The Record
3:15 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Who Should Be In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 10:55 am

Cleveland's Blue Arrow Records is a refuge for lovers of vintage vinyl. And among the music fans flipping through the bins, you'll find no lack of opinions about performers missing from the city's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For Lance Kaull, it's one of the original boy bands. "The Monkees," he says. "What they did for rock 'n' roll — they should absolutely be in there."

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's new class of inductees for 2013 will be announced later Tuesday at a news conference in Los Angeles. While the event generally prompts high-fives among fans of the winners, the list also provokes an annual debate over who gets in and why.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation oversees the nomination process. Its head, Joel Peresman, chafes at the frequent suggestion that the inductees are picked by a handful of guys in a smoke-filled room. "That's just not true," Peresman says. "It's truly a committee of people that are smart; it's truly a committee of people who care. These people know what they're talking about."

There are approximately 35 members on the nominating committee, including a mix of music journalists, scholars, performers and business people. But there's still a problem with that group, according to Neil Walls. He runs the website Future Rock Legends, which is devoted to the minutiae of the nominating process.

"Most of them were born in the late '40s, mid-'50s, and so they had their adolescence and their teenage years in the '60s, when rock 'n' roll was really exploding," Walls says. "When you look at the inductees, there have been more inductees that had their first record in the 1960s than all the other decades combined."

The committee creates a list of about 15 Hall of Fame nominees, who are voted on by a group of about 600 past inductees and others in the music industry. According to published Rock Hall guidelines, inductees are picked based on their influence and the significance of their contributions. Performers are only eligible for the honor 25 years after the release of their first recording. Musician and journalist Greg Tate says there's even a problem with that.

"It's still a conversation among fans about music that really transformed their life, but it might be a little too early to talk about how that music made a lasting contribution to American culture," says Tate. "I think if you're talking about a 50-year mark, you're more in an acceptable zone of measuring impact and significance [of music on culture, not the influence of music on a particular generation of consumers]."

But rock is music for the young, and waits for no one. NPR Music critic Ann Powers agrees that the committee was once a bastion of middle-aged white guys, but she says there have been efforts to bring in a younger, more diverse membership, which is reflected in recent hip-hop nominees and, this year, even Chic and the late Donna Summer.

"Disco is really influential among a lot of young artists today — both in urban music and hip-hop, and even in indie rock," says Powers. "Young artists really like disco music. That was not true of earlier generations."

Despite the new mix of artists, one of the biggest criticisms of the nominating process is its secrecy. Rock Hall watchdog Walls suggests following the example set by the Baseball Hall of Fame, which publishes the results of its nominating process each year. "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could do itself a big favor, I think, by being a lot more open about its process," he says. "It's just a very closed system that would benefit from opening it up a bit."

But, the Rock Hall's Peresman argues that it's disrespectful to start parsing the relative popularity of the nominees. "The ones that get in — they're in," he says. "It doesn't matter whether they came in first or sixth. They're into the Hall of Fame, and we never felt it was necessary to say, 'Oh, this one was the most popular than the other one.' "

For the time being, journalist Greg Tate doesn't see any end to the back and forth between the Hall of Fame and its critics. "It's not like it's going to be resolved to anyone's satisfaction," Tate says.

But back at Blue Arrow Records, clerk Tom DeChristofaro proves that you don't even have to be a fan to join the party: "I don't like Kiss at all — I hate that band — but, it's, like, ridiculous that they're not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They're, like, one of the biggest bands of all time." But that's just one man's opinion.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's stay with music. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's class of inductees for 2013 will be announced today at a news conference in Los Angeles. While the event generally prompts high-fives among fans of the winners, the list also provokes an annual debate over who gets in and why.

For member station WCPN, David C. Barnett tries to decode the process.

DAVID C. BARNETT, BYLINE: Cleveland's Blue Arrow Records is a refuge for lovers of vintage vinyl. And among the music fans flipping through the bins, you'll find no lack of opinions about performers missing from the city's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For Lance Kaull, it's one of the original boy bands.

LANCE KAULL: The Monkees, what they did for rock and roll, they should absolutely be in there.

BARNETT: Store owner Pete Gulyas asks why Roxy Music has been snubbed.

PETE GULYAS: If it's about the bands that influence other bands, then they certainly should be in the discussion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE IS A DRUG")

ROXY MUSIC: (Singing) Aggravated, spare for days, I troll downtown the red light place. Jump up bubble up, what's in store? Love is the drug, and I need to score.

BARNETT: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation oversees the nomination process. Its head, Joel Peresman, chafes at the frequent suggestion that the inductees are picked by a handful of guys in a smoked-filled room.

JOEL PERESMAN: That's just not true. It's truly a committee of people that are smart. It's truly a committee of people that care. These people know what they're talking about.

BARNETT: There are approximately 35 members of the nominating committee, including a mix of music journalists, scholars, performers and businesspeople. But there's still a problem with that group, according to Neil Walls. He runs the website Future Rock Legends, which is devoted to the minutia of the nominating process.

NEIL WALLS: Most of them were born in late '40s and mid '50s. And so they had their teenage years during the '60s, when rock and roll was really, you know, exploding. So there have been more inductees that had their first record in the 1960s than all the other decades combined.

BARNETT: The committee creates a list of about 15 Hall of Fame nominees, who are voted on by a group of about 600 past inductees and others in the music industry. According to published Rock Hall guidelines, inductees are picked based on their influence and the significance of their contributions. Performers are only eligible for the honor 25 years after the release of their first recording.

Musician and journalist Greg Tate says there's even a problem with that.

GREG TATE: It might be a little too early to talk about how that music made a lasting contribution to American culture. And I think if you're talking about even the 50-year mark, you're more in an acceptable zone of measuring impact and significance.

BARNETT: But rock and roll is a music for the young, and waits for no one. NPR Music critic Ann Powers agrees that the committee was once a bastion of middle-aged white guys, but says there have been efforts to bring in a younger, more diverse membership, which is reflected in recent hip-hop nominees and, this year, even Chic and the late Donna Summer.

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: Disco is really influential among a lot of young artists today, both in urban music and hip-hop, and even in indie rock. I mean, young rock artists really like disco music. That was not true of earlier generations.

BARNETT: Despite the new mix of artists, one of the biggest criticisms of the nominating process is its secrecy. Rock Hall watchdog Neil Walls suggests following the example set by the Baseball Hall of Fame, which publishes the results of its nominating process each year.

WALLS: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could do itself a big favor, I think, by being a lot more open about its process. It's just a very closed system that would benefit from opening it up a little bit.

BARNETT: But the Rock Hall's Joel Peresman argues that it's disrespectful to start parsing the relative popularity of the nominees.

PERESMAN: The ones that get in, they're in. I mean, it doesn't matter whether they came in first or they came in sixth.

BARNETT: For the time being, journalist Greg Tate doesn't see any end to the back-and-forth between the Hall of Fame and its critics.

TATE: They're kind of pushing people's buttons and they're kind of provoking a conversation about these things. And that's cool, because it's not like it's going to ever be resolved to anyone's satisfaction. It's not like anybody can shut the conversation down.

BARNETT: Back at Blue Arrow Records, clerk Tom DeChristofaro proves that you don't even have to be a fan to join the party.

TOM DECHRISTOFARO: I don't like Kiss, like, at all. I hate that band, but I can't - it's, like, ridiculous that they're not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They're like one of the biggest bands of all time.

BARNETT: Well, that's one man's opinion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCK AND ROLL ALL NIGHT")

KISS: (Singing) You keep on shouting. You keep on shouting...

BARNETT: For NPR News, I'm David C. Barnett in Cleveland.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCK AND ROLL ALL NIGHT")

KISS: (Singing) I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day. I...

GREENE: Partying every morning at MORNING EDITION, from NPR News, I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCK AND ROLL ALL NIGHT")

KISS: (Singing) ...every day. I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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