I meant to post this two weeks ago, but things got away from me at the end of the year. Beer. Cured meats. Festivus. Christmas. You know how it goes. A couple weeks ago, the 2016 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced, with Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, and N.W.A. getting nods. For the first time in recent memory, I think the induction committee hit a home run. All five inductees are worthy.
Cheap Trick: The pride of Rockford, Illinois, Cheap Trick basically invented power pop, melding hard rock and hooks to produce some of the catchiest rock songs of the late '70s, like "I Want You to Want Me," "Surrender," and "Dream Police." And let's not forget their 1988 Top 5 hits "The Flame" (#1) and their cover of Elvis's "Don't Be Cruel" (#4), as well as "Mighty Wings," which was the ending credits song in Top Gun. The band's 1979 live album Cheap Trick at Budokan is rightfully recognized as one of the best live albums in rock history (and was the band's highest-charting and best-selling album), and the band has influenced musicians in a multitude of genres, from hard rock to glam metal to punk to alternative rock and grunge.
Chicago: No American band other than the Beach Boys has had more success on the Billboard singles and albums charts than Chicago. They have sold over 120 million albums worldwide, with 18 platinum albums, five #1 albums, three #1 songs, and 21 Top 10 songs. They were the leading US singles charting group during the 1970s. They released 12 albums in the '70s, five of which hit #1 and ten of which were in the Top 10. All but one of the 30 singles they released in the '70s charted on the Billboard Top 100, with 22 Top 40 hits, 13 Top 10 hits, and one #1. And, if memory serves me correctly, they are the only band in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 with a Top 40 hit in four consecutive decades ('60s-'90s).
Deep Purple: Deep Purple was one of the pioneers of heavy metal, and a huge influence on the genre, be it Richie Blackmore's guitar, Ian Gillan's soaring vocals, or Jon Lord's fuzzed-out organ. They found success with various different line-ups, with 8 Top 40 studio albums in the US and 10 in the UK (and 22 total Top 40 albums in the UK including live albums and compilations). Songs like "Smoke on the Water," "Woman From Tokyo," "Hush," and "Highway Star" are hard rock staples.
Steve Miller: The Steve Miller Band is one of those bands that you forget how successful they were, but if you turn on a classic rock radio station, you are almost guaranteed to hear one of their songs within a couple of hours, whether it's "The Joker," "Jet Airliner," "Jungle Love," "Take the Money and Run," "Rock'n Me," "Swingtown," "Abracadabra," or "Fly Like an Eagle." They had five platinum albums (out of six released) between 1973 and 1982 (four of which hit the Top 3 on Billboard's album charts). During that same span, they had 13 Top 100 hits, 9 Top 40 hits, 5 Top 10 hits, and 3 #1s. As a drunk chick once said, "Steve Miller is the soundtrack of my life." I think that statement is probably true of a lot of people who grew up between the mid '70s and early '80s.
N.W.A.: N.W.A. should have been inducted two years ago, which was their first year of eligibility. Perhaps the success of the Straight Outta Compton movie this past summer helped push voters over the edge. Like I've said before, I have no problem with rap and hip hop acts being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and N.W.A. is probably my favorite rap group ever. They represent everything that is "rock and roll," from their innovative and gritty music to their fuck-the-establishment (and the police) attitude to their dissolution due to members being prima donnas. They changed rap and hip hop, ushered in gangsta rap, and produced two of the most important names in rap and hip hop history, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. Frankly, I can't think of more than a handful of rap or hip hop acts that I would consider more important and worthy of Rock Hall induction than N.W.A. (and most of the others are already in the Hall).
Once again, I have proven my unending influence over the Rock Hall voters, as I argued last year that ALL FIVE groups should have already been inducted. Since the voters have clearly been heeding my advice, it would be a disservice to everyone if I didn't once again inform their voting. With that, here is my list of the top ten Rock and Roll Hall of Fame snubs, in alphabetical order, with the year of the band's first album in parentheses. I have, for the most part, just copied and pasted what I have already said about them, so deal with that.
Other snubs (in alphabetical order): Boston, Jimmy Buffett, Joe Cocker, The Doobie Brothers, Duran Duran, ELO, The Guess Who, Jethro Tull, LL Cool J, The Monkees, The Moody Blues, Willie Nelson, Nine Inch Nails, Ted Nugent, Ozzy Osbourne solo, The Replacements, The Smiths, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Steppenwolf, Styx, and Yes
1. Pat Benatar (1979)
As I have said in years past, there is a noticeable shortage of rocking females in the Rock Hall. With Joan Jett's and Heart's inductions in recent years, the Rock Hall voters are righting the ship, but there is still one glaring omission: Pat Benatar. A mainstay of the early MTV era, she has 6 platinum albums, 9 Top 40 albums in the US, including 6 that hit #14 or better, three Top 5 albums, and one #1 (1981's Precious Time). Between 1979 and 1988, she had a pretty solid run of singles, with 15 Top 40 hits in the US, including four that cracked the Top 10. Songs like "Heartbreaker," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Love is a Battlefield," and "We Belong" were not only big hits, but also songs that have held up pretty well. She has unquestionably influenced female rockers over the past three decades.
2. Bon Jovi (1984)
Bon Jovi, like Def Leppard (see below), is lumped negatively into the hair band genre. Both were bigger than the genre, in my opinion. Bon Jovi has sold an estimated 142 million albums worldwide, and has managed to weather the '90s and beyond better than just about any other band that can be labeled a hair band. They have 10 platinum albums, 15 Top 40 albums, 11 Top 10 albums, and 4 #1 albums -- including Top 5 albums in the '80s, '90s, '00s, and '10s and a #1 album in 2013. Their worst-charting studio album of their ten since 1985 went to #9. They also have 17 Top 40 hits (8 of which were in 1992 or after), 10 Top 10 hits, and 4 #1s. When they come to Chicago, they play Soldier Field, which few other bands can do.
3. The Cars (1978)
I really thought The Cars were going to be inducted this year. The Cars get lumped into new wave and the '80s, but they were unique in that they had the new wave look and certainly used synthesizers, but also had more of a rock legitimacy to their music than a lot of new wave bands. I would say that they are more critically acclaimed and accepted than a lot of other new wave bands. "Just What I Needed" has held up better than most other songs that you might consider "new wave." The Cars released 7 studio albums (6 between 1978 and 1987 and one in 2011), and their lowest charting album still hit #26, with all but one of the remaining albums (their debut) breaking the Top 10. Between 1978 and 1987, they had 13 Top 40 hits and 4 Top 10 hits. You can hear (or at least I can hear) their influence in bands like The Strokes, Hockey, and Franz Ferdinand.
4. The Cure (1978)
Goth gets a bad rap, but The Cure is the undisputed king of goth. And if you're one of the best and most influential bands of your genre, why shouldn't you be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? They were popular alt rock before there was such a thing as popular alt rock. In their native UK, they have 14 Top 20 albums (including 11 Top 10 and one #1), along with 23 Top 40 songs (including 4 Top 10 songs). In the US, it took them a little longer to catch on, but they have had 7 Top 20 albums on the Billboard charts, as well as 3 Top 40 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 (with 1989's "Lovesong" charting highest at #2) and 10 Top 10 songs (and 4 #1s) on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks charts.
5. Def Leppard (1980)
Def Leppard is one of my favorite bands, so I am admittedly a little biased, but then again, they deserve a spot in the Rock Hall. They are one of the most successful bands of the '80s, with both 1983's Pyromania and 1987's Hysteria being certified diamond albums by the RIAA, making them one of only five rock bands with two RIAA certified diamond albums (the others being The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Van Halen, all of whom are in the Rock Hall). Def Leppard has sold an estimated 65 million albums worldwide, and has 8 certified platinum albums, 7 Top 10 albums in the US (13 Top 20) and 7 in the UK, and 15 Top 40 hits in the US and 19 in the UK. Musically, they were much more complex than other bands from their genre, and unlike nearly every other band from the hair band era, Def Leppard has stayed together, continued to make music, and still tour successfully. Frankly, any band that can make a certified diamond album after its drummer loses an arm in a car accident deserves a nomination.
6 and 7 (tie). Iron Maiden (1980) and Judas Priest (1974)
You can't in good conscience induct one without the other, so I am including both. Maiden and Priest are two of the most influential bands in heavy metal history, hands down. Iron Maiden is a tour de force, with over 80 million albums sold worldwide and a rabidly loyal following across the globe, selling out stadiums and arenas for 30+ years. They define the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Despite having virtually no airplay in the US, they have 8 gold or platinum albums, 14 Top 40 albums, and 3 Top 10 albums in the US. In the UK, they have 28 Top 40 albums, 15 Top 10 albums, 5 #1 albums, and 35 of the 41 songs they have released as singles have hit the UK Top 40, with 17 Top 10 hits and one #1. Judas Priest is the band that gave metal its black leather and pushed metal from the early sounds of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple towards the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, thrash, and hair bands. With their twin lead guitar attack and soaring vocals, Priest, like Maiden, achieved huge success with little airplay in the States. They have 11 Top 40 albums in the US. As with Iron Maiden, they achieved more success in their native UK, with 14 Top 40 albums, 2 Top 10 albums, and 5 Top 40 hits. There aren't too many hard rock or metal bands since these two came along that don't list them as major influences. Of course, the Rock Hall has been behind the curve when it comes to heavy metal, so I'm not holding my breath on either of these.
8. Journey (1975)
It's time. I think Journey will be the next KISS as far as fan support clamoring for a band to be inducted, and I think it would be well-deserved. Journey is one of those bands that rockers across genres tend to like. Founded in 1973 after Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon left Santana, Journey went on to be one of the more successful rock bands of the late '70s and early-to-mid '80s, particularly after Steve Perry came on board in 1977. The band has 11 platinum albums, 10 albums that cracked the Billboard Top 20, including 8 Top 10 albums and one #1 (1981's Escape). They have had a Top 20 studio album in each of the past 5 decades. On top of that, they have had 18 Top 40 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, including 6 Top 10 songs (with 1982's "Open Arms" being their highest-charting song, reaching #2). Over approximately a five-year span between 1981 and 1986 -- between "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Girl Can't Help It" -- all eleven of the singles the band released made the Top 25, and their worst-charting song over that time still made it to #23. "Don't Stop Believin'" is the best-selling song on iTunes not released in the 21st Century.
9. Mötley Crüe (1981)
Mötley Crüe just disbanded -- this time for real. Hell, they even signed a contract saying they would never tour again. It's a shame because they're a hell of a live band. More than that, they are probably the most successful and enduring of the Sunset Strip glam metal bands. Of their 9 studio albums, only two didn't crack the Top 10 of Billboard's album charts, and 6 were Top 10, with one #1 (Dr. Feelgood). All in all, including studio, live, and compilation albums, they have nine platinum albums. They also had 7 Top 40 hits on the Billboard charts, and they were a mainstay on MTV. For better or worse, with "Home Sweet Home," they invented the hair band power ballad, and the video to the song was the first big "on tour" video on MTV. It was so popular on MTV's daily request countdown (#1 for three months) that MTV had to institute a "Crüe Rule" that limited videos to 30 days on the daily request line. For me, Mötley Crüe deserves to be in the Rock Hall because they represented the attitude of rock and roll more than probably any other band from the '80s. They fucked more women, did more drugs, smoked more cigarettes, and gave fewer shits than anyone else.
10. The Runaways (1976)
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is full of bands that didn't necessarily have chart success, but were highly influential. Okay, maybe not full of bands like that, but there are several. The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Frank Zappa, The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, and Leonard Cohen come to mind. The Runaways -- the late '70s all-girl hard rock group that spawned Joan Jett and Lita Ford -- never had a song that cracked the Billboard Hot 100 and never had an album that got higher than #172 in the US, but they were massively influential on female hard rockers for decades to come, from The Go Gos to L7 to Courtney Love to The Donnas to The Pretty Reckless's Taylor Momsen.