Friday, December 30, 2016

So close, and yet so wrong.

For those who don't know by now, I'm a native Michigander.  As a proud son of the Great Lake State, when it comes to sports, I follow the home teams.  In spirit, I'm at the Palace when it's hoops season.  When it's time to hit the ice, I'm imagining myself there, throwing octopi onto the ice of the Joe.  You can bet I root, root, root for the Tigers.  The downside is that every year I say next year is the year the Lions will go to the Superbowl.  True to the bitter end, I still root for the Lions.  And it's heartbreaking.  We even have a phrase to use when the Lions blow a lead to add to their ever-growing loss column.  We say that they're "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory."  No matter how well things seem to be going, they are often expected to find a way to screw up and lose again.  And only we can say it.  People who hate the Lions aren't allowed to use that phrase to rub it in our faces.  That belongs to us alone.

Which brings us to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2017.  And much like last year, it's not a bad class.  It's not terribly diverse, but it's more so than last year, even if just because of a sixth Performer inductee.  Other than Journey, all the inductees were in the upper half of my merits' ranks, and four of the top five of my personal preferences made it.  And predictions-wise, I did pretty darn well.  5 of my top 6 seeds, plus the main man from my #7 seed is inducted as well.  So, in a way, I went 5.5 for 7.  Well, maybe not quite 5.5, but maybe 5.1 for 7  Still, it's about on par with how most other monitors did, so  it was pretty respectable overall on my end.  And at this moment, I wish to congratulate the Performer inductees.  Congratulations to Joan Baez, Electric Light Orchestra, Journey, Pearl Jam, Yes, and 2Pac.

But if there's anything we've learned from the past few years, it's that either the Hall loves to generate needless controversy, or like my Detroit Lions, they simply can't help but find a way to screw things up.  In 2009, they inducted Wanda Jackson as an Early Influence after nominating her as a Performer.  In 2011, they sort of created a new category without really explaining what it really meant (Award For Musical Excellence).  In 2012, they inducted Freddie King as an Early Influence despite nominating him for the Performer category.  2013 wasn't so much controversial as it was a big tsk tsk for not inducting Donna Summer while she was still alive.  2014 of course was the year where the controversy was in the ceremony with KISS.  2015 was the year that the "5" Royales were inducted as Early Influences despite having been nominated as a Performer twice in the past, and Ringo Starr was inducted as an "Award For Musical Excellence" recipient, furthering the murkiness of the category itself.  Last year, the Hall caught flak for inducting no women, only Steve Miller instead of the entire Steve Miller Band, and Bert Berns without Jerry Ragovoy with a cloud of suspicion involving conflict of interest in that regard.  So this year, they simply couldn't stand to have a controversy-free induction, because what is rock and roll without controversy?

Enter the induction of Nile Rodgers.  Chic holds the record for most nominations without getting inducted, at a staggering eleven.  It's been a long and ridiculous journey for the group, that has now gotten even more ridiculous.  They didn't get enough votes to be inducted as a Performer, but that wasn't stopping the Hall this time. So instead of even inducting he entire group as "Award For Musical Excellence," which would have been fishy enough by itself, they inducted just the esteemed guitarist, Nile Rodgers, as "Award For Musical Excellence."  It's like Life Of Pi, except everyone's still alive with land in sight, and then a giant Kraken emerges and eats all the creatures on the boat except for the kid.  As a side note, Joel Peresman, the CEO of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has given a decent explanation.  There is a great deal of truth to the statement that as a producer and session man, Nile's body of work is staggeringly impressive that giving him an induction for such is entirely justifiable.  And if anyone believed for two seconds that that's the reason they're inducting him in this capacity, it would be a great thing.

But of course, no one believes this.  Not at all.  This is happening because Chic failed for an eleventh time to get enough votes to warrant induction.  This is happening because the powers-that-be want to induct their friend and founding member of their Nominating Committee, and it couldn't happen in the preferred way.  And even more dumbfounding, this is happening because the Committee (or fragments of it) decided that inducting Nile Rodgers in this capacity showed more integrity than simply calling Chic a seventh Performer inductee claiming that the votes between... say... fourth and seventh were so close that inducting seven just made sense.  They already said that the votes were so close that they just decided to go for six.  Why not extend that to seven?  But no, that would have been crazy.  It's MUCH more sane to do this.  Forget the integrity issue.  Clearly, inducting Chic when they fell short shows no more integrity than inducting Nile as an individual because they can't get Chic inducted.  They're both wrong to do.  But if you're dead set on doing something dishonest here, why the hell go with the one that is more transparent in its shadiness?  That kind of contradicts the very purpose of calling dishonesty "shady" after all.  And you know what?  No one would have objected if Chic was named a seventh Performer inductee.  Nobody.  Even the "accidental racist" rockists are saying Chic needs to be inducted.  Even they, through constantly having Chic shoved in their faces, are realizing the musical prowess on their beloved guitar that Nile Rodgers demonstrated and have come to love and respect the group as a live act with their recent tour.  Even people who think Led Zeppelin invented rock and roll would have been fine with Chic being named a seventh Performer inductee, even if for no other reason than to get their name off the ballot.  Fellow monitors are more and more realizing the virtues of simply having a bigger induction class.  We would have applauded this and would not have (at least out loud) asked where Chic actually finished in the vote count.  Quite frankly, at this point, with the correlation that the top finisher in the fan vote has always gotten inducted being this solid, it'd probably be a good idea to have another inductee being the NomComm's pick.  The top pick of the people's choice, and the top act that the NomComm decides is going in no matter what, plus the results of the voting bloc... that would be a good balance to have.  I think we could all live well with that compromise.  We, along with the rest of the world that cares about this, would also have celebrated the stylistic diversity that having Chic as an inductee means.  Instead of a Performer class that is still at least fifty percent classic rock (and it's just a matter of time before Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" creeps onto classic rock playlists once in awhile, too), we could have had something that still gives the rockists most of the names they wanted most, while also having some real diversity and would recognize R&B in a capacity besides rap.  Nobody outside of the bean counters would ever have known, and nobody would have had an issue with Chic just being named a seventh Performer inductee.

It's an even bigger disgrace because it further hacks away at the institution's integrity, and not just once, but twice.  First off, it's a big slap in the face to the rest of the band, Chic, as they are left outside.  It also kind of slaps the whole of the Nominating Committee in its collective face, spiting them for all the effort they put in perennially nominating Chic.  Sure it was a subset of this body that chose to do this, but it really should offend the whole of the group.  But even deeper than that, this is a gigantic insult to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame itself.  The Hall has long stated its mission of honoring the acts that gave us the great works of rock and roll music, as well as the music itself.  As stated earlier, Nile Rodgers was there at the inception of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, a charter member of the NomComm, and even though it is true that his body of work as a producer and a session man merits an AME induction, doing so before inducting him first with Chic only proves that the annual nomination of Chic was always only about him.  It was never about the music of Chic.  It was never about work of Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson alongside of Rodgers. It was never about the sultry voices of the various female singers over the years.  It was never about the funky grooves, or even the fact that "Good Times" is a landmark record in the evolution of rock and roll music for the sheer ubiquity of it in formative hip-hop.  It was never about any of that.  It was always supposed to be an inside congratulatory glad-handing for Nile Rodgers, the elite honoring their fellow elite because they had a feasible excuse to do so.  That's what it was always about, celebrating not Chic, but Nile Rodgers.  And even if it's absolutely true that his work outside of Chic merits an AME induction; this time, truth is not a defense, because it deflects away from a bigger truth.  It was always meant as an inner circle's celebration.  They decided they were going to have it one way or the other this year, and it further erodes the institution's credibility and integrity.  Fellow monitor AlexVoltaire at the Northumbrian Countdown said that he himself had long been a proponent of inducting Nile Rodgers with an Award For Musical Excellence just to get Chic off the ballot, but now that it's finally happening, he realizes it isn't as rewarding as he thought it would be.  Well AlexVoltaire, that's the reason why it's not satisfying: because when you look at why it's being done and what it ultimately means that it's being done this way, you realize that in the grand scheme of things, it's the wrong decision, and even if it's convenient and shuffles off the dead weight from the nominating process, it still is wrong.

If the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame cares anything about their integrity as an institution, Chic must return to the ballot next year.  And just as the scandal in 2007 involving the Dave Clark Five probably helped propel them to be inductees in 2008, this scandal would hopefully ensure Chic gets enough votes for the Class Of 2018.  The right course of action is to give Nile Rodgers a second induction, the second one being with his band, Chic, no matter how many nominations it takes.  Then and only then will the Hall not be snatching controversy from the jaws of respectability.  Then and only then will Joel Peresman's explanation this time around be believable.  And until that happens, all the Hall is doing is reinforcing the message that Steve Miller had following his induction this past year: that the whole thing needs an overhaul from the top down... and of course as he also said, "It shouldn't be this hard."

6 comments:

  1. Yes-exactly this. Brilliantly expressed. Unfortunately, this is a mistake years in the making. By trotting them out on the ballot so many years in a row and opening them up to all the "Susan Lucci" jokes, the Hall actually made light of Chic's legacy and ensured that the honor when it came would seem at least anticlimactic.

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  2. What makes you think Chic finished 7th in the voting? If they did, they might have inducted 7. My guess they were 8-10, and they had no choice.

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    1. Okay, A) even if they finished 19th, they still had the choice to not do it this way; and B) the point was that even if they finished 19th, they could have still said they finished 7th and inducted them anyway, and we wouldn't be any wiser because of the Hall's lack of transparency.

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    2. Or the Rock Hall could have just put Chic in their Musical Excellence Category like The E Street Band, so it's not completely unprecedented!

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  3. Agreed with you here. I think that if they keep trying with Chic as a group, Rodgers' Music Excellence induction for his broader work does make sense and carries more weight.

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  4. 2017 is also now the controversy of former essential Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) members Kelly Groucutt, Mik Kaminski, Hugh McDowell, Mel Gale, Louis Clark, Mike de Albuquerque, Wilf Gibson and Mike Edwards being snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, all thanks to Jeff Lynne's enormous ego! >:(

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