By Pablo Lacalle Castillo
The 2022 nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were released recently, with a proposed ‘class’ of inductees that initially seemed to be rather uncontroversial by Hall of Fame standards. Acts like Duran Duran, the Eurythmics, Pat Benatar and country-darling superstar Dolly Parton seem like natural inclusions into an institution celebrating the history and legacy of rock and roll, in all its eclectic forms.
This is, of course, only normal if considered in the context of a surface level analysis. Probe a little deeper, and uncomfortable questions tied directly to the Hall of Fame’s infamous history of blacklisting and snubbing genres and artists they personally dislike become more apparent. As a private business, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has long cared less for accurately representing the tastes of the fans who helped rock blossom ever onwards even into the modern age, and more for carefully (and often mercilessly) filling the rosters with performers they enjoy at the expense of crushing genres they dislike.
One need look no further than the treatment of two enormously popular and influential genres: heavy-metal and progressive rock. Regardless of subjective musical tastes (even if I like them, not everyone is going to adore brutal guitar and vocals or twenty-minute-long songs) the influence both genres had on rock and roll is undeniable. Yet as of today, metal pioneers Judas Priest (now celebrating their 50th anniversary) remain to be inducted, as do other titans of the industry including Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Dio and thrash staples such as Slayer and Megadeath. Despite the conditions for eligibility for induction being a period of twenty-five years since the release of a performer or band’s first album, many of these bands have been waiting since the early 2000s and late 90s, their stellar contributions to shaping their respective musical landscapes ignored by an organisation that claims to be a celebration of rock excellence. In the rare occasion they are inducted, many bands are done so criminally late (Def Leppard only made it in 2021) and some acts have been blacklisted entirely, such as 80s hair-metal hell-raisers Motley Crue.
Despite Rock Hall of Fame CEO Greg Harris’s statements to the contrary, the Hall clearly has a bias against musical movements they dislike. If the Hall of Fame truly does not have a preference against metal and metal-inspired acts, why have only two ‘true’ metal (not merely hard-rock) bands - Black Sabbath and Metallica - ever been inducted?
KISS, behemoths of the industry, had to wait since 1999 to be recognised by the Hall in 2014. Even then, their induction failed to include any other KISS members save for the original line-up, a grossly insulting decision to musicians like Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer, Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent, and one clearly made to attack the band, as the Hall of Fame showed no problem in the past when inducting every single line-up of The Grateful Dead. It’s an undeniably obvious trend, and one that has continued despite protestations from musicians and fans alike. And it’s not just a heavy-metal thing either: as mentioned briefly before, progressive rock has suffered the Hall’s injustices, with only four bands (Yes, Genesis, Rush and the Moody Blues) inducted, whilst extraordinarily talented musicians in Kansas, King Crimson, ELP and Jethro Tull remain ignored despite their legacies. There are myriad such examples, some more egregious than others: TOTO, widely considered some of the most technically talented musicians in the business, have been similarly given the cold- shoulder.
Bizarrely, the Hall of Fame continues to trundle onwards with barely an iota of self-reflection regarding this clear pattern of snobbery, gearing their inductions increasingly towards acts they find trendy or ‘sophisticated’ rather than listening to the popular voice. Jay-Z, N.W.A and Biggie Smalls, rap and hip-hop artists, have all been recognised by the Hall of Fame before any of the aforementioned acts, and though all three are certainly historic figures within the broader context of music as an art-form, it is odd they be admitted into the rock hall of fame so readily. Already for this year’s class of inductees Eminem seems poised to lead the fan-vote, and by no small margin, which begs the question why the Rock Hall of Fame decided to make the Detroit-born rapper eligible at the expense of dozens of other acts who can genuinely boast the label of ‘rock.’
Though progress is being made, it’s still too slow. The very existence of dozens of internet pages and social media accounts dedicated to (exhaustingly) chronicling the myriad performers yet to be accepted into the Hall of Fame, despite long-ago meeting the criteria for induction, is indicative of a prevalent and constant pattern by the committee. Though when all is said and done musical tastes are subjective, and an induction is still technically meaningless as opposed to genuine respect and adoration from fans, it still remains disgraceful that an organisation proudly boasting to be honouring and preserving the history of rock continues to be so near-sighted. Rock and roll was always a movement ‘for the people’ - so give the people what they want.