The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Is a Scam

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

It never fails. I write something, someone doesn't like it, and they feel the need to seek me out and tell me about it. It's never really surprising, even if I don't understand it. I can barely muster the energy to tell people I know personally how much I disagree with them. When I do, I almost always regret it. My recent Green Day screed touched a nerve, as my screeds tend to do. One of the most bizarre and common objections to my dislike of Green Day is that Green Day is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Let me explain it as if you're five: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a scam. It's not Cooperstown with guitars. The expert committee that "inducts" people is thinking about how to get tourist dollars into Cleveland, not how to preserve a legacy of one of America's finest homegrown art forms. Don't believe me? Ask Gene Simmons. If you think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is any measure of how good a band is, you seriously don't know shit about anything.

Or just look at the extensive list of people not in the alleged Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Listen, I'm not holding my breath for the Dictators, Discharge or even the Smiths to make it in. But to not have Todd Rundgren, Link Wray or Roxy Music in there is a pretty damning indictment of the place. The first is one of the finest producers to ever produce, the second invented the power chord, and the third is more or less responsible for everything interesting that happened in rock and roll after their inception.

Then there's the list of who's actually in there. For the first several years, the Hall saw fit to induct mostly non-controversial figures who, by all rights, belong in anything called "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." There were even some more adventurous choices, like Rick Nelson, Dion and Bobby Darin. It took them until 1994, eight years after the first inductions, to put Duane Eddy in.

Even by that point, there's a bit of barrel-scraping going on. Don't get me wrong: I love my copy of Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road, but is Elton John really "rock and roll?" The 1994 induction of Rod Stewart sans Faces (who were later inducted in 2012) is a profound testament to Baby Boomer mediocrity. This is the generation that convinced itself that it invented drugs and fucking but couldn't muster up the cojones to induct Rod Stewart for the only interesting thing he's ever done in his life.

For those of you unconvinced: The Eagles were inducted in 1998. If you don't understand why that's a problem, you're beyond help.

And on and on and on with the Billy Joels and the James Taylors and the ABBAs. Meanwhile, Gene Pitney had to wait until 2002 to get in.

The actual building itself was fun when I went there when I was sixteen. I got to see "Handsome" Dick Manitoba's wrestling jacket and some sneakers once worn into the ground by the Ramones. The idea is kind of cool, I guess, but if there's any surer sign that rock and roll is dead (or at least that it might as well be), it's that it has a "Hall of Fame."

So by all means, go visit, pump money into the Cleveland economy and rejoice when the committee finally decides to recognize your favorite band. Just don't act as if getting in there is some kind of achievement. It might be a step above getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but just one step.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.