Consider it a sign of the times, perhaps: In the list of seven artists that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s select industry voters elected into the institution for the Class of 2022, there’s no not a single rock band. This can be seen as a major sign that the pendulum within the musical intelligentsia has really swung since what was coined a few years ago as ‘rockism’ – the belief that rock ‘n’ roll is inherently superior. to other forms of popular music — on the other side of the scale: optimism.
The MC5? No, again, this year, although it is the group sixth nomination, the first having returned in 2003. Rage Against the Machine? Failed the group’s fifth time in the ballot in just six years. New York dolls? Strikeout for third time officially at bat; the group’s first nomination came back in 2001. Devo, too, is now a three-time loser, as of this year’s vote.
In their very first appearance on the ballot? Lionel Richie and Carly Simon, to whom (and this is not a value judgment on them) never a head has been knocked.
That’s not to say there won’t be rockers earning their gold medal at the induction ceremony in Los Angeles on Nov. 5. Judas Priest will enter Rock Hall that night, but not because the band was voted in by the venue’s more than 1,000 industry members. voters. They enter through the side door; when Hall proctors saw that Maiden had apparently failed to pass, they decided to go around the voters and install them through a ‘musical excellence’ category, the same thing they did when LL Cool J failed to win last year Some may see this as underhanded, but it’s easier to dismiss it as smart thinking. Metal fans have long felt that the genre, or subgenre, is prone to bias among Hall voters, with only Metallica, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple having ever come under this umbrella. Getting Priest in by any means necessary fends off the chances of any official or unofficial boycott of the Cleveland Museum by frustrated metalheads.
And there’s one figure primarily associated with rock as a form of music that was rightly voted this year, Pat Benatar – a welcome sight for those who have long argued that pioneering women in rock should be given their due individually and collectively. . But to find the last and only time an actual rock band wasn’t ushered in by the duly appointed general electorate of the Hall, you’d have to go back to 1999…a year that wasn’t exactly underserved by rock, like Bruce Springsteen did. year (without the E Street Band) and Paul McCartney too (after coming in with the Beatles, of course). You could make an argument that Duran Duran and Eurythmics technically matter, but are they really the ancestors of today’s rock-or-not? bands like Maroon 5, Imagine Dragons or OneRepublic, more than anything will ring the bell for those who want the Hall to at least partially acknowledge a classic rock tradition.
So the fact that the Hall hasn’t put any bands out the door this year – having opted for the Go-Go’s and the Foo Fighters last year, in addition to favoring classic rock with Todd Rundgren, or voting in T. Rex, Nine Inch Nails and the Doobies the year before, etc. – raises a host of questions. Is all the loyalty music fans used to feel for rock as a world-changing group sport outdated? And aren’t it just the times that have changed, but also the voting membership, with the Hall attracting younger and/or more diverse people, and therefore less attached to the idea of band-uber-alles? Or are they just, you know, running out of bands?
Having raised these questions, I must note that I don’t have the knee-jerk response that many make to the gradual dwindling of identifiable “rock” bands in the Rock Hall that many do. i am a rocker and a poptimist, if that’s possible – and try and fail to invent a combination of the two that would rival Spinal Tap’s mod/rockers/mockers solution. I’m probably the only one in my immediate circle of friends who doesn’t have that much trouble with a lot of the Hall of Famers so far, whether it’s ABBA or Jay-Z or Nina Simone or Madonna. . The day Taylor Swift enters her first year of eligibility, I’ll be among the first to have tears of joy on my guitar. I think it’s really fantastic that Dolly Parton is going this fall – agreeing, as I apparently do with the hall keepers, that for those purposes we can see ‘rock and roll’ as more of a spirit, or an era, which something that has to sound like Chuck Berry (which few contemporary rock artists do, by the way). The more country or R&B or even top 40 the better, if we can recognize that it fits spiritually.
What feels no more “rock and roll”, after all: reversing the definitions. or building a protective fortress? Your answer to this question probably says a lot about whether you and I and Jack White are going to be friends.
But that said, I’m in favor of the big-tent rock philosophy, however… I’m feeling the rock reflexes this year. I can even feel my own leg starting to twitch a bit. But it’s not that I want to bar Cleveland’s doors against Lionel Richie. It’s just that I would love to see Richie come in after Devo, or any of the few dozen other bands I can think of that have changed the course of rock ‘n’ roll in more or less significant ways. Even ones that aren’t to my particular taste but which I or anyone in their right mind can recognize as a major influence or game-changer. As much as I resist playing the annual game of “[artist A] is in but [artist Z] isn’t it?”, it’s not hard to put together a personal list of artists who are in some way crucial to the turns music has taken, who never even got a nomination, not to mention five or six failures – from Warren Zevon to Pixies to Phish to Captain Beefheart to Monkees to Runaways to Dick Dale to Sonic Youth to Sparks to X to Ozzy to Oasis to King Crimson to Wu-Tang Clan to Joy Division to Jethro Tull to the Bangles to De La Soul to the soon-to-be-retired B-52s (Or, to broaden the scope of the MIA, single-nomination outfits like Soundgarden, Dave Matthews Band, Bad Brains, Motorhead, the Replacements, and Procol Harem.) Some of the aforementioned bands are bands, some aren’t; some are rock, some aren’t; but they all moved the needle in some way and/or blew the needle into a groove with a cutting edge that we don’t see enough of in the ’22 lineup.
I admire the Hall’s nominating committee for their continued relentlessness in putting artists like Rage, the Dolls and the MC5 in place – and for coming a long way to finally get acts they’ve done this with before and who have been perpetually rejected, like LL Cool J, Kraftwerk and now Judas Priest. (They’re going to have to find a side door, obviously, for Fela Kuti too, another frequent nominee who was left behind among this year’s contenders.)
But the general electorate, as it currently stands, proves that it will favor the shiny new penny of a pop act that appears on the ballot for the first time over the shaggy dog in the pound that has already been rejected too many times. It’s not easy to know what the solution would be that would make “rock” feel like it has an equal seat at the Rock Hall table, other than perhaps a real resurgence of the present that gives voters a greater impulse to tick the boxes of rock’s past. .
In the meantime: Welcome, Dolly, our new queen and overlord of rock and roll. It would have been great to see you release a jam in November with the MC5 or Zack de la Rocha, or whip it out with Devo, but that will happen in another part of the multiverse.