Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Keltner analysis of undiscussed Rock Hall Artists: Hüsker Dü

The site A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago, discusses various artists' credentials for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

After finishing my analysis of the Rock Hall backlog, I always intended to analyse artists who have never been discussed by the Nominating Committee, but still might have credentials to justify induction. The aim of the process is to find out whether, on the basis of the Keltner list for a Hall of Fame, the Nominating Committee really is completely ignoring artists who have undeniable credentials to be in the Hall.

I do admit that there are some problems with the criteria, especially given known biases of the Nominating Committee and how they effect who is already in the Hall, but still I cannot see any better alternative.

I have so far done five Keltner tests on undiscussed artists:
My next artist, first eligible in 2006/2007, is Hüsker Dü. Formed when drummer/vocalist Grant Hart and bassist Greg Norton met guitarist/vocalist at a record store called "Cheapo Discs" in Minneapolis, their shared love of the Ramones led them to form a band after discarding keyboardist Charlie Pine after their first gig. They soon developed a ferocious hardcore sound similar to Black Flag, Minor Threat or the Misfits and formed their own label, Reflex Records, that was allied to Twin Tone. Their Reflex albums, 1981's live Land Speed Record and 1982's studio debut Everything Falls Apart, have been heavily criticised, but with 1983's Metal Circus EP, released on Greg Ginn's SST label, Hüsker Dü began towards a more melodic variation on hardcore punk.

However, it was with 1984's double album Zen Arcade that Hüsker Dü first really captured attention outside their already-rabid cult. The album sold out on its first pressing and that affected long-term sales, but Zen Arcade won immense critical acclaim for its fusion of pop with the traditionally anti-pop genre of hardcore. With two albums from 1985, New Day Rising and then Flip Your Wig, Hüsker Dü moved further towards pop played as punk, and become such staples of college radio as to attract the attention of major labels who had previously overlooked anything beyond commercial radio since the "punk revolution" (Warners in fact signed them before Flip Your Wig was finished, but Hüsker Dü felt they owed SST one more album).

With the release of their first major label album Candy Apple Grey, Hüsker Dü were gaining exposure even from commercial radio. However, sales remained very poor: although the album was their first to dent the Top 200, it got no higher than number one hundred and forty. Despite this, Candy Apple Grey was made so economically that Warners made a profit on it. By this stage, Bob Mould and Grant Hart were suffering from drug problems and were fighting over whose songs would be included on subsequent albums: it was said that Mould would never allow Grant Hart to write even half the songs for a Hüsker Dü record.

This conflict, along with the personal differences when Mould but not Hart cleaned up his narcotic habit, marred the making of their second Warner Brothers album Warehouse: Songs and Stories. Originally intended as a single disc, despite Warner Brothers' opposition, Warehouse was eventually released as a double album. "Could You Be the One" eventually got considerable airtime on MTV, but the album could still not go above one hundred and seventeen on the Billboard 200. With differences between Mould and Hart irretrievable, the band broke up after a final tour documented on the 1994-released live album The Living End.

After Hüsker Dü, Greg Norton quit music and became a chef in Minneapolis, whilst Mould and Hart embarked upon solo careers. Mould later formed a power trio called Sugar, whose albums Copper Blue and File Under: Easy Listening sold better than anything Hüsker Dü did, with the latter reaching number fifty and number seven in Britain. Both Hart and Mould have been relatively quiet since the middle 1990s, though they did do one reunion concert for the benefit of Soul Asylum bass player Karl Müller in 2004. Hart also played keyboards on Patti Smith's 2000 album Gung Ho and sang with (members of) post-rock band Godspeed You Black Emperor in 2008.

An evaluation of Hüsker Dü's Rock Hall credentials based on the Keltner criteria, which actually come from the Baseball Hall of Fame follows.

1) Were Hüsker Dü ever regarded as the best artist in rock music? (Did anybody, while Hüsker Dü were active, ever seriously suggest Hüsker Dü were the best artist in rock music?): Many would thought Hüsker Dü were the best artist in rock music for a brief period around 1984 and 1985, but that is a very short period and even then they were in competition with such artists as the Butthole Surfers, the Replacements, the Minutemen and the emerging Sonic Youth.

2) Were Hüsker Dü ever the best artist in rock music in its genre?: Again, this is questionable. A problem is that Hüsker Dü changed genre quite a bit during their short career. In hardcore punk, they were never seen as in a league with Black Flag, the Misfits or Minor Threat or the Angry Samoans. In alternative rock, they were always competing with the Replacements, whilst in the "underground art rock" field, they were always below the Butthole Surfers.

All in all, it is tough to pinpoint a moment when Hüsker Dü were demonstrably the best artist either generally on in its narrowly-defined "genre".

3) Was any member of Hüsker Dü ever considered the best at his instrument?: No. Grant Hart as a drummer would be closest, but he has rarely made published lists of the very best drummers in rock. Even from his time period Steve Shelley and Topper Headon were generally considered at least as good.

4) Did Hüsker Dü have an impact on a number of other artists?: Certainly, immensely so, and this is the case for their induction. They became regarded as the inventors of grunge rock by many during the 1990s, and Hüsker Dü are also a critical root for emo bands like Thursday and Jimmy Eat World who hit the charts in the 2000s. During the 1990s, many people even outside their genre, like Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, expressed great admiration for Hüsker Dü.

5) Were Hüsker Dü good enough that they could play regularly after passing their prime?: Emphatically no. Hüsker Dü disbanded in 1987 and have never had any hope of a reunion since with Greg Norton having not played music since 1991. In recent years even Mould and Hart have not been doing that much.

6) Are Hüsker Dü the very best artist in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?: Hardly. Even if one confines oneself to underground innovators who never broke in the mainstream, one would have at least the Stooges, the MC5 and Captain Beefheart eligible for much longer and being just as well known in the mainstream.

7) Are most bands who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?: No. If one looks at other hugely influential alternative acts who never dented the Top 100 on Billboard, only the Velvet Underground and the Sex Pistols (Never Mind the Bollocks has actually sold 750,000 copies in the US) are in the Hall. None of the underground alternative bands except the Replacements have even been considered.

8) Is there any evidence to suggest that Hüsker Dü were significantly better or worse than is suggested by their statistical records?: The fact that Hüsker Dü could never break through commercially despite exposure on commercial radio and MTV suggests they spoke only to a small minority of people in the musical community and that some of the hype over them was unwarranted.

9) Is Hüsker Dü the best artist in its genre that is eligible for the Hall of Fame?: If one wants to follow Throwing Things (upon which this series is based), I will have to say no. Moreover, if you look at 1) and 2) above there always seems at least to be an artist who would dispute the claim at the very least.

10) How many #1 singles/gold records did Hüsker Dü have? Did Hüsker Dü ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times was Hüsker Dü nominated?: As mentioned many time, Hüsker Dü were a complete failure commercially, never reaching the Billboard Top 100. They were also never remotely considered for a Grammy.

11) How many Grammy-level songs/albums did Hüsker Dü have? For how long of a period did Hüsker Dü dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did Hüsker Dü appear on? Did most bands with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?: Hüsker Dü were never considered for anything like a Grammy, and they dominated the music scene for a quite short period of time before tension between Mould and Hart broke the band apart. This criterion can only disfavour their induction.

12) If Hüsker Dü were the best artist at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?: Definitely. Hüsker Dü's live shows were one of the reasons they became so influential on many other bands who at the time they played regularly in the Minneapolis area were struggling to gain record deals. Their live shows have been considered so important that long after Hüsker Dü disbanded they were compiled onto an album.

13) What impact did Hüsker Dü have on rock history? Were they responsible for any stylistic changes? Did they introduce any new equipment? Did Hüsker Dü change history in any way?: Hüsker Dü had a pivotal impact on rock history in developing the concept of playing pop songs with the energy of punk, which paved the way for the grunge explosion. They did not introduce any new equipment, but Hüsker Dü certainly changed history by becoming the first of the 1980s underground bands to sign with a major label, thus paving the way for hit singles by R.E.M. and in 1996, even the Butthole Surfers.

14) Did Hüsker Dü uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?: The main thing here would be the consistent fights between Mould and Hart over the running of the band and their involvement in drugs, neither of which I would see as a positive - especially given their effects on the band's long-term future.

Verdict: Hüsker Dü must be the definitive case of a band with tremendous influence as its only credential to be inducted. The fact that Hüsker Dü, as shown by its failure to break through commercially even with some support from radio and MTV, could not speak to most people in Reagan-era America, means though that they fail almost all the other criteria and the verdict must be don't induct Hüsker Dü into the Hall of Fame.

Monday, 27 July 2009

A lose/lose future

People concerned with the present-day state of the world often tend to be polarised as this article by Mark Steyn shows, between those who believe the threat is global warming and those who believe it is lowest-low fertility:
I wondered if you had noticed that the same criticisms applied to global warming also apply to demographic projections.
Furthermore, a demographic decline is a compound phenomenon, unlike the climate. Even if it’s 12˚C today, that doesn’t prevent it being 31˚C in 20 years’ time.
What Steyn has completely wrong here is that a climatic change is a compound phenomenon according to both the Tertiary paleoclimate record and observed climate change in the part thirty years whereby the Hadley circulation has expanded ten degrees poleward since 1975. Already climate scientists know we are locked in to a further poleward expansion to beyond the latitude of Wilson’s Promontory, with the consequent change of what were once lush mountain ash forests into extremely arid and hot deserts. Even if Australia’s meek and accepting population does manage to cope with the desertification of Victoria and southern New South Wales (and I mean quite seriously desertification to a climate as arid as any historically known in Australia) there will be tremendous ecological costs not yet seen even with February’s bushfires but can already be predicted very well from paleoclimate maps that are far from recent in their compilation.

The “point of no return” is as severe (or more so) for southern Australia’s climate as for the demography of Europe and East Asia. The carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere will effect the climate for a very long period, and even if Eurasia, the Americas and New Zealand manages to achieve a carbon-neutral economy mortgage belt politics makes this impossible in Australia. The southwest of Australia has more plant biodiversity than all of Europe outside the Mediterranean drainage area, but present climate change makes its long-term survival even less likely than the cultures and languages of Europe and East Asia.

How, then are we to solve this serious dilemma? The clear answer is that we have an obvious and severe mismatch in cultural values.

Essentially, Australia has retained cultural values appropriate for a European environment but ecologically unsustainable in Australia. It is of course these traditional values of Western Civilisation that makes Mark Steyn (more than most on the American Right) show praise for Australia as a courageous nation against a cultural tide. Actually, Australia’s suburbs, insulated by distance, serve as a kind of natural cloister from the cultural revolutions since 1914.

Another way again of seeing the crisis is that, whereas the American Right often sees Europeans as spoilt and childish because they are paid so much welfare, Australia’s population is equally spoilt through living in a country possessing an endless natural glut of usable land and especially energy deposits, which means they pay a fraction as much for electricity and consequently use it wastefully. I can testify this by comparing the insulation offered in houses in Berlin vis-à-vis that found in Melbourne. A Melbourne house feels as cold at 15˚C as a Berlin one at 2˚C!

Essentially, what is required is a way of changing living costs to levels that reflect ecological costs of living. This would actually make presently the most expensive nations to live in the cheapest, and vice versa. How to do this is something I cannot imagine, and we are left with a quite literal no-win situation of inevitable cultural and ecological crises – or worse.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Why people don't view recent years as wet

The Bureau of Meteorology, in its 2000 and 2006 annual climate summaries, pointed out that whilst the first year was the second wettest since 1885 and the second averaged over Australia slightly above average, most Australians would have perceived 2000 to be either drier than normal or near normal and 2006 to have been very dry indeed.

What one sees on both graphs is that in the virtually uninhabited north and central-west of the continent are huge areas where the 2000 and 2006 rainfalls were all-time records. The major difference between the 2000 and 2006 rainfall patterns is that the super-powerful monsoon that brought the record rainfalls in both years did not penetrate over inland southeastern Australia or the pastoral districts of South Australia in 2006 as it did in 2000. (This may be because global warming has weakened southern fronts sufficiently that they cannot interact with a super-powerful monsoon to produce rains over these areas during summer, as happened in the first half of January 1974). Another difference is that the spring rainfalls in 2000 were quite heavy even before the tropical flood season began in November with torrential rain around Mackay.

Today, I have tried to investigate these patterns and see what results one can get about recent years by excluding the north and central-west of the continent from the rainfall records. It is a pity that the "Data Portal" at the Bureau of Meteorology’s site does not allow me to combine the areas remaining with southwestern Australia where global warming has been causing major declines as far back as the latter half of the 1970s.

Still, the graphs are of great value. The one for northern Australia mentioned above is particularly revealing about the year 1952 and the non-existent monsoon of 1951/1952, which is shown beyond doubt to have been the driest wet season on record in northern Australia – occurring during a year when Victoria had its fourth wettest year since 1885. The one for Australia excluding the north and central-west , though distorted by rainfall over the arid interior, does show a clear decline in rainfall over Australia outside these regions since 2002, when only 2007 has had higher rainfall than before man-made global warming affected our climate. it is also noteworthy that if we exclude the north and central-west, 2006 and also 1982 stand as among the ten driest years averaged over Australia, and 1952 instead of being the sixteenth driest year since 1900 comes as wetter than average if not nearly so wet as it was over the most settled parts of the continent.

The whole issue is that man-made global warming is, in the long term going to cause a complete reversal of rainfall patterns over Australia, so much so that the most arid regions of the continent by 2050 will no doubt be regions historically receiving heavy rainfall, whilst what were once famous as deserts become (equally inhospitable, actually) monsoon swamps. People in Melbourne cannot perceive the extreme rainfall variability of central Queensland and how it prevent cropping, and nor can they perceive easily why a poleward expansion of the Hadley circulation that dries out their dams can greatly increase the Australia-wide average rainfall though soaking regions formerly lying in the descending limb now centred right where I am living.

This is why people in Australia talk of a big dry at a time when the continent overall is much wetter than it has been over most periods since 1885. One wonder what people in Melbourne will say in the soon-to-come year when the city receives less than fifty millimetres in a year and most of the Centre and Gibson desert receives over a thousand millimetres in a few months under a hyperactive monsoon!

Coorong salinisation shows Megalogenis is right

In today’s Age, there is a despairing article showing how very low flows in the Murray River is already changing the former estuary in the Coorong, making it five times as salty as the sea and eliminating its outlet to the ocean completely.

Whilst a ten-degree poleward expansion since 1975 of the Hadley circulation is clearly responsible for the record low flows in the Murray River – and as I said earlier could have been predicted without the sophisticated computer models now used by the CSIRO (all we really needed were paleoclimatic indicators from the Tertiary), that does not mean we should do something to prevent the Coorong from becoming a sterile wasteland.

I have always thought George Megalogenis right in saying it would not be a bad thing if Australia were a net importer of food because of the very low runoff ratios and consequent fragility of Australian hydrological systems, as shown by the following data based upon Tom McMahon’s brilliant book Global Runoff: Continental Comparisons of Annual Flows and Peak Discharges.

Comparative Köppen BS, Cfa, Cfb, and Cs climate runoffs in Australia and other developed nations
Mean annual rainfall
Typical runoff in Australia
Typical runoff in Europe, the Americas and New Zealand
Ratio of Australian runoff
Ratio of Australian evapotranspiration (rainfall minus runoff)
280 mm
2 mm
30 mm
380 mm
10 mm
90 mm
650 mm
30 mm
180 mm
1,150 mm
250 mm
750 mm
Recent record low flows in the Murray suggest that under man-made global warming the extreme age of Australia’s soils, which caused the original difference through requiring much higher floral rooting densities to absorb minimal phosphate that is provided in highly bioavailable forms in the very young soils of Eurasia, the Americas and New Zealand, may have an exaggerated effect.

If this is correct, Megalogenis’ September 2007 Australian article (mentioned above) is a blanket understatement. Runoffs from the last few years represent expected conditions under present atmospheric CO2 levels. This means levels of runoff ten percent or less those observed from 1885 to 1996, and worse still the runoff includes that runoff which in the absence of irrigation would evaporate rather than reach the Coorong.

Hence, Australia cannot afford to allow any water that might reach the Coorong to be lost in the long term, so that saving the Coorong really does mean not irrigation in the Murray-Darling basin whatsoever. Since paleoclimate records give no evidence that at projected future carbon dioxide levels there will be any winter rain for grain crops, Australia’s only option is to import its food supply.

Most Australians probably think it unfair that Australia should have to import its food supply with so much farmland and would fear the extra cost of transport will add to global warming. The realities are instead:
  1. Australia’s farmland is all very low-yielding due to extremely old soils
  2. Australia’s abundance of land and energy deposits provides very low living costs
  3. Australia’s abundant farmland makes farmers on land abroad farmed sustainably for thousands of years economically unviable without subsidies
  4. Large-scale farmland revegetation in the Murray-Darling Basin provides opportunities for phasing out farm subsidies in most Eurasian and North American nations without the risk of these nations becoming wholly dependent on tourism and technology
  5. Those services are merely, as even Hans Hoppe exceedingly sensibly says, the services they are at a least disadvantage in producing rather than those they have special advantages producing.
  6. Australia’s abundant land gives its residents a privilege in low living costs that present climate change and greenhouse emissions show unsustainable. It similarly gives its farmers a privilege in cheap land – and low prices naturally cause poor maintenance and inefficiency, as was observed with grazing in western Queensland as early as 1957.
  7. If food prices in Australia increase, it will be merely to normal global levels and not to something unusually expensive, especially if one factors in the ecological cost of living in a fragile environment.
  8. Farming without lavish subsidies will offer hope that a culture where children are not a liability can develop and dangerously low fertility disappear abroad. This is because unsubsidised farmers have an incentive to hand their property down in a way not present with tenant or long-term mortgage-payers in cities.
  9. The cost of protecting Australia under an “Australian Treaty” might not be as high as Europe’s and East Asia’s lavish farm subsidies, especially if returns from high-cost tourism in which a visit to Australia is seen as the most special of experiences (in environmental terms, for the European or North American or New Zealander, it is a step into the Earth’s history).

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Australians need to learn to cope without baseload power

News that the main coal-fired power stations want more leverage to expand their output is devastating given the huge reductions in Melbourne’s rainfall and the sensible observation that in effect our government is acting as if its members were all hardline greenhouse sceptics. Both fairly old (in terms of date compiled) paleoclimate data and modern research show that the rainfall changes in Australia since 1997 have probabilities of one in thousands of years.

This does not deter our governments who are eternally vigilant not at what is happening to the southern winter rain zone’s climate but at what the mortgage belt is feeling. Those who know Australia should, in ecological terms, have by far the least cheap energy in the world and that the proportion of its land requiring conservation is so high that at least a substantial proportion of its coal deposits ought to be in strictly protected nature reserves that protect:
  • In the Hunter Valley, very unusual geological features (burning coal seams)
  • In Gippsland, forests critically endangered by global warming due to the burning of coal
The inability of the free market or governments beating to the heart of the mortgage belt rather than those of Australia’s wildlife and farmers in a multitude of foreign countries whom unsustainable Australian agriculture renders uncompetitive will have consequences we cannot imagine very soon.

The sensible thing for Australia to do, given the absence of an alternative to unsustainable coal-fired power, would be to abolish the whole idea of an electricity grid and to plan the shifting of large and medium industrial energy users to nations with reliable hydropower like New Zealand. The availability of reliable hydropower in many developing nations means that fears of extra pollution from shifting abroad are at large unfounded. In a sense, Australians are unwilling to surrender their enormous economic privilege of having such enormous energy resources.

For urban consumers, coping without an electricity grid would be difficult given the lack of incentive to use solar panels – though projected CO2 levels and Tertiary paleoclimates suggest Melbourne will be the best place in the continent for solar energy generation by 2020. Except on very hot days, better clothing and housing construction ought to allow people even in cool Tasmania to survive without heating and my knowledge from cycling shows how gross the excessive lighting on streets from ultra-cheap electricity is. Small-scale power might be able to cope with these minor electricity uses adequately if we in Australia were committed to real sustainability, which would anyway mean prices order of magnitude higher than paid in Europe or North America or New Zealand.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Using the Top 100 Artists on Billboard's Top 200 as a predictor for the Rock Hall - Or Why the Charts Don't Matter?

In 1996, Billboard magazine published a list of all albums to have charted, and the list was updated in 2005. Though I have not read the updated version, I found the top 100 artists listed as part of the Future Rock Hall blog and sincerely thank one Roy for providing the list for me to analyse. Future Rock Hall has previously said that a successful singles career is simply not sufficient grounds for being inducted to the Rock Hall.

Being far more familiar with album than singles charts, I have ever since reading that study been curious about whether the top album artists on Billboard are likely to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Notable about the list below is that much more than the top singles artist list mentioned earlier, none of the artists are remotely recent: there is no Whitney Houston, no Janet Jackson, no Bon Jovi, no R.E.M., no Duran Duran, even no John Cougar Mellencamp. Only Mariah Carey and Garth Brooks remain ineligible as of the 2010 induction, and I do not imagine that very much will have changed in this direction since 2005.

It must be noted that most of the artists who are not Hall of Famers have most of their album sales from compilations of singles rather than original albums, which is why a number of pre-Billboard artists can be seen below. It is however true that some artists in the Hall of Fame with large cults (Morrison, Zappa, the Grateful Dead) also have sales from compilations that are vital to their place here. So does James Brown.

Of the 100 artists listed below
  • forty-nine are Hall of Famers as Performer, which is a somewhat better success rate than with the singles charts.
  • three are Hall of Famers in a category other than Performer (marked with for Non-Performer inductee and for Early Influence inductee)
  • but of the remaining forty-eight as few as seven (marked with #) have received serious discussion from the Nominating Committee, and it is not likely even these seven will get in soon.
On paper, this list is no better a predictive tool than the singles list and one cannot recommend it as a predictive tool, although there exist prospect of improvements if compilations could be excluded (a virtually impossible task).

The complete list, with links to those not in the Hall of Fame as a Performer, is:
  1. Elvis Presley
  2. Frank Sinatra
  3. The Beatles
  4. Barbra Streisand
  5. The Rolling Stones
  6. Johnny Mathis
  7. Elton John
  8. Bob Dylan
  9. Neil Diamond#
  10. The Temptations
  11. The Beach Boys
  12. Eric Clapton
  13. Ray Conniff
  14. Willie Nelson
  15. Ray Charles
  16. Rod Stewart
  17. Mantovani
  18. Aretha Franklin
  19. Paul McCartney
  20. David Bowie
  21. Prince
  22. James Brown
  23. Pink Floyd
  24. Andy Williams
  25. Lawrence Welk
  26. Neil Young
  27. Bee Gees
  28. Chicago#
  29. The Supremes
  30. Henry Mancini
  31. The Kingston Trio
  32. Jimmy Buffett
  33. Herb Alpert
  34. Kenny Rogers/First Edition
  35. Jimi Hendrix
  36. Aerosmith
  37. Stevie Wonder
  38. The Grateful Dead
  39. Roger Williams
  40. Fleetwood Mac
  41. The Ventures
  42. Led Zeppelin
  43. Van Morrison
  44. George Strait
  45. Nat "King" Cole
  46. KISS#
  47. Linda Ronstadt#
  48. Metallica
  49. Johnny Cash
  50. Billy Vaughn
  51. Bruce Springsteen
  52. Diana Ross
  53. Barry Manilow
  54. Queen
  55. Santana
  56. The Who
  57. Garth Brooks (eligible 2014/2015)
  58. Madonna
  59. Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship
  60. U2
  61. Dionne Warwick
  62. Billy Joel
  63. John Denver
  64. Rush
  65. Mitch Miller
  66. Michael Jackson
  67. James Taylor
  68. Harry Belafonte
  69. The Isley Brothers
  70. Alabama
  71. The Lettermen
  72. The Eagles
  73. AC/DC
  74. Nancy Wilson
  75. Marvin Gaye
  76. The Doors
  77. Jethro Tull#
  78. Dolly Parton
  79. Tony Bennett
  80. The Kinks
  81. Dean Martin
  82. The Monkees
  83. Joan Baez
  84. Journey
  85. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers/Tom Petty
  86. Glen Campbell
  87. Gladys Knight and the Pips
  88. Earth, Wind and Fire
  89. The Moody Blues#
  90. Frank Zappa
  91. Mariah Carey (eligible 2015/2016)
  92. Anne Murray
  93. Steve Miller Band#
  94. Enoch Light
  95. Cher
  96. Carole King
  97. Hall & Oates
  98. Elvis Costello
  99. Carly Simon
  100. Bob Seger
Please note that some of the links are defective as the artists do not have a Future Rock Hall page. They are there for consistency only and do not worry if you are redirected to the main Future Rock Hall list.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

How petrol's cheapness affects all prices

Today, I discovered an article showing that prices in the Euro zone are lower than they were last year.

However, those who think it relates to an economic collapse comparable to the Great Depression are entirely wrong. The only reason prices in the Euro zone are lower now than they were a year ago is the increased cheapness of petrol! Though I have not got figure on the volume of petrol one euro will buy for various European nations now and in July last year, it is clear that a barrel of oil has become more than twice as cheap as it was a year ago.

It is true though that the cheapness of oil has been increased by reduced fears of a major recession. However, what the chief point is that the cheapness of petrol has a dominating effect on the price of everything because petrol is essential to the present-day structure of goods transport. Where petrol is less cheap, everything else becomes less cheap too, which is why people here in Australia cannot accept that ecologically our living costs are outrageously low since at petrol prices that would reduce Australia's greenhouse emissions to an acceptable level, very few basic foods and other goods would be affordable at all.

An nasty surprise: Islamic law is operating in Britain

According to this site in The Daily Mail, there are as many as eighty-five Islamic law, or sharica, courts operating in Britain today, with little or no pressure from the British government to change the way they work.

This is a more serious warning of Islamic takeover in Europe than I had ever been tempted to make before. From the knowledge of rapidly falling fertility in the highly urbanised Muslim world today, I had assumed that the spread of sharica would not be permanent because high birth rates would not be sustained. However, if those Muslims in favour of strict sharica can reproduce at a rate far greater than Iran's surprisingly secular population can, then there is a real prospect of Europe being under sharica in the future. Given the record on human rights of countries with long-established sharica, this would be disastrous for the free world.

Friday, 10 July 2009

An amazing way to lose something

Today, I made the rather astonishing finding that I had left a rubber component of my cappuccino machine in a plant pot in the garden! I had assumed for a number of days it had been lost in on of our two downstairs rubbish bins and that me and my mother had failed to fish it out. despite removing two complete loads of rubbish and spreading them over newspaper.

Since paleoclimate models show Melbourne poised to become a hyper-arid city by 2020 or so, I have always tried to use waste water on my garden as long as there is no evidence it is not safe. For this reason, I poured waste water from the cappuccino jug onto a citrus tree in my garden on Monday night, and soon found that there was no rubber seal on the cappuccino machine. The rubber seal plays a vital role in preserving the machine because the frothing nozzle will wear if steel wool of any sort is applied to it, whereas with a rubber seal much less milk residue remains on it.

For several days I searched in a manner that suggests that at thirty-two I have finally done something towards improving my violent temper. Over quite some time discussing the issue of the rubber seal I never screamed violently, let alone grabbed anybody as I have a tendency to do whenever a problem which I cannot solve arises.

Ultimately, we decided to look for the Sunbeam spare parts department since we expected that the rubber nozzle cover, being so small a part, would be supplied to customers who lose one. I dithered about visiting in order to work on the computer (only typical), and when I travelled on the 402 bus to North Melbourne I could not find the place and had to use my mobile to find my mother in order to get directions. It turned out that the place was in fact at the extreme northern and of North Melbourne (quite close to the Upfield rail line) and I had to wait for another 402 bus. When I did reach the store, and this being around 16:00 I feared it would close, I asked for the part by number and was told after waiting anxiously that it would not be in stock for some time. Given the risk of damage if the frothing nozzle lacks this rubber part, I was very willing to wait, and I had a surprise gift in a poetry book by Robert Lowell I lost riding the first 402 bus. the very fact that I rang Sita Bus Lines as soon as I found I had lost the book shows that perhaps I am actually improving my maturity as I grow older.

Nonetheless, I always knew that the new nozzle protector would take quite some time to arrive, though the people expected it to come within a week. I had carefully cleaned the nozzle of the cappuccino machine whilst its protector was lost so that there was neither milk residue nor loss of the coating that protected the nozzle from the discolouring my previous machine suffered after losing its protector.

I found the original nozzle protector when putting out the washing this morning and was so amazed that - even with the knowledge I would not get a decent reply - rang up the mobile phones of both my mother and brother to tell them. As excited as I am, I know that a spare nozzle protector will be very valuable in case I do lost the original by a means like I thought I had lost this one, so that the eight dollars spent by my mother on the new nozzle protector is still worth it, she says.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Keltner analysis of undiscussed Rock Hall Artists: Steve Earle

The site A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago, discusses various artists' credentials for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

After finishing my analysis of the Rock Hall backlog, I always intended to analyse artists who have never been discussed by the Nominating Committee, but still might have credentials to justify induction. The aim of the process is to find out whether, on the basis of the Keltner list for a Hall of Fame, the Nominating Committee really is completely ignoring artists who have undeniable credentials to be in the Hall.

I do admit that there are some problems with the criteria, especially given known biases of the Nominating Committee and how they effect who is already in the Hall, but still I cannot see any better alternative.

I have already done four Keltner tests on undiscussed artists:
My next artist, again first eligible in 2007/2008, is Steve Earle. Beginning as nominally a country artist with the EP Pink and Black that was issued in three limited editions of 1000 and has never made it to compact disc. It was 1986 before Earle hit the public's consciousness with his first full album Guitar Town, and he followed it up with a tour in which he supported both The Replacements and George Jones to show the broadness of his audience. Earle then recorded 1987's more rock-oriented Exit O and 1988's conceptual Copperhead Road, where the two halves had a completely different feel: one side of uptempo socially conscious piece and one of slower love songs with Maria McKee backing him. The album was his biggest seller and in Australia the title song became a top 30 single and is still played on classic rock radio.

However, drug addiction was taking its toll and 1990's The Hard Way showed the strain. After that, Earle did not release another studio album until the middle 1990s, with only two live albums Shut Up and Die like an Aviator and BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert: An Overview to complete a contract with MCA. In 1993, Earle went to jail for possessing drugs, but after his release he surprisingly recovered and has recorded as frequently as ever since 1994's Train a Coming. At first, Earle's following seemed to have deserted him and his late 1990s albums, more classically "country" in sound, rarely dented the Billboard Top 200. However, his political activism since the September 11 terrorist attacks has served to raise his profile once more. His latest album, 2009's Townes, his first covers album, reached #19 on the Billboard 200.

An evaluation of Steve Earle's Rock Hall credentials based on the Keltner criteria, which actually come from the Baseball Hall of Fame follows.

1) Was Steve Earle ever regarded as the best artist in rock music? (Did anybody, while Steve Earle was active, ever seriously suggest Steve Earle was the best artist in rock music?): No. Though he was well-received by rock critics and the public, Earle was never able to be seen as the trendsetter of his peak years in the late 1980s.

2) Was Steve Earle ever the best artist in rock music in his genre?: As a roots-rocker (which All Music describes him), probably not because of the competition from Springsteen and even Mellencamp or the Black Crowes in the early 1990s. Nevertheless, in country rock, Earle was definitely the main force behind the revitalisation of the genre. His only rivals would be the Jayhawks, and they never achieved the commercial success Earle did (not denting the Top 150 before 1995).

3) Was Steve Earle ever considered the best at his instrument?: Not really. Steve Earle was not on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest singers and has rarely been regarded as a virtuoso either on vocals or guitar.

4) Did Steve Earle have an impact on a number of other artists?: Yes, definitely. Steve Earle undoubtedly was a key component in the evolution of the alt-country genre in the 1990s and is cited by pop-country artists of the early 2000s like Kasey Chambers as a key influence.

5) Was Steve Earle good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?: Yes, Steve Earle has been playing and recording as regularly as ever since he recovered from his drug problems in the middle 1990s that threatened his career whilst he was at an artistic and commercial peak and the tail end of the 1980s. In recent times, as noted above, Earle has even restored his popularity.

6) Is Steve Earle the very best artist in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?: Of course, one could never go so far with Steve Earle's Rock Hall credentials to seriously argue this. Steve Earle certainly has a place in history for having revitalised and reinvigorated a whole genre of music, but I do not think anybody could say that compares with inventing or popularising entirely new genres like bands like the Stooges, Captain Beefheart, Sonic Youth, Slayer or latterly Nirvana did.

7) Are most singers who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?: I would think not, since few singer/songwriters outside the most explicitly popular are in the Hall of Fame, and those that are like Neil Young, Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell had much wider influence and higher commercial peaks. Moreover, previous innovators in the field of country-rock like the Flying Burrito Brothers have not been honored, so that inducting Steve Earle would be out of place in that context.

8) Is there any evidence to suggest that Steve Earle was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistical records?: There is really little to argue here.

9) Is Steve Earle the best artist in his genre that is eligible for the Hall of Fame?: Probably not, given that Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers have not yet been inducted.

10) How many #1 singles/gold records did Steve Earle have? Did Steve Earle ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times was Steve Earle nominated?: Steve Earle had no Top 50 hit singles on Billboard, and only one gold record in the US in Copperhead Road. He won only one Grammy award, and that in 2007 well after his "peak" years. This thus can only be a case against his induction.

11) How many Grammy-level songs/albums did Steve Earle have? For how long of a period did Steve Earle dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did Steve Earle appear on? Did most artists with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?: As mentioned in the previous section, Steve Earle had only one Grammy-level album, and overall he never "dominated" the music scene, reaching his peak at a time when the genre he was in was in the background because of the overwhelming musical and cultural power of hip hop and thrash metal. This may also be the reason why he appeared on no Rolling Stone covers during the late 1980s.

12) If Steve Earle was the best artist at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?: I have never heard much about his concert performances, but the desire for live albums during his peak years in the late 1980s does suggest he had some impact. Whether it is adequate I am far from sure though.

13) What impact did Steve Earle have on rock history? Was he responsible for any stylistic changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did Steve Earle change history in any way?: Steve Earle certainly had an impact on rock history in revitalising country-rock and roots-rock for the 1990s, and even in bringing this tough, rootsy approach to a quite large - if never "mass" - audience. However, as I have noted above, Steve Earle, during his peak years, was in the background because of other far more important changes in music.

14) Did Steve Earle uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?: By principle, I would say his drug problems in the late 1980s are a minus here, and that the way in which he today had been bashing George W. Bush is not the asset some think. Otherwise there is not much to say.

Verdict: If one were to induct Steve Earle, one would have to induct at least the Flying Burrito Brothers who came long beforehand, and potentially a number of other artists in the same genre whose merits remain to be tested but could hardly favour induction. Overall, therefore, despite his considerable impact on the genre I will have to give a don't induct.