Earlier this month the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted its 2017 class. The Rock Hall, like Sports Hall of Fames, vote in the best of their industry including producers, engineers, influential artists, and anyone else that influenced the development of rock and roll. The nominating process is often not transparent and seems to be controlled by founder Jann Wenner and there has often been controversy with the nominations. Also, what constitutes rock, is Madonna rock? She’s in. What about hip hop and rap artists? Tupac is in. Should every good band get in? Cheap Trick had a couple hits and they don’t really appear influential, but they are in. Does soft rock count? Bread and The Carpenters had a ton of hits, but they are not in. So with the HBO broadcast on 4/29 of the ceremony and performances coming up, we decided to examine performers, not in the Hall of Fame, and ask which act or acts should be.
Upfront, I will admit I am extremely passionate about this, maybe irrationally so because at the end of the day who cares what Jann Wenner thinks. He is just not that important but I think the bands on our list need some just rewards. They worked hard and influenced a heck of a lot of bands. Also, we only pick our favorite six, but some other worthy omissions are; Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, The Go-Go’s, New Order, and Badfinger.
So the Monkees have not even been nominated for the RRHOF and of all the bands, this one is the biggest omission of all. The two biggest reasons for this is that Jann Wenner is a tool, he has some form of grudge against them, maybe Peter Tork stole his girlfriend in the seventies, who knows? The other is the concept that they did not play their own instruments. So the first reason, because the head guy doesn’t like you shouldn’t matter. It should be independent and based on merit. Ok, so they didn’t always play their own instruments or even write their biggest hits. If that’s the criteria then we should be able to remove a lot of acts from the RRHOF. The Temptations, who I love, didn’t play instruments and they didn’t write their own songs. The Byrds are in the Hall, they have four hits, three written by other people. There are many more like these two acts. Also established acts like The Beach Boys and The Mamas and the Papas used sessions musicians for their recordings. So I agree that the Monkees were put together as actors playing a band on TV. Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were both musicians first and Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones were actors first (that could also sing). They turned into a real band. Mike was a prolific songwriter, had songwriting credits on every album, and wrote Linda Ronstadt’s hit Different Drum. His music on these albums is some of my favorite. They went on tours and still do today, playing instruments. Their third album Headquarters and maybe their best was mostly written by them and played by them. The first four albums went number one. They had three number one hits. They have sold 75 million records worldwide, and in 1967 at their peak outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. They have never really gone away, MTV rebroadcast their series in the ’80s and they got popular again. Mike is credited with kick-starting the music video revolution with his work in the late ’70s. They have been influential, acts like, Anne Murray, The Sex Pistols, and Run DMC to name a few have covered their songs. There is no doubt they should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2016 they released an entirely new album with songwriting contributions from Rivers Cuomo, Andy Partridge, Noel Gallagher, and Paul Weller. It hit number 14 on the US Billboard charts. Their highest-charting album since the ’60s
Bonus: See the clip below, a performance of Listen to the Band, it’s from a little-seen special called 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee it goes on for seven more minutes but I gave you the short version.
MG: While not a huge fan, despite getting roped into seeing them in concert recently, you make a good case for their inclusion. I don’t think longevity is taken into consideration enough with the nomination/voting process. I know it’s not just about sales, but longevity certainly is one measure of musical influence. Like you said, people are still buying/listening to the Monkees and seeing them in concert. Who is really listening to Deep Purple anymore? Yet they were inducted in 2016.
Unlike The Monkees, I did not start listening to The Smiths until the 90’s when they were well over their run. During their career, they only put out four albums and one collection of their singles (Louder Than Bombs) that did not appear on the albums. I first heard How Soon is Now? and I was hooked. Johnny Marr’s guitar and Morrissey’s lyrics are beautiful. They certainly would not make the RRHOF because of their hits, they had none. Their contribution to music is not easily quantified. The Smiths have a reputation for being a downer band, depressive, suicidal, but that’s just not the case. Don’t get me wrong, That Joke isn’t Funny Anymore, Heaven Knows I am Miserable Know and There is a Light That Never Goes Out are not going to give you that sunshine day feeling but Morrissey’s lyrics are also witty, sarcastic, and intelligent and Marr’s groove is upbeat. Their songs are beautifully crafted and there are not many duds among them. They know their craft Morrissey being a great lyricist and Marr a great guitarist/songwriter. They have influenced a host of Brit-pop bands such as Oasis, Blur, The Stone Roses, and The Farm. Johnny Marr formed Electronic with Bernard Sumner of New Order, he has worked with a ton of other musicians. Morrissey has had some very strong solo work as well. No one sounds like The Smiths not then and not now. They have a very devoted fanbase still today. They have been nominated twice recently for the RRHOF and it’s time to get them in. Plus is there a chance for a reunion at the induction ceremony? That would be awesome.
Bonus: 4 of their 5 albums(includes Louder Than Bombs) make Rolling Stone’s greatest albums of all time, most other bands that have 4 or more are in the RRHOF.
MG: Once again, I’m not the biggest fan of this act, but I’m well aware of their influence on countless acts that came after them. The Smiths practically created a new music genre and their sound is very distinctive. One could knock them for their limited output, but nearly everyone with a CD collection had Meat Is Murder in it (except me). This one seems like a no-brainer.
So The Monkees were hitmakers, The Smiths were popular, Joy Division was neither of these. Joy Division, named after a sex slavery wing of a concentration camp put out two albums before lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980. Both albums and the singles not on the albums are brilliant. They recorded a mere 43 songs. If you don’t know Joy Division their music is not fully accessible at first. It takes a bit. Curtis’s lyrics make Morrissey seem like Suzy Sunshine. Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris rip through the music and it’s powerful. Joy Division, I knew nothing about until the late 2000’s when I heard “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. This is a hint of what this band would have become. I soon bought a singles compilation and there I was. Bono has listed Joy Division as a huge influence on U2. The Cure, Bauhaus, Radiohead, and Nine Inch Nails also were influenced by Joy Division. I consider them the first Expressionistic band and they often get lumped in with Bauhaus as being gothic. After Curtis died the remaining members formed the hugely successful New Order, another band that should be in the RRHOF. There are two strong films depicting Joy Division, Control by music photographer/video director Anton Corbijn and 24 Hour Party People which also showcases the career of The Happy Mondays. This one may be the toughest sell since they had such a short career but they are an ancestral group that should be recognized.
Bonus: New Order’s first single Ceremony and b-side In a Lonely Place were actually Joy Division songs and the last two ever recorded with lyrics by Ian Curtis.
MG: Wow, 3 for 3 on bands I’m not a big fan of. Not sure I can agree that these guys are overdue for getting in. You make a good case for them being influential, but two albums isn’t much to recognize. If you look at sports HOFs players rarely get in from only 1-2 seasons of playing. It’s just a matter of limited spots with others to honor.
DJ: Nirvana, only two official albums, they are in. I know its a harder sell, but output shouldn’t be the only thing keeping them out.
I’m much more of a film guy than music, so go easy on me. I’ll also confess to mostly drawing on top 40 radio when it came to building my vinyl-cassette-CD collection, although I finally branched out when I went to college. Any hall of fame should be a combination of recognizing “the best”, educating the public about lesser-known influential figures, and acknowledging public popularity. Looking at the acts that have been inducted into the RRHOF, it reeks of cronyism and a narrow focus, which has led to plenty of controversies. The surviving members of the Sex Pistols refused to attend their 2006 induction ceremony, calling the institution a “piss stain.” Granted, you will never please everyone, especially considering how passionate people are about their favorite bands, but I suspect the 600 voting members aren’t the most diverse group and maybe they need to bring in more “rock experts” into the fold.
The RRHOF appears to have a disdain for any acts considered “New Wave”, and I’m not sure why. Is it snobbery about synthesizers? In the late 70’s/early ’80s, The Cars were groundbreakers in blending guitar-forward rock with art-rock sensibility, in a way that was still radio-friendly. There was a lot of talent in this band, and not just from lead singer/songwriter Ric Ocasek, who had a knack for writing catchy songs with intentionally obtuse lyrics. This was a band with two vocalists, the second being bassist Ben Orr, and also featured a technical/creative master in lead guitarist in Elliot Easton. At a time when rock had become somewhat dour and even depressing, The Cars proved that rock could be fun again, and that helped set the tone for all of 80’s music. Their self-titled debut in 1978 reached #18 on Billboard 200 and spawned 6 charting hits. They had success with all their albums leading to their monster hit Heartbreak City in 1984, which ruled the airwaves with 5 huge singles. By then they had embraced the video age and won MTV’s Video of the Year for their groundbreaking and ubiquitous “You Might Think” video.
Verdict: Yes, by 1988 they flamed out and broke up, but what an impressive decade-long run. I’m not sure what else a band could do to earn a place in the Hall.
DJ: I agree with this one 100%. I believe they have been nominated before so it’s time. They were the perfect blend of 70’s pop/rock and New Wave to bridge that gap. I would love to see New Wave get recognized more especially bands like Duran Duran, The Cars would be the beginning.
Okay, snicker and ridicule my credibility all you want, but let me point out that Green Day was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015 – how are they any more worthy? It’s called the Hall of FAME, not the museum of rock, and no one can question Leppard’s credentials when it comes to popularity. Their albums have sold over 100 million copies worldwide and are one of only five rock bands to have two studio albums sell over 10 million copies each in the US alone. I can’t say they are an overly “influential” band in terms of their sound, but they have an amazing story that people sometimes forget. Their drummer lost an arm in a car accident and came back to play as good as ever, and then they lost their lead guitarist to an overdose, and came back from that tragedy and are still performing today. So many bands break up merely from the pressure of success, but these guys endured. They also were not an overnight sensation – they started when they were 17-18 years old, played the clubs, and put out albums for 7 years before breaking big with Pyromania in 1983. Lastly, these guys are solid musicians and know how to perform in concert. It’s not their fault the entire Hysteria album was overplayed to death on the radio in the late ’80s.
Verdict: Def Leppard is a good representation of their genre, which currently is only represented in the Hall by Guns N Roses. Their story of success and overcoming obstacles makes them worthy of being inducted.
DJ: I wan’t a huge fan of Def Leppard. If tragedy is a barometer then Badfinger should be in. If popularity is the criteria than Karen Carpenter should be in. So I would generally votre no on this one, but you make a good point within their own genre. Should hair bands/metal not be considered? Motley Crue was pretty good, same with Bon Jovi.
Pearl Jam made it into the Hall in 2017, justifiably so, and Nirvana was inducted in 2014, not surprising, but less justifiable in my mind. Yet, for my money, Soundgarden is the best band to represent the Seattle grunge scene from the ’90s. Sure, Nirvana had bigger commercial success, and Kurt Cobain’s suicide will always give them a historical edge, but if you look at quality musicianship, songwriting and vocals, Soundgarden is simply a cut above. Chris Cornell is a cerebral writer and powerful vocalist, both with this band, as a solo artist, and as frontman for Audioslave. Lead guitarist Kim Thayil never got the recognition he deserved, and I believe is one of the best musicians to come out of the grunge scene. The band hit mega-success with their 1994 album Superunknown, but the prior album Badmotorfinger, is just as good and a start-to-finish excellent album, while their earlier work represents more of a punk influence. Cornell’s lyrics and Thayil’s guitar work are a perfect marriage, and although I never got to see them live, their concerts were legendary. I won’t say Soundgarden is necessarily being slighted by not being inducted at this point since in order to qualify for the Hall it has to be at least 25 years from the release of the act’s debut album. Yet, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Green Day are all in from this same time period. What are the criteria here? It feels like popularity drove these three over Soundgarden when maybe quality/artistry should have been a bigger factor. There just seems to be very little consistency in terms of what gets one act into the Hall over another.
Verdict: My guess is that Soundgarden will get in sooner or later, but I hope they are not forgotten as time goes by.
DJ: It seems those other bands you mentioned had bigger “hits” right off the bat, all off major label debut albums. I was more into those bands at the time but can now see how you may be right that Soundgarden may be the best of that bunch. I think except maybe Green Day their songs later on were “hits”. My favorite album of theirs is Down on the Upside. VHI listed them as the 14th greatest artist of hard rock. Time to let them in.
Also, see Part 2: Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame Omissions – 2