Is it time to close down the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
I was a rock critic in a past life, so every year around this time, I still get a ballot allowing me to vote for my favorite nominees in the annual election at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Actually, I don't get to choose my favorite bands at all. The Hall of Fame is a notoriously top-down institution, with an elite group of insiders making up a nominating committee that pre-selects their own idiosyncratic idea of the worthy candidates. So all of us lowly peons are only allowed to vote for 5 out of 12 possible candidates, which judging from this year's nominees makes for slim pickings.
The list (read it and weep): ABBA, the Chantels, Jimmy Cliff, Genesis, the Hollies, KISS, LL Cool J, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Stooges and Donna Summer.
It's pretty pathetic when you consider that you can vote for the Chantels and Darlene Love, but not for Linda Ronstadt, Steve Miller, Chicago, Rush, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Journey, Dire Straits or Stevie Ray Vaughan, just to name a few of the ineligible worthies. It's no wonder that Joel Selvin, the veteran San Francisco critic (and former member of the hall's nominating committee), has blasted the hall for its insular decision-making. He heaps most of the blame on Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, the hall's co-founder and dominant force, who is believed to be behind the mysterious last-minute selection of Grandmaster Flash over the Dave Clark 5, with Wenner apparently pushing aside the DC5 (finally inducted in 2008) so the hall could have a hip-hop group in the fold.
"This thing has sunk to a shameless level of manipulation and behind-the-scenes chicanery," Selvin told the Detroit News in 2007. "If it were a public institution--which it is--it would be held up for public ridicule."
Despite my own shared concerns--I think it would a perfectly appropriate idea to close down the hall for repairs for a few years, until a few more deserving bands become eligible--I still feel obligated to vote. But I'd like some help. Take a second look at the names of the 2010 nominees above and let me know who you'd vote for--and why. Those of us who are actual voters are asked to choose a maximum of five nominees, using numbers (1-2-3-4-5) to signify our preferences. You can do the same. Here's how I'd make my choices as of now, but I'm open to being swayed by any especially passionate or persuasive arguments:
1) The Stooges. (They were short-lived, but had an indelible impact on my teen psyche. Any band that had the one-and-only Iggy Pop on board makes the cut for me.)
2) The Red Hot Chili Peppers. (Local L.A. boys made good, they capture the tumultuous spirit of rock and have made some terrific records along the way.)
3) Laura Nyro. (Nearly forgotten today, she was a seminal influence on Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash and untold other singer-songwriters.)
4) LL Cool J. (Probably not a major artist, but in his day, he was the epitome of cool.)
5) KISS. (I'm not a member of the Army and I think Gene Simmons is pretty obnoxious, but they were the voice of a generation--no one can forget their first KISS concert.)
Photo: The Rock and Roll Hall Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Credit: Reuters