Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Rewrites Kiss, Nirvana History

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- If Kiss could project Gene Simmons' demon makeup onto the moon and get people to pay to look at it, they'd do so.

Yet this band, which is touring with Def Leppard this summer, still selling 40th anniversary reissued albums and slapping its name on everything from kitchen aprons to caskets and urns, steadfastly refuses to perform at its own Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Combined with the Hall's recent public embarrassment of a former Nirvana drummer, it just illustrates how useless the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been and continues to be.

The music executive sandbox by Lake Erie wants to induct Kiss, but its version of Kiss includes only founding members Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. While that initial lineup was big with Generation X and is the one they tend to envision when they think of Kiss, it only lasted from 1973 through 1980. Criss' replacement, Eric Carr, was with the band for 11 years before his death in 1991. Bruce Kulick, who took over Frehley's lead guitar role in 1984 after short stints by Vinnie Vincent and Mark St. John, was with the band for 12 years. Current guitarist Tommy Thayer is on his 12th year with KISS, while drummer Eric Singer has been behind the kit off-and-on for 16 years.

Even if you count Frehley and Criss' reunion stints with the band in the late '80s and early '90s -- which lasted 6 and 7 years, respectively -- Kiss has existed longer without the two of them than with them. But that's not the point: The point is that we're having this damned ridiculous argument over the band that gave us Rock 'N' Roll All Nite, Love Gun, Calling Dr. Love, Lick It Up and Heaven's On Fire and that the suits who do the inducting at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can't wait to translate it into museum visits and induction ceremony ratings.

We're not exactly sure if the Hall solved that equation, since nobody's tuning in to see a featured act that isn't there, but forthright reasoning isn't one of the Hall of Fame induction committee's strongest attributes. When it inducted Nirvana, for instance, it failed to mention that former drummer Chad Channing wouldn't be honored along with Kurt Cobain, Krist Novocelic and Channing's replacement Dave Grohl. Channing did all of the heavy lifting on the band's debut album Bleach, so Radio.com contacted him and got his thoughts about how it felt to be enshrined. Channing was highly complimentary of his former bandmates during the interview, but checked in after it posted to relay the message that he wasn't part of Nirvana's induction. The Hall of Fame, apparently, dropped the news to Nirvana's management via a text message:

Can you tell whoever looks after Chad Channing that he isnt being inducted  It is just Dave, Krist and Kurt.

Geez, was Hall co-founder Jann Wenner too tied up at Rolling Stone to go to Channing's place and kick him in the testicles himself? It's a bush-league move, but it befits a bush-league Hall of Fame.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum isn't without its failings, but at least it gets the basics right. It stopped asking inductees which team's cap they wanted displayed on their Hall of Fame plaque back in 2001, but it still acknowledges a player or coach's entire career regardless of whose cap is on their bas relief head. Wade Boggs may have done a guest spot on Cheers and allegedly drunk 64 beers on a flight while with the Boston Red Sox, but his ensuing years with the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays are still etched in bronze. Dave Winfield may not have liked the Yankees or owner George Steinbrenner very much when he was inducted with a San Diego Padres hat on his head, but he can't erase his years with the Yankees listed under that image. And sorry, Mariners fans, but Ken Griffey Jr.'s time in Cincinnati and Chicago doesn't disappear just because he came back to end his career in Seattle.

This is what Kiss' Gene Simmons is angling for and what Nirvana's Channing likely thought was going to happen. It's not as if there isn't precedent for it. In between boorish swipes at hip-hop and pop acts in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Simmons has made some valid points about how the folks behind Cleveland's little music trinkets run their shop.

"Well, you have a group like the Eagles who continue to be our contemporaries and every member that has even been in the Eagles has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," he told Entertainment Weekly. "But you're only gonna honor the first [KISS] lineup that was together for seven years? We've been around forty years."

Yep, back in 1998, the Hall decided that the right thing to do was to induct all seven men who'd been part of The Eagles since 1971 -- regardless of who founded the band or what the last touring lineup was. When the Hall inducted The Ramones in 2002, it didn't get everybody -- lesser-known Richie, Elvis and C.J. were left off the invite list -- but it did induct two of the band's drummers, Tommy and Marky Ramone.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has always been a cynical enterprise that valued marketability over quality and historic value, but at one point they managed to at least get the inductions right. Their failure to complete that simple task in 2014 not only drove a headliner, future Hall of Fame member and a like-minded bunch of capitalists away from the institution and its induction ceremony, but managed to make the induction of Nirvana even more awkward right around the anniversary of Cobain's death.

Rock and roll isn't dead, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction committee is too busy decorating its mausoleum and planning its estate sale to notice. When even Kiss thinks you've sold out, something has gone terribly wrong.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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