Monday, May 20, 2013

Newman's HoF performance causes seismic shift in rock heirarchy

What's not weird: That I would be watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony as it's replayed one of 100,000 times on HBO.

What is weird: That I would be watching any portion of Randy Newman's induction. Come to think of it, what's even weirder is that Newman got in there at all. When he was nominated to get in last year, it seemed like a no-brainer to me. Then during the ceremony they started running through his "vast" songbook, I was kind of shocked at the dearth of great stuff. There's the ubiquitous "Short People," which is actually a really cruel and not that good tune, and the "Toy Story" tune, and "I Love L.A.," which is a total novelty money-grab.

But this isn't about Newman at all, or even about "I Love L.A.," or even about the quality of his performance of "I Love L.A." at the Rock Hall induction.

It's about who played during that performance. Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and John Fogerty, all of
Right after this...
whom have some kind of connection to California (but not necessarily Los Angeles) that ranges from strong to weak, played guitar on the track, all standing side by side, like some weird honkified, guitar-strapped version of a backup singer crew. Some of them even jump in to sing some lines, as Jack Nicholson looks on and sings along after enjoying some lines of his own (just kidding, sort of, not really).

Jack morphed into this during "I Love L.A."
The most shocking thing about all of this is how I felt looking at this trio - Petty with a bum's beard, Browne with his usual phallic haircut and Fogerty with a face melted by 100 plastic surgeries.

Here's how I would have ranked these three in terms of importance about five years ago:

1) Fogerty
2) Petty
3) Browne, a distant, distant, distant third

But now it's completely changed:

1) Petty
2) Fogerty
3) Browne, and not really that far behind

Why is this? To me, it's got nothing to do with what Petty or Browne has done in the last five years, it's more about what Fogerty has done and what he didn't do, and how I feel about that.

Without pulling up the stats, I think I can safely say that Petty has written as many impactful, lasting songs as Fogerty has during their respective careers. But Petty is pretty set in his place in history, and has done some significant things that has showed his humility, like deferring to Dylan and Orbison and Harrison in the Traveling Wilburys, playing on George's "Cloud Nine" solo album, playing on Johnny Cash's Rick Rubin stuff. And now he's playing the cool old dude, but not in an obnoxious way, tagging on to hipster festivals like the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware.

Alex Lifeson: Clearly disturbed by the Newman performance.
Meanwhile, Fogerty continues to chip away at his legacy with every show he plays without Stu Cook and Doug Clifford. If he had joined the band for a performance at the 1993 Rock Hall ceremony, this wouldn't even be an issue. And even without that happening, if he had just mended fences with them and done even a one-off tour since then, that above ranking would have stayed the same.

His bitterness is sinking him further and further down the charts, the way it did to Chuck Berry. You can be great, and you can be an asshole, but in the end you're still a great asshole. Plus all these lame attempts at relevancy, cozying up to the likes of Dave Grohl, even going as far as to let the former Nirvana beat minder and his beat-off band redo "Fortunate Son" with him (check out that vocal effect on John. Woah). Come on, man, you're an old turd. You're not even a cool old turd. Stop it. Just stop.

By the way, Browne, despite holding a few great tunes ("Runnin' On Empty," "Somebody's Baby," "Lawyers In Love") is still horrid, I just don't hate him as much compared to Fogerty.

Here's a little bit of Newman's performance at the Hall. Have a barf bag at the ready.

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