Every [two weeks?] Jamie Hale takes a long, hard look at the music industry and the blog scene that feeds it. Here, he releases those findings and makes snarky, sarcastic remarks. Admittedly, both Jamie and Knox Road are a part of this scene. So sue us.
It happens every year. As the Rock and Roll Hall Fame announces the musicians to be immortalized in their illustrious halls, people inevitably get mad. Gene Simmons’ tongue lashes out against the selection committee, how DARE they snub KISS again! The Sex Pistols pen a letter to the organization, how DARE they select them to be honored!
Here’s an idea: Why don’t we just ignore the whole thing?
Yesterday I came across a little article over at The Daily Beast titled “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Sucks!” Oh really. I didn’t know. Tell me more. In this story, writer and “all American” musician Jamie Reno laments the new slew of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, ultimately coming to the realization that this institution is “a joke.”
At the heart of it, his argument is correct; the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in fact a joke (he’s just now figuring this out?). But Reno’s arguments against the Hall of Fame are not only petty and juvenile–they’re all too common.
I’m not one to completely pick apart somebody else’s writing, but Reno’s piece just BEGS for it, and since he shares the sentiments of many critics of the Hall of Fame, I’m justifying it in my mind. Let’s start where this starts every year: at the most recent inductees.
This year the Hall of Fame is inducting the Beastie Boys, Donovan, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Waits, The Famous Flames, Small Faces and Laura Nyro. According to Reno, the only good pick here was Guns N’ Roses. Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that GN’R acted as more of a placeholder during the hair metal to grunge transition period, and get to the real problem with this statement. Reno thinks they’re the only worthy pick solely because they’re the only band in the bunch Reno likes.
He goes on to illustrate this problem nicely by picking on the Beastie Boys:
“Entertaining if in small doses, the Beasties have given us such obnoxious paeans to stupidity as “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party).” OK, I partied to that song in college in the 80s, too. But are these guys really music Hall of Famers? Not in my book.”
Sure, the Beastie Boys have produced more than two decades of interesting and influential material, while GN’R spent 15 years and $13 million on Chinese Democracy, but that’s not the point. The point is that Reno doesn’t like the Beastie Boys, so they are not worthy of the Hall of Fame.
But Reno’s opinion doesn’t matter, he writes, because the REAL issue is with the selection committee. That committee, who remains largely anonymous, has caught a lot of flak from artists and fans of music alike, who think it to be wholly unfair. After all, why were The Talking Heads inducted but not KISS? Why Prince but not Chicago?
While the selection committee makes a great scapegoat, they are not the problem with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The problem with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is simple: It’s a horrible idea, and never should have been erected in the first place.
“Rock and Roll” isn’t like baseball or aviation. The genre isn’t defined in black and white terms, so it’s impossible to determine, from the slew of thousands upon thousands of musicians over the last 70 or so years, who is in and who is out. Is “Rock and Roll” just rock ‘n’ roll of the ’50s and ’60s? Does it include blues-influenced British invasion music? How about psychedelic? Metal? Prog? Glam? Grunge? What about rap and hip-hop or even pop? Where do jazz and soul fit in? It seems like the only sensible solution is to induct any successful or influential musician in the history of music.
But obviously a hall of fame can’t just induct everybody–they have to be selective. So now, the organization is stuck with this awful monster where every year’s inductees are greeted with horror and shame, rather than with pride and joy. In other words, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will never get it right. Ever.
Yet people still act as if it does. The Sex Pistols wrote a snotty letter rejecting their nomination as if they were fighting the Man (there’s some career-long irony in that). KISS whines to Rolling Stone, going so far as to insult some of the people who got in above them. And journalists like Jamie Reno whine about the whole thing annually.
It’s obvious that you can’t beat the system. Even if the nomination process was put to the people, everybody would still be unhappy (“Air? You might as well put in Toto!”). So how do we right this wrong? It’s easy. Just ignore it. Shhhh, it’s OK, I know. The idea of a “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” is VERY tempting. You just need to understand that it’s a beautiful concept that will never actually work in reality.
Immortalizing musicians is an activity best kept in teenage bedrooms and middle-aged basements. What Jamie Reno needs to understand is that he’s much better off keeping his love of Guns N’ Roses, Chicago and Jamie Reno to himself. Who cares if some secret committee disagrees with your personal best-of list?
Instead of whining about the selection this year, I’m calling on all musicians and music fans alike to just ignore the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It doesn’t matter, really. If we all ignore it, maybe it will disappear back into the fantasies of rich music moguls—where it belongs.