It’s time for my annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum WTF? omissions list:
Yes; The Zombies (I cannot even); War; Megadeath; X; Journey; Warren Zevon; XTC; Dead Kennedys; My Bloody Valentine; Dire Straits; Nick Drake; Motorhead; Black Flag; Prefab Sprout; The Doobie Brothers(!); New York Dolls; Nine Inch Nails; Duran Duran; Slayer; Television; The Pixies; ELO; Ozzy as a solo artist; Pantera; Eurythmics; Phil Ochs; Depeche Mode; Iron Maiden; Roxy Music; Pat Benatar; Faith No More; Steve Winwood (solo); Pavement; Sinead O’Connor; Sonic Youth; Flaming Lips; Gram Parsons; Peter Paul & Mary; Bjork; Devo; The Guess Who; New Order; Procol Harum; The Replacements; Harry Nilsson(!!); Nick Cave; Scott Walker; Husker Du; Kate Bush; Siouxsie and the Banshees; The Breeders; The Jam; The Smiths; INXS; Joy Division; Soundgarden; Whitney Houston(!!!); Jethro Tull; Judas Priest; The Monkees (!!!!); Bad Company; Sparks; The Specials; King Crimson; Big Star (!!!!!!); Link Wray; The Spinners; Kraftwerk (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!); The Buzzcocks; Captain Beefheart; The B-52’s; Steppenwolf; Mary Wells; Stone Roses; Blur; Love (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!); Suicide; Chic; Massive Attack; T. Rex (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!); MC5; The Cure; Thin Lizzy; Three Dog Night; Tommy James and the Shondells (not enough exclamation points in the universe); Big Mamma Thornton; Django Reinhardt; The Sugarhill Gang; Moby; Dolly Parton; Happy Mondays; Emmylou Harris; Glen Campbell; Jacques Brel; Kansas; Nina Simone; Bing; Frank; Gil Scott-Heron; Richard Hell and the Voidoids; George Jones; Patsy Cline; The Weavers; The Seeds; The Carter Family; The Association; Mission to Burma; Richie Havens; The Kingston Trio; BTO; Tom Lehrer; Waylon Jennings; Ravi Shankar; Madness; Willie Nelson; The Bangles; Dick Dale; Bon Jovi; The Cars; NEU!; The Moody Blues; Emerson Lake and Palmer; the Crystals; Sammy Hagar; Def Leppard; Johnny Winter; Motley Crue; the late great Ronnie James Dio; The Melvins; The Undertones; The Cramps; The Jesus and Mary Chain; Rory Gallagher; Chubby Checker; John Coltrane; Todd Rundgren; Brian Eno; Smashing Pumpkins; Pulp; Little Feat; Herbie Hancock; Free; Jane’s Addiction; A Tribe Called Quest; Boston; Supertramp; The Sonics (who released a pretty good album this year, BTW); Blue Oyster Cult; Garth Brooks; Ben E. King; George Michael; hell, WHAM!; Kool & the Gang; Fela Kuti; The Commodores; the Shangri-las; Cliff Richard; The Shadows; Peter Frampton; Paul Revere and the Raiders; the Mekons; the Searchers; Squeeze; the Go-Go’s; John Prine; Primal Scream; Phish; Joe Jackson; Badfinger; Manic Street Preachers; Marianne Faithfull; Toots and the Maytals; Mott the Hoople; Jonathan Richman and/or the Modern Lovers; Slade; Joe Cocker; Stevie Nicks; Foreigner; Luther Vandross; Johnny Ace; Paul Anka; Tina Turner (solo); Pet Shop Boys; Rufus and/or Chaka Khan; Blood Sweat & Tears; Public Image Ltd.; Meat Loaf; Melissa Etheridge; the Human League; Steve Earle; Nazareth; Tangerine Dream; Can; Cyndi Lauper; Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio; Cher; Ministry; Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels; Dionne Warwick; Echo & the Bunnymen; Midnight Oil; Fairport Convention and/or Richard Thompson and/or Sandy Denny; Blue Cheer; Magazine; Grand Funk Railroad; Ry Cooder; Gang of Four; Wire; The Spencer Davis Group; Joe Walsh (solo); Billy Idol and/ or Generation X; Teenage Fanclub; Violent Femmes; Bad Religion; De La Soul; Lesley Gore; Gary Numan; Soft Machine; Grass Roots; Moby Grape; Joan Baez; Minutemen; John Mayall; Iggy Pop; the Turtles; The Stranglers; Tim Buckley; Rick James; the Fall; Diana Ross (solo); the The; the Pogues; the Sweet; the Misfits; Tom Jones; Barry White; Them; the Troggs (should be there for those session tapes alone); Iron Butterfly; They Might Be Giants; Gordon Lightfoot; the 13th Floor Elevators; John Hiatt; Jim Croce; Spirit; Herman’s Hermits; the Damned; Carly Simon; Lionel Richie; the Fugs; Ian Dury; Morrissey (solo); the Feelies; Harry Chapin; Thobbing Gristle; Toto; the Slits; Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; Serge Gainsbourg; Talk Talk; Teardrop Explodes and/or Julian Cope; Orange Juice; Kenny Loggins; Boz Scaggs; the Chiffons; the Fifth Dimension; John Martyn; the Box Tops (seriously, Alex Chilton is NOWHERE to be found in the HOF lists); 10CC; the Incredible String Band; the Bar-Kays; Swans; Status Quo; Matthew Sweet; Yngwie Malmsteen; Petula Clark; Connie Francis; Screamin’ Jay Hawkins; Weird Al Yankovic; Janet Jackson; Eric B. & Rakim; Joe Tex; Africa Bambaataa; Sade; and the Carpenters.
I know a lot of these acts will never get consideration as they are too obscure. But some of them are just… oversight isn’t a strong enough word. The HOF has always been very American white male (the Beatles weren’t even honored in the first ceremony. THE BEATLES- all that is known of rock and roll today springs from what they did. Third ballot? Really?) and Jann Wenner’s preferential treatment of his favourite artists is simply appalling (the Dave Clark Five incident still gets under my skin).
The nominees class of 2017 will include 2Pac; Alanis Morrisette; Pearl Jam; PJ Harvey; Tori Amos; Frankie Knuckles; and Aphex Twin. This year saw the elevation of Blur, Alice in Chains, Mariah Carey, Hole, Celine Dion, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Teenage Fanclub, Spiritualized, Smashing Pumpkins, Uncle Tupelo, and A Tribe Called Quest, among many, many others.
It’s frustrating when your favourite artists don’t make it in. Years of being in on the annual “KISS AND RUSH” threads on various websites makes my “THE SMITHS AND BIG STAR” whining look rather rational. Sometimes the whole “(artist name) is in with (band name) so we’re good” is simply how it’s gonna be (see: Steve Winwood. In with Traffic; Tina Turner in with Ike and Tina; Diana Ross in with the Supremes; Joe Walsh with the Eagles; Carole King as a songwriter but not as performer). But when artists who influenced artists now coming up to their own eligibility (see Kate Bush, who I am not a huge fan of, and Tori Amos, who I adore and is eligible next year; Kraftwerk every year since their eligibility and acts like Moby and Aphex Twin; Big Star and Teenage Fanclub are also quite obvious), something will need to move things forward. Some acts are simply too influential on later generations to not be acknowledged.
I know that a lot of it is simply shifting demographics. I’m at the age where my bands are beginning to come up for eligibility and damn it, they deserve it because of this song, this album, this tour. The influence of bands like New Order, the Smiths, Blur, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Cure, and the Pixies in my life outweigh the nostalgia of bands from the 70s. The constant pull of personal preference versus overall influence makes it a subjective process. Steve Miller scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid. But finding Black Flag in my teens scared me not a whit. Kate Bush singing “Wuthering Heights” makes me want to put pencils through my ear drums. But Tori shrieking her way through “Little Earthquakes” was a revelation when I was fourteen. Led Zeppelin was routinely bashed by music critics in the 1970s and Jann Wenner famously despised them. Today they’re Led fucking Zeppelin and they are the greatest. It took ten years of pleading to get Gwen to listen to David Bowie. Now she loves him. She still hates Bob Dylan’s singing, but can listen to those scream core bands. I will increasingly grow frustrated with this meaningless but still really influential show every year because of reasons like no Zombies, no Monkees, no Big Star and whatever future slights come up. Some acts seem like obvious first year inductions ( Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Beck, Outkast, Daft Punk, Jay-Z, Eminem, Coldplay, Lauryn Hill, and the White Stripes will all begin to appear on ballots over the next decade). Some acts will never get a consideration despite their awesomeness (this year’s eligible acts included Saint-Etienne, the Gits, and Ride). Some acts will just never get considered because they are Vanilla Ice (also on this year’s eligibility list).
Not one of the artists that came up this year made it to the final five- Steve Miller Band, Deep Purple, N.W.A., Chicago, and Cheap Trick. Three of these acts have topped previous “WTF Hall of Fame” polls and the other two have been mentioned in passing. Of the five the one I feel most deeply about is Cheap Trick, because Live at Budokan is incredible and I am always a sucker for power pop bands. I love the Terry Kath era of Chicago, when they did weird jazzy things and the brass section mattered. The schmaltzy Peter Cetera fronted Chicago of the late 70’s and early 80’s probably sticks with me better because they were played everywhere and “You’re the Inspiration” is a classic wedding song, but they lacked innovation by this point and are simply less interesting. After Cetera left- well, just forget it. Deep Purple brought us “Smoke on the Water”. That rift alone is more than some other bands already in the HOF have done. Throw in the brilliance sludgy hard rock of “Hush” and you got a twofer. N.W.A. brought gangsta rap to the forefront and propelled the genre forward. I don’t like them- I’ve never liked them. I thought they were crass and the music isn’t all that. They did better apart than together, and showed talent in production and artist development (Dr. Dre, Eazy-E) and acting (Ice Cube). But without NWA we do not get Snoop, 2Pac, Eminem, and 50 Cent. West coast rap would have stifled and died.
As I have said, Steve Miller creeped me out when I was a kid thanks to “Abracadabra” and I just don’t get it. He’s a great guitarist, but that list in the second paragraph is filled with great guitarists who deserve recognition, too ( ahem- Robert goddamned Fripp and Richard “prodigy” Thompson). He has his passionate defenders. All acts do. I still have a problem with Kiss being in the HOF and I can at least understand that as a marketing force of nature they could be the best in the world. Even Tom Morello and Dave Grohl couldn’t convince me the guys who wrote “Lick It Up” were great musicians and songwriters. This is different from my indifference to Rush, who I can see are incredible musicians and songwriters, but who I just don’t like personally (see also: David Gilmour era Pink Floyd). I have a hard time seeing Steve Miller outside of Steve Miller. I don’t see musical acolytes demanding he be rediscovered nor do I see obvious influence even on today’s most ardent blues guitarists. His delivery was too laid back for my liking, his voice is a pleasant but uneventful tenor with limited range. But Steve Miller hand his band have better chops than Kiss and several other acts already in the HOF. I guess it depends if you come down on the influence side (which I do) versus the musical ability side (which is important, but I think how you change the music is more important than how you play. The Sex Pistols couldn’t play for shit, after all). I know artists I like who have worked with SMB- Boz Scaggs was once a member. The Smiths made it on to the short list this year and I did put all my weight into getting people to vote for them on the RRHOF website (I failed, clearly. Chicago, BTW, won the fan vote quite handily, followed by Yes. SMB was fifth. The Smiths were 14th out of 15. When I voted, Janet Jackson was first). I guess it really does come down to first impressions. Steve Miller Band fans- the first time I heard him was “Abracadabra”. That is not how you want your idol to be introduced to a young girl. Just no. Scared me to death when he sang ” I wanna reach out and grab ya”. No amount of being a space cowboy or a midnight toker would help. I was convinced Steve Miller was going to climb out of the stereo speakers and kidnap me to sing MOR blues songs on the road when I was five. How was I going to be Stevie Nicks then? (Five year old me wanted to be Stevie Nicks without the cocaine problem my mother told me she had.) Although if Wenner’s influence on the voting process is what people claim it is, and knowing Miller and Wenner despise each other something fierce, I must congratulate Steve Miller for actually beating the system.
It’s the nature of the beast, I guess. Subjectivity makes a system like the HOF selection process impossible to predict and even harder to understand when the choices are made. In the end, it’s all meaningless. People love the music they love and will be influenced by that music. There is no rhyme or reason.