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2005 Rock Hall Inductees

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the 2005 inductees just a bit ago – it’s a very solid and substantial list: U2, the O’Jays, the Pretenders, Percy Sledge, Buddy Guy, and nonperformers Frank Barsalona and Seymour Stein.

This March’s induction ceremony at the Waldorf in NYC is going to be one flipping hot ticket: has a hotter or more contemporary group ever been inducted into the Hall than U2, whose How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb is currently No. 2 on the Billboard album chart? Springsteen is the only one I can think of who comes close. And with the still sweet-singing O’Jays laying down some soulful harmonies, Percy crooning his southern soul standards “When A Man Loves a Woman” and “Warm and Tender Love,” force of nature Chrissie Hynde and the latest Pretenders back on the chain gang, and Buddy Guy ripping it up with his blistering electric blues guitar, it’s going to be one hell of a show.

We have been closely following U2’s activities here, including reviews of Atomic and their resounding appearance on SNL.

I wrote the following earlier this year:


Ireland’s U2 is the most important and influential band of the post-punk era, joining ringing guitar rock, punkish independence, Celtic spirituality, innovative production techniques and electronic experimentalism — all held together by singer/lyricist Bono’s transcendent vision and charisma.

U2 — Bono (Paul Hewson), guitarist the Edge (Dave Evans), bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen — formed in Dublin in 1976 as a Beatles and Stones cover band while the players were all still in high school. In 1980 they were signed to Island Records and released their spectacular first album, “Boy,” produced by Steve Lillywhite.

The band’s sparkling, radiant sound jumped from the grooves from the first note of “I Will Follow” and rode Mullen’s massive drums and the Edge’s angular, careening guitar into history. Neither “Boy” nor its follow-up “October” (with the glorious “Gloria”) tore up the charts at the time (though both are now platinum), but “War” — passionate, martial “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” melodic wailing “New Year’s Day,” and the fierce, new wavy love song “Two Hearts Beat As One”—turned U2 into a worldwide phenomenon in 1983.

In preparation for 1984’s “The Unforgettable Fire,” producer Brian Eno had a long conversation with Bono, as he later told Q Magazine. “I said, ‘Look, if I work with you, I will want to change lots of things you do, because I’m not interested in records as a document of a rock band playing on stage, I’m more interested in painting pictures. I want to create a landscape within which this music happens.’ And Bono said, ‘Exactly, that’s what we want too.’”

The results of this fateful change of direction were Eno productions of U2 standards “The Unforgettable Fire” (including “Bad,” “Pride In the Name of Love”); Grammy’s 1987 Album of the Year, the personal yet universal “The Joshua Tree,” which made the band superstars (with “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “With Or Without You” and “One Tree Hill”); 1991’s “Achtung Baby,” a brilliant and emotionally dark move toward electronica (“Even Better Than the Real Thing,” “One,” “Until the End of the World,” “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” and “Mysterious Ways”); and “Zooropa,” deeper still into Euro-dance music and electronics (‘93, with the title track, “Numb,” “Lemon,” “Stay”). Wow, what a journey.

U2 was the leading rock band of the ’80s because its members, like perhaps only Bruce Springsteen in the U.S., still believed that rock ‘n’ roll could save the world, and they had the talent to make that notion not seem hopelessly naive.

This earnestness and willingness to shoulder the heaviest of responsibilities led to soaring heights of achievement and escalating psychic and artistic demands that eventually led the band to adopt irony as its basic means of expression for a time in the ’90s.

All bands want to be cool, and in the ’80s U2 almost single-handedly made earnestness cool, but it was hard, relentless work. After the gritty, chunky guitars-and-idealism of the ’80s, the ’90s saw the diaphanous chill of electronics-and-irony, which was literally and metaphorically cool, but ultimately not what the band is about.

“All That You Can’t Leave Behind” (‘00) returned to what the band is about, and is the sonic and spiritual follow up to the “The Joshua Tree,” the band’s most idealistic, spiritual and melodically consistent album.

Remnants of the band’s forays into electronics seasoned the album (especially the impressionistic “New York”), but the Edge’s guitar returned to center stage where his unique, chiming style belongs, though it never upstages the songs, every one of which is blessed with a memorable tune.

Following the ecstatic release of the opening track “Beautiful Day,” the second song “Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” states a seemingly modest but deeply profound, earnest and idealistic notion:

“I’m just trying to find a decent melody
A song I can sing in my own company”

They have found it and then some. U2 is now a mature, confident, still amazing band that knows it doesn’t have all the answers, but isn’t afraid to keep asking the right questions.

Producer Leon Huff on the O’Jays:

“Our company (Philadelphia International) really took off after we signed the O’Jays.

“I remember flying into Cleveland – a disc jockey had called to say ‘Man there’s a group in Cleveland that’s raising hell’ – so we took a flight out to Cleveland and went to see them at a club. They had lines around the corner. Those guys were tearing that club up. We stayed in Cleveland until we signed them. We took them back to Philadelphia and recorded and recorded and recorded.”

With the O’Jays, and Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, the world of Gamble and Huff came together. In the ’70s G&H scored ten No. 1 R&B and nine Top 40 pop hits with the O’Jays; four No. 1 R&B and four Top 20 hits with Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes.

But more importantly, all the disparate elements of the G&H sound coalesced into something new: music with rhythmic muscle, melodic sophistication and orchestral leavening, combined with a newfound social and interpersonal awareness, all funneled through the great pipes of the O’Jays’ Eddie Levert and the Bluesnotes’ Teddy Pendergrass.

Recorded at G&H’s Sigma Sound with engineer Joe Tarsia, the roll began with the O’Jays’ “Backstabbers,” a remarkable combination of shimmering strings, Latin percussion, post-modern paranoia and a palpable sense of “this is it – there is nothing any of us could or should be doing other than making this music.”

G&H weren’t following Motown (where Norman Whitfield was making parallel strides) or anyone else (Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes were independently exploring some of the same terrain) – G&B were leading.

In addition to making hits, G&H allowed house band MFSB to stretch out in the grooves of the songs, laying a funky foundation for the extended disco remixes of the later-’70s. Album cuts of such uptempo masterworks as the Bluenotes’ “Bad Luck” and “The Love I Lost”; MFSB’s “TSOP” (The Soul Train theme song) and “Love Is the Message”; and the O’Jays’ “992 Arguments,” “I Love Music” and (best) “For the Love of Money” reached lengths of up to 10-minutes of dance floor ecstasy.

“Money” is Huff’s all-time favorite “for the [anti-greed] message and for the song. I used to go the O’Jays concerts and they would drive people insane when they would close the show with that song.”

Formed in late-’70s London, the Pretenders have endured as one of the most successful groups to emerge from the New Wave era. Singer and rhythm guitarist Chrissie Hynde writes songs (such as “Brass in Pocket, “Back on the Chain Gang,” “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and “Middle of the Road”) about everyday survival with a tough, self-assured persona softened with romantic longing and maternal love.

Akron-native Chrissie Hynde spoke to the Plain Dealer after her nomination:

    “Personally, I hope it doesn’t happen, because I don’t like awards,” she said.

    Hynde put together the Pretenders after she relocated to London in the mid- ’70s. The pop-rock group released its first single, “Stop Your Sobbing,” in 1979, followed by such hits as “Brass in Pocket (I’m Special)” and “Back on the Chain Gang.”

    The band performed at the Concert for the Hall of Fame at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1995.

    “It was one of the greatest days of my life,” Hynde said. “I’m glad the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland. . . . It’s nice if people like that sort of thing, they can go and see, you know, the trousers that Jimmy Page wore in 1910.

    “But as far as the awards part of it and being inducted, I could give that a miss.”

    The Pretenders have gone through numerous lineup changes through the years. Founding members James Honeyman-Scott (guitar) and Pete Farndon (bass) died of drug overdoses in 1982 and 1983, respectively.

The founder and president of Premier Talent Agency, Barsalona created the first legitimate rock and roll booking agency. Along the way, he single handedly reinvented the way artists, agents, venues and promoters did business. His roster included Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, The Pretenders, The Who and U2.

The Chairman of Sire Records, Stein co-founded the label in 1966, and has been one of the most successful and influential executives in the music business. His ability to discover new talent led to signings of many groundbreaking artists such as The Ramones, Madonna, The Pretenders, Talking Heads, Seal, Depeche Mode, Ice-T, The Cure, The Smiths, kd Lang and Barenaked Ladies. The label is still going strong after nearly 40 years and still innovative with recent signings including The Von Bondies, HIM, Regina Spektor, The Fags and The Veronicas.

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About Eric Olsen

  • Bill Lamb

    You’re exactly right, Eric – it’s a truly outstanding set of inductees.

    Since my main focus on music is Dance music I am quite pleased that U2, the O’Jays and Pretenders have all crossed boundaries to have Dance hits in the past.

    I just reported about a week and a half ago that Vertigo is U2’s 5th Top 20 Dance hit in the U.S. The O’Jays ‘Love Train’ and ‘I Love Music’ are Disco classics, and some of the Pretenders’ first success in the U.S. was when ‘Brass In Pocket’ spent a lengthy time on the Dance chart in the days when New Wave was quite welcome in clubs.

    Thanks for the story, and it will be an amazing show!

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Bill, much appreciated; cool news on the dance music angle, which always interests me as well. The early New Wave days were when I first started DJing – I remember the openness and eclecticism of the time very fondly

  • Al Barger

    Just want to take a second to recognize “Wake Up Dead Man,” which is THE unrecognized U2 classic. They took a break from the irony schtick to deliver it straight up again, and a lot of bottled up realness poured forth in one hard dose.

  • Lono

    U2 being selected is a no brainer. However, I was also very pleased to see Buddy Guy and the Pretenders make the cut as well. This was a good year for inductees.

  • Eric Olsen

    yes, the first three Pretenders albums (2 and an EP, actually) are absolutely seminal – Chrissie’s tough edge has dirffted away over the years and that makes it easy to forget what a kick in the gut she was

    No holes in this year’s class

  • andy marsh

    Sorry, but I don’t think the pretenders should have made it into the hall before Lynyrd Skynyrd or J. Geils!

  • Eric Olsen

    remember there is a delicate balance and symmetry to the process – I think they’ll be ready for a sort of standard “classic rock” band by next year

  • SFC Ski

    “yes, the first three Pretenders albums (2 and an EP, actually) are absolutely seminal”
    NO arguments there, when 2 of the original members died the Pretenders were thereafter never really anything more than Hynde’s backing band, sad to say. THey did rock back then, though.

  • Mark Saleski

    oh gawd, the segue from “Space Invader” to “Wait” on the the first Pretenders record is one of them “turn it up to 11″ things.

    i’m gettin’ all tingly just thinking about it.

  • SFC Ski

    I know what you mean, in ediscovering my old cassettes, I had the frst 2.5 of the Pretenders in my deck for a week. Backed with, BTW, David Gilmour’s first Solo Album.

  • Eric Olsen

    the first album in particular almost justifies their inclusion, similarly to “Never Mind the Bollocks” for the Sex Pistols.

    My favorite song of theirs has always been “Mystery Achievement” which is one of the most perfect songs ever recorded

  • ClubhouseCancer

    True about the first two albums being seminal, but I also love the later stuff that’s more Chrissie plus band, especially Viva La Amor. And Learning to Crawl is both a great and a huge-selling album.

    Chrissie just kicks ass.
    Their 2002 release, Loose Screw, just disappeared, but it’s great if you like Chrissie. “Fools Must Die” rocks kinda like 1981, “Saving Grace” is lovely. There’s good stuff on all the albums, period. And Chrissie sings great live, too.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Eric, you picked my second favorite. To me, “Talk of the Town” should be brought up when talking about the greatest pop/rock recordings. “MA” has all that, plus an appealing obliqueness lyrically.

    I like “Kid” and “precious” almost as much.

    And a perfectly stupid and beautiful rock lyric is this:
    “When love walks in the room, everybody stand up!

  • Eric Olsen

    and CC, I agree with you that there is good stuff scattered throughout the later albums, and that Learning to Crawl is great: “Middle of the Road,” “Back On the Chain Gang,” “My City Was Gone” and “2000 Miles” on one studio album? Bowel-shaking goodness.

  • Phillip Winn

    I don’t know what Buddy Guy has to do with the “Rock” Hall of Fame, but he deserves pretty much any accolades people want to throw his way.

    Is there a Blues Hall of Fame? That’s where Buddy belongs.

  • Eric Olsen

    the Rock Hall has a whole bunch of “influences,” which include blues, country and a few jazzers, but in Buddy’s case, what he plays IS pretty much what used to be called rock ‘n’ roll, or at least blues rock

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Eric, do you listen to a lot of rock music while sitting on the can? It seems like you really feel great music in your digestive system, which must make really good concerts almost unbearable!

  • Eric Olsen

    you’re right about feeling it in the old internal organs, although it isn’t specific to my digestion: it includes lungs and heart especially.

    In all seriousness, in the presence of really great live music, sometimes I have a hard time breathing

  • Mark Saleski

    in the presence of really great live music, sometimes I have a hard time breathing


  • Eric Olsen

    I knew we were simpatico, Mark

  • ClubhouseCancer

    I don’t get that. But whenever I hear really great music, even hapy, sunny pop music, I embarrassingly start to get teary. It’s only started for me over the last few years (I’m 37) but it’s really strange. Not just sadly beautiful music. Just particularly beautiful music.

    The last year, this has happened at:
    Patti Smith
    Bill Frisell
    Vincent Herring
    Yo La Tengo
    Cassandra Wilson
    Neko Case
    Arcade Fire

    These acts do not perfrom sad songs, as a rule.

    It is indeed embarrassing to do this at an alternative rock show. Strange.

  • Eric Olsen

    CC, I think that is a very similar reaction, just manifest through different organs.

    And don’t feel bad, I sometimes tear up at freaking high school halftime shows

  • Sean Hackbarth

    It’s just crap a great band like Rush gets ignored year after year after year. It just ruins the HOF’s crediblity.

  • Aaman

    Hear! Hear! mod parent up

  • Phillip Winn

    Aaman, the beauty is, the act of commenting “mods up” the entire post. :-)

  • Eric Olsen

    Rush’s problem, and the problem for metal and prog bands also (the intersection of which would be, um, Rush) is that the critics collectively just don’t dig ’em. I would guess at some point there will be a backlash against the backlash

  • Phillip Winn

    Eric, you don’t consider King’s X to be a progressive/metal band?

  • Phillip Winn

    I mean, they’re probably not hall-of-fame material, at least not until Ty Tabor quits producing them, but I think they qualify for your parenthetical statement, no?

  • JR

    Dream Theater is both more metal and more prog than Rush now. But Rush pretty much put the stoplights up at that intersection, so it’s theirs.

  • Paul Roy

    Not a bad list this year. I am always dissapointed with some of the omissions each year, as well as some of the additions. It seems like each year they have to throw in the token 60’s motown group, no matter how good they actually were, just so it is not only rock bands. Some were fantastic but others like The Flamingos, The Dells, etc….come on!

    U2 and Buddy Guy are definately deserving. The O’Jays maybe, but Percy Sledge and The Pretenders are very borderline. Each had SOME great stuff, but not hall of fame worthy, in my opinion.

    A lot of you are right about Rush’s shameful ommission — the critics simply hate them. They should consider however that the same three guys have been putting out platinum albums for over 35 years, and touring non-stop to sell out crowds. F.U. critics! I would also love to see Lynryd Skynyrd in there as well. Great body of work, and nobody sounds like Skynrd. Totally unique. A few people mentioned King’s X, who used to be one of my favorite bands, but have just sucked lately. They were certainly on their way to the hall of fame, until they started producing their own albums.

  • Natalie Davis

    “My favorite song of theirs has always been ‘Mystery Achievement’ which is one of the most perfect songs ever recorded”

    A-frickin’-men. Chrissie Hynde is a goddess to me, and the first Pretenders albums present her at her edgiest, ass-kickingest best. I only hope James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon will be inducted posthumously.

    The Pretenders… U2 (I’ve adored the band since day one)… the O’Jays (awesome pick… wonder if Trump’s use of “For the Love of Money” played a part in the group’s selection)… Buddy Guy (blues is rock music)… etc. … what a terrific set of inductees! The HOF got it right this year. It gives me hope that perhaps we’ll see deserving yet overlooked artists (such as Rush and Skynyrd) get the nod in the near future.

  • Eric Olsen

    hi Nat! Did you feel your ears burning from the Grateful Dead post?

    I think this is a pretty great class – good point about the Trump exposure for the O’Jays. I think eventually the Rock Hall voters are going to have to expand their rather narrow range and fairly predictable MO (as Paul mentions), specifically as regards metal and prog, and to answer the question, I didn’t mean to imply that Rush is the only group at the intersection of prog and metal, just the most prominent. MY comment was really just an aside saying “wow, rush is really SOL given they fit in BOTH the categories he critics/voters hate

    Oh and the original Pretenders are the ones being inducted

  • Buddy Rogers

    At this point, I don’t want RUSH in the Crap Hall of Fame. Sorry if you don’t like them critics, but they influenced numerous bands in different genres of music..but I guess that doesn’t matter. How many bands are still making relevant music 30 plus years into their careers? Forget the hall..RUSH is too good for it.