Friday, April 06, 2007

An Impressionistic Overview of the Live Feed of the 2007 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Ceremonies, Part Three

We start with a film overview of Patti Smith's career. Again, nice clips that leave one hungry for more. Only Lenny Kaye, her longtime collaborator, speaks. Not sure if the R&RHoF couldn't be arsed to dig up some other Fanburger Patties or if no-one was willing to admit publicly to enjoying the work of America's Leading Rock Poetess. If that word has escaped the curse of the feminine-form pejorative. Like "Jewess". And "fellatrix".

Then comes the time to introduce the rock idol who will induct Patti. But which music industry icon possesses sufficient gravitas to induct an artist whose own influences include Blake and Rimbaud, who has rubbed elbows with such creative heavyweights as Tom Verlaine, Sam Shepard, Jim Carroll, Robert Mapplethorpe, and the Beat poets? Which poet/rocker/visionary on the scene today might serve such a function? Springsteen? He did, after all, pen her sole Top 20 hit, the classic "Because The Night". Stipe? They've worked together closely since Patti's re-emergence in the mid-90s following years of semi-retirement. Bono? Van Morrison? Who could be summoned as an established master of the twin-edged sword of balls-out garage rock and bop-infused mystical poetry? Who? Who??

"To induct Patti Smith into the Rock&Roll Hall of Fame..." Yes? Yes?? "...from Rage Against The Machine, Zack de la Rocha!"

Umm...exsqueeze me?

Oh-kay. Well...I guess I can see the whole "lefty revolutionary power to the people" connection. Alright. So, we're not getting Van the Man. Well, let's see what this young fellow has to say.

Zack de la Rocha starts off by quoting an unattributed article by an unnamed writer to the effect that the "Cultural Revolution" died at Altamont. Now, my impression was that the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (or wuchan jieji wenhua da geming for you Sinologists) died with Papa-ooh-Mao-Mao in 1976. But that's me. Young Zack continues in a tendentious vein to dismiss this theorem by this straw writer he's erected. Distracting from Zack's opening words is his odd gray herringbone jacket with buttoned breast pockets. I'm not entirely sure it doesn't turn into a cadre suit for Party meetings.

Zack praises the 70s during which he enjoyed life at ages 0 through 9. He namechecks Amiri Baraka and Marvin Gaye. He uses phrases like "punk prairie fire". He solemnly states that "the opening to 'Gloria' might be one of the greatest moments in American music". He talks about how its piano line "and the space in it speaks to us like a dark Gospel". Yes. He says this or, rather, reads it; amazingly enough, his eyelashes aren't fluttering and his eyes are not rolled back as he intones these self-sanctified words. Maybe, just maybe, a Bono or a Springsteen could carry off these high-flown rhetorical conceits. But Zack only manages to sound like a kid clutching a clipboard as he tries to collect signatures to indict Bush as a war criminal. He talks about how Patti's voice is both "haunting and healing". He actually feels the need to recite the first line of "Gloria"" "Jesus died for someone's sin but not mine" and manages to misquote it (it's "somebody's" not "someone's", for fuck's sake), then launches into a li'l lit-crit exegesis about how the line is "delivered like someone who left the church that was repressive America and burned it to the ground, the body of the song becomes a celebration of the outsider delivered with a chaos that only Patti can summon and only she can attuned to the moment that anticipating the next one is an impossibility".

Your sobsister would not shit you.
This is what he said.
Out loud.
Not scribbled in his selfconsciously-prole cheapo notebook from the chain drugstore under the covers illuminated by a flashlight.

He also perpetuates the tired faux pas regarding Patti Smith's catalog: Horses: wow! brilliant! unprecedented!; Radio Ethiopia: yeah! pretty good! not bad!; Easter: her only hit!; succeeding albums: (listen to the crickets chirp, watch the tumbling tumbleweeds...).

Makes me think young Master Zack only ever heard side one of Horses, a few cuts off the next two, and then, fuck it maaan, discussing or even acknowledging the rest would just get in the way of exhorting the Proletarian Masses to Storm the Barricades of the Bourgeois Establishment.

Note to Zack de la Rocha: in the future, endeavor to beg, steal, or borrow an editor. Ask someone not in your employ to read your drafts. Because then you might avoid writing something like the series of facile, demagogic extolments and condemnations that followed: Bad Brains:good/Eagles:bad, Clash:good/Ronald Reagan:bad (despite Ronbo's "Tear Down This Wall" EP containing some classic break beats), textbooks(?!):bad/Sonia Sanchez-Allen Ginsberg-Langston Hughes:good.

He then notes, "Patti Smith the poet revealed truth regardless of the political and social consequences". Which actually sounds pretty irresponsible if you think about it. Luckily, Zack didn't, on account'a he's a First-Draft-Best-Draft kinda guy. As exemplified by his uttering the following, "(Patti was) fearless when she put the Bush administration up on the firing line for this illegal war and pulled her poetic trigger".

Man, you cannot make shit like this up! I mean, I'd like to pastiche the hell out of it but I can't. This is utter crapwriting genius! He can't go anywhere after allowing this gem to vault the barrier of his teeth. He ends by introducing and inducting Patti Smith into the R&RHoF.

OMG!!!! Zack was, like, soo kewl. I'm, like, totally gonna go out and read the Communist Manifold or whatever. Like, power to the people, you guys!!! Holla!

On comes Patti in her classic Horses-era outfit: black pants, white shirt, skinny black tie. She hugs Zack. I can't tell if she's simultaneously kneeing him in the junk for inducting her with an agitprop/MySpace abortion that actually makes one nostalgic for Ronnie Spector's earlier sojourn to Babble-on. The crowd rises in appreciation. Cut to audience shots, first, of Michael Anthony next to a much taller "blonde" wearing, apparently unironically, a leopard-print blouse unbuttoned to reveal at least 45 percent of her tits, and, then, of Kid Rock drinking what I can only hope is a congratulatory toast from a bottle of domestic beer. He's wearing mirrorshades, his trademark stoopid Panama hat, and a t-shirt emblazoned "HOOKER" while standing next to what appears to be a prostitute. The t-shirt may simply be functional, however, like the signboards limo drivers wave at the airport to attract their passengers. Poor Kid. He looks so bored. WHEN DA MOTHERFUKKIN' POLE DANCERZ COMIN' ON?!

Patti is very emotional, almost palpably uncomfortable in her speechmaking role. She speaks of her late parents, brother, and husband. She thanks Clive Davis for his faith in her as a young artist and also Columbia, her current label. She graciously thanks her assistants, her musicians, her crew, her children. Respect to Lenny Kaye and her current band. She educates regarding the R&RHoF's program to help musicians in need.

Cut to Kid Rock who takes another long pull of his beer. DAMN, BITCH, SHUT DA FUCK UP AN' BRING ON DA POLE DANCERZ!

She closes with a touching anecdote about her late husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith, and a salute to the next generation of musicians.

Classy, heartfelt.

She then takes the stage with her band. Thanks Keith Richards and the Stones for writing great anti-war songs as the band starts playing the intro to...wait?...can it be?...yes, "Gimme Shelter". And shy, choked-up Patti goes offstage to be replaced by hellraiser, brassballs Patti. Who is going to sing a Stones song. At the R&RHoF.

If there's anything to the transformational power of rock'n'roll, it is apparent in Patti Smith who sings the song with a raspy voice that flares at the end of each line like a revival preacher prowling a creaky plank floor. The song does not play to the strengths of the band whose playing seems tentative and sound thin. But Patti guts the fucking thing out. Then into "Because The Night". Much better. Bigger sound, thicker. Patti commands the stage. The last song is introduced by a well-received story from Patti who tells of her mother who loved rock'n'roll and answered her fan mail for over twenty-five years:

"Right before she died, I mean hours before she died, she said to me 'Tricia', I said, 'what, Mommy?', she said, 'did they save the Stone Pony?', and I said, 'yes, Mommy', she said, 'good' and she said, 'didja get in the Hall of Fame yet?' and I said, 'not yet, Mommy', and she said, 'aw, I'm not gonna make it but when you do, sign your mother's favorite song, the one I like to vacuum to.'"

And the band rumbles and crashes into "Rock'n'Roll Nigger" as Patti growls the opening lines "Baby was a black sheep, baby was a WHORE!" like one of the Furies fronting the Amboy Dukes. She revels in this song, as does the band, offering the strongest performance of the evening. The sight and sound of a sixty-year-old white woman lunging feral and screaming "NIGGERNIGGERNIGGERNIGGER!!" while being propelled by a band that sounds like the Broadway Local derailing is, to say the least, unusual in broadcast media.

Which only makes the sight of the flaccid suits in front barely nodding and tapping their feet, as if Pat Boone were onstage crooning "Love Letters In The Sand", just that much more disturbing. Gratefully, Patti and band are not relying on the audience vibe for energy. Instead, at the song's beginning and near its end, they huddle by the kick drum as if to snag a quick hit off Jay Dee Daugherty's tomtom-pounding before the next sortie.

The song ends, Wild Patti is replaced by grateful, shy Patti. A film clip rolls of a "classic performance". Neil Young jamming with what remained of Led Zeppelin in '95 on "When The Levee Breaks". I can't tell if Jimmy Page is amused by or scornful of Neil's art brut soloing but if anyone knows the power of an overdriven stack, a stomp pedal, and a Les Paul, it's Shakey, so fuck Pagey and his pre-Raphaelite dandyism, 'cause clench-eyed Neil digs into each solo like his fingers are going to bore through the fretboard to strike oil.

The clip ends and we move on to the next segment.

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