Hall of shame

Dubious voting practices reported from within the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Published March 14, 2007 6:00PM (EDT)

Earlier this week, in New York, Patti Smith, the Ronettes, R.E.M. and Van Halen were inducted along with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The big news of the night was that the induction of Grandmaster Flash and his angry quintet marked the first time a rap act has gained entry into the hall. Unfortunately, Flash's induction may have been the result of some Jann Wenner-led shenanigans: On Wednesday morning, Fox News' Roger Friedman wrote that British invasion group the Dave Clark Five reportedly received more votes than Grandmaster Flash in the final tally, but "Jann went back to a previous ballot instead of taking the final vote as the last word," a source told Friedman. "He used a technicality about the day votes were due in. In reality, the Dave Clark Five got six more votes than Grandmaster Flash. But he felt we couldn't go another year without a rap act... We begged Jann to allow all six acts to be inducted. But he insisted that he couldn't because there wouldn't be enough time."

The suspect practices of this year's induction have shed some unflattering light on the way the hall works -- and the purpose of its existence. (Let's keep in mind its self-described mission is to honor "the legendary performers, producers, songwriters, disc jockeys and others who have made rock and roll the force that it is in our culture.") The bottom line is that the hall's inductees clearly reflect the taste of a certain type of listener, a listener who likes the same stuff as Jann Wenner. The Fox story claimed that a good chunk of the hall's 32-person nominating committee consists of Wenner employees such as Rolling Stone writers Joe Levy, David Fricke and Nathan Brackett and Wenner musical buddies like Paul Shaffer, Steven Van Zandt and Robbie Robertson (who are the only musicians on the committee). It's a kowtowing, not to mention gray-bearded, bunch of decision-makers. A great story from MTV.com quoted an anonymous member of the hall's nominating committee describing the nomination process: "I walk into the room and it's full of old men. There's no young people, there's like two women, there's no people of color -- well, I shouldn't say none, but there's a preponderance of old men. I look across the table and I see people sleeping -- I'm just waiting for someone to die at the table -- and they're making the decisions!"

Fealty to Wenner and age/taste demographics of the nominating committee go a long way in explaining how cloying singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne and forgotten nostalgia acts like the Flamingos make it into the hall while influential and challenging legends like Yes and Tom Waits are on the outside looking in. (You can view a list of the inductees here). And anyway, a rock hall of fame that doesn't include Captain Beefheart, T. Rex or the Meters isn't worth its salt. What do you think? Is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a worthwhile institution? If so, who are its most egregious oversights? Post your answers in the comments section.

-- David Marchese

By Salon Staff

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