Sunday, April 10, 2016

Steve Miller Was Right

When I was a rock and roll disc jockey, I always liked the Steve Miller Band, largely due to its versatility. The band's music during the '60s and '70s ran the gamut:  "Living in the USA," "Brave New World," "Going to the Country" and "Space Cowboy" were widely played by the album rock stations where I worked, while "Fly Like an Eagle" and "The Joker" were big at top-40.  And then, in the early 80s, Steve reinvented himself with dance-music hits like "Abracadabra," a song that went to #1 on the pop charts.  Miller also ran into radio censorship with his 1977 song "Jet Airliner"-- the original album version included one line with a certain four letter word (the one that begins with sh- and rhymes with "hit")-- but the radio version substituted the word "kicks" instead, keeping the airwaves pure for yet another day.

Given his long and productive career, I was pleased when I learned Steve Miller would be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  But then, while he was backstage, he decided to give his opinion about the Rock Hall, and some people were shocked by what he said.  I was not one of them.  While I understand that some of his frustration was because his band-members were not given free tickets to the ceremony and the Rock Hall used some of his work without a signed agreement giving permission, I thought the rest of his rant was totally on-point.

For example, he spoke of a flawed, unpleasant and arbitrary process, one that ignores talented and very qualified artists and provides no reason for the decisions the judges make.  And while he did not elaborate on those flaws, I can totally empathize as a Rush fan.  Look at how many years Rush got ignored-- excluded time and time again, while artists with fewer accomplishments were inducted. I am not taking anything away from many of the wonderful performers who did get in-- but Rush should not have been kept out for so many years.

At some point, the guys in Rush made their peace with the fact that certain of the judges (and, it was rumored, Jann Wenner himself) hated the band and refused to even consider them.  It took some of the old guard retiring and/or being replaced by some newer judges before things changed and Rush finally got a fair hearing.  (And trust me, many of us-- myself among them-- had tried for YEARS to get the judges to change their minds, without much success.)  When Alex gave his hilarious "blah-blah-blah" speech at the award ceremony, I couldn't help but think it referred not only to inductees who gave endlessly long and boring acceptance speeches (talking to you, Quincy Jones); it referred to all the naysayers who for years had given ridiculous excuses for why Rush did not deserve to be in the Rock Hall.

And yet, even today, you and I can name plenty of bands who are still being ignored.  We don't know why-- while the fans can vote, the criteria the judges use are mysterious.  They seem not to like certain genres, and as Steve Miller pointed out, they also seem not to induct many female performers.  And while I know his comments are being portrayed rather negatively in some publications, I'm glad he pointed out once again what I have always wondered:  what is the reason why certain bands with long and impressive track records are still being ignored, year after year?  I never understood why it took Rush so long to get the respect they deserved, and my hat's off to Steve Miller for asking that same question about some other very deserving bands.


  1. When your middle name is "Guitar" as in Stevie "Guitar" Miller, I believe you can do or say no wrong. And I would also like to point out that he was making music long before there was a RRHOF, and they need him a hell of a lot more than he needs the RRHOF. Same thing with all the other great bands still waiting, or who will never get in the RRHOF, because some idiot can't figure out what's what. Steve Miller has always known what is what. Now somebody get me a cheeseburger!

  2. When I went many years ago, as we were walking in RUSH was playing over the intercom. I was stoked, only to find a pair of Neal's sticks in a stick collection.

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  4. So true. Deep Purple finally inducted - Jon Lord gone. Yes nominated but not inducted - Chris Squire gone. ELP never even nominated - now Keith Emerson gone. Bands with a dedication to being able to play like they care what they're doing seem to get nominated in a begrudging, too-little-too-late manner. Rush classes up the place, but too many acts with dubious influence on other musicians and even more dubious claim to even rock and roll-adjacent musicality are getting in first ballot. And don't even get me started on the Grammys. (If rap merits its own category - and I believe it does - so does prog.)