John Lydon Tell R&R Hall of Fame to Piss Off
A few weeks ago, the Sex Pistols raised a few eyebrows when they released a handwritten note turning down their invitation to appear at their induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Those who have followed Johnny, Steve, Paul, Glen, and the late Sid Vicious shouldn’t have been all that shocked.
Last Friday, John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show to explain the situation. Angered at what he perceived as “lies” on various exhibits over the years, Rotten maintained that they had no desire to appear at a function designed to celebrate “fame”. “Real rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t belong in a museum”, was one of his many wonderful quotes that evening. He also bristled at the notion that seating at the event cost over two grand per person.
Lydon was smart in no-showing the dinner. According to comedian Jimmy Norton of the Opie and Anthony satellite radio show, the event couldn’t have been more boring. Speakers droned on and on, members of Blondie had an onstage argument, and Black Sabbath didn’t even perform. The only worthwhile moment of the whole night was Metallica’s musical tribute to Ozzy and company.
The absolute lowlight of the evening belonged to whatever remains of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Yes, they played “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird”, but there is no credible reason for their induction. Sure, at their prime they were a fine band, and I’ll admit if I haven’t had to endure those already-mentioned songs for most of my life I’d probably wouldn’t mind hearing them from time to time. A continuing presence on the county fair circuit is fine, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? No way.
That is the ongoing problem of the yearly induction ceremonies. The early years were easy – you had to induct Elvis, Dylan, the Beatles, Stones, and the Who. Even in those early years, though, there were questionable entries. Bobby Darin was a fine performer, but his connection to rock and roll was pretty tenuous. The Mamas and Papas had two singles that helped define an era, but they accomplished little else.
Granted, the same could probably be said about the Sex Pistols, as they only released one album and a handful of singles. But those recordings completely changed the musical landscape from that time forward. Artists that dabbled in power pop, hardcore punk, extreme metal, and even hair bands owe a debt to what the Pistols accomplished in less than two years.
A band like the Pistols are an exception to the rule these days, though. Too many acts that have accomplished little more than survival are hiring speech writers year after year. As Opie said after Norton’s lengthy story yesterday, “any popular group will end up making it”.
Yet there are tons of worthy acts that are ignored year after year. It took Black Sabbath five years to finally get the nod. The Velvet Underground has yet to be nominated, despite the infamous, yet rarely argued, point that “everybody who bought a Velvet Underground album formed a band”. The same with Iggy and the Stooges. Hell, Television would have been a better choice this year than those sellouts that share a stage with Debbie Harry.
The problem is only going to get worse as time passes. The 80’s marked a time when the distance between chart and artistic success widened every year, and continues to this day. Sure, it’s easy to say that R.E.M., Prince, Guns and Roses, and a handful of others are worthy choices. But there will be people who think believe that Madonna, Phil Collins and Bon Jovi deserve an entry, while groundbreakers such as Husker Du, X, and Joy Division are ignored. And while I’m the first to admit that I’m a fanboy, the continuing influence of the Replacements on pop/punk and alternative rock make them a deserving act that have absolutely no shot of getting nominated.
These days, you pretty much have to be a friend of Rolling Stone Magazine to be nominated, but that magazine is a shell of its former self. Nowadays it’s only a half-step ahead of People Magazine, with cover stories saved for the likes of Mariah Carey and Lindsay Lohan.
Do we even need a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Not really, especially since we already have a Hard Rock Café restaurant franchise that showcases the same sorts of autographed guitars, drum sets, and stage clothes that is on display at the Cleveland museum. I’ll bet they don’t have a Sex Pistols poker machine in Cleveland like the one that awarded me fifty bucks in Vegas a few years ago. Now that’s my kind of anarchy.