Nominated for induction in 2015, The Smiths are an ill fit for The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame…
The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame: the place where the light finally goes out. It’s rock’s House Of Lords, where ancient relics of the rock age are inducted once doctors have confirmed that their primary creative functions have shut down for good. To be inducted is less an honour, more an invitation to a never-ending whist drive at the rock’n’roll retirement village. It also seems to be a curse for bands inducted while still functioning: REM split four years after their big night, and U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns N’Roses and more have all seen career downturns since theirs. But what do you expect from embracing a naff old-blokes’ institution so rockist that Gene Simmons of Kiss thought he could rightfully argue against the inclusion of Run-DMC, Donna Summer and Grandmaster Flash because “they sample and they talk. Not even sing!” That quote isn’t from 1867, but 2014.
Last year the ceremony had great success with its star-studded induction of Nirvana, which saw Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic playing alongside Kim Gordon, St Vincent, Joan Jett and Lorde. This year, they might be hoping for an equally headline-grabbing night courtesy of The Smiths, who are nominated alongside Lou Reed, Nine Inch Nails, Green Day, Chic, Sting and more. Well, dream on. While you can imagine Morrissey – a Penguin Classics author who has clearly dreamt of living in antiquity surrounded by tragic figures from golden eras past – feeling at home among the monochrome portraits of The Flamingos, Jelly Roll Morton and Billy Ming And The Minging Mingettes, The Smiths’ creative core is far too alive and kicking right now to be mothballed for posterity.
Johnny Marr is powering through a long-awaited solo career, knocking out a vital and demon-driven album every year. Morrissey, even while battling serious illness, as was revealed last week, has just released one of the most exploratory and innovative albums of his life in ‘World Peace Is None Of Your Business’, and looks to be reaching new peaks in his latest solo spurt. These aren’t men who’d want to nod humbly along to the idea that their best work is 30 years behind them: they’re just too now.
And as for the RARHOF tradition of the band reuniting to play the ceremony, they’d have better luck getting The Ramones back together. In 2009, Marr told XFM that the band had turned down £50 million to play just a handful of dates. In 2006 Morrissey stated that “I would rather eat my own testicles than reform The Smiths, and that’s saying something for a vegetarian.” The last time most of them clapped eyes on each other was in court. I’m not saying it’ll never happen, but we can be pretty sure it’ll never happen in return for a plastic gong, a chance to meet Linda Ronstadt and lifelong free entry to a shit museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
And quite right too. As sad as it was to see The Clash, the Stooges and the Sex Pistols inducted – proud anti-establishment forces neutered, tamed and absorbed into the anodyne heritage machine – The Smiths still represent a living outsider ethos, a band that rallies musicians and fans who find the idea of mainstream acceptance distasteful to this day. They pioneered the modern idea of the alternative, embodied the nobly misaligned, tragic poet in us all, and their legacy and ideology is still thriving, their offspring still vehemently – and romantically – independence-minded. They’re the absolute antithesis of the RARHOF’s aspic-sealed rock’n’roll Tussauds. They still matter. So hands off our Smiths; take Sting instead, no-one will miss him.