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Rock Hall’s induction process questioned

October 11, 2011

I know art is subjective.
But, come on.
Who is running the show at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? I’ve been on the fence for a long time about the possible existence of life outside the Earth’s atmosphere. But now I’m not so sure. I have to wonder what planet these folks hail from.
My guess is whoever they are, they’ve never driven a fast car; sunk a bank shot using three rails to win $100 or strutted out to center stage with an electric guitar between their legs; or anything else remotely related to being cool.
They must be deathly allergic to swagger and panache
It wasn’t always this way.
Inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame began in 1986 with a lineup of charter inductees that few could dispute.
Since that inaugural year, it seems each cycle produces a few deserving selections who are ushered to the stage by a resounding chorus of “duh,” indicating the length of time their inclusion was overdue.
But included with those worthy enshrinees have been a host of overrated punks, underachieving has-beens and a few “never were(s)” whose contribution to music has been akin to lard’s role in weight loss.
That 1986 list of immortals were enshrined about three decades removed from an outcry by America’s parents over a gyrating pelvis from Tupelo, Miss., which they said was corrupting their children.
That pelvis, belonging to Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll, was inducted that year along with icons such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Sub-categories such as “early influence” allowed the fledgling hall to take on the “cool as the other side of the pillow” persona of the music style it was the self-appointed guardian of. In that first class, Robert Johnson filled that bill quite capably.
Rock and roll is an American invention that belongs to all of us around the world — a global phenomenon that is more than a half-century old.
It evolved from other American music styles such as blues and jazz and also incorporated elements of folk and classical. It is one of my deepest, personal passions.
Watering down the hall
That’s why the watering down of this shrine in the past decade has to be addressed. Several years ago I wrote a letter to the folks in charge of the show and expressed my discontent. The letter went unanswered.
The hall had a good 10-year run following its mid-’80s debut, but it wasn’t long before the selectors, whoever they are, began to show their ignorance.
They forget it’s the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They forget that rock and roll belongs to we, the people.
As a true test of what I’m talking about, I’ve made a list of some of the most glaring omissions, thus far, from this shrine. Next to it, I’ve included a tally of some hall of fame inductees who I believe are not deserving.
I’m still waiting to meet that one person who disagrees with me. Everyone who saw the list was stunned
Be objective folks. This is not necessarily about who you like. This is about who, objectively, should be listed with the greatest who ever strapped on a Fender Strat or strutted across the stage with the mic still attached to the microphone stand.
Example...I personally am not a big Bob Seger fan. Nor am I all that crazy about fellow Hoosier John Mellencamp. But, you will never hear me say they didn’t earn induction. In fact, I think at least Seger was inducted many years later than he should have.
Be objective
So, if I malign someone whose music you like, be objective.
Can we as rock and roll fans really say one-hit wonder Dr. John or Darlene Love (yeah, I’ve never heard of her either) or someone named Leonard Cohen belongs enshrined in Cleveland, Ohio before, say, The Doobie Brothers, Rush, Kiss or, for crying out loud, Stevie Ray Vaughn?
I think the selectors are trying to show how hip they are.
“Yeah, we haven’t got room for Styx, Journey or Foreigner, but hey, aren’t we hip? We inducted the Talking Heads.”
Really?
David Byrne is a musical genius. That much is true.
However, his body of work with Talking Heads no where near tops Jon Bon Jovi.
The Clash, in? Steve Miller Band, not?
Here’s another example of the objectivity thing.
I like the Ramones. I have the band’s complete works in my IPod. However, you will never hear me say they belonged inducted before The Moody Blues.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, what about Yes?
No, they’re not in.
And, perhaps if the founders of this shrine had wanted to induct acts such as Run-D.M.C, they should have named it the Pop Hall of Fame and not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Hey music fans, Run-D.M.C. is in and this year the hall is trying again to induct the talentless Beastie Boys instead of considering musical savants Jethro Tull, commercial giants Chicago or the man who made his guitar talk, Peter Frampton.
A few years ago I interviewed Lou Gramm, the man whose voice on songs like “Feels Like The First Time” and “Cold as Ice” put Foreigner on the map. He was just as baffled with the hall’s selection process as your’s truly.
But, in selfless fashion, he didn’t think about himself or his former band.
“Is Boston in?” he asked me. I told him they weren’t. He was indignant.
I doubt there will be much change in the future.
The powers that be in Cleveland will not likely set aside a few years for inductions of acts and performers who have been overlooked long enough.
But hey, at least they were hip enough to induct Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Iggy Pop’s vehicle, The Stooges.
So what if Blue Oyster Cult, Judas Priest, Hall and Oates, Deep Purple, Electric Light Orchestra, Cheap Trick, Bad Company, Cat Stevens, Def Leppard, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Cars, Steppenwolf, Todd Rundgren, Ted Nugent, Three Dog Night and , mm hmm, Ozzie Osbourne are still on the sidelines.

Phil Smith is associate editor of The Post & Mail.

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