Rock and Roll Hall Class of 2016: Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before

21 Dec

I don’t understand the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and with every year it makes less and less sense.

At least the baseball Hall of Fame has standards. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has ambiguity. What is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s equivalent of 500 home runs or 300 wins?  Is it hits or depth of material? Is it Top 40 songs and albums sold or the opinions of critics, popularity or creativity, times performing in Cleveland or favorable reviews in Rolling Stone?

I don’t undertand the Rock and Roll Hall any more than I do every song of the Art Ensemble of Chicago (a friend once offered to digitize my vinyl collection and barely got done with the A’s before he re-emerged, looking haggard, saying he thought he would never get through all the Art Ensemble albums. I told him you had to persevere through the cacophony of songs to get to the good stuff.)

The Hall inducted five groups last week, including rappers NWA. The others were:

  • Deep Purple, which is credited for being a forerunner to heavy metal. From where I listen, that should count against them, not for them.
  • Chicago, which named its albums the way Sylvester Stallone does his movies. We can be grateful Chicago has been more active, even if partly because it got an earlier start. But among recent  work, Stallone is getting better reviews.
  • Steve Miller, who did some fine music that was little listened to before he did some simpe stuff that everyone had to hear, if only to change the station. Miller churned out hits as if they were trashy paperback novels. It’s fitting that Take the Money and Run was so big, since Miller did exactly that. “He makes music that teenage boys can get 70 percent excited about,” wrote Dave Holmes on esquire.com. 
  • Cheap Trick, which peaked in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. “Can you honestly tell me that you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander or the charisma of Rick Nielsen?” implores Mike Damone, futiley trying to scalp Cheap Trick concert tickets. “That’s kid stuff,” says the bored female high school student, unimpressed by the magnetism of Zander, the charisma of Nielsen or the pleading of Damone. No sale, even if it’s Hall of Fame kids stuff.

That’s your Hall of Fame class for 2016. No Yes. No females. No Smiths. No rationale.

It’s not all bad.  Chicago’s second album was my first favorite album, even if with a teenager’s world view. Steve Miller’s Abracadabra has been nominated as the world’s worst song, but I like it in a guilty pleasure sort of way.

But this is the class for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, not the playlist for an oldies station. Bypassing the Smiths for Cheap Trick is exactly that. Cheap Trick was the punch line in a movie 33 years ago. When did they get noticeably better?

Music is subjective, and this opinion may be no more valid than the next. But the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should strive beyond the lowest common denominator. Maybe it’s not an affront that Cheap Trick is in and the Smiths are out, but that they were on the same ballot at all.

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    4 Responses to “Rock and Roll Hall Class of 2016: Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”

    1. LondonJazzCollector December 21, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      Steve Miller’s Abacadabra is the greatest “pop-hook” tune written, irresistible, I loved it at the time and still do… burnin’ desyyyyre… The other inductees tunes are totally forgettable.

      Rock ‘n’ Roll is a state of mind I have outgrown, but I recognise many many people never outgrow the umbilical connection to their youth. Its was the best time for them, and I won’t lessen them for it, but I won’t join them either.

      A Hall of Fame is an institutional format, keeps music journalists getting paid, who’s to blame them either, it meets a need for nostalgia. Every time I read So and So band are reforming to do a last tour, I think: may be their royalty-cheques are not enough. Its always a good check to see which of the band are actually still with us.

      Deep Purple? Never the same since Ritchie Blackmore went “Hey nonny-no” Fairie nonsense. That is a deep loss. But if he’s happy, his choice.

      Thanks for the memories.

      • David Markowitz December 22, 2015 at 10:13 am #

        Glad to know you agree on Abracadabra (i think i misspelled it on first reference). Spent many an hour, over a pint or two, defending it in worst song arguments — Elton John’s Sad Songs was my nominee.

        Agreed on the Hall, and would only add that I would guess there’s a good reason it’s in Cleveland. It gives people a reason to visit.

    2. Larry December 21, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

      Cheap Trick? Didn’t they do Cheap Sunglasses? Nope. That was ZZTop. 😦

      Ah, the summer of 78!

      Am ok with Chicago in the Hall. Chicago visits Cleveland? An American League Central Division undercard?

      At least their songs can occasionally be sung at a karaoke bar.

      • David Markowitz December 22, 2015 at 10:21 am #

        Chicago-Cleveland in the AL Central is decidedly not a Hall of Fame series. More like Hall of Lame.

        I don’t mind Chicago being in so much as Cheap Trick being in and The Smiths not. I loved Chicago II, but that was 45 years ago. I’ll take your word on the karaoke bars; they haven’t lowered their standards so much as to let me sing in them.

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