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"These people really do love rock and roll, but there are personal and financial agendas as well — and even personal vendettas" ...


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Hall Executive Director Evans also denies the role of personal favoritism in the process. "The board of the museum is made up of the heads of the record companies, top managers, artists. I think everyone necessarily has relationships with people who want to be inducted, [but] I really don't think that relationships with members of the board have ever gotten anyone into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Obviously we're going to know people, but the nominating committee is a pretty purist group of writers and critics — the majority of them are journalists — and I really doubt that they are swayed by anybody coming in and saying, 'I want you to induct so-and-so.' "

Evans attributes the glaring exclusions to the vagaries of the voting committee. "I know sometimes the voting results seem to be more purist than populist," she says. "But I can't pretend to know why people vote the way they do, at all. Everyone has different tastes in music, and I think every genre in rock and roll is well represented in both our nominating committee as well as the larger voting group. And if you listen to any of our historians' discussions in the nominating procedure, you would hear a wide variety of tastes and judgments as to who is influential and who should go in before whom, depending on that person's personal preferences of the rock and roll genre — one person might put a name into a nomination and another might say, 'That's not rock and roll!' I get that all the time."

So we're to believe that more than half of the hall's voters, and its nominating committee, feel that Kiss and Sabbath aren't significant or influential enough to be in the hall of fame?

Indeed, nom-anon #1 says, "With Kiss and Black Sabbath, I don't believe those are conspiratorial cases. I think [the nominating committee members are] very split and very acrimonious about them. Kiss is brought up every year, and some people feel very passionately that they should be in, and some people feel very passionately that they shouldn't, based on the fact that they hate Kiss, and it's a similar thing with Sabbath. Some people think the hall of fame is invalidated by not having them in there, and other people just think they stink."

  Seymour Stein

Lydon and members of Black Sabbath have spoken bitterly about the hall of fame. Neither group responded to requests for comment — Sabbath's publicist even said "the band as a whole is no longer interested in commenting on the hall of fame" — but they don't really need to. Lydon has called the hall "the place where old rockers go to die," and both Ozzy Osbourne and guitarist Tony Iommi have been outspoken in their displeasure at Sabbath being passed over.

After the group — which has been nominated and not inducted three times — was passed over in 1999, Osbourne issued a press release asking that the band be removed from consideration. "Just take our name off the list," he said. "Save the ink. Forget about us. The nomination is meaningless, because it's not voted on by the fans. It's voted on by the supposed elite of the industry and the media, who've never bought an album or concert ticket in their lives, so their vote is totally irrelevant to me. Let's face it, Black Sabbath have never been media darlings. We're a people's band, and that suits us just fine."

Interestingly, none of the people interviewed for this article said they felt those comments had played a role in keeping Sabbath or the Pistols out of the hall.

* * *
While the members of the nominating committee are often lobbied extensively by managers, executives and artists themselves (the list of people on the nominating committee is made public; the voting committee is not), all agree that it doesn't make much difference. "I think Chicago sends a lot of things, and the Moody Blues and the Doobie Brothers, but no one has bought me lunch or sent me a case of champagne," says nom-anon #2. "I get a lot of letters, but I'm not influenced by them."

However, the lobbying within the committee — where one person's influence can get an artist nominated — is another matter. "In the meeting itself, there is some heated debate," says nom-anon #1. "And there'll be someone who's really an advocate for somebody — year after year after year, they'll hone their arguments and make their case. Every year [one nominating committee member] was bringing up ZZ Top. I honestly believed that they would never get in or get past the nominating committee, but he was indefatigable and he got it through. There was a lot of resistance, but he overcame it. It happened just because of him."

Some members may defer to other members' greater knowledge of a genre, which goes a long way toward explaining the presence of '50s acts like the Flamingos and the Ink Spots in the hall. "My hunch," says veteran journalist Bud Scoppa, a member of the nominating committee since 1998, "is that some of the more vintage acts that have gotten in, particularly in doo-wop, have been little heard by the majority of voters, but tastemakers don't want to think of themselves as ignorant or — more crucially — biased. Seymour, who does know this stuff, has been a big supporter of the doo-wop groups, and I suppose it's possible that some voters defer to his greater knowledge of the dim past.

"But as for the [absence of certain] punk bands," he continues, "I don't get it either."

Although both anonymous members say the nominating committee's nominations are "pretty true to what we've voted on," there have been a couple that don't add up.

"Sometimes, in one or two cases, [the results] don't necessarily feel right to me," says nom-anon #1. "There's usually a moment at the very end of the meetings [where it's like] 'This doesn't quite make sense, maybe one person out of the ones we nominated didn't really have that many votes,' but I have no proof of that."

* * *
  Kiss

So what you've got is a hall of fame that no one seems to be happy with, yet no one seems to be working to fix, either. After aging prog-rockers Jethro Tull won the Grammy for Best Heavy Metal band — over Metallica — in 1989, the RIAA underwent at least an outward revision of its procedures and established some new categories. Nom-anon #2 feels the hall of fame is beyond saving.

"It's already a total joke," he says. "The more the 'institution' disgraces itself with Percy Sledges [and other marginal inductees], the less interesting it will be, and in two or three years, nobody will care anymore."

But for nom-anon #1, there's a simple solution.

"I walk into this room and it's full of old men," he says. "There's no young people, there's like two women, there's no people of color — well, I shouldn't say none, but there's a preponderance of old men. I look across the table and I see people sleeping — I'm just waiting for someone to die at the table — and they're making the decisions! They have their point of view, and it's a legitimate point of view that should be represented, but it's the whole thing."

Stein, however, attributes the hall's flaws to the impossibility of quantifying art. "Rock and roll is a hybrid," he says. "You ask 50 experts what it is and you'll get 50 different definitions. It's not baseball or basketball, where there are stat sheets. There are no scorecards, it keeps changing all the time.

  Patti Smith

"From his deathbed, Johnny Ramone sent me a letter advocating that Cat Stevens get in, and he got John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Eddie Vedder to send letters saying the same thing," he continues. "From his deathbed, he said that — and there couldn't be anything more opposite the Ramones than Cat Stevens. It just goes to show the kind of music people do is not always indicative of our taste. I think the age of the voters has a lot to do with it — obviously we're influenced by the things we loved when we were 13."

Yet despite Stein's touching words, what all of this seems to indicate is that, with the exception of a strikingly large number of comparatively young Rolling Stone staffers, the majority of the hall's nominating committee — the members of which are overwhelmingly over 50 — has no idea what it felt like to be 13 and hear the Sex Pistols or see Kiss on TV for the first time, or at least they're failing to translate their own experiences to it. It's very different to experience music as a pure fan, especially a young one, than it is as a seasoned, if not jaded, music executive or journalist; this, despite the obviously juvenile arguments that go on during the meetings.

"Are you a voting member?" Stein asks. "Let me send you the materials. We can use a few more voters. Maybe you can help!"


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Illustration: Karl Heitmueller

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  Black Sabbath
"War Pigs" (live)
Paranoid
(Warner Brothers)




  Sex Pistols
"Pretty Vacant"
Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols
(Warner Brothers)



  Sex Pistols
"Anarchy in the U.K."
Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols
(Warner Brothers)




  Kiss
"Shout It Out Loud" (live)
You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best!
(Mercury)




  Iggy Pop
"Lust For Life"
Best Of Nude & Rude
(Virgin)



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