Fly Like A Dipwad

Steve Miller — the Joker, the Smoker, the Midnight Toker — apparently acted like a colossal jerk when he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last week.

First, he snubbed The Black Keys, who were big Steve Miller fans and signed up to make his induction speech.  They say Miller treated them like crap and, unbelievably, indicated that he didn’t know who the heck they were.  And then the Space Cowboy ripped the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in his acceptance speech, saying that they don’t respect the artists they are honoring and that the organizers of the Hall are a bunch of assholes.

flylikeaneagle316Like everyone else who went to college in the mid-70s, I heard a lot of Steve Miller songs in my youth, and I’ve still got a number of them on my iPod playlists.  You couldn’t go to a party in those days without hearing Fly Like An Eagle or Book of Dreams on the stereo, just about as often as Boston or Dark Side of the Moon.  Why not?  Songs like Jet Airliner and Rock’n Me were classics, and The Joker and Living in the U.S.A. are among the greatest rock songs ever recorded.  (“Somebody give me a cheeseburger!”)  I’ve even argued that, were it not for the revolving door of its members, the Steve Miller Band could reasonably be considered in the competition for being one of the best American bands, ever.

But if you’re going to accept being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, you don’t come to the party and take a dump in the punch bowl.  Rather than being a complete ingrate, why not at least learn about the talented guys that have offered to make your introduction and find a few nice things to say about the organization that has recognized your accomplishments?  It doesn’t cost you anything, and it suggests that you’re an adult with at least a decent amount of appreciation and class.

It’s always tough when you learn that somebody whose talent you’ve admired turns out to be a tool.  Go on, Steve!  Take the money and run!

Real Winter

IMG_2942In Columbus, we only have pretend winter.  To have real winter, you need to go north of the Mansfield snow belt line and hang out along the rim of the Great Lakes, where the gray of the skies merges neatly into the gray of Lake Erie and the gray, washed-out colors of the streets, and buildings, and sidewalks.

Even the landmark Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seems bleached of all color as it squats, dusted with snow, along the lakefront, with the sun only a pale, dim light in the sky.  It’s hard to believe that the same shriveled orb that shines about as brightly as a streetlamp through the Cleveland cloud cover is pouring brilliant, radiant heat upon the Equator and the southern hemisphere as we speak.

When you walk around Cleveland on a January day, with the snow blowing and the slush piled on the sidewalks and the temperature down around the single digits and the wind cutting through you to the very core of your being, you begin to understand what winter really is.  We really don’t quite get it in Columbus

Avoiding A Baseball Hall Of Shame

The baseball writers have voted, and they’ve decided that no one should make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year.

They didn’t vote for Barry Bonds, the all-time home run leader, or Sammy Sosa, who had memorable home run duels with Mark McGwire and is eighth on the career home run list, or Roger Clemens, easily one of the most dominant pitchers of the modern era.  All three fell far short of the 75 percent vote they needed to be elected in the first year they were eligible.

I’ve bemoaned the “grade inflation” that has seen the incoming classes to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and other halls of fame become increasingly mediocre.  I’m glad the baseball writers didn’t feel the burning need to put a bunch of good players — but not Hall of Famers — into the shrine at Cooperstown this year.  In this case, though, no one would contend that a seven-time Cy Young Award winner or the man who hit more home runs than any other don’t have the stats to make it.  Instead, voters apparently struggled with whether players may have used performance-enhancing substances that helped to produce their great achievements and gave them an unfair advantage over others.

The steroid scandal has been an embarrassment for baseball, and I agree with the notion of waiting for the dust to settle before any leading player from the Steroid Era is honored with selection to the Hall of Fame.  Sometimes it takes a while for the truth to come out, one way or the other.  Players can be on the writers’ ballot for 15 years, which should give us plenty of time to see what shoes may drop.

Enough, Already!

Walking the streets of downtown Cleveland today, I saw . . . painted electric guitars at various locations on the sidewalks, each with a theme that supposedly celebrates something about Cleveland.  Get it?  Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, electric guitars?

Gahhh!  Hasn’t this whole concept been beaten to death, long ago?  I’ve seen painted cows in Chicago, painted pigs in Cincinnati . . . and I’m sure that countless other boring, copycat cities have made their own unimaginative forays into public art, where some local iconic symbol gets painted in different ways by local artists, and we’re supposed to appreciate what it says about the city in question.

C’mon, Cleveland — you’re better than this! Why copy cities like Chicago and Cincinnati, for God’s sake?  Have some self-respect, and buck the derivative trend!  Recognize that Cleveland is a leader, not a follower.  If you want to do some public art, come up with something original and unique, as befits Cleveland’s rich heritage as a trendsetter, not a camp follower.

In the meantime, can somebody do something with these silly painted electric guitars?  They’re cluttering up the sidewalks.

Rock And Roll Hall of Lame

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced their list of 2012 inductees recently.  The list was uninspiring and showed that another “hall of fame” is heading on the wrong track to Lameness Town.

In case you missed it, the 2012 inductees in the “performer” category are the Beastie Boys, Donovan, Guns N’ Roses, Laura Nyro, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Faces/Small Faces.  Yawn.  Really?  Laura Nyro wrote some nice songs for the likes of The Fifth Dimension, and now she’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?  The Beastie Boys are a rock and roll act, and not wannabe rappers?  (I’m not quite sure how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame even defines “rock and roll.”  Any genre that encompasses Neil Diamond (a 2011 inductee), ABBA (a 2010 inductee), and the Beastie Boys, among others, is not focused with laser-like precision on “rock and roll” as I understand it.)  Do any of these guys really deserve mention in the same breath as, say, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen?  Is the motivation behind enshrinement of these new inductees recognizing giants and ground-breakers — or is it just wanting to have a few more acts to perform at the 2012 induction ceremony and TV broadcast?

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has become reflective of a culture where everyone gets a trophy.  If you’ve written a few decent songs and had a few hits, you’ll probably get in.  It’s like the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The first class, in 1936, included only five true superstars — Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson.  The years pass, and after the turn of the century the Hall is down to admitting players like Bill Mazeroski and Ron Santo.

If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wants to mean anything, it needs to commit itself to being truly selective and to limiting its scope to real rock and roll, not every musical form that has existed in popular culture since 1950.  The exhibits to inductees like the Beastie Boys and ABBA are just clutter that will get in the way of visitors who want to see Buddy Holly memorabilia or learn more about the music of The Doors.

The Value Of Lennon’s Suit

The white suit that John Lennon wore on the cover of Abbey Road recently sold at auction for $46,000.  The two-piece suit, which had been made for Lennon by a French designer, was purchased by an on-line bidder who wanted to remain anonymous.  It is not clear whether the suit will end up in a museum or in some private collector’s basement.

What is the value of this kind of memorabilia?  In this case, the value is precisely the $46,000 the anonymous bidder was willing to pony up.  More broadly, of course, the value of such items is that they evoke a time, a place, and a person.  Anyone who sees the suit and hears what it is will think of the iconic cover photo, where Lennon led Ringo Starr, a barefoot, smoking Paul McCartney, and George Harrison across the street on a striped crosswalk, with the white Volkswagen in the background.  And knowing that the suit has been worn by an important historical or cultural figure allows the viewer to establish a more intimate connection with that figure.  “Hey, John Lennon wore this very suit.  Gee, I thought he was taller.”

I am not a collector, and I can’t imagine paying thousands of dollars for an old suit.  But Lennon’s suit would be a nice thing to see in an appropriate museum — say, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — so visitors could look at it and think of a blue sky day when four rock music giants who were coming to a brilliant end to their collaboration walked across a British street.