Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Why Corporate Rock Is A Sell Out

Exhibit A:
Dark times for rock royals
At the Hall of Fame induction, the Sex Pistols don’t show and Blondie has an on stage blowup


March 14, 2006

A bunch of no-show punks and a few thank-you speeches fraught with bitterness were the highlights of last night's induction ceremony into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

As the musicians in the iconic new-wave band Blondie accepted their awards, tensions boiled over on stage with one former band member begging singer Debbie Harry to be allowed to play after the induction.

When former bassist Frank Infante stood at the podium and asked Harry if he and another former bassist, Nigel Harrison, could play, Harry responded coldly, "Can't you see my band is already up there?"

If rock music is about chaos and unpredictability, the rock hall couldn't have found a better class of inductees this year. Among them were the Southern rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd, pioneers The Sex Pistols, the once-frightening heavy metal band Black Sabbath and the contrarian jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.
Yea, rock music (Miles Davis? Rock music? WTF?) is about chaos. It's also about greed, corporate strategy, synergies and dynamic marketing.

In other words, it sucks.

Now, I'm as prone as anyone to the pull. I love Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, U2, the Beatles, the Beach Boys. I listen to Mindless Self Indulgence, Disturbed, Romeo Void. I draw the line at getting gaga over Coldplay or --as God is my witness, someone will HAVE to explain-- Pink. I thought Toto was one of the most overhyped bands in history, and yet I truly enjoyed some of their early stuff, some of the best technically produced music I've ever heard, rivalling classic Yes and ELP.

But Yes and ELP had artistry (pretention as well). Toto was a blatant "suit band". Great studio musicians. Marvelous session men. Sucked as a band, eventually.

So the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, while attractive to me, also repels me. See, it's fun to browse the history of rock, and the early forms-- OK, ripoffs-- of rock-inspiring blues, but the Hall quickly loses attraction for me when I see these monster exhibits that were imported directly from the Hard Rock Cafe, which at least has the decency to sell me food while gagging me with marketing.

To see Blondie, a sell-out band when it first hit the stage back in the 70s, argue like this over a stupid induction ceremony into a "Hall of Fame" is to confirm in my mind that music hasn't been the same since Colonel Parker promoted Elvis to Ed Sullivan.

Sadder still is to read this paragraph:
The Sex Pistols, even in their absence, conveyed their hostility toward the rock hall. Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner inducted the band by reading out the group's nasty note, tortured grammar and all. "That Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a ---- stain," Wenner read as the crowd laughed and applauded. "We're not coming."
(emphasis added)

Yea. I get the joke. It's on me. It's been on me since the days I hung out at Max's Kansas City and CBGB. I didn't get it when Johnny Rotten performed behind a screen. Now I do.

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