Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame II: The Cool Kids in the Back of the Room

                We discussed this year’s winners in the last post.  So, what about the losers, then?  What of the plethora of beloved heritage rock artists who get turned away from the gates to Cleveland year after year?  What gives, man, what gives?

                In some ways, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can be thought of as a high school.  Sure, the folks on the Dean’s List were fast tracked for the Ivy League, but tell the truth: who was gonna make for more fun on a Saturday night?  The kids on the honor roll, or the inhabitants of the cool kids’ table, sitting in perfectly studied disaffection in the back of the room?  I’m pretty sure we all know the answer to that one.

                So, let’s take a good hard look at the major players of the cool kids’ table.  Although breathless cases have been made for nearly every classic rock band to ever hit the top 40, as well as several who’ve never made the top anything, there are three names I see cited more often than any others.  In descending order of near-ness and dear-ness to my heart, then:

                Cheap TrickIt’s hard for me to even feign impartiality here, given that they may well be my all time favorite rock and roll band.  Their exclusion from the Hall remains a bit of a mystery: certainly they’ve sold enough records in their career, and their influence on later artists is wide-ranging.  It’s unlikely that Steve Albini and Nikki Sixx, to make an example of two near-polar opposites, agree on too many bands, but both have flown the Trick banner proudly.  On the downside, their recorded legacy is admittedly spotty, particularly through the ‘80s, and it’s often been rumored that Jann Wenner has taken umbrage to mad genius Rick Nielsen’s comments about Rolling Stone over the years.  Still, they’ve got some influential voting fans – Little Steven comes immediately to mind – and I’d say they have the best chance out of the big 3 of eventually movin’ on up.

                Rush.  Of course they’re irredeemably dorky: that’s not only half their charm, but all of their allure to generation after generation of awkward teenage boys.  Self included: Rush were probably my first real geek crush as a music fan, the first band wherein I absolutely had to track down every note of music they had released.  It could only have happened when I was fourteen, and while I’ve moved into far “cooler” waters of music geekery since, I’ve never denied or turned my back on my love for Canada’s three nerdiest stooges.  Last year’s excellent film documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage has done great things for the rehabilitation of the band’s image, and their work of the past twenty years or so has left the prog-rock hobbits and space travel of yore far behind in favor of far more adult concerns.  Still, Rolling Stone has always hated them; at the end of the day, I’d give them about a 20% chance at a mercy induction.  Most likely they’ll have to settle with simply being the world’s most popular cult act, which is no small runner-up prize.

                KISSI’ve never taken them seriously and I’m not about to begin now, but having shared the last seven years of my life with a KISS fan has made me come around a bit.  Besides, you’re not really supposed to take them seriously, are you?  I hope not, because they are purveyors of some of the most delectable empty calorie rock imaginable.  I’m talking about their ‘70s records of course: anybody who really wants to discuss their music after Dynasty’s disco move is either truly kidding themselves or far more of a hair metal fan than I’ll ever be.  Still, it’s likely that out of a cross section of your ten favorite rock bands, at least four will hold serious KISS fans among their ranks: the Replacements’ cover of “Black Diamond” never struck me as particularly ironic, y’know.  Unfortunately, their chances at the Hall are zero: Wenner and friends are far too self-conscious about their supposed highly selective palate to ever admit that sometimes a high-calorie, nutritionally worthless desert is just what the stomach ordered.  Since the Hall doesn’t offer a cash prize, it’s assumable that Gene Simmons doesn’t care one way or the other.

                There are others with loud backing as well: a quick spin around the inter-tubes shows that fans of Chicago, the Moody Blues, Deep Purple – hell, even the Monkees for Chrissakes – are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.  I implore their fans, as well as those of all the others not yet enshrined – to please save their heart attacks for a worthier cause.  Relax, folks, ‘tis just one self-appointed body’s opinion.  Why not do something more worthwhile, like spin one of your favorites from your neglected favorite, and let their music live for forty minutes or so in a way it couldn’t possibly hope to in some stuffy exhibit somewhere.

                As for me, I’ve already started: Jann’s all right, the Hall’s all right, they just seem a little weird.  Just don’t give yourselves away, true believers.

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