It’s not technically an awards show, but it is an award after a fashion, and it all gets enshrined right up the road from the ONAT East compound, so let’s talk about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees! Because I need more things over which to shower my disapproval!
First, though, let’s establish some premise, here. The name of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a damnable lie – a rough survey shows about half of the acts in there are actuall “rock” acts, but that’s fine. It’s all sort of arbitrary anyway. The building stands as sort of the last bastion of the old-guard style of music criticism – the one that says that rock music is all the music that’s good, and that all the music that’s good is rock music. And I’m not here to bury that, either (it probably couldn’t be said by any but the most charitable that I’m here to praise it, however). And so questions of whether or not these bands belong in the rock and roll hall of fame are shaped not by the bands’ contributions to rock and roll itself, but rather by their relationship to the other acts in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
With that taken care of, ONWARD TO THE DISAPPROVAL!
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Second-time nominees1, and probably the only band to ever be nominated named after their harmonica player. I mean, I guess he’s also the singer. Wikipedia says he was trained on the flute! He really could’ve Ron Burgundy’d that up. Anyway. I don’t think I knew a Paul Butterfield Blues Band song before doing this article. I still don’t really know any, but at least now I’ve heard a couple, which is nice.
THE VERDICT: I suppose if they get in, they can join the rank and file of “bands that were kind of a big deal in the late sixties” that occupy a huge whack of the inductees, and I’m sure there’s some old people out there who will be more than willing to tell me how important a white blues-singing harmonica player was to the world of music, but as it stands, I’m going to go with “not worthy.”
This is their eighth go-round here2. Is there a limit to how many times an act can be nominated? Are Chic doomed to be the Susan Lucci of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? What’s interesting, to me, is that while Chic are clearly not a rock band, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has no trouble including dance music – including disco, formerly rock’s great big boogeyman – but are still leaving out the rock-band-iest of dance bands. Apparently Donna Summer was just more important to Rock and Roll3.
THE VERDICT: I actually really do not understand why they haven’t been inducted in any of their prior seven nominations. I get the first-year thing, but seriously? Worthy.
Ian Gillan’s second-best band4, Ritchie Blackmore’s third-best band, Jon Lord’s best band, and Ian Paice’s only band5, Deep Purple are probably the strongest argument for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame being allowed to nominate single songs instead of entire acts. Because there’s no way that a band that could ever include David Coverdale should be in the anything Hall of Fame, but there’s no arguing that “Highway Star” and, ok, fine, “Smoke on the Water” should probably be enshrined somewhere.
THE VERDICT: Not actually worthy
Genesis is already in, which makes this more difficult for me, because I know so much more about The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Selling England by the Pound than I do about Peter Gabriel’s albums6. He and Phil Collins were in Genesis together, of course, which means that at many points, there had to have been stretches of time where Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel did things like fold socks together while on tour. That’s fun to picture. Anyway. Peter Gabriel is, like Paul Butterfield, a trained flautist. The difference here being that Peter Gabriel actually used his talents for good.
THE VERDICT: I mean, he might as well be worthy.
Hall and Oates
It would be funny, cosmically speaking, if Hall and Oates got in before Chic, and it would prove that, whatever else was going on in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, ain’t none of it that makes any sense.
THE VERDICT: Lord, no. But here’s Tom Cavanagh singing “She’s Gone”.
Only nominated once before, and it was several years ago! KISS are my go-to example of a band that, whatever appeal they may have had, is basically grounded in their original era. There were lots of reasons to like KISS in the seventies; they toured constantly and in cities that most rock bands didn’t bother with, and put a lot of their effort into making their live show as spectacular as possible. There are almost no reasons to like them in 2013.
THE VERDICT: Worthy, not only for their handful of pretty-good songs and their admittedly-impressive stage work, but also for basically embodying the spirit of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: rock and roll is great provided you can use it to make a bunch of money.
LL Cool J
Exhibit B in the “acts that were only good if you were in their target audience when they happened” category, LL Cool J made a couple of pretty-good-for-the-time records in the eighties. LL Cool J is on his third nomination, which is also puzzling – he seems, to me, to be exactly the sort of hip-hop act that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame likes to get behind. Maybe they’re making some sort of political point by granting this year’s biannual token hip-hop nod to NWA.
THE VERDICT: Not worthy. I don’t care about his radio, I don’t care about who needs love, and I don’t care what his momma said. Furthermore, I’m more than happy to call it a comeback.
I did not realize that none of the brothers Neville were in the Rock and Roll HAll of Fame. Laura Fucking Nyro is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but not the Neville Brothers, nor Aaron Neville himself, nor, most tragically, The Meters. Parliament-Funkadelic and James Brown made it in. Public Enemy made it in, and Terminator X was basically the king of the Meters sample7. There is simply no reason to keep the Meters out.
THE VERDICT: More than worthy. Beyond worthy.
Boy, they’re really allowing this 25 years thing to include a single? The A-Side of which is actually a cover? I guess it’s important to get Nirvana in there as soon as possible. Which is, y’know, fair.
THE VERDICT: Of course they’re worthy.
This is probably some kind of linchpin for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To this point, they’ve inducted 80s party-rap types – you know, the kind old white dudes like – but haven’t made any real inroads to being inclusive of hip-hop in toto. NWA would mark the fork in that road: inducting NWA is, in a lot of ways, officially inducting hip hop, and not just the easiest-to-swallow outliers (well, and Public Enemy, but they’re kind of a horse of a different color). Of course, there is so little internal logic to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that I would imagine it won’t end up mattering, but I’m pretending like it’s all logical for the sake of this paragraph.
THE VERDICT: At the end of the day, while it’s true that Straight Outta Compton was hella influential, and there’s almost nothing to impeach about Ice Cube at the beginning of his career, nor about Dr. Dre at any real stage of his career, the actual recorded output of NWA is kind of a dated, silly mess. I mean, I get that a lot of people listened to and enjoyed it, but how much of that was ever intrinsic to the music, as opposed to just their ability to be there? Not worthy.
On the one hand, they really were the finest of rock bands, and Paul Westerberg really probably my favorite songwriter on the planet. On the other hand, there’s something sort of off-message about them getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the other other hand, they unquestionably belong there. On the other other other hand, they in no way belong there.
THE VERDICT: Maybe they can just refuse their induction, like John Lydon did. Not that I’m one to encourage people to generally do things like John Lydon does.
This is even more surprising to me than KISS, actually. Laura Fucking Nyro got in before Linda Ronstadt? What the hell is this all about? Anyway, this is her first time even being nominated, which is just bananas. I’m no major fan of her work or anything, but I’ve been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and for all of its good points and charms – which do exist, I actually quite like it as a museum – the stubborn worship at the altar of the Seventies California Thing (The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac) is not one of them. Since Linda Ronstadt is right there in that self-same SCT, what is she doing not getting nominated until 2013? Are they leaving her out intentionally to save face or something?
THE VERDICT: Probably not actually worthy, although it’s surprising that she isn’t in anyway.
Oh good grief.
THE VERDICT: Go to hell, George.
People that like Link Wray love him. I am not necessarily one of those people, but I do like “Rumble.” He’s probably another pretty good argument for there being single songs inducted. But really. The Tornadoes aren’t inducted. The Surfaris aren’t inducted.
THE VERDICT: Not worthy, this time seemingly under the rules of the R&RHOF itself.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s relationship to prog rock is like the rest of America’s relationship to prog rock: inconsistent, messy, and nonsensical. Yes are occupying, for prog, much the same place that NWA are for hip-hop: they’re the point at which you’re going for the genre, rather than its outliers8. Nevertheless, they’re running out of pre-rock-and-roll R&B singers, they’re already expanding their wide array of beer-band-rocker-types into the Replacements, and maybe they should embrace the fact that a huge portion of their audience is also prog’s audience.
THE VERDICT: Worthy, and I’ll actually count myself a fan if they play “Roundabout” at the induction ceremony.
Psychedelia, on the other hand, has so much credibility with these people that it seems like there’s simply no keeping any of them out. I would expect The Zombies – the last of the great English psych bands to be inducted – to get snapped up in this, their first year of nomination. Bonus points for them still putting out records and sounding great.
THE VERDICT: Worthy.
1 The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t have the Baseball Hall of Fame’s problem with inducting first-time nominees, but it still doesn’t do it that often. I suppose it’s so the idea of being a “first-timer” in terms of induction can be a special thing.
2 What I think is weird is that they haven’t been nominated each year for the last eight years, but rather that they occasionally take a year off from being nominated for reasons that make sense only to the people at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
3 also not inducted: Giorgio Moroder, which strikes me as the sort of thing you’d do if you were the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They have a special category for producers which does not include Giorgio Moroder. That’s insanity.
4 I’m counting the band from Jesus Christ Superstar, here.
5 Roger Glover is the member I didn’t name. His Wikipedia page says he wrote the guitar riff for “Maybe I’m a Leo,” which is probably the most depressing thing I’ll read on Wikipedia today. Oh, and founding members Rod Evans and Nick Simper. Rod Evans is actually the guy that sang on “Hush,” and Nick Simper was the bass player that didn’t write the guitar riff for “Maybe I’m a Leo.”
6 Which include Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel and Peter Gabriel.
7 “Just Kissed My Baby” in particular figures pretty heavily in their early work.
8 with Genesis as Run DMC, Rush as Grandmaster Flash and Pink Floyd as Public Enemy