What I don’t want this to be is another in a long line of articles declaring the reasons why this year’s nominations for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is ludicrous because, while filled with deserving candidates, it fails to include some long overdue for consideration, (ie. Rush), and, therefore lessens the value of the Hall and its members. I don’t want this to be that.
But, really, no Rush? Not even a nomination? They can’t even consider the power trio that defined progressive rock for the last 40 years? Tom Sawyer alone is enough for me. Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson…., Neil Peart!?!?! Not good enough to be nominated?
Anyway, I’m not going to write an article about that. The candidates that are nominated all have their devoted, those championing them to be recognized in the same breath as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Bee Gees, The…, wait a minute, The Bee Gees? The Bee Gees are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Rush isn’t even nominated? What am I missing? I’m aware I’m asking a lot of rhetorical questions in this piece, but I’m genuinely confused.
Now, granted, The Bee Gees gave us some of the most memorable disco, repeat disco, off of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, making it the highest selling collection from a movie for a long, long time, and I would wager that most wedding receptions since 1978 have failed to exist without someone channeling Travolta while the dee-jay spun Stayin’ Alive. It’s hard to argue with 25 million sold and counting. The thing is, I don’t want to argue why The Bee Gees are in the Hall, (though I’m sure I could) that isn’t the point. The point is that when music becomes a competitive exercise, with awards and plaques and halls, there is going to be some head-scratching and ultimately a distraction from the purpose and the import of the music, itself. I love the idea of a rock and roll museum. I don’t like the idea of a hall of fame.
Music is an art form. Music is a medium of communication, of expression. A way of telling a story, of celebrating. Healing. It is so much more to people than a commercial endeavor only meant to fill pockets with shiny gold pieces. When you start elevating the standing of one artist over another, and you do so with such varying criteria as the Hall seems to have, it can only create an embarrassing oddity such as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Bee Gees in and Rush out. Yes, The Bee Gees are popular and have sold the art form as well as anyone. However, if friends come to visit and they ask for a restaurant recommendation, I don’t automatically say, “Well, there’s this red-and-yellow place on the corner, with a clown and golden arches that has sold more burgers than anybody else.” There is no denying the popularity, the monumental success, or the influence among its peers, but is McDonald’s my top pick for culinary excellence? The Bee Gees are not among my top picks for rock and roll excellence.
The line for me between art and commerce for all intents and purposes was painted over when the Brothers Gibb re-imagined the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as a road movie featuring some stars of the era including Peter Frampton, Steve Martin, and George Burns, with even Beatles producer George Martin shepherding the soundtrack. The final scene assembled a crazy-quilt of talent, all of whom thought it wise to stand without irony in this cinematic, cultural disaster zone, singing side by side, as if the Beatles classic album cover had come to life inside a mirror-ball of the late ‘70s. Among those participating were Chita Rivera, Dr. John, Seals and Crofts, Carol Channing, and Hank Williams, Jr. (way before Monday Night Football or Hitler comparisons). A horrible mess of a film and soundtrack, yet there The Bee Gees are, in the Hall of Fame. If doing regrettable cover versions of classic songs doesn’t give those in charge some pause, then they’d better be saving up for the American Idol wing they’ll have to build in about 20 years.
The truth is I like The Bee Gees. There was a time not too long ago when my hair was long and I had a beard, and the girl at the record store counter said I looked like a Gibb brother. I, naively maybe, took it as a compliment. They are good-looking, affable guys by anyone’s standard. Their music is sparkling, with gorgeous voices blending into unparalleled harmony. They softened the butter enough for the Stones to come along and melt it with the Some Girls record. Even the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a Rock Hall nominee this year, have cited them as an influence. If there is a Disco Hall of Fame, they are first-ballot automatics, but for rock and roll there may be some ahead of them in line.
Still need convincing? Go to YouTube, dial up the aforementioned Sawyer or any of their myriad masterworks and then get back to me as to why they aren’t even nominated. Oh, and just in case album sales is your most important criteria for nomination, Rush's sales statistics place them third behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold or platinum studio albums by a rock band.
Once Rush is atoned for, we can move on to the rest, like Kiss, and the Doobie Brothers, and Chicago, and Iron Maiden, just to name a few.
Picture By Brian Gimmel