The 2013 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees Inspected: Steve Crawford Feels Love
There are, at least, two schools of thought on the RRHOF. Numero uno is that (a) it just doesn’t matter. It’s Jann Wenner’s ego trip (an undeniable point) and codifying a hierarchy for anti-establishment music (at least in terms of marketing) is self defeating. And then there’s the whole legitimacy issue over who is in (James Taylor? ABBA? The Mamas & the Papas?), what is rock music (there goes the neighborhood/who let these rappers into the house?), etc.
Shockingly, the alternate school of thought is (b) it does matter. If Bobby “Blue” Bland can slap ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAMER on his gig posters, will it sell a few more tickets? Yep. Does the enshrinement matter in mainstream culture and give the grandchildren of inductees bragging rights on “show and tell” day? Yep. Status and benjamins, peeps. Capitalism’s show horses.
Let’s glance through this year’s nominees and discuss the BIG ISSUE in the process (which is not simply a tease to get you to keep reading; I pinky swear).
1. Paul Butterfield Blues Band. OK, next time you are chatting with your favorite music pal, ask him/her/it to name three songs by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. If he/she/it can do it, buy that person a beer or a book on how to talk to girls.
2. Chic. Chic got all kinds of musical chops props from critics and all kinds of hatred from the white boy “Disco Sucks” contingent. The kind of nomination that drives the “it’s the ROCK AND ROLL Hall of Fame” folks batdung crazy.
3. Deep Purple. Falling over sleepy garden walls, DP are a classic British hard rock/heavy metal band that will score better by being from the other side of the pond. More on this later (tease #2).
4. Heart. Everyone roots for the Wilson sisters because they play on the same ballfield with a bunch of dudes. Really, are they that different from Styx/Kansas/REO Speedwagon? More on this later (#3, good time to stop).
5. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Joan only had five top twenty hits but “I Love Rock and Roll” stayed at the top slot for seven weeks. (Seven really long weeks). Joan’s created her own female hard rock/punk rock/sexually ambiguous turf and stands alone in that spot, which must help.
6. Albert King. Kings are aces in the hall of fame. B.B. King. Freddie King. TalKING Heads. Nat King Cole. Carole King. King Curtis. Ben E. King of the Drifters. When I turn 60, I’m buying a cheap guitar and changing my name to Stevie Ray King. 80% probability I become a Hall of Famer.
7. Kraftwerk. If American dance music gets roughed up by the rock and roll crowd, imagine the warm reception for 1970s German techno-before-we-knew-it-was-techno music. Somebody has to get one of their tunes in a beer commercial before they have a shot.
8. The Marvelettes. Not a ton of chart toppers, but right place, right label, right time.
9. The Meters. As the old lumberjack song goes, “Don’t follow Meters, watch for falling cedars.” As great as they are, a 2030 “legacy” induction seems more likely.
6. Randy Newman. When you think of rock ‘n’ roll, you think of Randy Newman portraying a slave ship captain trying to sell the promise of America to a “little wog.” He did write “Mama Told Me (Not to Come),” so maybe he can get a spot in the HOF as the Fourth Dog.
5. N.W.A. Somebody had to sell the fantasy of black gang life to suburban white kids and N.W.A. unquestioningly knew their role/goal. I, for one, always enjoy singing “Straight Outta Compton” when I visit that bucolic town. (Compton, Arkansas in the hill country of NWA – Northwest Arkansas).
4. Procol Harum. If they hadn’t skipped that white fandango, they wouldn’t be in the hunt. I mean, a band can’t really get into the RRHOF because on one tune, can they? Whoops, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five are pointing at me and laughing right now.
3. Public Enemy. Slam dunk.
2. Rush. BIG ISSUE TIME, PEOPLE. The RRHOF has steadfastly ignored ultra-commercially successful, critically lambasted arena rock bands that (like it or not) define rock and roll to a lot of people. Van Halen gets in because Eddie’s a recognized guitar torture wizard, but KISS, Def Leppard, Cheap Trick, Bon Jovi, etc., are forever sitting on the sidelines, while Laura Nyro gets her eternal free parking pass. Being the smart people that they are, the HOF is having it BOTH WAYS this year. Yep, they have opened the voting to the fans, who will undoubtedly vote for the most commercially successful act (and will have more of an inclination to visit that ugly building in Cleveland in the future). And, the HOF gatekeepers can sit back and say “Hey, it’s not OUR FAULT these cheesy arena rock bands are in our shrine, blame the unwashed masses.” If you don’t love the HOF’s collective money raking cynicism on this one, be cool or be cast out. And they still wouldn’t kick off this new backdoor entry system with an American band.
1. Donna Summer. If you agree that Madonna belongs in the HOF, there’s no reason to exclude Donna Summer. I feel love.
That’s your wrap up, people. I am personally boycotting the entire affair until Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds get their just due. Don’t pull your love out on me, RRHOF.