thanking God for his voice (‘it’s been a lot of fun having it!’) and Paul clearly takes umbridge, starting his speech with the line ‘Arthur and I agree about almost nothing, but its true – I have enriched his life quite a bit!’, a joke that only half comes off. Simon’s speech wanders down some lovely memories of the pair’s early days making music together but soon turns nasty again (‘we had an argument and broke-up, starting a tradition that’s lasted for many years to come!’) Paul tries to steer back on track (‘we were so young we didn’t realise that was a trip of a lifetime that we were on’) and even gets a smile from Arty when talking about nicking towels from the Holiday Inn and laughing together ‘with my best friend’. However Paul can’t leave the pair’s problems alone and claims the duo had a big fight about the Vietnam War, claiming ‘one of us was for it...’ (for the record, Garfunkel wasn’t – he would never have agreed to acting ‘Catch 22’ if he believed in war) and how the pair split up over what the 12th track on ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ ( a Bach fugue or a Nixon baiting slice of rock and roll?) The pair then have an argument live on stage about what Garfunkel ‘really’ said after their Central Park gig! Hmm, leaves a bit of an unpleasant taste this reunion, even with the happy knowledge of hindsight that the pair get back together again in 2001. As for James Taylor’s introduction speech he’s horribly nervous and doesn’t look away from his cards once, despite the fact that he’s now become one of the most common speakers at the RaRHOF.

The Youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/fC3T--UfL-A

The Who (Inducted 1990)

Award presented by Bono

“The Who Sell Out – that was a joke, right?”If Keith Moon was still alive in 1990 the stage would have blown up, fireworks would have been set off in the audience and a rolls Royce would have been lodged into the entrance hall. Without him The Who’s induction was a bit quiet, even with a genuine Moon on stage (Keith’s daughter Mandy in a rare public appearance). At 4 minutes in total, the band’s combined speech is less than half the length of Pete’s induction of the Rolling Stones and both Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle get little chance to speak. As for Bono’s introduction the best he can do is laugh at the size of Pete Townshend’s nose (‘it’s essential equipment in any rock and roll band...look at Ringo, man!’) and spout some rubbish about the awful commercialism of rock and roll (yeah, because U2 never made any money did they?!) Arguably the most boring induction on this list.

The Youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/14AgJJKCKEA and http://youtu.be/vjvShLggCFE

The Byrds (Inducted 1991)

Award presented by Don Henley
This was quite an emotional night for Byrds-watchers, who had to stay up late to see the first reunion of the original band since 1972! Alas the night got more emotional in hindsight as we lost first Gene Clark and then Michael Clarke in quick succession, mere months after this event took place, making it the last time we ever saw the first line-up of this band together in public ever. The reunion almost didn’t happen too - McGuinn, Hillman and Crosby had just lost a court case to get their drummer Michael Clarke to stop using the ‘Byrds’ name in his shows and weren’t very friendly with him at the time (the whole episode seemed trivial when Clarke died shortly after his ‘victory’). The speeches are short, the performances woefully off-key and most of the band seem to have been at the drinks cabinet (well, it was the last appearance of the night that year!) but its moving all the same. Alas the full show doesn’t seem to be on Youtube – I’m sure a fellow Byrds fan has got a copy out there to share, however, so keep your eyes peeled! As for Eagle singer Don Henley, his memories about hearing The Byrds for the first time is sincere and heartfelt, serenading his 15 year old girlfriend with songs from the first Byrds album, but rather dull, delivered like a man reading out his last will and testament.

The Youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/7ioQa26gDc4 and http://youtu.be/kQOoONJ25Jc

Grateful Dead (Inducted 1994)

Award presented by Bruce Hornsby

“At the end of the five hour show Bobby Weir walked up to the microphone and said ‘we’re going to come back tomorrow night, tear up all the seats and play for free” Jerry Garcia died slightly less than a year after this ‘celebration’, which gives the whole night a rather sombre tone in hindsight. Just listen to the end where Bob Weir’s talks, apropos of nothing, about watching Count Basie perform a great show the night before his death and thinking how suitable that was as a farewell. The band then move on to a cardboard cut out of Jerry waving to the crowd...spooky! (and yet more evidence that the band ‘knew’ 1994-95 was their last year, after several ‘fan’ premonitions and warnings from on stage). Jerry couldn’t make the gig sadly but everyone else who could be is here, even little seen piano player Tom Constanten, who sadly doesn’t get a chance to speak. Ever controversial, bassist Phil Lesh dedicates his share of the award to ‘the thousands of DeadHeads who are currently serving maximum sentences’ (presumably for drugs!) As for Bruce Hornsby, the decision to cast him as the ‘nominee’ seemed weird to most people, but he was a genuine fan of the band and used to perform with them frequently in their 1990s tours (swapping keyboard duties with Vince Welnick in the six years the band carried on after Brent Mydland’s death in 1989). His speech is spot-on too, celebrating what made the band different to so many of their contemporaries: their looseness, their approach and their connection with the audience. Note: look at Paul McCartney in the audience, loudly clapping at the mention of much missed Dead keyboardist Pigpen!

The Youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/ccnKwiCVst4 and http://youtu.be/_nWQH7Zt8Hk

John Lennon (Inducted 1994)

Award presented by Paul McCartney

“Thankyou for everything you’ve done for all of us, this letter comes with love from your friend Paul. John Lennon you’ve made it, tonight you’re into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame!” The reason Macca was in the audience was so he could read out a very moving letter to his old colleague at the occasion of Lennon’s induction in the RaRHOF (suitably the first musician ever to be inducted twice). We Beatles fans all know Macca’s memories better than we know our own these days after 50 odd years of interviews and there’s nothing new here apart from the fact that it was Paul’s tape recorder John and Yoko recorded ‘Two Virgins’ on! (did he ever get it back?!) However hearing all these stories woven together, written in an open letter to John by Paul clearly choking back the tears, is hugely moving and among the best speeches Paul has ever given. As for Yoko’s acceptance speech, she’s much warmer than she was at the Beatles’ induction and is clearly moved by Paul’s letter given the smile she gives him and her comments that John ‘would have been very pleased’. This date was, of course, significant in many other ways for Beatle fans – it was backstage at this event that Yoko gave Paul a cassette recording of John singing ‘Free As A Bird’ and ‘Real Love’, along with her blessings for ‘The Threetles’ to overdub their instruments over John’s work in preparation for a single the following year...

The Youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/YDChVcLWpGc and http://youtu.be/6ie-6QtUPNQ

Janis Joplin (Inducted 1995)

Award presented by Melissa Etheridge

“Janis was the 60s – she was the style, the sound, the inspiration for men and women over the world. She wasn’t playing a character – just as when she was a rebel in Port Arthur in the 60s, she was just being herself” Melissa Etheridge might be semi-forgotten now, but in the mid 90s she was quite a controversial figure for the times, among the first female singer songwriters to openly reveal she was a lesbian. Janis would have been proud to have been admired and to have inspired such a brave figure, even though their style of singing is quite different (their laughs are pretty similar though). Alas most of her speech is more of a list of biographical facts than a heartfelt speech (and Grace Slick would have something to say about Janis being the only female rock and roll star in a sea of men!) but her use of Janis’ quotes about her idol Bessie Smith ‘showing her the air – and how to fill it’ work well as a tribute to Janis herself. Her closing marks about what Janis might be doing now (standing up for women’s rights and gay rights and recording an MTV unplugged!) and her ‘thankyous’ put it right, though, and are wonderfully put. Attending in person are Janis’ younger siblings Michael and Laura, who announce that next week ‘would have been Janis’ birthday’ (her 52nd, unbelievably) and how this is ‘a rather neat present’. Janis’ friend and early believer Bob Gordie strikes an unhappy note, though, alleging that Janis may have had a sexual encounter with record producer Ahmet Ertegun – a fact that seems unlikely on both sides and seems to get on the wrong side of the audience!

The youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/3Cx_fMeHaW4 and http://youtu.be/VJyQ-nxo-LY

Neil Young (Inducted in 1995)

Award presented by Eddie Vedder

“Things have been good for me for a long time, so for everyone who thinks I’m kind of sad – that’s bullshit, forget about it!” Neil has always traditionally hated RaRHOF-type ceremonies and most fans were horrified when Neil said yes to appearing (especially as it was just one year on from his poorly received MTV Unplugged set recorded under duress). But most fans are glad he appeared if only for one reason – Neil met Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder for the first time and ended up recording the ‘Mirror Ball’ album together as a result of this gig (Vedder revealed afterwards that he’d ‘bootlegged’ Neil’s new song ‘Act Of Love’ from the RaRHOF performance and the band started playing it themselves). Of course, Neil being Neil, he’s already got the collaboration planned in his mind even while he’s busy asking Crazy Horse to take a bow (little did they know they’re about to be sacked to make way for Pearl Jam in a few days!) Actually Vedder comes off as a bit of an idiot in his speech which barely touches on Young’s career or personality or what Young means to him personally. Neil, less than a month on from his 50th birthday, seems unusually cheerful and is the only member of this list so far who remembers to thank both his mum and the RaRHOF organisers! The most interesting point for fans is Neil’s thankyou speech to Ahmet Etergun (who seems to be cropping up frequently this issue!) for letting Neil leave for Reprise ‘because he rightly accepted that Stephen Stills and I would not be able to be solo artists on the same level!’ However the funniest moment is when Young’s manager Elliott Roberts keeps interrupting the speech with notes on who Neil should be thanking, causing Neil to quip ‘you can see he’s a manager – he’s even managing this speech!’ Incidentally, in his long list of thankyous, the only musicians Neil mentions are Crazy Horse and recently deceased Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain – neither his Buffalo Comrades nor CSNY get a look in.

The youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/cMmT6JN5Pqc

Jefferson Airplane (Inducted 1996)

Award presented by The Grateful Dead

“When they hit the groove, you danced!” If the shock of seeing two members of the Dead (Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart) looking like a pair of be-spectacled lawyers wasn’t weird enough, that’s nothing on the appearance of the band themselves who, seen together for the first time in public since 1972, seem awfully old, much older than their years. The band don’t get much time to speak – mainly because there are so many of them –(despite Grace Slick being sadly absent, as she is on all post-1989 get togethers) but their speeches are often sweet and hit the spot. Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukanen remember buying their first records, Marty Balin – dressed in a suit for possibly the first time in his life - dedicates his award to the band ‘and the San Franciscan spirit’ and Paul Kantner reads out a poem posted to him by an eight year old fan. Even Grace is present via a note read out by Paul where she remembers joining a band ‘because it was the least crowded place at a party’ and bemoaning seeing so many old men on television yet again (and this was 16 years ago...) Not the greatest of RaRHOF acceptance speeches, for sure, but it’s great to see the guys together again...

The youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/0lLi2zmZ0es and http://youtu.be/S4nxeqwJMOo

Pink Floyd (Inducted 1996)

Award presented by Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins)

“The first rule of rock and roll is if things go well take the credit – and if they go wrong then blame the record company!” Assuming that we count the formation of the Floyd as 1965 (the chronology is a little sketchy), how come it took an extra five years past the 27 year point that they were eligible to be inducted into the RaRHOF? That quibble aside, there’s not really much to mention about this induction. Only David Gilmour and Rick Wright actually play, with Nick Mason adding a short speech (the others ‘playing different tunes’ are Roger Waters who is still mad with the others at this point and Syd Barrett, who reportedly watched the event on television in stony silence). By and large the Floyd choose to sing rather than speak thankyous, making their induction one of the shortest on this list (Gilmour barely manages a ‘hello’!)Their one song ‘Wish You Were Here’ is a fine choice however – not least because Billy Corgan mentions it in his opening speech as summing up his feelings about ‘mortality’ when listening as a fan aged 14. The song is also apt for the two men who aren’t there and Rick adds a neat piano lick to the song you don’t often hear in concert, which is a neat bonus for fans. Technically this is the penultimate concert ever given under the ‘Pink Floyd’ name (to date at least) which makes it rather special – and the last won’t be until Live 8 in 2005 when Waters is, briefly, back in the band. A few more words would have been nice though guys... The surprise choice of Billy Corgan to induct the Floyd – a big name at the time, rather forgotten nowadays – is a mixed bag; he is eloquent and moving when talking about what the band mean to him but he doesn’t carry as much emotional clout as a bigger name from the industry would bring. Much more interesting all round is Pink Floyd’s entry into the UK’s rival Hall Of Fame in 2005 where they’re inducted by Pete Townshend – a much livelier, nosier affair in which Pete admits that he missed a Who gig in Morecambe in 1967 because he was so desperate to see Syd Barrett play!

The youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/EGU5bK67pJw

Buffalo Springfield (Inducted 1997)

Award presented by Tom Petty

“I am unutterably flattered and honoured to be in this company – the class of ’97 is a heck of a bunch!” Stephen Stills ended up making history when he became – to date – the only RaRHOFamer to be inducted twice in one night, with both the Springfield and CSN/Y making the 1997 list. Alas very little footage exists but what there is shows a very bouncy Stills clearly thrilled to receive the award next to a serious looking Richie Furay and Jim Messina. In keeping with the full three year history of the band, Neil Young was meant to show up, but cancelled at the last minute (‘Well Richey, looks like he did it again!’ Stills is meant to have quipped). Tom Petty, formerly a Travelling Wilbury, was a surprise choice for the induction (I’ve never heard him so much as mention the Springfield in interviews) but the band managed a fine performance of ‘For What It’s Worth’ together (with Petty’s trademark guitar lines sounding rather good) so, heck, I’ll let that pass.


Alas there is no footage of the full award but some footage of the speech is here somewhere in the middle of the video: http://youtu.be/i6iVWUUKGeY and a performance of ‘For What It’s Worth’ is here: http://rockhall.com/inductees/buffalo-springfield/video/8813/

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (Inducted 1997)

Award presented by James Taylor

“Music is magic, music bridges the gap between human beings” It really was a case of déjà vu for audience members at the RaRHOF as Stephen Stills took to the stage for the second time that night and James Taylor appeared again as a guest speaker. At least there’s more of a link between Taylor and CSN than there was with Simon and Garfunkel, with Taylor cropping up on several Crosby-Nash records in the mid 70s and vice versa. Listen out for his comment about how the night Nash first sung with Crosby and Stills in 1968 ‘the sound must have blown their minds’ and Nash’s off-stage quip ‘you got that right!’ Controversial to the last, Nash starts his speech ‘I’m a lucky man and I thank God for that – she’s doing a great job!’ before plugging those he’s ‘stood on the shoulders of’ and even thanks the Hollies adding ‘I’ll never forget them ever!’ Aah! Nash will be back with The Hollies in a couple of paragraphs’ time... A clearly emotional Crosby then takes to the stage to rap about the healing powers of music and, on near enough the 10th anniversary of his release from prison, is emotional indeed over what he put his friends and family through. Crosby doesn’t thank the Byrds but he does thank Stills and Nash with the line ‘they’ve stuck with me through thick and thin, when I was a pretty tough person to stick with, they waited, they helped, they cried sometimes, they swore at me sometimes, they’ve been my brothers all the way down the line’ which after 28 years of infighting brings a tear to many an eye. Stills then gets ribbed by Nash for having already given a speech that day and the guitarist adds that he had a six page list of thankyous that he had to cut down! Ever the salesman Nash ends with a plug for Stephen’s son Christopher’s new record! Neil Young failed to turn up at this ceremony as well as the Springfield one, missing out on the chance to be the only person in RaRHOF history to be inducted three times! Note too that Ahmet Ertegun gets yet another thankyou, making him the most references person on this list!

The Youtube clip is here: http://rockhall.com/inductees/crosby-stills-and-nash/video/8815/

Paul McCartney (Inducted 1999)

Inducted by Neil Young

“Unlike those other guys I haven’t got a speech, I’m making it up – so this should be fun!” The two most prolific AAA writers have always had a good rapport and so makes sense. Neil’s rambling speech – which finds him much more nervous than he was accepting his own award - mentions how his first lead vocal was a cover of The Beatles’ ‘It Won’t Be Long’ and how his first solo album came out the same time as Paul’s (Neil can’t remember the name of it and calls it ‘the one with Maybe I’m Amazed on it’ but he’s thinking of ‘McCartney’). If Neil is a little shy then Paul is even more exuberant than normal and is making up for having to miss out the Beatles’ acceptance event. However the emotion runs high when the great one talks about wishing wife Linda could be there (she’d died two years earlier) and brings an emotional Stella up to the stage to represent her. Macca then asks the organisers to get a move on and ‘induct George and Ringo!’ (George is inducted in five years time...we’ll get back to you about Ringo!’) and admits his love of America because without it he’s never have had Linda. There’s barely a dry eye in the house at this point. However this RARHOF will always be remembered for the t-shirt Paul’s designer daughter Stella wore at the ceremony complete with the logo ‘About Fucking Time!’ which appeared in all the media the next day!



The Youtube clip is here: http://youtu.be/W4acKG-KSTE and http://youtu.be/XgmHxU_v_34

Paul Simon (Inducted 2001)">

Award presented by Marc Anthony (Who?!)
“Paul is brilliant, witty and wise, driven first and foremost by art – and I don’t mean Garfunkel!” Ah Paul Simon – the RaRHOF will get a big name in then – perhaps a Beatle or Ray Davies or maybe even old sparring partner Art Garfunkel? Nope, they get Latin singer Marc Anthony. The audience don’t know who he is either (full brownie points to you if you know who he is without looking him up – and no the Roman Emperor doesn’t count!) and he does have a habit of simply listing song titles, but I guess it makes a kind of sense, with the RaRHOF honouring Paul’s work with ‘world’ music and the pair did work together on ‘The Capeman’ (not one of Paul’s better ideas!) The line ‘Paul – You’re the one!’ (in reference to his then current album) and ‘he’s small in height but a giant in the music business!’ are also pretty cringe-making (surely this celebratory day, of all days, Paul could go without some smart aleck joking about his height?!) Perhaps Marc had been hired by Art Garfunkel to get his own back after the jokes made at his induction?! These comments aside, Paul’s second induction apparently went a lot more smoothly than his first even though his vocal is hoarse on renditions of ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’ and ‘Graceland’ – although sadly footage of Paul’s actual speech doesn’t seem to exist (assuming he made one of course – the RaRHOF might not have let him after last time!

The Youtube clip is here: http://youtu.be/NX5hl1B_ny8 and http://youtu.be/wTCLUJ0XROk

George Harrison (Inducted 2004)

Award presented by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne

“Knowing George, he’s probably up there watching us all tonight – and right now he’s muttering ‘get on with it!” Five years earlier Paul McCartney had asked the RaRHOF to induct George and so it came to pass, though sadly it took George’s death to spur that event on. George was inducted by two fellow Travelling Wilburys who make all the right comments: George never had a manager or agent, he scored the first post solo Beatles number one in the singles and album charts, he ‘invented’ charity gigs long before Live Aid and yet for all his achievements their biggest memories of him are watching him stay up all night playing the ukulele. As Petty puts it here ‘George filled the room’ and all the comments are valid – and yet it all falls rather flat, even with Petty trying to incite the crowd into chanting ‘Hari Krishna’ and Lynne’s speech only runs 30 seconds compares to Petty’s 250. Much better is the acceptance speech made by then 27-year-old son Dhani (Youtube gets the spelling wrong!), in which he admits for the first time to his mother that he accidentally broke George’s Beatles RaRHOF award in 1987 and glued it back together! Olivia then reads out a quote from one of George’s favourite Indian poets that reads ‘The best is he whose fame does not outshine your truth’ which gets the audience thinking and then, surprisingly, thanks Beatles roadie-come-business manager Neil Aspinall for looking after George and the others so well for so long and who died not long after this(he may well have been poorly already at this stage, if so it was a rather very kind gesture). Incidentally, look out for Yoko in the audience, who rather sweetly wasn’t at the ceremony for an award but to cheer Olivia on! And so ends another RaRHOF ceremony!

The Youtube clip is here: http://youtu.be/B-MJKoZaS1k and http://youtu.be/-nJbGyPg6BY

The Hollies (Inducted 2010)

Award presented by Stevie Van Zandt

“I’m being inducted into a museum – how’s that for longevity?” If any band are going to fly at each other it’s going to be notoriously fickle and fragile groups that are always fighting like The Who, The Kinks or CSN, right?! Wrong! The only true ‘fight’ in Hollies history took place on stage in front of their biggest audience in decades and was an awful shame after so many fans had waited so long to see them get the recognition they deserved. The problem comes when a special guest from the band Train (why?!) joins the band onstage to sing lead on ‘Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress’ (as Clarkey considers his voice to be worn out – Nash went with him to a vocal coach to prepare for this, his first public performance for 15 years or so; even with his problems he still sings better on the night than any of his special guests!) No one’s told harmony singer Terry Sylvester though, who whispers in the ear of the Train guy and grabs his mike, singing for a few lines until being pushed aside by Clarkey who hands it back to its owner (this is about a minute after he’s been blocked from singing on Clarke and Nash’s shared mike, a truly low moment in Hollies history although the performance itself isn’t that bad). It was an awful shame coming at such a warm and wonderful time for The Hollies, back in the charts thanks to a terrific compilation (‘The Clarke-Hicks-Nash Years’) Fans had already been upset by the news that current Hollies members Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott were in the middle of a heavy tour and couldn’t attend. Original drummer Don Rathbone (who left after three singles) was also poorly at the time and couldn’t attend, which was a huge shame (it would have been his first public appearance with the group since 1963!) However the actual speech itself went smoothly. E Street member and DJ Van Zandt may have been odd choice as nominator but his rambling speech is heartfelt and he is clearly a fan, not just someone looking to get up on stage. Clarke talks about his dad telling him groups never last and how he’d better put some money aside, gleefully acknowledging ‘I’m in a museum!’ Nash is gleeful at matching Stills and Crosby’s records as double nominees and delighted to be meeting back with his old school friend Allan Clarke who he dedicates his award to, adding ‘we’ve known each other now for 63 years(the grin they give each other walking up on stage is priceless)! Original bassist Eric Haydock seems happy to be up there with the others, despite the fact they parted on bad terms and Clarke and Nash even sued him to stop him using the Hollies name on stage. Bernie Calvert tells his children off for staying up late to see him! Terry Sylvester, meanwhile, switches between being a music (or is that music hall?) comedian and paying heartfelt tribute to the band’s 1970s manager who died some years before.

The Youtube link is here: http://youtu.be/nINruIwgEyE here: http://youtu.be/jzSCIF8krp8 here: http://youtu.be/KvudWUAmyr8 and here: http://youtu.be/8OWrTET7aIA (it’s a long ceremony!)

The Small Faces (Inducted 2012)

Award presented by Stevie Van Zandt

“I’d like to thank our fans – if any are still alive!” The main talking point of the Small Faces/Faces reunion was the non-appearance of Rod Stewart, who was too poorly with flu to take part, but only cancelled at the absolute last minute. Even sadder Simply Red vocalist Mick Hucknall stepped in on vocals – a low point in any band’s career, although to be fair to him he copes as well as he can given the last minute timing. Van Zandt’s second AAA speech risked causing a rift, though, with a risqué joke about ‘how after Ronnie and Rod joined the band they were almost called the ‘proudly large noses’ rather than the small faces’. Surviving members Ian Mclagan, Kenney Jones and Ronnie Wood all showed didn’t seem to mind, however, and took the time to remember both Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott (the latter of whom would have had an absolute ball with the spotlight back on him again!) Incidentally, Ronnie Wood was attending his second Hall of Fame induction, having been with the Rolling Stones at their induction in 1989.

The Youtube link (what little has been posted to date) is here: http://youtu.be/OfeCX5x5Tbs



Updates 2018 (At Last!!!) 

1)    Cat Stevens/Yusuf (Inducted 2014)

Award presented by Art Garfunkel

“All the girls I took out were Cat Stevens fans – he was a sexy guy!” A nice bit of AAA cross-pollination here, as one harmony singer taps his hat to another (the pair did work together once but only once, on the song ‘Jzero’ from Cat’s 1975 album ‘Numbers’). Art’s faintly embarrassing speech jokes that had he and Paul not split up in 1970 there wouldn’t be room for Cat on the charts and that ‘he owes me a big thankyou!’ Interestingly Art talks not about harmonies or songs but ‘groove’, singing bursts from ‘Peace Train’ ‘Morning Has Broken’ and ‘Wild World’. He does have the sense to say that Cat’s songs mean a lot to ‘most people in this room’ and that his ‘building blocks’ of ‘sensitivity and a bass voice’ was the perfect formula for success. ‘He sought awareness as a man’ intones Art as ‘Yusuf turned his back on it all to find the truth’. Art wonders what Yusuf will make of being a Hall of Fame inductee? Well, he looks quite happy to me, beaming his head off at all the attention. After such a serious introduction he gives a very giggly speech, admitting ‘I’m pissed!’ at one point. Yusuf thanks his father, mother, brother wife and sons as well as his ‘band’ and ‘fans’ and surprisingly admits to only getting the vocal for ‘Morning Has Broken’ right after thinking about his mother. ‘Being inducted sounds cold and medical!’ he jokes before adding that ‘I can still seem some sceptical faces’ in the front row but that he cheekily takes his prize with pride: ‘I’m not the best of you – but looking around I’m not the worst of you either!’    

Dire Straits (Inducted 2018)

Awarded presented by John Illsey (to himself!)

“It’s a bit weird but there we were, life’s strange…but it’s collective, a brotherhood!” This was a strange one. Mark Knopfler had been saying for years that if Dire Straits ever were inducted he wouldn’t turn up (he never gave a reason, but he’s always hated the ginormous fame Dire Straits gave him and there was also talk that he didn’t want to see his brother; however Dave also refused to turn up, with not very many happy memories of the time). Ignored by the Hall of Fame for so long, it makes perfect sense that the band should be inducted the first year it was open to the hall the first year that the public could vote rather than a panel. Without the Knopflers there most people weren’t that fussed and the Hall of Fame couldn’t get anyone interested in presenting the award, which for the first time in the Hall’s history was presented effectively by a member of a band to himself. Bassist John Illsey, whose always flown the flag of the band highest, copes remarkably well in difficult circumstances with two glorious speeches (especially the one remembering where he and Mark was the first time ‘Sultans Of Swing’ was played on the radio – moving furniture for a few extra pennies - and guitarist Guy Fletcher (who remembers talking to his school careers instructor who laughed at the idea of him being a musician) and keyboardist Alan Clark (who dedicates his award to ‘everyone whose made people happy’) also give some excellent speeches. Ignored in the press the next day and overshadowed by bigger reunions, this was nevertheless a big day for Dire Straits fans even without the Knopflers – the first time three of them had been in the same room for decades. Sadly Dire Straits didn’t get a chance to actually play.

The Youtube link is here:

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=dire+straits+rock+and+roll+hall+of+fame+induction&view=detail&mid=A73EEAEE5B10AF8EFEB2A73EEAEE5B10AF8EFEB2&FORM=VIRE



The Moody Blues (Inducted 2018)

Award presented by Ann Wilson (Heart)

“I’d like to thank Justin and John for putting up with me – and me for putting up with Justin and John!” Moody Blues fans have fought tooth and nail to get the band included into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. It took an embarrassingly long time since the first date at which they were eligible (a quarter century go) and nobody ever gave a reason why they were passed over in favour of lesser acts nobody had heard of. The fans got increasingly desperate as its all the last ten years of interviews with the band had ever talked about but they themselves weren’t fussed – as late as the night of the induction Justin was telling reporters he didn’t think it was a ‘big deal’. And perhaps it wasn’t – this is only a panel’s eye view of the rock world after all and I’m astonished many times by how much faith people put into a museum that so few people ever get to visit anyway. However it felt good that The Moodies were here at last and it speaks volumes that they were inducted the year they brought in a ‘popular vote’ rather than a panel one. There was a lot o debate about who would turn up to the show, with Denny Laine told early on he wouldn’t be eligible despite singing lead on technically the band’s biggest selling hit and sadly Ray Thomas passed away mere weeks before the band were confirmed as entrants, robbing us of one last precious chance to see our famous five onstage. The night was overshadowed too by Mike Pinder’s frail health – though he turned up he asked not to give a speech, though he’s clearly itching to make one anyway come the night. Denny sets the tone by joking that he wasn’t with the band long so he’s made the shortest speech, Graeme’s is typically funny, with jokes about thanking the people who’ve helped him and ‘screw you!’ to those who haven’t before admitting that though he didn’t think much of the Hall of Fame the emotion has got to him on the night, John looks the proudest and stares at his trophy with awe, wondering how he got here after his second chance at fame in 1968 (there’s a gorgeous video shot for his facebook page of him unwrapping his award back home and dedicating it to all the fans who ‘pushed so hard to make this happen’) and Justin just looks bemused by the whole thing. The Moodies closed the ceremony with a mini-suite of songs. Inevitably ‘Nights In White Satin’ is there (complete with Graeme’s ‘Late Lament’ opening) but interestingly Lodge gets the other two songs, ‘I’m Just A Singer’ and traditional encore ‘Ride My See Saw’. It’s good to see Mike playing along with the others for the first time in decades, but it’s a shame Denny doesn’t get to take part and there’s a big hole on the side of the stage where Ray should be that even Nora Mullen can’t fill.

The Youtube link is here:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjETPgXiI2s (I’m Just A Singer In A Rock ‘n’ Roll Band’)