Sure as the rain falls in Cleveland, soon after the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the class of 2012, the complaints about who did and who did not get selected multiplied across the internet.
For the what about Rush argument, see Mark Memmott for NPR.
For another too white piece and too male piece, see Ann Powers at NPR. Another no Rush piece? Here’s the Globe and Mail.
I could have presented arguments for my all snubbed list. It includes the New York Dolls, MC 5, The Cure, The Smiths, Brian Eno, Afrika Bambaataa, T Rex, Nick Cave, Husker Du, and The Replacements. Others like to mention Quincy Jones, Rush, Kiss (Whose fans are second in obnoxiousness to Rush fans), Eric B and Rakim, Judas Priest, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Heart, Donna Summer, Chic, and Public Enemy.
I could have done the too white, too male complaint, too, but I went to the Rock Hall’s website first and saw pictures of past inductees — Men and women of different races and from different walks of life. The whiteness of this year’s inductees is more of an anomaly than the rule. So, before you pitch that too white/too male piece to your editor, do your homework first. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame does diversity better than most large institutions.
Now, for those like myself, who’ve tired of the post-announcement complaint parties, I’ve got bad news for you. These arguments aren’t about to end. As we move further and further away from monoculture, the arguments will only get more intense and more frequent. Music is personal. Music has the power to move, inspire and change minds. Yet, what blew the mind of a young man or woman growing up in suburbia 1993 wasn’t the same song blowing the minds of young men and women raised in the inner cities during the same period.
Moving into the ’00s and the consolidation of radio and the introduction of file-sharing, taste began to split even further. TV and radio no longer had complete control over media. Today, it’s possible to be fully engrossed in music and never hear top 40. I know Adele is huge, but for the life of me I wouldn’t be able to identify an Adele song if one was played for me, and, I consider myself an expert, a critic, someone always in the know. The same goes for Lady Gaga, and anything Coldplay has released in the last six or seven years. Left to our own devices with genius lists, Pandora and Spotify; Left to our own discovery through websites, blogs, and illegal file sharing networks no two people share the same musical experience. Twenty-five years from now the argument won’t be “Are The Beastie Boys really more deserving than Rush? ‘Fight For Your Right (To Party)’ is a joke compared to ‘Tom Sawyer.’” The argument will be “Adele, I’ve never heard of her. What song did she sing?”
Where does all of this leave the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? In an unenviable position. I, for one wouldn’t want to be the one with the responsibility to reply to those incoming emails. How could you enshrine the Beastie Boys and not Rush? Faces and not Heart? Red Hot Chili Peppers and not any one who released an album 25 years ago?
As for the music fan, you have your memories and no one can take that away from you. Induction night won’t change the way disco made you feel part of something big; Or how a band of lads sporting eyeliner made it okay to be different; Or how punk or hip-hop taught you to question authority and fight for what you believe in; Or the way a bunch of rowdy, drunk kids from Minneapolis showed you how the mainstream was not the only way to earn a living from art. None of this changes, not even for you, the computer programmer who was inspired to pick up the guitar or the drums after seeing Rush.
Cherish your record collection and if you ever find yourself in Cleveland, stop by the Rock Hall. You may be surprised by how many of your favorite bands already occupy space in the museum, for as many times as I’ve heard, “I’m not going to the Rock Hall until Rush is inducted,” I’ve also heard, “I used to boycott the Rock Hall because of Rush and then I visited the museum and really enjoyed the experience.”