Finding the gaps at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

By Warren Moore

Welcome to Rock Valhalla, Mr. Leitch. The guys from Yes? Not so much.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its newest class of inductees. While I don’t see any Tom Petty-level headscratchers this time around, I’m pretty much left with a resounding “meh.” Not surprisingly, The Small Faces/Faces are my favorite of the lot, but I can understand the importance of the Beasties and Chili Peppers, both of whom have done some interesting genre fusion over the years, and even though I was never a fan, G’n’R were almost a perfect example of over-the-top in their era. All they needed was a plane crash to become truly archetypal.

However, the dearth of progressive rock continues as Rush gets Susan Luccied again, and we have yet to hear from Crimson, Yes, ELP or their ilk. On the hard rock end, Motorhead, Blue Oyster Cult and Deep Purple (all remarkably influential acts) are outside looking in as well. While some critics have argued that this is a result of industry bias, Lauren Onkey, who was a prof of mine during my Ph.D. years, and who is now in charge of educational programs at the Rock Hall, suggests that these omissions are more a product of critical tastes and the definition of what rock means (a subject which, ironically enough, Rush addressed in a fashion well before the hall opened.) She suggests that prog may be too cerebral, and not “rock enough.” Chacun a son gout, I suppose…

Of course, in the absence of some sort of musical sabermetrics, institutions of this sort serve principally as marketing devices and fuel for barroom discussions and blog posts like this one, so that’s the hand we’re dealt. And at the same time, do we really want to pretend there are objective standards when there are facts like these? Probably not. Still, it might be nice to see more folks realize that Rock and Roll is a pretty big tent, with room for Buffalo Springfield, Dream Theater, and the Shaggs. But it didn’t happen this year.