Over the past several years, we've done our fair share (some would say MORE than our fair share) of Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame bashing ... so today we'll run one more piece, restating our views and then put this matter to rest for a while. Because we are, in effect, responding to the points raised by one of our most prestigious readers, we're calling it ...
"The Last Great Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Debate".
Before we even get started, I want to FIRST make it very clear that the point of today's piece is NOT to start an argument. In fact, I have held off publishing today's piece for MONTHS now because of the TREMENDOUS amount of respect I have for The Drive's Rock And Roll Roots Personality, Bob Stroud. But I DO love a good debate and I think that Bob's letter questioning the basis for a lot of my Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame comments warrants at least SOME sort of response. (Besides, let's face it ... we just don't get that many letters DEFENDING the actions of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ... when it comes to Hall-Bashing, I often seem to be "head cheerleader" ... but I figure if Jann Wenner can appoint himself Head of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, than I can award myself that same honor here in my music publication!!!)
The big difference, of course, is that if Wenner were awarding the "Rolling Stone Magazine" Hall of Fame honors, he'd be well within his rights as publisher to pick and choose his personal favorites ... and then go on record in his publication, writing column after column praising these acts to his heart's content, pointing out all of their accomplishments in an effort to justify why them instead of somebody else.
But The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame isn't supposed to be about Jann Wenner's Favorite Artists ... it's SUPPOSED to represent the very best of ALL music ... and it's SUPPOSED to be for the fans. (Let's face it ... they DO charge the fans to come into the Museum and see all the exhibits, right???)
The simple fact of the matter ... and the thing that you need to keep in mind as you read today's posting .. is that nothing Bob Stroud or I say here today is likely to change ANYBODY's opinion regarding the ways and means of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominating Committee ... or the unwielding power that Jann Wenner seems to hold over this organization. The best that EITHER of us can hope to do here today is to present our own persuasive arguments on the matter as "food for thought" and then leave it at that ... so please consider today's piece nothing more than an opportunity to show BOTH sides of many of these on-going arguments. There is no right or wrong answer ... only opinions ... and, as we've been told by our readers over and over and over again here in Forgotten Hits, opinions are like assholes ... EVERYBODY's got one!!! I ask only that you read today's piece in its entirety to better absorb its content ... and, hopefully, along the way, come to appreciate my confusion.
First and foremost, I want to state for the record that I have nothing but the UTMOST respect for Bob Stroud's knowledge of this subject matter ... clearly, after decades in the business, he has been exposed to FAR more music than most of us here today ... and I rate his opinions as amongst the best INFORMED opinions we can offer (even if virtually ALL of them run contrary to mine!!! lol) But, that being said, all they ARE are opinions ... as are mine. If I have any point at all in today's piece, it's to again question the DEFINITION of what constitutes Rock And Roll in the eyes of The Nominating Committee. If you take NOTHING else away from today's piece, my hope is that you'll at least appreciate and consider my CONFUSION, if only because of the complete lack of explanation ever offered to the public by The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on this topic. I should also point out that because my responses to Bob's email were written several months ago (and never aired), I've had to make some "Editor's Notes" amendments to some of those comments.
Now before anybody says, "Did you give Bob Stroud a chance to amend HIS comments?", I need to point out that the ONLY amendments I made were to my comments that some of the very best songwriters in the history of rock music were being ignored by The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The Hall went a long way toward rectifying this situation this year when they announced that they were FINALLY inducting the likes of Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann, Mort Shuman and Otis Blackwell in the "Songwriters" category. I also updated a couple of comments made about ABBA and The Hollies, once it was formally announced that these acts would be going into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame this year. Other than these amendments, everything else you're reading today are Bob's original comments and my original reactions to them.
One of the topics that set off some of readers after this year's nominees were first announced was the inclusion of songwriter Laura Nyro. (Editor's Note: For the record, she didn't get in this time around.) You should know that this last batch of comments was held back after the general consensus (a favorite phrase here as you'll see) let it be known that they'd already had enough Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Comments for the time being ... something that happens pretty much EVERY time we get on this topic (as stated in last week's little three-day-RRHF-mini-series.) Most of you will recall that I took the position that if Nyro was to be considered at all for Rock Hall Of Fame Induction, it should be as a songwriter and NOT as a performer. In fact, I stated that this was one of my biggest beefs ... that so many other VERY worthy songwriters had been long ignored by The Hall Of Fame Nominating Committee. Well, I want to now announce that this ridiculous situation has FINALLY been resolved and rectified this year as The Hall is FINALLY getting around to inducting Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Mort Shuman and Otis Blackwell, all LONG overdue this honor.
Most of our readers felt the same way ... after getting over the initial shock of Nyro's nomination, the "general consensus" seemed to believe that if Laura was deserving at all, it would be in the "Songwriters" category and NOT as a performing artist. The most vocal contributor regarding Laura Nyro's spot on the ballot was The Drive's Rock And Roll Roots Host, Bob Stroud who, in his initial piece, defended the justification for such a worthy honor being bestowed on Laura Nyro ... and then, in a follow-up piece, questioned much of what I have been ranting and raving about these past few years regarding the make-up of The Nominating Committee itself ... so today we'll address HIS points one by one:
>>>If one believes that Laura Nyro should be elected only into the songwriters HOf, then one has never listened to her album output. And if one is still hung up on the term "rock 'n roll," then one has never listened to her album output. Let's face it, "rock 'n roll" has far reaching interpretations. It can't be so narrowly focused as to negate the works of a Joni Mitchell or Laura Nyro, as I've so often read in these pages. Connie Francis couldn't compare to Laura Nyro. And I don't care how many hits she had. My opinion. My opinion again: if the R&R HOF committee got one thing right, it's that it shouldn't be about the number of hits an artist had. That means nothing except they were popular, and this shouldn't be about a popularity contest. I'd much rather see the artists who have furthered the artistic side of the "art" inducted into the HOF, rather than those who sold the most records. Laura Nyro is a singer / songwriter / arranger of unique abilities and she didn't sound like anybody else when she hit in 1966. If the truly original works of the rock / jazz / soul / blues shadings of albums like "Eli & the 13th Confession," "New York Tendaberry," "Christmas and the Beads of Sweat" aren't worthy of noting her influence on the art, and "Lipstick On Your Collar" is .... then I'm damn deaf. (Bob Stroud / WDRV)
Of course I've never listened to Laura Nyro's albums ... few have. That's part of my beef. How can someone who sold so few records be considered in the RRHOF? Who did she influence? Art is a tough thing to judge. I've heard a couple of her recordings and find them to only remotely qualify as rock and roll. She wrote some great songs which were recorded by other artists. Put her in a songwriters hall of fame.
Mark The Shark
Regardless of your opinion of Laura Nyro, pro or con, my feeling is that she doesn't meet the criteria of what The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame CLAIMS is their basis for consideration. As explained to us by Terry Stewart, President Of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Museum a couple of years ago during our extensive series (and this is HIS quote, not mine):
The only formal criteria for the performance category is that an artist has to have had their first recording released 25 years ago. That said, candidates are reviewed and discussed relative to their impact on this music that we broadly call rock and roll. The innovation and influence of these artists is also critical. Gold records, number one hits, and million sellers are really not appropriate standards for evaluation.
People sometimes forget that rock and roll, its artists, and its other participants are viewed in an incredibly subjective manner by any individual brought into the circle of discussion. As such, there is often widespread disagreement or fracturing of opinion about who is or was important and to what degree.
I really think that all deserving candidates will have their moment eventually. Unfortunately, it often isn't the time frame they or their fans desire.
-- Terry Stewart
Let's all agree for a moment that Laura Nyro was a GREAT artist and a very prolific, successful and significant songwriter ... she had a VERY impressive two year string of hits for other artists ... but I doubt that very many people have ever heard her sing her OWN versions of her best-known tunes. And here is where the "popularity" comment doesn't hold water ... Laura Nyro's "best-known tunes" are ONLY that because some of the most popular artists of the day recorded them and made them hits ... and it was THESE recordings that put her on the musical map. (Ironically, NONE of these other artists who scored big with her compositions: Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Fifth Dimension, Three Dog Night or Barbra Streisand are Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees either!!!) It wasn't Laura's recordings that reached the masses ... MOST of us never even heard them. Tell me then, what was HER impact, innovation and influence that is deemed so "critical", "deserving" and "important" as to warrant her consideration for induction this year. Again, NOTHING personal against Laura Nyro ... I loved her songs, too ... MY beef is with the process and the DEFINITION of what constitutes consideration. You can't use the "popularity" argument against OTHER artists and then reap the benefit of these songs' popularity when it comes to Laura Nyro ... the basis of what constitutes consideration HAS to be the same for ALL artists. But that basis has never been defined ... nor does it appear to be impartial.
Neil Diamond is a GREAT songwriter ... over the years, he has placed his music with lots of other artists ... and still managed to have fifty hits of his own, something Laura Nyro was never able to accomplish. How about Neil Sedaka? Paul Anka? Heck, even Ellie Greenwich (who we just lost amidst TONS of kudos for all of her musical contributions with and without former husband Jeff Barry) isn't in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame! Neither are Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Mort Shuman, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, John D. Loudermilk or Jimmy Webb ... ALL of whom wrote FAR more hit songs and had FAR greater impact on the evolution of rock and roll. (Editor's Note: Since this rave-out was written, The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has announced that it IS inducting Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Mort Shuman this year into the "Songwriters" Category for the literal GOLDMINE of music they provided for other artists to record ... not unlike Laura Nyro's REAL accomplishment in the musical spectrum of things.)
Please understand that I'm not saying "Keep Laura Nyro out" ... I'm saying go ahead and put her in ... but put her in along with all of these OTHER great songwriters The Hall has denied for so many years. How does SHE merit consideration for her work yet other artists with track records as both successful recording artists and songwriters that dwarf her accomplishments (like Neil Diamond or Paul Anka or Neil Sedaka) have never even had their names appear on the ballot?
The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has a way of twisting fact and reality to fit their own agenda. Again, to properly function and represent the very best that music has to offer, they need to remain impartial and unbiased ... they need to consider ALL artists equally and with the same criteria. Herb Alpert, who, next to The Beatles dominated album sales more so than any other artist in the '60's in a musical genre unlike any other at the time, has been inducted ... but NOT as a performer ... yet we should consider Laura Nyro, whose own recorded work MOST of the public has never even heard, deserves induction as a performing artist. Ditto Leonard Cohen a few years back. (We also received a fair amount of mail defending Leonard Cohen's rightful place in The Rock Hall a few years ago.) OK, let's suppose that I've been wrong about ol' Leonard's Rock And Roll Music contributions ... I'll take back EVERYTHING negative I ever said about him ... we'll concede that he's a GREAT songwriter ... and his incredible catalog of ROCK Music [huh?] has been covered by the very best of the best of the recording artists out there ... but HE was inducted as a PERFORMER ... and NOT as a songwriter!!!) I'm sorry, but this logic just doesn't make any sense to me. (kk)
Bob's second letter digs a little deeper, questioning the basis for many of my arguments. It reads:
All compelling points Kent. But I'm compelled to ask where you've read that Jann Wenner has "claimed that the general public isn't qualified to make the decisions as to who does and does not deserve to be inducted into The Rock 'n Roll Hall Of Fame?" C'mon, did he really say that? So really what you're advocating, is that the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame should be run like Dick Clark's American Music Awards, where the public votes for their favorite artists to be inducted. I'm almost shocked that Clark didn't cheese up another award show to do just that and compete with the R&RHOF ... like he did with the AMA's in competing with the Grammys.
The nice thing about the way it's being done, whether we like it or not, is that a "critic" is far more likely to be objective and award the deserving artists, Nyro, Cohen, Raitt, etc. a bone every once in a while that a casual fan wouldn't. In fact they wouldn't even consider them because they don't know them. They don't know them because they never heard them on the radio. And because they never heard them on the radio doesn't mean they're not deserving.
Your whole argument has to do with the popularity factor, whether it be sales or radio play. That's why there is a committee who looks at ALL the unique factors in deciding who gets the nod year in and year out. Not just for sales and radio hits. I don't dig Madonna, but I get why she's in there. And it's not because she's sold a kajillion albums. On the other side of the coin, I can't stomach Kiss. Even when I was at an age where I should have liked Kiss I found them boorish, childish and incompetent ... and I DON'T get why they're up for induction. And for the Madonna and Kiss examples alone, I'm glad there are far more objective members on the R&RHOF committee than I might ever be.
You're making a dramatic leap of logic to suggest that the R&RHOF would think stations like The Drive have it "all wrong" because the mass appeal artists we play are not yet in the R&RHOF. Just because they're not yet in the HOF doesn't mean they're not "rock 'n roll." Where did you read that? And where did you read "THEY (HOF committee) know rock 'n roll and YOU (we) don't?" And again, what's with the "rocked harder" comparison you insist on throwing out there? Is that what it's all about to you, how hard one rocks? I just ask because you keep bringing it up. Didja ever hear "True Love Ways" by Buddy Holly? That's got syrupy strings in it. Better throw him out of the HOF right away. Where did you read the Drive doesn't consider Nyro, Mitchell, Cohen, Raitt and Sledge "Rock 'n Roll" just because we didn't play them last week? We didn't play Madonna or Black Sabbath either, and they're in the HOF. I don't know who this "general concensus" is that you keep referring to, but it's unimaginable unless you're Dick Clark who wouldn't be looking at anything but the money he could make when he turns it into a national popularity contest. Is that your general consensus? Bottom line, here's what I'm preaching, scope of vision, not tunnel vision. And that's all your argument is. It's a popularity contest. On some level there might be nothing wrong with that. On a purely entertainment level, like American Idol or America's Got Talent. You know, so the masses can text the number to their heart's content that corresponds with Bryan Adams or whoever. But on a legitimate artistic level, it's unimaginative, short sighted, and insulting. Sales, airplay and hits should not be the exclusive validating factors in an artist's worth. Society has been dumbed down enough, and I for one, in this instance, am glad that the "art" is still the deciding factor and not the commerciality.
-- Bob Stroud
As I stated earlier, I held off commenting on this for quite a while because the LAST thing I wanted to do with this discussion was to provoke an argument ... and because I have such a high level respect for Bob's knowledge and appreciation of ALL things musical ... for nearly thirty years now, he has helped to elevate the caliber of music on the Chicagoland airwaves to the highest possible level. But there ARE a few points (and misconceptions) that I would like to address ... and, since he brought them up, I will attempt to do so one by one (kk) ...
>>>The nice thing about the way it's being done, whether we like it or not, is that a "critic" is far more likely to be objective and award the deserving artists, Nyro, Cohen, Raitt, etc. a bone every once in a while that a casual fan wouldn't. In fact they wouldn't even consider them because they don't know them. They don't know them because they never heard them on the radio. And because they never heard them on the radio doesn't mean they're not deserving. (Bob Stroud)
I completely and totally disagree with this statement ... The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame isn't supposed to be INTRODUCING us to artists we may not be familiar with ... that's not their purpose. The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is supposed to be REWARDING artists who have made life-changing, long-lasting contributions to the evolution of rock and roll music. Those enshrined should represent the very best of the best ... the most ELITE artists to come along and impact and influence rock music as an art form. When the names of a couple of jaw-dropping artists show up on the ballot each year and the "general consensus" of the listening public collectively shrug their shoulders, shake their heads and say "WHO?!?!?", The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has NOT lived up to their promise or their purpose. If an act has been around for 25 years or more (currently the ONLY requirement for consideration ... and now there's talk of changing THIS criteria, too!) and the majority of the public STILL isn't familiar with a particular artists' work ... after 25 YEARS?!?!? ... how on earth can they be considered worthy of Hall Of Fame Induction over artists who seem to be discriminated against simply because they WERE popular and had successful recording careers? Like I said, the purpose of The Hall isn't to introduce us to "new acts" ... the acts inducted are supposed to have achieved some MAJOR level of accomplishment by now in order to even be considered.
This all goes back to a point I made earlier ... WHY is it necessary to induct five new artists each year? If we argue that the best of the best have already been inducted, it's going to be tough for ANY artist to "measure up" from this point forward. Again, an Elvis, a Beatles and a Michael Jackson only come along once in a lifetime ... how can they expect to find five new worthy inductees each and every year?
And about that ... The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame CLAIMS that in order to be inducted, an artist much receive a minimum of 50% of the votes cast. Then how is it that THIS year ... before a SINGLE vote was cast ... it was already decided that five new artists would be inducted in 2010? That's not 50% of the votes cast ... that's 50% of the ballot ... and believe me, there's a HUGE difference there.
Does this mean that if EIGHT acts on this year's ballot had received 50% or more of the required votes, The Hall would still only induct five? Because then somebody (shades of The Dave Clark Five!) is getting screwed!!! And what about the OPPOSITE approach. What if the voting committee collectively shook their heads and said, "I'm sorry but this year's choices SUCK!!! I can't in good conscious vote for ANY of these artists", allowing only TWO names on the ballot to achieve the required 50% of the vote? Would The Hall REALLY only induct TWO ... or would they find a way to apease the TV network and stretch the show for more ratings by inducting five anyway?
See, that's my whole problem with The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ... they seem to be making a lot of this up as they go ... how is it possible, after 25 years in existence, that the rules can be bent (or changed) to adapt to any given situation that might come up? How far THIS mentality gone to earn our trust? (kk)
>>>You're making a dramatic leap of logic to suggest that the R&RHOF would think stations like The Drive have it "all wrong" because the mass appeal artists we play are not yet in the R&RHOF. Just because they're not yet in the HOF doesn't mean they're not "rock 'n roll." Where did you read that? Bottom line, here's what I'm preaching, scope of vision, not tunnel vision. And that's all your argument is. It's a popularity contest. On some level there might be nothing wrong with that. On a purely entertainment level, like American Idol or America's Got Talent. You know, so the masses can text the number to their heart's content that corresponds with Bryan Adams or whoever. But on a legitimate artistic level, it's unimaginative, short sighted, and insulting. Sales, airplay and hits should not be the exclusive validating factors in an artist's worth. Society has been dumbed down enough, and I for one, in this instance, am glad that the "art" is still the deciding factor and not the commerciality. (Bob Stroud)
If we (and by "we" I mean that "general consensus" that I keep referring to) have "dumbed down" to the "tunnel vision" of what constitutes rock and roll and what doesn't, then I say radio is to blame for force-feeding us the same songs and the same artists for decade upon decade upon decade and TEACHING us that THIS is Rock And Roll Music. Personally, I DON'T think that The Drive has it "all wrong" ... because what The Drive plays is, BY DEFINITION, "Classic Rock" ... it is what we've ALL been taught is "classic rock" through repetition, repetition and MORE repetition ... it's what The Drive (and radio stations just like The Drive all over the country) have determined and classified as rock and roll ... and not just ANY rock and roll, mind you, but CLASSIC rock and roll ... the best of the best ... the music that shaped our lives as the "soundtrack OF our lives". This "fact" ... this DEFINITION ... has been driven (no pun intended) into our brains for DECADES now. This is what RADIO has decided is "Rock And Roll" and we, the public, have accepted this definition ... and, as such, it really isn't fair to argue with us about this accepted definition now since YOU'RE the guys who taught us what rock and roll was in the first place! Remember, I didn't pick the play list ... nobody asked US what we like ... radio decided all on its own that THIS is the music that constitutes "Classic Rock' ... and the play list is the same literally EVERYWHERE you go ... and Classic Rock Stations have collectively and unanimously determined that artists like Chicago, The Guess Who, Three Dog Night, Jethro Tull, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Deep Purple, The Doobie Brothers, Heart, Hall and Oates, The Moody Blues, REO Speedwagon, The Cars, Linda Ronstadt, Yes, The Zombies, ELO, Boston, Foreigner, ZZ Top, Bad Company, Journey, Kansas, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Alice Cooper, Styx, Bryan Adams, Cheap Trick, The Steve Miller Band, Pat Benatar and Todd Rundgren ... the list goes on and on and on ... you know it better than I do, or anyone else reading this for that matter because THESE are the artists that you all play day in and day out ... radio has determined that THESE are the artists who constitute "Classic Rock" ... yet not ONE of these artists that I've listed above is in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. As such, I stand by my original statement ... this means that, according to The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, you ... and every OTHER "Classic Rock" station in the country ... have got it ALL wrong ... these are NOT rock and roll artists ... they CAN'T be ... because if they WERE rock and roll artists, The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame would have recognized them as such.
(Deep breath!!!) But we're really getting off the track here because this is NOT really my argument and it has never really BEEN my argument ... my argument is based on the fact that The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has never DEFINED what does and does not constitute rock and roll. Instead this decision is completely arbitrary ... and decided ONLY by them (and most often at the direction of one Jann Wenner.)
It's pretty simple really ... just have the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame explain to us WHY someone like Neil Diamond or Chicago or The Moody Blues or The Guess Who don't belong so that we can better UNDERSTAND the logic and the reasoning that goes into this decision making process ... because right now it makes absolutely NO sense to me. So I will ask the question again ... how is it possible that radio programmers around the world who mutually agree as to which artists should be programmed as "Classic Rock" artists, have such a DRASTICALLY different definition of what Rock And Roll Music is than the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame? Because the fact of the matter is that these programmers worldwide have UNIVERSALLY agreed on what "Classic Rock" is because they ALL play it. They HAVE a "definition". How is it possible that THEIR definition, a definition accepted by MILLIONS of listeners worldwide, is so RADICALLY different than the definition decided upon (but shrouded in secrecy) by The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame? I feel it's a legitimate question ... and only furthers my point that "The General Consensus" has been TAUGHT (brainwashed or otherwise) BY RADIO that THESE are the "Classic Rock Artists" ... and these artists do NOT include Leonard Cohen, Grand Master Flash and / or Percy Sledge. (kk)
>>>And again, what's with the "rocked harder" comparison you insist on throwing out there? Is that what it's all about to you, how hard one rocks? I just ask because you keep bringing it up. Didja ever hear "True Love Ways" by Buddy Holly? That's got syrupy strings in it. Better throw him out of the HOF right away. (Bob Stroud)
OK ... admitedly, I have over-used the phrase "who rocked harder" as a basis for my argument ... so I apolgize for that. However, to bring Buddy Holly into the argument simply because he recorded a pretty ballad or two along the way is ludicrous. The very best of ALL of the early artists inducted have given us a varied mix of musical styles over the years ... it's that versitility that MAKES them the talented, important artists that they are. The long-lasting impact of Buddy Holly's music cannot be denied ... of COURSE he belongs in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The fact that he was able to write such diverse material as he did only further warrants his place there. The fact that artists to this day continue to record and perform his music validates his long-lasting contribution.
However, Tommy James is not in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ... yet in the '80's ... twenty some years after he originally took these hits to the top of the charts ... artists like Billy Idol, Joan Jett and even TIFFANY were still recording his songs and taking THEIR versions to the top of the charts, too. That's more than just a "popularity contest" comment ... that's proof positive that these songs have withstood the test of time ... that they are, in fact, TIMELESS and thus exhibit a long-lasting impact and influence on recorded music. But Tommy James has never even made the ballot. Looking at the recorded catalog of many of the artists who HAVE been inducted, you'd be hard-pressed to find many who could give us music as diverse, innovative and well-loved as Tommy's "Crimson And Clover", "Sweet Cherry Wine", "I Think We're Alone Now", "Mony Mony", "Crystal Blue Persuasion", "Draggin' The Line", "Mirage", "Hanky Panky" and many of the other 23 Top 40 Hits he racked up over the years ... and the music he's making TODAY is every bit as good ... radio simply isn't playing it anymore. (kk)
>>>I'm compelled to ask where you've read that Jann Wenner has "claimed that the general public isn't qualified to make the decisions as to who does and does not deserve to be inducted into The Rock 'n Roll Hall Of Fame?" C'mon, did he really say that? (Bob Stroud)
Again, quoting RRHF Museum President Terry Stewart (who basically states the committee's credo ... but then ALSO manages to sneak in a couple of disclaimers about how The Museum is NOT allowed to discuss the candidates in a forum such as ours AND how The Museum has absolutely NOTHING to do with the nomination, voting or selection process.)
Let me try to explain why we induct artists that you contend are not rock and roll ....
The term “rock and roll” was first used (not created) here in Cleveland in the early 1950's by Alan Freed to refer to blues and rhythm & blues music. The phrase itself goes back to at least the early 1900’s and comes from African American culture. Moreover, when Alan Freed first started using the expression to refer to the music, it was a synonym for R&B and the blues. This was true for some time until the arrival of Bill Haley and Elvis, and all of the other white artists who were interpreting or creating what was really a derivative of R&B and the Blues. Only then were these artists added to the list of "rock and rollers." In addition, the music that was first billed "rhythm & blues" and then subsequently retitled "rock and roll" in the late 1940's and early 1950's included songs like "60 Minute Man," "Big Ten Inch Record," "It Ain't the Meat," etc. All of these big sellers were about black life in great detail. The subject matter was controversial: drugs, drinking, sex, cars, "bling bling", etc ... very much akin to the hip hop music of today ... same kind of songs just recycled in a different format 50 years later. Hip Hop is nothing more than the contemporary interpretation of the rhythm and blues that was dominant when the "rock and roll" era began.
This is the history of rock and roll's true origins. It may not be your version, but it is historically correct. As such, the Museum sees this music as an evolving continuum. We simultaneously recognize the contributions of gospel, jazz, country, folk and bluegrass. Pioneers in these areas have been inducted in the Early Influences category. To help you understand the entire process, I've outlined it below:
Nomination and induction into the Hall of Fame is not about popularity, records sales, which label the group is on, or anything other than the process below. The love for, the evaluation of, and the impact of any artist are subjective questions to be answered by the nominators and the voters. Unlike baseball, football, basketball or hockey, statistics are not relevant.
The entire nomination and induction process is coordinated by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation in New York City. Artists can be inducted in four categories: Performer, Early Influence, Non-Performer and Side-Men. The latter three categories are evaluated and decided by separate committees. The selection of Performers is a two-step process as described below.
The only formal criteria for the performance category is that an artist has to have had their first recording released 25 years ago. That said, candidates are reviewed and discussed relative to their impact on this music that we broadly call rock and roll. The innovation and influence of these artists is also critical. Gold records, number one hits, and million sellers are really not appropriate standards for evaluation.
The formal selection of Performers begins with an extensive panel of journalists, historians, previous inductees, noted musicians, industry heads, etc. In turn, those nominated are sent to a committee of more than 500 people around the world (journalists, historians, music industry management, all previous inductees, musicians, etc.) who vote. Those receiving the highest number of votes and more than 50% of the votes cast are inducted into the Hall. Usually, this means five to seven new performing members each year, from this, you can see the road to being inducted is an arduous one and for the most part, removed from the realm of influences or politics.
Finally, as I noted above, people sometimes forget that rock and roll, its artists, and its other participants are viewed in an incredibly subjective manner by any individual brought into the circle of discussion. As such, there is often widespread disagreement or fracturing of opinion about who is or was important and to what degree.
I really think that all deserving candidates will have their moment eventually. Unfortunately, it often isn't the time frame they or their fans desire. In fact, there's not only precedent in our history, but also with the other sports Halls of Fame where many of the legends do not get inducted in the their first year of eligibility, or for many years to come in quite a few instances.
Peace & Soul, Rock & Roll!
Terry Stewart, President Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
I think most of us have agreed over the years that Rock And Roll can best be described as a hybrid of Rhythm and Blues and Country and Western Music ... in the mid-'50's, it was not at all uncommon for a "rock" artist to cross-over to all three charts ... as such Elvis, The Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and many of the other early rockers saw their latest hit records chart on the pop, rhythm and blues and country and western charts, all at the same time. Yet while Black Music has been represented each and every year (even leading to the above-acknowledged controversy about the inclusion of Rap and / or Hip Hop Music), Country Music has been all but ignored over the past 25 years. Short of the OBVIOUS inclusion of Johnny Cash (who wasn't inducted until 1992, seven years after The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was formed), you'd be hard pressed to find ANY other country artists represented in the Performer category. (Yes, Hank Williams was inducted as an "Early Influence" ... but there isn't another single "bonafide" country artist to be found anywhere amongst the inductees.) Meanwhile, many of R&B's earliest inductees have been recognized as "Performers" rather than "Early Influences" ... so much for acknowledging all genres of music that contributed to the evolution of rock equally.
The lines that bothered me most in his defending the nominating committee are: "People sometimes forget that rock and roll, its artists, and its other participants are viewed in an incredibly subjective manner by any individual brought into the circle of discussion. As such, there is often widespread disagreement or fracturing of opinion about who is or was important and to what degree."
To me, that simply means that the public cannot be trusted with this responsibility but The Rock Hall's self-appointed committee CAN. I believe that there SHOULD be great controversy amongst the committee and the voters each and every year in order to insure that the RIGHT people are getting their due and being rewarded. I believe that they should think long and hard about whether or not each and every nominee TRULY deserves the honor about to be bestowed upon them. What I object to is that for years ... DECADES ... artists like The Hollies and ABBA (finally inducted this year) and Neil Diamond, Chicago, The Moody Blues and all of the others on our "Deserving And Denied" List were never even CONSIDERED!!! They didn't make the ballot AT ALL!!! And, as such, NOBODY can say with ANY sense of certainty that the Voting Committee might not have inducted many of these artists, had they simply been given the chance to vote for them ... because the plain and simple TRUTH is that they were never even presented the opportunity to do so ... and that, to me, just doesn't seem fair.
You CANNOT tell me that if you gathered up the 500 - 1000 "most knowledgeable music people in the world", (which, without ever naming any names, is who The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame CLAIMS are on THEIR decision-making panel) that the MAJORITY of these experts would agree that Chicago, Neil Diamond and many of these other great, over-looked artists are NOT worthy of such recognition ... the plain and simple fact of the matter is that these so-called "expert" voters have absolutely no say-so in the matter. The Nominating Committee makes these decisions and these are the ONLY choices The Voting Committee are allowed to choose from. As such, each year fewer and fewer ballots are being returned because the VOTING Committee doesn't feel that many of these choices are deserving of such a high-ranking honor. (In fact, better than HALF of the original voters are gone, many speaking out about these unfair practices and limited choices after they've left the panel.)
We're not the only ones complaining about this set up ... and I think you'll see many of the points we've raised throughout our various rave-outs echoed here, thus (hopefully) justifying again my "general consensus" statement. Here's part of an old report we featured back in our original series, the bulk of which can be attributed to former Fox News Correspondent Roger Friedman:
The main criticism of the Hall of Fame is that the nomination process is controlled by a few individuals who are not musicians, such as founder Jann Wenner, (who has filled the position of Managing editor for the magazine Rolling Stone), former foundation director Suzan Evans, and writer Dave Marsh, reflecting their tastes rather than the views of the rock world as a whole. A former member of the nominations board once said: "At one point Suzan Evans lamented the choices being made because there weren't enough big names that would sell tickets to the dinner. That was quickly remedied by dropping one of the doo-wop groups being considered in favor of a 'name' artist ... I saw how certain pioneering artists of the '50s and early '60s were shunned because there needed to be more name power on the list, resulting in '70s superstars getting in before the people who made it possible for them. Some of those pioneers still aren't in today." According to Fox News, petitions with tens of thousands of signatures were also being ignored, and some groups that were signed with certain labels or companies or were affiliated with various committee members have even been put up for nomination with no discussion at all.
Another criticism is that too many artists are inducted, allowing for several lesser acts to make it in. In fifteen years, 97 different artists have been inducted. A minimum of 50% of the vote is needed to be inducted, although the final percentages are not announced and a certain number of inductees (five in 2009) is set before the ballots are shipped. The committee usually nominates a small number of artists (nine in 2007) and they are coming from an increasing number of different genres. Several voters, including Joel Selvin, who himself is a former member of the nominating committee, didn't submit their ballots in 2007, with the reason being that they didn't feel any of the candidates were truly worthy.
Further criticism is that the first 25 artists who were inducted were all American some of which had no or very limited influence outside of the USA. Likewise only three of the first fifty inductees were from outside North America.
The Sex Pistols, inducted in 2006, refused to attend the ceremony, calling the museum "a piss stain".
The "American Artists" card was also brought up this week by one of our readers (who just happens to live in Germany.)
You know Kent, its all very well to talk about which deserving acts should be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but I usually manage to avoid all these discussions, as I always get the feeling that this is seen only from an American point of view. In fact I seem to remember reading on Forgotten Hits the contention that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is an American institution.
Well, that's as may be. But I would contend that Rock and Roll itself is not purely American even if it may have its origins there. I would even go so far as to contend that in certain decades at least, the driving force behind Rock and Roll were English artists.
The Seventies Glitter Rock era for instance may never have happened without bands like T. Rex or Slade (even though they are largely unknown in the USA, Slade have, unless I am very much mistaken, still sold the most records in the UK since the Beatles). And we never see their names mentioned anywhere ...
Looking through the inductee list (with which I am not familiar I must admit), the British acts in there seem to be mainly from the British Invasion, or are people like Rod Stewart or Elton John, who have been commercially immensely successful, but I would cock an eyebrow at least at those who might say he had changed or formed the face of Rock and Roll, and isn't that what it's really supposed to be about?
Actually, truth be told, more and more British acts seem to be inducted all the time, with The British Invasion represented by the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Dave Clark Five, The Hollies and a few others. (Notably absent: Herman's Hermits, who, next to The Beatles, had the MOST worldwide hits during this era, and The Zombies, who I would have thought would have been a no-brainer, shoe-in for this honor.) Yes, '70's artists like Rod Stewart and Elton John are there, but so are huge British acts like Black Sabbath, The Pretenders, Traffic, Elvis Costello, The Clash, The Police, Queen, Eric Clapton (in fact, Clapton's been inducted multiple times), Dusty Springfield, Fleetwood Mac, The Bee Gees, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Cream and The Who.
If you really want to talk "discrimination", then what's the deal with all the seemingly black-listed CANADIAN artists??? Where are The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Paul Anka, Gordon Lightfoot, Bryan Adams, Andy Kim and Jack Scott? Short of Neil Young, what other Canadian Artists have been so-recognized? And what about the COUNTRY artists as mentioned above?
How is it that The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is smart enough to create a "Sidemen" category, paying tribute to many of the fine musicians who made their mark "behind the scenes" ... but then doesn't induct the majority of the members of The Wrecking Crew and Motown's Funk Brothers when THESE are the musicians who TRULY provided the beat and the backbone of the music that became "The Soundtrack Of Our Lives" ... how can we POSSIBLY not honor THESE guys???
And, for the record, I most certainly never said that The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is an "American Institution" ... MY feelings are quite the opposite, in fact ... I think the committee needs to open their minds up to a far greater scope as there are SO many areas that have never been explored or equally weighted.
How is it that a band like The Velvet Underground ... who NEVER came close to achieving anything resembling mass-appeal is in The Rock Hall? What about all of the artists who contributed to The Psychedelic Era? The Bubblegum Era? The Folk Era? Who inspired more artists to pick up an instrument or expand their horizons musically, The Velvet Underground or Iron Butterfly? If the argument is that The Hall is not going to consider Iron Butterfly because their albums were "too popular" ... (let's face it, The Iron Butterfly's albums sold in the MILLIONS while Velvet Underground's albums sold in the "tens") ... then we've got a case of reverse discrimination going on here ... because Iron Butterfly (and "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" in particular) brought the "drawn-out rock jam" to complete fruitation.
You'll notice that Steppenwolf isn't in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame either ... yet "Born To Be Wild" is SO much more than just a "rock song" ... it's a rock ANTHEM ... it's a rock anthem for an ENTIRE GENERATION ... and inspired an entire generation of music, film making and attitude ... yet Steppenwolf isn't on (nor have they ever been on) the ballot ... but Patti Smith, who cut a Bruce Springsteen song, is. If THAT's all it takes, then where's Manfred Mann? They grew out of the intitial British Invasion and then built a career covering songs by Bob Dylan (as well as the "next Bob Dylan") when they recorded a series of Springsteen rockers. Why aren't THEY in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?
What about the "Art Rock" groups like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer? Did THEY contribute more to the overall sound of music than say Solomon Burke? Taking nothing away from Solomon, he was a GREAT R & B Singer ... but that's ALL he was ... what did he contribute to the game? What new direction did HE take rock music?
Perhaps the most baffling mystery of all is the exclusion of Hall and Oates, the most successful duo in rock music history. (I know, I know ... a "popularity" comment ... but the fact is that they outperformed and outsold acts like The Everly Brothers and The Righteous Brothers ten-fold ... and that's quite an achievement because Phil and Don and Bill and Bobby are amongst the most-deserving artists IN The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame!!!) This apparent "black-listing" is all the more puzzling because, if we're going to play the Ahment Ertegen "Pride And Prejudice" Card (and believe me, we're not the only ones playing it ... it's been discussed for DECADES by those far more knowledgeable and better connected than me), it just doesn't make sense that Hall and Oates, who recorded for Ertegen's Atlantic Record Label, should not have been inducted AGES ago!!! (The "Atlantic-Connection" is the most-often-cited excuse for the inclusion of artists like the aforementioned Solomon Burke and Percy Sledge and many of the deserving "Early Influence" artists who were inducted as "Performing" artists instead.)
The Everly Brothers and The Righteous Brothers were inducted because of their INTERPRETATIONS of great rock songs, the majority of which were written for them by other artists. Mann and Weil are FINALLY getting their due this year ...Phil Spector was finally inducted a few years ago ... yet Felice and Boudleaux Bryant STILL haven't been recognized for their contributions. All Daryl Hall and John Oates did was write their OWN hit records ... and then dominate the music charts and the radio playlists for the next twenty years ... and they're STILL playing to sold out audiences all over the world to an unsuspecting public that doesn't know any better than to accept them as amongst the greatest recording artists of all time. Silly us.
I'm certain that if we dug deep enough, we could probably find a couple of hundred artists who would admit to being in SOME way influenced by The Velvet Underground ... but what about the tens of THOUSANDS of musicians who were inspired to pick up a guitar, a bass, drums or a cheesy Farfisa Organ the first time they heard The Kingsmen perform "Louie Louie"??? How is it even REMOTELY possible that The Kingsmen are not in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ... nor have they ever even been considered ... when they single-handedly inspired an entire generation to pick up musical instruments and take their acts out on the road ... or, at the very least, out into the garage?!?!? Garage Band Music and the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of "nuggets" acts that performed this music have been COMPLETELY ignored by The Hall ... yet they may, in fact, be the single most IMPORTANT musical influence we have witnessed in our lifetimes.
In my opinion, ANY act, "foreign" or otherwise, worthy of consideration, should have had a worldwide impact to warrant sitting side-by-side with artists like Elvis Presley and The Beatles ... and so many other of the artists who changed the face of music forever. That's why I personally don't have ANY problem with ABBA finally being inducted. It would be my considered opinion that more people around the world have been affected by the music of ABBA than of Slade ... and that's taking NOTHING away from Slade ... or the Punk Rock Movement that fared so well in Great Britain but never really caught on here in The States. Reggae Music never really caught on here in a big way either ... but there is NO denying Bob Marley's rightful spot in The Hall. In fact, all this does is make my case that much stronger for wanting to acknowledge the power of Garage Band Rock. Good, bad or otherwise, the music of ABBA moved the entire world.
My argument, plain and simple, is that something is VERY wrong up at "City Hall" ... there is no "accountability" here ... and most of us have NOT "dumbed down" enough to accept that "it is so" simply because The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame SAYS "it is so".
Would it BE so wrong to have the public involved? And I don't mean in an American Music Awards or American Idol way (although, quite honestly, a method to "text your votes for your favorites" would probably do VERY well to raise money for The Hall, who have also faced "accountability" issues with the way they've used the money they've raked in over the years.) Instead of feeling this need to induct a specific number of artists each year (which means that SOME of these acts are getting in, worthy or not), scale it back a bit ... go ahead and nominate your ten candidates and then let the public vote, too ... even if you allowed the public vote to only account for 25% of the factor as to whether or not an artist makes it or not, at least we'd feel somewhat INVOLVED. Why not have The Hall induct THREE artists each year and then let the public pick the fourth inductee on some sort of a write-in ballot? They could do this online or, better yet, allow only those visiting or contributing the The Museum the right to vote. (After walking through all of the exhibits, how could you NOT be inspired to vote for the next batch of candidates to be enshrined?) Make a donation to The Hall? Fine, send those folks a ballot. At least now they'd be rewarding the people who actually CARE about The Museum and patronize the place ... they could have the ballots right there at the exits and call it a "reward" for participating with the whole Hall Of Fame Experience ... sort of a "Thank You" to the people who CARED enough to shell out a few bucks and visit The Museum.
At least in this small way we could all feel PART of the selection process ... because quite frankly SOME of the artists being nominated each year are HARDLY "revolutionary" ... in fact, I'd go so far as to say they're good, but "average" at best! Before we continue to induct artists that many of us don't recognize because they haven't made enough of an impact during their 25-year "dues-paying" eligibility period to affect our lives, it's time to start acknowledging some of the artists that we DO know and love because THESE are the artists who have had the greatest impact and influence on our lives ... and it's WAY past the time that many of these artists should be recognized for their contribution. (kk)