Monday, March 17, 2003

Tom Morello is my new favorite rock star. The music he's created isn't my favorite, but he's really everything I'd want in an idol. Maybe it's just that as a writer, I so appreciate the articulate speech he gave in honoring the Clash at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, conveying not only the band's music and social impact on the world, but their musical and social impact on him. By comparison, Billy Joel often found it easiest to explain the wonders of the Righteous Brothers by singing, hard-pressed to find spoken words to communicate his emotions.

My main complaint with Gwen Stefani's speech is that for all her professed love of the band, it sounded like she discovered them with Synchronicity and never dug into their back catalog. I can't say she was obviously worthy of making the Police induction speech, but as the leader of the most enduring band of the third wave of ska, and one that expanded their musical boundaries beyond that same, repetitive syncopated beat, there wasn't an obviously more worthy choice. Any disappointment I have with her being less articulate than Tom Morello is offset by her willingness to show such an unflattering photo of her overweight teenage self getting an autograph from a disinterested Sting.

But I'm absolutely disgusted that they allowed John Mayer on the stage with the Police. He's this year's Jewel, utterly out of his league. Watching the broadcast, I thought it was Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, which says it all about how hopelessly generic Mayer and Matchbox 20 are in both their appearance and their music. The Police were the antithesis of generic, a band of such singular musicianship that no one else is capable of sounding like them. Men at Work simplified the reggae influences, but it was never like the Rolling Stones formula where any garage band could pull off an adequate version. Twenty-five years from now, people will still extol the glories of the Police, and John Mayer will have been long forgotten.

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