Let There Be Rock (and Roll)?
Visiting Cleveland? Stop by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, i.e. the Rock Hall, not only because the I.M. Pei structure itself is impressive but because inside is a wonderland of artifacts sure to entrance even the most casual rock music fan.
That having been said, and pretending for a moment that it still means anything and anyone still cares, the Rock Hall’s idiotic induction process, which took a beating last year for being “too '70s,” has sunk to a new low. The 2017 nominees are a disgrace. Perhaps a new crop of voters needs to be brought board to flush out the folks who voted for Jane’s Addiction, Perry Farrell’s flash-in-the-pan, two-album, faux meaningful band that stayed together for three whole years, and Depeche Mode, who admittedly stayed together longer and put out a couple decent records (1990’s Violater) but who’s generally bloodless synth-based electropop, a clear EDM antecedent, has nothing in common with rock music of any kind.
And Janet Jackson? Journey, Joan Baez and Steppenwolf also made the cut. That scraping noise you hear is coming from the bottom of the barrel. The only bright spot, and one that is completely and utterly deservingand in the original spirit of the Hallis Bad Brains who are quite possibly the baddest-assed rock band to ever bend an electric guitar note.
It was clear when hip hop acts began appearing on ballots that the Rock Hall had ambitions to become the Great American Museum of Popular Music and if that’s now the true aim, that’s fine. Rock and Roll was too narrow a definition anyway for a museum that wanted to grow into the self-perpetuating marketing machine it has become. But how to keep those nominations coming? Especially now, when rock music has fallen on hard times and in many ways is disappearing?
The overriding problem is that they nominated too many candidates too quickly and are now left casting about for suitable choices. Every genre of popular music is now clearly in play. Americana has yet to really happen. Can Jazz be next? And how long till the focus turns from strictly Anglo-American music? What about the African electric blues players like Omara “Bombino” Moctar? Or Norwegian Black Metal? And while Country Music has its own Hall of Fame, Hank Williams and Bob Wills are already in the Rock Hall so how long before more country music starsGeorge Jones, for example, sang rockabilly when he was youngare inducted?
Too be unmarketable and pathetically naïve for just a moment, is it too ridiculous to suggest that perhaps there are quite a few folks who actually created rock and roll that have yet to honored before we move on to B or C or F team choices like Depeche Mode and Jane’s Addiction, both of whom will undoubtedly sell tickets to the museum, foster a healthy home audience for the annual awards telecast and buy lost of stuff on rockhall.com? In a few minutes I came up with a list that while esoteric in spots, is actually about the music the museum once purported to be about.
How in the world are blues players like Son House, Guitar Slim, Skip James and Charlie Patton, the players and songwriters whose recordings were ultimately responsible for what came to be called rock‘n’roll, not in the Rock Hall? Or what about the guys responsible for remaking R&B into rock‘n’roll like Tiny Bradshaw, Smiley Lewis, Roy Milton, Wynonie Harris and Roy Brown? The there’s the strange case of one of the great early rock hits “Rocket 88.” Neither Ike Turner who wrote it nor Jackie Brenston who sung it/recorded it are in. How on earth is there something called the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame that does not pay homage to Sister Rosetta Tharpe!!! Call me a purist but couldn't there at least have been one nomination of someone who actually deserves the honor? Who actually had something to do with rock'n'roll as opposed to peripheral acts who's biggest qualification is selling tickets and Depeche Mode coffee mugs or Jane's Addiction T-shirts along the lakefront?