“Boys, I’m not gonna go on and on about this fucking spirit shit. I’ll talk about the blues and influences and how I dig you guys and bing-bam-boom, I’ll be out of there. It’s just fucking rock n’ roll, after all.”
– Keith Richards to the members of ZZ Top backstage at the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Committee (whatever the hell that is), has seen fit to nominate Alice Cooper, sixteen years after his, or if you prefer the band to the character, its eligibility. This makes what is already an abject mockery of what even the most casual observer of the genre would consider downright silly. For those of us who cherish its everlasting effect on our souls, it is an insult. After all, The Coop, an icon and creative pioneer in 1970s hard rock, is as influential to rock and roll history as Elvis Presley and his Caucasian-hijacking of an African-American invention is to the ‘50s, The Beatles and its image-driven cultural phenomenon is to the ‘60s, Madonna and her sexually-charged chameleon star-trip is to the 80s’, and the spit-in-the-face of all that is holy Nirvana in the ‘90s.
For several decades, Alice Cooper was a drunken, spiteful, sloppy, defiant, obscene, deafening burlesque freak show that cared less for anything healthy and decent than anyone or anything imaginable; or as he put it to me in this magazine last year, “You couldn’t have a rock and roll drama without a villain.” That, my friends, is rock and roll in a nutshell. Refusing to recognize that impugns any point of celebrating it.
Shit, anyone failing to list “School’s Out” in their Top Ten of most on-the-money rock and roll songs has no fucking clue what the entire rock and roll trip is about; or more likely the case in the realm of the high-brow geeks running this vapid dog & pony show in Cleveland, got off the train with anything post-Traffic.
Turns out Cooper’s drinking buddy, Jim Morrison was right about handing the rebel stick over to the Madison Avenue suits and Hollywood posers who would likely render whatever erect pecker or moist pussy it manifested into a flaccid pole or dried up twat.
Keith Richards, the godfather of all that is modern rock and roll, and the man for whom even death recoils in horror, would concur. At least if you judge it from the look of a man who’d worked his ass off concocting an outlaw life of violent upheaval and massive substance abuse into gorgeous riffs of heavenly power only to be dumped in his waning years headlong into presenting goddamned ZZ Top to a bunch of gut-sagging, hair-thinned cretins posing as rock critics boozing beside the putrid gaggle of industry turds dressed for prom night.
Video evidence of the event shows Keith looking sick to his stomach and cackling like a hyena at the absurdity of his mission, and doing it right in the heavily-bearded faces of the band he was to induct into this laughing stock of an embalming center.
Keith and Jimmy Morrison knew what those of us who ever cared for rock and roll know; Alice Cooper is the real deal; whether the “keepers of the flame” deign to admit it or not. The Coop and his band kicked the ass and took the names to the tune of record numbers when they ruled the world, and there was a time when they sure as hell did. For a few years no one manipulated our wicked zeitgeist or exploited its most precious disgust better than Alice Cooper.
The only act that even comes close is Kiss. And guess what? Kiss has never even been nominated.
The biggest-selling live act in the history of rock and roll, which not only emerged full-fledged from the gloriously outlandish Alice Cooper excess-driven, shock-treatment womb, but also liberated the genre from its deadening artsy-fartsy, late-sixties to early-seventies jam-band, self-indulgence—predating the usually lauded Bruce Springsteen and the soon-to-seek vengeance of Punk.
Kiss is rock and roll, as much as Parliament is funk, the Bee Gees disco, Michael Jackson pop and Joni Mitchell folk, all of whom have already been inducted into this so-called hall of fame.
Kiss was, and stupefyingly still is theater, pomp and bombast; a distorted blitzkrieg offspring of a Jerry Lee Lewis piano assault, a Jimi Hendrix guitar fire, The Who’s instrumental auto-destruction, an Iggy Pop chest carving, and whatever crazy crap Peter Gabriel or Frank Zappa ever dreamed up. Grease paint, pyrotechnics, leather and juvenile odes to sex and mayhem are a recipe for rock and roll greatness, and yet for some reason it is trumped by The Pretenders, Fleetwood Mac, and REM—all acts I enjoy and certainly belong in whatever goofy palaver dinosaurs like Jann Wenner fabricate these days, but not at the exclusion of motherfucking Kiss.
I’m sorry, kids, nothing that aforementioned foursome produced approaches the anthemic core of the rock and roll gut like “Rock N’ Roll All Nite,” never mind the brilliant fist-pump of “Detroit Rock City.”
Recently a friend, while speaking of his time in Cleveland, asked if I’d visited the HOF museum. To which I followed with a twenty-minute diatribe culminating in the notion that any such asinine endeavor calling itself a rock and roll institution (whatever the hell that is) and claiming to celebrate those whose fame is worthy of its blessed enshrinement, but yet so completely incapable of seeing the worth and testament of titans like Kiss, is nothing I need to see. It’s akin to going to a pizzeria and getting served celery.
And let’s be honest, the entire concept of having a shrine or snobbish observance of rock & roll is antithetical to everything the damn art form stands for in the first place. Second, and most disturbing, is it confirms what purist caretaker Lester Bangs predicted and oft-times celebrated as its demise propagated by the over-intellectualizing arrogance of the “rock critic elite.”
Barely aware of the comings and goings of something as moronically feckless as a Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, I was unaware as recently as a week ago that neither Alice Cooper nor Kiss had been included, yet the very bands they helped launch, specifically Van Halen and AC/DC, waltzed in before them. This seemed beyond ludicrous, until I saw the roll call of acts that have preceded their groundbreaking, hit-making, record-smashing concert-receipt resume.
Metallica? Without Alice Cooper and Kiss, where is Metallica beyond a garage in suburban San Francisco? But then at least it’s a rock band, unlike folkie Pete Seeger, gospel queen Mahalia Jackson, soul master Curtis Mayfield, torch song goddess Billie Holiday, crooner Nat “King” Cole, country outlaw Johnny Cash, or for the sake of the Christ, The O’Jays, Jelly Roll Morton, Brenda Lee, Bill Willis & His Texas Playboys, or fucking Bob Seger.
Bob fucking Seger? What’s next Barry Manilow and Bread?
When Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers were playing backyard barbecues in Gainesville and Elvis Costello was learning to snarl with horn-rimmed glasses, Kiss was plowing through America and everywhere making nocuous rip-roaring cacophony—making movies, starring in comic books, and turning pop culture sideways.
Sorry if condescending scribes at the hippie journalists’ convention thumb their coke-addled noses at it, but Kiss stomped the terra without regret and didn’t beg your permission.
Oh, and this year’s nominees alongside the long-overlooked Alice and in place of Kiss? Dr. John, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Donavan, and Donna Summer.
I rest my case.
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus, and Midnight For Cinderella.