The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its 2012 inductees for a ceremony to be held in Cleveland. The new members include Beastie Boys, Donovan, Guns 'N Roses, Laura Nyro, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the aggregate Small Faces/Faces as performers; Freddie King as an early influence, Don Kirshner as non-performer and, under the award for musical excellence, Tom Dowd, Glyn Johns and Cosimo Matassa. See the link above for more info and be aware that Tom Dowd, for one, is a god. Update: I have posted the Rock Hall's bios of the new inductees after the jump.
Some vintage Small Faces:
A Laura Nyro classic:
Dobie Gray has left us. Most famous for "Drift Away," but I lean more toward his classic "The In Crowd," shown below. I also interviewed Gray in 1975, when he was relaunching his career via Capricorn Records a couple of years after "Drift Away." He was a pleasant enough guy, but I remember his signature songs far better than the interview.
At different times over the past three decades, the Beastie Boys have been shaven-head punks, hip-hop bad boys, Seventies-funk students, political activists and style icons. Most important: they have had one of the richest, most important careers in hip-hop and rock, introducing rap to a huge new audience and then pushing the frontiers of what a hip-hop group could do. Their 1986 debut album Licensed To Ill – a supremely bratty, hard-punching, pitch-perfect mix of rap and hard rock – was hip-hop’s first number one album, and remains near the top of the Billboard catalog charts to this day. The single “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!),” became a teenage party anthem of the 1980’s; a generation of hip-hop fans memorized hits like “Brass Monkey” and “Paul Revere,” songs which are now part of the rap canon. Their follow-up, 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, was one of the high points of hip-hop’s golden age of sampling, piling hilarious, streetwise rhymes over everything from Loggins & Messina to the Ramones. In the 1990’s, they came full circle musically, picking up their instruments and bringing back hardcore punk and funk into their music repertoire. They recorded three classic albums, Check Your Head, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty, and smash hits like “Sabotage” and “Intergalactic.” Along the way, they’ve kept experimenting with what a hip-hop band can be: becoming the most politically active group of their generation with the Tibetan Freedom Concerts; recording classic videos; putting their fans behind the camera with their film Awesome I F**king Shot That; and recording three new studio albums in the last decade, 2004’s To The Five Boroughs, 2007’s The Mix-Up and 2011’s Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.
The first British folk troubadour who truly captured the imaginations of early Beatles-era fans on both sides of the Atlantic, Donovan Leitch made the transition from a scruffy blue-jeaned busker into a brocaded hippie traveler on Trans Love Airways. As a folkie on the road with Gypsy Dave, Donovan became a Dylanesque visual presence on the BBC’s Ready Steady Go! starting in 1964, and released several classics: “Catch The Wind,” “Colours,” Buffy Ste.-Marie’s “Universal Soldier,” “To Try For The Sun” and more. That changed in 1966, as he came under the production arm of UK hitmaker Mickie Most, and was signed by Clive Davis to Epic Records in the states. Donovan ignited the psychedelic revolution virtually single-handedly when the iconic single “Sunshine Superman” was released that summer of ’66 (and the LP of the same name, with “Season Of The Witch”). His heady fusion of folk, blues and jazz expanded to include Indian music and the TM (transcendental meditation) movement. Donovan was at the center of the Beatles’ fabled pilgrimage to the Maharishi’s ashram in early ’68 (where, it is said, he taught guitar finger-picking techniques to John and Paul). Donovan’s final Top 40 hit with Most was “Goo Goo Barabajagal (Love Is Hot)” in the summer ’69, backed by the Jeff Beck Group. In the ’70s and ’80s, Donovan continued to record and tour sporadically, including songs for Franco Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun, Sister Moon (finally issued in 2004). During the 1990s, Rick Rubin (after working with Johnny Cash) produced Donovan’s Sutras. The 2008 documentary film, Sunshine Superman: The Journey Of Donovan is an essential overview of his career.
GUNS ‘N ROSES
Guns N’ Roses may have began as just another long-haired band trying to make it on the L.A. Sunset Strip club scene, but when they unleashed their debut LP Appetite For Destruction on the world in 1987 they instantly established themselves as one the most dynamic and explosive hard rock bands in history. In many ways, they became the Rolling Stones for a new generation. While their peers produced glossy songs that romanticized the party atmosphere of mid-1980s Los Angeles, frontman Axl Rose, guitarist Slash, drummer Steven Adler, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin and bassist Duff McKagan wrote about the gritty realities of the scene, most memorably on their masterpiece “Welcome To The Jungle.” The massive single “Sweet Child O’ Mine” showed their gentler side, while “Mr. Brownstone” was a brilliant cautionary tale about the dangers of heroin. In 1991, inspired by Queen and Elton John, they released the highly ambitious Use Your Illusion albums on the same day. Epic singles “November Rain” and “Civil War” proved how quickly the band had evolved in a few short years, and they were soon packing stadiums all across the globe. When the tour wrapped in late 1993, the band paid tribute to their 1970s hard rock, punk and glam heroes by recording an album of covers called The Spaghetti Incident.
Bronx-born singer, songwriter and pianist Laura Nyro (1947-1997) was still a teenager in 1966 when she recorded her debut album, and Peter, Paul & Mary cut “And When I Die.” At age 19, Laura played the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, which brought her to the attention of first-time manager David Geffen. He led her to Columbia, Laura’s record label for the next 25 years, starting with 1968’s iconic Eli And The Thirteenth Confession. Other artists scored hit after hit with her songs, led by the 5th Dimension’s “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Sweet Blindness” in 1968 (then “Wedding Bell Blues” in ’69 and “Blowin' Away” in ’70). Over two consecutive weeks in October 1969, Blood, Sweat & Tears entered the Hot 100 with “And When I Die,” and Three Dog Night followed with “Eli’s Coming.” In 1970-71, Barbra Streisand charted three consecutive times with Laura Nyro songs, “Stoney End,” “Time And Love” and “Flim Flam Man.” Laura’s 1971 LP with Labelle, Gonna Take A Miracle, an entire program of R&B covers, produced in Philadelphia by Gamble & Huff, remains a classic four decades later. Elton John acclaimed her influence to Elvis Costello: “The soul, the passion, the out-and-out audacity of her rhythmic and melody changes was like nothing I’d ever heard before.” Laura’s tragic death of ovarian cancer at age 49 robbed popular music of one of its purest lights.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
Formed in the sin-and-glamour capital of America – Hollywood, California – in 1983, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the most flamboyant, commercially successful and musically influential bands of rock’s last quarter century. Singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Michael Balzary a/k/a Flea, guitarist Hillel Slovak and drummer Jack Irons were high school pals who combined their passions for Jimi Hendrix, Seventies R&B and hardcore punk with sexual exuberance and local skateboard culture, immediately becoming famous for their outrageous (often near-naked) live shows and incendiary jamming. After Slovak’s death in 1988 and other personnel changes, the Chili Peppers – with guitar prodigy John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith – broke through with 1991’s BloodSugarSexMagik, a multi-platinum fusion of metal and rap that was pivotal in bringing modern black street culture and music to the Nirvana generation. The Chili Peppers’ hits have run the melodic and emotional gamut from the fierce hip hop of BloodSugar’s “Give It Away” and the 1992 Number Two ballad “Under The Bridge,” one of the best pop songs ever written about the grip of addiction, to the heavy riffing of “Scar Tissue” and the gorgeous melancholy of “Otherside” on 1999’s Californication. The Chili Peppers’ 2006 two-CD set, Stadium Arcadium, went right to Number One, an ambitious collection that added Sixties-pop harmonies, blazing psychedelia and progressive-rock dynamics to their heavy California soul. After their longest hiatus ever, the Chili Peppers returned in the summer of 2011 with a new album, I’m With You (which debuted at Number One in 17 countries), and a new tour that will take them through 2013.
THE SMALL FACES/THE FACES
Founded in London in 1965, the Small Faces were two great bands in one: visionary mods who were creative peers and commercial equals of the Beatles, the Who and the Rolling Stones, then reborn in the early Seventies with a shortened name and a thrilling inventive hard-rock sound. Together, the Small Faces and Faces have been a lasting inspiration on artists like the Black Crowes, the Jam’s Paul Weller, the Replacements and Oasis. Named for their diminutive stature and mod slang for a snappy dresser, bassist Ronnie Lane, organist Ian McLagan, drummer Kenney Jones and singer Steve Marriott recorded an explosive series of U.K. hit singles and classic albums, mostly written by Marriott and Lane, that set the standard for Sixties soul-inflected pop and English psychedelic romanticism. Marriott’s Cockney-Otis Redding wail was a profound influence on heavy-rock singers like Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. When Marriott quit in early 1969, Lane, Jones and McLagan recruited singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ron Wood, both from the Jeff Beck Group. Fusing R&B, country roots and Fifties rock, the Faces made joyful roots music with arena muscle, cutting their own immortal body of work (1972’s “Stay With Me,” Lane’s elegiac gem “Ooh La La”) while conquering America with boozy-brother showmanship. The Faces broke up in 1975 when Stewart went solo full-time and Wood joined the Stones. (Lane died in 1997.) But in their exuberance and pioneering spirit, the Small Faces and the Faces have always been one band: brilliant, unprecedented and as influential as ever.
Guitarists ranging from Eric Clapton and Mike Bloomfield, to Peter Green, Jeff Beck and Carlos Santana have all acknowledged their debt to Freddie King (1934-1976), the “Texas Cannonball.” His ’60s classics, “Have You Ever Loved A Woman,” “Hide Away,” “You’ve Got To Love Her With A Feeling” and “The Stumble” are part of the DNA of modern electric blues. Born in Texas, young Freddie arrived in Chicago with his family in 1950, a perfect moment to start learning from Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers and all of the legendary post-war bluesmen. Over the next ten years, as the First Great blues revival took shape, Freddie developed a style all his own. In 1961, he miraculously charted six R&B Top 30 hits on the King/Federal label that were heard from coast-to-coast and were profoundly influential on both sides of the Atlantic. Three covers are indelibly etched: “Hideaway” featuring Clapton (on John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, the ‘Beano’ LP of 1966), “The Stumble” and “Someday, After Awhile (You’ll Be Sorry)” (both featuring Green, on Mayall’s A Hard Road, ’67) and “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” (a staple for Clapton ever since the first Derek & the Dominos album). Freddie King thrived on rock, jazz and blues scenes and at festivals starting in the late ’60s and ’70s, even getting name-checked by Grand Funk Railroad on “We’re An American Band” (“Up all night with Freddie King/ I got to tell you, poker’s his thing”). Right up through his death, all too soon at age 42, Freddie influenced Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, and the next generation of disciples who would take electric blues into the ’80s, ’90s and beyond.
Ahmet Ertegun (nonperformer) Award:
Don Kirshner’s career spanned the heyday of New York's Brill Building, which was the ground zero of pop songwriting in the 1950s and 60s, included a pivotal role in creating the Monkees and the Archies, and later found him hosting the long-running live-music television show Don Kirshner's Rock Concert.
Kirshner began his music career when he met fellow Bronx native Robert Cassotto, They began writing songs together. Cassotto changed his name to Bobby Darin and went on to a successful recording career. In 1958, Kirshner embarked upon a new partnership, founding Aldon Music with musician Al Nevin. Aldon was a songwriting factory, where teams of writers churned out songs to be sold to the stars of the day. Neil Diamond was one of the first songwriters signed up to Aldon, and the company roster soon grew to include such future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers as Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill, Gerry Goffin and Carole King and Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. In 1963, Kirshner and Nevins sold the Aldon songs catalog to Screen Gems. Kirshner embarked upon the second act of his career, masterminding the made for-television group the Monkees and the made-for-cartoon group the Archies. By 1972, Kirshner was concentrating on his television career. That year he became executive producer on ABC's live-music show, In Concert. In 1973, he debuted Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. The show hosted performances by a who’s who of rock luminaries, including the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Blondie, the Ramones and the Allman Brothers, among many others. Don Kirshner's Rock Concert was broadcast until 1982, and Kirshner retired, first to New Jersey, then Boca Raton, Florida, where he died of heart failure on January 17, 2011.
The Award for Musical Excellence:
New Orleans R&B historian Jeff Hannusch has written that “Virtually every R&B record made in New Orleans between the late 40s and early 70s was engineered by Cosimo Matassa, and recorded in one of his four studios.” As the owner of J&M Recording Studios in the city’s French Quarter, Matassa recorded the music that helped give birth to rock and roll. Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew, Little Richard, Lloyd Price, Smiley Lewis, Professor Longhair, Roy Brown and countless others created magic at J&M. Matassa opened the J&M Record Shop in 1945, and installed recording equipment in the back of the store. There were no recording studios in the city at the time, and J&M became a gathering place for musicians. Matassa sought to capture rather than shape the city’s thriving R&B scene: “I always tried to capture the dynamics of a live performance. These guys were doing these songs on their gigs and that was the sound that I was trying to get. We didn’t have any gimmicks—no overdubbing, no reverb—nothing. Those guys played with a lot of excitement; and I felt if I couldn’t put it in the groove, people weren’t going to move.” Record labels like DeLuxe, Atlantic, Chess, Imperial, King and Specialty lined up to record at J&M. He moved the studio around New Orleans in later years and kept on recording New Orleans greats like Aaron Neville, Lee Dorsey, and Robert Parker.
Tom Dowd (1925-2002) was a scientist who deeply loved soulful, funky music. His attention to sonic detail, embrace of new technology, and love of music gained him the trust of rock and roll’s biggest stars who asked him to record their greatest albums. After completing high school he worked at Columbia University in the Physics Department where he conducted research on nuclear power and became a technician in the now infamous Manhattan Project. His dreams of becoming a nuclear physicist research specialist were sidetracked when he began using his engineering knowledge to work as a freelancer for various New York record labels. In 1954 he was brought in as a staff engineer and producer at Atlantic Records. “Tom’s contributions to the development and evolution of Atlantic Records was inestimable,” said Jerry Wexler, “you couldn’t quantify it, it was just enormous.” Dowd was responsible for embracing a number of technological innovations at Atlantic including the use of stereo and eight-track recording machines. But for Dowd it wasn’t simply about turning the EQ knobs on a mixing board. He tried to find ways to capture the spirit and visceral energy of musical performance and reproduce it on record. At Atlantic he recorded, and occasionally produced, artists such as Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, LaVern Baker, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding – to name just a few. Dowd never allowed himself to be boxed into a single musical sound. His ears were always open, and in later years he helped to create the signature sound of the Allman Brothers, Cream, Dusty Springfield, Rod Stewart, Bette Midler, Chicago, and the James Gang.
Engineer and producer Glyn Johns was born in Epsom, England, on February 15, 1942. He began his career as a performer, fronting the band the Presidents during the early 1960s. He became an apprentice to the producer Shel Talmy, who worked with the Who and the Kinks. By 1965, Johns was engineering Rolling Stones’ recording sessions, including 1967's Their Satanic Majesties Request and 1968’s Beggars Banquet. In addition to his work with the Stones, he engineered albums for Traffic, Procol Harum, Spooky Tooth, the Move and Billy Nichols in 1968 alone. Also in 1968, he found the time to engineer and produce the Steve Miller Band’s album Sailor, which led to more production work.
By 1971, Johns had hit his stride as a producer, with Who’s Next by the Who, the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers and the Faces’ A Nod Is as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse to his credit. He produced the Eagles’ first three albums and is arguably responsible for creating that group’s distinct Southern California sound. He was asked to rescue the Beatles’ ill-fated Get Back sessions and worked on the tapes for months before the project was turned over to Phil Spector to complete as Let It Be. Johns’ production and engineering throughout the Seventies included work with the Band, Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton and many others. In the Eighties, Johns worked as engineer or producer for the Who, the Clash and Jimmy Page. His Nineties credits include production for John Hiatt, David Crosby and Belly. Johns’ most recent work is as mixer, engineer and producer of Ryan Adams’ 2011 album, Ashes and Fire.
About the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame : The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was established by legendary record executive Ahmet Ertegun and a group of music business executives to honor the artists that have defined rock and roll and have inspired and continue to inspire a generation. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. is the nonprofit organization that exists to educate visitors, fans and scholars from around the world about the history and continuing significance of rock and roll music. It carries out this mission both through its operation of a world-class museum designed by I.M. Pei in Cleveland, Ohio that collects, preserves, exhibits and interprets this art form and through its library and archives as well as educational programs. For further information, please visit rockhall.com.