Now that my last blog entry proved the insignificance of this blog’s expression of rock criticism (where the hell are you Rolling Stone?), I thought I would tackle yet another rock institution which seems to be impenetrable to the opines of a coterie of people who call themselves Hall Watchers. That institution, which I both love and loathe, is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, arguably the only thing in Cleveland, outside of the Cleveland Clinic and, at times, the ballpark formerly known as Jacob’s Field, worth visiting. The Hall Watchers are some very articulate and intelligent people who write some of the best rock articles on the internet in a futile attempt to exert some street-level fan influence on the artists inducted.
The Watchers have gone so far as to create podcasts and even formed a Zoom-based nomination committee, which was so entertaining to read about or to hear on podcasts. Many of these people are very impressive in their intelligent arguments for every artists each individual backs. And, their continued influence on my little forays into Hall Watching seems to be growing by the week.
With that said, with this year’s nomination list being delayed into the new year, I will be making my predictions today. For the first time, I am staying away from reading the tea leaves of Hall news and hints to make predictions as to who will be on the list. Instead, this list, after much contemplation, is full of artists who I feel should be inducted soon. I find it a bunch of crap that the nominee list only has 15 artists. But I really get my panties in a bunch when it comes to the vast backlog of artists not in the Hall and by the fact that the institution still only inducts five to seven artists per year. How the hell are deserving artists ever going to be inducted when their fanbase is quickly dwindling? No, I will NOT go off a tangent!
So, here are the names of 15 rock gods, all of whom I believe should be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no say in this process. Is that a good thing? You make the call.
1. Foo Fighters – The first of two first-year eligible acts, the Foos arose from the ashes of Nirvana. The multitalented and huge personality Dave Grohl had a batch of songs he had been working on since his Nirvana days and had planned this little solo venture before the untimely death of Kurt Cobain. Since then, Grohl’s solo tinkering has turned into one of the world’s last rock bands, with Grohl playing the world’s last rock star to the hilt. This is a band whose work is both beloved by critics and fans alike, hence their nomination.
2. Jay-Z – This man is still rapping, even though he did try to retire in the mid-2000s. Now, Jay-Z is a brand, as he has branched into fashion, the NBA (part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets), among many other things. And, he may be married to Beyoncé, he remains a world-class MC and producer. Oh, and this is his first year of eligibility for the RRHOF.
3. Judas Priest – They began their career as a journeyman hard rock band, like an English version of REO Speedwagon. Then, they completely embraced metal the music, and they did the rest. Priest are the band that introduced leather, spikes and S&M garb into metal fashion. They made their slow ascent through the Seventies, finally grabbing the crown in 1980 with their landmark metal album British Steel. Next to Sabbath and Metallica, Priest is arguably the biggest influence on the genre.
4. King Crimson – If you prefer your progressive rock on the dark side, King Crimson is the prog rock band for you. Over the years, Crimson has shut down and re-started too many times to really list here. However, the one constant in all of the line-ups has been guitar visionary Robert Fripp. The shadow cast by this band goes beyond the prog rock boundaries and into the post-punk realm. King Crimson was never a band for the weak hearted.
5. Kraftwerk – This German synthesizer pioneering band should have been in the RRHOF years ago, as they have been as much of an influence on today’s music as any one artist. Without Kraftwerk, the world would have had to work harder to create synthpop, Afrika Bambaataa, sampling, Prince’s Minneapolis sound, new wave, “I Feel Love,” Electronic Dance Music (EDM), Moby, drum machines, Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, The Cars, up to and including today’s reliance on technology rather than musicianship. Kraftwerk was Ground Zero for the modern world in music.
6. LL Cool J – Long before his acting career, LL Cool J was rap’s biggest star between Run-DMC and Eric B & Rakim. His rhymes were what made LL an icon to begin with. He will forever be the voice behind two early rap classic albums, Radio and Mama Said Knock You Out. He had street cred for the inner city crowd, looks for the ladies and a pro athlete’s physique that made him cool to young men. This guy was a musical badass that stood head and shoulders above all of the wannabe badasses of the era.
7. MC5 – MC5, The Stooges and The Troggs were probably the first punk bands ever. In the case of MC5, they brought a political ferocity to music that has only been matched by Rage Against the Machine, Dead Kennedys or, at times, The Clash. The band released two classic albums before imploding and becoming a major influence on the Seventies punk scenes in NYC and London. That alone should be enough for induction, especially since The Stooges are in.
8. Pat Benatar – With the aid of her collaborator, muse and husband Neil Giraldo, Benatar took her operatically trained vocals to the world of hard rock, knocking down stereotypes along the way. Benatar displayed a toughness onstage and on record that rivalled that of the Wilson sisters of Heart, all of the members of The Runaways, specifically Joan Jett and Lita Ford, and Debbie Harry. Pat, with the creative aid of Neil, pushed a feminist approach to rock music that changed how women were viewed in her wake. She is an important figure in rock history.
9. Rufus & Chaka Khan – Initially, it was seemingly easy to write all the funky contributions of Rufus, much like what has happened to Big Brother & the Holding Company with regards to Janis Joplin. However, Rufus was filled with talented players who realized that their meal ticket rest with the vocals of Chaka Khan while holding down the music in order for her to explore her God-given talent. No set of session musicians could lay down the right amount of funk that Chaka needed for a song. They were such the real deal that none other than Stevie Wonder wrote them a song that become the band’s first hit, “Tell Me Something Good.”
10. Soundgarden – When Seattle was blowing up in the late-Eighties and early-Nineties as the epicenter for grunge, Soundgarden were the first band to be signed by a major label. For some odd reason, it took these guys longer to find success, although they had the more metal-sounding band of the big four (Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains being the others). Plus, no rock band had a lead vocalist like the late Chris Cornell. A little side note about Soundgarden is that drummer Matt Cameron could become a two-time inductee as he is the current drummer for Pearl Jam.
11. The B-52’s – Everybody’s favorite Eighties party band is still not in the RRHOF nor have they been nominated. Their credentials are impeccable, as they introduced the vital Athens, Georgia, music scene to the world, which opened the door for inductees R.E.M. Not only that, but they were involved in one of rock’s more improbable comebacks, when, after the AIDS-related death of their innovative guitarist Ricky Wilson, the band scored a huge worldwide hit in the eternal “Love Shack,” along with their excellent album Cosmic Thing. Though not to reduce the band to a quota, The B-52’s would go a long way toward the induction of women and members of the LGBTQ+ community into the Hall. Honestly, could you imagine a hotter set of songs by a band during the induction ceremony? I think not!
12. The Go-Go’s – The first all female rock band, and unfortunately still the only, to have a number one album on the Billboard Top 200 Chart when their debut album rose to the top while the women were opening for The Police. The band’s image of five clean-cut women rocking out in a band run in contrast to their punk beginnings and their antics offstage. But, these women were a great band who broke new ground. They literally invented the whole pop punk genre two decades before a bunch of second and third generation punks began to pick up on sound of The Go-Go’s. If you don’t believe me of their worthiness, just watch the Showtime documentary on the band. The Go-Go’s rule!
13. The Jam – Dammit America, wake up! This band came and went in the late-Seventies and early-Eighties with just a few of us jumping on their bandwagon. Just because they music did not translate into huge American sales, The Jam dominated their native UK with singles AND LPs. And outside of Elvis Costello, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, who is a better songwriter than the very underappreciated Paul Weller? The Jam combined the early energy of The Who, the soul of the Northern Soul movement and the wry British commentary of The Kinks into this beautiful punk noise. If not for The Jam, then Oasis and Blur would have been missing one of their starting points, as would the rest of Britpop.
14. Tina Turner – Tina Turner’s not in the RRHOF?!?! Well, yes, she is but as the female hostage in her abusive former husband’s duo Ike & Tina Turner. Once she had the courage to run from Ike’s abusive stranglehold on her life and career, Tina fled to Britain in order to record a solo album. She hooked up with some new wave fanboys in the form of Heaven 17 who resurrected her career by producing her comeback single, a sultry cover of Al Green’s classic “Let’s Stay Together.” That kicked off her triumphant 1984 comeback, not to mention her lasting status as one of the greatest female singers in rock history. It’s time to correct this error of stupidity!
15. Todd Rundgren – In the history of rock music, few people have had their hands in more of it than Mr. Rundgren. The man was an engineer on The Band’s Stage Fright album; produced classic albums by artists such as Grand Funk, Meat Loaf, XTC, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Cheap Trick, Patti Smith, New York Dolls and The Psychedelic Furs; was an active member in a democratic band called Utopia; AND maintained his own excellent solo career that was full of hits and albums that tested the boundaries of music. And, not only that, but the man was involved in some of rock’s first videos and almost started a video music channel on cable THREE years before MTV. Rundgren deserves induction simply based on the fact that he is truly rock’s first Renaissance man. But then throw in classic solo songs like “Hello, It’s Me” and “Can We Still Be Friends,” in addition to those classics by Utopia like “The Very Last Time” and “Set Me Free.” Let’s end this foolishness now and induct Todd!
And, there, my friends, are my 15 nominees for the 2021 RRHOF Induction Class. Now, who are my inductees? Well, since for some stupid unknown reason all of them cannot be inducted at one time, here are my five inductees: Foo Fighters, Jay-Z, Kraftwerk, Tina Turner and Todd Rundgren. If I can have a sixth act, then I induct The Go-Go’s. Oh, but wait! What happens if I can go to a seventh inductee, I would quickly welcome Pat Benatar. Below is my ranking of the rest of the nominees.
8. Rufus & Chaka Khan
9. The B-52’s
10. The Jam
11. Judas Priest
12. LL Cool J
14. King Crimson
And, just in case you were wondering, here are my honorable mentions: Carole King, Big Star, Hüsker Dü, Duran Duran, The Spinners, Los Lobos, War, Devo, Joy Division/New Order, The Smiths, Carly Simon, The Replacements, Black Flag, Rick James, Dead Kennedys, Mary Wells, Rage Against the Machine, Miami Sound Machine, Mariah Carey, Selena, Weezer, Eric B & Rakim, Styx, Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, Carpenters, Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, George Michael, The Time, The J. Geils Band, Raspberries, Paul Revere & the Raiders, The Marvelettes, Foreigner, Pixies and INXS.
And that’s my two cents worth concerning the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. See you next time! Peace.