Merry Christmas, first of all.
By now, we've all watched the induction special, and have had our say about that. I have nothing further to add about what we watched, but two of the inductions certainly raised eyebrows regarding the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's credibility. Those two are of course those of Jon Landau and Irving Azoff, the Non-Performer inductees. On a fairly recent episode of "Who Cares About The Rock Hall," Kristen Studard called it, "The ladder inducting itself," an analogy I'd never heard before, and though I get what it means, I'm curious about the etymology of it. Why a ladder? Not important, I suppose. But even at its initial announcement, it was chided with other metaphors, such as "insider baseball." One might even call it, "The tower inducting the ivory."
To some degree, it makes sense. Who are generally the most knowledgeable AND financially capable of establishing the institution in the first place? The industry insiders who helped elevate the music as part of the cultural zeitgeist, right? So, wouldn't it make sense to include some of them for what they did as part of the movement? By that logic, yeah.
Problem is, as we all know, it came with a metric tonne of strings attached: genres of music ignored for the longest time, specific artists blacklisted, others plain blackballed for crossing those in power in past business dealings, criminal atrocities by those in power whitewashed or just plain omitted in the telling of the story, favors becoming currency, political moves, etc. The inductions of Azoff and especially Landau demonstrate a digging in of the heels by the Foundation, with regards to its clique mentality.
I've previously expressed skepticism at inducting managers, period, but what is even more infuriating is that there are people who deserve induction in this category way more than these two, who haven't been inducted because they are not and were not part of the power players at the Foundation: Estelle Axton, Wolfman Jack, Bob Crewe, Hilly Kristal, Sylvia Robinson, Don Cornelius, just to name a few. Maybe Azoff and Landau deserve induction, but the Hall could've avoided some flak had they also inducted some people who aren't cozy with the Foundation. The Hall has gotten a little more populist with the Performer category, and they call it progress. But looking at who and when they induct Non-Performers is also incredibly telling, often prominently and proudly displaying a sense of elitism.
When stories are told of the early induction ceremonies, in terms of both how it was done and how it was recorded for posterity, it tends to get described as being for "the people in the room." And that's primarily what it still is. There is still an attitude simmering that, despite having a museum for the public to visit (pandemic notwithstanding), looks at our making this institution a hobby and retorts, "Why do you care so much about it? This belongs to us!" They built an ivory tower of sorts and told us all to behold; they wanted our praise and admiration, not our input. And perhaps nowhere is this more prominent than in the gender disparity in the Hall. In the past couple years, this has been brought to the forefront by Evelyn McDonnell, the Who Cares About The Rock Hall podcast, the Hall Watchers podcast, Future Rock Legends, and various members of the Hall watching community. It seems to have only gotten worse, though. John Sykes is promising change for the better, and we all need to be watching for it.
And watching ourselves, as I've recently been reminded. After a grave bout with foot-in-mouth disease, I lie here riddled with my own guilt and shame. I thought I was helping to smash the patriarchy, but instead, I shattered a friendship with my biases, inability to listen, and general narcissism. I demonstrated indifference in a moment of devil's advocacy where none was needed or wanted, inadvertently defended a sexual assailant, unwittingly maintained a double standard, and dismissed other people's musical journeys and insights outright--in short, many things we're trying to hold the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame accountable for. I don't say this to avoid reckoning, at least not entirely. When the hammer falls, I deserve to be under it, too ashamed to even utter words of apology, and not expecting to be believed anyway, though I am truly sorry to the point of depression. Since dining on shoe leather, I've done a lot of self-loathing and finally some soul-searching. I have problems, and I've at least been able to identify some personal moments that may have caused some of them. My conscious mind knows, believes, and cares; and dammit, I'll drag the ego with me, kicking and screaming if necessary. Call it hypocrisy, cognitive dissonance, being full of shit, or whatever; but the same stubbornness that makes me a fence post to talk to sometimes is the same thing that won't let me give up on trying to improve myself. Thankfully, I've got visible examples, from this year alone, in my personal life outside this hobby to look to for encouragement. I've used my voice for good before, and I will again. If I can first learn to listen more.
Hopefully, the Rock Hall will too.