O.K., so it wasn’t 20 years ago today, but it was five.
On the final Sunday of March, 2015, I first tried my hand at this arts-and-entertainment thing, compiling a list of 12 acts that I felt had been consistently snubbed from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
With sports stories suddenly in short supply, this seemed like the perfect moment to revisit and re-do my original opus.
First, a recap:
The good — Five of my original dozen finally made the cut, to the tune of one per year. The Cars (2016), The Steve Miller Band (2017), Yes (2018), The Cure (2019) and The Doobie Brothers (2020) are all official members of the Hall.
The bad — Several of the acts that were, in effect, my “honorable mention” selections fared better than my top 12. Chicago, Dire Straits, Journey and Nine Inch Nails got in, too, but I didn’t have them ranked as high as other acts that are still waiting.
The ugly — I’m still kicking myself for never having thought of Deep Purple. I whiffed on that one. I also mocked Def Leppard for selling out, which they did but apparently couldn’t stop them from getting in.
I received several suggestions after my first article, and with five years to consider, I admit to finding it impossible to limit myself to a mere dozen. So, I have decided to compile this list a little differently — 24 acts, divided into four groups, or levels, as it were. Within each group, acts are listed alphabetically, as distinguishing between, say, #16 and #17, proved to be little more than nit-picking.
Group One — Borderline Cases
Each should get in, but I’m no longer willing to bet the farm that it will happen. The window of opportunity is closing rapidly.
Grand Funk Railroad — Hurt by a lack of critical acclaim during its run, there was no better example of a band that brought the sound of ‘70’s Motown funk to a white audience. Iconic song – “The Loco-Motion”
Alan Parsons — Each class includes a “contributor,” so here’s mine. Parsons did it all — songwriter, engineer, executive — but he was unrivaled as a producer, the most innovative of his era. He produced Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” at the tender age of 25. Iconic song — “Eye In the Sky”
Paul Revere & the Raiders — Easy to dismiss as more style than substance, until you realize that their original songs have been covered by everyone from the Sex Pistols and Circle Jerks to The Who, David Bowie and Sammy Hagar. Iconic song — “Kicks”
The Spinners — No group was ever a bigger victim of its own bad timing. They first hit in 1961, after similar groups like the Dells had already made their mark, and they had enjoyed their greatest creative success in the ‘70’s, when do-wop was considered too old-school. Still, they’re easily the most overlooked Motown band of all-time. Iconic song — “I’ll Be Around”
Three Dog Night — Riddle me this, Hall voters. What act better bridged the psychedelic sounds of the ‘60’s with the more mellow melodies of the ‘70’s? That’s right. You can’t name a single one. Iconic song — “Joy to the World”
The Turtles — Perhaps no band better personified the struggle of the folk-rock movement, which couldn’t evolve without becoming too commercial and died out quickly. But, during its peak in the late ‘60’s, these guys were the movement’s best ambassadors. Iconic song — “Happy Together”
Group Two – The Inevitables
Each will get in, but there are more deserving acts to induct, first.
Bill Idol — Unlike contemporaries Bret Michaels and Dee Snyder, his MTV look and sound weren’t merely cleverly designed Madison Avenue ploys. It was who he really was (and still is). Points for authenticity. Iconic song — “White Wedding”
Iron Maiden — Their popularity is staggering, when you consider how little radio airplay they’ve received in four-plus decades. Their “gallop” style rhythm has influenced heavy metal bands from Metallica to Slayer, from Anthrax to Slipknot. Iconic song – “The Number of the Beast”
Motley Crue — Sure, I had them too high last time (#2), owing in part to forgetting the several drug-induced hit-or-miss periods that have littered their career. But, when these L.A. boys are on top of their game and getting along, few bands can match them. Iconic song — “Dr. Feelgood”
REO Speedwagon — This band became so good at the ‘80’s-style power ballad that most people forget it began ten years earlier with a hard-rock garage band sound. Listen deep into one of its albums and you’ll find that it never completely lost those roots. Iconic song — “Take It on the Run”
Styx — Like REO, an underrated mix of progressive, album rock, marshmallow pop and techo- operatic elements. I’d probably give them the head-to-head nod because they experimented more often, and more successfully, with a harder edge. Iconic song — “Renegade”
George Thorogood — Like your friend who takes classic cars and drops a Hemi under the hood, Thorogood took R&B hits from the ‘40’s and ‘50’s and updated them with an ‘80’s guitar-rock sensibility. B.B. King’s cameo in his first video should have been a clue. Iconic song — “Bad to the Bone”
Group Three — Officially Overdue
Although not yet jaw-dropping in its audacity, the absence of each is still puzzling.
Boston — Few bands have burned so brightly and yet faded so quickly, but the seismic shift caused by their 1976 self-titled debut LP may never be duplicated. It was, literally, ahead of its time, a glimpse into what rock would be five years in the future. Alas, the times caught up to them, but their influence remains. Iconic song — “More Than a Feeling”
Foreigner — Their lyrics could be juvenile and shallow, but there was nothing second-rate about their sound — raw, intense, and unrelenting — that Billy Joel compared to “a flaming, sonic love affair.” It’s no coincidence that their peak (1977-1982) coincided with the rise of the classic rock FM station in America. Iconic song — “Juke Box Hero”
Rick James — Overtly vulgar and abrasive, his personality has probably been what’s keeping him out. It’s certainly not his body of work, a mix of rock, R&B and new wave that aficionados began calling, ‘punk funk.” He was also a prolific producer, second only to Prince in launching the careers of ‘80’s Motown artists. Iconic song — “Super Freak”
Judas Priest — After attempts at blues rock, progressive and punk, this British quintet settled on heavy metal, but with a sprinkling of the other genres, too, and the rest, as they say, is history. Never afraid to experiment, they’re also credited with advancing the legitimacy of the speed and synth metal sub-genres, too. Iconic song — “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”
The Scorpions — Name a heavy metal band that’s still performing, and it’s likely that this German group — often dubbed, “The Ambassadors of Rock” — influenced them in some way. Their worldwide popularity is unmatched, as their albums have achieved platinum status over 200 times in countries around the world. Iconic song — “Rock You Like a Hurricane”
The Smiths — Combine the lyrical punk-rock realism of Morrissey with the chiming guitar work of Johnny Marr, who seemed to reject the synthesizer-heavy dance-pop sounds of the early ‘80’s in every chord, and you get the Smiths, arguably the best rags-to-riches indie success story in music history. Iconic song — “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out”
Group Four — The No-Brainers
How are these acts not in? What are Hall voters thinking? I have no idea.
Pat Benatar — There were other women already in rock — think Joan Jett — but Benatar was the first to achieve wide recognition. Before her 1979 debut, the airwaves were dominated by Karen Carpenter, Roberta Flack and Tennille. Soon after came Jett, Melissa Etheridge and Alanis Morrissette. Enough said. Iconic song — “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”
Blue Oyster Cult — America’s most influential stoner-rock band of all-time. In the late ‘70’s, if you wanted to be mellow, hang out with your friends, and listen to some tunes, this was your go-to sound once the Pink Floyd record played out. It was also your concert of choice. Iconic song — (Don’t Fear) The Reaper”
Kate Bush — Artists that she’s influenced read like a Hall waiting list — k.d. lang, Courtney Love, Ellie Goulding, Adele. Armed with an eclectic range of classical, glam rock, and ethnic folk, among others, she molded that style with an operatic soprano voice and art-house production sensibilities to produce a look and sound that’s truly one-of-a-kind. Iconic song – “Running Up That Hill”
The Eurythmics — Honestly, Annie Lennox could go in as a solo artist, too, but she was at her most creative when collaborating, and her first partnership (with ex-boyfriend Dave Stewart) is still her best. Like her gender-bending characters in the duo’s videos, their music was provocative and left you clamoring for what the next track would bring. Iconic song — “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”
Jethro Tull — The masters of the unexpected, whether it was songs featuring the flute, harpsichord or dulcimer, or an entire album consisting of a single 44-minute piece of music. Never as critically acclaimed as progressive-rock contemporaries Yes, they are every bit as Hall-worthy. Iconic song — “Aqualung”
Kansas — Part southern blues rock, progressive rock, jazz and existential folk — sometimes, all in the same four-minute track – there hasn’t been a rock band before or since that integrated changing time signatures into their music more successfully. Their symphonic sound and rich, textured melodies are still mainstream rock staples. Iconic song — “Carry on Wayward Son”
Email your Hall of Fame snubs to Andy Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org.