Read this on Myspace... thought it was interesting to pass along. As a long time fan of several bands omitted from the RARHOF.... it is a bit infuriating that one man can be of the opinion something sucks, and it becomes law of the land.
WHY THE ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME MISSES THE POINT ABOUT ROCK & ROLL
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame purports to acknowledge those whove changed the face of the genre. But have bias, cronyism and group-think muddled their mission?
By Larry Getlen
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex, which opened on December 2, features an exhibit about New Yorks place in rock and roll history, no doubt designed to remind New Yorkers how much their hometown contributed to this essential musical genre, and also to conjure joyous memories of our collective rock and roll past.
While the exhibit opens with an anomaly memorabilia from Bruce Springsteen, an artist as closely associated with New York as Bon Jovi, the Meadowlands, and Newark inside, you can see where the curators nostalgia lies. The front entrance to CBGBs is recreated as a shrine, featuring the veritable punk institutions awning, phone booth, sound board, tables, chairs, and even walls, all of which will no doubt bring a tear to the eye of anyone who was a regular at the club from 1974-1979, but probably not much after.
Scattered around it are tributes to, and memorabilia from, The Ramones, Blondie, the New York Dolls, Billy Joel and more. But whats most striking about the Annexs New York exhibit is not whats there, but what isnt.
Because missing from the Annex is any memorabilia from, or even reference to, the most successful and influential rock band in New York City history. Or, to put it another way, one of the most successful and influential bands in rock history, period which also happens to be a quintessentially New York band.
The name of that band? KISS.
Love em or hate em, there is no denying that KISS whose members hailed from Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx; whose guitarist drove a New York City cab; whose bassist was, amazingly, a New York City schoolteacher; and who found a key member through an ad in the Village Voice, the archetypical New York City band origin had an enormous influence on rock music. With twenty-four gold records (more than any American rock band in history except Aerosmith), KISS influenced a generation of rockers to not only ply on the face paint for Halloween, but also to earn their teenage chops by wailing out on guitarist Ace Frehleys licks in front of a mirror on broomsticks or tennis racquets, collectively inventing the current hipster craze of air guitar in the process.
KISS is responsible for millions upon millions of rock-loving Americans understanding the feeling of passion and power that rips through you when a song kicks in; when a chorus sails; when a band hits the stage in an explosion of fire and fury. For that alone their twenty-four gold records aside their place in rock history is secure. And yet, throughout their ten years of eligibility (a band is eligible for the Hall twenty-five years after their debut release), they have been denied entrance to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
KISS fans can take soft comfort in the fact that they are not alone. Other worthwhile or legendary rock acts not yet in the Hall include Alice Cooper, Yes, Rush, Joan Jett, and Bon Jovi, all indisputably influential (and massively popular) in the rock arena. Current inductee Metallica, the band that put heavy metal on the mainstream map, wasnt nominated until their third time on the ballot. And Black Sabbath the band who ignited the genre in the first place, influencing every metal band of the last forty years in the process was finally inducted ten years after its eligibility.
But these omissions become even more curious when we look at some of those who have made it past the rock and roll gatekeepers. The distinguished list of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees includes rockers such as Madonna (who was inducted in her first year of eligibility), Leonard Cohen, and the Bee Gees. And one of Metallicas fellow nominees this year as the performers mentioned above all sat on the sidelines was the disco act Chic.
All of which leads to several questions, including: who makes these ridiculous decisions? What kind of rocker thinks Madonna and Chic are rock icons, but KISS is not? And, maybe the most important question: is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame anything more than just a self-serving organization designed to allow a generation of like-minded (and close-minded) music critics and industry veterans a chance to put on tuxedos in themselves as un-rock-and-roll as it gets and pat themselves on the back for their collective cultural supremacy?
The voting process for the Hall is as follows. Theres a nominating committee of 30 or so members, each of whom present three eligible acts for discussion. After debate, a secret ballot is held to determine nine nominees. Then, those nine names are sent to about 550 industry people whose vote whittles the nominees down to five, and those five are that years inductees.
Joel Peresman, president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, tells City Scoops that the system is designed to be fair and non-biased.
Its a very diverse group, says Peresman, and they come up with a very diverse group of artists.
But within this diverse conglomeration, there still seems to be a certain bias or at least a chummy groupthink at work, where punk is revered, CBGBs is god, prog rock is anathema, and anything too populist or hard-rock based is merely real rocks bastard, delinquent cousin.
While the bias against KISS the group whose omission inspires the greatest public outrage seems a product of this shared opinion, one prominent writer has led the charge against them. Dave Marsh co-founder of Creem magazine; longtime writer for Rolling Stone; and author of numerous biographies on that great New York rocker Bruce Springsteen is the nominating committee member who once gave a reporter the following quote.
Kiss is not a great band, Kiss was never a great band, Kiss never will be a great band, and I have done my share to keep them off the ballot.
When City Scoops requested an interview with Marsh about KISS and other acts that have been voted in or left out of the hall, he responded with an email that said, in its entirety, I oppose Kiss because I think it was a shitty rock band, not worthy of induction. What else is there to say?
While this can be regarded (or disregarded) as simply one members opinion, numerous other committee members emerged from the same musical gene pool.
Nominating committee members are picked by committee chairman Jon Landau, another former writer for Rolling Stone and the man who famously wrote of Springsteen, in 1974, I have seen the future of rock and roll, and its name is Bruce Springsteen, and then went on to become The Boss longtime co-manager. His partner, Springsteens other co-manager, is a woman named Barbara Carr who happens to be Dave Marshs wife.
In our recent interview with music industry veteran Danny Goldberg, Goldberg, a former critic himself as well as being the former publicist for KISS and Led Zeppelin and the man who managed Nirvana, discusses rock critic groupthink by explaining how Rolling Stone magazine denigrated Led Zeppelin for much of the bands career because this group of critics was so entrenched in the idolatry of the early punk underground including bands such as the New York Dolls and the MC5 and so offended by what they considered populist rock that they completely failed to get Led Zeppelin until long after the band had conquered the rock world. That same general group which also includes Rolling Stone founder, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame co-founder, Jann Wenner now controls the Hall. An informative blog about the Hall called Future Rock Legends cites no fewer than eight current or former Rolling Stone writers who have sat on the Halls nominating committee.
Which has led to the kind of insular and misguided thinking that dismisses bands like KISS.
I think its preposterous, says Goldberg of KISS omission. Its hard for me to understand what definition of rock and roll you could come up with that would exclude KISS and their undeniable accomplishments. To me, thats a real flaw in the sensibility. Their influence in terms of what they did with rock, and spreading their tentacles all throughout pop culture, was fairly unique, says Neil Walls, creator of the Future Rock Legends blog. Whether you like their music or not, you cant deny their presence in the rock and roll scene. I think thats a fairly large [omission] thats looming out there.
For their part, KISS themselves seem somewhat burned by the slight. At a speech in November, band co-founder Gene Simmons noted, only half jokingly, that there are disco bands, rap bands, Yiddish folk song bands in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but not KISS. His bandmate Paul Stanley, in an interview on the bands web site, stated the problem even more succinctly.
The beauty of America is that you can basically start any kind of private club you want to. This one happens to be called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Its a very impressive name for a club, but its an illusion. Its the creation of a group of industry people and critics who decide who they deem as qualified to be in their little admiration society. Its their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but its not the peoples Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Pop culture commentator Chuck Klosterman, taking the evaluation one step further, once talked of the uselessness of trying to compare one rock band to another by saying, this is why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is such a failure; there are no quantifiable qualities for the inductees. There is no way to prove that a musician is good.
Noting similar points of view as well as the Halls track record, some believe that the organizations sole reason for existence is to provide self-important critics and industry people with a reason to pat themselves and the bands they love on the back.
A lot of people have said that [the Hall] was an ego trip for them to have dinners for $5,000, where the public cant get in, says Don Kirshner, the music industry veteran who, among many other accomplishments, helped create the music of the Monkees, and introduced audiences to some of the best bands of the seventies on his late night live music show, Don Kirshners Rock Concert. (And who, like Simmons and Stanley, feels the sting of the Halls slight, as the Hall has a non-performer category for influential industry people that Kirshner has been omitted from.) I think there are specific biases with the people who run the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame that are personal biases by the guys who control the Hall the millionaires coffee club. Its an embarrassment.
Over the years, some nominating committee members have agreed. In a 2007 article on the Halls voting process, MTV cited one committee member who told of a case where an officer of the Hall wanted a very demanding favor from an artist. When the artist wouldnt grant it, a message was sent that the artist would therefore never be inducted into the Hall. And Fox News once received a letter from a committee member who stated that artists were sometimes chosen for nomination because of their affiliations with the directors of the Hall and others were shot down
because an artist had bad blood with someone calling the shots.
When I paid a visit to the new Hall of Fame Annex in Soho on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I found it surprisingly empty, especially in contrast to the half-a-block-long line directly across the street filled with people waiting to buy UGG boots. (During my visit, Id hear three different employees lament how the crowds hadnt really been coming since the opening.)
The people who had just arrived there were seven of us, including a family of four were ushered into the Hall of Signatures, a small room we were then trapped in for five minutes to thrill to plaques inscribed with the signatures of inductees, including notables such as John Mellencamp (yes, hes in the Hall), and Sid Vicious, whose signature looked a bit too neat for a violent 21-year-old heroin addict.
After several minutes, the seven of us were ushered into the theater next door for brief video snippets of a succession of music world icons. Ray Charles, Muddy Waters, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, each on three screens for about 20 seconds apiece, then on through The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Who, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Police, Patti Smith, The Ramones, The Clash, and more, before finally ending with a quote from Keith Richards: Rock and Roll is music for the neck downwards.
When I had previously asked Peresman about the Halls purpose and the inherent contradiction of institutionalizing a musical genre which had always been fueled by rebellion he said, Rock and roll is really the art form of our generation. Rock and roll is suppose to be loose and free form, and to cage it
some people think thats anti- what rock and roll is all about. But I just think theres such importance to rock and roll that people truly have a desire to see the roots and the influences and the things that make up the history of rock and roll.
A noble purpose, to a point. But as I pondered this intellectualization of rock as I headed into the Annexs Hard Rock Cafe-like memorabilia collection, I wondered how the Halls voters missed Richards essential message about rock and roll and, how they forgot the thrill of discovering the true meaning of rock while standing in front of the mirror, madly strumming a tennis racquet as the music blasted away.
Larry Getlen is the Editor-in-Chief of City Scoops magazine and cityscoopsny.com.