It’s easy to beat up on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a beacon of many things that went wrong with the money grab that continually assaults the music industry.
I’ve written before about it; the RRHOF is run by 1 percenters, doesn’t pay taxes and has generally played personal politics with what was once the essence of a loud middle finger to The Establishment.
It’s easy to bitch about those excluded and included – really, Herb Alpert, Madonna in, Grand Funk not? – but that’s just about the tastes of a meager few, the nominating committee.
The hall sits on a waterfront piece of land worth $42 million, with net assets of $93 million, according to its most recently available tax return. To some people, nothing says rebellion like a fat bank account.
On a visit to Cleveland this week, though, I discovered the redeeming element of the HOF: It’s newly opened library and archive collection.
The book collection alone is worth a stop – of course it has both the Touch and Go book and the Johnny Ramone autobio, but the best stuff is in the archives. For that, you get a library card and hit the database. In an hour, I found the lawyer letter from the Carbona company to Sire asking that the Ramones song, “Carbona Not Glue”not be included on any more records – so far, Sire said, it had sold 45,000 of the 60,000 pressed. I also found a letter from Iggy Pop to Guns and Roses thanking them – profusely, handwritten, on yellow legal paper – for covering “Raw Power” on the Spaghetti Incident. Iggy said it gave him a “huge boost.” I found it in the voluminous collection of materials from Art Collins.
There was more and more and more. While the RRHOF is an irritating bit of organization to a format that should defy organization, the library is a blessing for those of us who are interested in how it all happened.
Steve Miller is an investigative reporter with over two decades of experience in daily newspaper, Web and magazine reporting and writing. Miller has done time as a court and cops beat reporter at the Dallas Morning News and as a national reporter for the Washington Times, and as a correspondent for national publications including People magazine, High Times, Boston Magazine, Miami New Times, Houston Press, The Daily Beast and U.S. News and World Report. In 2012, he was an Edgar award finalist for his book, Girl, Wanted: The Chase for Sarah Pender. He is a recipient of the digital investigative award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Miller was also the former vocalist in the Midwest punk rock outfit the Fix in 1980-81.
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