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Talkin' Bout My (Maalox) Generation
May 4, 2012  | By Eric Gould  | 2 comments

You have to love that there's a pyramid in Cleveland as a monument to Rock and Roll, seemingly requisitioned by Spinal Tap - because it's so heavy, man. But it's always a bit mystifying as to which (old) Pharaohs have become entombed there, and why other rock royalty are locked outside the crypt...

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had its 2011-2012 induction ceremonies on April 14, and HBO is repackaging the event for broadcast on May 5 (9 p.m. ET). As with past induction ceremonies, there ought to be great live performances by new members, such as this year's Donovan (right), Ron Wood (representing inductees The Small Faces, above) - and other appearances by performers introducing new members into the shrine, such as when Green Day plays and presents Guns N' Roses.

Guns N' Roses? Hall of Fame?

If there’s a Rock ‘n' Roll heaven - they’ve shut off the radio now.

Music tastes very wildly, so if there are any Guns N' Roses fans outraged at the premise that they should not be in the same building with Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison, point honorably taken. Mea Culpa.

The Hall of Fame trustees have weathered criticism for years that they pander to inducting acts that will widen its demographics and sell tickets, rather than appropriately honor its roots by including the artists that rightfully should be there first. Even though they're old. And, in some cases, gone.

And now, with rock essentially gone from the commercial radio format, and with so-called country music now the home of the big electric guitar sound, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame may simply be reaching for relevancy.

This year, the storm is no different. Inductees include the late Laura Nyro and bluesman Freddie King. The Hall will install the influential impresario Don Kirschner. Also, legendary producer Glyn Johns, who gave the Rolling Stones and so many other bands their distinctive sounds, has been voted in.

And then they will enshrine Guns N' Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Beastie Boys.


Are they good bands that blazed some new territory? Of course. Monumental, worthy of enshrinement before some of their predecessors? Absolutely not. (There are the Chili Peppers and Green Day jamming with Wood, below.)

They may just qualify for simply being alive, and that a younger audience can relate.

There are just head-scratching omissions (this is rock, so maybe it's head-banging) from the Hall of Fame. The exiled include heavyweights such as Deep Purple, Yes and - for heaven's sake - Jethro Tull.

Tull, an English group that borrowed heavily from all sorts of British folk roots and remade them into their own rock species, was responsible for one of the most over-played rock hits of all time, "Aqualung" - a record second only to "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd for the sheer mind-numbing repetition it got on rock radio.

Played so often, and emptied of all meaning and spontaneity, the song eventually had all the freshness of listening to a seminar agenda being read at a convention of embalmers.

There might actually be a few Inuit elders up in Nunavut who have not heard "Aqualung" yet - although, with the Internet, they most likely have. And I'm sure they rocked out to it, dude.

So rather than the upcoming 2012 show itself, the story, maybe even more than Who's Getting in the Hall, is: Who's Still Locked Out?

The great prog-rock trailblazers Moody Blues and King Crimson: out. Yet footnotes like The Stooges and Grandmaster Flash are in. The first big-band rock act, Chicago, out. Another landmark, Electric Light Orchestra, out. Billie Holiday, in. (Billie Holiday? Rock 'n' Roll??)

These omissions and others, including those of The Guess Who, Grand Funk Railroad, Boston, The Zombies -- have the effect of giant potholes in the wide highway that was paved across rock radio as the genre flourished.

Perhaps most galling is the shunning of the jazz-pop-rock fusion outfit of the '60s and '70s, Spirit (whose first album cover is shown at right.)

A bit of a psychedelic enigma even when they had hits, Spirit, lead by the late Randy California and Jay Ferguson, released their Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus in 1970, a concept album equal in scale and ambition, some might argue, to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

If one of the Hall's criteria is to enshrine bands and artists who, according to the website, "have had a significant impact on the evolution, development and perpetuation of rock and roll" - then a more critical example of that cannot be found elsewhere than in Spirit's work, or the Twelve Dreams album.

Beastie fans, fire away at your leisure. We await your comments.

Esoteric bone picking aside, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can be forgiven for giving in to popularity contests and demographics. It's a big genre, a big audience, and the nominating and voting has to be - like a rock and roll hairstyle - an unruly looking thing.

Maybe it's absolutely appropriate that Madonna, a pop-disco act, is in, while rock forefathers T-Rex are out. For whatever it means and stands for, to its vast and varied audience, rock always was a culture first, a way of living - and music only after that. It’s the sense of letting loose, feeling before thinking, being impulsive and brash, letting the logic fall where it may.

So whoever voted in Brenda Lee (Brenda Lee??) and, this year, the Beastie Boys, yet excluded one of The Beatles' proclaimed favorites - the late, great Harry Nilsson - is probably being true to the core of the movement.

As The Who once sang: "I Can't Explain."

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Keith Hood
Also, how could Smokey Robinson (solo) be inducted before his group, The Miracles was inducted. It was Smokey & the Miracles making rock and roll history, not the solo Smokey of "Baby, Come Close." And it was Claudette's background vocals that gave Smokey and the Miracles a signature sound even after Claudette ceased live performances.
May 5, 2012   |  Reply
Thanks for reminding us of who isn't in - rather than who is. Shocking, to say the least. Having grown up on the real "Rock & Roll", to see the omission of the likes of Chicago, Moody Blues, The Zombies and Harry Nilsson is an absolute sin. Who is the R&R H of F pandering to?
May 5, 2012   |  Reply
Eileen: Shocking when you look at the omissions, isn't it? To the Trustees credit, esoteric, yet essential acts such as Traffic, Gene Pitney, The Yardbirds -- and a host of unknown bluesmen -- have been nominated and inducted. But excluding Ian Anderson, Martin Barre and their group, Jethro Tull, is intolerable. And Spirit, left out, is an equal blunder.
May 5, 2012
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