Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rock And Roll Hall Of Lame

Rock and Roll Hall of FameThe 2006 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced and it’s a particularly lackluster year. Correct me if I’m wrong, but none of these bands were a shoo-in on their first year of eligibility like U2 was last year. Bands are eligible for nomination twenty-five years after their first album and some of these artists have been bubbling under the inductee list for nearly a decade. 2003 was a banner year with The Clash, The Police and Elvis Costello all making it in their first time on the ballot. Let’s take a look at this year's list of warmed-over also-rans.

Hitherto, the Sex Pistols have been the most egregious omission from the R&RHoF, but this is a band that is far more influential for their style than for their talent. Which I guess is the point of punk music. Johnny Rotten and the guys only put out one album which is really just three singles and a lot of unlistenable filler. Sid Vicious, punk’s most famous casualty, is only on two of the tracks. On a per album basis, this band has about the best reputation ever.

Blondie bridged the punk and new-wave styles and has the dubious distinction of having the first number one rap single in history. They (and it’s a them, not a her) had a couple of hits like "Call Me" and "Heart of Glass", but they have always stood in the shadows of edgier female-fronted bands like the Pretenders which were inducted last year.

Death is always a good career move for rock stars and a tragic plane crash made Lynyrd Skynyrd the Big Bopper of Southern rock. If Ronnie VanZant had survived, this band would be on the county fair circuit double-billed with 38 Special instead of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Black Sabbath took Jimmie Page’s fascination with the occult and camped it up into easy shock value for faux-rebellious teens for the past three decades. These guys have been rejected by the Hall eight times and got in this year on sheer perseverance. Hell, Ozzy is now eligible as a solo artist. There needs to be a statute of limitations for induction. If you can’t make it in on five ballots you don’t deserve in.

Miles Davis is the most talent artist of this group, but you have to wonder if the definition of rock is elastic enough to encompass his style of jazz, what doesn’t count as rock? You might as well call it the Hall of Fame for Any Musician Rock Critics Think Is Cool. Oh wait, it already is.

Which leads to an interesting culturally sensitive issue. What happens in a few years when Run-DMC is eligible? They will get inducted, of course. No group in the last twenty-five years has been as influential on all music, rock, hip-hop, and even country, as Rev Run and the gang. Twenty years from now, Eminem, Nellie, and Green Day will all be billed as “rock” legends at the 2025 induction ceremony.

None of my tirade should be construed as a knock on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself. That is a very cool place and almost worth a trip to Cleveland all by itself. It is full of great memorabilia and has neat temporary exhibits. And don’t miss the two part introductory movie. It’s one of the best documentaries on rock music I have ever seen.

I love that rock has its own institution to preserve the history and memories of an electricifying musical style. After all, museums are where we keep all sorts of dead artifacts.

So which of these really deserve to be in and what bands would you replace the undeserving ones with? Here’s a list of previous inductees to help your memory.

Update 3/17/06: The New York Times (registration required) had the best write-up with The Sex Pistols refusing to show and Debbie Harry snubbing her former band mates. This Washington Post article is not as good, but less likely to expire.

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18 comments:

CagedRabbit said...

I visited the HOF a few years ago - I agree, it is great. I think it is much better than the EMP here in Seattle. I agree this year's inductee's are very weak. I'm a Leon Russell fan and it's a shame he hasn't made it, either as a performer, a sideman, or as a songwriter.

Claude said...

Johnny Cash? Come on.

I saw Alan Freed on the inductee list. If they're inducting DJs too then they have to think seriously about Cousin Bruce Morrow, Murray Kaufman ("Murray the K"), and maybe Dick Biondi. Not to make this too New York-centric, but Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy and Chuck Leonard (who incidentally worked in Baltimore before he was hired at WABC) should be considered as well.

yellojkt said...

The Hall of Fame used to and may still have a whole exhibit on DJ's with regional greats located on a big map and audio clips of most of them.

Mooselet said...

It seems all you need is just a little staying power to eventually be inducted. I'm waiting for all the 80's new wave bands to begin hitting the 25 year mark, bands like Duran Duran, OMD and The Thompson Twins. That'll be interesting as none of those bands could be defined as "rock". Will Madonna, the original Material Girl, make the cut? The mind, it boggles.

trusty getto said...

[grumble]

Sabbath should have been inducted *years* ago, says me.

jomilkman said...

sex pistols - i can't make sense of how you poke at their supposed lack of talent, only to lament that notoriously butter-fingered bassist sid vicious appeared on two of the tracks (actually, he doesn't play a single note of music on "never mind the bollocks ... "). regardless, as someone who's played guitar for nearly ten years, i can attest to the deceptive simplicity of the songwriting and powerful musicianship at play on this album. there isn't an ounce of fat to be trimmed on this seminal album, which is why i can agree with your reputation-per-album basis comment without a spec of irony.

blondie: agreed.

lynyrd skynyrd: freebird, check. sweet home alabama, check. duh. oh, but also: that smell, saturday night special, what's your name, tuesday's gone, simple man and gimme three steps. please don't try to belittle a band that strikes gold so consistently. it's hard enough to do it once or twice.

black sabbath: funny, jimmy page's fascination with the occult didn't become apparent in led zeppelin's music or general band lore until the release of lz4 in late 1971. black sabbath began pumping out albums in 1970.

not that the occult angle was sabbath was all about anyways, at least not initially. the original band comprised four pissed-off kids who grew up underprivileged in working class, industrialized english boroughs. referencing demons and projecting gloom and doom represented an artistic means of invoking their disaffection. they may have milked it into meaninglessness subsequently, but that doesn't compromise or reduce the effect they had (and continue to have by way of heavy metal, which they effectively created) on the cynic nerve they originally struck.

if it's purely empty theatrics you've got a beef with, save your outrage for when they induct alice cooper into the hall of fame.

miles davis: "bitches brew". expanding jazz to incorporate the psychelic and funk (read: rock) flourishes he heard in jimi hendrix's playing. genius. blew down the doors on rock's (and jazz's) vocabulary.

like it or not, rock will continue to expand and absorb new catalytic elements and sounds, and music as a whole will continue to benefit from the cross-pollenation. i look forward to when run-dmc is inducted. no spec of irony, there, either.

jomilkman said...

because i have ocd: i meant to type " ... sid vicious appeared on ONLY two of the tracks ... "

apologies for the gargantuan length of the comment, btw

KathyR said...

I guess I'm the only person on the planet who thinks the whole idea of a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is ridiculous. There aren't enough awards shows? There isn't enough back-patting? Barf.

Tempest in a very weird little cracked teapot, if you ask me.

I'd be fine with a Rock & Roll museum. Hell, if it would result in the closure of any and all Hard Rock Cafes, I'd help bankroll it.

Sorry, I guess I'm a little surly this p.m.

yellojkt said...

Between this post and getting spanked by Princess Pottymouth, I have stirred quite a hornet's nest. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even my favorite balding metalhead, trusty. My son lives to hum the riff from "Iron Man".

jomilkman makes valid well-researched points. I was going by the allmusic.com site which gives writing credit to Vicious on "Holidays in the Sun" and "Bodies" and mistakenly assumed he also played on these. It is universally acknowledged that Sid was a completely talentless hack bent on self-destruction. Again, death is a good carer move.

Occultism in LZ was always subtext. BS, rightly or wrongly, gets lumped with Iron Maiden and other bands that explicitly milked Satanic imagery for shock value. Ozzy's solo cover art skirts self-parody.

"What's Your Name" is my absolutely favorite song in the rock-star's-life-on-the-road genre. I have greatest hits collections of both Skynyrd and Blondie on my iPod.

My thesis that these are all bands that have been passed over previously and are only now being recognized probably says more about the quality of music from 1981 than the stature of this year's inductees.

jomilkman said...

i agree with that thesis for the most part. lynyrd skynyrd works perfectly with it ... they weren't revolutionary or iconoclastic enough a band to have begged admission into the hof the minute they were eligible, though they were good enough to warrant an inevitable induction. miles davis and the sex pistols aren't the most no-brainer inductee contenders, though they are no less deserving of the honor. i'm glad that the field of eligible nominees was thin enough this year for these seemingly out-of-left-field choices to have been recognized for their valid contributions.

i'm still a little surprised that it took this long for BS to get in, especially when you consider how popular "the osbournes" was a couple of years ago.

despite my impassioned response, i have to agree with kathyr. i'm not so sure there's really a need at all for a hall of fame. a rock museum, yes. i think experience music project fits that bill quite nicely. i'd love to visit it one of these days.

as long as there is a rock hof, however, i'll always be interested in who gets the annual nods.

trusty getto said...

YJ: Did you submit yours, or did the "bitches" (their moniker, not mine) do it on their own?

I thought that was hilarious.

I'm now going to put in a bunch of urls and then anonymously email the terrible writeups to the blog owners.

NOT! But a fun idea, no?

yellojkt said...

I submitted myself, which I think is the way it's supposed to work, but your idea is funny too.

BIg Ben said...

Does any one remember how they choose the candidates? If they choose by influence on other bands, all the inductees should have been in as soon as they were eligible. For example, I have never heard the Sex Pistols nor do I know anything about them but that many bands list them as an influence. Same with Blondie.

Also, wouldn't they eventually get all the most popular bands into the RRHOF eventually? Then the idea of a R'n'R museum would be more effective as a way to pay tribute to the best musical artists of our time.

TBG said...

We went to the Rock Hall in 2001, with the kids along (ages 8 and 13 at the time). We were skeptical about the 3 hours they say to expect to spend there. Well... we were wrong. We easily spent 3 1/2 hours there and never heard a peep of boredom out of the kids.

My husband is almost 12 years older than I am. Class of '64 vs Class of '75. The only time it ever comes up is when we talk about "our" music. He actually owned a copy of Rock Around the Clock. We both got so much out of the Rock Hall--but so did the kids. I agree that it's worth a trip to Cleveland just to see it.

Do you remember the National Lampoon Sunday Paper parody? The Parade parady (Pommade Magazine) had a record club ad. One of the albums was "Lynyrd Skynyrd: Most of Us Are Dead."

J.Po said...

So when exactly does someone become eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? It's obviously not like baseball, where it's five years past retirement. In rock and roll, clearly we have bands that continue playing forever (and seemingly longer, in some cases, like with this year's inductees). Is it five years past commercial viability? Past last rehab? Past menopause or first Cialis prescription? Medicare qualification?

yellojkt said...

j. po.,
It's twenty-five years past your first commercially released recording, guaranteeing fogeys only.

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