By now it’s old news that Axl Rose has declined induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The founder and namesake of Guns N’ Roses doesn’t want any part of the 26-year-old institution that wants to honor him and his band.
Rose has his reasons for rejecting the honor, and given the tensions among former GNR members, it’s probably just as well. And he’s not breaking new ground. The Sex Pistols also memorably snubbed the Hall a few years back, and didn’t phrase their rejection in as civil a manner.
In fact, the Pistols’ rejection was just like the group in its heyday — snide, obnoxious, in-your-face and not polite.
Just what rock and roll should be.
Don’t get me wrong. The Walrus plans to visit the Rock Hall someday, and most likely, will thoroughly enjoy said visit. Many of my favorite artists are enshrined there. But I’m still troubled by the question of why there should be a “hall of fame” in the first place for an art form that began as a loud, boisterous, even threatening form of rebellion. You can make the case that NONE of the artists inducted into the Rock Hall should be there — because the Hall itself shouldn’t exist. That’s just not what rock and roll is all about.
Think about it. The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, was a parent’s worst nightmare in the 1950s — A white singer who sounded black, singing with obvious passion and oh my, those hip swivels! We can’t have that on television — might give the kids ideas, y’know.
Others were no better. Jerry Lee Lewis, pounding that piano with a knowing leer. The flamboyant Little Richard tearing it up on both piano and vocals. Would you want your daughter — raised on a steady diet of Pat Boone — dancing to THIS?
Make no mistake — rock and roll was DANGEROUS in those days.
And the danger didn’t really abate. The Shangri-Las were a cute girl group, but you knew they’d cut you in a heartbeat. The Beatles might have looked innocent in 1964, but they wanted to do more than hold your hand. You could imagine getting mugged in a dark alley by the Rolling Stones. The Animals, The Kinks, The Doors, all had that kind of edge.
In the ’70s, there was Springsteen, KISS, Tom Petty. Then came the punks — The Ramones, Blondie, the Sex Pistols and many more. Rock and roll could be melodic, but it always carried a risk, an undercurrent of black leather, fast engines and switchblades. There’s a reason the rallying cry of the 70s was “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”
Nirvana, Metallica and other bands kept the tradition going in the ’90s. Nirvana member Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters have kept the faith into this decade.
The bottom line is simple. There has never been a time when rock and roll didn’t have at least a slight tingle of something anti-establishment, something forbidden about it.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shatters that illusion, presenting rock and roll as mainstream Americana. The Hall not only admits children, it admits those under 8 years old FREE.
As Ray Davies put it when the Kinks were inducted, “Rock and roll has become respectable.”
But it shouldn’t be.
And Axl Rose is continuing the tradition of making sure it isn’t.