If you have never been to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, what are you waiting for? I know that I am a rock music junkie, but I still believe it is the best hall of fame there is. The architecture is unparalleled, thanks to a timeless pyramid design by world renown architect I. M. Pei. And, the exhibits, many of which are interactive, convey the excitement of live music and couple it with an academic explanation. For the record, I have been to the Baseball, Football, Indiana’s basketball halls of fame. While all of them are enjoyable, only the RRHOF seems to transcend the niche of popular music by pulling in the casual fan, the one who generally likes most songs on a particular radio station as that person lays outside in the sunlight.
You see, the RRHOF provides inspiration to the casual fan to delve further into an artist’s musical catalog while simultaneously nudging the hardcore fan deeper into subgenres such as alternative hip hop, 80s hardcore punk or a previously overlooked artist for further re-evaluation. The whole thing is arranged with a plan to get the visitor to continue their journey through the museum while planting a seed that will lead to possible return visits.
Yet, for all the positives of the museum, and there are many more specific ones, the main concern of the Hall is for the memorialization of the “immortals” of rock and roll music, regardless of the genre. Many people love to limit their music of choice to fit a narrow definition of rock & roll. And that’s cool, since radio tends to reinforce that notion with their niche music programming, which honestly only gets worse on satellite radio, believe it or not. And, streaming can be just as bad.
Still, rock & roll, or whatever term we tend to use as the all-inclusive term for the popular music that changed Western society forever and continues to evolve through today is the thing the Hall is wanting to celebrate. And, much like musical tastes, determining which artists to enshrine tends to be a point of contention with average listener and that opinion butts up against that of the music critic and artist.
There are two extreme approaches as to whom is inducted into the Hall. First, you could follow Goldmine magazine’s procedure by allowing chart action alone to dictate future inductees. This approach is much more objective; if you have the hit songs and albums, then you will be inducted into their Hall of Fame. And if don’t, then you will remain on the outside, regardless of your influence on future generations of artists. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the current method of determining worthy inductees by using a committee made up of critics, musicians and industry players to determine the artists worthy of induction. And, this is the more subjective manner. Neither method is fool-proof and both will lead to heated conversations between those who care passionately about the integrity of the Hall (which I generally believe is maintained, albeit glacially slow).
Personally, I like the exclusivity of the Hall, but I do believe that more deserving artists are out there and will take an eternity or longer to get many of the eligible acts inducted, many of which will have long left this earth before receiving this honor. Now that former Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner has stepped down from his leadership role at the Hall and that former-MTV executive John Sykes has assumed the position, many Hall Watchers have been hoping that Sykes will loosen the Hall’s strict policy concerning inductions. During Wenner’s tenure, the Hall usually inducted between five and eight acts. In May, the Hall announced 13 news inductees. While that number is larger, it is a nominal increase. Hopefully, this is Sykes way of slowly changing the tradition. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, the backlog of deserving artists continues its yearly seemingly exponential growth. So far, I have brought forth 100 deserving artists, with 50 more to follow. So, let’s get this countdown rolling with my next 25.
50. Devo (“Uncontrollable Urge,” 1978). This band is performance art taken to an extreme. On the surface, they are challenging the norms of rock music. But, upon a deeper look, Devo is a comment on Western society.
49. Cyndi Lauper (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” 1983). Back when she and Madonna first burst onto the scene, I really thought Cyndi’s vocal prowess would win over time. Obviously, I was wrong, but Lauper did update the definition of feminism, updating it for Generation X.
48. Afrika Bambaataa (“Planet Rock,” 1982). You mean Kraftwerk can be sampled for a rap song? That’s right Cubbie! Now, the world was hip hop’s oyster.
47. Tommy James & the Shondells (“Crystal Blue Persuasion,” 1969). Many wrote off this group in the late-Sixties as bubblegum music. Then again, ask Eighties artists such as Tiffany, Joan Jett and Billy Idol how New York tough Shondell’s music was during the coke-fueled decade.
46. A Tribe Called Quest (“Bonita Applebaum,” 1990). Just as hip hop was exploding in many different directions, A Tribe pops up combining jazz samples with heady dose of intellectualism in their rhymes. These guys appealed to both the ghetto B-boys and the college intellectuals simultaneously.
45. Weezer (“Say It Ain’t So,” 1994). I used to love to tell my boys 20-some year ago that Weezer was their Cheap Trick. And, to me, that’s a huge compliment. Of all the Nineties bands, Weezer is my favorite.
44. Soundgarden (“Black Hole Sun,” 1994). In the late-Eighties, I tried to turn my metalhead nephews onto something other than Iron Maiden, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, not that there was anything wrong with them. I simply wanted to broaden their horizons. So, I bought them some Soundgarden. At least the older one appreciated the effort.
43. Captain Beefhart (“Electricit,” 1967). How do you explain Beefhart to the uninitiated? A blues-based version of Frank Zappa is the best I can do, and still that’s not accurate enough. Let’s just say that he’s not for the weak-hearted.
42. Oasis (“Wonderwall,” 1995). Along with Blur, Oasis made the whole Britpop scene seem so exciting.
41. Mötley Crüe (“Girls, Girls, Girls,” 1987). I am finally beginning to come around to the Crüe’s version of glam metal. Of course, their ranking reflects that fact.
And, that’s a wrap. See you later! Peace and love.