Maybe I need a vacation, a hiatus of sorts.
After watching the 2014 induction ceremony, I was left feeling very underwhelmed. That in itself is really not so surprising, as a lot of people have commented on how lackluster this year’s ceremony was, but for me, it wasn’t just a matter of there being no KISS performance, or even due to the fact that I’m not really a huge fan of any of the inductees (indeed, two of them I have a strong dislike for). No, what left me feeling ho-hum about it all was really more how it felt like the music was a veneer, and a tertiary item on the agenda for the night.
As I wrote in the blog about lessons we can learn from the KISS drama, I stated how social media makes everything worse. And that may be hypocritical of me as having a blog, and using both Facebook and Twitter to promote it (with the kind help of Future Rock Legends), I’m not entirely off that grid myself. Perhaps, it’s more accurate to say that social media is more like an amplifier. I use it to amplify my attempts at rational, level-headed discourse, and because my entries are seldom inflammatory, coupled with the fact that I myself am pretty small potatoes, a nice tone is amplified and carried out to more people in a fairly non-disruptive and sometimes euphonic manner (if we’re to maintain the analogy). On the other hand, you take the adamant, negative outcry of a major celebrity, such as Gene Simmons, and run that through the amplifier, and it creates a distorted, overbearing assault that makes you wonder where (as it’s hardly a question of if) something short-circuited. Because of the drama with KISS, the lesser drama with Andrew Loog Oldham, and the inability for Linda Ronstadt to travel, expectations were remarkably low among the Rock Hall watching community for this year. And if you weren’t at the actual ceremony in Brooklyn, chances are the broadcast version only confirmed it like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As I said, part of this felt like because the music itself was treated with tertiary importance. Watching the ceremony and following the coverage leading up to it, it seemed like rabble-rousing was of primary importance. Except this was done very subtly at the actual event. For all the acrimony Gene Simmons spat into the Twitterverse, KISS themselves were relatively well-behaved. “Relatively” of course, because they still had to get the dig in about how it should be more everyman-oriented, including the very nomination process itself; and “relatively” because most of them left before it was even over, seemingly making a statement in their departure. It wasn’t so much just KISS, though. Tom Morello’s speech, while very passionate, also seemed to contain hints of anger that it took so long for it to happen. Let’s not overlook the history with Daryl Hall slamming the Rock Hall either, which seemed barely contained in his and John Oates’ acceptance speeches (sidebar: I had no idea John Oates was so short. If there’s a biopic, Peter Dinklage has got to play John Oates). While there wasn’t so much anger from Ronstadt’s corner, since she wasn’t there, her paradoxically angry indifference to the idea in the past suggests she wouldn’t have been better company that night either.
This rabble-rousing was intertwined with what seemed to be of secondary importance: shameless plugging. Coldplay’s induction is certain, but hey, having Chris Martin on-hand to induct Peter Gabriel couldn’t hurt to assure the induction is more timely than not, though to be less cynical, I think Martin’s speech was the best of the night: witty, emotional, personal, music-focused, beautiful. But there was also the unaired “Digging In The Dirt” performance which included a member of the now thrice-passed by Meters. Linda Ronstadt’s tribute included two Hall-Of-Famers, but could Sheryl Crow’s appearance been as a plug for her legacy? Or Emmylou Harris for that matter? Sure, she’s country, but there’ve been murmurs for a couple country artists who’ve been so influential and impacting on rock and roll music, that maybe they ought to be inducted as well, Harris somewhere in the top five on that list for a lot of people. Of course, Daryl Hall And John Oates channeling their rabble-rousing wrath to challenge the Hall to correct its omission of Philadelphia artists is a prime example, as well. Something recent I read, and I think it was an article in the Future Rock Legends Twitter feed, was an interview with Hall that called attention to the perceived second-class status of Philadelphia to anything New York City, mainly by New Yorkers as perceived by Philadelphians (similar perhaps to how supposedly Canadians hate Americans because they think that Americans think of Canadians as "cute" in a second-rate way?), so maybe the combination of anger and shout-out is perfectly organic. The worst offender though, had to be “Hervana”—the term, by the way, coined by Krist Novoselic in a positive light, so don’t come after me with accusations of misogyny. Let’s not kid ourselves: Joan Jett And The Blackhearts have been nominated twice, and Sonic Youth has been touted as one of the biggest snubs of the ‘80s alternative scene. With Jett and Kim Gordon there, that HAD to be a plug for their bands to get nominated. It appears to have worked too, as ?uestlove himself said he’ll be focusing on Sonic Youth for the upcoming ballot.
As I said, maybe I need to make a point to just block out the newsfeed in the weeks leading up to the ceremonies, but between artists who are bitter about having had to wait so long to be inducted (or inductors expressing that anger for them a la Billie Joe for the Stooges), and performances by and mentions for acts in an attempt to get some conversation about them, it certainly is starting to wear weary and make the case that maybe the ceremonies shouldn’t be televised at all anymore. I truly hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope that between the Hall, the inductees, the inductors, the performing artists, and the editing team who puts it together for broadcast—that they can collectively stomp out the negativity from it and get back to celebrating the music and the people who make it possible.
In closing, I’ll now share my other random thoughts about the ceremonies that aren’t germane to the above paragraphs:
-I loved Chris Martin’s speech, but I do have to wonder if Gabriel rolled his eyes when helping John Cusack get his girlfriend back was listed as one of his “major achievements.”
-Great performance from Gabriel and N’Dour, though I still wouldn’t induct N’Dour.
-I like how Glenn Frey tap-danced a bit and found a nice way to spin Ronstadt’s history as a cover artist, focusing instead more on her legacy as a forefront artist for country-rock… though I did grimace a little, as I still feel that any mention of Parsons, Ronstadt, or the Eagles should include the line “carrying on the torch that the Big Bopper’s death passed off to them.”
-Solid tribute to Ronstadt. Carrie Underwood was the strongest of the five easily, as she was the only one hitting some of those higher notes.
-As much as I respect the passion of Morello in his speech, it also reminded me too much of everything said by any and every KISS fanboy on the FRL site. And it sounded just as indignant. Try smiling while presenting your childhood favorite band, Tom.
-Roger Friedman (from Fox News) needs to shut the hell up. In this specific case, I’m referring to his finding something to complain about in the form of Peter Asher’s speech for Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham. From a television perspective, you’ve got two inductees for whom neither they nor anyone in their family is showing up to accept the honors, no tribute performance to either (unlike Gamble And Huff who had two solid tribute performances in 2008, courtesy of Patti LaBelle and Jerry Butler, both of whom need to be inducted), one presentation speech for both, right or wrong, for a category that has nowhere near the same draw as the majority of the Performers, in a year where almost all of the inductees are household names, many of whom have somebody showing up to accept, perform, or pay homage to. Of course Asher’s speech was going to get heavily edited. And really, from a television perspective, it was the right thing to do. So stuff it, Friedman.
-That said, I feel sorry for the person who had to edit the E Street Band segment. That couldn’t have been an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. I’m sure most of the speeches were impassioned and riveting, and the performances themselves captivating, but on TV, I got kind of bored. Tempted to change the channel even.
-No comment really on Cat Stevens. Art Garfunkel’s speech was a little less than stellar in its praise, but I enjoyed Cat’s acceptance speech. Not a fan of his music, so for what it was, and what it was for, it worked well.
-I think ?uestlove’s speech was second to Martin’s in quality. ?uestlove was likewise full of passion, and a nice reminder that (my personal distaste aside) Daryl Hall And John Oates’ music is the best inducted example of how rock ‘n’ roll crosses social boundaries, both racial and generational, since probably 2010’s induction of ABBA.
-Right on Daryl. Definitely need all those Philly artists you mentioned inducted… except solo Len Barry. I’m a Cameo-Parkway fanatic, and even I’m only a “maybe” on the Dovells.
-No seriously, I had NO idea John Oates was that short. Or maybe Daryl Hall is just that tall.
-Great speech from Stipe.
-Kudos to the editing people for getting most of the boos for Courtney Love edited out. People who hate Courtney Love because Kurt Cobain committed suicide need to get stuffed right after Roger Friedman. It wasn’t her fault. They even exhumed the body recently to verify it. Put it to bed with the other conspiracies. Cobain killed himself, Elvis is dead, Oswald shot JFK, and 9/11 was not an inside job. End of story.
-I mentioned this on Twitter, but it seems there’s a world of difference between seeing Joan Jett live and seeing her televised, because on HBO, she sucked. It was worse than her tribute to the Dave Clark Five in ’08. Maybe that’s why she’s not in the Hall yet. I have no idea WTF to make of Gordon’s performance of “Aneurysm.” Most realistic sonic reproduction since John Lennon’s truncated simulation of heroin withdrawal on “Cold Turkey,” perhaps? You be the judge. Good performances from Lorde and St. Vincent.
So those are my thoughts overall. Add your own in the comments below.
As a P.S., my thanks to the vigilant folks at blogspot. Recently I was notified of a new reply on an old topic that turned out to be a spambot, and they had deleted it before I could get logged in and delete it myself. Thank-you.