According to sources knowledgeable about the mysterious ways of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, British Invasion group The Dave Clark Five and not Grandmaster Flash finished fifth in the final voting of the nominating committee and should have been inducted this year.
According to sources, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, who recently appointed himself chairman of the Foundation after the death of Ahmet Ertegun, ignored the final voting and chose Grandmaster Flash over the DC5 for the 2007 ceremony.
"Jann went back to a previous ballot instead of taking the final vote as the last word," my source insisted. " He used a technicality about the day votes were due in. In reality, The Dave Clark Five got six more votes than Grandmaster Flash. But he felt we couldn't go another year without a rap act."
R.E.M., Van Halen, The Ronettes and Patti Smith were the top four vote-getters, with Grandmaster Flash finishing fifth when the votes were counted on the first date ballots were due in to the Rock Hall office. But when all the ballots were counted a few days later, the DC5 had pulled ahead. Wenner decided to ignore that and stick with the earlier tally.
"We begged Jann to allow all six acts to be inducted. But he insisted that he couldn't because there wouldn't be enough time," my source said. "He wanted to have Aretha Franklin come and perform in memory of Ahmet Ertegun."The Ertegun tribute, while very nice, was deemed unnecessary by members ofthe main committee because the Atlantic Records co-founder will be memorialized in New York on April 17. But Jann wanted to do his own tribute. It was insane, especially since he took over Ahmet's position on the board before Ahmet even had a memorial."
Jann simply sent papers around informing everyone that he was now the chairman," my source said. The Dave Clark Five ballot tampering, however, stings the most. The group, part of the British Invasion of the mid-'60s, should have been inducted long ago for their hits like "Glad All Over," "Bits & Pieces" and "Catch Me If You Can."
Making them wait has turned out to be a huge mistake, as their fortunes have not been great. In December 2006, sax player Denis Payton succumbed to cancer at age 63. Lead singer Mike Smith has been paralyzed since 2003 after falling off a ladder at his home in Spain. In August 2005, a terrific fundraising effort for Smith at B.B. King's in NewYork was supposed to be the prelude to finally recognizing the group that had several memorable hits in the mid-'60s. Wenner's cruel axing of them from the show and the Hall of Fame should be painful to many who are intimately involved with the Hall, like Paul Shaffer, who runs the Hall of Fame band and produced and emceed the Smith tribute.
So what happened here? My sources also say that Wenner's motivation may have sprung from a controversial speech that was delivered by new administrative head Joel Peresman to the nominating committee last winter."He stood up there and told us that we should vote for who we thought would be most commercial, and who would be best on the TV show," a source said. "It was outrageous. Some people tried to stop him and asked him to leave, but he wouldn't. He said, 'I'm not leaving.' The director is never supposed to speak to the nominating committee."
Peresman came to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation last year when Wenner arbitrarily ousted the long-time chief of the group, Suzan Evans Hochberg, after two decades of loyalty. "Peresman knows nothing about the business," a source said. Peresman came to the Foundation from gigs booking shows at Madison Square Garden and with Clear Channel, the radio giant that many feel has strangled the music business with intransigent radio play policies and suggestions — actually, government investigations — of payola. In the old days, such a hire would have been considered anathema by Wenner. None of this should come as any surprise to those who have followed the roller-coaster world of the Rock Hall. According to the group's most recent tax filing, for example, they gave only $9,000 to indigent musicians fromtheir $11 million in holdings.
And then there's the matter of who has left on the nominating committee. I'm told that nearly half the group is gone, leaving 32 members. Many of the remaining members are former or current Wenner employees, like Rolling Stone's Nathan Brackett, David Fricke, Jim Henke, Joe Levy, Brian Keizer andAnthony DeCurtis. Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen's manager and a former Rolling Stone writer, is the chairman of the committee and considered the last truly mediating influence on Wenner. There are only three actual musicians: Paul Shaffer, Steven van Zandt and Robbie Robertson. Three are female. One of them is black. There are only two other black members: journalist Toure and Reginald C. Dennis. Wenner, I'm told, "weeded out everyone he didn't like." He even got rid of the veteran New York Post and Vanity Fair writer Lisa Robinson."
This is the opposite of what Ahmet would have wanted," a source said. "He liked a big committee that reflected lots of different tastes."
I've recently been named to the advisory board for the Florida Music Hall of Fame. I sure hope that when it comes time to name the inductees that somebody like Fred Neil or Duane Allman doesn't get bumped in favor of 'N' Sync or the Backstreet Boys, for "commercial reasons." Luckily, we don't have Jann Wenner as our chairman. What a tool.