By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
By Julie Seabaugh
By Julie Seabaugh
"After the Hall of Fame opened, about three years went by and I didn't see Ritchie's name, so I called them up," recalls Keane, who claims credit for co-writing Valens' biggest hits. "And the person who answered said, 'Well, he hasn't even been nominated.' So I said, "What's the matter? Don't you like Mexicans back there?' And she got so pissed off that she hung up on me. Later I told them, 'Name one other teenager who had three Top 50 records in six or seven months,' but it didn't seem to faze them. I guess they figured he didn't have the longevity to prove himself. And then I got word that Jann Wenner just did not want Valens in. Eventually we got the support of the folks at Rhino Records and of Phil Spector. And we got a ton of postcards from all over the world -- even China, for God's sake. But it took three years after he was nominated to finally get him in."
For Keane, the triumph is bittersweet. He won't be at the induction ceremony. "They gave all the tickets to the family, and I got upset because I'd have had to pay $2,500 for a seat in the back," he claims. "Without me, there wouldn't have been a goddamn Ritchie Valens! There definitely should be someone from the family, but I felt I should've been there as well. I gave him his name. I gave him his music. And I gave him his fame. He was my life, you know? He was the only artist on the label at that point -- the label was six months old when I signed him. But I was never actually allowed to be part of this thing. I don't know if the family decided they didn't want me there or what. But that's OK. In the long run, it doesn't matter. He's in."
Ultimately the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a subjective, industry-involved popularity contest (at least some of it is based on volume of records sold; how else could you explain Billy Joel's going in before Lou Reed?), and in that sense, it's only slightly more important than the Grammys or the MTV Awards. It should be interesting in two years, when the first wave of punk rockers becomes eligible: The Sex Pistols should go in on the first try, but Johnny Rotten vowed in 1997 that should the band be inducted, "We won't turn up. I accept no awards. Ever. Because that introduces the concept of competition, and I don't do this to compete with other bands. And I find people who do attend those things to be quite ludicrous in their dinner jackets and dickie bows. That's so old-school."
But the final word belongs to Iggy Pop, who, next to the young Elvis Presley, probably personifies rock & roll more than any other living creature -- a rebel and a true rock star who is now also mainstream enough to have his old songs sell cars on TV commercials. His incredibly influential first band has been eligible and rejected by Hall of Fame voters for five years now. During his 1996 "Naughty Little Doggie" tour, not long after the Stooges failed to be inducted, he said, "Well, my manager is in tight with some of those people, and I guess they've said, 'The Stooges, never! Never! Iggy, maybe -- if he's a good boy. And if he doesn't title albums Naughty Little Doggie!'" He laughed. "Maybe if I'd have called it something like Fucking Heroic Young Record Executive instead!" That statement alone should guarantee him inclusion in any institution devoted to rock & roll.