Recently, the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame announced their nominees for the 2011 induction ceremony. The list provided me with three artists that should make the Hall in this class: Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond (one of the great songwriters) and Donovan. The rest of the list includes the Beastie Boys, Bon Jovi, Laura Nyro, the J Geils Band, Chic, Dr John, Tom Waits, Joe Tex, Donna Summer, LL Cool J, Darlene Love and Chuck Willis. Some of these artists will make it in and some won’t. After all, with only five artists per year getting in now, a lot of worthy groups are going to come along and take spots from these artists.
The Hall has been surrounded by controversy about those artists that get in. The Hall seems to favor US and major UK artists with a strong US following. In recent years, it tends to shy away from bands that don’t have a big following in the US. True or not, it is hard to imagine that the Hall prefers big names that can sell tickets over smaller, less known bands that might not attract as many people, after all, the Hall makes some nice dollars at those induction ceremonies.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was created April 20, 1983 to be dedicated to archiving the history of some of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, and other people who have in some major way influenced the music industry, particularly in the area of rock music. Notice is says “particularly” which means it is not just rock music though that is the main focus. So all you people crying about rappers and other genres getting in, the actually focus of the foundation to archive those who influence music in a large way no matter what style they play, be it classical or techno, which is why artists like LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys deserve the same chance as Alice Cooper to get in.
I am upset Detroit’s movers and shakers back then didn’t get into the running for the Hall. The choices were Memphis (home of Sun Studios and Stax Records), Cincinnati (home of King Records), New York City (obvious reasons) and Cleveland (where disc jockey Alan Freed is widely credited with promoting the new genre and the term of "rock and roll"). Cleveland lobbied hard and got it though it would make more sense in Detroit. After all, Detroit was the home of Motown and Fortune Records as well as being the home of techno. Detroit was important in the early jazz, blues and gospel scenes and later R&B, pre-punk, rock, hardcore and hip hop. Also, about 200 songs about Detroit by artists as diverse as Gomez, Gordon Lightfoot, David Bowie, Johnny Cash and Sammy Davis Jr Have been recorded. Being centrally located, it would have been a great tourist attraction for the area but I digress.
The reason I wrote this article is to highlight my top 15 choices if I was to make next year’s nomination list. I have detailed the top 10 and added a small blurbs to numbers 11-15. So basically, assuming that Cooper gets in (the only artist this year I would have put in my top 15), this should be the bands nominated for the 2012 ballot and eventually be the next three years inductees. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org if you disagree or think I missed someone major.
My Top 10 nominees in no particular order
: To me it is amazing that a band like Kraftwerk isn’t already in the Hall Of fame as there body of work is most impressive and one of the few bands were the statement, “they were ahead of there time”, really applies. Like Philip K Dick novels, there brand of electronic music, esp between 1974-81, really set the stage for the next 25 years. The music here has simple melodies coupled with their futuristic technology that laid the groundwork for house, techno, synthpop, trance, hip-hop and more. I think it is safe to say the only more influential band in the world than Kraftwerk was the Beatles. Even look at the performing robots on stage during a show and realize this band was unique in their live performances also. Bands that benefited from their work include New Order, Prodigy, Daft Punk, Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, Human League as well as artists as diverse as Afrika Baambaataa, Jay-Z and Franz Ferdinand. They also pioneered the development of new electronic equipment for their sound. Hütter and Schneider had commissioned a Bonn-based company to design and build the Synthanorma Sequenzer with Intervallomat, a 4x8 / 2x16 / 1x32 step-sequencer system with features which were not available from commercial products to help create the sounds found on their album ‘Trans-Europe Express’. The music sequencer controlled the band’s electronic sources creating the albums rhythmic sound. This is just one of many examples of this type of direct link to creating new products for the musical industry. If “influence” and “significance” are the main criteria for induction, no other band not in the Hall exhibits this more than Kraftwerk.
2) Cliff Richard & the Shadows
: These two artists are linked forever like peanut butter and chocolate. Both good on their own but better together. Cliff Richard is to England what Elvis Presley is to the US. He has sold over 260 million records and dominated the early pre-Beatles UK charts with his song “Move It” which is in the running for the first authentic British rock n roll song. He holds the record (with Elvis) as the only act to make the UK singles charts in all of its first six decades (1950s–2000s) as well as being the only singer to have had a number one single in the UK in five consecutive decades. He is the biggest selling singles artist of all time in the UK (more than the Beatles, Stones, etc). What hurts is his lack of similar success in the US, even more so that his longtime, and almost equally successful backing band, The Shadows. They are the first backing band to hit it big on their own, with 69 UK hit charted singles: 35 as 'The Shadows' plus 34 as 'Cliff Richard and The Shadows' (their one US hit had them in their original name of the Drifters). They started out as a skiffle band and later became known as an instrumental band. Their lead guitarist, Hank Marvin, had a clean sound with very distinctive echo and vibrato which gave off a dreamy effect which influenced many guitarists, including Pete Townshend, Mark Knopfler and John Fogerty and he is listed by Frank Zappa as an influence on the first Mothers of Invention album. I think both artists can make strong claims for the Hall, but together they should be a no-brainer. What hurts them is lack of US mainstream success which shouldn’t matter with their stature in the music scene.
3) Joan Baez
: I just recently saw Joan here in Rochester for my first concert back in NY since my move as she is amazing live. Generally regarded as a folk singer, she has worked in other genres including rock, gospel and country and while a songwriter herself, she has become known for interpreting the works of other artists ranging from Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs, Stevie Wonder and the Band. She helped bring the songs of Bob Dylan (in the Hall Of Fame) to national prominence and in keeping true to the ideals of folk music a la Pete Seeger (also in the Hall), she has maintained a strong presence in the arena of political and social activism. Among the best known are her performance of "We Shall Overcome” at King's 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and standing in the fields alongside César Chávez and California's migrant farm workers as they fought for fair wages and safe working conditions. With Guthrie, Seeger and Dylan in the Hall, Baez seems to be an ideal choice for induction also.
4) Deep Purple
: Forming one year before I was born, many people attribute this band as one of the forerunners of heavy metal and modern hard rock (along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath who are both in the Hall) though they also tip their hat to the blues, classical and progressive rock genres. They were for a time listed in Guinness as the loudest pop group and while the band has a few hits like the popular “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman”, it is the classic “Smoke On The Water” which I think cements their induction as one of the tunes that every beginning guitarist learns. It is tricky to play properly but getting it right means you are no longer an amateur.
5) Moody Blues
: A little more love here for the English rock bands as the Moody Blues started out combining the Merseybeat with R&B which became more symphonic and psychedelic as the decade moved on and hit it’s peak with their first, and one of the earliest true concept albums, “Days Of Future Passed”. The album laid the ground work for the progressive rock era and put forth two hits, "Tuesday Afternoon" and one of the greatest rock songs ever, "Nights in White Satin". Their direction has spawned some beautifully crafted songs including “The Story In Your Eyes”, “The Voice” and “Your Wildest Dreams” proving their staying power and their worth to be inducted.
: OK, I believe that Alice Cooper needs to get in first but how can one overlook the power of KISS Nation. They have taken the idea of marketing a band to unheard of heights (anyone want a KISS coffin?). Their gimmicky face paint and flamboyant stage outfits accompanied by a live show with fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, levitating drum kits and pyrotechnics expanding on Cooper and took it even bigger. I still have my early KISS comic (with real blood of its members mixed in the ink) and I remember watching the old KISS movie on TV. The members are identifiable by their name as well as their trademarks (The Demon, Starchild, Spaceman and Catman). Few other bands have had the level of success of KISS whether it is albums sales or concert tours. They are the gold standard for rock n roll bands with classic iconic songs “Rock And Roll All Night”, “Shout It Out Loud” and “Detroit Rocks City” and also numerous mentions in pop culture. Even without the fact that they are one of the all-time biggest selling rock bands of all time, I can’t think of a pure rock band with a better resume that KISS for getting in the Hall.
7) Siouxsie & the Banshees
: One of my favorite bands of all time and also a favorite of legendary British DJ John Peel. This band might be hard for some of the Hall judges to look at, but having formed in 1976 as part of the punk rock scene, the band went on a journey of musical experimentation, along with Bauhaus, which led to the creation of what we call gothic rock. They have so many catchy singles starting with “Hong Kong Garden” thru “Christine”, “The Killing Jar”, the awesome Beatles cover “Dear Prudence”, “Cities In Dust” and “Peek-A-Boo” that made them chart favorites in the UK and college radio mainstays here in the US. As hard as it was for female led bands to be taken seriously, Siouxsie was admired by many of the great bands that came after including being an influence on Morrissey, Tricky, Massive Attack, Jane’s Addiction, The Cure, Radiohead, U2 and LCD Soundsystem. Their music has also been intense, brooding and powerfully atmospheric and they deserve a place in Hall.
8) The Shangri-Las
: This girl band from New York City lasted only a few years (1964-1966) and hit the chart with heartbreaking teen melodramas such as the popular "Leader of the Pack" and "Remember (Walkin' in the Sand)". However, unlike their peers (The Bobettes, Supremes, Marvelettes) adopted a street-wise persona like the street gangs out of West Side Story. This attitude was picked up on the 70’s punk bands such as New York Dolls, Blondie, Aerosmith, Go-Go’s and Amy Winehouse. Of all the 60’s girl groups, it is the Shangri-La’s with the farthest reach into the girl power of today exhibited by everyone from Gwen Stefani to Pink.
9) Tommy James & the Shondells
: One of the most fun and distinctive sounding groups of the 60’s rock era combining garage and psychedelic rock into a number of unique top 40 hits such as "Hanky Panky", "Crimson and Clover”, "I Think We're Alone Now", "Mony Mony", "Crystal Blue Persuasion" and "Sweet Cherry Wine" that have been hits for other artists also like Tiffany, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Billy Idol and Madonna. They broke up in 1970 after Tommy collapsed on stage but their music has remained as distinctive today as it was then.
10) Roxy Music
: Formed in 1971 and led by the vocals of Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music attained popular and critical success in the UK, Europe and Australia during the 1970s and early 1980s. The band’s influence as an art rock mainstay paved the way for the more experimental, musically sophisticated element of glam rock and early English punk music. They also provided a model for many New Wave acts and the experimental electronic groups of the early 80’s through their visual style and glamour. Member Brian Eno also went on to produce some of the best rock albums of all time by artists including David Bowie, Devo, Talking Heads, U2 and Coldplay. They are also a great live band to see and I was lucky enough to see them at Pine Knob years ago.
Rounding out next 5 in alphabetical order:
11) Kingston Trio
: launched the folk revival of the 50’s and 60’s and created a demand for a genre that was nonexistent before. They are one of the biggest selling groups of the era and while they probably didn’t inspire Dylan, they opened the way for him and other folk musicians of the 60’s as well as establishing what we know today as the concert circuit by playing tours across college campuses.
: Out of the same scene which brought the Stooges, the band combined garage, blues and psychedelic rock to create a high energy style and sound which addressed the counterculture movement at its most volatile and threatening. Can you imagine the anger of the later punk movement (Sex Pistols, Bad Brains, Ramones) without MC5 leading the way.
13) Peter Gabriel
: One of the leaders in the art rock, progressive and world music genres, Peter has had an interesting musical journey started as the frontman for Genesis (in the Hall) where he was known for his stage presence, bizarre costumes and story introductions. His solo career kept him at the forefront of technology as well as crafting some really beautiful and catchy songs like “Biko”, “Games Without Frontiers” and “Shock The Monkey”. His fourth album was one of the first one of the first commercial albums recorded entirely to digital tape and featured the early Fairlight CMI sampling computer. His love of world music has also made him the driving force behind the World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) movement and the creator of the Real World Studios and record label to facilitate the creation and distribution of world music by artists including Yungchen Lhamo, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Youssou N'dour.
14) Red Hot Chili Peppers
: basically an alternative funk band that incorporates punk, hip hop and psychedelic rock into the mix. Their style is truly unique and for a band that seems so outside the musical establishment, they have managed a huge string of modern rock hits, Grammy’s and tons of album sales. They have managed to remain relevant after many of their contemporaries have fallen to the wayside.
: Album sales aside, Rush doesn’t seem all that much, but they have one of the best drummers in rock with Neil Peart and have changed their style numerous times over the years from blues-inspired rock on their first album to later hard, progressive and synth rock. They have been cited as an influence by various musical artists, including Metallica, Primus, and The Smashing Pumpkins. Their lyrical content is very challenging for a rock band incorporating themes from classical poetry, fantasy literature and science fiction. They are also a great live band and despite needing a teleprompter to remember the lyrics, they still are one of the best rocking bands performing today.
I hope you enjoy my list which I think is 10 times better that the Hall’s this year and I hope that each of these bands make the trip to the Hall. Just missing this lists were the Cure, Smiths, Devo, Television, Specials, John Mayall and Richard Thompson.
Thinking of music, here are some suggestions for the week:Thursday (10/28)
Bob Dylan @ Hill Auditorium (Ann Arbor)Friday (10/29)
surf rockers Los Straightjackets @ the Ark, Vaselines @ Magic Stick, Creepy Halloween show (w/Silent Years, Silverghost, School Of Rock, Prussia and more) @ Crofoot, The Tubes @ Lexington Music TheatreSaturday (10/30)
Gwar w/Casualties @ Harpos, Verve Pipe @ the ArkSunday (10/31)
Eisley @ Magic Stick, Insane Clown Posse @ The Fillmore
Have a great Halloween and see you next week.