Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Music Years of My Life: 1996/1997

Before the World Wide Web discussing all things Rock Hall was only peer-to-peer.  My own interests in the Hall didn't blossom until I hit the Web.  Before that I was aware of who was getting inducted/nominated, but had no place, and in most cases, nobody, to talk about the Hall.  Long time Hall watchers got their yearly info through music magazines, usually through Goldmine,  Billboard, Rolling Stone or the now defunct Discoveries.  Goldmine was the most valuable of all.  Thanks in part to then editor and NomCom member Jeff Tamarkin (he's long been gone from both).  If you were lucky then your local Classic Rock station (or a syndicated program) mentioned who were that years inductees/nominees.

 This is what happened to me in 1996.  But first let me go back.  The early years of the Rock Hall were a curiosity to me.  I've been an ardent follower of many Sports Halls.  But I didn't become a Rock Hall devotee until the mid-90's.  After that the Internet put me over.  If you're new to all things Rock Hall you might not know that their web page once hosted a forum where passionate fans could talk about the Hall or anything else.  Many of us who were there at the beginning of that forum are still around today.  Looking back I have to admit a lot of my opinions on who should be in or out of the Hall weren't very good.  I'm much more knowledgable about Rock's history today than I was in he mid-90's.  Today I cringe when I think of artists who back then I felt didn't belong in the Hall.

But back to 1996.  This was the first nominee class I remember getting passionate over.  There were 17 nominees that year.  Seven were inducted:  Bee Gees, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Jackson Five, Joni Mitchell, Parliament-Funkadelic, Rascals.  Also inducted were Syd Nathan and two early influences, Mahalia Jackson and Bill Monroe.  A solid class.
Not making the cut:  Black Sabbath,  Dominoes, Gene Pitney, Lloyd Price, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mamas and the Papas, Meters, Moonglows, Solomon Burke, Stooges.   Of these 17 names the only ones that haven't been inducted are the Meters and Dominoes.  

Of all the names listed the one I was rooting for the most were the Bee Gees.  But this was the first time I remember their being a discussion outside of the music press about the Rock Hall, what the definition of "Rock and Roll" is and about a nominee, in this case, Joni Mitchell.  A September 1996 Opinion piece ran in the New York Times Opinion.  Written by Martha Bayles, this hits on subjects still talked about in 2017:  a certain nominee, what is the definition of "Rock and Roll" and the museum itself.  Side note: notice the date it ran is September 28.  Inductees were announced back then a lot earlier.  Also, the 1997 ceremony was the first held in Cleveland, so there was more attention for that year than many before.

So, people began to take note of the Hall.  I remember talking with fellow music friends about names that didn't get in like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Sabbath.  And wondering why there was a controversy over Joni Mitchell because many didn't think she was "Rock" enough.  Twenty years later not much has changed.

The Class of 1997 was an awakening for me.  When the inductees were named and I saw that the Bee Gees and Jackson Five were in, it felt like a victory for me as well.  Every year we all have our favorites.  From that year on, I began to find artists on the ballot that I would lobby for.  I'm still doing that today.

Twenty years on, the same arguments about the Hall are being debated in more places than they were in the 90's.  The Internet has been a blessing for music nuts like me.  I'm still as fervent about seeing names on the stage at Induction night (if my beloved Spinners ever make, I might just attend their induction ceremony) as ever before.  But the class of 1997 will always be a special one.

Add to Technorati Favorites