This year's nominations for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced this past week, and that means one thing:
Eddie Trunk is whining about heavy metal being disrespected again.
Upfront, let's be clear about something:
Eddie Trunk is probably a good guy. There's no reason to think he's a bad husband or father. Lots of musicians seem to like him, and his allegiance to a generally unfashionable era of music says that he is - if nothing else - a guy who values loyalty. That tends to be a fairly good indication of a person's character.
But that doesn't mean he isn't an insecure fool.
For years now, Trunk has been using his pulpit on VH1, XM Satellite radio, his Website and on Twitter to demand that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame pay greater respect to heavy metal music. One might be forgiven for assuming that this is some sort of ratings schtick by Trunk to attempt to elevate his own name into these annual mainstream music media discussions. (In fact, given the guy's penchant for egomania, it would seem to be entirely fitting).
But any witness to his annual barrage of tweets following the Hall of Fame inductions provides a frightening glimpse as to just how personally Trunk takes this crusade, and the extent to which it bothers him.
Why is this foolish?
Because the argument is not only futile, but irrelevant. And more to the point, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is irrelevant.
Make no mistake: the museum is a top-notch tourist attraction. Top. Notch.
(Fact: ten years ago or more while on a road trip out to Ohio to attend my older brother's wedding, my younger brother and I literally got in a fight in the middle of the museum because I wanted to stay another half hour and check some more exhibits, despite the fact that it would undoubtedly make us late for the rehearsal that evening.
I lost the fight and we made it on time).
But the institution? It means absolutely nothing. PARTICULARLY to those of us who identify ourselves as lovers of metal.
Metal has always been outsider art. No kid ever really got into heavy metal because he wanted to fit in... not for long, at least. Because no matter how beautiful, powerful or technically advanced the genre is, it has also typically been uglier than pop, angrier than rock and less articulate than punk. For so many of the fans, this serves as a metaphor -- both painful and comforting -- about who they are and who they will probably never be.
In short, metal has never fit in.
And that's fine. Because outsider status has forced the metal community to find its validation from within, and not from corporate institutions. By this point, everyone should know that mainstream popularity was very bad for hard rock and heavy metal. It created extreme motivations for nominal artists to make terrible art, and - worse - it advanced an overall aesthetic sensibility that discredited even the best of the genre's output in the late 80's and early 90's.
(For God's sake, no wonder Metallica and Slayer refused to make videos for so long).
As a result, in the years following grunge -- when big label hard rock became less popular and more popularly maligned -- the metal community arguably became stronger and more self-assured. Independent labels flourished and a plethora of extreme metal niches matured.
Eddie Trunk wouldn't know anything about this, however, because he's still mad at Nirvana. And Geffen. And MTV. And Steve Jobs, for dying before he could invent an iTime machine to take him back to 1991.
But most of all, he's mad at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for shunning his buddies. Which seems akin to a high school misfit sitting at home seething at not being invited to some huge party held by the exact same jocks and rich kids who pick on him each day.
It is a completely foolish use of his efforts, particularly at a time when there are entire generations of actual metal bands (as opposed to semi-retired classic rock acts) that would benefit from just a little bit of love from Trunk.
And that's the real shame of Eddie Trunk's mission: while the guy channels his efforts into bellyaching about disrespect towards KISS, Deep Purple and Rush, and about how this feeds into some kind of worldwide conspiracy to discredit his favorite type of music, the genre of metal has actually flourished all around him.
Think about this for a moment: twenty-five years ago, metal was nearly foreign outside of its own community. Today, it is pervasive.
In 1988, the Monsters of Rock tour failed to sell out RFK Stadium. In 2010, the Big Four tour was an international juggernaut.
In 1988, I had never once heard Metallica on the radio. This weekend, I simultaneously heard them as I flipped between two different mainstream rock stations.
In 1988, most metal programming on MTV was confined to "The Headbangers Ball" and the "Hard 30." Today, Eddie Trunk and his two slob buddies have their own talk show on VH1.
In 1988, punk rock kids and New Romantics generally mocked heavy metal. Today, these same aging hipsters love nothing more than to be seen in their retro Slayer tee shirts. (In fact, for a few years now there has been a downright troubling hipster fascination with black metal, perhaps best exemplified by NPR Music's highly improbable decision to hire a metal correspondent).
The sad - and obvious - irony is that Eddie Trunk's dream of a day of respect for metal has come true.
Unfortunately, it happened while he was raging against the machine on behalf of people who made their best music 20 or more years ago.....people who had several days in the sun, and undoubtedly sucked every ounce of marrow from that bone in the forms of fame, money, gear, cocaine, groupies and sales.
Meanwhile, the metal community went ahead and did their thing without him. The spoils of fame may be thinner today, but the artistic integrity for bands like Katatonia, Pig Destroyer, At the Gates, Cathedral or Morbid Angel* speaks for itself.
* Morbid Angel may be up for debate these days.
In the process, the metal community got their respect on their terms, while Eddie continues to demand his respect on someone else's.
That's the problem with living in the past: you miss everything great about the present.
It is a true shame. Trunk has built a pretty decent brand for himself. Even people who can't stand him still watch his VH1 show regularly (I admit that I'm one of them). But he is either horribly out of touch, ignorant or disinterested in what is happening in metal today. And as long as he continues to call his time-warp TV show "the one stop shop for all things hard rock and heavy metal," he'll always be unwittingly pushing the genre into relic status.
But if you want to take on the man, go for it, Eddie. See how it works out for you, and while you're at it, let me know exactly what changes for struggling young metal bands once you get fucking KISS inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Just remember, that one band that you incessantly push on the rest of us had a pretty good lyric that you may remember:
Under your feet grass is growin'
Time we said goodbye
Time we said goodbye
"Lights out," indeed..