Opinion

Rock and Roll Hall of “Lame”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has deservedly been ridiculed for some of the lame-o acts that have been welcomed into its hallowed Cleveland museum. Bon Jovi? Red Hot Chili Peppers? Give me a break.

The main problem, I suspect, is that the nominating committee is filled with baby boomers who nominate bands and artists that no one today gives a rat’s hat about. For years, I couldn’t fathom how voters could ignore influential bands and musicians like Roxy Music, Todd Rundgren, John Prine and Sparks. But then, I’m a boomer.

“How the heck did Tupac Shakur get nominated!” I’d scream in the direction of my loving wife, a big Neil Diamond/Paul Anka fan who probably thought Tupac Shakur was a new Jamba Juice smoothie. “He’s not even rock and roll,” I’d bark.   

At the start, R&R HOF voters got it right, honoring the giants and progenitors of modern rock. In 1986, the first year, inductees were Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis Presley. The next year was equally impressive: The Coasters, Eddie Cochran, Bo Diddley, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Bill Haley, BB King, Clyde McPhatter, Ricky Nelson, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Smokey Robinson, Big Joe Turner, Muddy Waters, and Jackie Wilson (who, BTW, was inducted by Peter Wolf of the long-unjustly-scorned J. Geils Band).

Then, starting in 1988, the induction of the rock and rollers and Motown stars my generation grew up with began: The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Supremes, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Simon & Garfunkel, The Who, and (cue the sound of angels singing in  heaven) the greatest band of all, The Kinks.

Gradually, there was less rock in Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees. I love Joan Baez, Laura Nyro, and Miles Davis, especially Miles Davis, but they ain’t rock ‘n’ roll.   

Last week, the Rock Hall announced the nominees for induction into its 2019 class. Overall, it’s a strong lineup. Def Leppard, Devo, Janet Jackson, John Prine, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, MC5, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Roxy Music, Stevie Nicks, the Cure, Todd Rundgren, Rufus & Chaka Khan and the Zombies are all potentially up for induction at the March 29 ceremony in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Did you notice that Roxy Music, Rundgren and Prine are there? My telepathic brain waves must have traveled all the way into the nominating committee’s boardroom.

If Rolling Stone magazine publisher/Hall of Fame co-founder Jann Wenner phoned and sought my input, these would get my votes for 2019 induction: Roxy Music, Todd Rundgren, Rufus & Chaka Khan, the Zombies and Def Leppard, even though a Def Lep induction might open the gates for Poison and Cinderella.

Still, I’d give Poison a vote before some of these nominees. Yes, I’m aware that Kraftwerk, Radiohead and Devo are hugely influential, that their creativity launched hundreds of other bands. Devo is one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen; and The Cure had a rare connection with its audience, half of whom made themselves up to look like their hero, frontman Robert Smith. None of them belong.

Neither do hip-hop pioneer LL Cool J or, sadly, John Prine, whose brilliant lyrics make me laugh and cry, often in the same song. Stevie Nicks made her best music with Fleetwood Mac, which was inducted in 1998. The Motor City 5’s loud snotty political punk rock did kick out the jams, but earlier garage bands like The Sonics were better. Rage Against the Machine never piqued my interest.

Madonna is in, so on the strength of “Rhythm Nation,” “Nasty” and “Black Cat,” I guess Janet Jackson must be considered. But never-nominated Whitney Houston should be accepted first.

The list of snubbed acts is long. Metal, in particular, has been treated like an outcast (not OutKast; they were ignored, too). Motorhead, Judas Priest, Slayer and Iron Maiden all are worthy. Jethro Tull, which laughingly won the Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 1989, has been disregarded as well.

In my fantasy world, I would be on the nominating committee, even though the last thing it needs is another nostalgic baby boomer. After all, we vote for bands like Roxy Music. I bet half of those who read the 2019 list of nominees never heard of the glam/art rock heroes. A case could be made that both Roxy’s Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry deserve enshrinement on their own. Eno, after all, in addition to recording brilliant albums of electronic artpop and inventing ambient music, collaborated on pivotal recordings by current Hall of Famers David Bowie, Talking Heads and U2.

Let’s imagine I’m at the nominating committee table, and Wenner hollers “Brotherton, who do you recommend?” Since it’s highly improbable Roxy will make the cut this year (or ever) I’ll keep them on the list. Then I’d rattle off another 14: J. Geils Band, Warren Zevon, Little Feat, Pat Benatar, Tom Jones, Richard Thompson/Fairport Convention, Johnny Rivers, Tommy James, Kate Bush, Boston, Joe Cocker, The Guess Who, Jethro Tull, and, just to irritate people, Sparks (cue the sound of angels singing the number one song in heaven).

What, you’ve never heard of Sparks! Pull up a chair, and let me enlighten you. Did you know Todd Rundgren produced their first album …

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