Thoughts on the Grammys, Pete Seeger and Motley Crue

A look at a tumultuous week in music
By Peter Lindblad

Pete Seeger died this week at 94
Pete Seeger died, Motley Crue submitted their retirement papers and the Grammys spit on hard rock and heavy metal once again, incurring the wrath of Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor. It's been a hell of a week in music. 

And let me just start off by saying that I really hemmed and hawed about writing this, mostly because to do so would give the Grammys credence they don't deserve. I didn't watch it. I haven't watched since probably high school, and I don't plan on watching them in the near future. They have so little to do with music I enjoy that I'm just not interested in them in any way, shape or form.

But then, Seeger passed away, and not long after, Motley Crue finally said what they've been hinting at for a long time, that they'd decided to call it a day. Finding a way to connect all three huge news stories seemed like a good way to kill an afternoon.

So, the world mourns the death of the banjo-playing Seeger, who could someday qualify for sainthood. A folk singer and political activist who stood up for the working man, he was willing to go to prison rather than kowtow to the tyrannical witch hunt of Sen. Joe McCarthy and his House Committee on Un-American Activities. Into his nineties, Seeger railed against injustice at every turn, was a man of principles and sang simple, unadorned songs of rare, rustic beauty, always with an eye toward a better future for the country he loved and its people, especially the downtrodden. 

Motley Crue officially retires
And then there's Motley Crue, who never really cared about the downtrodden as they were partying past sun up and sleeping with anything with a pulse. Terrors of the Sunset Strip in their salad days, these glam-metal hellions lived the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" ethos to the fullest extent possible, and almost didn't actually live to tell about it. They've shouted at the devil, extolled the virtues of their favorite strip clubs and indulged in just about every vice known to man. And their music is loud, rebellious, dirty and played with a street-fighting swagger that, from the very beginning, tapped into suburban teenage longing for danger and excitement. 

It didn't hurt sales that they surrounded themselves with scantily clad women in videos and onstage, set off a scary amount of pyrotechnics in concert and rode fast motorcycles and cars. Boys on the cusp of manhood tend to go in for that sort of thing.

The wreckage resulting from their misdeeds being common knowledge, Motley Crue wanted to put on a show. Seeger aimed to change the world. Both never wanted to be told what to do, and when institutions and authorities tried, they balked at attempts to shut them up. Musicians and artists, at least the good ones, are like that. 

Not surprisingly, critics have differing opinions about the bodies of work left they've accumulated. Not that Vince Neil cared one jot about what they had to say about Crue's music. Rightly, after the announcement was made that Crue was going to dissolve their long-lasting partnership after one last tour, Neil declared that Crue is, and always was, a "fan band," that they didn't make music for critics or to garner awards. Of course, every band the critics hate has to say that. 

Still, there's more than just a kernel of truth in that statement. Crue's fashion sense was something out of the movie "The Warriors" or Adam Ant's nightmares, but their songwriting, especially those bad-boy ballads, certainly had an audience, and a big one at that. In that way, Crue was a band of the people, and the salt-of-the-earth Seeger was nothing if not a man of the people, critics be damned.

As for the Grammys, there are some people they just don't care for. And Sunday night's telecast of the awards proved that they would rather not have anything to do with hard rock and heavy metal. Sure, Black Sabbath won the award for "Best Metal Performance," and it's hard to gripe about the nominees in that category, but wouldn't it have been nice to see Sabbath perform or even simply just accept their award? The point's been made by many that Metallica and Lang Lang doing "One" was an inspired pairing, even if it didn't come off all that well, and as others have also remarked, Metallica didn't put out any new music this year. 

So, what were they doing there? Did somebody with some pull say, "Hey, Metallica … that's a band I've heard of. Let's get them on." Isn't that why Foo Fighters are always the default setting when the Grammys want somebody to represent hard rock, but they also want a band that's sort of non-threatening and that everybody kind of likes? 

And then there are the "in memoriam" snubs of Slayer's Jeff Hanneman and Iron Maiden's Clive Burr. In Hanneman's case, the oversight is unforgivable, considering Slayer's five Grammy nominations and wins in 2007 and 2008, and Hanneman's songwriting contributions to Slayer. Burr is also more than deserving of recognition as well. Jesus, he was in Iron Maiden for God's sake. Both bands have racked up millions in record sales, and really, that's all the Grammys care about, isn't it? Just to be fair here, I heard they also forgot about The Dyvinyls' Chrissy Amphlett, which makes you wonder, who didn't they leave out?

Trent Reznor had a few choice words
for Grammy organizers
Anyway, seeing as how they cut to an ad and rolled credits while Trent Reznor and members of the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age performed the finale, Reznor, in no uncertain terms, let them have it in an angry tweet, as is customary these days. Grammy Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich apologized … sort of, noting that the show was going long and they did manage to run all but 1:20 of it. Okay, but what about all the other stuff you didn't do?

Eddie Trunk gives the Grammys a bit of pass when arguing who's more disrespectful of hard rock and heavy metal, the Grammys or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's not that the people behind the Grammys are doddering old fools who don't know any better. I just simply don't believe that. After being the butt of so many jokes about Jethro Tull getting the heavy metal Grammy Metallica should have won, they had to have learned from that mistake. 

If it is ignorance on their part, it's willful ignorance. They don't want to present the award for "Heavy Metal Performance" during the actual telecast because they never wanted to include such a category in the first place. The circumstantial evidence of that is overwhelming.

At the end of the day, it's pointless to get all worked up about the Grammys. I realize that. Most right-thinking people do, too. Style has always trumped substance with that show, and in all likelihood, it always will, and who needs an awards show for music anyway? On the other hand, why not speak out about it? Why not try to get them to change their ways? What's that saying about all evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing? 

All right, maybe that doesn't exactly apply here, but then again, perhaps it's long past time for the Grammys to get it right. With the state the music industry is in right now, it can't afford to shun a rather large segment of consumers. Pete Seeger wouldn't do it on principle, and Motley Crue wouldn't do it because it just doesn't make sense from a business perspective. 

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