The annual list of nominees for the rock-n-roll hall of fame came out yesterday and I spent the better part of my day haunted by the idea of the Dave Matthews Band being inducted. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely owned their first two (three if we count Remember Two Things) CDs in college. One of my favorite concert moments ever was seeing Dave, Tim Reynolds, and Jack Johnson singing Jimmy Buffett’s “A Pirate Looks At Forty” as a light rain fell on the lawn at Waikiki Shell in Honolulu, HI. It was magical. Remembering that moment tonight reminded me to stop worrying and love the bomb.
The bomb? Are you high?
(writer winks at cat)
Simon LeBon famously declared that Duran Duran would be the band to dance to when the bomb drops. And you know what, we will be dancing to “Planet Earth” if that ever happens regardless of whether they are recognized with a picture in a museum in Cleveland, OH. I’ve been to Cleveland. I’m not sure an offer to have coffee with John and hit an art gallery with Nick would lure me back (note: I’m lying, I’d walk there for that). Duran Duran does not need this validation and, in some ways, I hope they never get in. The Hall of Fame is a broken concept because a lot of people have forgotten what rock-n-roll is.
Iron Maiden. Judas Priest. Motörhead. T. Rex. Kraftwerk. Five of the most influential rock bands of all-time are still awaiting the call. The first induction took place in 1986. In 1986, these bands were either still making important records or influencing everything we heard at the time. The theoretical branches of rock-n-roll stretch in many directions but these five artists are huge parts of the damn tree.
The Hall of Fame lost the plot years ago and realized their only chance at staying relevant was to deny entry to important bands to sustain interest. Knowing the loyal followings of KISS and Rush, the Hall kept them at bay for years to build hysteria. Are they doing the same with Duran Duran? I doubt it. The institution laughably nominated the Dave Matthews Band in their first year of eligibility. They really are that out of touch with the spirit of rock-n-roll.
Rock-n-roll is a spirit that cannot be seen. It is an attitude, not a guitar. It is the voice of youth, of rebellion, of change. It is not a lifestyle that you can package and hang on a wall no matter how hard Hot Topic tries. The two most disappointing parts of this annual debate are how few women are being recognized by the Hall and how much resistance there is to black music, especially hip hop, by the audience.
The roots of rock-n-roll are in the Mississippi delta. From the crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to the Riverside Hotel where Ike Turner and his band worked up the first rock-n-roll song (“Rocket 88”), the town of Clarksdale remains ground zero. Listen to the lyrics of Son House and Muddy Waters. They embody the spirit of rock-n-roll with songs about overcoming the institutions that hold you back from your dreams. You can hear the same spirit in the best hip hop artists who used the instruments they had available to them: two turntables and a microphone.
As for the lack of female artists being recognized, the Hall continues to prove that the patriarchy will never concede their power. If the Dave Matthews Band is eligible, that means that Ani DiFranco, Cyndi Lauper, Liz Phair, Alanis Morrissette, Tori Amos, Tina Turner, Sheryl Crow, Bjork, Mary J. Blige, and Annie Lennox are also eligible. These voices are more important to rock-n-roll than a band that sang “Hike up your skirt a little more and show the world to me.”
Why aren’t I talking about Duran Duran more? That’s my point. I’m more disappointed by artists such as LL Cool J and Alanis Morrissette not being recognized. I could write 5,000 words on how Duran Duran was a subversive reaction to England under Thatcher and was more politically successful than the Sex Pistols (actually, I want to do that, soon). Or, how John Taylor’s bass lines are revered by other musicians and Nick Rhodes is a mainstream Brian Eno. But, it wouldn’t change the minds of those currently running the overpriced museum in Cleveland.
Instead of knocking on the door of an institution that lost sight of why rock-n-roll is important to each new generation, we should be celebrating Duran Duran’s annual snub as a call-to-arms. With each new album and sold-out tour, Duran Duran are laughing at the Hall of Fame. It has reached a point that the Hall cannot admit they were wrong. Had the band stopped after The Wedding Album, the Hall would probably have inducted them when the band was hanging with Justin Timberlake; if only to seem relevant to the Timberlake demographic. But they didn’t and we should not think about being nominated ever again. Someday, the bomb really will drop and we still have Duran Duran booked as the house band. I’ll take that over a statue in Cleveland.