Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rock and Roll Hall Of Shame

Tis is kinda of a delayed reaction, but I had written this months ago when the last Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame broadcast was shown.

Anyhow...these are things I think about every year that the Rock Hall comes and goes and makes a mockery of Rock and Roll. Your thoughts, comments discussions, e-mail are welcome.
The Rock’n’Roll Hall of fame is losing relevance. The annual industry circle jerk has come and gone (only to be re-broadcast on VH1 over and over to reap all the advertising revenue) and thus commences my annual bitch session over who shouldn’t be in and who should. It has already been well documented about the Hall’s oversight never to induct the Stooges. This year, nine artists were nominated for consideration amongst the hundreds of potential artists who have been active more than 25 years. From those nine, five were chosen to be inducted. One could do the math and realize that eventually, if it has not happened already, they will run out of room for deserving artists because there's so many that have already been passed over in previous years. Granted, taking a look at the list of past inductees, many of the "essentials" have been included. Still there are many more who have been overlooked and given time will be continued be overlooked. Furthermore, one can only speculate how other future deserving artists the will be treated in ceremonies to come.

Let's start with the most blatant omission: the Stooges. Their sound set the blueprint for punk rock, hard rock, glam rock, and alternative rock decades ahead of its time. If the nuclear blast of their debut album was not proof enough of their influence to come, then the 2007 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame finale of "Now I Wanna Be Your Dog" (performed by Patti Smith and REM) and Madonna and asking them to cover her songs for her induction should seal the deal. They have been nominated 9 times already, and how they slipped away one will never know. Since an artist could conceivably be inducted twice (for solo and group effort), Iggy Pop (who became eligible in 2002 as a solo artist) could be inducted before his group. This is not a perfect world, however. Not all the Royal Carribean and Nike commercials, movie soundtracks, and sound-alike bands could change that.

Where would modern rock be without Joy Division? Apparently just fine, according to the nominating committee, since they haven't been nominated in the five years they have been eligible. The recent acclaim for the biopic "Control" and the Grant Gee documentary coud possibly change that, but it remains to be seen. Legend has it that Joy Division formed after seeing the Sex Pistols show that inspired many other british youths to join bands. The same could be said of the few dozen youths who saw or heard Joy Division in the beginning and were inspired to start the own band. Their influence remains to this day, as bands like Interpol, Killers, and The Bravery co-opt and modernize the sound. (Bauhaus falls in to this category and begins their eligibility this year)

What about bands like the minutemen, Husker Du, and Black Flag, all held in equally high regard for their influence in the underground movement of yesteryear and today? Not a snowball's chance in Pedro. And the thing is - they probably don't care. Industry acceptance is something that never really mattered to them, so being honored by the industry probably wouldn't appeal to them. Some of the players have gone on to have multi-album careers in the majors, but their initial indie output is what cemented their status as legends. Husker Du actually jumped to a major but inner band squabbles ended the band. The DIY ethic practiced and preached by these bands could have laid the groundwork for the current distribution model. The minutemen's credo was always "The album is a flyer for the show", and the same could be said today, as a band's Myspace page and e-mail list are "flyers for the show" (and mp3s, hoodies, and toddler tees). It could, however, be argued that since these artists didn't play by the industry's rules, the industry won't honour them. Besides, what kind of crappy job will they do on the retrospective film that is played, and will Paul Shaeffer's band be able to play the music?

Another band that has been criminally overlooked is The Replacements. They did it all: went the indie route (creating a landmark testament to their greatness in the album "Let It Be"), played the major game and released two stellar albums out of four (having a few hit singles, to boot), and had a lead singer with a lucrative solo career. Their induction to the Hall could be a longshot, but not based on the merit of their work. It could be speculated that the voting panel just don't know who they are. They didn't make much of a mainstream splash, and their hits were substandard compared to the rest of their material (cause that's what it takes to get played on the radio) and they didn't make the indie to major jump as commercially acceptable as their college rock peers (and Hall Of Fame inductees) REM. One could only guess that the title of their recent Rhino retrospective "Don't You Know Who I Think I Was" is a reference to being overlooked by the industry.

Two bands that should have whole wings in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named after them (but will probably suffer the same fate as The Stooges) are Sonic Youth and Pixies. Both had an astounding "ripple effect" influence on modern music and both have had incredible careers playing by the industry's rules, under their own terms. Both groups had an immense impact on a formative-years Nirvana, as it has been said they signed to Geffen because Sonic Youth was on it, and Kurt Cobain has been quoted as saying he was trying to rip off the Pixies. Sonic Youth has been eligible since 2006, Pixies will be eligible in 2012. Whether either band will even make the shortlist of nominees remains to be seen. Especially considering so many other worthy bands before them have been overlooked.

It could be argued that the problem with the Hall Of Fame is in its name: "Fame". One must attain a certain level of fame to even be considered worthy of membership. It's almost like a Fraternity or the "popular" group in a high school. The "cool" people deem who is "cool" enough to join their group and keep the others out so the group stays pure. People hold this group in high regard, and consider those who were shunned as "flawed". Since the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame is supposed to be the highest standard of excellence, those who are passed over could be branded as "not worthy". However, the longer the Hall overlooks such worthy artists as The Stooges, the more it will be seen as being flawed. It is uncertain what changes could be made to improve the legitimacy of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Changing the voting pool every year to reflect who was listening to music during the 25 year eligibility period could be a start. Having music fans do the voting could possibly be a solution, though one look at the Billboard chats showing what the masses prefer demonstrates that there could be a quality control issue. Mabye the drastic solution would be to do away with a Hall of Fame altogether and just let the artists' work stand on their own merit. Of course, this is a "cut off the nose" solution, and with he amount of capital that pours in to the Hall and VH1 each year (not to mention the revived careers of, and renewed interest in, inductees, see: Dave Clark Five, Van Halen, Leonard Cohen), it is something that would never happen. Therefore, I'm left with my DIY solution, which is to every year create my own Hall of Fame playlist on my iPod of MY inductees, and create a shrine on my counter of their CD cases and memorabilia.

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