COMMENTARYBy RANDALL ROBERTS
LOS ANGELES TIMES
Congratulations to the new herd of musicians just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Minus the context, all have proved themselves notable enough to be part of a trending topic for a few days per year, as well as serving as pawns in a game over definitions, taste and intentions. Successful enough at the job to land within the hallowed halls of a Cleveland institution that honors a music designed to question institutions, the acts’ families should be proud. They did it.
But — spoilsport alert — as a whole, the whole thing is wrong. Here are seven reasons why:
1. Chic still didn’t get in, but Green Day did. The former helped build a sound that still resonates on the charts and has influenced generations. The latter ripped off better bands that influenced generations, commodified pop punk and wrote a Broadway musical.
2. Kraftwerk was shunned again, but the Paul Butterfield Blues Band is in. Anyone under 50: Quick, name a Butterfield song. Didn’t think so. Influential, perhaps, but hardly more important than Kraftwerk, Chic or, say, the Germs or Black Flag.
3. Ringo Starr gets in on a technicality. At his best, Ringo was a B-grade rock drummer. As a singer, he was no Keith Moon.
4. Lou Reed inducted for his mediocre solo career. We’ll give Velvet Underground co-founder Reed deserved credit for all that stuff — even “Loaded” — but few artists failed so miserably so often in their solo careers. Yes, “Berlin” and “The Blue Mask” still throw off heat, but they only sold a combined total of 27 copies (give or take).
5. Joan Jett’s oeuvre is hardly classic. As an influence, Jett and her first band the Runaways inspired legions. But solo with her band the Blackhearts, Jett’s output warrants an asterisk, at best. “I Love Rock and Roll” plods along, with a telegraphed rhyme scheme and overproduced sheen. “Bad Reputation” is a great pop-rock song, but hardly influential.
6. N.W.A. shunned. That the seminal Los Angeles rap team was locked out isn’t surprising, but it is insulting. It also offers further evidence that the Hall’s hip hop-inclusionary spirit is a facade; if hip hop’s most influential posse can’t get a nod, but the least talented Beatle gets in twice, what’s the point?
7. There is a difference between electric blues and rock ’n’ roll, which is why Stevie Ray Vaughan’s induction is misguided. Induct him into the Texas blues hall of fame, or the electric guitar soloists hall of fame. But putting him in the rock hall is akin to inducting N.W.A into the polka hall of fame.