Jan 112012

A Certain Generation's Rock Critic's Dream?

I’ve scheduled a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in February. I can’t wait to get there. I was there once when I was about 12. I don’t remember much about the place, but I remember loving it. You may recall, I love baseball as much as I love music.

As much as I love music I have only mild interest in one day visiting the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Each year the list of inductees gets more ridiculous. I no longer pay much attention or spend much time complaining about who gets in, but today I noticed that Laura Nyro is being inducted. I love the song she did with LeBelle, “The Bells.” Love it! It’s sad and beautiful, like my memory of seeing Braves pinch-hitter Mike Lum put an end ot Steve Carlton‘s 15-game winning streak in his magical 1972 debut season with the Phillies. Lum broke up an 11-inning tie game with a flare to right. I was seated along the first base line with my uncle, the same one who turned me onto rock ‘n roll. In ’72 he began taking me to Phillies games. When Carlton got on that roll, my lefthanded uncle knew it was special. He took me, his lefthanded nephew, to as many home games during that streak as possible. He always got us tickets along the first-base line, to better view the motion and wicked pickoff move of the sad-sack 1972 Phillies’ one shining beacon of hope.

I also love the big hit song she wrote for the Fifth Dimension, “Wedding Bell Blues.” Love that Fifth Dimension version! It’s sad and beautiful, which judging by photos and her music the late Laura Nyro seemed to be herself. Have you ever heard Nyro’s version of that song? It’s nowhere near as good. She also wrote “Stoned Soul Picnic.” Her version of that song is fine, although not quite as good as the Fifth Dimension’s. I won’t hold her writing of “And When I Die” against her. Her version is as bad as the hit version by Blood, Sweat & Tears. The entire conceipt of that song is bad to the bone. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

What the hell else did Laura Nyro do of note, of Hall of Fame note? She wrote “Eli’s Coming,” a hit for Three Dog Night that was unintentionally funny enough to avoid being as bad as “And When I Die.” I see references to her having written hits for Barbra Streisand. Am I forgetting some especially smokin’ Streisand tracks?

Please explain Laura Nyro’s induction in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. And please see if you can do so while avoiding beefs about the induction of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Beaver Brown Band, or whatever other dopes qualify these days. I know Nyro’s always been a critics’ darling for a certain generation, but who will understand her induction when the current crop of 70-year-0ld rock critics finally dies off? Shouldn’t future generations have some way of understanding her induction?


  99 Responses to “Please Explain: Laura Nyro in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame?”

  1. Jesus, sometimes your fuckwittedness shows through.

    Nyro’s ’67-’71 string of albums were hugely influential to the early ’70s confessional singer-songwriter explosion, a fact that later critics often forget because she was from New York and not Laurel Canyon. In particular, without Nyro, there would be no Tapestry, and I suspect no Sweet Baby James either. (Taylor and Nyro were playing on the same NYC circuit in between his trips to the nuthouse, he had to have taken note.)

    In all ways, Carly Simon is basically Laura Nyro Lite, except that being straight, WASPy and conventionally hot, she was more palatable to the Top 40 crowd.

    Todd Rundgren’s early-’70s albums (post-Nazz, pre-Wizard) are — by the man’s own admission — nakedly influenced by Nyro. Some songs (“”Boat on the Charles” being the most blatant) are pretty much blatant plagiarism. Which means that Laura Nyro is a direct influence on generations of geeky pop dudes who don’t like female singer-songwriters, which I’ve always found hilarious.

    Not that I give a crap who’s in Jann’s Gift Shoppe, but I can think of tons less worthwhile members.

  2. BigSteve

    Stoney End is the Streisand hit Nyro wrote. I hate Barbara Streisand and everything she represents, but that was a very good record.

  3. So that was a defense of Nyro’s inclusion, then?

  4. So, she should be in the Hall of Good … That makes sense because that’s what all Halls become eventually, because ya gotta induct somebody.

  5. BigSteve

    You have to get past the idea of capital-R Rock to be able to give this a fair hearing. In my opinion she’s a great artist, though I was very late in coming to appreciate her, but she doesn’t belong in the anything of rock. But, you know, Leonard Cohen’s in there.

  6. Happiness Stan

    Ah, lovely, lovely Laura…

    The first girl I loved who was interested in reciprocating the sentiment had “Gorilla” and “The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse” by the Bonzos and most of Laura Nyro’s albums; these comprised, as far as I can remember, the full extent of her record collection, and she had a horrible little brown and cream plastic record player (which I never trusted any of my vinyl to) with a single speaker in the lid that played half of a stereo record and made everything sound like medium wave radio with some of the audio missing.

    The first winter we spent together was as bitter and cold as any I can remember, so a lot of it was spent indoors. I left home that December and before Christmas there was snow on the ground, and on the first floor balcony to the outside toilet with a door that wouldn’t shut properly and a floor that would in time collapse onto the downstairs one underneath under the weight of a large and genial Canadian, who was sitting down at the time so fortunately wasn’t hurt. Subsidence had seen to it that none of the other doors or windows in the flat closed properly either. The place had no heating, no bath or shower, and water came from a single cold tap. Unsurprisingly, I spent a lot of the next few months in the warmth of her parents’ house, and a good deal of it listening to Laura Nyro.

    I can’t remember the first album, or even the first song she played me, but I can remember my response to it, which was similar to an experience I had on about my first morning in the flat when the friend I was lodging with woke me up by playing the Incredible String Band at full volume. Before long I came to love them as well, but that’s another long rambling anecdote.

    I can vividly remember sitting in near-darkness listening to Laura Nyro, wondering how this wonderful, attractive, intelligent, funny, creative (and at least a dozen other adjectives besides) girl who had agreed to spend time with me could possibly find anything to enjoy in that horrible caterwauling, those insane time changes, and songs which – having leapt about all over the place like a firework display designed by a drunk and let off all at once by a five-year-old and then either just ended abruptly as if she’d had enough of that for now (and sometimes then just started up again, often in a different time signature) or faded while she still seemed to be trying to convey something or other which was completely lost on me.

    As the weather improved I moved to a slightly less hostile environment and we spent more time with my record collection. We split briefly at the end of the summer and one day in an attempt to get over her I went and bought a copy of Laura Nyro’s “Greatest Hits”, (a questionable title if ever there was one), in some sort of attempt to either get over her or torture myself as jilted teenagers are wont to do. I played it over and over and over again, until I was used rather than fond of it, until I would find myself singing “Eeeee liiiii’s… … … … … Coming!!!” when walking down the street, and having to admit to myself that “Stoney End” had got under my skin, and actually I was beginning to quite enjoy this stuff.

    We got back together in the spring, and lived together for several years. I would go to record fairs and before long she had a full set of Laura Nyro albums and we would play them on my record player, and sing them to one another when we were in a good mood. The songs took up residence in my head and have lived there ever since. The relationship didn’t end well, but now we’re both married to other people and both happier than we ever thought we would be, and she’s my best friend and I believe that I am hers, and whenever either of us hears a Laura Nyro song it’s like being young again.

    There is nothing in any of the above which I could use to make any case why anyone else in the world should enjoy the music of Laura Nyro, but surely everyone who likes music can point to a moment in time when inexplicable music just moves in and wraps itself around you like a great big warm blanket. The only reason I can think of as to why I love Laura Nyro’s music is that it worked very well for me as music to fall in love to.

    I don’t think it’s possible to rationalise her music, it’s like a Van Gogh painting which you see photos of for your whole life and remain unimpressed and then one day the light’s shining on it in a particular way and it looks more wonderful than anything you’ve ever seen, and from that time on every time you see it you are reminded of that one ray of light and the sheer sense of joy in that single moment of being alive.

    There is nothing cerebral about Laura Nyro’s music – her songs are not even about emotion, they are dragged directly from it, and in my experience can only be approached by trying to move into her head and empathising with what was going on inside.

    I have no problems with her induction in the Hall of Fame. I wish that she were still with us.

  7. misterioso

    Exactly. Y’know, “of course she’s great, she influenced James Taylor and Carly Simon!” Nuff sed.

  8. tonyola

    I gave up paying attention to the RRHOF when they inducted Madonna. Hugely influential? Sure. Rock and roll? No way. Where are King Crimson, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Yes, ELP, Steve Miller, Residents, Roxy Music, Moody Blues, Move, John McLaughlin, Devo, Brian Eno, or the B-52s? Any of those people deserve inclusion before a moderately-gifted songwriter and marginally-capable performer like Laura Nyro.

  9. misterioso

    Let me reiterate what I have said before: I am sorry she’s dead, too. And let me reiterate, too: I don’t give a monkey’s about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But jeez she’s awful. Mod is altogether too kind. “Wedding Bell Blues”? Ugh. The Fifth Dimension. They’re a drag, a drag like my memory of Rod Beck giving up the game-winning home run to Bernie Williams in the first game of the ALCS in 1999 as prelude to their losing the series 4-1. Those were the days when the Sox had no chance of advancing past the Yankees.

    Sorry, what was I saying?

    Oh, yeah. Nyro. Sorry she’s dead? Yes. Think she’s less than awful? Absolutely not.

  10. I don’t mind if someone’s not ROCK, just as I don’t mind us discussing non-ROCK people here. I simply find her to be a serious cult artist, good, great, or whatever. I like some of her stuff and know she’s interesting and all that, but the museum is billed as a “Hall of Fame.” She’s not famous. She wasn’t popular. She’s not a “dominant” force among performers or songwriters. Why have a Hall of Fame if the only criteria are whether some critics like you? It’s like the Baseball Hall of Fame inducting my favorite Phillie of childhood, Willie Montanez because he had a couple of good seasons and was really cool. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but Laura Nyro is the equivalent of a player with a special skill who put together 2 really good seasons. Just put everybody in if the likes of a second-rate (in terms of status, not quality) ’60s pop songwriter gets in. Shoot, I like her better than Jimmy Webb, but he must have written 5 times as many hits. Is he in? Why not put in Boyce and Hart? I don’t know, this is like that Supreme Court thing about porn: we know it when we see it, or whatever it was that came out of some case.

  11. tonyola

    A girl who liked Nyro would have elicited a tepid response in me at least in terms of appreciating musical taste. But a girl who was into the Bonzo Dog Band? I’d follow her anywhere!

  12. misterioso

    Ah, but what about the small matter of the restraining order, tony?

  13. Hey, that’s great that she influenced Tapestry and James Taylor. It’s a Hall of Fame. THEY are the famous ones, they are the ones who wrote and performed a shitload of hits and sold records, whether we think they are cool or not. It’s not the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Cool, necessarily. I know she’s an underdog and a tortured artist and all that, but why call me a fuckwit because I’m questioning the credentials of an artist who, even in her prime, produced a wealth of music that is tough listening. I know the backstory. I also have listened to her records. She’s tough going. I know she’s got artistic credentials, but this isn’t Nobel Peace Prize stuff they’re judging, not when Jann’s Gift Shoppe includes so many hacks. Fuck man, just throw the doors open. Let ’em all in. I think that Hall has no leg to stand on when it goes too far in one direction or another. They should have the balls to make inductions meaningful. That’s what I’m getting at.

  14. tonyola

    My laywer advises me not to comment on that.

  15. I’m mystified by the idea that her albums are in any way “tough going.” It’s all mellow singer-songwriter stuff — Steely Dan is more challenging to listen to, which is to say, not very.

    Sounds like another case of Mr. Mod’s rockist blinders to me.

  16. tonyola

    Good points, but see my comments elsewhere about artists at least as deserving who have been ignored or overlooked by the RRHOF judges.

  17. I guess my question is “So why is Laura Nyro your line in the sand?” I mean, if you acknowledge that there have been tons of bullshit inclusions in Jann’s Gift Shoppe — which there obviously are — then why complain about this one, who’s at least as worthy as, I dunno, Randy Newman or someone. If he’s in, I have no idea.

  18. misterioso

    This is where I usually mention that I saw her open for Dylan in 1991. Not exactly a banner year for ol’ Bob. Can’t say I have any recollection of her, except that I remember thinking, “huh, so that’s Laura Nyro.” Mod will at least enjoy the fact that this concert was in a baseball stadium in Nashua, NH. And, no, there’s no particular point to this anecdote.

  19. misterioso

    Boyce and Hart in 2013! Let the campaign begin now!

  20. Happiness Stan

    I personally find Steely Dan challenging to the point of being completely unlistenable, whereas Beefheart, Napalm Death, The Fall, Einsturzende Neubaten and most Krautrock afford a good deal of pleasure even on a first listening. I think it’s about where your ears are coming from and what they’ve been exposed to. I certainly found her records tough going in Britain at the end of the 1970s because other than singles by Simon and Garfunkel my ears had no background in singer-songwriters making “serious” music, and even though I am 100% on board with you with her music, I am struggling with the concept of her records as easy listening.

  21. Stuff like this, Stan – AND the Great One’s brash insults – make me really proud of tomorrow’s big event.

  22. Come on, Great One, I kicked things off with saying I loved one of her non-rocking songs. You can do better.

  23. The concept of a Hall of Fame for any art form is ridiculous. Unlike baseball, which is full of objective metrics (hits, RBIs, HRs, W.S. championships, MVPs), the merit of “rock” music–whatever it might be–is wholly subjective. One person’s Def Leppard is another person’s Laura Nyro. So it makes no sense to enshrine any particular clique. And to the extent that the hall of “fame” is supposed to hail the famous, Laura Nyro doesn’t qualify. She is probably known to no more than 1% of the US population.

  24. The hits and record selling argument would have kept the Ramones out. I have no problem with Laura. She was no hack. Her music has had a pretty long shelf life when you consider that so many here in the hall have an opinion one way or another. It is more interesting than debating the relative merits of say …the Coasters vs. The Drifters.

  25. Agreed, Hank Fan, but if they’re going to persist with this nonsense, I suggest a few simple criteria be met:

    1) Quality output
    2) Longevity (maybe no less than 3 great albums or 10 hit singles?)
    3) Innovation
    4) Fame, to at least a reasonable extent
    5) Dominance, or whatever the right term is, among peers at the time of artist’s prime

    We’ve already got the Foyer of Fame for artists who meet criteria 1, 2, and 4 among a broad base of music lovers. Then the Hall of Fame can build a “Wonders Wing” for those who burned brightly for a brief time (eg, The Stooges, The Pretenders), those who achieved special accomplishments to little critical and/or public acclaim (eg, 1-hit wonders, cult faves, musical equivalents of Don Larsen’s perfect game thrown in a World Series game).

  26. I don’t think she should be excluded because of her relative obscurity. That would keep deserving folks like Big Star out as well.

    I don’t get her appeal at all but she seems to have at least created something distinct, unlike this year’s actual “Least Deserving Act”, the Red Hot Chilie Peppers. When this year’s inductees were announced, I almost wrote a post and they were going to be the focus of my ire.

  27. I wonder if Nyro’s influence on James Taylor and Carole King is what gets her in. I think that’s the way cult acts get in; they have to have influenced someone much famous — preferably a friend of Jann — who’s already in the hall. So, I can see Eno (and possibly Television) getting in because of U2; or Big Star because of R.E.M. Once Duran Duran gets in, then Roxy Music will be truly eligible. But acts like King Crimson or Devo? A tougher call. Have they influenced anyone famous? Even my hero Randy Newman is a long shot in that regard, and he’s a friend of friends of Jann like Elton John and James Taylor.

    Remember, I’m not saying these artists should or should not get in. I’m just trying to figure out if there’s a perceivable logic to how these cult bands get in.

    Hey cdm, ever hear Nick Cave’s great quote about the Red Hot Chili Peppers?

    I’m forever near a stereo saying, ‘What the fuck is this garbage?’ And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

  28. That is friggin awesome.

  29. That’s a very interesting point. King Crimson has been hugely influential in the prog world, but I can’t think of anyone truly famous who lists them as a major influence. I’ve also found it curious that Gabriel-era Genesis got inducted in 2010, yet Yes remains overlooked to this day. Perhaps Peter Gabriel’s well-known and famed solo career was the key. None of the Yes guys have had monster success as solo artists.

  30. Also, how did Tom Waits get in and Randy Newman get left out? Tom’s acting career?

  31. diskojoe

    Yeah, but don’t you remember Roger Clemens being roughed up in the game that the Sox won?

  32. diskojoe

    Laura Nyro performed at the Monterey Pop Festival & legend has it that she was not well received. Her performance appears on the outakes DVD of the Creterion Monterey Pop & it’s out of place w/the other performances. It’s like something from a ’70s variety show popped right in the middle of this hippiefest.

    Anyway, as I said on another blog, I think the RRHOF that matters most is the one inside your head.

    Mr. Mod, speaking of baseball & the HOF, any thoughts on the voting for this yr. & the coming few yrs. w/Bonds, Clemens, etc. coming on the ballot? I’m getting sick reading the baseball blogs from people arguing about the steriods issue. It’s almost like the Salem Witch Trials.

  33. If we have to have such a hall, I could live with just 1 and 3 as the main factors, but it’s inherently unworkable no matter what factors you might create and who is picked to make the decisions, because it simply can’t be said that one artist is “better” than another.

  34. Love the Larkin choice! The steroids era is a mess. I’m bummer Selig sticks around another 2 years. The league sanctioned that eta. Now I think voters need to determine who was a true baseball player and who was a freak of ‘roids. To me Bonds is the true star of that era. He was headed for Cooperstown already, his career wasn’t on the skids before a mid-30s comeback… McGwire was washed up until the juice. Same for Clemens, although he already had a dominant run as a young man. I can’t stand hum, but a case could be made in my weird world.

  35. alexmagic

    I’m sticking with the idea that, even with this criteria, Nesmith is the most indefensible omission from the Hall of Fame.

    He’s got the fame and hits as part of the Monkees (and as one of the singers and songwriters behind their hits, he does deserve some of that credit), he’s respected as a songwriter, he’s often given credit for launching the “country rock” genre and he’s generally credited for the idea that became MTV, which wound up being (for better or worse) the dominant media/form for popular music for more than two decades.

    That’s a hell of a resume. Unless one of the guys from New Edition turns out to be the guy who also invented the mp3, I have a hard time thinking anybody will be able to match Nesmith’s popularity/innovation cred.

  36. pudman13

    They’re getting more and more desperate in their efforts to avoid electing Yes and Chicago…

    Nyro is interesting, no doubt, and wrote some great songs, some of which were covered to great effect. Her NEW YORK TENDABERRY album is one of the most bizarre albums I’ve ever heard from a mainstream artist. She’s hardly at the top of her own genre, though, and considering the function of popularity in all of this, I have to say that I have never, not once, heard her on the radio. That shouldn’t disqualify her, of course, but I’m just pointing out the impossibility of figuring out the logic behind these choices. It’s not as if any of her albums ever show up on those lists of 200 greatest rock albums or anything like that either. The singer-songwriter field is a tough one to figure out—I’m not sure why that’s considered “rock and roll” but prog apparently isn’t.

  37. misterioso

    Oh, God. Nyro is at worst an annoyance. (Also, at best an annoyance.) RHCP are pure evil.

  38. misterioso

    I do. But it turned out to be a meager consolation prize.

  39. misterioso

    That is a super fine story by Happiness Stan, beautifully told. Interesting to note that the phenomenon he describes so well, whereby, under the influence of another, one gradually begins to have positive views towards Laura Nyro’s crappy music, has some striking similarities to the Stockholm Syndrome, which describes the phenomenon of prisoners developing sympathy for and taking on the values of their captors. Ah, love’s sweet captivity.

  40. I agree with Hankfan that Quality Output and Innovation should be the main criteria. I think it could be distilled down even further to just this: They have to have done something musically interesting. I think folks like Laura Nyro, King Crimson, Yes, Pil, etc deserve to be in the HoF because they seen to have created something unique and musically interesting, even if I don’t like the way it sounds. The Red Hot Chile Peppers’ greatest achievement is their parody of Abby Road photo.

  41. misterioso

    Seriously, though. All picking on Laura Nyro’s unlistenable oeuvre aside, I decline to believe that any thinking person can even pretend to have outrage over the Rock and Roll HOF, even for the purposes of stimulating discussion. It’s just too stupid to even feign interest in.

  42. At this point it’s only the sports fan in me that gets outraged. What this discussion proves to me is that only sports fans should manage Halls of Fame. Of course the R’nR HoF requires those sports fans to be music fans first, but the Hall of Fame tradition is probably rooted in sports and should not lose track of its roots regardless of what is being honored in any particular hall. I’m pretty sure everyone will agree with this opinion so that we can put the issue…once and for all…to rest.

  43. Maybe it’s the same reason why science fiction or fantasy almost never wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the only film in those styles to win.

  44. mockcarr

    It wouldn’t be much of a RRHOF without illegal drugs. Look at the subtle pressure within the Beatles for Paul to take LSD after George and John had. Think about some of the good and bad effects that entailed.

    I think figuring out who did steroids or HGH when and how much it helped beyond the other usual factors in higher scoring eras (smaller ballparks with less foul territory, expansion and diluted pool of skilled athletes, a smaller strike zone yet higher strikeout rates indicating a different general approach with two strikes, and perhaps more hitter friendly specs in baseball manufacturing) is fool’s errand. I believe there are already guys in the baseball HOF who did them too. The same sort of complaints about having too many great seasons when you’re old can be applied to Fisk and Ryan. Or even Ripken; what’s a guy that size doing playing SS for so many games in a row? Nevermind that pitchers also used them, not just batters. Batters hit more homers, but also struck out more.

    The writers are pissed off that they either couldn’t tell the steroids story when it was happening because of locker room omerta, or because they were fooled into all those “best shape of their life” stories they wrote in the 1990s by the players’ BS about which “supplements” they were taking. Which unlike other drugs, they were using to try to become BETTER, which helps your team win. Dangerous habitual DUI guys who denied or hid steroid usage like LaRussa are gonna sail into the hall because he uses the same drug as the writers.

  45. mockcarr

    Comedies have a tough time wining too.

  46. tonyola

    Perhaps, but comedies have done better than sci-fi. Here are some Best Picture winners:

    Annie Hall
    You Can’t Take It With You
    The Sting
    Tom Jones
    It Happened One Night

  47. mockcarr

    Tom Jones is a comedy? There are probably more laughs in Schindler’s List.

  48. tonyola

    It’s listed as such.

  49. If memory serves, doesn’t Albert Finney laugh a lot during that movie, in some over-the-top style? I don’t remember much about that one.

  50. tonyola

    Comedies in the 1960s could be pretty tepid by modern standards. Supposedly uproarious films like The Great Race and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World are brash and noisy but just aren’t all that funny anymore.

  51. misterioso

    There are some chuckles in Tom Jones. Pretty good movie. Great novel.

  52. Mod,

    Where do you stand on Jack Morris?

    Most wins of the 1980s, a no hitter, and some epic world series games (including championships with three teams), but still a fairly mundane bunch of stats and never had a dominating year like Verlander did this season.

    There’s a great article about the baseball HOF voting process here: http://joeposnanski.si.com/2012/01/09/a-long-hall-of-fame-review/?sct=hp_wr_a2&eref=sihp

    (Sorry I don’t know how to make links)

  53. First off, links in comments are set automatically!

    As an NL guy I never saw Morris regularly, but he was a big-game pitcher, a horse in the rotation, and maybe the most dominant mustache wearer of his era. It seems to me he belongs. What do you think?

  54. I’m biased because I’m a Tigers fan and Morris was the horse of the 1984 rotation. I’d put him in with Alan Trammell too, but like I said, I’m biased here. I’d give it to him solely for the 10-inning shutout in game 7 of the World Series (even though he did it for the evil Twins).

    About the links, I don’t know how to make ’em pretty (i.e., short).

    Check out that article when you get a chance. It’s really interesting.

  55. BigSteve

    The Residents and John McLaughlin aren’t rock&roll either.

  56. BigSteve

    Probably less than 1% of the US population know who Cosimo Matassa, Glyn Johns, or Tom Dowd are. They’re all going in this year.

    I think people who weren’t listening to the radio when she was at her peak don’t realize how ubiquitous her songs were. Her own records were not all that popular, though a few of her albums did make the charts, but her songs were insanely popular.

  57. tonyola

    More so than Madonna. Or Leonard Cohen for that matter.

  58. You can’t compare producers to artists. They get into the R’nR HoF the way executives, announcers, and umpires get to make the Baseball HoF.

    I was younger than you, but I do recall her songs, songs she wrote, on the radio. Didn’t I list most of her hit songs? How many significant hits did I miss? Were her songs any more prevalent than the songs of Boyce and Hart or some other second-level pop songwriters? Even if you think she’s good – and I don’t think she was “bad,” I’ve said I like some of her songs – how can you think she’s worthy of any Hall of Fame? She retired young. It looks like she had 3 Top 40 singles as a performer, 2 of which were covers of other songwriters’ songs. I LOVE the Undertones, for instance, but I couldn’t put them in a museum listed as a “Hall of Fame” just because I love them. I’m trying to raise an objective point here, believe it or not. I know the entire exercise of a Hall of Fame for the arts is silly. I understand why Marlon Brando sent the “Native American” (she was just playing one, wasn’t she?) up to accept his Oscar that one year. I’m cool with all of that. I’m cool with ignoring the R ‘n R HoF, but Nyro’s induction really caught my eye. I don’t see how a half dozen hit songs (half of which are of suspect quality) and a couple of cult albums that may have influenced James Taylor and Carole King (who The Great 48 seems to ignore had already been writing hit songs before Nyro wrote her first modulation and awkward tempo change) makes her any more Hall of Fame-worthy than any number of artists some of us love. What’s so difficult about this thought?

  59. BigSteve

    As I said before, I was late coming to Nyro’s records. I liked her songs back in the day, but I hadn’t heard much of her own stuff. She’s really quite odd, and it’s amazing the success she achieved even in cover versions. I always describe her style as pop mixed with strains of Broadway and gospel. Broadway of course is the devil to most rock fans, even to me most of the time. This, and the fact that she represents a kind of feminine sensibility most guys can’t deal with, explains the animosity. The opacity of most of her lyrics is also a barrier to people who might otherwise be open to her.

    I was turned onto her by a buddy of mine who’s been a fan since he was a teenager in suburban New York in the 60s. He’s not really a rocker at all , but our friendship was a gateway to her music, though in a less wistful, soft-focus way than it was for HapStan.

    And though I know this is not going to change anyone’s mind, Wedding Bell Blues, which is much more direct lyrically than pretty much anything else she wrote at her peak, has become something of a marriage rights anthem.

  60. I will check it out. Thanks!

  61. I didn’t mean to suggest that she’s my line in the sand. My line starts WAY before her. As much as I love The Stooges, for instance, I’m not even sure I think they belong. They would make my “Wonder Wing” for their brief, fantastic stretch of 1-and-3/4 albums’ worth of great material. The ONLY reason the whole Nyro thing came up is because a little story on the new inductees flipped open on the issue of Rolling Stone I picked up before sitting down to take a dump at work. Rather than be a baby and whine about popular turds entering this year, like the RHCP, I thought it would be more interesting to examine Nyro’s selection. It actually gets at the kinds of things that make people like us tick, whether we agree or not. I wasn’t intending to pick on Laura or cause anyone to think that I hate women, mellow music, and all that jazz.

  62. Most likely we’re on the same page with the following, BigSteve: it’s the audience for artists like this that make them “rock ‘n roll,” not the artists’ works as they relate to a certain genre. By that I mean, McLaughlin came to fame as a “rocking” jazz guitarist during a period when acoustic jazz was giving way to the electric, rock-influenced stuff. A good portion of his fans probably came to him through their rock experience. When singer-songwriters became a force in the early ’70s the traditional “folk” scene had faded like the older jazz scene. Nyro, Taylor, et al were marketed TO rock audiences. In that way they became “rock ‘n roll.” Rock ‘n roll shifts.

    As for Madonna, by the way, I have no beef with her induction. I’m not even close to being a fan of her music and act, but she meets enough of my criteria for inclusion.

  63. Also, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra quartet got a fair amount of airplay on “progressive rock” FM in the early 1970s – particularly the Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire albums. As Mr. Mod says, many of McLaughlin’s fans came from the rock side.

    As for the Residents, they might have taken music to very weird places, but for them, the starting point was almost always rock.

  64. I couldn’t place “Stoney End” by title. I just listened to it now. I know that song and like it. I didn’t know that was Streisand all these years. It sounds so much like Nyro, who couldn’t resist writing lyrics about growing up a poor miner’s daughter and then retarding the template at the end. She was a weird bird, and I will grant you that when her thing worked it worked fine, like a private liberal arts-educated version of Bacharach and David and their ilk.


  65. While Madonna might qualify for inclusion based on her image and undeniable influence, why has Deep Purple been passed over when the “Smoke on the Water” riff became an obligatory learner’s stepping stone for zillions of budding electric guitarists? For that alone, Purple deserve to be immortalized.

  66. BigSteve

    But Deep Purple, like most metal, sucks and is only liked by dunderheads. There’s almost no metal in the HoF.

  67. I agree with BigSteve on this point, that Deep Purple sucks, although our alliance here has no bearing on my feelings regarding Laura Nyro’s induction. Truth be told, though, if Deep Purple had recorded for Atlantic or been a little more hippie friendly they would be in by now. I prefer Cream and can better tolerate the Jefferson Airplane, but Deep Purple produced as much popular, influential, sludgy stuff as either of those bands.

  68. If suckiness was a criterion for exclusion, then the HOF list would be at least a third shorter. Besides, I’d rather listen to Deep Purple than Queen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, or Jackson Browne. Guess that makes me a dunderhead. Excuse me while I put on some “non-rock” Residents and John McLaughlin.

  69. Almost no metal in the HOF, huh? A quick scan turns up the following:

    Alice Cooper
    Black Sabbath
    Van Halen
    Led Zeppelin

  70. BigSteve

    Almost none of the bands you’ve listed are anything that I would call metal.

  71. http://www.allmusic.com/explore/metastyle/heavy-metal-d655

    The bands I listed are least as metal as Deep Purple. You’ve forgotten that Purple spent their first few years as a near-prog band, haven’t you? They even used orchestras and stuff. It wasn’t until In Rock that they became anything metal.

  72. BigSteve

    I’ve forgotten more about Deep Purple … than I ever knew.

  73. BigSteve

    Ok then, do you really think more than 1% of the US population know who, say, the Everly Brothers are? I doubt it.

  74. You won’t acknowledge a single sound point I’ve made? Let’s leave the general public out of this regarding artists. Among rock fans, do more than 3% over 35 years old know much at all about Nyro? Compare that with the percentage of rock fans who know something about the Everly Brothers. HUGE difference!

  75. BigSteve

    I know better than to try to talk you out of disliking a musician. Anyone really but especially you. Laura Nyro wrote more hits than Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen, and their inductions didn’t create such a stir.

  76. I know what you mean, BigSteve, and you know I don’t really relish getting so worked up about this. I’m a little disappointed that you won’t simply grant me a “Good point!” or two, but so it goes. As I mentioned, I wasn’t paging through a Rolling Stone piece on Waits’ or Cohen’s induction while taking a dump the other day. Sometimes new insights just rush in while the back door is open, you know?

  77. misterioso

    Huh, yeah, I know that song, too. It could have been a hit for the 5th Dimension as well. I don’t mean that as a compliment. But Streisand’s version is, at least, listenable as compared to Nyro’s own.

  78. “As I mentioned, I wasn’t paging through a Rolling Stone piece on Waits’ or Cohen’s induction while taking a dump the other day. Sometimes new insights just rush in while the back door is open, you know?”

    Wait, I’m confused. Were you or weren’t you taking a dump?

  79. BigSteve

    Good point.

  80. BigSteve

    Lest anyone think Stoney End was easy pickins, and anyone could have turned Nyro’s unfocused recording into a hit, I give you Mod Squad’s Peggy Lipton’s version:


  81. plasticsun

    This is why I love Rock Town Hall – I only participate occasionally but I can always count on a lively bit of reading. Laura Nyro? I’ve read so many gushing reviews but when I’ve listened to her music, I find nothing that interests me. The real reason that I’m commenting is to respond to tonyola’s vicious and uncalled for attack on It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World. You are wrong.Wrong I say.

  82. Sorry, I meant to say that “The Great Race and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World are brash and noisy but just aren’t all that funny anymore unless you’re under the age of ten.”

  83. misterioso

    tony, you forgot to mention that in addition to being unfunny they are also interminable.

  84. tonyola

    Very true. Watching sometimes-funny people doing unfunny things for 2-1/2 hours is a numbing experience.

  85. plasticsun

    Teaming up on me are you? While true that the movie is best appreciated by ten year olds who have something resembling an attention span, it’s clear that you have no sense of humor, no ten year olds, nor an attention span.

  86. “..it’s clear that you have no sense of humor..”

    Read my posts and comments on this site before you draw such a conclusion.

    “…no ten year olds..”

    Very true.

    “..nor an attention span.”

    Yeah, right. I’m the resident progster in the Hall. I live and die by epic-length works. My declared and well-known motto is “Twenty minutes per song or bust!” Let’s sit through the entirety of Amon Duul II’s Tanz der Lemminge, Genesis’ Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans back to back and then you can tell me about attention spans. And then I’ll put on the three-record Escalator Over the Hill by Carla Bley.

  87. plasticsun

    It’s clear that your problems are much greater than a lack of appreciation of comedy extravaganzas of the early 60s. Admitting to liking Yes strikes me as a brave gesture indeed – similar to admitting grave mental illness.

  88. I’m not the only Yes fan here. You may encounter one or two more from unexpected directions. Keep your eyes open or you might get run over by a mellotron.

  89. jeangray

    Kanye West has recently outed himself as a huge King Crimson fan.

  90. jeangray

    Someone like “Tales from Topographic Oceans”???

  91. 2000 Man

    I’ve forgotten more about Deep Purple … than I ever knew.

    I think this should take the place of “governing the discourse of rock n roll since 2007” up above on the title. It’s been cracking me up since last night.

  92. 2000 Man

    cdm’s not the only one confused, I am, too. Were you sitting there taking someone else’s dump?

  93. THAT’S a funny image!

  94. I was taking a dump. I apologize for dragging this place into the gutter, but let’s get this straight. My wife is horrified by my habit of reading on the can. If I were ever an eccentric, lonely, billionaire I might have a non-functioning toilet installed in my reading room. It’s a comfortable seat for reading. I would have to be a VERY lonely man, mind you, to go through with this plan. I’m sure other bathroom readers will agree that the bathroom is not only provides a comfortable chair and great lighting for reading, but for some reason reading comprehension seems to skyrocket in there. All that useless sports, celebrity, and rock knowledge I’ve acquired over the years? I can’t tell you how many meaningless things I’ve retained while reading in the bathroom. Maybe scientists will study this some day. I believe that reading comprehension – at least for trivial stuff is – reaches peak levels at the same time trash is being expelled from the body. There’s a gap to be filled, and what better to fill that gap but more shit?

    I hope that’s clear, and I hope I remember to delete this response sometime later today.

  95. tonyola

    That’s pretty wild. That’s up there with Sherman Hemsley being a bigtime Gong and Amon Duul II fan. However, it’s a little dismaying to read that “21st Century Schizoid Man” is being dismissed as “hipster rock”.

  96. 2011 is the year of It Gets Better. MLB teams: the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs joined the San Francisco Giants speaking out against the bullying of LGBTQ youth. The announcement on September 7, 2011 of Laura Nyro as a 2012 Inductee to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame proves It Gets Better. Laura joined the other LGBT members: Bessie Smith, David Bowie, Dusty Springfield, Elton Jonh, Freddie Mercury of Queen, Little Richard, Ma Rainey, and Michael Stipe of REM.
    It would be easy to rehash Laura’s credits. Unique was her pioneering work in open expressions of same-sex attraction in song, e.g.: “Emmie” ’68, “Timer” ’68, “Désiree” ’71’ “Roadnotes ’84. But I thought the above baseball comparison was a grand slam GOTCHA! Rabdrake

  97. Welcome aboard, Ralph… That is a worthy part of her work.

  98. Laura Nyro is a musician’s musician. Apparently, not some malcontent blogger’s.

    Boy, I am going to make it a point to watch the Induction ceremony, if only to visualize Mr. Moderator’s apoplexy!

  99. Welcome aboard, lalima, sincerely. I’m all for you disagreeing with my opinion or anyone’s opinion around here, but if you’re as deep as I’m sure you are, why not make an effort to trade heartfelt and informed opinions with me? The fact that both of us hold opposing heartfelt and informed opinions as a music lovers and musicians does not make our opinions “right,” of course, but it gives them some validity. I’m sure Nyro’s induction will be really nice and moving. I won’t be apopletic. I try to challenge some standards around here, including my own. Try it sometime.

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