Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hasselin' the HOF

I'm certain that a lot has been written already about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Allow me to pile on.

There's no way that anything with such an illustrious title would ever fill the needs and expectations of music fans, specifically rock fans. It's not like "Rock & Roll" is a vague term or anything... oh, wait, it is. It's incredibly vague and the HOF doesn't do much to help define their terms in this area. There's a lot of folk, jazz, blues, country, and bluegrass at the roots of rock--reflected in some of the early inductees and in the opening corridor of the "Hall of Rock" -- but, afterwards, things get a little muddled.

At the heart of the R&R-HOF is a timeline showing the growth of rock & roll going decade by decade through various broad "movements" such as "The British Invasion" and "Grunge". Unfortunately, these give the impression that music ended in the 1990s and they're just not nearly as thorough as they should be. For example, the timeline skips the early '80s in their entirety and would lead casual viewers to believe that Punk Rock was a universally accepted form of music. There were definitely other styles more prevalent in the '70s.

Not even touching on Disco, there are dozens of musical subgenres missing in action including Funk, Heavy Metal (and all of its spawn), Hardcore, Yacht Rock, Experimental/Noise, Prog Rock, Art Rock, Surf Music, Electronica, Goth, and so much more including any music outside of the U.S. Canada, and U.K.. Rather than "Rock & Roll", it appeared that fashion and "Pop" were more the forte of the museum with scads of outfits from performers including Madonna and Michael Jackson -- two performers I would never associate with "Rock & Roll".

I also found it puzzling that several bands that had been inducted left such little impact in this timeline. As I perused this exhibit I kept thinking, "What about Black Sabbath? What about Metallica? Does the Museum even know these bands exist?" They must since Sabbath was a 2006 inductee and Metallica a 2009. One would think that every inductee would have a hallowed place in the halls of the R&R HOF. A permanent shrine to their stature and reason for their inclusion.

More Songs About Buildings and FoodThere are temporary exhibits but I hoped for better use of the space for permanent fare. Other broad strokes missing from the palette included album cover artwork (apart from the display of Talking Heads's More Songs About Buildings and Food), Rock & Roll in other forms of popular culture such as films (for years the highest selling record of all times was the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever), social activism via music ("We Are The World", anyone?), novelty songs, and more. Personally, I'd have loved an exhibit about fake bands, spotlighting Spinal Tap. The ties between the World's Loudest Band and the R&R HOF's location make for a perfect marriage. "Hello Cleveland!"

Again, I couldn't have hoped for a comprehensive look at Rock & Roll despite the lofty ambitions of the Hall of Fame but I was definitely hoping for more.

1 comment:

John Eje Thelin said...

Completely ignoring Prog and Post-Punk (and a couple of other subgenres that significantly expanded the musical vocabulary of modern popular music) is what makes RNRHOF completely pointless.

At this point, NOT being inducted is almost a greater honor than actually getting in.

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