We are in the midst of a culturally unstable moment, but you'd never know it, judging from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Over in Cleveland, they're still partying like it's 1999, when the words "music industry" didn't sound hopelessly archaic, and everything -- the way we hear music, the way we buy and steal music, the way we write about and read about music, the way we make it and sell it -- wasn't up in the air.
On Wednesday, when the rock hall announced its inductees for this year -- the ceremony will take place April 14 in Cleveland and premiere on HBO in early May -- one was faced with a list of inductees that "represent the broad spectrum of artists that define rock and roll," according to a statement released by Joel Peresman, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.
If that's true, well, it certainly didn't feel that way. In fact, as has been the case for many a year now, the list of inductees was more notable for what and who it excluded than who it had chosen to honor.
Not that the Beastie Boys, Donovan, Guns n' Roses, Laura Nyro, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Small Faces/Faces don't belong in the rock hall. Indeed, with the possible exception of G 'n' R -- who, as cool as they (briefly) were, only made one album worth owning, and a decent EP that is rather easy to live without, before becoming an Axl Rose-based punchline -- they all deserve the plaudits.
It's just what's the word? A little bit too safe.
Considering the rock hall is, after all, a museum, it is not too surprising that the stiffness of rigor mortis and the lifelessness of taxidermy have begun to set in. Without intending to be crass, it does truly appear that for each of the last several years, the inductees follow a general pattern -- we get the older hip-hop artist, the aging folk singer, the token hard rock band, the person who should have been honored when they were alive but was instead largely ignored by the music industry, and a couple hipster-rock acts tossed in, possibly to foster the appearance of all-inclusiveness.
The whole thing could really use a shake-up. How might this happen? One way might be to open up the voting to some regular old folks like us -- people who pay too much money to go to concerts, buy CDs and vinyl instead of ripping it off most of the time, and comprise the fan bases for many of the folks who end up on the ol' induction block.
Presently, the voting is handled as an inside job of sorts, by what's known as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. Some 500 members of the foundation preside over the whole process each year, but the foundation itself dates back to 1983, when, according to the rock hall's website, "A small group of music industry professionals led by Atlantic Records Founder and Chairman Ahmet Ertegun and including Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner, attorney Allen Grubman, manager Jon Landau and record executives Seymour Stein [and] Bob Krasnow along with attorney Suzan Evans" hatched the plan that would be followed even after Ertegun passed away and former concert promoter Peresman became president and CEO.
So a major record label president, a counterculture-turned-mainstream magazine publisher, a music critic-turned-artist-manager, and a room full of lawyers. Should we be surprised, then, that bands like Rush and Yes and King Crimson and Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull and Iron Maiden -- as just a few of the many examples of eligible artists whose fans petition the rock hall vociferously on their hero's behalf each year -- aren't in there? Despite selling hundreds of millions of albums between them, and still commanding massive worldwide fan bases a quarter century after 2012 inductee Guns n' Roses broke up?
I mean, Madonna is in there. Think about that.
Recall that, as a critic, foundation member Landau -- who famously wrote the review that included the line "I've seen the future of rock 'n' roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen," then parlayed that published opinion into a career as Springsteen's manager and sometime producer -- made a habit of poking fun at "psychedelic" and progressive music, and decrying anything not rooted in Black American music as lacking in authenticity. That rules out an awful lot of stuff, unfortunately, and is too narrow a prism to view all of what now passes for "rock music."
I admire and respect Landau, mostly because he's a good writer, a smart man, and he seems like one of the few people on the planet who loves Springsteen as much as I do. Hah! Still, one detects a bit of a bias against some deserving artists who don't fit the "Landau bill" in the foundation's selections, at the very least.
Congrats to this year's inductees, a cool class, to be sure. The HBO broadcast will more than likely kick butt, if all of these inductees who are able to, manage to gather together to jam. But here's a thought: Why not open up the nomination process to musicians, fans and a few more industry insiders with long track records of integrity and open-mindedness in the future? We might then actually get that "broad spectrum of artists that define rock and roll" that Peresman speaks of.
The list is in, and the annual Buffalo Night-Life Music and Club Awards have been doled out. More than 30 categories, including several of the Achievement Award variety, found a host of players (and the clubs they play in) being cited for excellence.
Our hats off to all the winners. Here are some of the winners; check out Night-Life's Facebook page for the full list.:
Best keyboardist: Bruce Decker (rock), JJ Moscato (blues), Kaitlyn Gardner (original). Best drummer: Jay "Taz" Kuzara (rock), Jim Linsner (pop/rock and original), Marty Raymondo (blues). Best guitarist: Dustin Francis (rock), Brad Peace (hard rock), Dave Schmeidler (original), Mick Hayes (blues).
Band awards: Strictly Hip (tribute), Disco Duck (show band), Soul Providers (R&B), High Horse (best Niagara Falls band), Breakaway (pop/rock), Lee Ron Zydeco and the Hot Tamales (jazz). Other honors included: Dee Adams (best original acoustic solo artist), Tom Sartori (solo artist), Busted Stuff (duo/trio).
Achievement Award winners were Black Widow, Hit 'n' Run, Lana Hergert, Boys of Summer, Route 66, Mark Velentino, Macaroon's Nite Club, and Terry Buchwald, among others.