by Joshua B. Hoe So, a few months ago I was reclining at home watching HBO’s replay of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremonies….and they are announcing the honorees:
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble….For sure
Lou Reed…(RIP LOUUUUUU) well deserved for his solo work
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts...Okay, fair, she is a force of nature and was in the Runaways - the Blackhearts had some big hits..and she is an influence on lots of music fans and women in R&R
....and then came Green Day
I have nothing against Green Day.
I encountered them for the first time, like most people, on the release of their first major release ‘Dookie.’ I was a groomsman at a friends wedding and for groomsman presents he took us to a local record store in his hometown of Topeka and let us pick an album...and, I chose ‘Dookie.’
I guess this was a long time ago (Green Day still look much younger than they are). I liked the album, I generally like them (although they can be more than a bit repetitive).
They released a rock opera album that was turned into a Broadway play...I guess that is kind of punk in a way (confounding all expectations for a punk band). Billy Joe has had struggles with substances and that is certainly very rock and roll. So, I guess I have respect for them. I don’t mean for it to sound left-handed.
But, for some reason, I just felt bad about them being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Why I Felt Bad About Green Day
I was trying to parse through my feelings...Was it because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a farce...I mean it generally inducts pretty deserving artists and seems to only drop the ball on two major fronts (1. Occasionally worrying way too much about remaining relevant 2. Forcing inductions for only certain designated members of bands). So I wasn’t feeling wrong about it because of hatred for the HOFl.
It was when I decided to look through the list of inductees that my ill feeling about Green Day started making more sense....here is the list of current alt inductees:
David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, The Ramones (RIP to all), The Talking Heads, The Clash (RIP Joe Strummer), Elvis Costello and the Attractions, The Police, The Pretenders (Chrissie worked at Malcom Mclaren's store SEX + was at one time married to Ray Davies FYI), Blondie, The Sex Pistols, REM, The Stooges, The Beastie Boys (RIP MCA), Nirvana (RIP Kurt)…...and Green Day.
If you cull the list to just punk, that means VU, Ramones, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Stooges...and Green Day…..In that context, Green Day seems terribly out of place….Green Day clearly jumped the line…..and I mean realllllllllly jumped it.
Don’t Let Artists Jump the Line
Let me just offer a small list of bands that I would induct in the punk genre before it ever even would occur to me to induct Green Day:
The New York Dolls, The Heartbreakers, Television, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Damned, The Buzzcocks, Gang of Four (arguably post punk..apologies), X-Ray Specs, Pere Ubu (again same), Wire (same), Stiff Little Fingers, X, The Germs, The Minutemen, Agent Orange, The Screamers (yes, I know, they never made an album), Flipper, Dead Kennedys (both Flipper and DK are from SF home of GD btw). Black Flag, Fear, Circle Jerks, Social Distortion, T.S.O.L, Suicidal Tendencies, Operation Ivy (more SF), Bad Brains, Minor Threat (nobody ‘punk’ should go in before Ian MacKaye imho), Big Black, The Cramps (SF..well, Sacremento RIP Lux)...I am leaving people out for sure...but, that is a quick list.
If I expanded the list to post-punk and the other forms of alternative music since the 80’s the list could go on forever (Joy Division for god’s sake...how can Green Day be in but Joy Division is not...not saying they are at all musically related..I am saying Joy Division means MUCH more to alternative music history than Green Day does at this point in time).
Again, Green Day is a perfectly competent punk band. But, they are virtually 100% derivative….the Green Day ‘sound’ is easily traced to other bands (insert any punk style rock band or just watch the movie High Fidelity which at least gets that scene right). That does not mean that they are in any way bad (I have, at times, even enjoyed them).
I guess my point, and I think that they might even agree with me in their heart of hearts….Other bands should have gone in WAY BEFORE THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED.
I suspect that most of the bands that Green Day themselves idolized are not in the Hall of Fame.
Yes, you want to remain relevant and have kids care, but I would like to think that the way to do that is to show the influence of the artists you choose on today's popular musicians...NOT BY ADMITTING PEOPLE DECADES AHEAD OF TIME.
Do It The Right Way
There is a much better way for the HOF to remain relevant.
A year ago Tom Morello gave one of the best induction speeches ever for the rock band Kiss. In other words, a (somewhat) contemporary musician spoke directly to all of his fans about why they should appreciate his idols Kiss….It was actually really powerful and affecting in the moment (even if Kiss did not seem to realize how great a speech it was...bizarrely).
It would have been much less affecting had Rage Against the Machine (Tom Morello’s most well-known band) has been inducted and talked about how important Kiss was to them.
Everyone already knows who todays popular bands are. They don’t need the help. The R&R HOF’s job is to connect people to the music that influenced those current artists and made their music possible.
I mean does this set a R&RHOF precedent that will allow Taylor Swift to be nominated next year while like a million of her forerunners remain on the outside looking in (Well, luckily Wanda Jackson got inducted already, but there are plenty more that should enter before Taylor who is like 26 - or something like that)?
The R&R HOF should constantly push the importance of their inductees through every channel possible. They do a terrible job of communicating its inductees across the eras, it seems like once artists are inducted, they disappear (as if into a museum lol) until the next group is inducted and the next HBO special comes out.
Why can’t they use induction as a launching point for sharing the stories of their inductees so everyone understands their impact? Why can’t they share the stories across modern media like evangelists for music should?
What the HOF Could Do
As an alternative music fan, I know these inductees were incredibly influential on alternative music and punk….that story...those stories...should be told better (I guess I am kind of doing that in my own way now):
Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley and his Comets, Ricky Nelson, Carl Perkins, The Kinks (I mean come on how many connections does popular music have to the Kinks), The Who, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, Del Shannon, Ritchie Valens, Duane Eddy, and Buddy Holly…How many stories could be told, even from the perspective of current stars, telling how the music lives on through them.
I mean just a few days ago, I was watching Hail Hail Rock and Roll on Turner Classic Movies and saw a great sequence where Bill Haley and the Comets bassist Marshall Lytle went crazy picking his bass up and doing all kinds of tricks on stage while continuing to play...I think, for instance, Jimbo from Reverend Horton Heat could probably tell many stories on a youtube video about where he picked up his theatrical bass playing performance style from.
There is a really cool project called StoryCorps that sets up a way for everyday people to walk into a studio or use an app to call in and just record their own story...If StoryCorps can spread and archive the life stories of anyone walking the streets (and they actually set up studios in train stations and places where people congregate) can’t the R&RHOF start sharing stories about the connections between Hall of Fame worthy artists and contemporary artists?
The HOF should be like a Story Corps for their members and for current artists who are influenced by their members. I remember Bruce Springsteen playing in a tribute to The Clash when Joe Strummer died, wouldn’t it be great if someone asked him to call in and just leave a testimony about the connection between him and Strummer? Wouldn’t it be great to hear Green Day talking about their influences as well?
There are so many ways to disseminate this information in interesting ways that could actually keep the HOF on people’s minds and in the popular consciousness. If alternative artists can self-publish albums that go platinum (Metric, Radiohead) can’t the HOF figure out how to communicate using modern methods too?
Make Your Own Connections
By the way, If you also like Hip Hop, Reggae, and R&B there are even more people to love in the HOF...The names that jump out at me immediately:
Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino (how many people know how much reggae owes to Fats?), Little Richard, The Coasters, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, B.B. King, Smokey Robinson, Muddy Waters, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Jackie Wilson, The Drifters, Otis Redding, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Lee Hooker, Wilson Pickett, Ike and Tina Turner, Booker T and the M.G.’s, Sly and the Family Stone.
Go get one of Aretha’s early records and listen...it will BLOW YOU AWAY. The world has really done her a disservice by reducing her catalog down to ‘RESPECT’ and ‘You Better Think.’ Holy crap, Ray Charles….I mean “The Mess Around”.....Jeeeeeesus that still cooks.
I am not sure I always like the music that Dave Grohl makes anymore...and I had a love/hate with his HBO series (Sonic Highways) but I will always love that he is trying to share his deep love of the history of music using the platform that he has created for himself. Sonic Highways was a bit uneven, but some of the episodes were amazing. He is doing a much better job of tying contemporary music to its past through media than the R&RHOF is.
All I am saying is that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should care less about trying to let people in early to ‘stay relevant’ and work harder at explaining and disseminating why and how all the inducted artists ARE relevant and present in the music of today.
The Future of the HOF?
How great would be Joy Division getting nominated, and instead of just doing a two minute bit about their rise and fall, HBO used its documentary muscle to actually interview the hundreds of bands now and since the death of Ian Curtis who have been influenced by Joy Division….Then, when they do the music portion, have people who REALLY had a connection to Joy Division’s music play….I mean in this last HOF concert, they really were on the right track with Lou Reed but it was over almost before it had started (Beck tried not sure I understood what the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were doing...yes, they are from NYC I get that...but I got no feeling of connection). I mean how cool was having St. Vincent, Kim Gordon, and Lorde play with the remaining members of Nirvana at last years ceremony (I thought that was awesome and powerful)?
How many people could tell their story of connection to the many bands and the greatness of Ian MacKaye? He inspired an entire ethic and approach to music and the sale of music (low ticket prices, low album prices)...He had an ethic that people followed. You can hear his influence in 100s of bands throughout the last 20 years. He has made great music with many bands that mattered (I mean Fugazi Red Medicine came out 20 years ago - wowowowowow). How about actually understanding who influenced the music that is relevant now.,.Like how about inducting Kraftwerk (I mean who influenced modern music like EDM and techno more than Kraftwerk)?
Anyway, I really do not mean to insult Green Day...I don’t think what I am saying is really an insult to them (maybe I did call them almost exclusively derivative but I really do not hate them)...I just don’t think of them as HOF worthy yet…They could end up truly worthy, and I get for many people now they are kind of the window into the history of punk music. I just kind of wish it had been them giving the induction speech for Stiff Little Fingers and then playing in the concert portion.
Obviously, there are other ways to recognize greatness and we don’t really need the HOF to disseminate the information for us.
Why Wait, Dive Deep
A few months ago, even though I was familiar with his music, I just decided to google Dr. John’s discography and just went to YouTube and listened to every single one of his albums in one day. This is something that was unimaginable even a decade ago (unless you were really rich). Being well versed back in the day took a great deal of patience and discipline….Now it just takes a few quick searches….and the crazy thing, now you can usually find someone's entire discography and listen (often for free).
When I was young, and record stores were still record stores, I would spend hours walking the record store racks finding all of these great artists and listening to them (We used to call it bin diving).
Now people do the curating for you….for instance, it would be pretty easy to just go down the list of the acts that have been inducted into the HOF and google their discographies and start listening. I think you will find it a pretty awesome experience.
If the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is not going to help you find the greatness of their inductees (and they are going to start nominating people way before their time) you should start doing the work yourself. Of course, listening to great music is the kind of work you should be able to easily embrace.
What did you think of Green Day being inducted? I would love to hear what you think of the induction ceremony, about Green Day, or about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...Leave a comment and let me know!