Punk rock enters the Hall of Fame
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame recently announced its 2002 inductees. The ceremony will be held March 18 in New York, and it promises to be a memorable one since, for the first time, punk is rearing its lovely, sneering head. Dig: Because artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first recordings, the Ramones and Talking Heads, who released their debut albums in 1976 and 1977, respectively, are entering the Hall — to which I can only say, ”Gabba, gabba, hey!”
It’s a strongly held contention of mine that the period from 1975-1981 was one of rock’s most fertile, thanks largely to the punk/new wave explosion. The next few years should see more bands from the era being inducted. You’ve got to figure the Sex Pistols and the Clash for shoo-ins, but I hope the Hall of Fame voters don’t overlook some equally important, less-ballyhooed groups — like the following, whose names I respectfully submit for future consideration.
THE DICTATORS These Bronx-bred proto-punks released their first album, ”Go Girl Crazy,” back in ’75 (on Epic Records, no less). The DNA of the Beastie Boys can be detected in their smart-ass humor and White Castle-scarfing aesthetic sensibilities. And you’ve got to give props to any band that can turn a lyric like, ”We knocked ’em dead in Dallas/And I didn’t pay my dues/We knocked ’em dead in Dallas/They didn’t know we were Jews.”
THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES Not really punks, not exactly hippies, the Groovies were simply one of the greatest rock & roll (as opposed to rock) bands ever. Long consigned to cult status, the band should be inducted on the strength of their Dave Edmunds-produced ’75 LP ”Shake Some Action” alone.
THE MODERN LOVERS Straight outta Boston, powered by a love for the Velvet Underground and a yen for perfect romance, the Lovers’ original lineup included a future Car (Dave Robinson) and a future Talking Head (Jerry Harrison), not to mention major domo Jonathan Richman. Their self-titled first album, released in ’75, is a must for any desert island collection.
THE REAL KIDS And speaking of Jonathan Richman, the Modern Lovers’ first guitar player was a 15-year-old kid named John Felice, who went on to form this ace combo. Their eponymous first album, from ’78, is a blast of distilled rock & roll that has a sparkling innocence and go-for-broke energy — like Buddy Holly if he’d been bitten by the Ramones bug. An underheralded gem.
TELEVISION ”Marquee Moon,” from ’77, is like a punk version of psychedelia. The guitar solos, by Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, crest and cascade without ever sounding wimpy, and the lyrics…well, like the man said, he’s ”just tryin’ to tell a vision.”
X They titled their first album, 1980’s Ray Manzarek-produced ”Los Angeles,” after their hometown, and proved that the West Coast had something important to add to the punk discourse — namely, angry rock poets (and then newlyweds) John Doe and Exene.
THE DEAD BOYS Their first album, released in 1977, was called ”Young, Loud and Snotty,” and more than lived up to its title. What more do ya need to know?
BLACK FLAG Yes, they gave us Henry Rollins, but they can be forgiven since they also left us ’81’s ”Damaged,” perhaps the era’s most entropic howl of pain and rebellion.
THE VIBRATORS Their ’77 ”Pure Mania” stands as one of the era’s forgotten classics, a non-stop blast of pure punk energy.
Who would you put in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?