A couple years ago, I was sitting on the back porch at the Continental Club talking music with a fairly well known music writer who seemed to believe that anything with a big hook or the slightest inkling of musicianship beyond the garage band aesthetic was utter garbage. If he weren't such a nice guy, I would have taken his condescension personally, but I realized that it was just a quirk of his extremely focused view on music, one that is shared by a fair number of music critics.
Today, when I read the selections for this year's class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I wasn't surprised and, frankly, they are all deserving. But, as usual, there were many continued snubs of artists who should have long ago been enshrined. For baseball fans, it's the Jim Rice effect. These bands have to sit around and wait until the voters vote them in, sometimes years after they clearly deserve to be inducted.
In the case of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there is more to it. There is a very real bias towards certain kinds of music, particularly of the hard rock and progressive rock varieties, or what my writer friend and many of his contemporaries would call "shit."
Yes, there are many different artists who are deserving but not in. Craig Hlavaty, in his post about this year's entrants listed a bunch of them:
Devo, X, Love, The Replacements, Motörhead, Roxy Music, Can, Big Star, Cheap Trick, Peter Gabriel, New Order, Joy Division, Thin Lizzy. Link Wray. Dick Dale.
New York Dolls, The Cars, Electric Light Orchestra, Bon Jovi, Gram Parsons, Kraftwerk, The Flaming Lips, The Pogues, Tammi Terrell, Warren Zevon.
Randy Newman, T. Rex, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Smiths, Los Lobos, Dick Dale, Linda Ronstadt, Hall & Oates, Link Wray, The Monkees, MC5, Deep Purple.
You could add King Crimson, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ozzy Osborne (solo), Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and a few others to demonstrate the clear dismissal of rock's heavier and more progressive artists as boring, cheesy, over-the-top and any other adjective you care to pull from your well worn thesaurus. But, there is no greater snub than Rush.
I make no bones about the fact that I grew up listening to Rush or that Geddy Lee is one of my biggest influences as a musician. I also freely admit that their music isn't for everyone; their lyrics -- especially pre 1980 -- can be overwrought, their arrangements can be insanely complicated and Lee's voice is often grating. Yet, by every measure, they are rock royalty.
They have sold more than 40 million records and only the Beatles and the Rolling Stones have longer gold record album streaks. Long after the vast majority of their peers have stopped performing, they continue playing sold out shows across the globe. They have become a symbol of nerd culture, finding their way into movies like I Love You, Man and onto shows like The Colbert Report because the writers for those grew up with them.
Oh, and it doesn't hurt that two of their members are considered near if not at the top of the greatest of all time in rock music at their instruments. And like jazz musicians, they continue to hone their craft actually improving their individual and collective technical and compositional skills while other classic rockers re-hash the same tired crap they've been playing for 30 years.
Pretty much any normal person with a brain who loves music thinks they should be in the HOF and yet, here we are, another year, another snub.
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NPR's Mark Memmott wrote his own rant against the injustice of it all earlier today and included this:
Even the president and CEO of the Rock Hall concedes the band should be honored. "They simply haven't gotten enough votes to make the ballot," Terry Stewart told Cleveland's The Plain Dealer earlier this year. "I can't tell you why. Based on impact, influence, innovation, and excellence, they're worthy. I think it's just a matter of time before it happens."
You know why, Terry? It's because your voters are full of pompous, self righteous critics who personally dislike certain kinds of music and, as a result, block those who play it from what they deserve.
There are plenty of kinds of music and artists out there I don't like, but if they deserve to get into the Hall of Fame, they deserve it. Period. End of story. And Rush is at the top of that list.