Here is a little trivia game I have devised. It starts with a series of trick questions that you probably already know the answers to (as well as where I am going with this line of questioning).
Question #1: What do these six recording artists/bands have in common:
The Bee Gees
The Jackson Five
Answer: They have all been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Question #2: What do these six recording artists/bands have in common:
The Moody Blues
Answer: They have not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Question #3: Which set of six artists/bands would you consider as great (or even good) rock bands/artists:
Set #1 -- ABBA, The Bee Gees, Grandmaster Flash, The Jackson Five, Madonna, Run-DMC
Set #2 -- Alice Cooper, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, The Moody Blues, Rush, Yes
If you chose set #1 as a list of great rock artists, congratulations! you are qualified to be one of the muddled revisionists who vote for inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located in Cleveland, Ohio (the nonexistent and wholly mythical capital of rock-and-roll). As a parting gift for playing our trivia game, here is your Rock-and-Roll gift bag, which contains a DVD of the movie Mamma Mia, a CD of the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, an alarm clock autographed by Flavor Flav, a patch of Madonna's pubic hair and Michael Jackson's spare nose.
I don't get it. I just don't get it. As an avid fan of rock-and-roll for more years than I wish to recount, I was always sure what music was considered rock-and-roll, and what was not. Certainly, rock-and-roll is an amalgam of different musical genres, such as blues, country, folk, R&B, jazz and even classical, but I always knew what artist fit where. For instance: Willie Dixon was a legendary blues man and Led Zeppelin were not, they were a rock band that played some Willie Dixon blues tunes; Mussorgsky was a classical composer and Emerson, Lake & Palmer were not, they were a rock band who covered Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition; Al Green is a great soul singer and The Talking Heads were a rock band who covered Green's Take Me to the River. But in these days of stilted political correctness, rampant revisionism and wholesale homogenization, everything is now rock-and-roll, and what I once thought was rock-and-roll is no longer even considered in the same musical equation.
Please allow me to elucidate.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a sham. Was that statement too equivocal? Did I stutter? Do I need to be clearer? All right then, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a canard, a fabrication, and those who control the nomination process have an obvious agenda. It is a publicist's idea of a good marketing scam. It is a manipulative ploy by elements of the recording industry to validate and sell certain types of music. It neither perpetuates good music and good musicianship, nor the elements of rebelliousness that once were what rock-and-roll was all about. It is a selection process that sells table space at $25,000 a shot. Put simply, it is a joke.
My primary irritation with the selection process for this Rock-and-Faux Hall of Lame is that there are many artists inducted who simply have nothing to do with rock-and-roll, or at best have a vestigial association with the genre, whereas a sizable segment of what any musician or casual listener would consider actual 'rock music' is utterly and completely ignored. First, I must say it makes perfect sense that there is an inductee section for 'Early Influences', a category reserved for performers who shaped rock-and-roll, but who were not what would be considered rock 'n' rollers. That way, we can honor influential artists such as hall-of-fame inductees Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf, Pete Seeger, Les Paul, Woody Guthrie, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, etc., and recognize their extraordinary musical achievements. And although they deserve inclusion into such an august body, they are, nonetheless, separate from rock, particularly considering many of the folk in the 'Early Influences' category would have either never heard of the term 'rock' in their lifetimes, or would not have considered themselves, even remotely, as 'rock stars'. The problem then arises when the Hall inducts non-rock-and-roll artists into the 'Performer' category, and by inclusion indicates that the music these artists perform is rock-and-roll.
This none-too-subtle machination by the Hall of Fame is a smarmy but mendacious bit of all-inclusiveness that has nothing to do with what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website alludes to as their principal voting agenda: "Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll." If that is the case, what influence has a pop band like ABBA had on rock and roll, except to instill other bland facsimiles with tepid pop tunes like The Ace of Base? It was ironically appropriate that Barry and Robin Gibb of The Bee Gees presented ABBA's induction into the Hall, because they have no business being in the Hall either. Face it, without disco music, The Bee Gees were a washed up and irrelevant 60's band. Their popularity had nothing to do with rock-and-roll, but with John Travolta pertly prancing in a polyester suit under the diffuse light of a mirrored disco ball.
Additionally, Motown acts such as The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops and Smokey Robinson, The Jackson Five and Gladys Knight and the Pips, although stellar artists of the soul and R&B genres, just aren't rock-and-roll by any stretch of the imagination; yet there they are -- all Hall of Fame inductees. And don't get me started on Rap music. Rap and its illegitimate progeny 'house music' and 'hip-hop' were never and are not rock music. This genre of 'music' (and I use the term in the broadest possible sense), did not rise, historically speaking, from the rock form, nor does it maintain a sense of rock music on a consistent basis. It may have occasionally grafted elements of rock into its recording process (hip-hop artists will sequence any bit of music into their songs, rather than composing their own), and bands like Run/DMC, Eminem and Kid Rock have incorporated both rock and rap into their performances; however, if one were to have a sentient dialogue regarding music, rock and rap would certainly be separate topics of discussion.
If one were to take the argument to its most illogical and over-the-top conclusion, then according to how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chooses its inductees, Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Wagner, Mozart, Liszt, Grieg and other classical composers should all be inducted as 'Early Influences', because countless rock bands (including Hall of Fame inductees Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Genesis, The Velvet Underground, Stevie Wonder, Queen, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and U2) owe just as much to Johann Sebastian, Wolfgang and Ludwig as they do to T-bone, Sonny Boy and Muddy. Then, they should select Paderewski, Van Cliburn, Itzhak Perlman and Segovia as rock performers. You might as well throw in Irving Berlin, John Phillip Sousa, Stephen Foster, Liberace, Robert Burns, and Henry VIII (a noted composer during his reign). Am I being ridiculous? Actually, not really. How can R&B, soul and rap acts warrant inclusion in this alleged 'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame', but classical musicians are not? Or country musicians, for that matter? They've already inducted Johnny Cash and Chet Atkins. I suggest they induct Kenny Rogers immediately! Like the Bee Gees, he had failed in rock circles after his band, The First Edition, folded. But he had a few psychedelic hits in the 60's -- such as Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) -- and like the Brothers Gibb he made it big in another music genre. Doesn't 'The Gambler' deserve to be included too? No, he doesn't. I was speaking rhetorically.
Which brings me to the six rock bands I referred to in my snarky trivia game at the beginning of this prolix diatribe. There is no getting around it, the supposed 'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame' hates hard rock music of the 1970's in general, and progressive rock in particular. Except for a few notable super groups and artists like Zeppelin, Floyd, Bowie, Elton John, Black Sabbath, Queen and, most recently, Genesis, the Hall seemed to skip right over the 70's, going from psychedelia and protest songs to punk and power pop. What is it about superlative musical ability, meticulously crafted compositions, witty or enlightening lyrics and enormously entertaining concerts that this purported 'Hall of Fame' despises? It's not that these bands lacked a significant following; on the contrary, except for one notable exception (King Crimson, which I will expand and expound upon shortly) these bands had consecutive albums in the top ten, their concerts were among the highest grossers, and their music continues to be played daily across the world -- in some cases, more than 40 years after their songs' initial release. You can't point to lack of album sales for the Hall's intentional snobbery and snubbery:
Alice Cooper -- Over 50 million albums sold worldwide
Jethro Tull -- Over 60 million albums sold worldwide
The Moody Blues -- Over 50 million albums sold worldwide
Rush -- Over 40 million albums sold worldwide
Yes -- Over 30 million albums sold worldwide
Nor can you deny their influence and continuing mass appeal. Here is a resume of each band, offered for review to the five-hundred alleged 'rock experts' who vote for the Hall of Fame -- and, more importantly, the 'Star Chamber' committee that sits in judgment of the selection process -- in hopes they will see the fundamental errors in judgement they have collectively heaped upon the tarnished institution for which they continue to bungle, botch and bollix-up. Not that I expect any epiphanic reconsideration from such an inept group of cynical product-pushers. But one can hope, even when such hope amounts to pigs having wings and monkeys flying out of one's buttocks.
Would there be a Marilyn Manson or MTV videos without the pioneering theatrical work of Alice Cooper? In fact, isn't Marilyn Manson just a tarted-up version of Alice for a new generation? And then there are the other bands who name Alice as an important influence: KISS, Twisted Sister, Rob Zombie, Megadeth, The Flaming Lips and the Sex Pistols (John 'Johnny Rotten' Lydon named the Cooper release Killer as the greatest album of all time). With such legendary songs of teenage rebellion and angst as I'm Eighteen and School's Out, and platinum platters of hard rock like Love It to Death, Killer, Billion Dollar Babies and Welcome to My Nightmare, it makes little sense from a rock perspective that Alice is left at home holding his boa.
No, King Crimson was never an album-selling behemoth. They never had an album make it to the top ten, let alone the top twenty, in the U.S. (although Court of the Crimson King made it to #3 in the UK). But King Crimson is as influential as any other band in the Hall of Fame, and particularly those bands who made it on 'influence' alone (Iggy and the Stooges never made it into the top 100, and The Velvet Underground never had an album that placed south of 171). That being said, the effect of King Crimson's innovations -- early contributors or progenitors of progressive rock, jazz/rock fusion, heavy metal, new wave, electronica, acid rock, psychedelia and minimalism -- cannot be overstated. Bands that have cited King Crimson as an influence include Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Mudvayne, Nirvana, Porcupine Tree, Primus, Rush, Tool and Voivoid. In addition, former band members Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), John Wetton (Asia and UK) and Boz Burrell (Bad Company) carried along certain aspects of King Crimson's sound to their next bands.
Jethro Tull is the only band to have two concept albums hit #1 in the U.S. without any single for radio airplay; as a matter of fact, Thick as a Brick and Passion Play had no discernible separate songs at all, just continuous music on both sides of the records. How's that for free-spirited rebelliousness? Despised by critics (including Jann Wenner and Dave Marsh, who are on the diabolical nominee selection committee) but loved by fans, Tull's eccentric mix of progressive and hard rock, classical music, electronica, jazz, folk and world music, has endeared them to a wide variety of listeners, so much so that they have 14 albums with gold or platinum status (placing them in the top 100 best-selling artists of all time). Songs like Aqualung, Locomotive Breath, Bungle in the Jungle and Living in the Past have been fixtures on rock stations for the last four decades. Oh yes, and they stole a Grammy from Metallica for their album Crest of a Knave. The look of shock on the members of Metallica's faces is alone worth induction into the Hall of Fame.
THE MOODY BLUES
The Moody Blues had albums that reached the top ten in sales in the U.S. in three different decades: Days of Future Passed (1967), A Question of Balance (1970), Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971), Seventh Sojourn (1972), Long Distance Voyager (1981) and The Other Side of Life (1986). The album Days of Future Passed was the first pop recording to completely integrate a symphony orchestra within a rock format, a conceptual day in the life of everyman, and the results were stunning. The song Nights in White Satin was rereleased in 1972 and became a #1 hit five years after it originally appeared on Days of Future Passed. Their follow-up album In Search of the Lost Chord is one of the best examples of psychedelia ever recorded, with landmark songs like Ride My See-Saw, Legend of a Mind (to Timothy Leary) and Visions of Paradise.
What can one say about a band that continues to sell-out arenas and stadiums over 40 years after they formed in 1968? A band with the best drum solo (Working Man) in rock history (sorry Mr. Moon and Mr. Bonham, you got owned)? Did you know Rush has more consecutive gold and platinum albums than any band in history except The Beatles and the Stones? Were you aware Rush has had gold and platinum albums in the 70's, 80's and 90's? Well, if record sales and sold-out concerts are not criteria for induction, why are Madonna and ABBA in the Hall? If stellar rock albums like Fly By Night, 2112, Hemispheres, Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures (each a platinum album, mind you) do not warrant inclusion, what exactly does?
Eclectic, innovative and musically superb, the band Yes is as apt to go off on extended space jazz riffing as they are to emulate classical composers such as Bach, Grieg and Stravinsky. Superlative recordings like The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge defined the progressive rock movement in the early 70's and are essential albums in any rock collection. Reformed and retooled in the 1980's, Yes returned to platinum status with the albums 90125 and Big Generator. Much of the work of Yes, particularly the period between 1971-77, makes most other rock bands sound like teenagers practicing basic three chord progressions in their parent's garage. Either that, or it was the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for The Ramones or Blondie.
In conclusion, I have another musical trivia game for you.
Question #4: What do these bands/artists have in common?
Blue Oyster Cult
The Doobie Brothers
Electric Light Orchestra
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
J. Geils Band
Peter Gabriel (solo career)
The Guess Who
Ian Hunter (solo career)
John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers
Mott the Hoople
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Answer: They are not The Four Seasons, LaVern Baker, Martha and the Vandellas, Dusty Springfield, Solomon Burke, and Earth, Wind & Fire, none of whom have anything whatsoever to do with rock-and-roll, but who have all been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and are thus deemed more important to rock-and-roll than all the rock bands and artists I have listed.
P.S. Send your hate letters to Jann Wenner, Publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the select few in an evil little cabal who control the nomination process, and thus omit bands and entire music genres (like progressive rock) that they do not care for personally.
P.P.S. On a positive note, The Sex Pistols refused to attend their induction ceremony in 2006. In a hastily scrawled, hand-written letter, they stated the Hall of Fame "is a piss stain", calling the museum itself "urine in wine". Here is the letter:
Rock 'n' Roll is alive and well, but not at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
P.P.P.S: 11/9/12 Well, it has been over two years since I wrote this first rancorous article regarding the dubious RRHOF, and since then only Alice Cooper has been inducted from the group of worthy performers I offered. I've done a few follow-up articles, the most recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Endorses R&B Hall: Half of the Inductees Leave! spells out the hypocrisy of the RRHOF, and settles any debate from muddled revisionists who argued that R&B music has somehow transmogrified into rock music. It is a different genre and has a separate Hall of Fame to recognize extraordinary performers playing and singing that form of music. But it aint rock and roll!