Now that they’ve cleared away the $2,500 per ticket chairs and the harm has again been done, it is worth logging a few thoughts in the wake of all the well-defended abstract justifications about the ‘process of selecting’ winners of these awards. Why not just come right out and say: “I am a financially successful male - and this is my Hall of Fame”. As the readership of Rolling Stone Magazine ages, to launch an award machine for aging fans is to offer a smart spin off toy lorded over by the Biggest Boy. There are Halls of Fame all over the place. I think only Art Fairs proliferate faster - and these are at least clearly marketplaces. If it is about the non-profit fund to help musicians who are starving at the end of their life, it isn’t necessary to make a ‘party frock and rubber chicken’ event up to raise money for this sort of thing. Or better still why not just advocate for paying the musicians a living wage all their lives? As it is these inductions are as uncomfortable to watch as the bumfights that were set up with a litre of vodka for a prize, a video camera and an online viewing audience.
Regarding the categories like “early influences” and “people in the business end” or “sidemen and session players”: the failure to make these relevant is built in to the whole construction, which is based upon the old fashioned ‘single artist theory’ - where everyone else’s energy is sucked in to support the one top dog you’ve got under contract. Most old school rock musicians are unable anyway to admit being influenced by another artist unless that other artist is dead. Obviously you are influenced by everything before and during your existence. Performance is by its own nature an interrelated art that needs quite a few people to pull off a good show. If the music industry’s millionaires need to hog a spotlight – well, how about a few rounds of ‘lawyer mud wrestling’ to benefit their charity?
All of this was supposed to change with the wave that became known as PUNK - that’s why it is so revolting to see people who are 50+ or even 60+ being narcissistic and, at best, unconsciously cruel to each other for a ‘gold star on the forehead’ kindergarten reward - in one way or another - year after year. Punk promised that a woman didn’t have to implant a pair of silicone beach balls and pole-dance to be in the band. But once you got there you were supposed to respect your end of the deal and not to become the worst chauvinist on display. Maybe there shouldn’t be any staged events where old capped-toothed egos are thrown gladiatorial style in front of a camera - their bald spots for all to see!
If these events continue - a few issues should be cleared up: for instance, why not have everyone who ever played in the band on stage at the same time. Why not? It becomes an opportunity to transcend decades of petty bickering and old slights. This is not a venue for fighting out royalty disputes or for picking a sin eater. Nobody should be excluded; it’s not even a paid gig! Every person who sat in a van for hours on the highway and lived on cheese rolls belongs right up there - centre stage - not watching it on TV from their hotel room upstairs - or on a semi-darkened side stage waiting to play on cue and viewed only in a cinematic long shot. Maybe you don’t like them, but it’s not your call to erase others from your shared history just because you got a nod from the Biggest Boy.
This is also not the venue for lamenting the death of your father’s mother’s brother’s sister-in-law’s cat. This is a mid-career, mid-life acknowledgement that assumes in middle age any artist will have been deepened by a familiarity with death and the abyss. Are surviving parents or heirs of a dead artist contacted to receive this honour on their behalf? There are no purple hearts for having lost a child in the meat-grinder.
Better yet, why not have a monument in every town for the youths of that town, generation after generation, who picked up music like Johnny B. Good and hit the road in a DIY band movement, worldwide? Humankind has managed to rally around the cannon fodder war dead listed on metal in rock at every public park. How about a virtual Hall of Fame modelled on Maya Lin's Viet Nam memorial wall design, only set up as a Wiki? Anyone who dedicated their entire youth to the rock n’ roll dream, a musically transcendent soul and a fair world; those who paid the full price of trying and felt the idealism of starting a band and writing their song, could be listed. The societal fear might be one of actually seeing just how long the list of culture fodder on that wall would actually be!
Above a three-octave range, amazing chops, great lyrics and imaginative composition, ‘fairness’ has become the high water mark for ‘talent’. These ideals are not necessarily incompatible with intuitive cool and a good time, mind you. But until there is a unified world government of conscience, culture has to act as the small research and design model of a world anyone would want. That’s why this matters.
Judy Nylon – tMx 29 – 03/07