The induction ceremonies (is that really what they call it?) for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are happening tonight, at the very rock-'n-roll Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The Hall itself is in Cleveland of course. However, Rolling Stone's offices are in New York, and as crucial as Jann Wenner is to the very existence of the Hall, New York gets to play host for a night.
It's hard for me to be excited about the induction ceremonies tonight after hearing the foamy-mouthed Jim DeRogatis attacking the whole concept on the radio. Ed Schultz had him on for a brief interview, where he declaimed the whole hall thing as overdone boomer nostalgia
fomented by the likes of the aforementioned Wenner and Ahmet Ertegun. DeRogatis has no great love for Wenner (he was fired from Rolling Stone, allegedly for writing a nasty review of Hootie and the Blowfish that was spiked by Wenner), but he seems to have even less love for the fancypants, black tie and tuxedo reception for a supposedly rock and roll institution. "There's nothing less rock and roll than musicians dressed up in tuxedos," he quipped.
More to the point, the Hall is elitist. Performers are given two comp tickets to the gala ceremony, and then are expected to pony up thousands more to buy seats for members of their family, or heaven forbid, dinner. This appears to be one of the reasons for the Sex Pistols' vitroilic response to their induction:
"Your museum. Urine in wine. We're not coming and so what? Fame at $25,000 if we paid for a table, or $15,000 if we squeak up in the gallery, goes to a non-profit selling us a load of old famous.
One of Miles Davis' sons is also sore at having to pony up $2000 to see his father inducted. (He also appears to be sore about being cut out of his father's will, but that's another story.) DeRogatis points out that in the past, older musicians who barely made any money off their own recordings have been unable to bring their families to the ceremonies because of the outrageous ticket prices. The hosts are unapologetic, crying that they run a non-profit and only host one fundraiser a year. (Note to hosts: this excuse is for genuinely struggling non-profits that don't have layouts in Rolling Stone and specials on VH1. If you need money, start holding an auction of memorabilia and signed t-shirts. Stop extorting musicians, you cheap bastards.)
So yeah, the Hall is elitist. And yeah, it's pretty yuppified and boomertastic, and leans pretty heavily on a homogenized image of rock and roll. (Are rap acts ever going to be inducted into the Hall? Africa Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash have been on the list for years and aren't going anywhere.) Is there anything else like it? Paul Allen's Experience Music Project comes close, but financial problems and growing pains have taken their toll. Does rock and roll need a hall of fame? An open question. Not one I'm prepared to answer tonight.
I'll still watch the ceremonies when I get a chance, but I've got a bitter taste in my mouth about the whole thing now.