Other: Rock & Roll!
Cheap electrical guitars
And maps to secret places
That let underage kids in bars
Rock and Roll Hall of Shame...
-Mojo Nixon, Rock n' Roll Hall of Lame
With the induction this year of Miles Davis into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, some have been asking what exactly qualifies as "Rock and Roll"? Can it be defined by anyone, inside of the nebulous genre or outside of it? Mr. Davis obviously believes he should be there, whereas Mr. Nixon's unwavering hatred of The Eagles led him to pen "Don Henley Must Die!", may be of a differing opinion.
In a simplified way, humbly allow me to use this year's inductees as a guide for what is and what is not to be considered Rock and Roll:
Named Ozzy, Tony, Bill and Geezer; the music features Satanism, insanity, armageddon and death; massive, Hunter S. Thompson-level drug use (Ozzy has said he used acid every single day for one a two-year stretch); recorded their first album in a single session, another in a "haunted" castle in Wales.
Verdict: Thought they lose points for all still being alive and for once having toured with Yes, they are still Rock and Roll.
What's not to love about a lead singer named Debbie Harry? A very ambiguous band, using everything from 60's pop through disco into early rap; first band to give big time exposure to new wave in North America; first gig was at the legendary CBGBs.
Verdict: Can you qualify a bit of a band? They deliberately refused categorization, so other than a few songs, no they aren't Rock and Roll. HOWEVER, when, during the induction ceremony, former Blondie member Frank Infante begged (with the two other former members) if they could play together with the newly reformed Blondie ("Debbie, are we allowed?"), Harry replied with "Can't you see my band is up there?" Brutal, and very Rock and Roll. In by default.
You must be joking. The man is Jazz, pure and simple. Let me rephrase that: the jazz he played was rarely pure, and never simple, though sometimes he played a very bare and tremendously evocative sound. Brilliant stuff, but if this is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, then this is one genius who doesn't belong.
Three guitars in a seven-man band, producing one hell of a powerful sound; especially when one of the guitarists is Ronnie VanZant; dropped out of high school after getting grief for having long hair; mockingly named thier band after their old gym teacher; opened for The Who; had three members die in a plane crash. Was thought to have a hate on for Neil Young (apparently untrue, but Warren Zevon wrote a hammer response anyways).
Verdict: Hoo, yeah!
Featuring Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious; Guitarist Steve Jones said "Actually, we're not into music, we're into chaos"; signed and dropped immediately by two major labels, who they made fun of by recording "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle"; one member fired for "liking the Beatles"; perhaps the most violently psychotic and self-destructive band ever; recorded one album before breaking up; re-formed twenty years later for the "Filthy Lucre Tour"; least talented member was so fucked up a movie was made about his heroin overdose death.
Verdict: Heh. If they did nothing else, the spiteful, semi-literate letter they sent after hearing they were being inducted is reason enough to consider these guys Rock and Roll.
A&M Founders Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss
Okay, so they signed Peter Frampton, the Police, Captain Beefheart, Joe Cocker and Cheech and Chong: what the Sam Hill is a "founder" category doing in a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
That's enough for this lot. The only link I'd bother following is the one to Moj up top there. Just hit the links you find at his site, and be ready for him when you do.