Kiss loyalists, long the butt of rock-critic jokes, have a new reason to be rankled: the artists listed on the Hall of Fame's 2011 ballot, which was announced this morning, include the Beastie Boys, Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi, Donovan, Tom Waits, LL Cool J, Dr. John, the J. Geils Band, Darlene Love, Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Joe Tex, and Chuck Willis. The Beastie Boys got a nod in 2008. Nyro, LL Cool J, and Summer were all nominated last year. Kiss is conspicuously absent, yet again.
Hard-rock icon Kiss released its self-titled debut in 1974, which means in 1999 the band became eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Kiss wasn't listed among the nominated bands in 1999 -- or 2000, or even 2001, for that matter. In 2009, the theatrical band finally made the ballot, but it didn't rack up enough votes for induction, and fans fumed while ABBA and the Stooges received the honor instead.
Adding insult to injury, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame mentions Kiss in the press release issued today announcing the new nominees -- in its write-up touting the originality of Alice Cooper: "Before there was Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson or KISS, there was Alice Cooper, the original self-proclaimed 'rock villain.'"
Die-hard Kiss fans -- known as the Kiss Army -- immediately flooded the Internet with complaints about the perceived snub, but not all of the band's devotees believe the band's legacy depends on a Rock Hall stamp of approval.
"Kiss not getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is kind of like Pete Rose not getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame: It's the best possible scenario for everyone involved," Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota author and longtime Kiss fan Chuck Klosterman tells Yahoo!. "Every year they get shut out, they're back in the news for not making it -- people will actually notice far less if they ever get inducted. Plus, being denied entry into the Hall of Fame advances the idea that Kiss exists outside the canon of critically sanctioned rock, and it perpetuates the idea that Kiss fans are unjustly persecuted for loving Kiss, which is central to the Kiss-fan identity. I hope they never get in. I'm sure they'll eventually build their own Hall of Fame, anyway, just so they can not induct Vinnie Vincent."
Kiss members themselves seem to have mixed feelings about being excluded from one of rock's most elite clubs. "There are disco bands, rap bands, Yiddish folk song bands in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but not Kiss," the band's bassist and most recognizable figure www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE4AK1U520081121" target="blank">Gene Simmons said in 2008, adding sarcastically, "I believe we have more gold records in America than any other group, but it's OK."
In a recent interview, Simmons said, "There's nobody in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- in fact, if you took all of them and put them together -- they couldn't match all the licensing and merchandising we've done and the legacy we've left." He echoed many outsiders' critiques of the Hall by identifying a few famous inductees that aren't as "rock"-oriented as his own band. "I mean, yes, Madonna's important. I have no [darned] idea what she's doing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Or Grandmaster Flash or any other disco or rap artist."
This March, late-night host George Lopez took up the Kiss cause, calling them "the greatest rock & roll band of all time" when Simmons appeared on his show and posting a www.lopeztonight.com/episode_recaps_and_highlights/kiss_into_rock_roll_hall_of_fame.php" target="blank">petition on his website (it currently has 5,265 "signature" comments). A similar effort has been posted to Facebook, where 1,044 people have "Liked" a www.facebook.com/pages/GET-KISS-INTO-THE-ROCK-AND-ROLL-HALL-OF-FAME/125323774159015" target="blank">page titled "Get Kiss Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!" Kiss fans have also taken to the streets in support of their face-painted heroes. In 2006, approximately 200 members of the Kiss Army staged a protest outside the Rock Hall's Ohio home.
Should Kiss ever gain entry to the Hall, the band would be faced with a dilemma, though: Who would perform at the induction ceremony? While Simmons and Paul Stanley are still actively playing in the band, original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley have split from the group several times. Original lineups traditionally reunite for the Rock Hall ceremony, but not always happily. In 2006, former members of Blondie stormed the stage and asked to perform, only to be shot down by a ticked-off Debbie Harry ("Can't you see my real band is up there?"). The following year, Van Halen joined the Hall, but only former frontman Sammy Hagar and ex-bassist Michael Anthony showed up at the ceremony.
Artists become eligible for the Rock Hall ballot 25 years after the release of their first single or album. The final list of 2011 inductees will be announced in December, and the induction ceremony -- the Hall's 26th annual event - will be held March 14 at Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria. (The museum itself is in Cleveland; it began honoring musical legends in 1986.)