Music News

Does the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Matter At All?

So, hey, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame went ahead and announced their Class of 2013, which this time around includes Rush, Public Enemy, Randy Newman and someone called the "Disco Queen," Donna Summer. Those who were nominated but didn't make the cut included Kraftwerk, Deep Purple, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, N.W.A., and Deep Purple. If you're like me, you're probably making this hand gesture and going back to reading actually relevant news.

But hold on. We all kind of agree the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is an elaborate joke on the gullible, fabricated by the same Christian fundamentalists from the '80s who said there were Satanic messages played backwards on Led Zeppelin albums, right? Right?

Well, if not, here are a few reasons why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is pretty much the lamest thing ever.

Almost Everyone Seems To Be Skipping It

In this lackluster Rolling Stone article rating recluses in the music industry, they give an automatic three Barrett points to any artist who skips their own induction into the Hall of Fame. So the question is, why are so many musicians skipping it? Could it be that it isn't actually important? Compare that to something like the Grammys, which is just as much an insider-based circle jerk, if not a bigger one. Not many folks are skipping that dive, and that says something.

The Sex Pistols wrote the best letter ever in response to their induction, calling the Hall of Fame a "piss stain" and rightly called out those inducted the band as still being nothing more than "industry people." I dunno about you, but I never want to be on the wrong side of the Sex Pistols.

It's Hardly True to Its Name

Not to say they aren't inspirational and important outfits, but calling artists like Etta James, The Supremes, Madonna, Public Enemy and The Jackson 5 rock 'n' roll is a stretch. If you added Buddy Holly to the Hip-Hop Hall of Swag (or whatever), there would certainly be some confusion, right?

So why not just call the museum the Music Hall of Fame or something equivalent? If you aren't going to stay true to what you call yourself, it makes one wonder what you're actually paying tribute to. It appears to be the Hall of "Whatever Old School Musician Pops Into Your Head."

And if you are going to include hip-hop, we're going to turn it over to our man Ben Westhoff in Los Angeles: "Public Enemy's cool, of course, but to say their impact was greater than N.W.A's is on some East Coast left-wing bias shit."

You Have To Be Old To Get In

There are only two rules to getting into the museum: first and Foremost, the vague notion of having "the influence and significance of the artist's contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll." Second, you have to be halfway to the grave. Yeah, you can't be inducted unless your first recording was released more than 25 years ago. 25 years? That's only five years away from violating the sacred "Never trust anyone over 30" rule.

So let's say Jack White (he's pretty rock n' roll, right?) wanted to join this league of useless congratulations. He'd have to wait until 2024, when he'll be just shy of 50. He has to have grandkids, all kinds of back problems, and budding signs of Alzheimer's and then he gets to get his award? Whether you like Jack or not, there's no doubt he's done something to the revival of rock in the past 15 years, yet the Hall expects us not to recognize this for another 12 years? What's the point?

This also means the museum is hardly definitive and entirely retrospective, which is a problem. Taking years to recognize The Yardbirds over Aretha Franklin (as beautiful and talented as she is, she's doesn't rock) is a serious error in judgment. This year's failure to recognize Kraftwerk, a band that has undeniably influenced hip-hop, pop, and EDM -- you know, the genres that are super-popular today -- in favor of Donna Summer, is idiotic. Then again, they'll likely just amend this next year, as they've always done, making the whole thing seem that much more arbitrary.

It's in Cleveland, Ohio.

Remember, this is Rock 'n' Fuckin' Roll. The coolest thing that probably ever happened so that our grandparents could get laid. Some of the cities considered for inclusion were Memphis, Detroit, Cincinnati, and New York City. They chose Cleveland. Los Angeles, San Francisco, New Orleans and Seattle were all given the finger, and they chose Cleveland.

Cleveland might have actually been a good choice because it isn't already inflated with self-importance like certain other cities, but then why did they keep holding the annual induction ceremony in New York City? Oh, maybe 'cuz Cleveland ponied up $65 million in public moola to get the Hall built there. Hope you Ohio taxpayers feel good about that mistake.

In all actuality, Cleveland isn't that bad of a town, but it seriously lacks the balls-to-the-wall oomph of a true rock n' roll city. The main excuse for this faux pas was that Cleveland DJ Alan Freed helped coin the term "rock n' roll." The Hall failed to mention his involvement in two counts of commercial bribery that ruined his career. Speaking of which... It's All About the Money

This may come as a shock to you, but the names that the Hall chooses has a lot to do with the amount of tickets they can sell to their dinners. In 2001, it even prompted Fox News to be all objective and do some actual reporting.

They found out the foundation director at the time, Suzan Evans, was paid $300,000 per year, owned a huge expense account, and claimed the Hall only exists to throw a huge party each year, doing nothing to help musicians in need. Did I mention the Hall is a nonprofit? It wouldn't seem like it after statements like this were circulating:

"It's a club, and she's their groupie. It's all about power and hanging around with rock stars. Record companies have been getting a bill every year from the foundation of $8,000 or $10,000 apiece. They're starting to question what it's for -- just for giving the dinner."

Ten years later, it doesn't seem like much has changed. This week, Business Insider reported: "In 2010, President and CEO Terry Stewart enjoyed total take-home of $476,504. The head of the Hall's foundation -- that's right, they possess a nonprofit within a nonprofit -- earned $409,737."

So let's review: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can't get the genre right, it can't get the city right, it can't get its own inductees to attend, it can't get young people involved, and its bottom line is its paycheck. Great. Tell me again why this bullshit matters more than Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards.

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Troy Farah is an independent journalist and documentary field producer. He has worked with VICE, Fusion, LA Weekly, Golf Digest, BNN, Tucson Weekly, and Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Troy Farah