Jacobs: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame misses the mark

By by Justin Jacobs

After years of awful Grammy winners, talentless pop stars gracing the cover of Rolling Stone and… After years of awful Grammy winners, talentless pop stars gracing the cover of Rolling Stone and unoriginal rock band hacks being touted by record labels as the next big thing, it’s no surprise that any self-respecting music fan would be quite wary of, shall we say, the corporate rock ‘n’ roll machine. The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, though, always seemed to me to be so self-aware that its kitsch factor overshadowed its corporate undertones, still maintaining some form of clever credibility. Until yesterday. For yesterday is when the judges at the Hall of Fame announced their inductees of 2009, taken from a larger list of nominees. It’s a pretty solid list, too, until you notice which nominee was left in the dust. The inductees include Metallica, Run D.M.C., Jeff Beck, Little Anthony and the Imperials and Bobby Womack. Left off that list, criminally, is The Stooges, a band responsible for influencing the creation of this little genre we like to call, ahem, punk rock. (Pause in writing for readers to huff and puff in disgust for several minutes, calm down by listening to something loud and agitated, then realize that said band was undoubtedly influenced by The Stooges, start fuming again, punch the nearest inanimate object, then calm down. Estimated time: seven minutes). The actual Hall of Fame building, as opposed to the institution, is a giant glass pyramid overlooking Lake Erie right in the heart of downtown Cleveland. It houses a handful of theaters showing flicks about the magic of rock music and the badass-ness of bands like The Who. The whole establishment hallows the forefathers of rock music with shrines and exhibits where the actual edge of rock ‘n’ roll is softened, archived and presented in glass cases. Is it lame? Of course, but it’s endearing as well. The Hall of Fame is a lot like your soft-spoken uncle who used to drop a whole lot of acid and then roll around in the snow naked in the ’60s, but now just sits at family picnics eating potato salad and referencing his youth with phrases like, ‘Well, back then things were different’ and ‘Oh, we were kids then.’ In other words, The Hall of Fame gives you a glimpse of the wild world of rock but is careful to watch its manners. But still, for an institution that proposes to honor the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll, the bands that really made an impact on the world of music, it sure as hell missed the mark. Are other bands more popular than The Stooges? Yes. In fact, most bands are more popular than The Stooges. Seriously, name one. There’s a good chance that the band you just named is more popular than The Stooges. But there’s almost no chance that it was more influential. With front man Iggy Pop’s rattlesnake holler and penchant for bloodying himself onstage, Ron Ashton’s rough and skin-tearing guitar lines (Note: Ashton died in his home just last week and should be rolling in his grave right now) and Scott Ashton’s jackhammer drumming, The Stooges created raw and driving punk rock nearly a decade before so many bands used the then it-genre to rise to fame. In the summer of love, The Stooges were preaching destruction with guitar distortion and spastic rock freak-outs. What’s worse, some of the first wave punk bands that The Stooges influenced have already been inducted, some years ago, to the Hall of Fame. The Clash? 2003. The Ramones and Talking Heads? 2002. Even the more-hype-than-talent Sex Pistols made it in 2006.’ What’s worse is that The Stooges was among the nominees, meaning it was willfully passed up. The Hall of Fame had the chance to actually live up to its potential ‘mdash; that is, to honor the creators and shapers of rock while balancing credibility and family friendliness ‘mdash; and the probably old, white and out-of-touch judges blew it. Maybe next year the Hall of Fame judges will take their collective head out of their collective ass, park the minivan and throw the James Taylor (who was inducted in 2000) CD out the window, then listen to a Stooges jam and realize what complete rock ‘n’ roll madness they’ve been missing. Want more rock? Check out Justin’s new music blog at www.gravityrideseverythingblog.blogspot.com for concert updates, music musings and general awesomeness.