Authored by Dale Nickey:
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame continues its reign as the irrelevant pantheon that commemorates all that is famous in the world of …ahem…Rock and Roll. Never mind that many inductees’ connection to the genre is tenuous at best and non-existent at worst.
Somehow Bobby Darin, Brenda Lee and The Dells have gained admittance while truly subversive and pioneering artists remain on the outs. You all know who they are, Johnny Winter, Jethro Tull, Captain Beefheart, Bjork, Kate Bush, Fairport Convention and Brian Eno. The British Music industry could fill a Hall of Fame roster all by their lonesome, and that might be part of the problem. America invented Rock and Roll, and as America always does, it eats it’s young and feels bad about it later. The Beatles came and showed us how its supposed to be done. American fans fell hard for The Beatles and the American music industry never forgave them. Ergo, it’s now all about the home team and reclaiming dominion over an indigenous music that “The Biz” initially shrugged off as a fad.
Why do I care? The true music lover reveres the artist and loves the music for the right reasons, correct? Moreover, real musicians and artists know who’s the real shit; so why not let “The Hall” vomit on itself and get on with life? Well, there are several reasons we should care. Rock Music is important. In its imperial phase (1964-1972) it eloquently called ‘bullshit’ on our leaders in a way that a hippy with a bullhorn never could. Somebody in power was shitting themselves; why else would the FBI try to deport John Lennon? And for that matter, why was Elvis made to heel and join the Army at the peak of his powers?
Let’s stipulate to one fact, Rock and Roll is truly dead. This is cool. All art movements have their day and recede into its rightful slot in history. I will get a lot of argument on this of course. It’s the old, “I saw The Rolling Stones at the Rose Bowl and they can kick the ass of kids half their age!” argument. Well, yes – certain kids – and only so long as they play their repertoire from 35-50 years ago, when Rock was young. Hey Classic Rock fan…what’s the title of The Stones last album? Hey you with the ponytail and the Pink Floyd T-Shirt, what’s the name of that tribute singer who is fronting Journey these days?
Many of our musical heroes of yore will tell you the same thing. The rock that is Rock has already been formed and has long since cooled. The musical canon has been established, never to be improved upon (much like the Baroque period of Classical music). Moreover, any musical developments deploying Bass, Drums and Guitars that seem fresh and new will have been built with tools forged by those who have innovated long before. Hip-Hop you ask? Sorry, it’s still the runny nosed kid brother of the music world, talking a big game but still left wanting for it’s Beatlemania moment.
One incontrovertible truth we learn with age is – history matters. It’s the only road map we have that marks out the landmines in our future. To fully appreciate some of the music of our shared history, you had to be there. But what happens when those who were there are no longer here?
Unfortunately, it’s those who write history that make history. Rock and Roll history is too important to leave in the hands of non-musicians like Jann Wenner (chairman of the Rock Hall Foundation) and his committee of suits, nerdy journalists, and bean counting henchmen. They’re custodians of a legacy they don’t understand.