It’s That Time Again
Ah yes, fall. Pumpkins. Halloween. Leaf peeping. And what else?
It’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nomination season!
Here are my own picks for entry into the class of 2016.
The Cars are the last of the important 80’s acts to be nominated for the Hall. Unlike other Rock Hall acts that happened to exist in the 80’s (like REM and U2), The Cars embraced and epitomized the style of rock & roll during that decade. That decade was perhaps the most over-the-top decade in music, with advancements in synthesizers and stylized production, loud and obnoxious fashions, and (most especially) the heyday of music videos with the creation of MTV, and The Cars dominated all those facets.
Unlike most of the stereotypical 80’s acts, The Cars were extremely prolific. During that decade, they produced. The last, Door to Door, was pretty weak, but the rest were strong, resulting in hits such as “Bye Bye Love”, “Candy-O”, “Magic”, and, of course, “Good Times Roll.” The Cars were no “one hit wonders”, they took that 80’s sound and made a solid career from it.
They also set a truly high bar for music video production. Like it or not, music videos are as much part of rock-and-roll as Elvis’ swinging hips, and few acts were more important to that facet of rock music than The Cars. Their videos were legendary and led to an awful lot of copycats.
Every decade deserves its representative in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and there’s no better group to represent the 80’s than The Cars.
So this pick is controversial, but fuck it. I’m picking Cheap Trick for one and only one reason: At Budakon. This is one of the most influential rock albums of all time. It’s definitely a Top 20 just the game-changing nature of that one piece of vinyl. Cheap Trick may not have been the most talented band of that era, and they certainly did not create arena rock, but they absolutely perfected it and turned it into a genre all by itself. The story of At Budakon is amazing (check out The History Rat for more), and it set Cheap Trick on the road to success.
Normally, I’d say artists should only go into the Hall if they have a body of work to support it. But At Budakon had such a monstrous impact on rock & roll, Cheap Trick deserves to be in the Hall because of it.
Probably the biggest travesty of Rock Hall nominations to date: Deep Purple has not yet been inducted. How can you not include Deep Purple in an institution called the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Good lord, bands who came after them, who owe them everything, are in the Hall before they are. Metallica, Van Halen, AC/DC, all owe a lot of their sound to Deep Purple. Personally, I would have put them in before Black Sabbath (they just couldn’t beat Ozzy Osbourne’s personal publicist).
I have to admit something terrible. When I see a female nominee, I find myself thinking “is this deserved, or is it a token nomination?” There is a tremendous, cultural effort out there to make sure women get recognized for their achievements, and that’s all terrific, but sometimes it seems like a woman has been nominated just because they couldn’t find another woman who fit that category.
When it comes to Janet, that idea is absolute bullshit. Janet is beautiful, super talented, a great singer, and constantly knocked it out of the park no matter what genre she attempted. She definitely “rocked it” far more than her “royal” brother ever did. In terms of sheer talent, she easily dominates over her contemporaries, even 2008 Inductee Madonna. Janet Jackson absolutely deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
For those of you who say “rap ain’t rock”, get over yourselves.
Rock & roll is rock & roll because of one, key element: rebellion. Rock is full of rebellion, from James Brown’s stage antics to Jimmi Hendrix’ guitar style to Bob Marley’s protest songs all the way through to Nirvana and beyond. It’s rebelling against authority, and conservatism, and oppression, and whatever. It’s what rock is! And it’s what rap is! So rap = rock, it’s that simple.
There’s no better symbol for rebellion as N.W.A., quite literally the voice of an entire generation of the disenfranchised. They hit the scene with a bang, and deserve to be put in the Hall because of it.
Unlike prior years, where I had trouble limiting my choices to five, this was pretty easy. The other bands just don’t pass muster for induction into the Hall (in my opinion).
Ugh, no more disco. I accepted the Bee Gees because they defined the genre, and you can’t deny Saturday Night Fever was a monster. But think about “rock = rebellion”: how does disco speak to rebellion? Bleagh, it was weak, and trite, and pointless. No more disco in the Hall, please.
I always found Chicago to be more pretentious than interesting. Steely Dan (inducted 2001) was also pretentious, but at least their music was interesting.
The J.B.’s — initially James Brown’s backing band — are simply in the wrong category. Great artists, fantastic sound, they just belong in the waaaay underused Sidemen category. I’d love to see the Rock Hall revitalize that category and start putting folks like the J.B.’s in it, with all the honorifics they deserve.
Chaka Khan feels like a cynical pick. I’m sure someone sat in the corporate offices and thought “we need another woman in there”. I don’t have anything particular against Chaka Khan, she’s just not a rock artist. Of course, there are plenty of inducted artists who aren’t “rock artists”, but that doesn’t mean we should put more in there.
Los Lobos is a fine band, but I’m not convinced that they’ve been that influential. They had a couple hits, they did bring in some Latin sounds into contemporary rock, but I don’t see too many modern bands paying tribute to “that Los Lobos sound”.
Nine Inch Nails
I friggin’ love Nine Inch Nails, the founders of Industrial Rock. These were guys who wrote hard, played hard, performed hard, and rocked hard. Nine Inch Nails was creative and unique and made a sound that was truly their own. They may not be as well-remembered as Nirvana or Pearl Jam, but they absolutely belong in the strata of great 90’s bands, and deserve to be in the Hall. But not quite yet. Deep Purple should be in first.
I never knew The Smiths, I never listened to The Smiths, I don’t know anything about The Smiths. It’s odd: I came of age in the 80’s, lived through the decade, and thought I heard it all, but I never heard of them. I’m dead serious. People like to talk about how “influential” they are, but, well, I guess I have to take their word for it. But that doesn’t mean I have to pick them.
This is another act that I have absolutely nothing against. I guess I don’t see that they added anything that any of the other inducted R&B vocal groups (The Temptations, The Miracles, The Impressions, so many more) already added. I think inductees should stand out in the field, and not simply be a member of a field that is great.
First, I am a big Yes fan. I love their music, and listen to it all the time. But … I don’t think they fit in the Hall. They have some very talented musicians, to be sure, but I think there’s a far better representative of “progressive rock” out there. More on that in a bit.
OK, here it comes. Here comes my #1 bitch about rock & roll in general. You’ve heard me gripe about disco, and about pretentiousness, and about pop. But nothing, and I mean nothing, has been more damaging, more contradictory to the true spirit of Rock & Roll than the two words I’m about to type.
Corporate rock almost killed the genre. When we talk about 90’s grunge, we talk about rebellion. And what was 90’s grunge rebelling against (I mean, besides boy bands)? Corporate rock. The same, bland crap that all “classic rock” stations played, over and over again, ad nauseum. Horrid, wretched, uninteresting. Songwriting by committee, assembled in some stuffy boardroom. That’s what corporate rock is.
Who are these horrid purveyors of corporate rock? A list of the bland and uninteresting: Bad Company. Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Foreigner. Post-Gabriel Genesis. Bob Seger.
And Steve Miller.
I listened to Steve Miller when he was big. Some of his stuff (like “The Joker”), is pretty cool. But overall? Where’s the rebellion? Where’s the edge? Where’s the creativity? I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it, I can’t click that checkmark next to his name. I’d rather pick all the disco in the world …
I think the nominating committee has still missed two Hall-worthy possibilities. I’d love to see these guys nominated in coming years.
J. Geils Band
I love the J. Geils Band. J. Geils returned rock to it’s garage-band roots. A great live act, honest and raw, they were brilliant. Their intense live shows didn’t necessarily translate to the studio, but they still had solid songs like “Give It To Me”, “Detroit Breakdown”, and “Whammer Jammer”, I’d love to see them in the Hall. They would blow the roof off the Waldorf-Astoria during the induction ceremony.
Earlier, I gave Yes a hard time. This is why: King Crimson is, by far, the better band. In terms of sheer musical talent, there has never been a better group of individuals assembled. They are the best of progressive rock, and their “tendrils” (members of the band throughout the years) impacted musical acts all across music. Pink Floyd, Yes, Alice Cooper, REM, Nine Inch Nails, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, David Bowie: all these acts were influenced by past members of King Crimson. King Crimson is the Kevin Bacon of rock & roll: you’d be hard-pressed to find any act that’s more than a few links away from King Crimson. I’d love to see them get their due in the Hall.
And Finally …
If the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction committee doesn’t put Rick Rubin into the Hall as a non-performer this year, it’ll be a travesty. This guy saved music, and I don’t mean that lightly. He created Def Jam and brought hip-hop to the mainstream. He put Public Enemy on the charts. He launched the Beastie Boys’ career. He introduced Run-DMC to Aerosmith.He produced The Cult’s Electric. He produced the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s monstrous Blood Sugar Sex Magik. He worked with inductees Tom Petty, Donovan, Mick Jagger, and more. He produced Jay Z’s “99 Problems”.
He produced Johnny Cash’s American Recordings, one of the greatest albums ever, for chrissakes!
Here’s an article Forbes Magazine did on Rick a couple of years ago. If anyone deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it’s Rick Rubin. That’s the online poll I’d love to see: how many rock artists would agree with putting Rick Rubin into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer? He’s the Ahmet Ertegun of our age.
What do you think? Do you like my picks, or am I full of crap? Who would you like to see in the Hall?