I like to be positive here at BourbonAndVinyl, there are enough haters out there, but this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Class (for 2018) has once again got my gander up. Of course this could just be a by-product of my annual Holiday Funk, but I’ve got to get this off my chest… I’ve been to the Rock Hall in Cleveland, and it was a great birthday-gift-trip from the Rock Chick. I dug seeing it. But as the years unfurl, the industry folks who make up the judges (who cast secret ballots) continue to fuck up the nomination process. I’m beginning to agree with the Sex Pistols’ famous letter rejecting the invitation to attend the ceremony, that the HOF is “urine in wine.” One might say they royally fucked up in the first place by putting the thing in Cleveland (which I actually thought was a descent city, great Lebanese food, but I’m from KC, what do I know). The Rock Hall should be in Memphis. That’s where the King was from… but that point is mute at this juncture.
I looked at the induction class for 2018 and frankly, I’m stunned. I guess I should not have been surprised, these are the same judges who put Journey in the Hall last year. I mean, for fuck’s sake, Journey? I thought they were ok when I was in high school, because I didn’t know any better and the chicks always seemed to dig Steve Perry’s voice. Yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I did see them twice in concert back then, which is barely defensible, but I seem to recall a chick being involved in both those nights as well. It’s likely I was trying out my “smooth moves” on some poor woman (and failing), but I do recall also thinking Neal Schon was a descent guitar player… I mean, he’d played with Santana. Ah, my misguided youth. I’m not proud of any of that.
I’ll start off by saying, in terms of the 2018 class, I was glad to see Sister Rosetta Tharpe being inducted in the “early influence” category, whatever that is. I hear a lot of grousing about the inclusion of Nina Simone, since she was more of a jazz singer than a rock and roller, but she’s such a huge influence, I’m happy to see her on the list. She was a giant. And, I think I speak for all of us when I say, everybody loves the Cars. I’m glad the Cars are finally getting their due. It’s after those names that the whole thing goes to hell in a hand basket.
Dire Straits was an OK band. Knopfler can play the guitar. He wrote a few catchy tunes. But Hall of Fame worthy? I just don’t see it, or perhaps more appropriately, hear it. I saw Dire Straits in concert and I was impressed with Knopfler, but I never dreamed they’d be in the Hall of Fame. Even knowing what I know now, that Dire Straits are a band the Rock Chick secretly listens to as a “guilty pleasure,” can’t change my mind on this. They were a middle-of-the-road band who never conjured the sort of excitement or danger I would think you would need to reach the Rock Hall of Fame. They literally broke no new ground.
But then it gets worse.. The Moody Blues are being inducted? I mean, I don’t mind Art Rock or Prog Rock (I dig Rush and Yes) or whatever the hell the Moodys are supposed to be, but the key to those genres is the “rock” part of the description. There is nothing rock and roll about the Moody Blues. When I met my wife, while I was trying to expand her musical universe, I posited my music theory: Every band has 1 great song, even if you don’t like the rest of the catalog, there’s always one tune you can attach to. The one exception to that rule is the Moody Blues. Everything they did sucks. “Knights In White Satin” is a song so bad I almost wreck my car, lunging toward the car radio to change the station, whenever I’m unlucky enough to hear them. The horror, the horror.
The Moody Blues inclusion in the HOF was bad enough but the cherry on top of this shit sandwich is Bon Jovi. Bon-fucking-Jovi. I read somewhere, someone quoted as saying “Bon Jovi is music for people who don’t like music very much.” I’d have killed to come up with that line… it’s sooooo true. The geniuses behind Slippery When Wet are now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Does the HOF just want to start handing out participation trophies? These guys were such poseurs. They were supposed to be part of the whole 80s Heavy Metal/Hair Metal crowd, but this music isn’t metal… Maybe Metal Light. Bon Jovi are the Bud Light of Rock and Roll. “Urine in wine.”
It’s not like the Hall didn’t have some great choices on the ballot this year. Depeche Mode is one of the longest lasting, strong, influential, relevant bands in the world today. The Spirit album and tour this year were triumphant. What a great victory lap to have them inducted into the Hall this year, but no. Rage Against the Machine and Radiohead (who I don’t even like despite years of Arkansas Joel’s trying to get me to, but respect more than Bon Jovi) are seminal 90s bands. Rage has the strength and credibility of their political convictions and Tom Morello shreds on guitar. That rhythm section is something else… Radiohead are artier than anything the Moody Blues could come up with… they truly stretch the boundaries of rock and roll, but no. Judas Priest should be in the Hall of Fame, I’m with Eddie Trunk on this one. They’re one of the biggest bands to come out of the British Heavy Metal movement, and were a huge influence on almost every metal band that came after them but no… no, Bon Jovi gets in before them. The Hall told Judas Priest it took Black Sabbath 8 votes to make it. That’s fucking bullshit. I personally think the J Geils Band should be in the Hall. Forget about “Freeze Frame,” they were one of the 70s greatest blues, boogie bands around. But, no. Sigh.
It’s not even a problem with just this year’s ballot. There are so many acts that aren’t even on the ballot. They aren’t even being considered for inclusion/induction. These are bands/acts that are far better than Journey and Bon Jovi and have never, to my knowledge, been on the ballot:
- Soundgarden – UFB, that Bon Jovi is in before these guys. How poignant to have seen these guys put in after the devastating loss of Chris Cornell.
- Dio – Ronnie James Dio was the lead singer in Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own band, yet no love from the Hall.
- Warren Zevon – Simply one of the greatest songwriters of all time. I’m with David Letterman, I can’t wait to see him come back and induct Warren. “Carmelita” is a song that should automatically qualify Zevon for the Hall.
- Ozzy/Robert Plant/Joe Walsh – These lead singers and guitarist are inducted as members of their respective bands, but have amassed an amazing body of solo work which has yet to be recognized by the Hall. I mean, each Beatle save Ringo is in the hall…. where are these great artists?
- Motley Crue – These guys would have been such a better choice than Bon Jovi to represent that 80s hard rock/heavy metal sound. Their first 5 albums are a great resume to run on.
- Bad Company/Free – Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke climbed from the ruins of Free’s demise and formed one of the biggest rock bands of the 70s, Bad Company. I think these guys deserve a hyphen nomination like the Small Faces/Faces got a few years ago.
- The Doobie Brothers – These guys were as big as the Eagles at one time… And while not all their music has aged as well as some, they still deserve consideration.
- Lucinda Williams – Brilliant voice, brilliant songwriter and a spectacular performer.
- The Smashing Pumpkins – Another seminal 90s band that has been tragically ignored.
- The Scorpions – Germany’s greatest export since the Volkswagen.
I could go on and on and on and on… But these are the bands that spring to mind. I’m sure I’ve forgotten or overlooked many artists here. How do we fix this? They have a fan poll they run every year but I don’t think it factors into the actual judge’s voting so that won’t help. The problem with the Hall’s nomination system is that the voting is done in secret by a small group (one might call them an Evil Cabal) led by Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone magazine and Jon Landau (Springsteen’s erstwhile manager… I tend to agree with Little Steven’s dim view of this guy), and a few other industry types. There have been charges over the years that these guys nominate artists who have ties to their record companies. I think the committee to nominate should be expanded and should include artists – maybe the inductees, the living ones – and these judges should be forced to defend the logic they used in a public ballot… I’d love to hear Jann Wenner tell me why the fuck he voted for Bon Jovi. “Well, I saw Jon at the club and he asked me to help him out….” This whole things smells corrupt to me.
I’d like to thank everybody for allowing me this angry screed/rant. With all the relatives around, I had to barricade myself in my room, turn up the 1977 Springsteen bootleg from Rochester and pretend no one was here… Happy Holidays to all of you and please, Keep Rocking in the New Year… and remember the sage words of the Sex Pistols… “were not your monkey,” and don’t be anybody’s monkey.