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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- The Cheap Trick Edition

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced their entries the other day. I've always had problems with that organization. How can they not have Yes, Jethro Tull, or any band Paul Rodgers (Bad Company, Free) has been a part of? Oh, and The Cars. What an amazing group. They have three albums that didn't have a single bad song on them (self-titled debut, Panorama, Candy-O). And each year, they let in bands that don't deserve to get in. This year it's rap group N.W.A. I don't say that because they're rap. The Hall has already explained, with people like Miles Davis, and a few previous rap groups, that's popular music, not "rock" per se. The problem is that N.W.A. only released 3 albums, and only one of those was good (well, to me it was good because I grew up playing basketball, and constantly heard it being blasted out of car stereos and boom boxes). Sure, the band is influential, but so what.
I am on the fence about how I feel about Cheap Trick getting in. Now, I've seen them in concert four times. I own four albums, and four CDs (two of those I bought because they were in the $1 bin). I've gotten many many autographs from them. I'm just not sure they're worthy of the "hall of fame." I like to use this analogy -- Steve Garvey, who got the Padres to a rare World Series with a home run...and was a 9-time all-star, isn't in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame shouldn't be for people that were good, but people that were great. Is Cheap Trick "great"? Read Rick Nielson's song lyrics. I'd say...good, but not great. Now, as autograph signers, they were always great. Well, aside from drummer Bun E. Carlos. And that's what leads me to this story.
The first time I got their signatures, a DJ I worked with was introducing them onstage before the concert. I gave him a photo to get signed backstage. Nielson did his classic caricature with the signature, and it was framed promptly.
After a few concerts, I would get a few members of the band, and they were always very nice. Yet before one concert, we were scolded by Carlos, who was reluctant to sign, but eventually shouted "Two per person" (there were only four of us waiting, but we were thrilled).
At one radio station a few years ago, the producer saw my Cheap Trick shirt and told me it was his favorite band. He also worked with them in some capacity, and he told me singer Robin Zander has always disliked Carlos and how he treats the fans. I told him the one time he was nice to a fan, was when it was the son of somebody he knew in college.
The last time I saw Cheap Trick at a small club, Carlos wasn't behind the drums, but guitarist Neilson's son Daxx. He's been the drummer for almost six years. He sounded fine, but when you've come to know the members of a 4-piece band, you want all the originals. And Carlos had that distinctive look. He didn't look like a rock star, but your 10th grade algebra teacher. He had round glasses, a mustache, was wearing a dress shirt and tie, and sometimes had a cigarette dangling from his lips.
Carlos has said in interviews that he hasn't gotten along with Zander for awhile, and that it all came to a head when they had shows in Las Vegas doing a tribute to The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." He said that they were offered 100 shows for a lot of money, but Zander wanted to do half that, explaining he didn't want his daughter going to kindergarten in Las Vegas. Carlos supposedly said, "We're scheduling shows around your daughter's kindergarten classes?" That prompted Zander to tell him to F-off, and that was that.
Things weren't improved when Carlos had to sue the band, wining money as being part of Cheap Trick, despite not playing shows with them. It was the same situation The Doors drummer John Densmore (a great autograph signer) was in when they reformed.
Carlos said there won't be a problem playing with the guys on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show, but we'll see.

Views: 566

Tags: Bad Company, Bun E Carlos, Cheap Trick, Rick Nielson, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Steve Garvey, The Cars

Comment by Ian Baldock on January 1, 2016 at 5:57pm

Enjoyed the story. I say yes to Cheap Trick in the hall (especially if ABBA are in)! Chicago, Three, Dog Night, America, Moody Blues and Johnny Rivers also please!

Comment by John Bailey on January 1, 2016 at 6:13pm
Hi,wishing you the happiest of new years.Chicago was kind enough to sign my chicago 6 album and NOW cd.Cheap trick has been a favorite.
Comment by Terry G. on January 1, 2016 at 8:48pm

They have all mended their fences and get along fine now. Bun E Carlos won the lawsuit simply because the others were withholding his share of the profits from albums he played on- it had little to do with touring profits pre-2008. Carlos does not wish to tour non-stop anymore, and when the issue with Zanders children flared up, they all came to an agreement- Carlos was still a a member of the band, would play on any future recording and be entitled to his fair share of profits generated by the corporate entity known as cheap trick. That meant he would not get any money from tour gigs he didn't play at but would receive his share of profits from merchandise sales with the CT logo, such a t-shirts. How that money was withheld is not known, or at least nobody is talking- but when Neilson, Zander and Petersson were made aware of it, the matter was corrected very quickly. Within hours of the notification of the rock HOF vote, all 4 members quickly agreed to play together and got approval from the hall to do so.

As to their being worthy of induction, you have to discuss the standards the hall looks for: 

To be eligible for induction as an artist (as a performer, composer, or musician) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the artist must have released a record, in the generally accepted sense of that phrase, at least 25 years prior to the year of induction; and have demonstrated unquestionable musical excellence. We shall consider factors such as an artist's musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique, but musical excellence shall be the essential qualification of induction. 

CT qualifies in regards to first album (1977) clearly. They are cited as influences by any number of modern bands, including Kurt Cobain, Weezer and The Killers. Length of career is 40+ years now and nobody can argue the excellence of their performances live- Zander is still one of the best vocalists in rock, and Neilson is always included in "best of" guitarist lists. They have had 5 platinum albums, and 4 gold ones. Budokan went triple platinum. The body of work stands for itself- there are a ton of bands who would love to have half the success CT has had. From an inventiveness standpoint, CT has always stood out- playing  a version of heavy power pop few others could accomplish.The bands image initially was the brain work of Neilson- the goofy sweaters, the checkerboard logo, the two-headed guitar. Carlos, with his office worker attire. And the strategy of putting the good looking guys on the front of the album and the ugly ones on the back, lol. They have a name that is recognized by multiple generations and still draw good sized crowds to their frequent gigs.

The need to compare an artist to other bands as a qualifier always fails because the standards are not used- imagine if the Beatles were the standard- the hall would be empty except for them! I think you have to look at each artist on their own merit, not compare them to someone else or what genre they play. While I feel there are better choices for the hall than N.W.A., you really cannot argue their influence. My only beef is that some other bands should be in there first, before later acts enter. Chicago, ELO, Sammy Hagar, The Replacements, Yes, maybe even The Pixies and The Cure are not in the Hall when acts like Madonna, Leonard Cohen, The Staple Singers and Gene Pitney have been in for years. Lloyd Price deserves to be in but The Cars don't?

Comment by Coachgd on January 1, 2016 at 9:03pm

Couldn't agree more with you on Paul Rodgers!  Don't forget The Firm and also singing with Queen.  He should get in on the "Musical Excellence" category like Ringo did last year.  There are so many bands that are oversights and just plain neglected.  I mean this is the first year that the Cars and Cheap Trick were even on the ballot!!  And I'm not sure the Moody Blues have ever been on the ballot or Jethro Tull!  

Having said that, I believe the Hall tried to right some people that were long over due. I have no problem with any of the 5 inductees.  Chicago should have been in years ago.  Steve Miller (why the Band isn't included is still a mystery!) is the Bill Withers of this class.  You know, most people thought he was already in.  Deep Purple- the opening riff of Smoke on the Water should have gotten them in alone.  Cheap Trick- Yes I love them and are happy they got in.  

Even NWA.  I spoke with Chuck D from Public Enemy last Feb.  He said the roots of rap music is based on rock n roll.  Just like rock is based on blues and country.  He likened rap to a short stop or 2nd basemen in baseball.  He said that you don't expect the same things from a 2nd basemen as you do a corner outfielder or corner infielder.  They are on the same team, but each has a different responsibility.  Rap is like the 2nd basemen, you need to have a spot for them or there would be a big gap in your infield.  So if you are going to put in rappers, you better have RUN DMC, Public Enemy and NWA- they started a whole genre of music.    

I totally see his point.  I think it will be a few years before another rap artist gets in.  I believe that will either be Eminem or Jay Z.  And with Straight Outta Compton being the hit it was this past summer.  They were on the minds of the voters and I figured they would almost be a lock this year.

The Musical Excellence or Contributor or what ever "non performer" category they want to add should be announced sometime this month.  

Comment by Josh Board on January 1, 2016 at 9:58pm

Terry G and Coach...I can't thank you enough for such well-stated points.

The Beatles analogy is a good one, as you're right, nobody would be in but them and the Stones. But my point is...sports Hall of Fame is SOOO much harder to get into. Not sure why the Rock one isn't.

Comment by Rich on January 1, 2016 at 10:06pm

With limited knowledge of that band and their history, my own opinion isn't strong either way. But I never sensed growing up that they were really generally regarded as HOF worthy legends. 

A couple months ago, I saw them at Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest, oddly enough playing before my favorite band on that stage (a younger band still on the rise - and of a completely different genre of music). In all fairness, it seems that everyone on that stage that day got royally hosed in the sound department. That being said, it was a pretty average rock show that didn't really seem to blow away the crowd. Hardly the definitive test, but that's my experience. I'm sure if I went back a few decades it might have been a bit different.

Comment by Terry G. on January 2, 2016 at 9:18pm

Josh, I really think it depends upon which sports hall of fame you are speaking of. In football, basketball and hockey hall of fame decisions, they almost always have clear cut choices with little debate- they have things like championships rings, pro-bowl or all-star status upon which to rank credibility. They have stats that make some easily rise above the rest. In baseball, it's not easy, as the pool has been diluted much as the standards have been lowered, IMO. There are many veterans who deserve entry but will never get in because their window of opportunity expired- once you're eligible, you can only be continue to be eligible if you maintain receiving a certain percentage of the votes. The rock hall of fame has never had clear cut standards, and many have perceived it as a popularity contest centered around Jann Wenner from Rolling Stone magazine, and the bands he liked growing up-he was head of the nomination committee for many years until recently. Using their standards, as I posted above, it is difficult to come to a consensus because much of it is subjective. Using statistical standards like #1 records could exclude quality bands like Deep Purple or Bruce Springsteen who had few or none. If you go by popularity, then you will have to consider the backstreet Boys, or Spice Girls, who certainly don't warrant it. Then you have the genre phobias where non-mainstream acts don't get their fair chance- Judas Priest isn't in yet are considered a founding heavy metal band and have had an incredible long career, maintaining popularity. SO how do you do it, set the standards for the rock hall of fame? Nobody has come up with the answer yet, and I think the hall itself never anticipated it- think about it, when it started, they had 40 years of artists to choose from, and a lot were no-brainers- in 1987, the first class inducted was: Chuck Berry, James brown, Elvis, Ray Charles,Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Alan Freed, Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Robert Hammond, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Sam Phillips, & jimmy Rodgers. That's pretty easy, right? Anyone going to question Elvis worthiness? And for years after that, they STILL had easy, clear cut choices...then all of a sudden, they all got inducted and you had acts that weren't in Wenners circle of favorites- Wenner is a guy who worships the Woodstock and 50s artists. he has no use for prog rock, metal of most hard rock acts and his influence is rumored as the main reason many got ignored for so long. Once he stopped being part of the committee, things opened up. And now, with them allowing the fans to have a voice in who is nominated, they find it difficult to ignore some acts now- I think the fan vote is the only reason bands like Rush and Kiss got it. It looks like they are indeed playing a game of "catch-up" now, trying to right some wrongs- again, rumor is that walk-in business at the actual hall was dwindling, and some of the bands getting inducted were not bringing the fans into the building to see their displays ad it was in part a business decision to open the doors to more popular or non-mainstream acts.

Comment by Vince Welsh on January 5, 2016 at 1:44pm


Cool post.

The Hall has been pretty stingy with Prog bands, but Yes has the best shot of any of the remaining early 70’s Prog giants. I wouldn’t bet on Tull.

I could probably make good arguments for Free and The Cars - excellent bands with incredible catalogs.

Even though I am a little suspicious of the populist tack The Hall has taken with this year’s inductees - Cheap Trick has earned their place.

I can’t name too many bands with a 40-year track record that have stuck so religiously to their musical guns  - patron saints of power pop, tons of rock ’n’ roll attitude, excellent material, tremendous live shows - their influence transcends genres and is felt far and wide across the popular music landscape.

Rock on and Happy New Year -


Comment by Clive Young on January 5, 2016 at 6:33pm

Ironically, the only member I have an autograph from is Carlos, and he was really mellow and nice. I got it at the NAMM Show about 15 years ago when it had a 1-2 year stretch where it was held at the L.A. Convention center because the Anaheim Convention Center was getting renovated. He was just sitting at a booth, signing, and it hadn't been publicized at all, so you could just walk on up and say hi. No line, nothing. So we chatted a bit - no recollection as to what but I remember it was amiable.

Comment by Josh Board on January 5, 2016 at 11:14pm

I'm loving the posts on here.

Yeah, they do need to set some concrete rules for the Rock Hall of Fame, for sure.


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