THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF SHAM

“Kiss is not a great band, Kiss was never a great band, Kiss never will be a great band, and I have done my share to keep them off the ballot.” Dave Marsh; Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame historian and pompous ass.

Another year, another induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Another opportunity to deride KISS by refusing to even nominate them for this fraternity of Rock and Roll elitism. Yet again the most popular and influential band not already in the hall has been passed over for reasons that actually reinforce the validity of their claim to join the status of the so called “rock elite.”

One of the most common ways to criticize the omissions for nomination to the Hall of Fame is to call into question many of the lesser candidates who have already been nominated and inducted to the Hall. Certainly the “fame” and “influence” of many of the bands is questionable. I submit, for example, The Pretenders. An appropriately named band, but a great one? If you were reading any of the rock press during the band’s heyday, (particularly the Rolling Stone Magazine cabal that controls entry into the Rock Hall) they were a band that could more accurately be described as a “critics darling.” How much influence have the Pretenders had? Maybe a few women will claim Chrissy Hynde was influential in making them want to get into a rock band but not much otherwise. Certainly they did not get in the Rock Hall because of overwhelming record sales or a voluminous list of hit songs. They had neither. Where is the Electric Light Orchestra? The Moody Blues? Is the Pretenders claim to fame and influence greater than theirs? I think not. The Pretenders are just good buddies with the right people.

Then there is the case of The Velvet Underground. How many of you have truly ever heard one of their songs? Have you even heard of the Velvet Underground at all? I have tried really hard to like them myself. I bought all their CD’s. I suppose I can appreciate some of what they were trying to do, especially in their time, but famous? Most people still don’t even know who Lou Reed is, and he is their most famous member. So much for fame. But how about influence? Even though they didn’t sell many records, it has been said that everyone who did buy their records started a band. This may very well be true, but look who all those bands were. The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Television, Talking Heads etc. The whole New York avant-guard scene of the 60’s that evolved into the punk and new wave scene of the CBGB’s 70’s. “Critics darlings” all. A few of them had a couple of hits, particularly the Talking Heads, but all of them will be in the Rock Hall before long. Why? Because with the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame its all about who you know. They know the right people. Sorry Jethro Tull, you didn’t hang out with the guys at Rolling Stone Magazine so you’ll have to wait outside. But hey, you can keep the Doobie Brothers, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and Chicago company. They can’t come in either.

This wouldn’t bother me so much except that they aren’t even consistent with their own arbitrary rules of disenfranchisement. Why is Blondie in there? Sure, compared to the Pretenders, the Velvets and all their descendants, Blondie actually had hits. Lots of them even. And if Chrissy Hynde influenced a few women, Debbie Harry influenced way more. But Blondie certainly violates all the rules of “taste” that the Rock Hall, and their Rolling Stone Magazine benefactors, look upon with such disdain. If KISS was considered somewhat tasteless with their disco tryst in 1979 with the “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” single, where does that leave Blondie? They never found a passing trend they wouldn’t jump on and ride. Be it pop, disco or even a pathetic (ie. mighty white of em’ version) attempt at rap. Does anyone remember “Rapture?” But they were all successes with the record buying public.

But hey, I’m not bitter. I don’t particularly begrudge anyone’s induction into this unnecessary institution. However it is somewhat useful to determine just what Rock and Roll music has been over the years. Taken in its rightful and proper context, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame appears to be more of an indictment than a tribute. Since when has Rock and Roll and its true practitioners ever sought out acceptance by any so called “establishment?” Historically Rock and Roll has been associated with rebelling against such notions. Each successive generation has created its own musical heroes while discarding those of its predecessors. Rock music has always sought to  create a new path, at least in terms of its consistent pursuit of new performers. The so called “next big thing.” The very concept of a Hall of Fame actually flies in the face of all that rock music has ever stood for. Remember “hope I die before I get old?”

Hall of Fames are ALWAYS associated with something that no one thinks about with rock and roll…retirement. In most other endeavors that celebrate the careers of their practitioners with a hall of fame, you have to have completed your professional career before you can be considered for induction. Now it certainly can be argued that, from a realistic and practical perspective, everyone inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is “done” as far as the validity of their careers are concerned. Hardly anyone pays attention to any new records released by “geezer” bands, even if they can still sell out an arena, regardless of the quality of their new material. Why is that? Because rock and roll is not associated with being old! People tend to stop seeking new bands and buying new records when they start their working lives and/or get married. But everyone always continues to listen to the music they grew up with. They will always buy new reissues of the music of their youth, even as they lose interest in keeping up with the new acts coming along. Why? Because it makes them feel young! Rock and roll is always about youth.

So where does that leave a band like KISS or other highly influential rockers like Alice Cooper? Strangely enough, it proves that as rock artists go, they were among the very few who really got it right. They still aren’t accepted by the “rock establishment.” Denying their induction into the Rock and Roll Retirement Home actually validates their careers. They are the “supreme” rock artists.

Which brings me back to this statement from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s gatekeeper Dave Marsh:

“Kiss is not a great band, Kiss was never a great band, Kiss never will be a great band, and I have done my share to keep them off the ballot.”

Though he thinks he is deriding KISS, his statement amounts to more of a coronation. Rock and roll is not about good taste. Rock and roll is about what tastes good! That KISS is still viewed by the likes of Dave Marsh as being in bad taste all these many years later, and in spite of the successive layers of tastelessness since applied, only makes the taste of their brand of rock and roll that much sweeter. It’s populism’s inevitable triumph over elitism, and Rock and Roll is nothing if not a populist movement. The KISS Army has won. KISS is still a thorn in the side of the “rock establishment” and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ll give the last words to the architect of some of the greatest rock and roll ever made:

“The beauty of America is that you can basically start any kind of private club you want to. This one happens to be called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s a very impressive name for a club but it’s an illusion. It’s the creation of a group of industry people and critics who decide who they deem as qualified to be in their little admiration society. It’s their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but it’s not the people’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Have you ever voted? I know I haven’t. That’s why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, besides having people who very much belong in there, have an abundance of people who most people will scratch their head and not even have a clue who they are. I don’t have anything against anybody who’s been inducted, but more than a couple of them are a joke. A band or musician’s impact is measured by how they change and influence society and other musicians. That and how many albums and concert tickets they sell should be what gets them into the Hall of Fame. As far as I’m concerned it’s a private club with a misleading name. It’s a sham.” Paul Stanley;KISS

Well said Starchild.

Monday, March 12, 2007

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