The Rock Hall of Fame blame game

The only thing that keeps me going these days is the thought — nay, fantasy — that someone in Cleveland with a modicum of power will read my columns raging against the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and do something.

Do what? At this point, I just don't know. Maybe just forward this along to his boss' email with a note reading, "Hey, Bob, get a load of this hilljack in Oregon! Man, he really seems to hate us. You think we should pass this along to Homeland Security?"

I suppose that would be enough. I'm not a Pollyanna about such things. I am but a mouse voice crying out in the firmament. My opinion won't change the fact that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is out of touch and, perhaps, even corrupt.

This year's nominees were announced last week. For the most part, those chosen by the powers that be in Cleveland, which inexplicably is where the hall is located — but that's a different rant for a different day — are solid bands who have enjoyed much success in the rock business.

But before we take a look at who's made the list, we'll take a few moments to remind ourselves of who has been left off.

There's no T. Rex, Brian Eno, Joy Division, DJ Kool Herc or Afrika Bambaataa. Excluded were Devo, Iron Maiden, The Cure, A Tribe Called Quest, Tracy Chapman, Bauhaus, Indigo Girls and The Pixies. There is no Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Modern Lovers, Townes Van Zandt, Violent Femmes, The Replacements, Husker Du, Black Flag or Minor Threat.

I could go on but won't. Because my voice is a mouse voice, and it doesn't matter.

But it does matter, dammit.

What makes a hall-of-famer, in sports, music or otherwise? I'd say it's someone who made such a powerful impression on the time period in which he/she played that you couldn't imagine said period without their influence. This works retroactively, of course. The Velvet Underground, so the legend goes, were heard by a grand total of 36 or so strung-out New Yorkers before Reed and Cale couldn't stand to be in the same room with each other's egos anymore.

However, everyone of those 36 or so junkies and art students who heard The Velvet Underground were so inspired they went on to start their own influential bands. Therefore, The Velvet Underground, though not a hit with the masses, has made its presence felt up to and far beyond today.

Imagine the NBA of the 1960s without Bill Russell. Or MLB of the 1970s without Brooks Robinson. Or the NFL of the 1980s without Jerry Rice. You can't. That's what makes these people hall-of-famers in their respective fields.

Now, imagine the 1970s music scene without ... Rush.

Hmm. Not hard to do, huh?

But ladies and gentlemen, Rush is among this year's nominees for the rock hall of fame. And they'll probably make it in, too.

(I realize trashing on Rush leaves me vulnerable to physical attack outside my work. Rush fans are a passionate, some would say obsessive, bunch. But as FDR said of the bankers who helped sink the world economy during the Great Depression, I welcome their hate. Rush embodies the worst of prog rock's many bothersome tendencies. They're boring and self-indulgent. Now come and get me, Rush fans. I work at 111 N. Fir Street, Medford, Ore.)

Aside from the aforementioned, tiresome prog rockers, those nominated include Heart, N.W.A., Public Enemy, The Marvelettes, Procol Harum, Deep Purple, Donna Summer, Randy Newman, Chic, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Kraftwerk, The Meters and Albert King.

To my mind, there are four obvious choices for enshrinement in that group: Public Enemy, N.W.A., Deep Purple and Kraftwerk. You could convince me of Paul Butterfield. I have a soft spot for the Chicago guy, and good lord, that dude could saw down a redwood tree with that Hohner harmonica.

Let's start with Public Enemy. Hip-hop was political from its very beginning with DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. But Public Enemy was, how should we say, aggressively political in a time when pop music was at its most plastic and mundane, the mid- to late 1980s. They also were funny as hell and certainly don't get enough credit for this. Try listening to "911 Is a Joke" again, and you'll see what I mean.

From there, N.W.A. is an obvious choice. They invented gangsta rap. Case closed. However, you could pick at the fact that their first album is noteworthy only for the first four songs, which included the immortal "F—- the Police" and others. The rest of "Straight Outta Compton" is mostly bad dance music popular at Los Angeles clubs at the time. I recently listened to "Something 2 Dance 2" and "Quiet on tha Set" and shuddered.

After the hip-hop giants, we get to Deep Purple. I'm a heavy-metal dude, and even though I'm not a huge Deep Purple fan, you can't deny their influence on later acts such as Metallica, Testament, Dio, Motorhead and other heavy bands of the 1980s. Also, Roger Glover is a helluva bass player.

I was surprised that Kraftwerk was included in this year's list. Krautrock is some pretty esoteric stuff. But without Kraftwerk, we don't have Radiohead, MGMT, Gary Numan and other electric bands. In a way, Kraftwerk is one of the most influential bands of the past 40 years. And yet, they've never really gotten their due aside from the geekiest of music dorks. It's about time this is remedied.

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

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