Longtime listmember Joel Selvin is the Senior Pop Music Critic of the SF Chronicle.
View: Rock and Roll Hall offers lackluster candidates-------------------------------------------
Rock and Roll Hall offers lackluster candidates
By Joel Selvin/San Francisco Chronicle
I can't bring my self to vote in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame elections this year. Here's why:
This year's nominees: Afrika Bambaataa, Beastie Boys, Chic, Leonard Cohen, Dave Clark Five, Madonna, John Mellencamp, Donna Summer, the Ventures.
See my problem?
Afrika Bambaataa: Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, maybe.
Beastie Boys: See above.
Chic: A one-hit disco band?
Leonard Cohen: Nobody admires Cohen more than I do, but I don't think of him as having had a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career.
Dave Clark Five: Not really in the same league with the Beatles, Stones, etc.
Madonna: The only nominee who probably deserves the honor, but I have no enthusiasm for her candidacy.
John Mellencamp: He's like a solid shortstop who had a long, productive career without ever winning a batting championship or home run title. Never hit the long ball.
Donna Summer: See Chic.
The Ventures: Uh, no ... not really.
They've already sent me a postcard saying they haven't received my ballot. It would be the first year I didn't vote. As bad as some of the past ballots have been, I've always been able to find two or three names I could bring myself to vote for. Just not this year.
I must confess that I once belonged to the Nominating Committee, but my term unexpectedly expired, a letter informed me last year, because the Hall decided to create a Nominating Committee whose musical education began in the '80s. A labor lawyer who saw the letter thought it would have infringed federal anti-age-discrimination statutes, if the Hall had ever paid me dime one.
News reports surfaced last year that Rolling Stone Publisher Jann Wenner, a huge power behind the scenes at the Hall, actually installed rap group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five over the Dave Clark Five, who may have received more votes, because he was tired of not having any hip-hop in the Rock and Roll Hall. Whether hip-hop is a parallel universe or a subset of the music encompassed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame isn't clear, but Wenner is said to have usurped control of the board after the death of Ahmet Ertegun, the only other backstage power equivalent to Wenner.
I don't know about that, but I do know that the members of the Nominating Committee the year before, when I still belonged, were all very impressed with a telegram urging the induction of Miles Davis - Miles Davis in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? - signed by Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and other African American heavy hitters. Nominated and duly elected, Miles Davis is now a member, an honor he no doubt would have found profanely funny.
The list of musicians not inducted into the Hall of Fame is a roll call of honor: Steve Miller, Kiss, Iggy Pop, T. Rex, Joan Jett, Jeff Beck, Tom Waits, Burt Bacharach, Ben E. King, Yes, Genesis (Peter Gabriel, too), Doobie Brothers, Roxy Music, Metallica, Neil Diamond, Todd Rundgren, Ry Cooder, Albert King, Billy Preston, et cetera, et cetera.
Meanwhile Paul Simon belongs twice and Eric Clapton three times. Let's not get into the many dubious inductees who managed to navigate the complex nominating and election procedure into a berth at the Hall. As complicated as the process may be, there is no way as yet to vote anybody out of the Hall.
Over and over again, the elitist committee of 50 record company executives and rock critics who do the nominating come up with a list that reflects their East Coat, intellectual biases, and, year after year, the voting body of FM radio disc jockeys picks the most mainstream possible candidates and votes them in. Hence James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bob Seger, Jackson Browne ...
After they read this, the Hall may stop hounding me for my ballot, which is due Nov. 26. Heck, after they read this, they may strike me from the voter rolls for good.