The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced 16 nominees this morning, and a few of the biggies include Hall & Oates, Nirvana, the Replacements, the Zombies, N.W.A., Kiss, and LL Cool J. This is the second year fans get to vote online, joining "historians and music industry insiders of the Rock Hall voting body." The voting happens at Rolling Stone’s website — you can pick five nominees, you can't pick Nirvana five times, and you may not make it out of the comments section alive. Fan influence may be pretty negligible overall, depending on your interpretation of this sentence: "The top five acts will comprise a 'fan's ballot' that will count as one of the more than 600 ballots that determine the Class of 2014." Makes you feel like a special part of the process, right?
Yesterday, eight new inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced: Rush, Donna Summer, Heart, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, and Albert King, as well as two Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement inductees in producer/promoter Lou Adler and arranger/producer Quincy Jones. What does this mean? Effectively, not much. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has been around since 1983, inducting artists and industry shakers since 1986, and it’s been an actual building you can visit in Cleveland, Ohio, since 1993. It’s a fine place, designed by I.M. Pei and everything, but it’s not much more than a shrine to particular artists deemed worthy by a shadow group responsible for the voting. Every year, there's mild consternation over that year’s nominees — all of whom become eligible exactly 25 years since first becoming active — but this is nothing like the Baseball Hall of Fame. There is no Internet community driven mad by a Tim Raines–style fascination with, say, Jethro Tull. Wonderful as it might be, there is no Rock VORP in play though Tull’s Flute-Solo-Per-Song (FSPS) average is Gehrig-esque. To honor and examine this moment, Grantland’s resident music critic Steven Hyden and editor Sean Fennessey, a Rock Hall voter, discussed this year’s lineup, some methodology, and asked: Why do we need this thing?
Last year around this time, for the first time in my life, I got all excited about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination announcement. You see, Guns N' Roses had been nominated, and so the heretofore inconceivable occasion of an Axl-Slash reunification all of the sudden seemed like it was on the table. And as GNR went from nominee to official inductee, we held that flicker of hope — for once, would the Rock Hall be an organ of good, and not irrelevance? It wasn't to be. When it all shook out, Axl skipped the induction ceremony altogether, leaving GNR now and forever fractured and withering.
Despite the cavernous absence of one W. Axl Rose, the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony went down as planned in Cleveland on Saturday night. (Were you totally unaware that this was happening? Was there maybe a competing, possibly hologram-related music event happening this past weekend?) According to the New York Times report, nothing out of the ordinary took place; the Red Hot Chili Peppers jammed with Slash and George Clinton, Bette Midler cried, Kid Rock wore a track suit. Which means that most of the entertainment delivered by the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony came our way — just as it has throughout the entire 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame process — via Axl’s reaction to his 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
As Grantland has previouslypointed out, this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony has — in a break from the institution’s time-honored commitment to having no one ever give a crap about it at all ever, at all, ever, ever, ever — some potential to entertain. And that’s because this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony has Guns N’ Roses. GNR long ago split into two factions: Axl and the Zombie Guns on one hand, Slash and the Rest of the Guys on the other. (Original drummer Steven Adler, who has spent some time on Celebrity Rehab recently, is probably more of a looking-for-cash free agent type.) So how would the actual ceremony shake out? Would everyone, with years of animosity festering, show to accept the honor? And would everyone then refrain from attempting to strangle one other while accepting the honor?
In September, when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its short list of nominees, Grantland beseeched the institution’s voters to band together and do the right thing: choose nominee Guns N’ Roses. Not because doing so would finally bring attention to Dizzy Reed’s dazzling piano solo on “Estranged” or anything like that; if you don’t already appreciate the wonder and majesty of GNR, it’s unlikely the Hall’s nod of approval will change that stubborn, twisted mind of yours. It’s just that an induction would mean an appearance at the induction ceremony, and that would mean a high possibility for an awkward on-stage reunion for sworn enemies Axl Rose and Slash. (Best case scenario: they make up and announce a 47-date reunion tour. Second best case scenario: face-punching). Well, the the 2012 inductees were announced this morning, and guess what? Guns N’ Roses is in!
Most years, we’d gladly let you go about your day without a second thought as to who the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame selected for its short list of nominees. The Hall remains mostly irrelevant for all the reasons you may well be sick of hearing by now, like its allegedly shady voting practices (former Hall voter Joel Selvin, in 2007: “This thing has sunk to a shameful level of manipulation and behind-the-scenes chicanery”) and the fact that, nearly three decades into the institution, the majority of music fans neither know nor care who’s actually in the Hall of Fame. But this year is different. This year, Guns N’ Roses have been nominated.