Musicians aren’t in it for the money or the sex or drugs (and just occasionally the rock’n’roll). No, despite all that hard rockin’ bat-munchin’ lifestyle, they just want to be loved. Million-selling records and gold-plated swimming pools are all very well, but the most important thing is awards, that they can casually collect and then keep as a door prop for the bog in their LA mansion.
It might be that the music ‘season’ is winding down, with festival season over there’s column inches to fill and Xmas shelves to stock… but we do seem to be beset by ceremonies rewarding the doyens of the music industry. Your dad’s Xmas shopping list aka the Mercurys nominees are just out, the first of a ragbag of prizes to be dished out before the year is done. The legendary Barrowland Ballroom has announced a hall of fame, where a plaque will be carved for the likes of Big Country and Paul Weller, while Q Magazine has honoured, among others, Gary Numan for ‘Innovation’ (i.e. writing hits you can play with one finger).
Q has also, for reasons best known to themselves, declared Noel Gallagher winner of ‘Album of the year’, affording the ungrateful wretch the chance to declare “Awards are bobbins – I’ve got too many already”. Weirdly, Classic Rock magazine will add Queen to its roll of honour, making you wonder what other ‘classic rock’ bands could have beaten them to the prize in previous years. And Sam Smith won a BMI Award for ‘I Won’t Back Down’… sorry, ‘Stay With Me’, though given that this recognises airplay, he’s already a winner where it matters (radio royalties being worth considerably more than Spotify streams).
It’s a similar story in the USA. In fact, much the same as boxing, beauty contests, and the shadowy forces that control our destiny, multiple factions exist in the world of gong-giving. The Musicians Hall of Fame opened its doors in 2006 in the iconic location of Nashville but is entrenched in the ways of Americana as befits its location, inaugurating the likes of the Crickets (minus Buddy Holly) alongside Garth Brooks and Charlie Daniels.
On the other hand, the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame is now 30 years old and having inducted Elvis long ago, has moved on with The Smiths, NWA, Chic and The Spinners up for entry this year. Oddly, this Hall is based in Cleveland, Ohio, a city whose biggest musical export is Devo (ask your uncle, the weird one with the flowerpot hat). That said, the city also is famous for, via DJ Alan Freed, coining the phrase “rock’n’roll”. Sadly, Freed’s name is also synonymous with the term “payola” – accepting cash for putting records on the air. A crackdown in the late 1950s meant labels were instead forced to pay to play in posters, badges, and satin tour jackets (with detachable sleeves).
If you’ve been paying attention you’ll have noted that there’s no UK Hall of Fame. In fact, there was a short-lived ceremony in the mid-noughties (notable only for James Brown’s final TV performance). But as a Hall of Fame without a physical hall, what chance did it have?
So here’s my plan. Let’s find an abandoned building, possibly a factory (the government seem hell-bent on providing us with a choice). Invite bands and record labels to provide us with memorabilia – Hendrix’s guitar, Mark E Smith’s Glastonbury trousers, Jacko’s original nose – and in return they get invited to the glittering award ceremony. For a couple of grand in payola, we’ll even do a blue plaque. Deal?