ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF SHAME: We have come to anesthetize your children

Music Features
ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF SHAME: We have come to anesthetize your children
Jun 30, 2006, 03:00

CLEVELAND - The Sex Pistols are right. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a multi-million dollar corporation that is run by the heads of some of the largest companies in the U.S.

The hall's stated program service revenue in 2004 of $5.1 million includes $3.6 million in government contributions and grants. The board of directors includes the head of a public relations firm, an executive at a $7.8 billion real estate firm and the top executive of the Fourth District Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland.

On VH1 in April, viewers watched the people who paid $2,500 a shot watch the induction ceremonies held a week earlier at the Waldorff-Astoria. Watching the watchers watchers, all lame, a field of audience in a miasma of misguided and gross corporate ass-kiss.

Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Sex Pistols and the founders of A&M Records—Herb Albert and Jerry Moss—were this year‘s honorees. Talk amongst yourselves.

If, though, you have entertained notions of visiting the hall, check the Indians schedule instead, because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself is just a glorified Hard Rock Café—without the beer. It's a 4-hour trip through the place to hit everything, even if the incredibly dubious choice of exhibits is remarkable for what it lacks:

° A wall devoted to the B-52's and Duran Duran, but barely a mention of Kiss and nothing to be found on Cheap Trick.

° A chronicle of Detroit music from 1962 and 1971 that deals solely with Motown, as if Funkadelic, the Stooges and MC5 didn't exist.

° And video screen with footage of grown-ups in the 50s and 60s decrying the decay that rock music inflicts with nary a second of the hand wringing that punk rock inflicted on the rock music establishment in the late 70s and early 80s. Remember “Parents against Punks?”

Essentially, this monolithic and reverent look at Rock and Roll is one big pimp job of and for the pop music cognoscenti.

The hall cost $84 million to design and build, opening its doors in September, 1995 with a ceremony that only a black-tie denizen could love.

It set the tone for what the hall would become: A shallow institution that celebrates what its aging leaders had hoped would be sticking it to the man. And as the ad says, “but, you are the man.” The only people getting stuck are the people who have stood fiercely by the notion of rock music as a statement and lifestyle of iconoclasts.

The mission is led by Jann Wenner, a hall board member and supporter of the institution whose self-righteous embrace of  music in Rolling Stone magazine has always come from either his wallet or his politics. The fact that the Pistols are in the hall has to bother him. Wenner did his best to marginalize punk rock from the start—remember the cover story on the Pistols when the British scene became too wild to ignore, much as he hated it:

“Rock is sick and living in London” blared the blurb. Wow, it was a little late, coming in 1977, after most had been reading about the scene in Creem magazine. That magazine, for all of its influence, has no mention in the hall. Wenner's rock critic mentor, Ralph Gleason, is honored via placement of his overcoat in one display. Lester Bangs? Nothing.

It's easy to see where the Pistols' disgust with their honor came from. In a vitriolic, handwritten note on the band's official Web site, nailed it:  “If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons,” reads the tortured syntax. “Your anonymous as judges but your still industry people. Were not coming.”

Granted, there's also some cool stuff in the hall, although the “who cares?” quotient is much too high.

Check out the rider from the legendary Rolling Stones 1972 tour of America, and Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway's green Gibson EB-0 axe from Love it to Death. And the Jimi Hendrix display is filled with his flower-power outfits, personal notes and lyrics scribbled on hotel stationary.

After traversing the hall of fame, it seems that indoctrination would be complete. Rock music is fun for the whole family, safe, even educational. These exhibits shun the intensity of the lifestyle of rock music, with nary a nod to the sex and drugs that fuel creativity. On the way out, patrons can shift through the merch—$42 for a hoodie with an uninspired hall of fame logo on it—and listen to grandpa spinning  “At the Hop” from his radio booth on the 5th floor, thanks to a sponsorship from Sirius radio. For what rock music began as—a bare-bones, raw burst of intensity and love from the hands of individualists who felt it, the hall has managed to strip it all away, clean it up, and present it as a soulless culture. A day at the mall is much more pleasant.

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