May 012020

Is Cat Stevens worthy of a critical upgrade? I’m not suggesting that he get upgraded to the level of an early-1970s folk-rock legend, like Neil Young or Joni Mitchell, but would you rather listen to 5 Cat Stevens songs or 5 by Jackson Browne?

I can’t be the only person who would rather hear “Wild World” or “Peace Train” over possibly any James Taylor song excluding “Fire and Rain,” can I? Did our judgmental views over Cat’s conversion to Islam take him out of the running for the solid respect we allow for Sweet Baby James?

I’ll take it one step further, that step that inevitably leads me into a pile of cow manure: How great is the distance between Cat Stevens’ peak period and the three albums Nick Drake released? What makes T. Rex‘s bubblegum glam-folk peak that much better than Cat’s bubblegum-singer-songwriter records? How many smash hits away from a Greatest Hits, vol. 2 was Stevens, which could have placed him in the realm of Elton John?

Ignore the preceding paragraph, but know that I put it out there as a straw dog, a sign of the confidence of have in my initial question. I sense music lovers have backed off from holding Yusef Islam‘s religious beliefs against him. Is it time we acknowledge that the guy was pretty good, even Rock Town Hall Foyer of Fame worthy?

Where’s Townsman hrrundivbakshi when we need him?

Apr 032014

It gets worse.

It gets worse.

The almost-always well-intentioned but annoying Steven Hyden of Grantland takes a disturbing look at the future of the always-annoying, not-even well-intentioned Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Check it out.  Don’t shoot the messenger, Hyden, who is only doing the dirty work of confronting a credible future.

Which contemporary artists, if their careers ended today, would definitely get into the Rock Hall? Which artists need a little help? Who is going to get snubbed? The rank speculation that follows is rooted in five assumptions:

1. The Rock Hall will continue to exist well into the foreseeable future.

2. My personal taste will continue to run contrary to the Rock Hall’s choices.

3. The Rock Hall will become noticeably less rock-oriented in the years ahead. Pop, hip-hop, and electronic/dance artists will be ascendant. Metal and punk bands will (still) be largely ignored. But it will still be known as a “rock” museum.

4. The Rock Hall will always care more about commercial success than critical acclaim. But some critical acclaim is required.

5. None of this will ever matter, but I will find it interesting anyway.

Oct 162013


Please list this year’s nominees for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the order in which you think they should be included. If you don’t have the patience or interest in listing them all, please just list the top 5.

And the nominees are…

Nirvana, Kiss, the Replacements, Hall and Oates, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, LL Cool J, N.W.A., Link Wray, the Meters, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, Yes, and the Zombies.

Feb 182012

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

In this week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In your host, Mr. Moderator, celebrates the working men and women of Rock Town Hall, hits on a few thoughts related to his upcoming trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and threatens to share the story of a fight he broke up between his sons over a Styx song. You know how it goes.

[audio:|titles=RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 67]

[Note: You can add Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your iTunes by clicking here. The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player. In fact, you can even set your iTunes to search for an automatic download of each week’s podcast.]

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?

Dec 302011

Comfortably andyr

Popular music discussion blog Rock Town Hall has awarded one of its very own Townspeople, andyr, its second annual Rock Badge of Courage for his live vocal performance of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” at a recent show by the Narberth, Pennsylvania–based cover band extraordinaire Narband.

You may recall our  initial Rock Badge of Courage recipient, Bruce Springsteen, for his performance of “Born in the USA.” The Rock Badge of Courage is the highest artistic decoration awarded by Rock Town Hall, even higher than induction in the Hall’s Foyer of Fame. It is bestowed on musicians who distinguish themselves “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her artistic cred above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against The Man, apathetic bandmates, or any other enemy of The Power & Glory of Rock.” Springsteen’s award required little explanation, but andyr’s may require some context.

I’ve counted andyr as a “close personal friend” for 40 years. Not once, in all those years and countless musical discussions and experiences has he ever expressed even the slightest admiration for anything related to Pink Floyd. Trust me, he’s a cool guy and typically has great taste in music, but he doesn’t even care for the Syd Barrett stuff or the song “Wish You Were Here.” He even finds the good in stuff a lot of us might think is crap, provided it has cool drum and bass parts, but he may be the only music lover I know who hasn’t at least acknowledged that “Floyd has some cool album covers.” Even E. Pluribus Gergely would grant the band a cool album cover or two. The man has been steadfast in his refusal to enjoy a single thing about Pink Floyd.

Then, no more than 2 months ago, a musical mission was hatched that would test andyr’s rock courage like no test before. He and Townsman Sethro, another one of my longtime bandmates and close personal friends, were asked to join Narband, led by another Townsman, ace guitarist Buddy Whelan and a mutual friend of Whelan and our Rock Badge of Courage recipient who lacks, as far as I know, an RTH handle. Andyr was a little anxious but excited to cram for 2 sets’ worth of mostly Classic Rock and early ’80s new wave hits—especially with his trusty drummer buddy at his back—but one song on the proposed set list caused beads of sweat to form on his brow even as he discussed it with us at rehearsal one night: Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”

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