Today, after 25 years of being eligible, The Monkees were once again bypassed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation's nominating committee for possible inclusion in the Hall's Class of 2017. Had Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork been bestowed the honor of being nominated, it would have only been the first step in securing The Monkees' induction. According to the Hall of Fame's website, the process plays out in the following fashion:
Each year, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation's nominating committee selects the group of artists nominated in the performer category. Ballots are then sent to more than 600 historians, members of the music industry and artists—including every living Rock Hall inductee—and the five performers receiving the most votes become that year's induction class. Beginning in 2012, fans were given the chance to vote for the nominees they'd like to see inducted into the Rock Hall. The top five vote-getters in the public poll form one ballot, which is weighted the same as the rest of the submitted ballots.
The news today wasn't as hoped, and now fans will have to wait another year to see if The Monkees can garner a nomination and take their place in the Cleveland, Ohio-based institution.
Feelings of frustration and sometimes anger by Monkees supporters in reaction to yet another snub by the Rock Hall was swift on social media, and in the Live Almanac's inbox. The nominees for the Class of 2017 were announced this morning a little after 8am EST on the SiriusXM Radio channel VOLUME, and after posting on the Live Almanac's Twitter account that The Monkees weren't nominated, fans reacted with a resounding and emotional thumbs down. John Hughes of Rhino Records (executive producer of Good Times!, The Monkees' first new studio album since 1996, and co-producer of the recent Monkees Blu-ray collection) also shared his disappointment on Facebook, posting, "Yeah, I'm bummed."
Questions have long swirled around The Monkees and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so much so that a section of the Hall's Wikipedia entry is dedicated exclusively to the topic. Controversies surrounding insider politics and alleged bias/favoritism on who is and who isn't nominated for the Hall of Fame have also been well-noted. For years it's been touted that Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone publisher and chairman of the Rock Hall Foundation, has actively thwarted The Monkees from being inducted. Peter Tork expressed frustration with Wenner in a 2007 article published in the New York Post:
"Wenner doesn't care what the rules are and just operates how he sees fit. It is an abuse of power. I don't know whether The Monkees belong in the Hall of Fame, but it's pretty clear that we're not in there because of a personal whim."
The article further articulated Peter's take on the situation, saying that "Tork believes Wenner doesn't like the fact that The Monkees, who were originally cast as actors for a TV sitcom, didn't play their own instruments on their first two records. 'Jann seems to have taken it harder than everyone else, and now, 40 years later, everybody says, 'What's the big deal? Everybody else does it.' Nobody cares now except him. He feels his moral judgment in 1967 and 1968 is supposed to serve in 2007.'"
Davy Jones, however, took a more dismissive view of Wenner and the Hall of Fame in general in an interview with Bill O'Reilly in 2007:
Over time, as fans of the group are well aware, The Monkees have moved from being almost universally derided by the so-called serious rock press in the 1960s and 1970s to being lauded today as a classic multimedia act that yielded far greater influence than originally given credit. For years, Monkees fans have looked to a nomination by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a means to validate the group's accomplishments and impact, despite an entrenched and devoted belief that The Monkees have always been underestimated and overlooked, the underdogs of all underdogs. To further prove the point of Monkees fans, support for the group's induction has been publicly pronounced in recent years by notable figures in the rock press community.
David Wild, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone no less, posted the following on Twitter on October 15:
After today's disappointing news that The Monkees weren't nominated, Wild expressed hope for a future nod:
Music critic and Pitchfork contributor Stephen T. Erlewine (who is also a Rock Hall voter) includes The Monkees on his list of acts overlooked by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as he noted on Twitter two days ago:
Kurt Loder, former editor at Rolling Stone during the 1980s, longtime music writer, and MTV News host, is also a supporter of The Monkees' entrance into the Rock Hall:
Entertainment Weekly, TIME, BuzzFeed, and many other outlets have also championed The Monkees' placement into the Rock and Roll of Fame.
In recent years, Wenner's Rolling Stone has surprisingly softened its previous anti-Monkees stance, providing rave reviews for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Monkees tours, eulogizing Davy Jones, and celebrating The Monkees during their 50th Anniversary and in its review of Good Times! This gushing coverage by Rolling Stone led many to believe that The Monkees were destined for a Rock Hall nomination in 2016. When speaking about Rolling Stone on the Zilch podcast last spring, John Hughes shared that Rolling Stone associate editor Andy Greene is a "huge supporter of The Monkees," saying that "they've really come around [Rolling Stone]. The Rock Hall [induction]...it may not be impossible. The Rock Hall could happen."
But today, unfortunately, it didn't.
Monkees fans were likely more disappointed this year than any previous year, and with good reason. The goodwill extended to The Monkees during their 50th Anniversary has been illuminating. Good Times! has received near universal praise, reviews for the current tour have been overwhelmingly positive, and notable rock stars have embraced The Monkees' influence:
Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith have also commented on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and on the question of whether or not The Monkees belong. In a 2015 interview with Rock Cellar, Micky explained his viewpoint on the Hall and its nominating committee:
"I’ve never been one to chase awards or anything like that; it’s never been very important to me. I was very proud to win an Emmy for The Monkees, having come out of television as a kid. When we won the Emmy for best TV show in ’66 or ‘67 that was a huge feather in my cap.
But I’ve never chased that kind of stuff. I’ve never done a project and thought, 'What do I do here to win an award?' Specifically as far as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame I’ve been very flattered that the fans and people have championed The Monkees. Very flattered and honored that they do.
If you know anything about the organization, and I’ve done charity work for the foundation, the Hall of Fame is a private club.
It’s like a private country club. It’s not a democratic popular vote in any sense. It’s literally these three or four guys got together and said we’re gonna start a private club and call it the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and we’re gonna have in that club whoever we want and we’re not gonna have anyone in that club who we don’t want. (laughs)
It’s like a country club and they have the right to do that; that’s their prerogative. That’s their private club. That’s kind of how I feel about it."
Michael also remained unfazed by The Monkees' absence in the Rock Hall in an interview last month with Best Classic Bands:
"I appreciate the bands they have acknowledged but no, I’m not bothered about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s more of a business than a museum, more about ticket sales and TV shows than anything else. I count it as no great loss to the world that they don’t acknowledge The Monkees. It’s their call, not the public’s."
And now, after another miss, Monkees fans will wait until next year to see if their favorite band will finally be recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As for me, I'm at the point where I'm unmoved about The Monkees' absence in the Hall. I've been a fan since 1986, and, well, a Rock Hall acceptance isn't going to change my appreciation for The Monkees.
Consider Michael Nesmith's evaluation of Monkees fans in a conversation he had with the Boston Globe in 2013:
"Part of the fun of growing up is not having to act any certain way - and Monkees fans always traveled their own path. They stayed fans while their contemporaries ridiculed them and they are still fans. So to play live for the codger boppers while the new fans discover the music and silliness and share it is a lot of genuine fun - and that’s hard to come by."
For me, that's a perfect summation of the importance of The Monkees. And, at the same time, a noteworthy loss for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.