I originally didn't want to comment on it because I thought I already had: thrice even. I first commented on missing members, then the glorious but still incomplete look at Front Man Fever, then at the similar hissyfit that Axl Rose threw two years ago, when he was unable to get current members of Guns N' Roses included with the induction. But the story got so big that it can't be ignored, much as I kind of want to. What makes this time different? Primarily, the social media war. Doing absolutely nothing to refute the naysayers that KISS is more brand than band, Paul and Gene have been using social media, primarily Twitter, to make their voices heard, and dammit, we were going to listen whether we wanted to or not. Whereas Axl stayed home on the night of his induction, the inducted KISS members will be there (as far as we know), and presumably Paul and Gene are going to speak their minds.
What makes this different as well is how the people at the Hall are handling it, namely poorly. The limiting of time an inductee may speak? What is up with that? There may be an innocuous explanation or three: keep it from getting boring, make editing much easier for those who've got to work on making the televised broadcast version of the ceremonies, and hey, maybe the good folks at Barclay's run a much tighter ship than the dog and pony show over at the Waldorf-Astoria. All of that put together adds up to a resounding "lulzwut?" from the rest of the world. For starters, we're looking at up to a third of the inductees not being there. Cat Stevens has said he may not opt to tackle the bureaucratic hedge maze of getting him allowed to enter the U.S. and attend his own induction. Linda Ronstadt's health seems day-to-day, making her a giant question mark, and Brian Epstein's kinda busy being dead right now. Oh, each party may have someone there to say a few words on their behalf, but it's almost always much more truncated and terser than what we would get if the actual inductee were present collecting the kudos. With all that, why not give the present members of inductees a little more time to talk to compensate? It's pretty obvious that KISS has made it clear that when they come to town, hell's coming with them, and the Hall is trying to set the terms for this high noon showdown. Because if there's one thing we can count on, it's that the members of KISS will act like gentlemen on stage and accede to others' wishes.
Speaking of bad behavior, the Hall also isn't exactly done firing shots either. As fellow monitor Tom Lane posted on his blog, NomCom member Dave Marsh is still throwing punches. Awhile back on his Facebook page, Marsh asked people to name five bands better than KISS that they'd like to see get in. I actually managed to weigh in on the discussion before the Internet troll division of the KISS army joined the conversation and made "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" look cerebral by comparison. Still, one can't feel too bad for Marsh. Besides still being in his position of power on the NomCom, he did pretty much invoke the wrath that came at him. And he's still at it. I mean I could do the same thing about Cat Stevens, as I felt he was the least deserving and the least listenable of the nominees this ballot, but at this point, I've shrugged it off and said, "Eh, can't always get what you want." The column (or piece thereof?) of Marsh's that Tom Lane posted does give some valuable perspective to the anti-KISS argument. If it's about popularity, then why we're they clobbered at their own game by the likes of enduring names such as the Bee Gees and Fleetwood Mac? How are they any more influential in causing young boys to pick up a guitar than the base teenage desire to impress chicks? For what it's worth, Marsh's arguments have holes as well: if misogyny is a disqualifying offense, than why are Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, or Led Zeppelin in the Hall? And do you really want to argue that Poison, widely considered one of the least talented of the hair metal acts, was better than KISS; or that Joan Jett And The Blackhearts' catalog of primarily cover songs added more to the rock and roll landscape than KISS's? I wouldn't even try. And for me personally, a lot of the arguments for and against KISS are the same ones I heard and made about Madonna in 2007 for the Class Of 2008. So if I have to live with a Hall Of Fame that has Madonna in it, then you can tolerate a Hall that has KISS in it.
I should at this point remind everyone of where I stand/stood on this: after Nirvana, I felt KISS was the most deserving candidate for induction on this ballot, and from a personal taste standpoint, they were in the Top 5 among the nominees as well. I did not predict them to make it this time because 1) I thought they would split the ballot with Deep Purple and thus fall short, and 2) I thought Marsh and like-minded voters would have enough sway to keep them out. Just wanted to clear that up.
So with all that sorted out, what does this mini-soap opera have to teach us? I don't know about you, but this is what I've gleaned from this episode:
1. It's an honor to be inducted, so stop saying it isn't. Seriously, guys. Black Sabbath asked to stop being nominated because they were pissed about missing out, but when they finally got inducted, they gladly accepted their awards. Even fellow inductee Daryl Hall, who spouted off at the Hall in the past said, "Well, now we ARE a part of their agenda." Translation: "Huh, go fig. Cool." But really, it's powerful people inside your own industry bestowing an honor on you. Even shorter than that: it’s an award, an honor being bestowed upon you. It matters.
2. Sorry fans, it’s not about you. There were a lot of fans who were hoping that no matter what the Hall decided, Paul, Gene, Ace, and Peter would join together on stage and give the fans the show they wanted. Or at the very least, there’d be some performance from KISS in some form. Now there won’t be that, not even a tribute performance. Because it’s all about the fans. I’m not calling complete BS. Metallica put aside any old hostilities for a few hours and dared to give a performance with TWO bassists. And it was awesome. Jason and Rob sharing a mic and playing opposite each other instead of fighting was the best possible outcome. Granted, all those members were inducted members. Would it have been different had Rob been neglected because he was too recent? We’ll never know. We can only go from performances from the likes of the Stooges and Patti Smith, and just say, “Maybe?” Either way, in the instance of KISS, it’s ultimately the fans who lose, the fans that KISS claimed were the whole reason they would even accept induction in the first place. Which brings us to…
3. The Hall’s gonna do what the Hall’s gonna do. The Sex Pistols refused to show up. Axl Rose asked not to be inducted. Frankie Valli tried to get Joe Long inducted with the Four Seasons; Smokey Robinson tried to get the Miracles included in his 1987 induction. The Hall powers-that-be for the most part just didn’t listen (yeah the Miracles were inducted in 2012, but they didn’t listen to Smokey for 25 years). What makes KISS think they’re any different? Because they’ve got the KISS army behind them? The Hall all but takes pride in the fact that they don’t listen to what John Q. Public has to say, even if they’re John Q. KISS. The show will go on no matter what Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley dictate. If the Hall wants to induct KISS, they’ll induct KISS in the manner they wish to do it.
4. Social media makes everything worse. Without Twitter or Facebook, how much publicity would either KISS or the Hall get out of this? But while the axiom is “There’s no such thing as bad publicity, all this going on has actually made me look forward to the upcoming ceremonies less. I’ll be more enthusiastic at seeing Peter Gabriel onstage than KISS.
5. It’s only going to get worse. Because the Hall limits how many acts they induct each year, the backlog of snubbed artists will grow in perpetuity. Even the list of “50 Acts Better Than KISS” that capped the Dave Marsh column included names that Marsh said, “Not all will get into the Hall, nor should they.” But the fact that there’s a list that handy and easy to make up shows that there are plenty more acts waiting to get in. And time will not make them less bitter about being passed over. If Chicago or Chubby Checker ever get inducted, you can bet there’ll be some harsh words said about “Finally” and “Screw ‘Rolling Stone’” or words along those lines. As time goes on and more artists join the list of notable snubs than join the Hall, this will keep going on and on.
That’s just what I’ve learned from all this. Any other lessons? Feel free to leave them in the comments below.