Ahhh, the good old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
For an institution ostensibly designed as a means of honoring and enshrining the best of the best, and in so doing, wrapping up rock ’n’ roll and putting a bow on it, the hall and its doings sure have been a divisive force in pop culture.
Getting fired up about the hall is a bit silly, but it’s also difficult to avoid. The music we love is so deeply and intrinsically tied to our own feelings of identity, conceptions of personal integrity and sense of aesthetics, that we can’t help taking the snubbing of artists we revere, while others we feel to be undeserving are venerated, a bit personally.
This year’s list of nominees is no exception. While most of that list seems fairly innocuous, what is most striking is the absence of artists who have been eligible for induction for a good long time, while others are riding a well-oiled slide straight into the hall pretty much as soon as they are eligible. (Eligibility is 25 years after the artist’s first album release, but the hall also claims that other “criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock ’n’ roll,” which is, of course, open to interpretation by those who do the interpreting.)
The nominees for induction in 2015 are Green Day, Chic, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Kraftwerk, N.W.A., the Marvelettes, Nine Inch Nails, Lou Reed, the Spinners, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Smiths, Sting, War and Bill Withers. Like everyone else, I have my own opinions concerning the worthiness of these artists.
Nominees deserving of 2015 induction [for a video-laden post on this, go here]:
Kraftwerk: Ground zero for creative electronic music. Completely deserved.
Chic: Long overdue. Bridged the gap between P-Funk and Prince.
Nine Inch Nails: Trent Reznor continues to challenge himself and his audience, and to break new ground in the process.
Lou Reed: This should have happened while he was alive. Better late than never.
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: Connected punk to the great pop singles of the 1960s. Like Phil Spector, with heavily distorted guitars.
The Smiths: Yes, absolutely. But if the band makes it, will Morrissey and Johnny Marr both show? Will hatchets be buried, or wielded?
Bill Withers: Timeless. Withers connected folk and soul with complete conviction.
Nominees who should go in, but not this year [for a video-laden post on this, go here]:
Sting: We wouldn’t want him to get a swelled head or anything. He can wait.
War: Deserving, but let’s allow Chic to be the dominant funk inductee this year, and bring War back next year.
Stevie Ray Vaughan: Quite likely the greatest electric blues guitarist of all time. But waiting another year or two will do nothing to diminish his legacy.
Nominees who should only visit Cleveland as tourists:
Green Day: If Green Day is inducted, then we have to consider inducting every other fair-to-middling punk rock band since the early ’70s. The band has its place in pop culture, certainly, and has been responsible for some memorable tunes.
But Before Green Day goes in, for the rock hall to claim even a modicum of credibility, we need to see the likes of Richard Hell, Television, the MC5, the Dead Boys, Social Distortion and Public Image Ltd nominated, at least.
Five artists who needed to be inducted yesterday:
Deep Purple: Inducting Green Day in its first year of eligibility before Deep Purple, who have been eligible for decades? That’s just plain absurd.
Roxy Music: Madonna is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Roxy Music is not. Think about it.
Yes: Profoundly inventive, and unlike any other band.
Thin Lizzy: The late Phillip Lynott was Ireland’s first bona fide rock star, but more importantly, he was a wonderful songwriter who effortlessly fused the romanticism of early Bruce Springsteen with the Celtic soul of Van Morrison, and presented it all as vibrant heavy rock.
King Crimson: King Crimson is one of the most daring and creative bands in rock music history, and has been for more than 45 years.
I’m sure you have your own list of bands and artists you’d like to see inducted into the rock hall. Please feel free to share with me via email or comment.