The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will take a shot at regaining some relevance tonight when it inducts its class of 2001. But sadly, the decision to include Aerosmith, Queen and Steely Dan — acts that may actually still mean something to rock fans — may be too little, too late.
The fact is that for 14 years the hall has regularly and systematically done everything in its power to make it pointless to any real rock fan. Instead of embracing the people who live and breathe rock 'n' roll, they've put together a tedious history lesson on the roots of an art form that the hall's board members no longer understand.
Nevermind The Staples Singers … Where Are the Sex Pistols?
A quick look at artists the Hall of Fame has inducted since its inception in 1986 shows that the people doing the picking think that rock 'n' roll's golden age ran from about 1940 through 1970. Forget the fact that the first real rock record wasn't released until 1955 or so, or that some of the most exciting sub-genres, like punk and heavy metal, aren't represented at all.
Can anyone who appreciates the entire history of rock — not just its invention and early days — truly justify the inclusion of The Moonglows, James Taylor, The Staples Singers, The Shirelles, Ruth Brown, The Lovin' Spoonful or Lloyd Price, while Black Sabbath, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, AC/DC, The Sex Pistols and Nirvana are absent? Certainly no one under the age of 40.
But while rock has always been the musical voice of youth, the Hall of Fame's target audience is apparently pushing 50 and looking to kill an afternoon during a business trip to Cleveland.
This Ain't Baseball
In order to understand why the hall seems so out of touch, one must realize that there's a big difference between a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and something like, say, the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Baseball players and fans seem, at least to an outsider like myself, to revel in the sport's history. In my hometown of Brooklyn, some folks are still suffering from abandonment issues, even though the Dodgers moved to the West Coast back in 1958.
Rock 'n' roll, however, is, by its very nature, art for the young. And every generation of rock artists and fans feels compelled to, at least in part, tear down all that has come before it.
But even baseball has a sense of its more recent history that the rock hall apparently lacks. To make a comparison, Reggie Jackson, who dominated the game in the late 1970s — when the Sex Pistols forever changed rock — was inducted in 1993. But that generation's music fans are still waiting for the seminal punk band to receive its due.
Enough With the Awards for Eric Clapton!
Deciding who deserves an honor like induction into the Hall of Fame is always controversial. But a nice criteria might be to select acts who not only did something new and groundbreaking, but who have been so influential that they're still relevant to serious rock fans of today.
Hall of Fame members should be rock acts of such importance that if one of them walked into any club in America and took the stage unannounced on any given night, the audience would be awestruck at their luck. How many of the class of 2000's inductees — Earth Wind & Fire, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Moonglows, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and Eric Clapton — would get such a reception? I doubt that more than half of those acts could interest rock fans of any age to sit through a full set.