The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named this year’s potential inductees this October, honouring fifteen influential artists including Joan Jett, Nine Inch Nails, Lou Reed, NWA, and…Greenday. Shockingly not included? Jethro Tull, everyone’s favourite flute-playing folk-prog act.
Greeting the Hall of Fame nominations with skepticism has become something of an annual tradition for me. Perhaps this is inevitable – “rock and roll” is such a vast genre that the Hall cannot possibly accommodate everyone’s preferences. And the inductees are always (for the most part) talented and deserving. But even so, persistent egregious omissions of seminal artists have hurt the Hall of Fame’s reputation.
The nomination procedures are simple enough. Artists are eligible for induction twenty-five years after the release of their first album. Nominees are chosen based on their “influence and significance” and voted on by hundreds of music industry professionals and fans. But despite this extensive process, genre pioneers are consistently overlooked while more derivative acts are inducted sooner.
Iconic shock rocker Alice Cooper, who has been bestowing us with brilliant albums every few years since 1969 and has been ripped off by countless rock, metal, and pop artists, was not deemed worthy until 2011.
Rush, despite their substantial commercial success, technical virtuosity, wide influence, and rabid fanbase, were not inducted until last year.
The Sex Pistols were inducted against their will (frontman John Lydon famously wrote an incensed letter and refused to attend the ceremony) while their primary influence Richard Hell remains excluded. (But don’t worry, punk purists – Greenday’s been nominated!)
The Pixies have been overlooked while Nirvana, who openly imitated their style, were inducted in their first year of eligibility.
Legendary heavy metal bands Judas Priest and Iron Maiden are not in yet, despite being eligible since 1999 and 2005, respectively. Metallica, who was heavily influenced by Priest and Maiden, was inducted in 2009. (It also bears repeating that Jethro Tull, who beat Metallica out for the first ever Hard Rock/Metal Grammy, have not yet been inducted).
Interestingly, while many deserving acts languish in obscurity, musicians such as Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney have been inducted twice, both as members of bands and as solo artists.
I’m not denying that the current members of the Hall of Fame deserved the honour. But so do the many other inspirational artists who have been ignored for too long. For an institution devoted to rock music, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t seem to reflect the views of the fans and musicians it purports to represent.
However, as much as I may disapprove of their decisions they are ultimately a private organization, entitled to induct (and exclude) anyone they want.
But I still hold out hope for Jethro Tull.
Originally published in The Fulcrum as “Honour thy rock ‘n’ roll”, November 6, 2014