The Rock and Roll of Fame Class of 2016 has been announced, and, as expected with the annual induction of music luminaries to the triangular glass pyramid in Cleveland, Ohio, also comes a list that is no less polarizing and possibly even semi-controversial, just as it has been in years past.
This year’s roster includes Cheap Trick, Chicago, Steve Miller, incendiary rappers N.W.A, and finally getting a nod in the hall, Deep Purple. Official induction ceremonies will take place on Friday April 8th, 2016 at The Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York, marking the second time the ceremonies will be taking place at the Center. HBO will then as it is wont to do, broadcast the ceremonies sometime that spring.
For many, the inclusion of bands like Chicago and especially Deep Purple, smack of a “what-in-the-hell-took-you-so-long” stance. Deep Purple, who was born in England during that crucial late 1960s era when many bands were electrifying American blues to varying degrees of success, has sported a career and a massive contingent of members for almost 50 years. While best known for their 1972 record Machine Head, which sported FM radio favorites (to this very day) like “Highway Star,” “Lazy,” and their signature tune, the every-budding-guitarist-and-bar-band plays it ad nauseum “Smoke on the Water,” the band has also released scores of albums which mesh a cocktail of rock, blues, and even jazz to some extent.
Key members through the years include guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, the late organist Jon Lord, singers Ian Gillan and David Coverdale, the late guitar wizard Tommy Bolin, and the only living original member of the group, who still is a member when they actively tour, Ian Paice. What will be most interesting to see is how many of the current and former band members take the stage on induction night, and especially if the band’s original singer Rod Evans, who crooned on the band’s early well-known hit cover version of Joe South’s “Hush” will be there, as he has been blackballed from the band for life since 1980 as he toured with a subpar version of the band at that time, illegally using the name Deep Purple. Evans has been persona-non-grata from public life since his blackballing 35 years ago.
Chicago in a way will have some of the same kind of challenges come induction night. They too have had a litany of members come and go, and endured the tragic death of one of, if not THE, key members of the band from its original inception, one Terry Kath, who still remains one of the great guitarists to ever plug into an amplifier. Kath also lent his soulful vocals to memorable tracks like “Make Me Smile,” “Color My World,” and the band’s very first track from their very first release back in 1969, when they were known as the Chicago Transit Authority, “Introduction.”
Kath, who died in 1978 of a head injury while playing Russian Roulette, will cast a shadow on the proceedings that will extend a mile wide and rightfully so. The band became a completely different one after Kath’s death, and suddenly became a sort of middle of the road pop act, penning assembly line ballads which were more of a Mariah Carey/Whitney Houston variety than the great mix of jazz rock that solidified their success in the late ’60s – mid ’70s. Original bass player and singer Peter Cetera hasn’t been with the band for 30 years and it should be interesting to see if he rejoins his old bandmates — original drummer Danny Seraphine too.
The inclusion of N.W.A. smacks of politics, as their biopic Straight Outta Compton was released this past summer to many critical and financial laurels. The band, right on the crest of a Los Angeles in the mid to late 1980s that was like a pressure cooker boiling at 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, pretty much released one album with the original line up (which included rappers like Dr. Dre, the late Eazy-E and, Ice Cube), but that album (also called Straight Outta Compton) became one of the legendary benchmarks in West Coast hip hop lore. Like Public Enemy on the East Coast, N.W.A. spoke about young urban strife, violence, misogyny, and the like, all done with a bloody hammer fist to the ears and senses.
Cheap Trick has been doing their brand of power pop and straight forward rock and roll for decades now, led by the vocals of Robin Zander and the gymnastics on the fret board by famed guitarist Rick Nielsen. Steve Miller has also been doing his own kind of hot rock and blues, and he was able to parlay it into chart success after chart success during the 1970s, with songs such as “The Joker,” “Jungle Love,” “Take the Money and Run,” and the memorable number one smash from 1976, “Fly Like An Eagle.”
So it should be another interesting and somewhat memorable night in Brooklyn on April 8th, 2016. And lastly, as is also becoming an annual tradition, is me wondering yet again, why in the hell Marc Bolan and T-Rex are STILL not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.