Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - The Cold Storage of Music

As I look to the roster of the inductees to the Class of 2012 I realize that despite the perceived weight of those inductees there are many, many omissions of significant import.  Although bands such as Guns 'n Roses, the Beastie Boys, Donovan and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are incredibly deserving of the honor, the list of omissions is significant. 

The multitude of "Halls of Fame" that we seem to swim between within our popular culture and each of said multitudes has their own intricacies for admission, the ideas are still the same.  Each Hall is different and subsequently the omissions can be glaring and painful.  Baseball fans can point to some serious omissions of players that will never be allowed into their Hall but rules are rules and that's just the way the it is.  As painful as it was to see Ron Santo to fall through the cracks year after year and his pain in not achieving election into the Hall.  I think that what was exceptionally bittersweet was the fact that Santo died before he was posthumously elected.

Rock and Roll is not like professional sports (well except for the massive amounts of money they earn) but heroes are heroes so it is incredibly exciting when they have been given such an honor.  Certainly there will always be an omission that at least someone will be upset about but there will always be those that fall between the cracks.  Despite the inconsiderate omissions it is something out of our control.  I hate that.

What makes it difficult for me at least (hey I'm writing this so I get to pontificate) is the fact that important people, good people get omitted and I can't control it.  Despite the fact that I am not on any nominating or selection committee (that can be fixed by the way, hint hint), I think we can weigh those worthy of such an honor and we can only believe that no one that matters will care.  Now that the venom appears to have been coursing through my body, I think we can put it to good use.  After soliciting my friends on Facebook in which I asked them who they thought should make the cut, coupled with my input I think a pretty decent (although completely incomplete) list was formed.

As any fan of rock music I understand that bands come and unfortunately some great bands just go.  Inasmuch as this is true there are so many terrible bands that stay around so long you think that they have compromising photos of record execs.  So often the fact of the matter is that those bands that seem to make the biggest splash are destined to complete and utter self-destruction.  The fact that some bands that are still floating through the goo of the record industry that never deserved their fifteen minutes of fame and despite that they are still performing a decade or so later.  Interestingly one of the bands that should be in the RNRHOF is a band that some believe has overstayed that fifteen minutes of fame, that band being "KISS".

The band KISS has been a stalwart within the realm of rock since the early 1970's and despite their meteoric rise into the mainstream of rock there are still some that dismiss the band as unimportant to rock, or poor musicians, or some type of blemish in the annals of music because of all the theatrics that has followed them since their inception.  The mystery begins when you realize that KISS released their first album in 1974 (the self-titled "KISS") where upon the cover graced the image of four men clad in makeup and their foray into rock history ensued.   KISS has released TWENTY studio albums, TEN live albums, ELEVEN compilation albums and FIFTY SEVEN singles but despite that critics point to their perceived "campyness" because of their liberal use of pyrotechnics, antics on and off stage and their makeup but so what.

The RNRHOF is a compilation of bands that are of great "importance" to music through a plethora of "requirements" and KISS meets each and every one of them.  Not only is KISS responsible for everything I mentioned earlier but they also have so much more to have made them a "first ballot" shoe-in (and they obviously weren't or you wouldn't be reading about them now would you).  KISS created at least three anthem songs (Rock and Roll All Night, Shout it Out Loud and Detroit Rock City), sold-out venues for literally every show, an untold number of acts that claim KISS as an influence and most importantly they are a band that evolves constantly not for themselves but for their fans.

Along the same path one must wonder why a band like the "New York Dolls" hasn't been inducted as well and there is a real case for their inclusion.  The Dolls are one of the most important bands because they influenced an ENTIRE genre, "glam rock".  Remember all of the bands in the '80's that were make-up clad, big haired showmen, that entire persona can be traced back to the Dolls and KISS.  David Johansen began his trip into rock in 1968 (great year too by the way) and he and the Dolls released their first album "New York Dolls" in 1973.  The Dolls became the template for what KISS and so many others did later and based on that alone, the Dolls are worthy to be in the halls of the Hall.

"The Working Man".  "Tom Sawyer".  "Freewill".  Those are just three of the greatest songs from a little Canadian band:  Rush.  Much like KISS and the Dolls, Rush has had an impact on music unlike many others.  Consider the fact that Rush has released nineteen studio and nine live albums plus SEVENTY EIGHT singles, that alone should make Rush another cornerstone of the RNRHOF.  If that isn't enough consider the fact that Rush has twenty four GOLD records, fourteen platinum (three multi-platinum) add to that the fact those numbers (most gold and platinum records) have Rush fourth in sales behind The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and KISS.  What is so telling is that those sales reflect the fan base each of the bands has and I would contend that people wouldn't buy records in those numbers for a band that isn't deserving of the Hall.  Rush is, has and will continue to be an influence in rock music and has to be enshrined in the RNRHOF.

Rock has always seemed like an "old-boys network", so it shouldn't be a surprise when we think of rock bands usually we think of male bands.  While there are a few examples of females being enshrined in the RNRHOF there are so many glaring omissions but one really stands out:  Heart.  Ann and Nancy Wilson became the cornerstone of the band Heart in 1973 (a couple of iterations after the band originally formed became Heart), and what they did was impressive to say the least.  Any 'old-boys club" is difficult to get into but for success in the music industry they had to.  Commercial success came to the band with a cacophony of albums such as "Dreamboat Annie", "Dog and Butterfly", and the self-titled "Heart" but what should catapult them into the Hall is their pioneering status as women in rock.  Heart cannot be considered just "rock", despite the generic "rock" description the band has been labeled everything from "hard rock" to "folk" to "hair metal" which seems to add credence as pioneers.  As an example the number of female "hair metal" bands can almost be counted on two hands (maybe one and a half hands honestly) and those that had continued success can be counted on one or two fingers.  Heart was a nominee for the 2012 class of inductees but were denied (thus the reason I added them) but I think they probably will be successful in 2013.

One cannot think about that "hair metal" genre and realize that other bands were exceptionally important in the realm of rock.  I think that the importance of the genre is understated, there were some substantial groups that created iconic music, huge fan bases, gold and platinum records and were influential in bands that followed through the same perils as they themselves did.  Bands like Ratt, Motley Crue, Poison, and the Scorpions were instrumental in fueling the "hair metal" fire (that's quite the combo, AquaNet and flames) but their achievements were more than that genre and the '80's.  One cannot think that these bands didn't make MTV even more relevant at that time, for as the bands grew so did MTV.  How many of us remember tuning in and seeing the videos of the bands and thinking how cool they were?

Music from that era was more than just cool videos and huge hair, each of the bands I mentioned in the previous paragraph each made important strides in the music world.  Take Ratt for example, their impact was not just Milton Berle.  Ratt personified the Sunset Strip bands and despite all of that, Pearcy and his bandmates displayed longevity and tragedy all in one neat package.  This band provided a subculture inside the world of "hair metal".  Ratt was an intelligent band with exceptional musicians and music that at no point featured a sellout.  Ratt gave its fans and the entire genre a genuine band during a period that personified look-alike bands.  Ratt provided the industry a refreshing product in that era and that alone should place them in the Hall.

If notorious behavior was a prerequisite for admission to the Hall then Motley Crue would have been the gold standard for inclusion, but Motley Crue was much more than that.  Motley Crue is the prototypical rock band, whether it be hair metal, heavy metal, hard rock or plain rock music.  What the Crue has done is not only have multi-platinum  albums and voracious fans to this day.  The simple fact that this band would explain that entire genre with one simple picture and all questions about that era would be answered.  Motley Crue has had the same four members (now they do, there was a little hiccup) since its inception and despite all of the hardships they have faced we have be given music that is pretty darned good.  The Crue gave four iconic albums in a row (Shout at the Devil, Theater of Pain, Girls, Girls, Girls and Dr. Feelgood) with anthem songs for an entire generation on each and every one of them.  The Crue showed their musical skills through the insane Tommy Lee and his spiraling drum kit and his brilliant play on the drums, to Nikki Sixx and his mastery of the bass (and his love of his fans) to the legendary Mick Mars on guitar, the band is more than just deserving of being admitted.

As much as Motley Crue could be used as the poster child of that era, Poison could be the poster child of glam rock.  Not since the earliest days of the New York Dolls through the make-upped early days of KISS has there been a band that defined the realm of glam.  Through all of that Poison developed not only its own sound but they did produce music that to this day is recognizable and has the anthem songs (as I've been harping about) that propels them beyond all of the other bands within that genre.  Poison continues to be popular and viable and at the same time they aren't afraid to fall back into the music that made them iconic. Poison, Motley Crue, and Ratt are still touring to this day and the product they still produce jams stadiums full of people thus proving that their music will stand the test of time. 

Each of the bands I have mentioned reached the highest plateau within their respective worlds of music and I would be seriously remiss if I were to not talk about the Scorpions.  What this band has done is taken their music from their home of Germany to the world.  The Scorpions have these mind blowing tours across the globe and their fame is legendary.  The Scorpions have provided some seriously good music while deviating from songs about sex, women, drugs and sex again.  The Scorpions are a hard rock band with a conscious as well as a activist-type mentality.  As an example, the song "Winds of Change" (recorded in English as well as a Russian version) are a direct reference to "Perestroika" and the fall of the Berlin Wall, a song that has personal meaning for the band (obviously with them being German).  That aside, the Scorpions have recorded nineteen studio albums, five live albums as well as their release of seventy-five singles, thus proving their staying power in the world music scene.  Consider this that the band was formed in 1965 and they are still recording and performing to this day.

There has been a common thread in this epic I have written, all of the bands I have listed have been some connotation of metal (or hard rock) but there is much more to music than just that.  Its imperative that I include one more band (with a description at least) that should have a rightful home inside the RNRHOF, that band being The Cure.  The Cure is one of the single-most important bands in what was called "college music", or "alternative music".  Alternative music probably wouldn't have been shaped the way it is today and despite the fact that I abhor "emo", The Cure has been instrumental.

Through the dark, dark feel to the music where one may expect a happy, peppy little song ("Love Song" and "Pictures of You" for instance) to the fashion of Robert Smith (his "emo before emo" was cool ensemble), The Cure becomes the diminutive alternative band.  Lets not forget what can only be described as the deepest words ever put into a song that Smith is responsible for (I really can't figure out how one could forget some of them).  The Cure is the reason I began to listen to alternative music, and I'm fairly positive I'm not the only one.

There are a staggering number of bands and performers that should be in the RNRHOF and I'm sure everyone has a list of their own but as I looked through some of the suggestions people gave me I soon realized there are too many to describe.  Of the bands and performers I think are of note include:  Iron Maiden, Randy Rhodes, The Moody Blues, Chicago, Richie Blackmore, Rainbow, Ronnie James Dio, Deep Purple, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent and Quincy Jones.  Its sad to think that everyone of the people I named above aren't in the Hall but the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (whom I am a fan of), the Beastie Boys (a fan of the Beasties too I am), and Donovan will be inducted before them.

Music is subjective, I understand that but the record clearly shows that each of the bands I have mentioned should be in the Hall without question.  It becomes hard to validate the Hall when its appears that it is some type of internal popularity contest for these bands.  it is apparent that qualifications for admission are not based on the body of work of the aforementioned acts and if that isn't it why aren't these bands already elected.  its time for the Hall and its nominating committee to become transparent or at the very least ask for input from the fans themselves.  Aren't the fans really the reason why these bands and performers are indeed famous?  Fame is a fickle thing and without fan support of a band wouldn't they just be another performer that is struggling to become famous?  Television shows like "American Idol" prove that point (unfortunately) by parading thousands of hopefuls through three judges, and unfortunately many great performers fall through the cracks.

Its time for the Hall to wake up and smell the coffee because the Hall is just a big building that houses artifacts, mementos and memories like a museum.  I think that "museum" isn't really the proper description for the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame.  Until the Hall begins to recognize the bands that more than qualified and haven't been properly recognized, well then that museum is nothing but a big building storing "stuff".  Come to think of it, the Hall really should be considered as "cold storage", its just another place to store things that really aren't necessary at this time.  Now that's sad.  


  1. Good thoughts, Jim. THE RNRHOF seems to have been more about political correctness than about music. You didn't get into that aspect too much.

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