While recently perusing The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website I found their criteria for bestowing the prestigious honor. To be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame, established in 1983, the artist under consideration must have released their first recording at least 25 years prior to their nomination. There are typically five to seven artists chosen annually from the ballots of 600 people comprised of other artists, historians, and members of the music industry. The listed essential qualifications for induction into The Hall are musical excellence, and the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions. That sort of standard for admittance seems somewhat confusing because the quality and importance of any given artist is mostly subjective. Determining who is worthy of such an honor is about as easy as trying to solve a Rubik’s cube, unless of course you’re one of those puzzle freaks, and probably explains why I couldn’t find any consistent correlation between those who have been inducted and those who have not.
I am not attempting to challenge the merits of previous inductees, but I would like to know why similar artists aren’t included, and I would also like to explore what I find to be some noteworthy omissions from The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jackson Browne and Cat Stevens are winners of the award but many others who have sold more records, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, and who appear more deserving of the honor continue to remain on the sidelines. I thought I had possibly solved the mystery of the real reason for their induction after discovering both Mr. Browne and Mr. Stevens were not only singer-songwriters but were humanitarians as well. However, upon further investigation I ascertained John Denver likewise was regarded as a humanitarian, and he had comparable record sales, yet he has continued to be overlooked. Another inductee with similar talents, James Taylor, has acquired only one #1 song and zero #1 albums throughout his lengthy career compared to Mr. Denver’s four #1 songs and three #1 albums obtained during his tragically shortened career. Those two artists are tied on the R.I.A.A. list, so I don’t understand how John Denver can be excluded.
I also cannot comprehend how some bands like the Pretenders, Talking Heads, and Steely Dan made the cut while so many other groups with equal or better record sales have not. The Eighties’ band, Loverboy, and the Spice Girls have very similar figures (obviously, only in a financial sense) to that of Steely Dan’s, but I would be extremely leery of adding either Loverboy or the Spice Girls to the elite club; therefore, maybe Steely Dan should lose their Hall of Fame status. I guess I did decide to challenge the validity of some inductees after all, didn’t I? I could present a strong case for the inclusion of Foreigner, Chicago, Journey, Motley Crue, and Bon-Jovi over current Hall of Famers such as Genesis, Heart, The Police, and even The Who when taking into consideration the amount of sales and the number of chart-topping hits. During my extensive research, as much as my laziness would allow, I was surprised to learn Cheap Trick was not nearly as successful as I had assumed. I found out they weren’t all that revered in the United States, but they were referred to as the “American Beatles” by the Japanese press.
Speaking of the Beatles, I learned something very interesting about them in my Rock and Roll History class during my one year of community college. Brian Epstein, who coincidentally was one of the 2014 Hall of Fame inductees, was managing the Beatles in January of 1963 when he had a brilliant idea for the not yet thriving band from Liverpool. Up to that point the Beatles had only achieved moderate success with the release of their first single, “Love Me Do,” so Mr. Epstein purchased all 10,000 copies of their next recording, “Please Please Me,” which during that time was the magic number to force a #1 ranking on the London charts. The “manufactured hit” then created a major buzz in the U.S., and led to the beginning of Beatle mania which continued throughout America for many years thereafter.
I can appreciate the Beatles and their influence on Rock and Roll, and I can even respect the genius of Brian Epstein, but the band was slightly before my time, and I must admit I only care for a handful of their songs. I also confess, at the risk of being slammed by music lovers everywhere, that I do not have even one Beatles’ cd in my entire collection of approximately 1,100 compact discs. Beatles’ fans shouldn’t fret too much though since my extensive music collection is also void of other Hall of Famers including The Who, The Doors, Pink Floyd, and Nirvana. I am painfully aware of Nirvana’s contribution to the history of Rock and Roll, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. In fact, I actually despise the band because of it. Those flannel wearing, grungy guys were almost single-handedly responsible for killing the Glam Metal craze, or as I typically refer to it as the greatest music of all-time.
We all have our favorite artists, and preferred style of music, but trying to sort it all out for the purpose of determining who qualifies for induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is an impossible task. I don’t have a better alternative to the current nomination process, but it does seem like something needs to change. KISS guitarist and vocalist, Paul Stanley, mentioned in his recent Hall of Fame acceptance speech he would like for the fans to have a more significant role in the election process than the “old guys” on the committee who don’t even buy music anymore. In addition, he believes his band would have been inducted many years sooner if that had been the case. I don’t disagree with the rock star’s logic of allowing the fans to have a stronger voice in the matter, but my greatest fear would then be knowing what might happen twenty-some years from now with the vast number of “Beliebers” running rampant out there. Enough said.
May 18th, 2014 at 1:06 PM
Oh my, this subject is probably only slightly less dangerous than politics and religion. : – )
I like the criteria of “musical excellence, and the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions” rather than simply sales. With that, I am in agreement with most/all of the bands you cite as having been inducted as they really were creative, different, defined genres, etc. And sold a lot of albums along the way (though I don’t quite get why KISS is included, but that’s ok). I missed out on most of the Hair Bands, but other than probably inventing Arena Rock, I’m not sure they were very creative or genre-defining. Like I say, it’s like politics and religion…..