In 2006, it was announced that the Sex Pistols would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In response, John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) faxed a handwritten letter to the institution, politely declining the honor. He described the hall of fame as a “piss stain” and “urine in wine”, and he also raised some legitimate criticisms of the institution–the fact that it is a non-profit organization lacking transparency as to where exactly its funds go (you have to exit the actual museum via the gift shop, y’know), the anonymity of the nominating committee, and the vagueness of their criteria. It is a great letter, full of sneering Rotten-isms and grammatical errors, and it addresses many of the things I dislike about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
But most of the time I don’t care about the Rock and Roll of Fame, whom it inducts and whom it snubs. Except last night the 2013 induction ceremony was on television. It was vapid and tasteless, and it reminded me of all the things I hate about the Hall of Fame–its elitism, its inconsistency, its unpredictability. Why are some genres (er, prog rock) so underrepresented? Why is a performer’s induction so dependent upon commercial success in the United States? And why oh why is Randy Newman an inductee but not the Zombies? Odessey and Oracle, hello! It’s not rocket science, people.
The value and meaning of an artist’s music isn’t found for me in recognition from a board of anonymous weenies. A band or artist is going to mean the same to me whether they’re in the Hall of Fame or not. But because I’m in a contradictory sort of mood, let’s discuss five (out of many) of my favorite artists currently eligible for induction that I think deserve a spot in the Hall of the Fame.
Eligible Since: 2008
Nominated In: Never
Essential Albums: His ‘n’ Hers (1994), Different Class (1995), This Is Hardcore (1998)
Pulp was a band that was always slightly out of step with the rest of the world. Fifteen-year-old Jarvis Cocker formed the band in 1978, they released their first record in 1983, and, after many lineup changes but with Cocker still at the forefront, they finally achieved mainstream success with 1995’s Different Class–in the UK, at least. And that, more than anything, is what is going to bar their entrance into the Hall of Fame. Because, you see, a band has to have HUGE SUCCESS in the United States to have any credibility for the Hall of Fame. It’s ridiculous. It’s especially ridiculous in the case of Pulp because Jarvis Cocker is one of the greatest songwriters and lyricists. He writes about the mundane, the seedy, and the misfits with warmth and disgust and humor and the keenest details. There is no one in the world like him, and I was intent on marrying him all through college.
Actually, I still would.
Britpop is one of those genres and musical movements that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is probably going to ignore as long as possible. Which is stupid as it produced some of the best music of the 1990s.
4. The Monkees
“I got a chandelier!”
Eligible Since: 1991
Nominated In: NEVER!!
Essential Albums: The Monkees (1966), More of the Monkees (1967), Headquarters (1967), Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd. (1967). Also you have to watch both seasons of their television show because it is fun, funny, zany, and did I mention FUN? Also John Lennon watched it and loved it.
The Monkees are a tricky one. There’s still some confusion as to whether they were a real band because apparently all those albums they made without Don Kirshner playing puppet master isn’t enough proof. Yes, they were initially a manufactured band, but they went on to write and perform their own material. And even when they weren’t writing and playing ALL the instruments on those first two albums, they were still, you know, singing. Other groups used session musicians and performed the work of other songwriters. Other groups who are currently in the Hall of Fame. So, what’s the deal, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Oh yeah, I forgot, y’all are elitist wieners. The Monkees had some great songs, written for them and by them, and they are a unique cultural phenomenon.
3. The Smiths
Eligible Since: 2008
Nominated In: Never
Essential Albums: The Smiths (1984), Meat Is Murder (1985), The Queen Is Dead (1986), Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
Johnny Marr’s guitar playing. Morrissey’s morose, biting, hilarious lyrics, sung somberly and gloomily as only Morrissey can. Does a more perfect musical marriage exist? Nope. Their influence is palpable, and the fact that all of their studio albums (and you also have to listen to the singles compilations, of course!) are essential listening speaks volumes.
But in order for Morrissey to attend the ceremony (which would be a major long shot anyway), there would probably have to be no meat within 50 miles of the venue because, you know, meat is murder, and he does not tolerate your alternate views.
2. T. Rex
Eligible Since: 1993
Nominated In: NEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Essential Albums: Electric Warrior (1971), The Slider (1972). I also really love Futuristic Dragon (1976), but, y’know, it ain’t for everyone.
I had forgotten that T. Rex has never been inducted–or even nominated!–into the Hall of Fame, and I suddenly got very, very, very mad because that is absolutely ridiculous. Bolan (the man I wanted to marry before Jarvis, sigh) and T. Rex may have not had been able to sustain the same level of commercial success as their contemporary David Bowie but their influence is incredible. My suspicion is that the Hall of Fame is wary of inducting them because they are so closely linked with “glam” rock, although Bolan did experiment with other genres (soul and R&B, notably), and that’s embarrassing for some reason. Fact is, Bolan wrote some great rock ‘n’ roll songs. Some of the best. Summer is heaven in ’77!
“I can’t cleverly theorize about Marc,” Morrissey once wrote. “I just loved him.” Me too, Mozzer. Me too.
1. The Jam
Eligible Since: 2002
Nominated In: Never, because, once again, the nominating committee are actually shareholders in Oscar Mayer. (Translation: They’re WEENIES!!)
Essential Albums: In the City (1977), All Mod Cons (1978), Setting Sons (1979), Sound Affects (1980), The Gift (1982). I just listed all of their studio albums, save one. OOPS!!
In case I haven’t made it clear here before…I worship Paul Weller. I mean, I really have it bad for this guy. I think he is the world’s most wonderful human being and a stunning lyricist and songwriter with unquenchable passion for and belief in what he does. And wham bam, long live The Jam! I would induct Weller into the Hall of Fame in all of his incarnations–with The Jam, The Style Council, and as a solo artist, but The Jam probably holds the most value as far as influence and a solid, cohesive body of work. It still blows my mind that the group produced six albums in five years, with so many great songs, and they broke up at their commercial and critical peak. What guts 24-year-old Paul Weller had! Love that guy. But The Jam never really achieved any kind of success in the United States, which is commonly explained by their being “too British.” (And the Kinks were…?) Yes, because the stream of images painted in “That’s Entertainment” are only relatable and vivid if you are British: “Two lovers kissing amongst the scream of midnight/Two lovers missing the tranquillity of solitude/Getting a cab and travelling on buses/Reading the graffiti about slashed seat affairs/I say that’s entertainment, that’s entertainment.”
Name me a songwriter in the hall of fame who can write lyrics like THAT. I can probably count ’em on one hand.