Criteria: 2015 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees. Names are in alphabetical order.
(Note: DDD is not affiliated with the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame)
Written by: Sampson
Last Updated: 2014-12-21
2015 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees
Yeah, we're forced to deal with this again. It never ends. The Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame's history of ineptitude goes on and on, with no end in sight, simply because those who have wrested control of the organization are perfectly happy with a thoroughly corrupt process that allows their own personal, highly distorted, views on rock history to be validated through their choices for enshrinement. They view criticism as simply part of the deal that comes with the territory, refusing to distinguish between common fan oriented taste-based outrage over a particular favorite not getting in, and legitimate concern over the credibility of the Hall when it comes to accurately chronicling the history of the music it claims to celebrate. To them the two wildly disparate forms of complaints are the same.
But they're not. Criticism over the systematic abuses of power and the ongoing sense of entitlement held by the chosen few who rule the Hall in virtual secrecy is anything but personal grievances over seeing some fan's favorite get denied election. In fact, those who are calling for an overhaul of the entire system are doing so for the very reason the Hall itself would dishonestly claim to champion – for a love of the music itself and the respect for the full, unabridged, history that the Hall seems perpetually unwilling to acknowledge while they go about securing places within for those artists a handful of elitists representing the same basic background find personally appealing.
So yet again, here we are, forced to write a pointed condemnation of the entire process, the figures responsible for this perverted distortion of rock history, and the unfortunate results they collectively spawned by their actions, rather than devote this space to celebrating deserving inductees. The Hall, for their part, refuses to publicly admit to its many sins, such as the stagnant nominating committee which wields the most power over who gets in and which has incredibly remained virtually unchanged in membership over the past quarter century. Or the fact that it's made up almost exclusively of white males with an average age now in their mid sixties whose selections disproportionately reflect that background long after their era has passed. Or the demographic one-sidedness of the voting body, which resembles the Aryan nation, and the resulting lack of cultural awareness of the many forms of black dominated rock 'n' roll, including disco, funk, Philly Soul and hip-hop, who routinely get passed over in favor of far less successful and less influential fifth tier white acts. The Hall likewise has taken no steps to force voters with personal connections to nominees to recuse themselves from the process, thereby allowing cronyism to play an ever greater part in the elections. Worse yet, the Hall's own voting guidelines specifically downplays using any objective achievement-based assessments of artists credentials and instead encourage voters to use subjective and purely personal musical tastes to determine who gets to be called an immortal. Finally, the only solution to these perennial problems would require those who control the entire process, and thus are responsible FOR the corruption in the first place, to voluntarily give up their power, the likelihood of which ranks just below the possibility of seeing the teen bubblegum group The Ohio Express on stage singing "Yummy Yummy Yummy" after being inducted... (although, come to think of it, they were white and came from the 60's, so don't discount that example entirely).
With all of these deep-seated faults in the structure of the Hall itself, can any of the resulting injustices about to be addressed below be deemed surprising?
THE MAIN PERFORMER INDUCTEES
PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND
What a way to start. Distinctly unqualified for induction and even reasonable consideration, despite their skill in an unrelated field and the presence of the highly skilled guitarist, Michael Bloomfield, in their ranks. The ongoing push for their induction was clearly championed by the sizable and irrational Bob Dylan devoted contingent of the Hall, as he remains a lionized figure for most voters from that era (approximately 97% of the voting body, after all, comes from the blue haired society that experienced the 60's first hand). For the record though Butterfield and company were a (largely) white blues band with only moderate commercial success and very little impact when it came to rock, preferring to remain true to the blues ideals they modeled themselves on rather than making the full transition to rock like so many others had done. As a result that was a field they were only tangentially connected to, and briefly at that, largely by virtue of backing Dylan at his famed Newport appearance in which he was seen as turning his back on his folk music followers by going electric. They did soon add greater diversity to their work, incorporating jazzy elements and longer experimental leanings, which had some influence with the burgeoning jam band aesthetic, but they intentionally never committed themselves to the more glamorous field of rock. That was quite commendable. But to now honor them as rockers – and enshrine them as immortals in this field - shows the Hall has no regard for the artist's own career choices, but would rather use them to allow the many sycophants of his Bobness to find a way to honor Dylan again in a roundabout way. What a shame.
The sole main performer of this year's class deserving of induction. I guess one out of six ain't bad, at least not for this institution. They are also, not surprisingly, the lone act, out of four nominated, whose primary career achievements took place after the mid-80's. Yet somehow there are three artists getting in who released almost all of their worthwhile material before 1975! And still there will be Hall members insisting there is absolutely no era-based favoritism. As for Green Day, their steady popularity over two decades, dating from the rise of alternative in the early 90's to their ambitious protest albums into the late 2000's, gave them the staying power to be seen as more than emblematic of just one period. In addition to being critically acclaimed (multiple Grammy wins), and widely respected by other artists, they also have far more commercial success than the rest of this year's inductees. While the Hall somehow insists that actually being successful at what you do shouldn't be a voter consideration, no doubt to justify their litany of unqualified entrants year in and year out, the fact that Green Day sold records in large quantities, eight Top Ten albums to be precise, only adds to their legitimate credentials. It's a shame they have to serve as the poster group for such a poor induction class, but that will hopefully foist more of the focus on them for the actual achievements that earned them the honor.
JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS
Enjoyable, cartoonish, but entirely unessential. The epitome of the journeyman (journeywoman?) rocker. A few hits, hardly any with original material however, and no stylistic innovations from which to derive influence. Her start with the Runaways, considered a rarity in that they were an all-female band which played their own instruments, would be the only thing which would qualify in that regard, yet can't be counted towards her solo career's candidacy, otherwise why make a distinction between the two and roll Lou Reed's corpse in for a second time this year? So what got Jett in? Clearly someone on the committee had a thing for her, pushing her candidacy repeatedly despite her having little impact on rock's evolution until that persistence finally paid off. Another example of allowing one or two devoted champions of a cause to push through an otherwise undeserving candidate. That said, she was always fun to listen to, was devoted to rock and all it entailed like few others, and never took herself all too seriously. Yet the fictionalized version of herself she played in the trashy move Light Of Day, that of a bar-band singer, was essentially what she was in reality. Bar-bands though, even the best of them, don't make a lasting impression past Saturday morning when the booze from the night before wears off, and they certainly don't belong enshrined alongside the immortals, no matter how much drunken fun you had Friday night.
A recently deceased big name is always ripe for being honored, even though in this case he was a notorious jerk, and someone for whom his greatest legacy as an artist has already been properly honored by the Hall when they inducted The Velvet Underground in 1996. To make it in for a solo career as well should mean that the artist in question had left an equal or greater mark on rock after they departed their original group. Sadly, like many of the previous multiple-inductees, their second induction often means the Hall voters are simply more familiar with the already recognizable name and want to celebrate music they already honored once before, figuring there's few who will question it if they do. When each stage of a career is counted separately, not many, no matter how big their name, will have legitimately earned their second nod for that work alone. Making it more difficult when it comes to Reed is that his solo music was as equally polarizing and off-putting to many and not much more successful commercially than it was while he was with VU. While he did break new ground as a solo act, and thus earns some influence credit there, that alone is not nearly enough to justify his induction a second time, especially when N.W.A had far more influence and success, not to mention impact that dwarfed Reed and they failed to make it yet again. Dead men tell no tales though, and apparently dead rock stars equal more sales... or something like that.
STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN & DOUBLE TROUBLE
Brilliant guitarist who could've been a huge rock star had he actually chosen to perform rock music – ya know, the field the Hall supposedly was created to celebrate. Instead, Vaughan became a bluesman at a time when blues was at a commercial ebb and while he helped to revive interest in it, his contemporary, Robert Cray, actually was more responsible for that and Cray has absolutely no chance at getting in, being black and still alive. Not Vaughan's fault, of course, but another example of the Hall making its troubling preferences known in perverse ways. As bluesman go Vaughan was an exceptional talent and a devoted proponent of the music, gracefully honoring his idols and remaining committed to it even as a broader field beckoned, to which he refused to do more than flirt with. But the Hall has always been far more comfortable celebrating the blues, an unrelated major genre of music, than actual black rock styles such as disco (Chic), or funk (War), or Philly soul (The Spinners), even Motown (The Marvelettes), and rap (N.W.A), each of whom are more objectively qualified for enshrinement than not just Vaughan, but most of this year's class. So it should come as no surprise that SRV made it by offering a dead white blues guitarist as a supposedly viable alternative for queasy voters. The only surprise is that it took so long for him to get on the ballot in the first place.
Finally a black face will be on the dais as a recipient, but sadly it was the least deserving of the black artists on the ballot. Not just that, but in his own field of rock – southern soul – Joe Tex has failed to get inducted all four times he appeared on the ballot, despite credentials that put Withers to shame. Yet here's Withers making it in the first time he's put up to a vote. This one is another that's hard to justify, but somewhat easy to see coming, as his one eternal universal hit, "Lean On Me", overwhelms the deeper credentials of others, not just this year, but for other neglected artists in years past. Now he did have more good work that's worth hearing, particularly early on, but his time at the top was extremely short, and even at his peak within that style of rock alone he was never true superstar. He was an excellent songwriter, but not with anywhere near the catalog of Chic in that regard, and brings few other credentials to the table. But the saddest part of his induction may be this: Since 1997, a whopping 76% of all main performer inductees have been white, a shocking, offensive and utterly repugnant illustration of the Hall's troubling perspective on rock history. Yet Withers and his admittedly undeserving induction will allow the many defenders of the racial inequality shown to now be able to use him as an example of how the Hall has a bias in favor of black artists! Withers, like Butterfield, Jett, Reed and Vaughan, had a solid, distinguished career, and yes, all of them deserve to be remembered fondly for their work. But none of them has any right to be enshrined in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame.
MUSICAL EXCELLENCE CATEGORY
Formerly called "Sideman", a far more accurate term for those uncredited figures playing on scores of hits that came out under the names of others who got the glory. They were hired hands, indispensable in the studio, yet unrewarded in terms of public acclaim, and so the sideman category was designed in 1997 to finally honor the contributions of those behind the scenes. Yet after a number of qualified entrants in its first few ceremonies the category was neglected for years, despite scores of deserving candidates still waiting for a call, before being rechristened "Award For Musical Excellence". This change to a catch-all, utterly meaningless designation, was done to allow the Hall a way in which they could put any name they wanted on the stage, regardless of whether they actually qualified under any heading. This year they've stooped SO low that it defies belief, proving once again that if it's one thing the Hall members don't care about it's credibility.
This year's award for "Being A Beatle", the group all of the decrepit aging stoners still beat off to nightly, goes to Ringo Starr! Here's a towel, Ringo, you might not want to get too close to the circle jerk the Hall is throwing on your behalf. You'd think they'd have lost their ability to get it up by now. Oh well, Viagra's a wonderful thing I guess if you came of age back in the 60's and want to still rave about that period fifty years later. But let's take a closer look at the – ahem – "reasons" for his second enshrinement to see if I have this right. If the original definition of this designation holds true they'd have to be honoring Ringo Starr for his work as an uncredited sideman. So, basically that means his work with Rory & The Hurricanes??? Or is it the few guest spots he's had since the Beatles broke up playing drums or kazoo (wait, that was Paul) on the mostly forgettable albums of big name friends who used to be viable artists before old age and senility set in? If that's not it, then they're honoring Ringo Starr for "musical excellence" as a member of... The Beatles! A group that is already IN the Hall Of Fame, and for which Ringo actually showed up for the enshrinement. It's on video, you can't deny he was there! So basically he's now getting inducted again for the same thing he was already honored for, apparently as part of the clause in the Hall's bylaws that says, "Every year we need an otherwise pointless Beatles connection to remind the rest of the world that they (cue the hysterical crying) changed our lives by their mere presence on earth!" Last year it was Brian Epstein who got in, this year it's a recycled Ringo Starr. God help us all. Yoko Ono, you're probably on deck for next year. Paging Pete Best. You're up for induction in 2017. Get your speech ready. The year after, the barber who didn't cut The Beatles hair in 1964! How pathetic.
The "5" ROYALES
This is where we should be rejoicing. After 29 years of eligibility as one of the most qualified artists in rock history, the founders of soul music, The "5" Royales are finally getting into the Hall Of Fame. Hallelujah, it's about damn time. But even here there is a major problem with what their selection represents. Whenever the Hall is faced with mounting criticism for their own ongoing ineptitude, particularly over race or era based issues, they attempt to make amends by using the non-voting categories such as Non-Performers or Early Influence, to usher in somebody who fits the gaping demographic hole on stage that their woeful elections are usually responsible for. While that has, at times, resulted in the induction of wholly deserving candidates (Gamble & Huff, Jesse Stone, Otis Blackwell for example), it is also a not-too subtle admission of their own shameful practices. Making matters worse is the fact that The "5" Royales are entirely deserving as Main Performers, not Early Influences. Rock was invented in 1947 and the "5" Royales weren't recording until the early 50's. But in any event, The "5" Royales were the first to directly and consistently meld gospel to rock, inventing soul music well before Ray Charles, Sam Cooke or anyone else did the same. They had in their ranks one of the best songwriters of his era, Lowman Pauling, who also happened to be one of the greatest guitarists of ANY era. That, combined with the gritty gospel-esque vocals of the Tanner brothers, Johnny and Eugene alternating on leads, and their on stage showmanship made them among rock's biggest stars of the early 50's and a major influence on scores of artists in the decade after that. But the Hall, in the way in which they're enshrining them, still has managed to belittle their accomplishments somewhat.
This should've been the year when The Hall had no undeserving inductees on stage, no questionable motives behind their decisions and no more self-inflicted wounds to their credibility. They had a ballot full of names capable of achieving this goal and having an eminently qualified class of 2015. Naturally, being who they are, they blew it.
But this induction isn't, or shouldn't be about who made it, but rather who didn't, despite virtually all being more deserving. The Spinners, whose decade of hits helped define one of the most popular styles of rock, the lush Philly Soul sound of the 70's, had no shot with this voting body. War, whose Latin funk resulted in major hits, crossover albums and brought much needed social commentary and cultural diversity to rock around the same time, also were snubbed by clueless voters. The Smiths, who recharged a sagging British rock scene with their controversial positions while captivating their nation's youth with hook-filled protest songs, found no one willing to listen to what they had to say either. The Marvelettes, who put Motown Records on the map for good with the first chart topper the greatest label in rock history ever had, and kept the label viable for its first few years as it was struggling, were denied the credit for their massive accomplishments. Kraftwerk, radical reinventors of the sound of pop music, giving a blueprint for new soundscapes that multiple generations have since drawn from, were ignored. Nine Inch Nails, a one man "group" that defined and legitimized industrial rock, saw those efforts done for naught. Sting... well, he didn't deserve to make it a second time for middle of the road jazz-pop anyway, so they actually got this right. Fuck Sting.
The most egregious omissions have been saved for last and deserve special mention. The first is the ongoing rejection of Chic, who were the most talented musicians, the best songwriters and greatest producers of their era rolled into one, who have been callously denied another shot at the Hall because the voters are perennially uncomfortable with disco, and refuse to accept that rock's origins are black dance music, the very thing they epitomized for an entire era. Lastly, there's N.W.A, who deserved to be headlining the ceremonies, praised for reinvigorating rock, bringing back the outrage and controversy the best rock has always embraced, and creating the unlikely vehicle for the commercial crossover of hip-hop via their brand of gangsta rap. They should've been on the stage in these troubling times, facing a nation on edge with ongoing civil protests over the callous disregard for black lives by law enforcement, leading the rallying cry they popularized a quarter century ago, "Fuck Tha Police".
It would've been then, that rock 'n' roll, in all of its tangled provocative glory, celebrating 68 unruly years of organized noise, mayhem and chaos, each generation having drawn from that same controversial spirit that swirls around rock music by its very nature, would have come full circle, reaffirming its lasting value as the voice of its times and its people.
Instead we'll get someone imploring, "Ladies and gentlemen, one more time, let's hear it for Mr. Ringo Starr!" as the relevance of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame grows ever more dim.