Critical darlings and working class heroes mix in the Class of 2014.
Oh, the much reviled Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: whipping boy for music enthusiasts from all walks of life. The poor bastards can never get it right, but they try. The problem is simple: there’s a lot of music out there, and you just can’t please everybody.
We struggle with something similar here at The Good Men Project. What is “good”? We’re dealing with quality here, not quantity, and what qualifies as “good” isn’t the same for everyone. And so we post an article like “Why You Shouldn’t Run Over a Box of Kittens” and damned if someone doesn’t get offended because we didn’t take into account all of the benefits of kitten-running-overing. (Note: This has never happened. Work with me here.)
And so it goes for Cleveland’s hallowed hall. For years the diehard fans of bands like Rush,Deep Purple, and KISS have stomped their dragon boots over the annual Hall of Fame snub. They have a legitimate beef: Rush inspired countless bands; Deep Purple created the first riff that every guitarist learns; and KISS, well, KISS is KISS.
I was of prime KISS age during the ’70s, and there wasn’t an inch of my bedroom walls and ceiling that wasn’t covered by a photo of Ace, Peter, Gene, or Paul. I listened to their albums through Dynasty so many times that I can still repeat them note for note. Like a lot of fans I fell off the wagon at Unmasked, and then 25 years later took my kid to a reunion show and learned all over again why KISS matters.
These guys didn’t invent the rock spectacle (my vote goes to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins), but they perfected it. Between pure fanboy and business I’ve lost count of how many shows I’ve seen, and none have plastered the silly grin on my face that KISS does. They may sing off key and only know three chords, but for mastering the big rock show KISS deserves their nod. And since Rush made the Hall last year, that leaves Deep Purple as the last of the trinity of fan favorites to be locked out of Cleveland.
The band your mother loved to hate isn’t the only ’70s holdover to get the call this year. Cat Stevens will be taking the “Peace Train” all the way to Cleveland, and seventies superstar Linda Ronstadt gets her chance to take a final bow. Ronstadt’s induction promises to be particularly poignant, as Parkinson’s has robbed her of her beautiful voice.
Two of the ’80s biggest acts, Peter Gabriel and Hall and Oates, will be on stage, too. Gabriel has been inducted once already as a member of Genesis, but this time around it’s for his brilliant string of decade defining albums. Can you imagine Say Anything without “In Your Eyes?” What about Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ without Gabriel’s world music soundtrack? For my money he deserves a spot in the Hall just for the towering “Red Rain”:
That brings us to the ’90s, and the big story of this year’s inductions: Nirvana. I was living on the fabulous Sunset Strip in Los Angeles at the end of the eighties, and everything you’ve heard about the hair metal years is true. Guys really walked around with that goofy hair, wore tights and bullet belts and entirely too much make-up. And then Nirvana came to town and played The Palace, and seemingly overnight The Rainbow was full of scruffy dudes in flannels and their grandpas’ sweaters.
Sure, every generation has its trends, but I’ve yet to see a changing of the guard so quick and absolute as the one that Nirvana ushered in. The music industry completely turned on its stiletto heels, and when it turned back around it was wearing Doc Martens.
Not only did Nirvana drive a stake through the Aqua Net vampire, but they did what no American band had managed to do: They broke punk into the U.S. mainstream. They brought “alternative” to the masses, and then Kurt decided it was better to burn out than fade away. Nirvana gave birth to the last great musical movement of the traditional music industry, and for that their place in the Hall is well deserved.
Other inductees include:
Ahmet Ertegun Awards:
- Brian Epstein
- Andrew Loog Oldham
The Award for Musical Excellence:
- The E Street Band
All in all I have no objections to this year’s class. Every honoree here is “good” in my estimation, and their contributions to rock and roll are worthy. Where do they fall on that box of kittens question? We’ll never know.
–photo Man Alive! / Flickr