Let's hear it for rock nerds everywhere.
That's right -- the people who still carry around the LP version of Rush's "2112" because they find the lyrics mesmerizing are celebrating today, with good reason. The Canadian prog-rock trio finally has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, much to the delight of thousands of fans who have been lobbying for years.
Good. The band deserves it -- even if it's hard to fathom why the group is in now, when Rock Hall voters had previously deemed it unworthy.
Then again, the voting criteria for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is confusing. Even defining what kind of music is eligible can be confusing to some.
We recently did a bracket-style vote, asking readers which acts they think should be inducted into the hall. When I was posting results after each round of voting on social media sites, I would see lots of comments about whether or not an act qualifies as "rock 'n' roll."
All about the blues
My response was typically this: Every type of subgenre, from disco to heavy metal, contains traces of rock 'n' roll. Beyond that, it all comes from the same place: R&B. If there were no Muddy Waters, there would be no Rolling Stones. If Big Mama Thornton didn't exist, Elvis Presley wouldn't exist. If Elvis didn't exist, we might not have the Beatles, and so on.
That, to me, is the easy part. What's confusing is the set of qualifications a band or musician must possess to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Is it about having a certain amount of influence? Is it about being great players? Is it about having hit songs? Is it about a band's effect on popular music? All are no doubt considered, and should be.
My concern is whether members of the nominating panel allow their biases to intrude on the process. For example, it's hard to argue the effect Kiss has had on the concepts of marketing rock music and on staging a flamboyant live show, despite widely varying opinions about how good the band is. Yet nearly 40 years after the band released its first record, Kiss isn't in the hall.
It's obviously difficult for rock snobs to acknowledge certain things. That includes, up until this year, rock 'n' roll nerddom.
I think a big hurdle has been cleared with the induction of Rush, which has never had a true hit single, yet has stayed afloat for four decades, thanks to legions of fans who keep buying the band's albums and flocking to its shows. Rush fans are the rock equivalent of Trekkies -- loyal supporters who are often mocked, but capable of keeping their favorite artists afloat for decades.
So this year's induction of Rush is like a rock 'n' roll version of "Revenge of the Nerds."
The guys in Rush are smart. They've written progressive music that, unlike most prog rock, has been heavy enough at times (at least their first decade or so) to pull in the hard rock crowd. They're incredible players. Their music resonates with people who, like me, grew up with their records sandwiched on turntables between Van Halen and AC/DC. "Moving Pictures" (1981) was a bellwether release for a generation of guitar rock lovers who can still look back and not regret all their musical choices.
They don't write hit singles and never have. They haven't been Rolling Stone cover darlings. MTV didn't make or break them. They are like dinosaurs from the LP age who still roam the Earth in the age of singles. Despite a semi-irritating spell when they grew a bit too enamored of keyboards, Rush is one of the few bands that never strayed too far from its roots. For that, many of us are grateful. The band's induction into the Rock Hall is a welcome nod to those who still value good music over modern window dressing.