The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has never mattered all that much to anyone who actually gives a shit about rock-and-roll. The entire idea of a pantheon where a select few bands and artists are lifted up on pedestals above others is so antithetical to the spirit of good rock and pop music that it’s a wonder the thing exists at all. You can’t help but think it was concocted as a last ditch effort by the members of the Cleveland Board of Tourism to keep themselves from jumping out a 15th floor window. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is slightly cooler than the Grammys, but honestly not by much.
And yet like the person who doesn’t necessarily want to dance but just wants to know that he or she can be asked, the only time the Hall of Fame has any real relevance is when a band or artist is snubbed in favor of a band or artist that doesn’t deserve the alleged honor. This year’s nominations for induction in 2015 included NWA, Nine Inch Nails, The Smiths, Chic and Sting. None of them ultimately made the cut. The inductees were announced on Monday and who is getting to the country’s saddest Hard Rock next year? Lou Reed, who was a given and truly is a legend. Stevie Ray Vaughan, who also was a given and who also is a legend. Bill Withers, who’s awesome although a bit surprising. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, who, well, sure, why not. (They actually proclaimed to love rock-and-roll in their biggest hit, which incidentally was a cover, and Joan Jett was in The Runaways.) The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, which is a hat-tip to the Boomers and will provide the audience at the induction ceremony a much-needed lobby bar-and-bathroom break. And Green Day.
Yes, Green Day.
Take a second to go back and look at the bands who didn’t get in and try to square that in your head. Green Day is being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame while NWA, Nine Inch Nails, The Smiths, Chic and Sting aren’t. They’re being honored as a band that made a “historic” contribution to rock and pop music, more so ostensibly than the other bands and artists I just mentioned.
Green Day. Green Day.
Remember how Metallica lost the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Grammy to Jethro Tull in 1989, or maybe how Crash inexplicably beat Brokeback Mountain — and every other film nominated — for Best Picture at the Oscars in 2006? Remember how that made people finally begin to understand how arbitrary and generally worthless a lot of major awards for artistic achievement are? Well, this should be the icing on that rotten cake. Green Day aren’t a terrible band by any means, but let’s look at their track record: They released a couple of decent indies followed by one really terrific album (1994’s Dookie) then one underrated record and a hit that kind of didn’t deserve to be (1997’s Nimrod) proceeded by a by-the-numbers follow up and the bloated excesses of American Idiot, 21st Century Breakdown and the Uno! Dos! Tre! triptych. To be fair, American Idiot produced a single that was one of the few pop music attacks against the Bush years, but it was also turned into a pompous and embarrassing Broadway musical.
I like a hell of a lot that Green Day has done as a single-by-single band, but there’s no way in fucking hell they’ve had a greater impact on music than, say, Nine Inch Nails or NWA. Trent Reznor created truly groundbreaking sonic landscapes and spawned an entire genre practically on his own. He was the sound of alternative music in the 90s and has gone on to not only continue producing under the Nine Inch Nails banner but also composing film scores. While I’m aware of the irony of citing an honor I just dismissed, the man won an Oscar. (Nine Inch Nails, by the way, received the second most votes by a wide margin in the official fan poll, just behind Lou Reed.) NWA meanwhile was a seismic event in hip-hop and two of its members have transcended the genre to become a couple of the most recognizable people in pop culture. Hell, I was never a worshiper at the altar of The Smiths, but despite Morrissey being an imperious, insufferable twat, the group as a whole was ridiculously influential.
Put it this way: Brian Eno famously said that while only around 30,000 initially people bought the first Velvet Underground record, every one of them went out and put a band together. Can you imagine anybody starting a band because they loved Green Day? And if somebody did — would you really want to hear that band?
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.