Forgive me if I remain skeptical about two potentially exciting prospects for this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees.
The choices, announced earlier this month, include Deep Purple, Heart, Public Enemy and 12 other artists.
The first prospect is that although the hall has been in Cleveland since 1983, this year marks the first time fans have an opportunity to vote for the slate of nominees.
The other potentially exciting fact is that Rush is on the ballot for the first time since the Canadian rock group became eligible in 1998.
But like so many things with the rock hall, these are dicey prospects.
It’s great to see the fans involved in the voting process, but the selection committee has a history of doing what it wants.
That was the case in 2007 when The Dave Clark Five received more votes than Grandmaster Flash, but Flash was inducted and the DC5 left out, according to several news reports. Rolling Stone publisher and founder Jann Wenner is said to have thrown out the results because he wanted a hip-hop act on the slate. The DC5 earned election to the hall in 2008.
Even if the DC5 story is untrue, the process for nomination has been murky and nebulous since the hall’s founding.
“Criteria include influence and significance of artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll,” states the hall’s website, a wonderfully vague and subjective justification. It feels intentional so that the selection committee can do as it pleases.
And it has. Entire swaths of rock are under- or ill-represented, including the genre’s founding fathers and metal acts.
Prog rock is a much overlooked genre in the hall. King Crimson, Yes and Rush all sit outside its walls. Genesis made it in 2010, but its history includes the Peter Gabriel progressive works of the ’70s, the Phil Collins-led move into pop rock in the ’80s and the I-had-to-Google-his-name, forgettable Ray Wilson experiment in the ’90s.
Rush’s exclusion continues to be one of the hall’s greatest mistakes.
This year makes the first time Rush has even appeared on the ballot, which shows how little respect the hall has shown the group.
The fact that a rock hall exists and the Canadian prog rock trio isn’t already enshrined is insulting. Only two groups have more consecutive gold or platinum studio albums. Perhaps you’ve heard of them – The Beatles and The Rolling Stones?
In the United States alone, Rush’s albums have sold more than 25 million copies.
If those figures don’t convince anyone of the group’s significance, let’s talk about its influence. Dream Theater, Primus and Metallica count the trio among its influences, the last of which is a 2009 hall inductee.
For some, the biggest detraction is singer Geddy Lee, who more closely resembled an air raid siren in the band’s early years, but settled into a pithy whine in recent decades.
The biggest argument for the band’s induction is its drummer and lyricist, Neil Peart.
Peart is one of the finest percussionists in rock history for his technical skill and ability. He also continues to grow, change and challenge himself. In the 1990s, more than 20 years into a successful career, he said he struggled during a Buddy Rich tribute performance. In response, Peart worked with jazz drummer Freddie Gruber to expand his ability and style even more.
Because the criteria are so unclear, how can one argue against Rush having a place in the hall?
At least fans finally – supposedly – have a say in this process. Maybe the committee will discard the votes for Rush altogether, but even having them on the ballot is a grudging admission that prog has its place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Fans can cast their votes by visiting www.RollingStone.com between now and Dec. 3.
To read more of Nick DeCicco’s blogs, visit http://dailyrepublic.typepad.com/forthoseabouttorock. Follow him on Twitter @ndeciccodr.