The Case of the Missing Guitar Hereoes: The Ventures

Re: http://www.ink19.com/issues/april2007/features/caseOfMissingGuitar.html

Dear ink19: Thanks to the link on The Ventures’ website (which I check regularly), I came across the excellent article asking why The Ventures are NOT in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, “The Case of the Missing Guitar Hereoes.” It hits the mark in every respect, and I’d like to add my perpective.

In fact, The Ventures have not appeared on network TV in the US since 1980! The occasion was a Dick Clark-produced & hosted ABC special called “Summer Action,” which had been an annual ABC fixture for several years by that point. The music they performed that night came from their just-issued-at-the-time 25th Anniversary medley single, which came out on their own Tridex label because no big time record label wanted to sign them. It was shot on one of the L.A. beaches, and aired just once, just that one time — and has never seen the light of day since! (Presumably, the tape still sits unused in Dick Clark’s vaults…he keeps everything, as you all know.)

When United Artists refused to renew their Liberty contract in the mid-1970’s — so the tale goes — The Ventures were supposedly told that disco had eliminated them from the scene. They ended up playing concerts in Japan and making records exclusively for that country for the next five years! One version of this story I’ve heard says that UA told them, flatly, to retire at that point! As a result, they lost control of nearly all of their Dolton, Liberty, and UA product, and haven’t had it since!

This catalog bounced thru several sets of hands over the next few years and finally landed at Capitol/EMI in the early 80’s. Capitol promptly started licensing the Ventures’ albums to labels outside the US (See for Miles and Ace in the UK, Toshiba/EMI and King in Japan, and there are probably others) and then had those CD’s brought into the US thru the import route over the band’s heads. The group has thus been forced to pepper their albums with remakes of older stuff because they don’t control the original versions. There’s a plus/minus thing about this: Newer fans get to hear their older tunes, but older fans end up having to search far and wide for the original recordings.

The Ventures have also been hurt by the rise of duopolised radio stations whose playlists tend to be dictated from boardrooms in New York rather than by DJ’s and station managers at the local level. The theory among these folks is that The Ventures are “too old” for mainstream Top 40…in other words, they’re considered a minor league cult act!

That’s an insult to their fans and to the guys, too. Over 100 albums and (according to Castle Music, which handles their newer material in the UK) over 100 million records sold worldwide…is that the definition of a mnor league band? I don’t think so!

In the mid and late 1990’s, GNP/Crescendo picked The Ventures up for three outstanding albums, all produced by Neil Norman, a guitarist who also cites Ventures LP’s as an early influence. The death of longtime drummer Mel Taylor midway thru the 1996 Japanese summer tour took place during this period.

Since 2001, they’ve been recording for Varese Sarabande, a label distributed by Universal Music, which also handles all of Abba’s material. These albums have been promoted almost exclusively on college radio and thru the band’s website because mainstream, duopolised radio STILL insists that The Ventures are too old for the Top 40, an argument that has also been made against Petula Clark, Lulu, Chad & Jeremy, Merrilee Rush (“Angel of the Morning”) and several other 1960’s era performers…all of whom have more talent and professionalism than most acts riding the charts these days!

Just listen to their “Surfin’ to Baja” CD (which contains only Ventures-written material), and tell me why this isn’t playable on American commercial radio! It’s one of their best efforts in years, and it cooks!

The Ventures have worldwide appeal that should extend to their own US of A. So why is their upcoming 50th Anniverary bigger news in Japan, England, and Germany than in the USA? Induction into the Hall of Fame at that point should be a no-brainer! Lulu, Pet Clark, Merrilee Rush, Bobby Vee and The Ventures…now there’s an induction class I’d like to see at the Hall of Fame!

Do I hear a second?


Mike Sanders,

Portland, OR </font>

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