Why am I not excited that Yes has been nominated, for the third time, to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Well, it has nothing to do with the band and everything to do with the institution.
Right from the start I was disappointed in the Hall of Fame. For one thing, I felt that the location was chosen to take advantage of cheap real estate and not to honor the music. Chicago would have been a logical choice because of rock and roll’s connection to Chess records. New Orleans would have also worked due to the influence of Fats Domino, Little Richard and Cosimo Matassa’s recording studio. New York city also played a pivotal part in early rock and roll history; It was a center of the recording industry (Elvis recorded there for RCA), it produced many Doo Wop and R&B groups and it was the site of many important early rock and roll concerts. Heck, Alan Freed even had a radio show there. And, New York, unlike Cleveland, is already an international tourist destination.
Furthermore, if the Hall had been established earlier, perhaps we could have had a more orderly process of inclusion of inductees – it makes no sense that Ruth Brown (who put Atlantic Records on the map in the 1950’s) would be nominated five years after The Beatles. Finally, like the Grammys, it seems that worthy artists are often overlooked in favor of those who appeal to the masses.
Now, back to Yes. I can’t believe that Aerosmith ( the poor man’s Rolling Stones) and Kiss (a band no one over the age of twelve would have listened to in 1975) made the cut for the Hall of Fame but not Yes (or ELP, Jethro Tull and King Crimson). What’s up with that? My first concert, at fourteen years old, was a triple bill of Yes, Humble Pie and Black Sabbath. Sabbath didn’t show, after being booed off stage the night before. Yes, touring to promote The Yes Album, owned the crowd owing to their high level of musicianship along with Jon Andersen’s down to earth charm. Andersen cheerfully accepted a beer from an audience member and proceeded to sing the praises of Budweiser. I love Black Sabbath but why are they in the Hall when Yes is still out?
Even if we bring our argument down to simple economics, does anyone remember just how popular Yes was back in the day? The Stooges, who sold few albums in the 1970’s and were not well received by audiences or critics at the time are in the Hall of Fame. I was at a Stooges concert in the 70’s where the crowd hated the music so much that they were turning violent. Why is there now such collective amnesia about what really happened in the 1970’s? Most people didn’t become punk fans, or hip hop/rap fans until these genres were moribund. Progressive rock actually had a large following at the time. Yes filled stadiums in the 70’s. When I saw Yes in 1971 it was in a small theater of less than two thousand people. By the time I saw the Tales from Topographic Oceans tour I was in the nosebleed section of an arena.
It is time that the sin of omission, that of denying progressive rock its rightful place in the history of rock, is rectified. Yes deserves to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their inclusion is way overdue.