List of Hall of Rock Hall of Fame Shame

Sunday, March 11, 2007

TLRHB’s Annual Plea To The Rock and Roll Hall of Shame: Yes, it’s that time of year again. Another worthy crop of inductees, including R.E.M., Grandmaster Flash, Van Halen, The Ronettes and Patti Smith, are going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Monday. Already, we have been treated to the usual entertaining spats: Phil Spector apparently has time enough between visits with his criminal defense team to knock ex-wife Ronnie’s induction as unworthy. The man really has control issues with women, doesn’t he? And, of course, we have watched Van Halen implode again — the reunion tour with Diamond Dave is kaput, Eddie’s in rehab, Wolfie will have to go back to grade school, Roth won’t go to the ceremony because Velvet Revolver will be playing Halen songs on stage and that offends Dave’s sense of propriety (as if!) and that means the most prominent VH member showing up Monday night? Sammy Hagar! Wabo Cabo rules! God, you’ve just got to love rock and roll. Once again, the offstage psychodramas prove more interesting than the actual inductions. But I digress.

The difference between the Rock Hall and, say, the Oscars is that the Rock Hall really is supposed to be about quality, about honoring a significant artist’s work. But, sadly, it is mostly about the snobbery of the rock critic clique, which is still writing history based not on the cold, hard, verifiable facts of a band’s popularity and significance, but based on whether the clique thinks the act is cool or not. It so pisses me off. So, once again, here is my list of the 30 acts or artists I believe should have been already inducted into the Rock Hall. They are all past the 25-year eligibility rule, and many of them fall into the pop-rock/Top 40 category, an area the snobs have always sneered at. But rock, pop, soul, rap, country, all these designations are meaningless. All that should matter is the durability and quality of the music.

Of course, these lists are subjective and everybody has their personal favorites. But I believe a case could be made that all of these acts are deserving, even if you don’t personally dig ’em. I’d also love to see a new category created for one-hit wonders. It’s absurd that a place can’t be made for acts that had a brief, but lasting, flash of glory: I’m thinking of everybody from the Kingsmen (Louie, Louie) to Betty Everett (The Shoop Shoop Song) to songwriters such as Larry Williams. Rock and roll never forgets? Please.


30. The Monkees. Let’s get the rock snobs in a lather: The pre-Fab Four. But how can anyone deny the body of songs? Last Train To Clarksville, (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone, Valleri, I’m A Believer, Pleasant Valley Sunday and the numerous album cuts (several written by Michael Nesmith) proved they were more than just a fake TV band. Hey, the weirdness of Head alone should be their Hall pass.
29. The Stooges. Five words: I Wanna Be Your Dog! This is strange, because the Stooges should be the ultimate rock snob outfit. Those first two albums were brilliant Detroit garage rock punk and they didn’t sell, which always turns on the critics. Iggy Pop must have flashed somebody on the Hall’s nominating committee or something.
28. Alice Cooper. Two words: School’s Out! Also I’m Eighteen, Elected, Billion Dollar Babies, No More Mr. Nice Guy, the wack concept album of Welcome To My Nightmare (remember Vincent Price’s cameo?) But even more than the songs, he made glam rock and cross-dressing and snake chic acceptable for a whole generation of white-bread, ’70s suburban teens. If Wayne and Garth can bow down to Alice, why can’t the Hall?
27. Grand Funk Railroad. Here’s one where you could sub in Foreigner, The Doobies, Three Dog Night, Tommy James and the Shondells, etc. But the Funk did move from sludgy Michigan rockers to ’70s FM rock (“I’m gettttttiing closer to my home!”) to punchy AM anthems (We’re An American Band). Maybe it’s that remake of The Loco-Motion that did them in.
26. Joe Tex. What kind of Hall of Fame doesn’t have a place for the man who sang Don’t Wanna Bump No More With No Big Fat Woman?
25. Deep Purple. What kind of Hall of Fame doesn’t have a place for the creators of one of the greatest riffs in the history of rock and roll that wasn’t written by Keith Richards or Jimmy Page? Admit it, you’re doing the head-nod to Smoke on The Water right this minute, aren’t ya?
24. The Hollies. Inexplicable. The last great British Invasion band to be denied. Isn’t Bus Stop, Carrie-Anne and especially Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress) enough? Apparently not. Or is the Hall holding He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother) against them?
23. Dire Straits. You gotta figure they’ll get in, eventually. Knopfler is too connected. But Sultans of Swing, Money for Nothing and the whole Making Movies album makes this a no-brainer.
22. The Cars. I guess you could argue that they’ve been pretty much forgotten. But Ric Ocasek and band was sort of a more popular Talking Heads, and some of those songs have outlived their ’80s backdating. Plus, the videos and album covers were cool.
21. The Replacements. They just became eligible and they must get in. They have been such an influence on post-’80s bands, Paul Westerberg was a hell of a lot more talented than Kurt Cobain (that’s my opinion, anyway) and the songs are an appealing mix of ballsy, sloppy, drunk rock and brash, insightful lyrics. The song Alex Chilton should get them in alone. And Winona Ryder (who named the high school in Heathers after Westerberg) better be the one to induct them, or she really might kill herself.
20. Peter Frampton. Absurd, isn’t it? The man’s guitar playing alone should get him in, not to mention the sheer kudzu-like magnitude of Frampton Comes Alive. Hey, the rock snobs didn’t hold that Sgt. Pepper movie against Aerosmith.
19. X and The Blasters. It’s time to acknowledge the L.A. punk movement of the late ’70s-early ’80s, and these two bands were the most accessible groups. X’s John Doe and Exene Cervenka were the Johnny and June of the West Coast glad-rags and safety-pins set and the Alvin’ brothers’ Blasters proved the timeless appeal of hard-charging, hair-slicked rockabilly. Great bands making great American music.
18. Harry Nilsson. A deeply underrated artist, a favorite of the Beatles, a pure musician who could do anything. And he did rock — from writing One to Jump Into The Fire. But he was so much more, too, from ballads to movie scores to delightful whimsy (The Point! The Point!) and the Rock Hall needs to make room for his brand of multitalented pop magic (also see No. 15.)
17. Warren Zevon. Those first few albums were among the highlights of ’70s rock, and the self-titled debut is one of the defining portraits of L.A. in song. His slashing wit and literary intelligence, as well as his ability to expertly create both haunting ballads and incendiary rockers, should have been rewarded in his first year of eligibility. Anybody who could write Werewolves of London, Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner, Hasten Down The Wind, Poor, Poor Pitiful Me and Lawyers, Guns and Money — as well as pen songs with Hunter S. Thompson and Bruce Springsteen and dedicate a disc to Ross Macdonald — should be in the Hall now.
16. Carole King. I’m pretty sure she’s in as a songwriter, but Tapestry and her other great singles should get her in as a performer, as well. It’s not too late, baby.
15. Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman and Burt Bacharach-Hal David. Four of the greatest songwriting eminences of the American continent. What would the history of popular music in the ’60s and ’70s be without these Sequoias of poetic pop? And I should probably add Tom Waits to this number, as well.
14. Darlene Love. I’m happy to see The Ronettes get in, because Be My Baby is, well, Be My Baby. But Darlene Love was the defining voice and spirit of the Wall of Sound, an underrated roar of thunder and soul, and now she is the only one still out in the cold. Baby, please come home!
13. Tammi Terrell. Apparently, there are some mountains high enough. The last fabulous Motown singer still awaiting recognition. Marvin is in, and his partner in the most sublime soul duo of all time should be there, too.
12. The Guess Who. Admittedly, a quirky favorite of mine. But Neil Young thinks they are great rockers and who’s gonna argue with Neil? Plus, American Woman rocks and the later Bachman-Turner Overdrive spinoff should get them some points.
11. War. Their Latin-rock-jazz vibe was more interesting to me than, say, Carlos Santana. Great singles — Spill The Wine, The Cisco Kid, Low Rider, Me and Baby Brother, Why Can’t We Be Friends and the sublime The World Is A Ghetto. How have they been overlooked?
10. Love. If Forever Changes is indeed one of the greatest albums in rock history (and it most certainly is), how can the Hall justify denying this deeply influential group? And in the year of Arthur Lee’s death, as well!
9. Billy Preston. Now, we’re getting into the Twilight Zone of Rock Hall inscrutability. What more do you need on a resume — working in the ’50s with Little Richard and Ray Charles, being the only artist to share billing on a single with the frickin’ Beatles!, and a great solo career in the ’70s — That’s The Way God Planned It (the highlight of the Bangladesh concert), Nothing From Nothing, Will It Go Round In Circles, Outta Space. Right up to his death last year, he was recording deeply soulful, spiritual music. As Gnarls Barkley says: Crazy.
8. Los Lobos. Another head-scratcher. They may be the greatest roots rock American band of the last few decades, always working under the radar creating beautiful music that ranges from border song to experimental fuzz-rock. One of those boundary-pushing, genre-defying bands that has never gotten its proper due.
7. Gram Parsons. OK, let’s say that maybe he didn’t invent country-rock. But he was probably second in line. His influence on ’60s-’70s rock (not to mention today’s Nashville sound) is simply incalculable. He should make the list for no other reason than he influenced Keith Richards to write Wild Horses. And he helped bring us Emmylou, too.
6. Jimmy Cliff. I guess Bob Marley is the beginning and end of reggae, right? Geez. I think Cliff is greater than Marley. Vietnam, Many Rivers to Cross, The Harder They Fall, Israelites (he wrote it) and all those great Kingston singles.
5. Link Wray and Dick Dale. If rock and roll is a primal scream of electric guitar, how can you leave off the men who gave us Rumble and Miserilou?
4. Otis Blackwell. One of the early ’50s writers who has been unjustly ignored. What did he do? He just wrote Fever, Great Balls of Fire, Breathless, Don’t Be Cruel, All Shook Up, Return to Sender and Handy Man. Need I say more?
3. Chicago. OK, yes, they turned into a cheeseball of schmaltz, and Peter Cetera should not be allowed to speak if they were inducted. But there is no denying those first few albums, the great singles, the long-form suites, the melding of brass and rock, Terry Kath’s guitar playing. They are a great rock band and they have been snobbed for way too long. If you saw them play in concert recently with Earth Wind and Fire, you’d know their greatness needs no explanation.
2. Gamble & Huff & Bell. Who are they? Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff and Thom Bell, through their songs, production and arranging, created the Philly Sound of the ’70s. They are among the most important sonic architects in musical history — the equal of Spector, Wilson, George Martin, etc. Without these guys, there would have been no Delfonics, O’Jays, Spinners, Stylistics, Chi-Lites, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Paul. Their exclusion is beyond appalling, it’s practically racist, in my mind.
1. Neil Diamond. Well, we started with one to rile the rock snobs, let’s end with one. I mean, honestly, what the hell else does Neil have to do? A great pop songwriter and performer, his resume dwarfs many of the so-called greats. How can you say that the man who gave us Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon, I’m A Believer, Cherry, Cherry, Kentucky Woman, Cracklin’ Rosie, Brother Love’s Travelin’ Salvation Show, Solitary Man and Sweet Caroline is without merit? If as nothing but a songwriter, he should be in. Hey, he was invited to The Last Waltz. Of course, the less said about Heartlight, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and You Don’t Bring Me Flowers the better. Still, did you hear the disc he did with Rick Rubin recently? The man is an American musical icon. Put him in the Hall already!

So, once again, I have pointed out the Rock Hall’s stupidity. Not that it matters. You can expect that I will be back next March with the same complaints. So, do you agree/disagree with these choices? Who do you think has been unfairly snubbed by the All-Knowing Rock Poobahs?

posted by That Little Round-Headed Boy # 12:00 AM
I agree with you on many of these (particularly the Guess Who — quirky? Maybe)who had some hellaciously good tunes on solid rock’n’roll stations. Even if they were a little anti-American, I prefer to believe it was more anti-Vietnam; lots of Americans were even more vocal and more passionate about all that.

However, the one on which you are completely, totally, and righteously on-base is Neil Diamond. I couldn’t have said it better, more directly, or more forcefully. I read that a rapper will be inducted next, or is being considered. GOOD GRIEF! RAP as rock’n’roll? Let’em get their own Hall of Fame (Shame).

Thanks for writing what so many true music fans feel. I will never visit or support the Hall until things change. Which probably means never.
# posted by Anonymous : 1:22 PM
Great, great post, and a shout-out to picks #30, #24, #19, #17, #13-16, #8, #6, and #1 and #2 (and a big fracking “hell yes” to the Replacements– and an equally big NO to the atrocious Chicago– sorry). Punk acts have trouble getting recognized because Rolling Stone and Jann Wenner, and that magazine’s “trapped in the 60s” aesthetic, play such a large role in the funding, organization and publicity of the Hall (Robert Draper’s book on the magazine documents Wenner’s ongoing inability to relate to any band formed after 1975).

The only thing I would add is the larger frame of the problem, which is a bizarre obsession with supposed ‘authenticity’ and ‘meaning’ (as opposed to sound and affect, which seem so much more important to pop music– but then, calling it “pop” instead of “rock” immediately changes the parameters of the discussion, doesn’t it?), an obsession which I think it’s important to note, infects film criticism as much as pop music criticism: the favoring of ‘indie’ over ‘blockbuster,’ the priveleging of the small and esoteric over the big and populist, a love of narrative and theme and ‘depth’ over style and rhythm and color (in all senses of the word): it’s almost like “The tradition of quality” finds its revenge in people like Jonathan Rosenbaum (at least his work over the last five years, when he’s become the Ralph Nader of film critique– a once-invaluable voice that’s become a hectoring self-parody). What I love about your blog is its openness to a huge variety of film, and the passions such films inspire. May all blgos embrace this aesthetic (and as you note, hopefully the Hall will too!).
# posted by cinephile : 3:56 PM

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