by Matt Meade
This Thursday, April 10th, several bands and artists will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Included among the inductees is Gene Simmons’ band KISS. To hear him talk, the induction is long overdue. Much like how Simmons decided to exclude original band members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley from the induction performance, (with Frehley hilariously calling KISS “half a cover band“) KISS has been excluded from the Hall for years. The delay, according to Simmons, is due in large part to the Hall’s annoyingly political selection process.
“A long time ago it was diluted. It’s really back room politics, like Boss Tweed. A few people decide what’s in and what’s not.”
Now that he is inducted, it seems Simmons is angling for a job on this rock and roll inner circle, because in the next breath, he went on to speak for the masses about who should be excluded from the HOF.
“And the masses just scratch their heads. You’ve got Grandmaster Flash in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Run-D.M.C. in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? You’re killing me! That doesn’t mean those aren’t good artists. But they don’t play guitar. They sample and they talk. Not even sing.”
Who comprises these masses, I can’t be sure, but I am guessing that it might include fellow purveyors of dog whistle racism from Fox and Friends.
Simmons thinks that the HOF selection panel is being too loosy goosy with the definition of rock and roll by letting all those annoying hip hoppers, who sample, never play instruments, and don’t sing. Maybe they should go ahead and create their own separate, but equal museum. (As a matter of fact, one already exists. It is apparently, entirely online, requires a paid membership, and is perpetually under construction.)
Let’s ignore the fact that Gene Simmons plays the bass, which is not the guitar (and I think we can all agree is one step above a kazoo in terms of complexity), and he doesn’t always even do that since he’s been known to pawn his duties off to Ace, or Paul. Forget too the hypocrisy of complaining about being excluded while you yourself exclude others. Simmons wants to decide who is pop, who is rock, who is in and who is out, and I think we should consider his selection process.
Simmons’ criteria is the following: He doesn’t want hip hop artists included in the hall because they don’t play guitar.
He also doesn’t want bands who use sampling technology, which would mean the Beatles would have to get an asterisk since they invented it. (I guess he only means music sampling technology, since if he meant sampling Kabuki makeup and other band’s songs, then his own band would be excluded.)
Also, only bands who sing should be allowed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now, I am not sure who told Gene Simmons that chanting his desire to rock and roll all night long is singing, but let’s pretend that it is, and let’s pretend that he can sing better than Andre 3000, Mos Def, or anyone from the Fugees, (even Praz). You might find this to be a devastatingly narrow understanding of rock and roll, such a narrow definition showing so little imagination (and what else would you expect from a band who has been putting on the same tired, ripped off, hackneyed show for 40 fucking years?) but Simmons is on to something here.
Let’s continue to consider what the Simmons criteria might be. We may as well add to the list the things Simmons values in a band.
We can only assume that Gene Simmons’ induction board would be most likely to include bands who have had a reality television show, released a disco record, and/or exploited their fan base for decades. It’s not clear if complete contempt for ones audience and and a complete lack of a sense of humor is required, or just preferred.
Regardless, by that set of criteria, KISS should probably be the last band ever inducted into the HOF.
I am not sure if it is just being a wealthy, white male that gives Gene Simmons the attitude of privilege that leads him to believe the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be what he wants it to be, or if it his own self professed brand of self-delusion. Whatever the case, why he thinks that his brand of ripped off fart rock is more relevant than this guy is beyond me:
And I am not saying that he is wrong about the incompetence of the selection committee. I am saying that he is a dick. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is less qualified to select who belongs in the HOF than the people who actually do the selecting. After all, what does this board who Gene Simmons is complaining about think about music? Well, most recently they have let us in on how they define rock and roll by excluding drummer Chad Channing from being inducted into the Hall of Fame with his former band, Nirvana.
This shows once again, the complete lack of awareness on the part of the Hall of Fame. It proves once again that once you proclaim yourself an expert, you have given up all credibility. Rock and roll is about asking questions, about talking to the disenfranchised, not cherry picking the most successful lineups, of the most successful acts and organizing their pictures in a room.
In the early 90s some angry kids wrote a song called “About a Girl,” on an album called Bleach. (Most people don’t own it.) Whether Dale Crover or Chad Channing, or Dave Grohl is playing on the track is irrelevant. (Also, why aren’t we talking about Pat Smear? The guy had a lot to do with one of the most important Nirvana efforts, Unplugged in NY. Wasn’t he in the band? Is he also being excluded? If so, why?)
I say to Chad and anyone else not inducted: You dodged a bullet. Was that a poor choice of words? Too soon?
I think it is appropriate considering the fact that the bullet in Kurt’s head doomed him to the kind of misunderstanding that is inherent in being inducted into a place as detrimental to the artistic integrity of music as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That bullet doomed Cobain and Nirvana to become whatever record labels and out of touch institutions like the Hall need him to be so they can sell more coffee mugs that say, “serve the servants…” on them.
Never are they more important than when they died too soon. And never is their music more misunderstood than in its aftermath.
Because now that Kurt Cobain is dead, now that the band will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we won’t ever get to hear them the way we first heard them. We will hear them through decades of rock criticism organizing them as better than some bands and not as good as other bands and presenting them as some brand-name that they weren’t. We’ll get to rifle through their rough drafts, make ironic use of their anti-corporate stances,
Why is anyone, in this day and age of self promotion, of tearing down idols, of sending music spinning off in a million new directions, still paying attention to what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame says?
The only time the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has ever been relevant was when Johnny Lydon (That’s Mr. Rotten to you kiddo), refused to be inducted.
Lydon’s infamous and grammatically notorious letter tells us all we need to know about the Hall. Real artists, real musicians, don’t belong there. Come to think of it, Lydon and Simmons are finally saying the same thing; the moment you are inducted, you are no longer relevant. Maybe everyone would be happier if The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included KISS in their hallowed halls and then never inducted anyone ever again. It can be the museum that it wants to be and it can leave the art to the artists. It will create and actual establishment to rebel against. Because rock and roll is dead. Long live rock and roll.
Just ask this washed up rock star (at 2:11) who the new rock and roll stars are: