Wednesday, March 31, 2004
My friend Jed Sutton in Ellicott City, Md. voiced his disappointment that Van Halen and Black Sabbath have yet to receive nominations. I consulted with my personal rock-n-roll historian, Bill Renfrew of Nashville, Tenn., and here is his defense of the recent inductees:
EVERYBODY born between 1950 and 1960 has a copy of ZZ Top's Tres Hombres. Probably the baddest, meanest, roughest mother fucker of an album anyone had ever heard. "Jesus Left Chicago..." What a line. Pure evil...and deliciously so. The other stuff later on was fluff created to set up the killer guitar. Tone and balls with a lot of soul...all from 3 pieces. Pretty impressive. They earned their wings early on and then they cashed in on Sharp Dressed Man. They peaked about then, laying down the best grooves under guitar licks anyone had ever heard...and they personified the lifestyle defined in it's most primary form: Sex drugs and rock and roll, with no holds barred on any of them. Then they all got hooked on coke and kept putting out Sharp Dressed Man over and over again until eveyyone got sick of them. The album that followed SDM was 10 songs, all of which had exactly the same beat, tempo and groove (and sometimes melody) of SDM. When it becomes more about money than music, that's what happens.
A fair dismantling. I don't discount my age bias, though I would say I'm more hip to pre-70s music than the typical GenX-er. My bigger beef is with how easy it is to get in. They may be better bands than I realize, but in my mind, the HoF should be reserved for the truly amazing. For comparison purposes closer to my generation, Billy Joel has amazing work, but would I put him in the HoF? I'll just say, it's not a slam dunk like the other big bands of the 70s (Zeppelin, Eagles) or 80s (U2, R.E.M.), though, admittedly, they're clearly different acts than Joel. To analogize with baseball, he's not first ballot though he'd probably get in after 3-5 tries.
The other thing I object to is the clear generation-bias in the voting process. "Hey, Steven Stills or Eric Clapton was in this band at some point for a day and a half? Well, shit, let's put them in!" I mean, will we put Jane's Addiction in the HoF when they become eligible? Sure Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro are amazing, but I don't quite see it. Do Foo Fighters get in because Dave Grohl was also in Nirvana? I could sit down and make a list of a dozen acts from the 80s that I really like who have a decent body of work (for starters, Echo & the Bunnymen and Psychedelic Furs), but I'd be hardpressed to construct a story that puts them in the HoF. Just because you have enough songs to have a greatests hits album does not mean you're HoF-worthy.
And 5-7 bands a year? That seems like a real shitload, designed more to increase sales for artists rather than truly honor great work.
Also, on VH, if we're going to hold bands accountable for the shitty bands and musicians they inspire, would we be able to induct the Stones or Zeppelin?
But, then again, maybe I'm just full of shit and don't know as much about music as I'm fronting. Which, now that I think about it, is probably the case.
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