Brooklyn Rock City

Dec 17, 2013 No Comments by

Kiss_alive_album_coverDave Marsh has got to be livid today. Kiss is finally going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Time and again, Marsh, the veteran rock critic and member of the Rock Hall’s nominating committee, has stated his defiant opposition to such a thing ever happening. “Kiss is not a great band, Kiss was never a great band, Kiss never will be a great band, and I have done my share to keep them off the ballot,” he said in a 2007 interview with’s Jem Aswad.

It is in large part due to the stubbornness of Marsh and other Hall of Fame voters who came of age in the ’60s that a band of supreme significance to a generation of players and fans was snubbed for years, while the decidedly less influential likes of Laura Nyro and the Dave Clark Five got ushered in ahead of them.

For the record, I enjoy the music of Laura Nyro and the Dave Clark Five far more than I enjoy the music of Kiss. I also believe that at least one member of Kiss—Gene Simmons—is a loathsome human being. But to me, it is crushingly obvious not only that Kiss belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but that they should have been inducted a decade and a half ago.

The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and other stars of the ’60s were like superheroes to many people. The members of Kiss took this concept one step further and actually fashioned themselves as superheroes (making it all the easier to market action figures). In so doing, they created a theatrical experience that has had lasting resonance in just about every popular music genre, from heavy metal to hip-hop, and they built a merchandising machine that was a clear precursor to the emergence of today’s pop entrepreneurs. At last they will join Alice Cooper, also belatedly inducted (in 2011), in their rightful place of honor as pioneers of the arena-rock spectacle.

Of the other 2014 inductees, Nirvana was of course a shoo-in, though I’m beginning to think that band’s importance, great as it was, may have been limited to its own era. I can’t say I find much of Kurt Cobain’s influence anywhere these days, but maybe that’ll come with the next generation.

Linda Ronstadt, a fine singer who I feel privileged to have seen perform, is also a sentimental choice because she’s fighting Parkinson’s disease. I thought similar sentimentality in the wake of Jon Lord’s death might lead to Deep Purple’s long-delayed induction, but no such luck. More Rock Hall voters must like Ronstadt. Fair enough. But here’s reality: The central riff of one Deep Purple song, “Smoke on the Water,” has meant more to modern popular music than Ronstadt’s entire career.

Cat Stevens is an interesting one. Taken purely on musical merits, I’d say he’s borderline worthy of inclusion. But there’s more to this than music. For Cat Stevens hasn’t been Cat Stevens for 35 years. Since 1977, he’s been Yusuf Islam, a devout follower of Muhammad’s teachings, an articulate spokesman against anti-Muslim prejudice—and, some claim, a supporter of Hamas’ terrorist activities and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. (He’s repeatedly denied that he ever supported such things, but those denials have been evasive and less than convincing.) No question, the Hall is making a political statement here, and it remains to be seen how that will play in Brooklyn, first-time host of the induction ceremony and a New York City borough whose population was at last count approximately 23% Jewish. Expect protesters.

That leaves Hall & Oates, whom I love, and Peter Gabriel, one of my all-time favorite musicians. I’m happy they’re getting inducted; they deserve it. But picking two of the other original nominees, Chic and LL Cool J, would have made for a much more inclusive—and more fun—group. As it is, the African-American portion of this year’s inductee list is essentially nil, and that’s just ridiculous.

Finally we come to the “supporting cast” inductions. It’s kinda weird that neither Brian Epstein nor Andrew Loog Oldham was inducted before now, but it makes perfect sense to honor them both in 2014, marking 50 years since the bands they managed first arrived in the U.S.A. As for the E Street Band, whatever. All good players, certainly, but they mean little to me. Yes, I know I’m way in the minority on this one.

Too bad about the Replacements not making it this year, though I have little doubt their time will come (probably after Slim Dunlap dies, if the Hall is true to past form). Still waiting for T. Rex, the New York Dolls, Roxy Music, and Todd Rundgren—never mind Link Wray, who’s only been eligible for 31 years. But enough griping. It should be a good show.









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