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Monday, November 28, 2005


Three Guitar Assault Enshrined

Yes, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is ridiculous, irrelevant, and in a fundamental way antithetical to the spirit of the music. Still, each year I review the news of the Hall's newest elections with mild interest--and usually mild frustration. I've spent the last couple of weeks with my head buried in obscure indie rock 45s from the early 90s for a giant compliation Matt and I are putting together, so it's a little funny to consider the mainstreamiest of mainstream rock for a change.

This year is all about housecleaning, as a number of important, popular acts make the cut after years of waiting. (Artists are first eligible for the Hall 25 years after the release of their debut record.) This round finally sees Black Sabbath (1969), Lynyrd Skynyrd (1973) and the Sex Pistols (1976) enter the Hall, while the Stooges, godfathers of punk, are once again left out. Perhaps the Hall is saving Iggy's band for 2012, when they'll be trying to decide which acts from 1987* deserve to be canonized. Other worthy musicians made to wait include the Patti Smith Group and Grandmaster Flash. (We're about to see the Hall start to wrestle with the place of rap and hip hop in the rock canon--of course it is rock and roll, but many of the Hall voters who have spent recent years sleepily voting in James Taylor and the Eagles may not see it that way.) Gram Parsons didn't even make the list of nominees this time around--after being beaten out by the likes of the Pretenders last year. It's all enormously arbitrary, and not really worth getting too upset about. And at least the Hall has had the good sense to utterly ignore prog rock, aside from Pink Floyd.

The Hall is really--aside from being a revenue maker for its owners--just a parlor game for thinking about who and what should be valued in rock and roll--halfway between the baseball Hall of Fame and the American Music Awards. The Rock Hall doesn't have the reams of statistics that sports generate--there are only record sales, which are useless as an indicator of artistic influence and impact. So it's all conjecture, no different than casual music fans sitting around talking about their favorite groups, except invariably blander. Anyway, in a few months we'll probably get to see Ozzy and his band perform Iron Man backed by Billy Joel, Eddie Vedder, Johnny Rotten and Hilary Duff. So at least there's that.

*Of course, 1987 was the year of the Pixies, NWA and Public Enemy among others, but given the Hall's track record, I expect the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Paula Abdul will get in ahead of them.

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