Between a Rock and a Hard Place

June 7th, 2016 by Max Allan Collins

Risking straining your patience, I thought perhaps I should report in on my health status. I’ll pause here for you to say “Goodie goodie” and clap your little hands.

Anyway, after three and a half months since the open-heart surgery, I seem to be doing well. I have completed both my physical therapy and occupational therapy. I’m told my hand, post-stroke, is at about 90%. I fatigue somewhat easily and usually am pretty wasted by mid-evening, though I stay up till midnight. We’re walking twice a day in our neighborhood (I would jump off a bridge before mall walking).

Work goes well. I reported here that Barb and I completed ANTIQUES FRAME, which I started working on about two weeks after getting out of the hospital. After that, I started working on the new Reeder and Rogers political thriller, EXECUTIVE ORDER, and got a third of the way through when I realized the plot needed work. My cohort Matt Clemens has been rewriting his story treatment and I’ll be back at the novel myself in probably a week or two. While Matt did that, I tackled the new Mike Hammer, THE WILL TO KILL. I should finish that this week.

In addition this coming weekend George Hagenauer and Brad Schwartz are coming to Muscatine for an overdue meeting about our joint Ness/Capone biography-in-progress.

A milestone for Barb and me, in several senses, was our trip June 1st and 2nd to scenic Galena, Illinois, a favorite haunt of ours. It involves a lot of walking but also eating (there are 67 restaurants in this town of 3500). We scheduled this trip months ago, figuring I should be in shape to handle it when it rolled around – a fairly long drive and an overnight – and I did fine. We were celebrating our 48th wedding anniversary. What a lucky bastard I am.

Another milestone is coming up – my first Crusin’ band job since the surgery. It’s June 9 outside the First National Bank at Muscatine, open to the public and free. We play 5 to 7 pm. We’ve been rehearsing quite a bit and had a three-hour session Saturday afternoon, which I managed to survive.

Speaking of rock ‘n’ roll, I want to deal with two comments that last week’s update elicited, due to my mini-rant on the Zombies, Monkees and Vanilla Fudge not being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here’s what mystery writer (and audio artist) Mike Dennis had to say:

Max – don’t worry over the Monkees and Vanilla Fudge not making the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. It’s a bullshit outfit, created solely to produce the annual induction TV show, and as a side benefit, snag a few tourists into their building to see Jimi Hendrix’s leather pants or whatever. Other than the expected greats — Elvis, Beatles, Stones, etc — the Hall is straining more and more each year to find someone worthy of induction. In recent years, they’ve stooped to one-hit wonders: Buffalo Springfield, Laura Nyro, and others. Who’s next? Norman Greenbaum? Ronny & the Daytonas?

It’s all bullshit and not worth getting upset about.

There’s much wisdom in what Mike says here, although I think arguments could be made for both Buffalo Springfield (surely one of the most influential ‘60s bands) and Laura Nyro (a great songwriter). But the Hall is indeed bullshit. Trouble is, it’s all rock fans have – it’s our Cooperstown. So we have to make noise about the injustices.

Here’s what my good friend (and former Crusin’ sound man) Charlie Koenigsaecker had to say:

To me the most egregious omission in the Rock HOF would be Love, followed close behind by the Monkees and Zombies.

The MC5 should be in also and I would not look askance at the Fudge. For those who regard the Monkees as a mere vocal group whose musical accomplishments were buoyed by the talents of others, would they have the same reservations regarding the Coasters or the Supremes or the Four Tops or any other group who neither wrote their own material or played on their own records? Plus the Monkees eventually did both write and play on a lot of fine recordings.

I agree with everything Charlie says here, including that the MC5 and Love should be in the Hall.

My point of view here is, I think, one that has a certain amount of credibility. I grew up with rock ‘n’ roll. Saw Elvis on Sullivan. Owned a 78 of “Hound Dog.” Went nuts over Bobby Darin. Saw the Beatles on Sullivan (the Fudge too). Played in rock bands at the peak of the ‘60s/early ‘70s and opened for scads of famous acts.

Here is some of what’s wrong with the Hall of Fame, mostly flowing from a snobbish, narrow view of the history of rock merged with a politically correct bent that allows rap and country in when many key rock artists are omitted.

Where the hell is Pat Boone? I remember very clearly that he and Elvis were, for a long time, the only games in town. Boone gets shit for covering r & b records, but those original records were banned from mainstream radio and it was Boone who popularized them and opened the doors (and made Little Richard and other black artists a ton of money). The guy sold millions of records, and made rock palatable for White America. It’s called history. Deal with it.

The period between Elvis going into the Army and getting out again (or possibly up to the emergence of the Beatles) is mostly ignored by the Hall. It’s a tough call with the popular likes of Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon and Fabian, who are artistically pretty shaky. But what about Bobby Rydell? Has Jan Wenner ever heard “Wild One”? What about Bobby Vee? So many great records, and a top-notch live performer. He’s in the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, by the way (like my band, The Daybreakers).

Charlie’s point about the Monkees being pilloried for not playing on their records is well-taken. During the ‘60s many great bands were not allowed by their bigtime labels to play on their own records (usually after playing on the first album or so) because it was better for those bands to be out touring and more efficient to use studio musicians for the instrumentals on the records…mostly the Wrecking Crew.

Who, incidentally, played on the records of such Hall of Famers as the Mamas and Papas, the Byrds and the Beach Boys.

One of those Wrecking Crew-ghosted bands – who played on their own first two albums, and their later ones as well – is the Association. They are often dismissed as a vocal group with a folky California sound (Mamas and Papas anyone?) but “Along Comes Mary” is one of the best, most driving singles of its era, and “Never My Love” is one of the two or three most played-on-radio records of the ‘60s…including the Beatles’ output. Slow songs need love, too.

I could easily build a case for Paul Revere and the Raiders, who inspired so many local garage bands. And laugh if you like, but Gary Lewis and the Playboys made a ton of great records. And, I mean, if you’re going to induct Laura Nyro for writing “Eli’s Comin’,” how about a slot for Three Dog Night? And where the hell are the Turtles/Flo and Eddie?

And that’s just the ‘50s and ‘60s. Don’t get me started about Warren Zevon’s absence.

Snobbishness and no sense of history earns the Rock Hall the “bullshit” label that Mike Dennis gives it. But, again – it’s what we’ve got. It is wonderful to see the Dave Clark Five being honored. It’s a thrill to hear Cat Stevens sing and play again.

But rock deserves better. And so do we. And so do a lot great bands and artists.

M.A.C.

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17 Responses to “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”

  1. Tom Zappe/St Louis says:

    You’re sure to feel
    +
    +
    +
    much better read
    +
    +
    +
    when you have finished
    +
    +
    +
    BETTER DEAD.

    T.L.Z.

  2. Bill Crider says:

    Happy anniversary. You really are a lucky guy.

    I couldn’t agree more about the R&R Hall of Fame. It’s what we have, and it’s a same that people like Pat Boone, Bobby Vee, and all the others you mentioned aren’t in there. I must admit that I don’t think Fabian and Avalon belong, but Bobby Rydell surely does. So does Connie Francis. But don’t get me started. I read an article the other day about the fake Zombies that toured the U.S. The group included two members of Z.Z. Topp. I’ll probably post a link to it on my blog eventually.

    Glad the recovery is going well.

  3. Max Allan Collins says:

    Bill, I am on the fence about Frankie and Fabian, because their musical contributions were sketchy but they were very big and very popular. In a personal e-mail, Mike Kelly made a case for Paul Anka, and Anka did have a lot of records, some very good — and was a songwriter of some skill. My problem with him is twofold, an overall smarminess and he often sang off-key.

    Criminal that Connie Francis isn’t in. I’d vote for Freddie Cannon, too.

    Thank you for the great ANTIQUES FATE review! I’ll do a link here next week. I note a regular reader of mine commented after your review that he tried to read one of the ANTIQUES short stories and it was like fingernails on a blackboard to him. Barb and I often comment that readers are either going to be delighted by what we do or really, really irritated….

  4. Mike Doran says:

    Years ago, I gave up hero worship for Lent; I’ve stayed away from it ever since (mostly).

    In that context, Halls Of Fame seem to me to be a profound crock.
    Their only real use would seem to be boosting faltering egos of the aged; I’ve heard that some HOFs won’t honor people who’ve died, because they wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony.

    I’m not sure how “honored” I’d be by any institution that had a gift shop.
    But, hey, that’s just me …

    Happy Anno to Barb and to your good self.

  5. Bill Crider says:

    I’d definitely vote for Freddie Cannon. Probably Paul Anka, too, in spite of his faults.

  6. We are obviously excited to play in this high-quality preseason tournament in a world-class basketball venue like the Barclays Center,” said head coach Bruce Weber.

  7. Charlie Koenigsaecker says:

    Can’t believe the Raiders slipped my mind. One of the greatest singles bands and lots of their album tracks are ace.

  8. As a fellow open heart surgery survivor (January 4, 2014), I wish you a full and speedy recovery, Max!

    LOVE, THE MC5, and VANILLA FUDGE are three of my very favorite bands and definitely deserve to be in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame!

    I also agree on PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS, THE ASSOCIATION, THE MONKEES, and THE TURTLES!

  9. George Manisco says:

    Max,

    Glad to hear you are doing so well after open heart.

    Hope to see you at the Viper sometime. Live close.

    George

  10. John Platt says:

    Glad to hear that your health continues to improve (and yes, I’m glad to read your updates, as boring as they must seam to you). Happy anniversary to you both!

  11. Michael Tearson says:

    I am delighted to hear you keep improving. I have just finished and quite enjoyed Better Dead. As a charter Heller reader I always thirst for more.

    As for the R&R Hall, that’s been kind of a bugaboo for me. I had to deal with it constantly while I was working on Sirius/XM’s Deep Tracks channel which was pretty closely aligned with the Hall’s own channel (same administrator for quite a while). It became my view that the Hall has long since lost any focus on R&R as more and more artists with little or nothing to do with rock & roll have been honored. My top omission would be Procol Harum (Love is another). I’d also argue they have been very harsh on prog rock by skipping Moody Blues, Yes and ELP, all of whom have had very influential careers.

    The way the Hall has developed I feel a name change to Pop Music Hall of Fame would be correct–but quite unappetizing.

    Best wishes for continued steady improvement. I have enjoyed your work for about 40 years!

  12. Gary Bush says:

    Glad to hear you are improving. Happy anniversary to you and Barb! I just started “Better Dead,” so far, love it.

  13. B. Noelle says:

    Max,
    So glad you are getting better! Keep up the good work.
    I 100% agree with your Hall of Fame rant. I noticed the last several years “the arts” have been taken over by corporate/control entities. I don’t watch the Oscars anymore because it has been infiltrated. The same with all the other “awards” shows I used to enjoy. It appears we have all been existing in a construct of sorts. A type of matrix , if you will, operated and controlled by others. I see through it and can also see the veil is slowly being lifted. Truth can’t be hidden forever!
    Well, take good care and rest up,
    BNW

  14. Sandi says:

    Hi Max, Sandi from the Smart Set. I agree Bobby Rydell needs to be honored. I also feel some of the artists from the great Doo-Wop era, need to be acknowledged. Since I went to all of the Alan Freed and other shows when I was a teen. Glad to hear you are doing good, and Happy Anniversary to you and Barb.

  15. stephen borer says:

    Good luck with tonite’s bank gig , and , remember, tellers do not like “any free samples?” jokes.

  16. Robbiecube says:

    Hi Max,
    Halfway through “Better Dead”, and so far I’m loving it. I’ve had it since the day it was released but I don’t want to burn through it too quickly!
    Thanks for keeping your fans up to date on your health situation. I’ve gone through some similar (though not as severe) health quibbles over the past few years, so I empathize with you.

    As much as I think the RRHOF is a scam, when acts I dig get ignored as disco & rap acts are inducted, I need to vent. And by vent, I mean list the acts I believe should already be in the hall;
    Blue Oyster Cult / Procol Harum / Thin Lizzy / Kate Bush / Rory Gallagher / MC5 / Motorhead / Mose Allison / Grand Funk Railroad / Johnny Rivers / X / XTC / Pretty Things / J. Geils Band / Husker Du / The Jam / Deep Purple.

    I’ll stop now. Cheers!

  17. Mike Dennis says:

    I’m on board with Pat Boone, Max. For exactly the reasons you cite. He singlehandedly opened the door for R&B artists who couldn’t get their records played on white radio stations by recording their songs himself. And of course, those R&B artists collected lots of money in songwriting royalties.

    As far as the 1958-63 (Elvis/Army – Beatles invade US) era is concerned, I’ve thought about that. It was not the most fertile period for rock & roll. Think about 1958. Rock & roll was in danger of disappearing altogether. I’m sure you remember. Radio DJs were breaking records on the air, clergymen from coast to coast were pounding their pulpits over this sinful, new music. It was not a given than the music would survive, rather it was held together by a loose gathering of young artists and the eager teenagers who had fallen under their spell. The adults couldn’t stand it.

    Then Elvis entered the Army, Jerry Lee Lewis self-destructed on his disastrous tour of the UK, and Buddy Holly died in February of 1959. That was really the end of the period where this raw, exciting music was being made by mostly young Southern boys, independent of each other, music crafted and honed in the dirt-road joints of the emerging South. The songs, and the artists who recorded them, were a natural outgrowth of a post-World War II America, reflecting (like the film noir that rose during that period) all the alienation that existed in the country at that time.

    The songs spoke only to young people, while the artists were generally sex-crazed hillbillies sent out on the road with no adult supervision. Elvis was the King of Rock & Roll. Jerry Lee Lewis was supposed to inherit the throne following his British tour. Holly represented the music’s sensitive side. But with all three of them gone by early 1959, there was a vacuum at the top. The major record companies saw their opening and moved in. They swiftly rounded up a stable of compliant, cute, barely-talented artists who were willing to do what they were told for a shot at stardom. Rock & roll songs were no longer written on the back of napkins or on paper bags, they were written in the Brill Building by calculating, businesslike songwriters whose job it was to turn out hits that had been scrubbed clean of sexuality.

    Also, I’m glad you pointed out the role of the Wrecking Crew in the making of so many great records. I would like to note there was a British version of the Wrecking Crew — I’m not sure if they had a slick name like that — that played on most of the British Invasion records. One noteworthy example is the Kinks’ first two records, YOU REALLY GOT ME and ALL DAY AND ALL THE NIGHT. The opening buzzsaw guitar chords were played by Jimmy Page, not Dave Davies as is commonly thought. I met Page in 1966, right after he joined the Yardbirds and he told me all about those sessions. Until then, he was a first-call studio player in London and he and a few other guys played on all the British Invasion records (all, that is, except the Beatles, the Stones, and maybe a couple of others).

    That said, I still don’t consider Buffalo Springfield as anything more than a one-hit wonder. Laura Nyro was a great songwriter, as you pointed out, but I don’t think she’s worthy of induction in the R&RHOF. There are artists I would like to see in the Hall, like Johnny Rivers, the Monkees, and the Association, but as long as the Hall is itself not worthy of having them, I’m not going to get too upset over their omission.