I have a host of problems with the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame (hereinafter referred to as R&RHOF). Some of these have been previously dealt with in this blog, but let's restate them here in a nutshell:
1) Rock & roll music was once a free, living, anarchic Wild Thing. (The Troggs - who hit with "Wild Thing" in 1966 - are not in the R&RHOF, by the way.) Once an art-form/force of nature such as rock & roll starts getting codified and rigidized into establishing a Hall Of Fame, that art-form/force of nature is OVER.
2) Sports should have Halls Of Fame because the contributions of its members can be quantified in some definitive manner: home runs hit, touchdowns scored, baskets or goals made, championships won, contributions made to the players' teams, etc. By its very nature, rock & roll is not quantifiable: i.e. if we were going to go simply on one quantified measurement - say, record sales - then Michael Jackson and The Eagles would have been the first acts inducted into the R&RHOF and thank God, Allah, Buddha, Jehovah, L. Ron Hubbard (fill in your own chosen deity), they were not.
3) To extend the question of quantifiability: who can REALLY say who is important to rock & roll music, and HOW important they are? Sure, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Bruce Springtseen and David Bowie (to list the first five off the top of my head) are important to rock & roll, but are they any MORE important than One or Two-Hit Wonders like The Left Banke? Would 1960's rock & roll have been as wonderful as it was if "Walk Away Renee" or "Pretty Ballerina" had never existed? How about The Syndicate Of Sound's "Little Girl" or "Psychotic Reaction" by Count Five? And what about 60's bands that have never even been NOMINATED to the R&RHOF even though they had a fuckload of hits: The Beau Brummels, The Standells, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Herman's Hermits, Manfred Mann? Pertinent question: Why are The Hollies and The Small Faces - both talented but essentially hit-making hackmeister British Invasion bands - in the R&RHOF, but Gerry & The Pacemakers and The Searchers are not? My Answer - Because The Hollies contained Graham Nash (later of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) and The Small Faces morphed into The Faces which contained Rod Stewart & Ron Wood, a future Rolling Stone. And let's face facts, folks: Jann Wenner loves him some Rich Hippies and Big Names.
Which brings us to the current crop of nominees.......
1) Deep Purple / Yes - Deep Purple? Seriously? I liked Deep Purple. I liked them when I was in high school in the 1960's and they were goosing mediocre Joe South and Neil Diamond tunes ("Hush," "Kentucky Woman") into Heavy Rock Hits. I liked them for being a reliable mid-level Heavy English band. I liked them less later when organist Jon Lord came up with Concerto For Group & Orchestra and moved them into Ponderous Orchestrated Symphonic-Rock (?) Territory, a genre later perfected by Yes. (And let's face facts: if it wasn't for Yes we would not have been subjected to their hopelessly inferior American copies - Styx, Marillion, Pegasus, Journey, and, the most-dreaded of all, Kansas.) Are either Deep Purple or Yes more important to rock & roll than fellow Englishmen Mott The Hoople? I think not. (And Mott's Ian Hunter wrote "Cleveland Rocks" for chrissakes, but still can't get a nomination to the Rock Hall on the shores of Lake Erie.)
2) Kiss - Kiss? Kiss? I really have to laugh at this one. I hate to run afoul of my good friends Colin Gawel & Joe Oestreich of Watershed here, but I think even they would agree that it's lamentable that The MC5 and The New York Dolls (without whom, let's face facts, Kiss would not exist) have never been considered for the R&RHOF, but Kiss gets nominated. I suppose I should be heartened that the Rock Hall has relaxed its rather genteel May-I-Pour-You-A-Cup-Of-Tea-Darling? Standards to include a hard-rock band like Kiss in the nominations, but why choose a mediocre, overblown Spectacle-Over-Music hard-rock band when you could consider the melodically-inventive, most perfectly-balanced combination of power & pop hard-rock band EVER - Cheap Trick? (Oh yeah, now I remember, because Kiss are from New York City and Cheap Trick are from the Midwest.)
3) Linda Ronstadt - This nomination is just sad for a number of reasons, most of them completely unrelated to music. Ronstadt's fellow California Soft Rock Compatriots - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Eagles, Jackson Browne - have been in the R&RHOF for years, if not DECADES, but Ronstadt has never gotten a nomination until this year, when it was revealed she has Parkinson's Disease. Condescending? Yeah. Sexist? Yeah. Ronstadt was a reliable hit-maker all through the 1970's and a fairly good interpreter of singer-songwriter material (I'm sure Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon and even Elvis Costello appreciated the publishing royalties that lined their pockets from Ronstadt covers of their songs), but she can't get a Rock Hall nomination until she contracts Parkinson's? Sad.
4) Chic / LL Cool J / N.W.A. - Okay, I have no problem with these three acts being considered for a Rap Hall Of Fame or Soul/R&B Hall Of Fame, but the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame? Please. And before anybody levels a Racism Charge, allow me make my point. There are many black artists who belong in the R&RHOF: Chuck Berry (without whom rock & roll might not even exist, and certainly wouldn't be as much fun as it is), Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Sly & The Family Stone, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Prince, etc. If we're going to nominate Chic, LL Cool J or N.W.A., where are the nominations for Love, The Chambers Brothers, Bad Brains or Living Color, all of whom are more vital black contributors to the legacy of rock & roll?
5) The Paul Butterfield Blues Band / Peter Gabriel / Hall & Oates / The Meters / Cat Stevens / Link Wray - ZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Why bother?
6) The Zombies - These guys certainly deserve to be in the R&RHOF, but I would hate to think they were only nominated this year because of Pop Culture Zombie Mania - The Walking Dead, World War Z, etc.
7) Nirvana / The Replacements - As a rocker, I suppose these were the two nominations that made the most sense. But it's going to be sad to me when Nirvana makes it into the Rock Hall on their first try and The Replacements don't. It's probably not entirely fair but I kinda blame Nirvana - and specifically Kurt Cobain - for the current Dire Straits Of Rock & Roll. (note; Mark Knopfler's band is not in the R&RHOF either.) First Cobain knocked Hair Metal (which, though I certainly wasn't a fan, was at least FUN in a rock & roll sense) off the charts, radio, and MTV, thus ushering in The Age Of Alternative. He then went on to CONTINUOUSLY bellyache (literally, he had an ulcer) about Fame, His Fans, The Pressures of Rock Stardom, etc. That is not a Good Message to send to aspiring rock stars. And when The Biggest Rock Star In The World blows his brains out in a Seattle garage, the lesson to young boys & girls with guitars is that Genius Is Pain and you should just roll around and wallow in your grief rather than use rock & roll to escape that darkness. And that's not Rock & Roll.
The Replacements are rock & roll. And that's exactly why I'm betting they don't get into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2013. We'll see. - Ricki C. / Oct. 25th, 2013