Rock Hall Voters Bite Back At Ozzy's Criticisms

While some industry vets support outspoken singer's pulling Black Sabbath from nominees, others regret voting for his band.

Some of the "supposed elite of the industry and the media" — whom Ozzy Osbourne said are the reason he wants Black Sabbath removed from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's nomination list — answered the metal king Tuesday.

A few members of the rock hall's voting board expressed disgust over

Osbourne's criticism that voters have "never bought an album or concert

ticket in their lives." But others — some of whom had already voted

for Sabbath — supported his right to express himself or even agreed

with him. One critic took a more philosophical position.

"A holy fool is still a fool," said longtime pop-music critic and rock hall voter Dave Marsh (also a columnist for SonicNet's Addicted To Noise), whose "The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made" recently was republished.

In a statement issued Monday through the publicity firm Susan Blond Inc., Osbourne said, "Just take our name off the list. 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."

Black Sabbath have been nominated to the rock hall for three straight years; they didn't get enough votes for induction in 1997 or '98. This year the British metal band, whose best-known songs include "Iron Man" and "Paranoid" (RealAudio excerpt of live version), is among a group of 15 nominees, including Eric Clapton, Aerosmith and Queen.

Spokespersons for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation did not return calls Tuesday for comment on Osbourne's statement or to address the band's status on the ballot. The New York foundation oversees the induction process, mailing ballots to a group of more than 800 artists, producers, broadcasters, writers and music executives.

Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, who has served on the voting committee since its inception in 1985, said he can see Osbourne's point, considering Black Sabbath spent their early career being critically reviled.

"I think there's certainly merit in his argument, but I think he's not giving the people who vote within the hall of fame guidelines their own due and their own appreciation of not only his music, but the music of the broad stream of rock itself," he said.

Kaye, who said he has championed Black Sabbath's induction for several years, mailed in his ballot Tuesday before hearing about Osbourne's statement. He said Black Sabbath was one of his top three choices.

"It's easy to complain that the music business is an ivory tower run by people who don't understand music, but the fact is that most of us are in it because we love music," Kaye continued. "I'm a musician, I love music, I live and breathe it 15 hours a day."

Robert Hull, a voter and the executive producer of Time-Life Music in

Alexandria, Va., said Osbourne is "full of sh--." "He's looking at it as

a way of promoting himself, and he's lucky he was even nominated, given

the fact that there are wonderful artists, a lot from the classic era of

rock 'n' roll, who have not made it in. To use this as an opportunity to

bad-mouth the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to generate publicity for himself

is a crying shame."

Hull, who said he "spends more per week on music products than most people

do per year," said Black Sabbath had been his first choice in this year's

nominees, but he added, "I would like to officially rescind my vote because

of that kind of pompous behavior." He also said his band, the Memphis

Goons, never again will cover a Black Sabbath tune.

Reprise Records President Howie Klein, who serves on the voting board of directors, had a different take on Osbourne's rant.

"Everything that Ozzy said is true," he said. "He's smart enough to know that his music appeals to alienated young men and always has and probably always will. I wish the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had a special category for people who bite the heads off birds and animals. If they did, I would vote for him."

One hall of fame voter supported Osbourne's statement simply as freedom of speech. "He has the right to say anything he wants to say," said Ira Robbins, former editor of Trouser Press magazine (whose website is hosted by SonicNet) and author of the "Trouser Press Record Guide."

Black Sabbath formed in 1967 in Birmingham, England, and have produced such landmark metal albums as Paranoid and Master of Reality, both released in 1971. They continued recording and touring after Osbourne quit in 1979, and they are now touring with him again. Last year they released the live double-album Reunion.

Kaye said Osbourne's argument that hall of fame inductees aren't based on the people's choice is irrelevant, because the hall of fame bases its votes on a band's influence, not on popularity.

"It doesn't really have to do with one's acceptance," he said. "It has to do with how much influence and resonance a particular band's music has had, and there's no question that Black Sabbath has had a major influence on the sounds that we've heard from the time that they began.

"In a way, it doesn't matter whether they want to be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," he continued. "They are in rock 'n' roll, and therefore the decision-making process is beyond them."

(Tom Freston, Chairman and CEO of MTV Networks, is a boardmember of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)