Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Fair and Balanced?

December 15, 2010 | By | 19 Replies More

Scanning the headlines today, I saw in my peripheral vision one announcing the latest list of inductees into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame.  I’ve heard stories about the selection process, but haven’t paid much attention because I guess it’s most like the Wallaces’ (and Wallechinsky’s) Book(s) of Lists – based on opinion, not quantifiable metrics.

Just who is Darlene Love anyway?  No matter. I don’t really care, but on a whim,I checked to see if my favorite group Rush is in.  Nope. Conspicuous in their absence were also Kiss (I’d heard about that before).

I consider Rush to be the most talented trio in the history of rock music.  Rumor has it that Jann Wenner doesn’t.  Still, as opinionated and usually hermitlike as I am on music, I know I am not alone in my assessment (of Rush), plus I have multiple musicians in the family that agree with me.  I’m not a fan of Kiss, but how are they any less influential than some of the others?  Ah…Jann Wenner.  True or not, both their absences make the Hall a joke because look at the list of past inductees.

In: Steely Dan ?????  (Oh, the words I could not use in public to describe what I think of that!); David Bowie?;
James Taylor?  Come on!

Not in: Boston(??!); Yes (???!!); B-52’s – Hello? Not Boston? Not Yes?

In: John Paul and George (no Ringo) are in it as individuals and as the Beatles; Metallica; Aerosmith; AC/DC – all no brainers

Not in: Kansas; Journey; Styx; Emerson, Lake and Palmer

In: Stevie Wonder – are you serious?; John Mellencamp ??; Buffalo Springfield ?; ABBA ???; Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel;

The director of the Rush documentary “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage” commented to Entertainment Weekly

“It’s unfortunate,” says Scot McFadyen, …“We were hoping a lot more people in the [nominating] room had seen our documentary, and maybe that would have given them a different perspective on the band. But there are just some people that are holding out.”

As disappointing as Rush’s latest snub was, McFadyen wasn’t necessarily surprised. “They’ve never been a critics’ band. The industry people that are involved with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Rush has never been cool enough for them.”

I think Wenner and the Hall should adopt the slogan of another media entity that also isn’t: “Fair and balanced”

Last year, one list of snubs included Alice Cooper, who made the cut this time around.  So who is missing in the Hall from your list?

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Category: American Culture, Censorship, music

About the Author ()

Jim is a husband of more than 27 years, father of four home-schooled sons (26, 23, 16 and 14), engineer delighting in virtually all things technical, with more than a passing interest in history, religions, arts, most sciences (particularly physics) and skepticism.

Comments (19)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Jim: Conspicuously absent from the process are any criteria. What are they looking for? Sales? Popularity with the mass media? Uniqueness? Or is it this: We (whoever the judges are) LIKE these groups? If the latter, then I don't get excited about these lists, since they are collections of personal preferences. But if they lock down some real criteria in an attempt to make it objective, it piques my interest more.

    Too bad they don't break it down into subcategories, because appears to be apples running against carrots against Jello. If we talking about heavy beat rock and roll, then yes, some of musicians you mention as not belonging don't really belong. James Taylor is an incredible ballad player (who has morphed into jazz/alternative lately), but I don't think of him as a rock and roll musician. I LOVE Steely Dan, but I think of them as having essentially their own genre, not as R&R. Same thing for ELP. I think they are both incredibly talented, but I'm not sure what the message of the voting is supposed to have been. I suspect that the judges have muddied the meaning of R&R to now mean "music we like." Is that the problem in your opinion, or are you attacking the music of some of my favorite groups? Go ahead and be honest, because I can take it (I think).

  2. Induction is based on popularity—whatever that means. How do you gauge "significance" in the short term? Butchers used to wrap fish in remaindered copies of Schubert's music for years after his death. Now we "hear" the genius.

    In this instance, it's everything but the music. Eventually, damn near every band or artist that ever charted in the Top 100 will be in the Hall of Fame, but it will take a while.

    As for Rush…

    I admire them, but frankly they were derivative. They came along after both Yes and ELP established the form and Peter Gabriel made it okay for that weird kind of tenor. Very talented, bravado performers, but (to my ear) they broke no new ground. Most talented trio ever? For myself, I'd give that to ELP. But as you point out they aren't in the Hall of Fame, either.

    Besides (finally) the same mentality seems at work in these selections as informed the music critics of Rolling Stone Magazine, and those guys almost unequivocally hated every band I ever liked.

    (Oh, and—Kiss? Are you serious? Blech.)

  3. Jim Razinha says:

    Erich;

    According to that all-knowing site (Wikipedia):

    Currently, groups or individuals are qualified for induction

    25 years after the release of their first record. Nominees should have demonstrable influence and significance within the history of rock and roll. Four categories are recognized: Performers, Non-Performers, Early Influences, and Sidemen (as of 2000). However, fans have no input concerning who is nominated or elected to the hall.

    (I've never tried html tags in a comment…hope it worked)

    My only slightly too subtle jab was at the sham. Don't pretend they are "fair and balanced" when rational people know they are not. Don't call it a Hall of Fame when we all know it is "music we like" (and music which you have no vote on!)

    I have a considerable list of anomalous likes and dislikes for which I have little explanation. Steely Dan (and most soft rock), James Taylor, Air Supply, and their like get on my nerves within seconds, and yet I like Harry Chapin. I don't go much for technopop, but I like Yaz – go figure. I like kicking rock, but not so much Metallica. But whether I like something or not, or you do or not really the issue – what exactaly is the criteria? Why are some in and some not? Back to the internet rumors.

    Mark:

    We'll disagree on ELP vs Rush. I think ELP peaked early and didn't evolve. Opinion, of course. Rush, opinion again, evolved … through a phase I didn't like much at the time (mid-late 1980s) but having gone the catalog recently appreciate more and more for the music skill. Maybe I should have used a different word? Skill vice talent, although I stand by my talent comment. Carl Palmer while technically one of the best is no Neil Peart. Greg Lake is no Geddy Lee (on bass), nor Alex Lifeson (on guitar); his vocals are obviously smoother than Geddy's. And Keith Emerson can't be compared in the two groups…Rick Wakeman, maybe. Opinion.

    As for breaking ground, that's an interesting comment, for how often is there true groundbreaking? The use of electric instead of acoustic? Feedback instead of strumming? High intensity tempos and screaming instead of … music? (the popularity of hard core punk along with rap baffles me, thus the music bigot emerges…)

    Echo the blech on Kiss, but they were popular, influential, enduring and I understand also not liked by Jann Wenner.

    I did a Facebook note a year or so ago on what you will and won't find on my ipod. I should dig it up and see if I've changed in that short time and perhaps throw it out here into the fray.

  4. Jim,

    Not wanting to start a Who's Better. Taste is very important.

    But as to the groundbreaking part…

    Emerson was one of the most successful at combining classical motifs with rock'n'roll, and by Brain Salad Surgery was utilizing whole tone and atonal modalities in his compositions like no one else in rock at the time. His Piano Concerto # 1 is much in the vein of Aaron Copland, which was prefigured by ELP's renditions of "Rodeo" and "Fanfare for the Common Man". Compositionally, he was like no one else. Peaked early? Their primary period was from 1970 to 1978, with the release of Works Vol. 1 and no single one of their albums was like any of the others all through that time. After Works…they belly flopped badly and Emerson himself admitted that ELP was never able to make the transition from epic composition to more pop oriented tunes the way contemporaries Genesis, Yes, and others did, so they floundered.

    After a certain level of expertise, it gets silly to start saying who is the better player. At the level of Neil Pert and Carl Palmer, the only thing one can say is, they're different. Again, taste. Likewise with Lake and Lee—they themselves would probably chuckle at the idea that one is better than the other.

    As for Kiss…they were influential for their act, not their music. The only thing one ever hears played anymore from their heyday is "I Want To Rock and Roll All Day" which is, imho, a brainless piece of garbage rock. They made an impression, but I don't think they influenced anyone. For outre stage presence and make-up, the New York Dolls did it much better. (And no, I didn't like them, either.)

    Anyway, just sayin'

  5. Jim Razinha says:

    Now here's a curious tangent: what's your musical background, Mark? I played trumpet in HS, but switched to baritone in my senior year. I haven't played since 1979 (wasn't that good anyway). I find that I key on strong bass lines, so like Rush, Floyd, much of Tool, etc. I like the progressive keyboards of Yes and ELP, and I like The Doors even if Manzarek's tinkling gets under my skin. But I don't have the theory background to explain why (atonal modalities…) nor do I want to; other interests and all. Eldest son plays guitar and it heavily influenced by Metallica. Second son plays bass and is influenced by Cliff Burton, Flea and Geddy. Third plays drums and is currently influenced by his teacher (just started this year). Fourth is a pianist, and want to branch out into jazz along with classical. Momma was/is a classical pianist. So in our house we hear the spectrum of music (no rap, though.)

    From some of Erich's posts I can infer the balladeer influences. Erich, care to share what you play? Perhaps you have on earlier posts, but for the current audience?

    I think my left brain steers me toward technically complex music – I like Listz, Bach, and my preference for deeper tones pulls out that bass/baritone choice – operatic sopranos make my spine curve, but I still listen (don't get them either – oops, wrong thread).

    So, given that who is better (and half a Who was better than a whole Rolling Stones … ) is personal and trivial, who do you like? I'm curious because it fleshes out the image of the person. I'll add that I like Native American flute, Irish folk, Bowling For Soup, Jethro Tull, almost all classical. And The Beatles. (And for the record, I am 100% in agreement on Kiss.)

    Oh, for the record also, the transitions to pop from epic were IMO a grevious error for Yes, even Rush, though Genesis fared well. Owner of a Lonely Heart was to me what A Touch of Gray was to the Deadheads.

    I need a bigger iPod.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Jim: When I was 17-20 I helped run an 8-piece jazz-rock band. Our favorites included Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Doobie Brothers and a lot of misc. Fast forward to last year when I ventured out on my own–I play the guitar and sing, and I've gotten work in coffee houses, farmer's markets and a trendy grocery store (the "Culinaria" in downtown St. Louis). I play a lot of James Taylor, Cat Stevens, jazz standards, ELP, a few songs featured on the Garden State CD, some ethnic stuff (Irish & African), a tune from Cirque du Solei, George Benson, Stevie Wonder, Tower of Power, The Beatles (of course), some music originally performed by female singers, including Norah Jones and Shawn Colvin and lots of misc. When I pair up with a violinist (which happens from time to time, we play some classical tunes and some hoedown music. How's that for hard-to-categorize? I'm trying to get up the courage to write some lyrics so that I can perform some original music, but that has not yet happened. I talk a bit more about my music at my personal website.

  6. Jim Razinha says:

    And I need a new DI app on my iphone with a bigger comment window…too many misspells that need scrolling up and down.

  7. Jim Razinha says:

    Cool! I listened to a lot those when I was young. My tastes changed over time…I suppose as I did. Obvious answer, yes, but I don't think I was always so obtuse when it comes to songs evoking emotions.

    And how do you have time to do anything? Lawyering, musicing, blogging, parenting?

    • Erich Vieth says:

      I scramble to get these things done, especially when the law job is especially demanding, and I don't think I do enough of any of them, yet I am unwilling to give up any of them. One surprising thing is that they feed into each other more than one would think, or at least I try to make them work with each other.

      I have no answer to your question, Jim. It is perceptive of you. How do you have time to do all that you appear to do? Even reading 1/3 of your library would seemingly take a lifetime.

  8. This is a fun question to answer (and kinda sad). I studied organ from age nine. Hated it until I got into a band at age 14. I tried really hard for a number of years to keep a band together, but ultimately it just exploded because I generally loathe Top 40 and most of the sidemen we had didn't want to play what we played, which was a prog rock list. And some originals.

    I was floored at an early age by what might seem two completely different influences—Santana and Keith Emerson. I was listening to the Nice when all my classmates were groovin' on The Lovin' Spoonful. (The first concert I ever went to, I snuck out of my house to see the Nice at Keil Opera House.)

    The last incarnation of any band I was in ended when I was 20 and I walked away from it. Sold all my equipment, didn't play anything but a cheap acoustic guitar for years. In 1989 we bought a piano (Erich remembers that, actually) and I started playing keyboard again. Trouble is, I decided not to bother relearning anything I used to know and just developed an improv style so I could have fun with it, never intending ever again to play for pay.

    In any event, my musical tastes developed when I was very young. My parents bought a "Hi Fi" when they got married and apparently a very expensive one. They got 50 records with it and had everything from Greig to Bobby Darin. The music that stayed with me was classical but I became a technical fanatic because of Chet Atkins.

    This is heresy. I didn't like the Beatles till long after they'd broken up. Didn't "get" Beatlemania. I thought the Buckinghams were better. When Hendrix came along I was sold.

    So my primary rock bands were Yes, ELP, Santana, Chicago, Jefferson Airplane, and Jethro Tull. (I know, that latin rock thing slipped in there somewhere…) My primary classical influences are Beethoven, Mendlesohn, Dvorak, Stravinski, Bartok, Copland, and Rachmaninov.

    I categorically hate country, cannot listen to opera at all, and only an occasional hip-hop track attracts my notice. Most of my listening these days is either classical or electronica. (Can't write to vocals.)

    I've studied just enough theory to be dangerous and to figure out what makes some of the music I love work.

    A note on Yes. Mostly, I agree. But a lot of material on 90120 is excellent. It was Big Generator that really bombed for me. But you should listen to the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album and the two Keys To Ascension albums have studio material that is reminiscent of their heyday, very solid. They seemed for a time to alternate between a "pop" album and something daring.

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    More fuel for the fire: Rolling Stone has published this list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. #1 is Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, by the Beatles. #2 is Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. #3 Revolver by the Beatles, who took 4 of the top 10. http://www.rollingstone.com/news

  10. Jim Razinha says:

    Mark: Thanks! I admit not liking the Beatles until I was older. With you on the categorial exclusion of country. As noted, I can listen to opera, but that's because I don't hear lyrics without special effort. Still, I prefer symphonies and concertos to opera. I listened to Kansas until they went pop (and born again) and hardly wax nostalgic for them now. Styx until Tommy started singing, then not. Tull and Rush I never got bored with. Floyd, somewhat until Wiki came along and I decided to read the collective on the behind the scenes for the various albums. And so on. Every now and then, I run through a whole catalog from first to last (latest?) release, skipping the compilations. I do that for Rush, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull (prolific, that Ian Anderson) and sometimes something similar with classical composers (all of Mozart's symphonies last year, in order…well, the Kochel order). I'm due for an ELP trip again, so the timing of this exchange is good.

    Erich: The link didn't take me to the list, but I've seen it (and found it here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/500-great…. While I like Pepper (and now virtually all of the catalog), it's not my favorite. But as we know from this thread, it's all personal!

    Oh, and as to the library, fully half is waiting for re-retirement. For now, it's slow going. ADD set in again last night as I picked up Terry Teachout's bio of Mencken (The Skeptic) from my bedside pile instead of one of the several others I have in various stages of completion. I made the mistake of looking at the first chapter of Dawkins' latest two days ago and started in on it as well. Too much to do! Too much to read!

  11. Just went through that Rolling Stones list. Nothing changes. Not a single Yes album, nothing by ELP, no Genesis (but Peter Gabriel!), no Kansas, one Tull album, no Wishbone Ash, no Jeff Beck (but that junk throat Rod Stewart!), no George Harrison (!), no Gentle Giant, no Yard Birds (!!!), no…

    They may as well have simply said "All we like is Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and various blues artists, some of the Beatles, and the occasional bit of interesting weirdness (the Grateful Dead, Bowie). And then the weirder bits, like, what were they thinking including Madonna? Madonna??? Really??? And Linda Rondstadt?!?

    And I am on record here that Bruce Springsteen represents everything that went wrong with rock'n'roll as far as I'm concerned. But for the folks at Rolling Stone, they might as well give him a halo and a lake to walk across.

    You can see why I may have had trouble staging a band that had any kind of popular appeal.

  12. Jim Razinha says:

    30 or so years ago I tried some DJ work (it was different then – you didn't scratch your albums!), but didn't fare well because I only played what I liked.

    Dancer: Got any Prince?

    Me: No! Prince {bleeps)

    Might have played some of the songs your band played. Popular with us, but nobody else!

  13. Jim Razinha says:

    I went through the ELP catalog the last two days up to and including Works Volume 2. Here are my takeaways:

    1) I don't like them as much as I used to. The synthesizers on the first three albums really got to be too much.

    2) Brain Salad Surgery was the first album I owned and is still my favorite among the collection (thoughts on that to follow)

    3) I realized I had never listened to Works – I guess I thought it a compilation, so didn't. I was pleasantly surprised at the content.

    4) After listeneing to Works, particularly Volume 1, I retract my comment about Greg Lake and his bass playing. His technical skill came out more on that album.

    5) Keith Emerson always seemed to want to show me "see what I can do". But what I heard this time around was a lot of keyboard athletics and I was less impressed. And the Yes parallels made me wonder what would happen if Emerson and Wakeman were locked in a room to duke it out.

    6) Mark said (of ELP)

    and no single one of their albums was like any of the others all through that time.

    …which prompted a thought stream: to me, the first three albums did sound the same, but the later ones differed. I wonder if being a fan, really liking, whatever, changes perspective. My wife (an artist and musician) hears The Doors or Tull and says they sound the same (I asked her), whereas to me, they don't. As you observed, Mark, you do not think the ELP albums sound the same…but I did. So, there's a psychological study: whether affinity attunes one to nuances that the casual observer either does not see(hear) or glossses over.

    And my last question (for this comment post) goes back to the observation above that my favorite ELP album was the first one that I listened to (studio, that is – I like "Welcome Back…" more, but it's live). I like almost all of Jethro Tull (not watching them, or listening to Ian Anderson…just the music) and the first album I owned was Songs From the Wood, which I think is still my favorite. There must be a correlation. Of course, that's not always the case – sometimes an artist/group matures and the music gets better; sometimes the listener matures and the tastes change so the first is no longer the favorite. But at least the small sample I thought about, it appeared to be the case.

    Do any of you have similar Pavlovian likes? Hear a song and

    a) jump back to the original album it was on (sometimes when a song is over on the radio, my mind takes me right into the next one)?

    b) remember a good association and that it is your favorite/preference?

    {Oh, also not a fan of Springsteen. Never saw the attraction.)

  14. Pavlovian responses…yes, of course. I'll mention one that is kind of perverse.

    Every time I hear a Journey track with Steve Perry, I automatically think of one of their first three albums—the ones without Perry—which I always considered their best work. Not their most popular, certainly, but certainly their best.

  15. Jim Razinha says:

    I don't listen to Styx anymore…outgrew it 30 years ago…but I think of the pre-Tommy Shaw Curulewski when I hear anything now, so I get what you're saying.

  16. When this stops being fun, I will stop. Have to follow up on the ELP analysis, though.

    The first three (four?) albums sound alike? Hmm.

    Their debut album has six tracks. The first is entirely instrumental, organ-driven. Aside some the effects of the fuzz bass, there are no synthesizers on it at all, and it derived largely from a piece of Bartok. Could have been done by The Nice, except Lee Jackson was never that good on bass. The second track—"Take A Pebble"—is entirely piano and vocal, almost Debussy-like in its aural palette. The third once again is a rocker—"Knife Edge"—and once again not a synthesizer in sight. (I stress this because before quitting The Nice, Emerson gave a few interviews in which he commented negatively on the "new" synthesizers, more or less avowing he would never waste his time on them as piano and organ had much that he had yet to explore. Just prior the end of The Nice, they did a few concerts and one of the—I believe it was Melody Maker—articles about it bore the headline "Emerson Meets Moog." It would be interesting to hear recordings of those concerts. But interesting historically given how that first album doesn't have a hint of synthesizer until halfway through side two and the tail end of the Carl Palmer piece "Tank".) "Tank" is the first time we hear Emerson on synthesizer at all, and it a fairly restrained performance. Then comes Greg Lake's "Lucky Man" which is basically a folk piece.

    The next album was "Tarkus" and here it opens with synths. It opens also with the first of their extended exegeses, the title "track", and it is a heavily synth-laden piece that was unlike anything heard in rock up to that point. Side two, however, goes back to the traditional-length compositions, almost all organ and piano, with very little synthesizer making much of an appearance—a lot of it seemingly ballad-based.

    I put a question mark on album three because the third album was, in order of release, the live "Pictures At An Exhibition" which is entirely an adaptation of the Mussourgsky. The Nice had been doing this as a concert piece and ELP did their spin on it right when they first started performing. The album had been intended as a Bonus Disk in "Tarkus" but at the last minute was pulled to be an independent album. But again, it is largely a classical adaptation, with a piece of Brubeck thrown in at one point. (I still much prefer this recording of "Picture…" to a much later studio version that, while more polished, seems to lack the fire of this one.)

    Which would bring us up to "Trilogy" as number three or four, depending how you count them. "Trilogy" is not a concept album like Tarkus, some of the tracks are longish, but nothing like "Tarkus" and the composition is far more lyrical, especially on the title track. Less rock'n'roll than anything else they had done, it is almost a romantic exposition, and one in which the mix of acoustic and electronic finally seems to be settling down. But we have six tracks (like the first album) unrelated except by a cohesion "sound" and bouncing all over the spectrum in a way the first one did entirely differently.

    By the time "Brain Salad Surgery" came out, there were myriad other bands that had jumped on the heavy synth bandwagon, but many of them seemed to using synths as "special effects" rather than as music instruments with their own voices. Gimmicks. (I do not include Rush in that indictment.) It did seem that, with the exception of Rick Wakeman, few others were composing for synths the way Emerson was. "Brain Salad Surgery" offered they next extended theme piece ("Karn Evil Nine") which, in my opinion, has yet to be bested for rock symphonic experiment. The only place he could really go after that was traditional classical composition, which he did on Works Vol. One.

    To my ear, ELP laid down a foundation that said to everyone else "here are the possibilities, now go do something with them." When you look at the sheet music and realize how studied Emerson's work was, it takes on a whole new dimension.

    Not to take anything away from Wakeman, whom I love, but by comparison he's just a really good piano player. Most of his work sounds progressively the same over time. He did his best work in YES.

    The only keyboard player I ever found who gave Emerson a real run for his money was Patrick Moraz, who picked up Emerson old band, the Nice, and renamed them Refugee, did one absolutely amazing album, and then Moraz joined YES for one album. If not for his prodigious solo output I would have thought he'd wasted years playing with The Moody Blues, who never could quite figure out what to do with such a gifted keyboardist.

  17. Oops. My bad. Did I say "Trilogy" has six tracks? Naughty. Seven, but one of them is broken down into three parts.

    Gettin' old, memory ain't what it was supposed to be.

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