Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame fails to inspire (again)

I should retitle this column "Chris Conrad finds another way to eviscerate the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in the Mail Tribune."

If you don't follow such things — and be glad if you don't, as that means your life is filled with promise and meaning — the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame announced its annual list of nominees this week.

Again, it's a mixed bag stuffed with a few inspired choices, such as Guns 'n' Roses, Eric B. & Rakim, the Beastie Boys and The Cure, along with a couple of pure head-scratchers in Donna Summer and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Of course, there's still no Joy Division, Devo, Marc Bolan (grrr!), Dead Kennedys, The Replacements, Bauhaus, Brian Eno (!!!), Kraftwerk, Black Flag, Iron Maiden, Kathleen Hanna, Sonic Youth, Steve Albini, Uncle Tupelo, Minor Threat or the Smiths.

I realize my dream of seeing Jello Biafra set fire to the stage during his Hall performance is unrealistic. Hell, I don't know if I even want to see blue-collar garage and indie heroes The Replacements and Kathleen Hanna diminished by enshrinement in this ongoing travesty. And forget about Black Flag or Kraftwerk. Too scary.

But by Crom, you'd think someone in the Hall's unthink tank would look at Brian Eno's collective work as a musician in the hyper-influential Roxy Music and his almost-too-far-ahead-of-the-curve production work and place his name in stone alongside Quincy Jones and Sam Phillips.

Eno basically engineered the New Wave by scouring Europe's fertile post-punk scene in the late '70s and putting this seminal music on record. In roughly a 10-year span, Eno produced, among many others, U2's "The Unforgettable Fire" and "The Joshua Tree"; Talking Heads' "Remain in Light," "More Songs About Buildings and Food" and "Fear of Music"; Devo's "Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!"; and John Cale's "Fear."


My thoughts on some of this year's nominees and which of my belongings I would be willing to give away to see them enshrined into the Hall of Fame:

Guns 'n' Roses

Prized possession I would donate: The bottle of New Old Lompoc Brewery C-Note Imperial Ale currently sitting in my fridge.

GNR produced only two albums worth listening two more than three times. But holy hell are they a pair of true American classics. "Appetite for Destruction" and "Lies" sound as wonderfully sleazy and diseased as they did upon springing from the cesspool that was Sunset Strip in mid-'80s L.A.

For these two albums alone, you've gotta put them in the Hall. Sure, it all went super nova after "Lies" in a heat death of cocaine, booze, over-production and the twisted ego of one William "Axl" Rose, but the ride, dear lord, the ride.

The Cure

Prized possession I would donate: My signed copy of Neil Gaiman's "Death: The High Cost of Living" comic book.

I'm as surprised as any over-30-year-old who spent a significant portion of his high-school career clad in black, long-sleeve shirts in summer, jangling bangs creeping down menacingly over one eye and a permanent, disaffected sneer signifying the space where smiles go to die to see The Cure on this list.

In my mid-teenage years, The Cure made me wish I lived in a snow-frosted forest outside Manchester, going into town sparingly to sip vermouth in dreary basement clubs among fashionable vampire mods with copies of Camus tucked under their arms.

The Beastie Boys and Eric B. & Rakim

Prized possession I would donate: My pair of 1991 Nike Air Jordans, which I stupidly left at my parents' house when I moved to Oregon.

The Beastie Boys is a NYC institution, much revered by critics for its seminal albums ("Licensed to Ill" and "Paul's Boutique"), but ever embraced by open-minded music fans for its forays into ambient funk ("The In Sound from Way Out") and straight-up hardcore ("Polly Wog Stew").

Eric B. & Rakim will never leave my iPod. It's just not going to happen. If Eric B. & Rakim weren't born, then hip-hop would be far less intelligent or compelling. Their second album, "Follow the Leader," was a challenging whirl of off-beats and dense sampling, from sources as disparate as The Wailers to the Eagles. Neither The Wailers nor the Eagles ever sounded better.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Prized possession I would donate: My 1995 GMC Sonoma pickup, 180,000 miles, needs a tune-up and rear tires, broken power-window motor on passenger side, dead air conditioner and missing both side-view mirrors.

I suppose the Peppers was somewhat dangerous at one time. Its early work was so slathered in cheap L.A. alley sex, crust funk and just enough cross-dressing that the radio and MTV kept their distance.

But that was a long, long, long time ago. Up to and including half of "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" remains vital music to this day. Since then this band has devolved into Aerosmith. There's nothing remotely scary to Midwesterners at this point. However, there was something there early on, and I'm sure introducing L.A. club funk to the masses counts for something.

By the way, the pickup can be had for a cool $500, if anyone's interested.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email

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