Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Timmy Ryan’s weekly column for the Waterford News & Star

SO the latest class of “rock n roll” nominees has been unveiled and those wonderful folks at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation have made their deliberations for another year.

Once again, their choices have no doubt been received joyfully by those chosen but, as usual, not everyone is applauding.

Firstly, by way of historic background, if you are not familiar with the Hall and what’s it’s all about, it was set up back in 1983 by Ahmet Ertegun, founder and chairman of Atlantic Records. Its museum aimed to document the history of rock music and its influencers, notably the artists themselves.

Cleveland eventually was to become home to the Hall and it was dedicated in 1993 although artists have been inducted since 1986.

To be considered eligible, artists or bands must have released their first commercial recording at least 25 years previously.

‘Rock n roll has always been about freedom… a platform for combatting those who try to keep people down or suppress expression and human rights’

All sounds lovely and praiseworthy but not everyone counts themselves among the Hall’s fan club. Many in fact are downright sick of it.

Critics have lashed the Foundation’s apparent secrecy, its total disregard for certain hugely successful and long running acts who have yet to be inducted and appear to be ignored and its laughable notions as to what exactly is and is not rock n roll to begin with.

Todd Rundgren, one of the latest nominees, a legend in the music business, remains unimpressed by the ‘nod’ from the powers that be.

Referencing the ‘fan vote’, one part of the process (a bit like the Eurovision), he called it a “scam”.

“Most fans don’t realize that their votes count for absolutely nothing,” Rundgren says. “True halls of fame, to me, are for retirees and dead people, because your legacy has been established. I’m too busy working to worry about my legacy and plan to continue working until whenever.”

With all due respect to the lady, undoubtedly a star, I must agree with him about the selection of Dionne Warwick being a bit daft. To quote Todd, “I’m a big Dionne Warwick fan, but name me one Dionne Warwick rock ‘n’ roll song.” Enough said.

Mind you, she should consider herself in very rarefied climes indeed as women in general have not had a very good innings in the Hall nominations historically.

Between 1986 and 2020, there have been 923 people inducted into the Hall of Fame, only 70 were women (7.6%). Fairly eye brow raising stats.

Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker possibly sums up the frustrations of many of her peers when she labelled it the “Hall of Lame”.

Another new nominee this time round is UK heavy metal outfit Iron Maiden.

They had their first hit in 1981 yet only now is one of the most successful rock bands in the world getting recognition from the wise heads at the Foundation. It utterly beggars belief to many in the business, not least the fans.

Here too, though, the decision is unlikely to illicit joy from the band, at least not frontman Bruce Dickinson. An outspoken critic of the Hall, he’s on record as saying that the whole thing is, “run by a bunch of sanctimonious bloody Americans who wouldn’t know rock ‘n’ roll if it hit them in the face.” Never one to mince his words is Bruce.

There have been notable arguments as well over the inviting of some members from a band’s career, namely the original line up, and not current members various groups feel should be part of any induction ceremony honouring the band’s legacy.

Axl Rose, for one, declined to be involved over similar circumstances.

In 2018, the famed Dire Straits were inducted, but leader Mark Knopfler did not attend the ceremony and didn’t even give a reason.

Tickets are sold naturally and the induction dinner can be quite expensive I hear and there have been accusations that certain artists have been chosen over others as they would be perceived as capable of bringing a bigger and possibly more salubrious entourage with them.

Delivering a real shot across the Hall’s bows recently has been rocker Dee Snider of Twisted Sister fame.

Very active on Twitter, Snider took to social media and lambasted the committee calling them “elitist” and “arrogant”.

“The fan vote is their ‘throwing a bone’ to the peasants. If they were catering to the masses they would have the biggest selling bands,” he wrote.

He went on to name check Jann Wenner, who co-founded Rolling Stone magazine, claiming that he’s been “the puppet master since day one”.

Interestingly, the Foundation is reticent in actually revealing who is on their panel of judges but a cursory online search throws up pretty much every selection group down through the years.

It seems to me that there are any number of issues that seriously need addressing regarding this organisation and how it goes about its business.

It’s ludicrous to say that many revered artists have been overlooked and many more included who realistically perhaps should not have been there in the first place.

Can I suggest the entire system, like so many others, needs a makeover and clearly a lot more accountability and transparency. It’s surely become a dinosaur, largely irrelevant.

Rock n roll has always been about freedom and if not exactly “sticking it to the man”, it has been a platform for combatting those who try to keep people down or suppress expression and human rights.

It sadly appears to be yet another case where the “hierarchy” has lost touch with those it supposedly is there to honour and support.

According to their website, “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honours the legendary performers, producers, songwriters, disc jockeys and others who have made rock and roll the force that it is in our culture”.

Putting it simply, when Pat Benatar, nominated unsuccessfully last year, is not in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame after scoring two multi-Platinum albums, five platinum albums, three gold albums, and 15 Top 40 singles, including four No. 1 hits along with sales of over 30 million records worldwide, you suspect the whole thing is ridiculous in the extreme. Add to her, legends like Cher, Foreigner, Boston, Joe Cocker, Blue Oyster Cult, Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake and Palmer and you seriously have to ask questions.

If you’re going to exclude rock’s finest artists and include non rock acts, surely a name change is in order. The Music Hall Of Fame perhaps? Might avoid arguments at any rate.

If this sort of thing went on at a local level regarding some GAA awards, there’d likely be uproar.

Committees are there to be challenged but it takes a united effort to take them on.

Author Lester J. Pourciau once said, “There is no monument dedicated to the memory of a committee.”

Perhaps the last word on the matter should go to the great Joe Walsh of the Eagles who said: “There’s a lot of politics in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There’s a lot us artists would change about the induction ceremony and who they pick.”

Rock will live on, of that I’ve no doubt. I suspect and very much hope that the committee won’t.

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By Timmy Ryan
Contact Newsdesk: 051 874951

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