4:06 p.m. December 23----
Some of my best road trip memories are making the pilgrimage to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown N.Y. to witness the inductions of Chicago legends Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins, Bill Veeck and Harry Caray.
Baseball fans spent the morning at downtown diners and giftshops before gathering on blankets in the back yard of the hall of fame on a midsummer Sunday afternoon. There was no admission charge. The process has become a little more formal over the years, but why can’t the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum snag a similar vibe for its induction ceremonies? Why not have summertime inductions near the museum along the shores of Lake Erie? Anyone could come.........
....And I’ll be in the front row for the Faces induction (here’s the Faces petition drive:http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/thefacesrrhof.)
But no, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has a black tie fund raiser in the ballroom of the tony Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Since the rock hall opened in 1995, there has been one induction ceremony in Clevleand: 1997 at the Renaissance Hotel. Give the music back to the people!
Earlier this week the rock hall announced that beginning in 2009 the induction ceremony will return to Cleveland on a rotating every-three year basis. “It was in L.A. one year,” Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum curator Jim Henke said during my recent tour of the Cleveland museum. “Otherwise they’ve all been in New York.”
But Henke didn’t necessarily buy into my proletarian ceremony beliefs. “The induction ceremony is a fund raiser and the best tables are $25,000,” he said. About 1,000 people attend the New York event. He added, “I don’t think there’s any way we could accomodate that many people in the museum. We have a stage on the main floor and an upstairs theater that seats 250 people. When it comes back to Cleveland, they may have the expensive tables to raise money but they may have some section where the general populous can come. I don’t know the numbers because they haven’t chosen the venue.”
Minnesota Star Tribune music critic Jon Bream is more succinct. “What’s the lure of going to Cleveland?,” asked Bream, who votes for Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame membership from Minneapolis (Cleveland with snow). “But I’m less concerned about the induction ceremony itself than the process.”
Bream has been voting for rock hall membership for 20 years, as long as the rock hall has sent out ballots to writers and others. This year Bream returned his ballot with just one name: Madonna. On the ballot Bream wrote ‘Why can’t we have a write-in blank?’ His non-nominated artists include Neil Diamond, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Steve Miller, Jimmy Buffett, Tom Waits and others. “I’m not saying I would vote for all of them,” Bream said. “But they should be on there to let other people to decide.”
Even as a voter, Bream feels left out in the dark on the voting process. “They don’t give us any details,” said Bream, who has visited the rock hall twice. “First there’s a ‘nominating committee’ and they’ve changed that. They hold a private meeting. You have to have made your first album 25 years ago.”
Artist influence is the second key component. Bream explained, “Many years I ranked Patti Smith number one on my ballot. Obviously she hasn’t sold a lot of records, but her influence and significance are very high.” Smith made it into the rock hall in 2007.
Rock hall nominees are chosen by a 30-person committee of historians and musciologists. Henke serves on this committee along with other current and former Rolling Stone magazine employees like David Fricke, Brian Keizer and Anthony DeCurtis. Late Night with David Letterman bandleader Paul Shafferis on the committee and Bruce Springsteen manager Jon Landau is chairman. [For a complete list, visit www.futurerockhall.com, a great watchdog site for the rock hall.]
The performer inductees are then chosen by the 600 voters of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. The foundation oversees the induction ceremonies. This group consists of producers, broadcasters, journalists and all rock hall inductees. Omnipresent Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner became chairman of the Foundation after the death of Ahmet Ertegun. Wenner and Ertegun launched the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Despite all the committees and meetings, too many artists are going into the rock hall too fast. If baseball were rock n’ roll Mickey Morandini would be in Cooperstown. Bream asked, “What’s the standard? In the past 15 years the rock hall of fame has enshrined 97 performers while baseball has only admitted 22. At least in baseball you know you have to get 75 per cent of the votes cast. How does the voting work? Its not clear who gets to vote. Which guys in Fleetwood Mac?”
When groups go through multiple personell changes as is the case with Fleetwood Mac, the band lineup at period of induction gets to vote. Fleetwood Mac was inducted in 1998, so early members like Peter Green and Bob Welch don’t get a vote, according to Henke.
Bream said, “There’s nothing transparent about the rock n’ roll hall of fame. They come out and state how many people will get inducted. There were nine nominees for 2008 and they said five would be inducted. Everyone has an opinion about music but the people on the (nominating) committee seem to have vested interests. One would not perceive them to have the same objectivity as a baseball writer. “Does Jann Wenner deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? At some point. He’s been a key player in the history of rock and roll music but there’s other people in the non-performer category who should be in there before he is. Its all very strange.”