As a voter, I have been remiss in not commenting on this year's inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame., so here goes…It is a truth universally acknowledged that groups whose personnel has fluctuated radically during their life span will undergo problems when it comes to being inducted into the HoF. Death is not an issue, but living former members certainly are, especially as the ’25-year rule’ dictates that this length of time must elapse between the release of a debut recording and nomination. This creates situations where founder members can be nominated and inducted while current members, who may not have contributed to classic recording but have still been a member of a group for donkey’s years, are excluded.
Those who will be inducted at the ceremony in New York this April are Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller and NWA, with songwriter-producer Bert Berns as the non-performer. The nominees who failed to get past the selection process were The Cars, Chic, Janet Jackson, The JBs, Chaka Khan, Los Lobos, Nine Inch Nails, The Smiths, The Spinners and Yes. I voted for The Smiths, Deep Purple, Yes, Cheap Trick and Steve Miller, this latter choice the result of polling visitors to Just Backdated, so three of my five got in.
I was less than surprised that The Smiths didn’t get in, not so much because they didn’t deserve it but because Morrissey’s legendary truculence would have weighed against him. The organisers don’t really want someone with his waspishness delivering a speech promoting vegetarianism or whatever cause he is espousing this year and, of course, it’s unlikely he would have willingly shared a stage with Smiths drummer Mike Joyce, his sworn adversary since the High Court ruled against Morrissey (and Johnny Marr) in the Smiths’ royalty dispute.
I thought Yes stood a better chance as their claim goes back further and although their personnel has been unstable (20 musicians have passed through Yes at the last count) no one seems to bear a grudge against anyone else any more. Also, their nomination would have been a fitting tribute to bass player Chris Squire, who until his death in 2015 was the most consistent member of the group and the one who worked hardest at holding it together.
As regards those who did pass muster, Cheap Trick have had their ups and downs personnel-wise, with only vocalist Robin Zander and guitarist Rick Neilsen consistent throughout. Bassist Tom Petersen is back in the fold after a wobble in the eighties, and drummer Bun E. Carlos, who sued the band over something or other, is back in the fold, albeit nowadays as a non-performing member.
Which brings me to Deep Purple, once a group with whom I was on friendly terms and whose semi-authorised biography I wrote back in 1981. I say ‘semi’ because not everyone involved co-operated on the project, the most regrettable absentee in this regard being guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, who along with Jon Lord founded the group in 1968. Jon died in 2012 but Ritchie is alive and well, albeit it estranged from the current band which nowadays comprises the third founding member, drummer Ian Paice, as well as singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, who have been with Purple on and off since 1969, guitarist Steve Morse, who joined in 1994, and keyboard player Don Airey who took over from Lord in 2002 when Jon decided he didn’t want to tour any more.
Deep Purple are a relatively stable group these days, though by the time they decided to call it a day for the first time, in 1976, ten musicians had passed through their ranks. In addition to Morse and Airey, the line-ups since their reformation in 1984 have also included singer Joe Lyn Turner (1989-92) and guitarist Joe Satriani (1993/4), who was hurriedly (and briefly) recruited when Blackmore walked out on Purple for the last time in 1993.
There is no love lost between the current band and their manager on the one side and Blackmore on the other which is why, even though he will be inducted, the guitar legend has evidently declined to attend the 2016 Hall of Fame ceremony on April 8. It seems the current band have refused to perform with Ritchie who would have been obliged to sit and watch them perform his songs, no doubt ‘Smoke On The Water’, their best known number with a riff so well known that even I can play it.
According to reports, David Coverdale (lead singer from 1973-76) and Glenn Hughes (bass playing singer during the same period) are being inducted while current members Morse and Don Airey, who have served for the last 22 and 14 years respectively, have been excluded. I have no data regarding the two other original members singer Rod Evans and bass Nick Simper who were ousted in 1969 to make room for Gillan and Glover, but if they too are inducted it would seem to be an injustice against Morse and Airey whose length of service now exceeds even Blackmore.
Personally I think they should let bygones be bygones, and get Ritchie up on that stage so he can crank out ‘Smoke On The Water’. It’s credited to all five members of the ‘classic’ Purple line-up but I have a sneaky feeling that it was their man in black who coined that legendary riff.