Earlier this month, nineteen names were put forward for consideration for induction into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Before I explain why I’m annoyed with the list, let’s understand what the purpose of this annual exercise is in the first place.
- It’s a reminder that there’s a physical space in Cleveland that needs to be fed a steady diet of tourists.
- It sells expensive tickets to the official ceremony in New York every April.
- The nominations are supposed to rekindle interest and discussion about these legacy artists that will lead to sales/streams of their back catalogues.
- It gives the 900 people–journalists, artists plus a plethora of label/management lobbyists, politickers, and arm-twisters, all with personal agendas–involved in the selection process something to do and a way to feel important.
There was something about this year’s list that bugged me. It took a week to figure out why. Let me count the ways.
Where’s Soundgarden? They were formed before Pearl Jam and they were inducted last year.The group was one of the founding fathers of grunge and the whole alt-rock revolution of the 90s. And with the outpouring tributes for Chris Cornell following his passing, you’d think that they’d at least receive a nomination. Nope.
Where the hell is Kraftwerk? In the list of influential acts of the last fifty years, Kraftwerk is second only to the Beatles. (Or maybe even more influential.) The fact that they haven’t made it despite four previous nominations shows the bias the Hall committee has against certain types of European acts.
Nina Simone? Fantastic, brilliant performer but on the fringes of the kind of performer usually inducted. While her repertoire did include R’n’B and blues with elements of pop, she’s revered for her work in jazz. I’m not opposed to her being on this list, although I do find it a bit odd. Who was behind this push?
The J. Geils Band has now been nominated five times. Who’s so keen to have them inducted? Fine band in their day, but should they make it ahead of Soundgarden?
Whither Janet Jackson? She was on the nomination ballot for the last couple of years but is conspicuous by her absent this year.
Eurythmics? Another find outfit in their day. Annie Lennox is a goddess. Dave Stewart is a wizard. Great videos. But was their influence sufficient to have their body of work enshrined this way? Or is this an example of how the Hall is running out of people to honour?
Take a look at this list of classic artists who are still not in the Hall–“snubs,” in other words.
Dolly Parton: She’s had 110 charting singles, including 25 #1 hits. Her songs and albums have sold 100 million copies. She has 25 gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards. She’s considered to be one of the great songwriters of the 20th century. What else does she have to do?
The Cure: Goth/emo/mope-rock godfathers. And Robert Smith has always had great hair.
Afrika Bambaataa: Seriously? Where would rap and hip-hop be without him?
The Smiths: I want them nominated just to hear the insults Morrissey would hurl.
Slayer: C’mon! SLAYER! And while we’re at it, add in Iron Maiden and Motorhead.
And there’s more: Brian Eno. Devo. Sonic Youth. Pixies. Roxy Music. Joy Division AND New Order. Tina Turner. Whitney Houston, fer crissakes!
I know it’s pointless to all lathered up over something this inconsequential. It’s just if you’re going commoditized music so you can have a hall of fame, have the decency to do it right.