Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mama Mia! ABBA and Donna Summer for the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame?

I seldom have expended many of my ever-declining number of brain cells pondering the machinations of the Rock ' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

I thought of it once back in '86 upon hearing reports that it was founded -- principally as an effort by the Cleveland city fathers to repair their fair city's image as "The mistake by the lake."

Cleveland was then largely known as the city whose waterways actually caught fire due to the massive quantities of flammable liquids that they had been dumping in them -- and as the city whose NFL football team snuck out in the middle of the night to move to greener pastures in greater metropolitan Baltimore.

I thought of it again around '93, when a 20-something, rock fan couple who were taking care of my dog told me that they were making a weekend pilgrimage there.

Since then the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame happily subsided to the margins of my consciousness.

That is until this week, when my spies reported to me that ABBA and Donna Summer were the favorites for induction to the hall for 2010.

ABBA were rockers!!??

Donna Summer, the disco queen, a rocker!!??

To put this in perspective, when I was an undergrad, ABBA began saturating the AM airwaves with their ear candy. As sophisticate collegiate rock connaisseurs we considered them laughably juvenile.

After all, this was a time when the Beatles were still churning out formidable solo albums. Mick Jagger was just beginning to really hit his groove. Dylan was still seriously composing. The Moody Blues were in search of the lost chord. And for the kinkier types on campus, Lou Reed was taking a walk on the wild side.

Into this rich, genuinely rock ' roll context strolled 2 very hot Swedish babes and their 2 geeky-looking male consorts, with "Honey, Honey." That single was very big among the pre-pubescent crowd. They liked it because its bubblegum quality seriously rivalled that of Boyce and Hart and the 1910 Fruitgum Company and perhaps the early Monkees.

But no serious (and admittedly pretentious) college rock fan took ABBA even vaguely seriously.

Then, throughout our undergrad years, ABBA was everywhere --- on the AM radio in the car, on the AM radio station that was piped in the the cafeteria, in elevators, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

"Waterloo", "SOS", "Mamma Mia", "Fernando."

And then when they abandoned ear candy pop for disco, they became very big in the gay community. With efforts like "Dancing Queen" and "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme a Man After Midnight", it isn't hard to imagine why.

Their music had a certain pleasant, predictable, non-threatening quality.

But I would paraphrase the French military observer to the suicidal Charge of the Light Brigade, who commented: "C'est magnifique! Mais c'est ne pas le guerre." (It's magnificent! But it's not warfare.)

I would say of ABBA's vast discography, "It's very nice. But it's not rock 'n roll."

In fairness, I should add that a perusal of ABBA's YouTube videos does show that Agnetha Faltskog, in her prime, was truly one of the hottest babes ever to grace a stage in that era-- an amazing combination of cover-girl looks and Penthouse animal magnetism.

And I wouldn't have kicked her German-Swedish cohort Anna Frid Lyngstad out of bed for eating crackers.

But does that a Rock 'n Roll Hall of Famer make?

And don't even get me started on the 2010 nomination of disco queen Donna Summer.

She may have worked hard for the money, but disco was the very antithesis of rock.

To admit Donna Summer to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, would be rather like Pope Benedict ordering a special new stain glass window in the Sistine Chapel for Martin Luther.

So I will not be spending my hard-earned cash to make a pilgrimage to the Cleveland rock shrine.

But should they ever get serious and induct Jan & Dean, The Moody Blues and Lou Christie, I could well reconsider.

And to Anna Frid, if you're out there reading this -- I'm still eminently available.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments invited, however anonymous commentors had better deal directly with the issues raised and avoid ad hominem drivel. As for Teachers' Union seminar writers -- forget about it.