Cornerstone: The Hall of Shame

Nicholas Howe

Joshua Whitney

Joshua Whitney, Challenge Editor in Chief

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So the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame has recently released its list of nominees, and the big news is that KISS and Deep Purple are finally showing up and that Nirvana is there at the first opportunity.

Here is the complete list: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, KISS, LL Cool J, The Meters, Nirvana, N.W.A., The Replacements, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, Link Wray, Yes and The Zombies.

Once upon a time, I actually cared about who did and did not get inducted; it even inspired the return of my column when I was a reporter at Nebraska City (see The Return of Cornerstone).

But it doesn’t really matter any more.  Maybe it never did.

The Hall jumped the shark back in 2007 when they inducted Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.  Those guys may or may not deserve props for what they did; I have no idea and it doesn’t matter because the music they made was rap, not rock n’ roll.

Inducting Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame makes as much sense as inducting Michael Jordan into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The defense at the time was that Grandmaster Flash performed in the spirit of rock n’ roll.

This meant that, in the spirit of being inclusive, rock n’ roll could mean anything.

But if a name or a title can mean anything, it means nothing.  Not all things are up for interpretation.

While there had been questionable nominees before (ahem, Brenda Lee), we can take a look at where this faulty, inclusive understanding of rock n’ roll gets us – to a list with two rap nominees, N.W.A. and LL Cool J, and two hyper-lame acts, Hall and Oates and Cat Stevens.

Any one of the cockroaches that crawls out from under Keith Richards’s bed has more rock n’ roll spirit than any of those four.

So while the Hall has watered down what rock n’ roll means, KISS has been intentionally left out for more than a decade because Jann Wenner or some other industry clown didn’t like them.

Liking them or not shouldn’t make any difference; they fulfilled the requirements, and that is all that should matter.

While KISS’s music is basically a tasteless combination of Alice Cooper and the Beatles, one can’t deny the band’s impact.

KISS may not have been the first ones to make concerts theatrical (that trail goes back through Alice Cooper to the Doors and Screaming Jay Hawkins), but they are largely responsible for inspiring much of the over-the-top production at concerts of all genres, even country.  (Let’s face it, most country concerts today, musically and visually, owe a greater debt to KISS than they do Hank Williams.)

And the other sinful exclusion the Hall is trying to fix this year?  Deep Purple.

Deep Purple, the same band that gave us “Smoke on the Water,” “Hush” and “Highway Star,” have been eligible for twenty years, but, like KISS, has been ignored.  That’s truly horrible.

Some would say Yes’s omission was pretty sinful, too, but quite frankly, the only thing a Yes song has ever inspired me to do was change the radio station.

So why should we have any respect for an institution that claims to protect the legacy of the vital musical force that is rock n’ roll but undermines it with its choice of inductees?

The answer is that we shouldn’t.

Ultimately, we make our own individual halls of fame with our own music collections, and we preserve the legacy of that music by sharing it with others.

We shouldn’t let a bunch of people we’ve never met determine what is and isn’t good enough to be remembered; that’s our job.

 

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