Monday, June 8, 2015

Peter Frampton and Cheap Trick, Who Take the Del Mar Stage Together This Week, Belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!

We've all just witnessed another Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland at which Rolling Stone and US Weekly publisher Jann (pronounced "Yawn") Wenner and his minions once again declared who is worthy of this increasingly dubious honor and who isn't. The multi-headed monster known as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (RRHOF), about which I've ranted uncontrollably before, is becoming more of a joke with each passing year.

I don't want to denigrate any artists who've been selected. This year's inductee Bill Withers ("Lean on Me," "Aint No Sunshine") is a tremendous soul and pop songwriter and singer who graciously came out of semi-seclusion to take part in the ceremony. And inductees Joan Jett and Green Day are pretty cool, too. But I do have a thing or two to say about the RRHOF's preposterously subjective and exclusive induction process. And I have some thoughts about some of the artists who haven't been inducted. Namely: Peter Frampton and Cheap Trick

Since the first inductees were announced in 1986, the criteria for selection to the Rock Hall have been vague and inconsistent. Is it a critics' award? A fans' award? Both? Neither? And who ultimately makes the final decision?  Wenner's douchey committee of self-appointed arbiters of All That Is Cool includes music critics and music industry types, as well as a group of musicians and performers who seem to take cannibalistic pleasure in dissing and dismissing others with more talent.

There are all kinds of glaringly obvious omissions to the Hall, including undoubtedly at least one of your favorite artists. I could write a book about all the great individuals and bands that have been slighted by Wenner and his caviling cabal. But there are no two artists more deserving of induction than Frampton and Cheap Trick, who'll be performing together in a rare double headlining bill at the Del Mar Fair on Wednesday, June 10 (I know, the fair's official name now is the San Diego County Fair, but I still call it the Del Mar Fair and always will). 

Is the Rock Hall's committee really going to stick with its story that The "5" Royales, a fine R&B group in the 1950s, belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame more than Frampton, who was the biggest rock star in the world in the 1970s? Frampton boasts the most popular live rock and roll record in history, has plenty of serious musician cred' as one of the music industry's top studio guitarists, and is co-founder of the legendary British rock-blues band Humble Pie. 
Frampton and Cheap Trick both embody everything that is great rock and roll. The fact that neither has been inducted is both laughable and untenable. 

Appropriately, both artists reached megastar status with live albums. It took Frampton Comes Alive in 1976 for Peter to reach rock and roll glory. Less than three years later it was Cheap Trick's turn to reach almost the same level of pop idolatry with Cheap Trick at BudokanRock music is all about what bands can do on stage, not in the studio. Bands like The Cars, for example, made great records, but they sucked on stage. Frampton and Cheap Trick are two of the greatest live acts in the history of rock music, and they remain crowd pleasers to this day. 

If you've never seen them, head out to the fair this week. You'll not be sorry, unless you're one of those clueless Frampton haters. Then yes, please stay home, stay out of the sun, and by all means listen to more Radiohead.

Do you feel like we do?

Peter wasn't a household name before the live record, but he had already earned his rock stripes. Years before he became the tan, toothy, shirtless rock God and subject of every teen girl's dreams during America's bicentennial summer, Frampton was a musical teen prodigy in the UK and founding member of Humble Pie, which never had that breakout radio hit but enjoyed a loyal following and some great records.

And arguably the best Humble Pie album was, yes, a live album, Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmorefrom 1971. Expect to hear at least one or two Humble Pie tunes when Peter hits the stage this week.

After Humble Pie, Peter went solo and released four very solid records that were met with critical acceptance but only moderate sales. He toured relentlessly as a solo act and became almost famous. I saw him in concert during his pre-superstar era twice, including once as an opening act for Black Sabbath. With all respect to Ozzy and Tommi, Peter stole the show. 

Then in January of '76, the live album exploded into the pop culture consciousness. It remains the best live record in rock history. You can offer up your selections, and I wil respect them, but it really isn't even close. Peter owned the summer of '76. He was its soundtrack. While CBS aired the Bicentennial Minute and the New York Harbor geared up for the USA's big 200th birthday bash on the 4th of July, the songs of Frampton Comes Alive were playing in every teenager's bedroom stereo and radio on every block in every corner of the country. 

A generous, endearing and energetic performer, Peter connected with the post-boomer, pre-Gen X generation of which I am a proud member. We 'Tweeners, who are not annoyingly self righteous like the boomers but also aren't dysfunctionally cynical like Gen X'ers, were the perfect audience for Frampton's stoney optimism. He captured the 70s Zeitgeist. Girls wanted him and guys wanted to be him. I sure as hell wanted to be Peter Frampton. I learned the chords to five or six of his songs that summer, my first as a budding guitarist.

But beneath this rock star's tan chest and Jimmy Carter/Farrah Fawcett toothy smile, there was a gifted artist. Most musicians now know that Peter is one of the best rock guitarists of all time. But he's also an underrated vocalist with a tremendous tone in his voice, and an outstanding songwriter. And he's still making great music. He won a Grammy a few years ago for his excellent rock instrumental album "Fingerprints."

Full disclosure: I know Peter personally. We're not exactly best chums, but he played on one of my songs, "Survivors' Song," a celebratory, rocking tune I wrote for fellow cancer survivors everywhere. Peter is one of the kindest people I've ever met, in or out of the music business. But I knew he deserved to be in the Rock Hall long before I knew how good a person he is.

Ain't that a shame?

Equally deserving of a Rock Hall nod is Cheap Trick. With its combination of Beatley riffs, garage-band edges and tongue-in-cheeky humor, Cheap Trick was and is identified by the geeky genius of lead guitarist and songwriter Rick Nielsen and the effortless sex appeal of lead singer Robin Zander, one of rock's best lead singers. Period.

Cheap Trick was America's answer to The Who. Neilsen is to Pete Townshend what Zander is to Roger Daltrey. The difference is that Cheap Trick is at its core a fun-loving band with a smart but goofy core. The Who on the other hand is and will always be defined by the bitter, ungrateful schmuck that is Townshend. And if you think he's gotten any better, read Pete's recent Rolling Stone interview. He's an insufferable jerk. 

Maybe if Nielsen and Zander are mean-spirited bastards they'd get Wenner's attention? The things is, none of this matters. Thankfully, happily, both Frampton and Cheap Trick still love playing for people. They aren't in the Rock Hall, and while that matters to me, maybe it doesn't matter to them. 

I'll be at the "Del Mar" Fair on Wednesday night rocking out to "Show Me the Way" the ultimate summer anthem, "Do You Feel Feel Like We Do," which is an even better stadium rock epic than "Free Bird," and "Baby I Love Your Way," which if you could play on acoustic guitar in 1976, well, let's just say you were almost assured of getting a girlfriend.

I personally hope Peter also sings "I'm in You." It was the title track to the 1977 follow-up record to the live monster. Many critics panned the song, and the album. But I loved it. It's a great power ballad that deservedly reached #1 on the singles chart. And it brings back so many good memories for me. Peter rarely sings it. But if you're reading this, Peter, please play this one for me for old time's sake.

When Cheap Trick hits the stage, I'll "Want You to Want Me" and will "Surrender" and smile because "I'm a California Man." Those incidentally are three of the greatest examples of playful/powerful rock-pop ever to hit AM radio.

And as I do my air guitar thing in Del Mar Wednesday night and embarrass my family and friends, I'll be thinking how ridiculous it is that neither of these artists is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Shame. Typo? Nah. But Peter and Cheap Trick are in very good company. 

Chicago, Yes, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues, Thin Lizzy, Boston, Bad Company, Charlie Daniels, The Hollies, Moby Grape, The Steve Miller Band, Emerson, lake & Palmer, The Monkees, Peter, Paul & Mary, The Doobie Brothers, Gram Parsons, The Cure, The Guess Who, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Journey, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull,  and Iron Maiden are just a few who Yawn Wenner has grumpily ordered to stay off his coiffured lawn.



  2. This is a great venue. I was here for a party and there was so much food and it was all done so well! The decor and food both were amazing. Personally, I think the party places in the Bronx are laid out really well and the size of the venue keeps pulling great parties.