The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Is a Scam

It's like the Louvre, but horrible.
It's like the Louvre, but horrible.

It never fails. I write something, someone doesn’t like it, and they feel the need to seek me out and tell me about it. It’s never really surprising, even if I don’t understand it. I can barely muster the energy to tell people I know personally how much I disagree with them. When I do, I almost always regret it. My recent Green Day screed touched a nerve, as my screeds tend to do. One of the most bizarre and common objections to my dislike of Green Day is that Green Day are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Let me explain it as if you’re 5: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a scam. It’s not Cooperstown with guitars. The expert committee that “inducts” people is thinking about how to get tourist dollars into Cleveland, not how to preserve a legacy of one of America’s finest homegrown art forms. Don’t believe me? Ask Gene Simmons. If you think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is any measure of how good a band is, you seriously don’t know shit about anything.

Or just look at the extensive list of people not in the alleged “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” Listen, I’m not holding my breath for The Dictators, Discharge, or even The Smiths to make it in. But to not have Todd Rundgren, Link Wray, and Roxy Music is a pretty damning indictment of the place. The first is one of the finest producers to ever produce, the second invented the power chord, and the third is more or less responsible for everything interesting that happened in rock 'n' roll after their inception.

Then there’s the list of who’s actually in there. For the first several years, the Hall saw fit to induct mostly non-controversial figures who, by all rights, belong in anything called “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” There were even some more adventurous choices, like Rick Nelson, Dion, and Bobby Darin. It took them until 1994, eight years after the first inductions, to put Duane Eddy in.

Even by that point, there’s a bit of barrel-scraping going on. Don’t get me wrong, I love my copy of Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road, but is Elton John really “rock 'n' roll?” The induction of Rod Stewart sans Faces is a profound testament to Baby Boomer mediocrity. This is the generation that convinced itself that it invented drugs and fucking but couldn’t muster up the cojones to induct Rod Stewart for the only interesting thing he’s ever done in his life.

For those of you unconvinced: The Eagles were inducted in 1998. If you don’t understand why that’s a problem, you’re beyond help.

And on and on and on with the Billy Joels and the James Taylors and the ABBAs. Meanwhile, Gene Pitney had to wait until 2002 to get in.

The actual building itself was fun when I went there when I was 16. I got to see “Handsome” Dick Manitoba’s wrestling jacket and some sneakers once worn into the ground by The Ramones. The idea is kind of cool, I guess, but if there’s any surer sign that rock 'n' roll is dead (or at least that it might as well be), it’s that it has a “Hall of Fame.”

So by all means, go visit, pump money into the Cleveland economy and rejoice when they finally decide to recognize your favorite band. Just don’t act as if getting in there is some kind of achievement. It might be a step above getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but just one step.


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