The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its 2017 class and–as usual–it’s disappointing. In a year when musical revolutionaries such as Bad Brains, Kraftwerk, Jane’s Addiction, and the MC5 were nominated, we somehow ended up with guilty pleasures Electric Light Orchestra, Journey, and Yes.
“Besides demonstrating unquestionable musical excellence and talent, inductees will have had a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock & roll.”
Sure, I suppose you could made drunken arguments that those three bands are worthy of respect. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have made those arguments myself after a few too many rum and cokes. But they suck. It’s cheese. It’s garbage. And even if those bands had an influence on other performers, the performers they influenced sucked even harder.
Of those three, ELO is obviously the least awful and Yes is the worst. And just like in real life, Journey is the mediocre one in the middle. I mean, come on. I enjoy Journey as much as the next guy who grew up in the arcade era. “Wheels in the Sky” is a badass jam and I can still close my eyes and picture Steve Perry’s pixelated head bouncing from drum to drum in the videogame. [It was actually the drummer’s head on that level, not Steve Perry. -ed.] But they’re fluff. Just because you have a song featured in a key scene in an “important” tv show doesn’t make you an important band.
Other performers inducted in this class were Joan Baez, Pearl Jam, and Tupac Shakur. Fine. Whatever. I don’t listen to any of that stuff, and in the case of Pearl Jam I don’t even like it, but I recognize the “musical excellence and talent” blah blah “impact” blah blah blah.
And then there’s good old Nile Rodgers, whose band Chic has been nominated 11 times but never inducted. This year they finally threw him a bone by inducting him, not as a performer, but with an Award for Musical Excellence. This is a category that seems to have been created in 2011 for producers who also perform…or something. We already have the “Ahmet Ertegun Award” (formerly known as the non-performer category) for influential music biz types, so what exactly is the Award for Musical Excellence?
Former Award for Musical Excellence winners include Leon Russell, Tom Dowd, Glyn Johns, Cosimo Matassa, the E Street Band, and most recently, Ringo Starr. This list demonstrates how ridiculous the Rock Hall induction process is. Most of them are producers and probably should’ve received an Ahmet Ertegun Award. And the E Street Band obviously should’ve been inducted in the “Sidemen” category. Of them all, Leon Russell is the closest analog to Nile Rodgers. He was a session man, a producer, and a seventies superstar. He ran a record label and had a fantastic beard and impeccable taste in hats. But why wasn’t he nominated as a performer? Who knows?
And then there’s Ringo. Which is probably why Nile Rodgers is feeling “perplexed” right now. Because face it, Ringo was too terrible to be inducted as a solo performer. His drumming with the Beatles is perfect and that band was rightfully inducted in 1988. John Lennon: 1994. Paul McCartney: 1999. George Harrison: 2004. They finally threw poor Ringo a bone in 2015 by giving him an Award for Musical Excellence. Which, frankly, he doesn’t even deserve. His albums are unlistenable and his All Starr Band is embarrassing. Peace and love, though. Peace and love.
So the Rock Hall is basically saying Nile Rodgers is as good as Ringo.
I used to drink the Chic haterade. I used to think that everybody would’ve forgotten about them if not for “Rapper’s Delight.” I even advocated nominating Nile Rodgers on his own for his production work (not only with Chic, but also David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, INXS). I used to think Chic was just another bandwagon-jumping, run of the mill disco band. Then I listened to them. If you’ve only heard “Good Times” or “Le Freak” you probably ought to go out and dig a little deeper. Let’s just say it becomes obvious pretty quickly why Johnny Marr named his son Nile.
But hey, the whole purpose of making lists is to argue about them, right? The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is basically just an extension of a Rolling Stone magazine listicle. And that’s fine. Jann Wenner and the rest of the Baby Boomers are in their 70s now and will all be dead before we know it. Might as well let the old people have their fun before they’re too senile to enjoy it.