On Saturday another round of musicians and bands were inducted into Cleveland’s storied and controversial Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The triangular glass edifice (which the term “glass house” certainly applies here) has been home to many musical artifacts and slightly biased and even ass-kissing styles in terms of its adoration and out and out blatant favoritism in terms of who gets inducted into this sprawling pyramid of a place.
The history of the hall itself is also as messy as the communal responses to it. The Rock and Roll Foundation itself was founded on April 20, 1983. But the physical building itself did not open until over 10 years later, finally opening on September 2, 1995. There were a few different choices originally where the building should have been built, Memphis (birthplace of Sun and Stax Records), Detroit (home of Motown Records), Cincinnati (home of King Records, which showcased early Rockabilly and James Browns’ embryonic musical start), and New York City (home of many songwriters and producers). But Cleveland was chosen for a few reasons. One, $65 million in public money was pledged to the funding of the construction, which certainly whetted the Rock and Roll board’s appetite; Two, many public polls favored Cleveland to having the hall built there; and most importantly, three, Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed has been considered in essence the first person to credit, acknowledge, and even coin the term “Rock and Roll.” Freed even organized in Cleveland in 1952 what is widely considered the very first Rock and Roll concert as well there. These factors were main catalysts in creating and finalizing the decision to have The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame erected in downtown Cleveland, where it stands today, right by the banks of Lake Erie, just east of where the NFL team The Cleveland Browns play in their stadium.
Aside from the fact that it exhaustively contains many rare artifacts and explains the history of rock and roll in a concise and easy to digest manner, and contains and showcases what one would generically expect here in terms of the history of rock and roll (old blues pioneers, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, U2, and so on), there are certainly many eye-opening omissions here as well. Each year in New York City since January 23, 1986, at the famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel, rock and roll’s “elite” gather to induct that year’s inductees to the Hall, amidst a large amount of back-slapping and a probably outlandish per plate dinner in its ballroom, followed by performances by either the original inducted artists or surviving members or other musicians who may have been influenced by said inductees.
This year’s inductees include artists as diverse (and some clearly not in the rock and roll genre) as The Beastie Boys, Guns N Roses (who have already set off some controversy as lead singer Axl Rose copped out of making an appearance at the induction ceremony), Donovan, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, the late singer/songwriter Laura Nyro, The Small Faces/Faces, and the backing bands for Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, Hank Ballard, Smokey Robinson, and James Brown. Once again, certain artists got completely snubbed. The fact that it took so long to induct Buddy Holly’s backing band, The Crickets, whose name is almost synonymous with Holly and clearly was a name that influenced John Lennon’s decision to call HIS band The Beatles, is already a glaring one. But it’s certainly not this isolated case that gives cause to the sometimes completely irresponsible manner in how and who gets nominated into this big, blocky treble clef of a hall, there have been many others, some under the radar in terms of public knowledge and adoration, and some painfully obvious, as well. Here are some examples of bands and artists who should be in there, but aren’t.
But before I give you my two cents (sense?), first, let’s right away put this into perspective in terms of how people get into the hall. The voting committee for the most part are full of people who musically, “never played the game,” They are writers from rock journalism’s past and present for the most part, who self-congratulate themselves for existing during a time that was being called as “seminal” and “influential” on their endeavors as the musicians were in theirs. They self appointedly consider themselves the foremost authority on rock music, even though most of those writers pretty much cut their teeth on writing record reviews of Canned Heat and early Chicago albums and doing profiles on David Cassidy and Dr. Hook for Rolling Stone magazine. Speaking of Rolling Stone, founder Jann Wenner is pretty much the superczar here at the Hall of Fame, and also seems to apply a cranky approach to the hall not unlike a headmaster at a strict boy’s school in Manchester, England. In fact, upon first glance in the hall, you would think that Rolling Stone is a sponsor of the place, like a corporate company who firmly affixes its name to sporting arenas around the country, ala Comerica Park in Detroit, or Staples Center in Los Angeles to name two. The influence of Rolling Stone runs nosebleed high in the hall, completely forgetting and omitting classic and much better music publications like Creem (which showcased the great Lester Bangs, who to this reporter, was the greatest music journalist that ever lived) and Crawdaddy, and even later ’70’s small magazines like Punk and Sniffing Glue. Most of those aforementioned magazines, and their writers, are also for the most part noticeably absent from being on the voting committee and in the hall itself. It’s as if the criteria for getting into the hall is simply, “Is your music being sold at Wal-Mart these days?” If so, good, you’ve got a shot kid.
So that said, here are Stoogepedia’s picks for who should be in the Hall of Fame, and how incredulous it is that they AREN’T (in no particular order) :
THIS is one of the biggest gaffes of all here. Peter Frampton, who got his start in England’s Humble Pie in the late 1960s and helped propel that rock/blues band out of the Cream-style trenches that every band of that time and stripe seemed to be mired in, has also released one of the biggest selling records of the 1970s, the live 1976 double album set Frampton Comes Alive, which brought him fame, success, criticism and adoration, all in one dizzying fell swoop. BUT, there’s no denying that even though he has fallen off of the radar on critics’ best guitarists of all time lists contemporarily, Frampton could play amazing rock and roll hopscotch on his fret board with the best of them. Not only that, but Frampton Comes Alive sold millions of copies, and I mention this, because like the equally ridiculous Grammy Awards, it seems a basic tenet of one’s inclusion to the hall is the amount of records sold (The Ramones and Velvet Underground notwithstanding), so that alone should make Frampton the virtual shoo in. But no, as of 2012, the only way Frampton gets into the hall is if he buys a ticket like the rest of us.
This Canadian trio has been a popular mainstay and influence on the hard rock/progressive rock circuits for decades now, have legendary albums, are still RELEASING albums, and have their tours sell out all over the globe. Rush even has the rarity of having radio play rotate some of their more well known album cuts to this day, BUT, “no existe en” for these guys. (Spanish – meaning “Not in there”) In fact, the whole progressive rock genre as a whole has been forgotten about, passed over like a vulture on its way to its next meal in the hot desert. King Crimson, Yes, Soft Machine, the list is endless of the omissions of this still popular genre.
The Sonics – one of the first, if not THE first garage rock bands of all time. Hailing from Seattle, Washington, long before flannel became the mainstay apparel for slackers decades later, this band, although pretty much unknown if one has just gone through the revolving doors of classic rock and pop their whole life, almost singlehandedly ushered in punk music, which bands like The Stooges, The MC5, The Ramones, and the like cultivated a few years later, when it became mainly associated with those great bands. But make no mistake, if Detroit, Michigan, is the birthplace of a lot of those early sounds of punk, then The Sonics were like the geographical blueprint in which Detroit made its town from. Recording records that sounded so raw through what sounded like paper speakers, The Sonics still had more balls than most of the other records found in one’s personal collection and could completely hold their own on stage with anything that came after them. The omission of these guys has to be the highest sacrilege known to musical man and woman.
If any of the post punk bands are going to be represented in these hallowed (or is it HOLLOWED) halls, the claim can made for either The Dead Kennedys or Black Flag. Both of them took the original era of punk and wore it like a cheap suit in the post punk era of the early 1980s, but it was the sweetest suit off the rack for sure. Henry Rollins has become an almost mythical figure since those glory days when he waved that flag of black, with his best Iggy/Stiv posturing, with his unapologetic manner and fist punched right in your fucking face attitude, with his eclectic Jim Morrison in reverse poetry, he’s as large as a figure in any genre of any history of any music, if just the rest of the world knew their history. Rollins as of late has sort of become an “elder statesman” of those times now as he advances in age, but none of the chrome on him has any rust whatsoever still, and maybe as he keeps doing what he’s doing, there might be a chance he and Black Flag gets a place in Ohio.
A lot of the rock dinosaurs are in this place, but Boston is not. Their debut album, released in 1976 and becoming a major seller that year, with plenty of songs from it still warbled drunkenly in karaoke bars all across the heartland and on classic rock radio, has its place in music history. Guitarist Tom Scholtz and the rest of the band pretty much made this record in Scholtz’s basement, arguably it’s the only demo in history released as is for a major label. The late singer Brad Delp gave a new meaning to the words “high pitched” as his vocal chords breaks the sound barrier warbling in Boston continues to smash windows in cities everywhere, on par with Ella Fitzgerald’s “Is it live or is it Memorex” classic wine glass smashing voice she manifested in those old commercials for those that remember them. For a place such as Cleveland, with the type of middle road climate it surely exhibits, this band belongs in for sure.
My temperature boils as I write this one. I still cannot believe there is no acknowledgment for T-Rex or Marc Bolan there, who pretty much tutelaged David Bowie on how to do to the glam rock Hokey Pokey and then Bowie went on and opened his OWN dance studio, never giving Bolan the credit he deserves for the most part. But where Bowie needed a great guitarist in Mick Ronson to make his records really sway off the turntables, Bolan was a great lead man in his own right, also producing and writing most of his albums. Songs like “The Slider,” “Jeepster,” “Jewel,” “Buick Mackane,” and plenty of others give Bolan the Michael Jordan edge over the Kobe Bryant Bowie (and I DO love Bowie too, don’t get me wrong), yet the only time you hear of Bolan or T-Rex in the hall is if someone is standing by a Ziggy Stardust exhibit or something in the hall and someone happens to mention his or the band’s name.
There are plenty others for sure that could go in. There’s also the argument that maybe it’s good that these people AREN’T in, that maybe to include them in such a place would be a step down for some of them. Both arguments are correct I believe. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame represents a kind of fast food celebration for the history of that genre. For most casual music fans, everybody who they need and expect roost inside its jagged walls. For those of us, however, who take things a little further in our musical free will, one thing is for sure that we can all probably agree on. And that is, while it’s true to some extent that “Cleveland ROCKS,” what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame represents ultimately makes true music fans eyes “ROLL.”