Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Will the People's Choice Get Punk Right?

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland is a pretty cool place.  The Hall of Fame has gotten a lot wrong, particularly as it moved into the years of potential punk-era inductees, but you don't have to care about the actual inductees to enjoy the Museum.  So, I want to be clear that I'm about to start complaining about the Hall and not the Museum.

The Hall of Fame has decided to start giving regular people some votes.  I think that will probably help bands like Rush that have big followings and not a lot of critical love, but I don't think it will help punk bands.  There's a web site called The People's Choice that has been gathering votes from regular people for a bit longer.  They've been advancing one year each month rather than one year each year, and as of this writing they're up to 1975.

In 1975, at the people's choice, we are rapidly approaching the first wave of important and widely known punk bands, and we have already reached the bands that are borderline punk/proto-punk.  Let's consider 5 such bands and their chances for the Hall.

1) The New York Dolls - Listen to Trash from 1973 and tell me it's not punk rock.  Unlike the other bands here, the New York Dolls have been nominated and snubbed.

2) Rocket from the Tombs - Before the Dead Boys performed Sonic Reducer, Rocket From the Tombs, featuring some of what would become Pere Ubu, was playing it in 1975.

3) Pere Ubu - The fact that the Hall is in Cleveland makes it especially galling that Ubu has never even been nominated.  It was 1976's Final Solution that became a seminal early punk classic, but their first single was 1975's 30 Seconds Over Tokyo.  They haven't been nominated at the People's Choice in the class of 1975.  Get over there, and put them in as a write-in like I did.

4) Death - I didn't know about this band until a few years ago.  I know I'm not alone in that.  They may not be quite Hall worthy, given that they had so little output, but you have to respect that they were doing this in the mid 70s.

5) Jonathan Richman - This is definitely not proto-punk in the same way as the other 4 bands listed here.  The beauty of punk is the way it stripped everything down to basics and still packed a punch.  Jonathan was more about the stripping-it-down angle than the packing-a-punch angle, and may have more in common with indie rock than punk as a result.  Along with Ubu and The New York Dolls, he's long overdue to enter the Hall.

I'll be honest.  I don't have a lot of hope for these bands at either the Hall or the People's Choice.  I assume the Ramones and Sex Pistols have a chance at getting in on the first ballot, but I'm interested how The Jam, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, The Cure, and later, Bad Brains, Black Flag, Minor Threat, Minutemen, and Husker Du do in the voting versus their commercially successful contemporaries.

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