Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: Bands and Artists Who Deserve To Be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

A couple weeks ago, the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees were announced, and for the second year in a row, I think the Rock Hall nailed it.  Getting the nod this time around were Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Joan Baez, Journey, Electric Light Orchestra, and Yes, with Nile Rodgers getting the Award for Musical Excellence.  With their inductions, Pearl Jam and Tupac are the first artists who started in the '90s to be inducted.

Here are my quick thoughts on each of the inductees (not including Rodgers), in alphabetical order:

Joan Baez:  Given the Rock Hall's affinity for influential acts from the '60s, I'm surprised it took this long for Baez to get inducted.  She was certainly one of the more important musicians in the '60s folk scene and counterculture, singing "We Shall Overcome" at the March on Washington in 1963, protesting the Vietnam War, and generally standing up to the man.

Electric Light Orchestra:  ELO took what The Beatles did in the '60s and expanded on it, added some strings, and included futuristic themes (and album covers), making some great music throughout the '70s and early '80s.  Between 1972 and 1986, the band had more combined Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and UK pop charts than any other band.  During that span, they had 27 Top 40 hits in the UK (including 15 Top 10s and one #1) and 20 Top 40 hits in the US (including 7 Top 10s).  Songs like "Don't Bring Me Down," "Evil Woman," "Do Ya," "Livin' Thing," and "Can't Get It Out of My Head" are classic rock radio staples.

Journey:  I correctly predicted that Journey would be the next KISS as far as fan support clamoring for a band to be inducted, and the band's induction is overdue and 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.

Pearl Jam:  Along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam was the face of the grunge movement and alternative rock scene of the '90s.  Thankfully, no one in the band was felled by heroin, and Pearl Jam has continued to rock, release albums, and fight the good fight for the past 25 years (with the same lineup for the past 19 years, to boot).  All of the band's ten studio albums have cracked the Top 5 of the Billboard album charts, with five of them hitting #1.  Five of those have gone platinum in the U.S. (as well as a live album and a greatest hits album), with the band's debut album, Ten, having been certified diamond by the RIAA, selling over 13 million albums in the U.S.  I find it amazing that, with all of the fantastic songs Pearl Jam has released, they only have four Top 40 hits in the U.S. (and not the songs you'd think, either -- "Spin the Black Circle" hit #18?!), and their highest-charting song was their cover of J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers' "Last Kiss," which hit #2 in 1999.  But, of course, chart success does not a great band make.  Pearl Jam has consistently been one of the best rock and roll bands since they formed in 1991, and they still sell out stadiums today.

Tupac Shakur:  In my opinion, Tupac is the best hip hop artist of all-time.  Some people will likely chide his induction into the Rock Hall because he didn't play rock and roll, but to those people, I say that rock and roll is not defined solely by the style of music one plays.  It's attitude, it's influence on pop culture, and it's style.  Tupac had all of that.  He was a tragic figure -- this brilliant guy with an infectious smile who was equal parts poet and thug.  Hell, the man had a "Thug Life" tattoo across his stomach, but could write a touching song about his mother.  After being a member of hip hop group Digital Underground (yes, of "Humpty Dance" fame), Tupac went solo in 1991 with the release of his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now.  One of the first CDs I bought after getting my first CD player was his second album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.  What struck me about that album (and his follow-ups) was how effortless his rapping seemed.  And when I hear any song from All Eyez On Me or Me Against The World, I think of college, and that makes me happy.  Sadly, he couldn't quite ever let go of that street life, and we lost him to a bullet (or ten) in September 1996, but of course, he and Jimi Hendrix are neck-and-neck for posthumous prolificness.  All in all, Tupac had ten Top 10 albums on the Billboard albums charts (including five #1s), with eight platinum albums, two diamond albums, 8 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including one #1 -- the double A-side single "California Love"/"How Do U Want It."  I cannot hear either of those songs without forming a "W" with my right hand.

Yes:  Prog rock pioneers Yes have seemingly been on the cusp of getting a Rock Hall nod for a couple years.  Formed in 1968, the band has gone through various lineup changes, with 19 different members over the years.  Yes has released 21 studio albums, the most recent of which was released in 2014, and nine of those have reached the Top 10 on the album charts in their native UK, including two that hit #1 (1973's Tales From Topographic Oceans and 1977's Going for the One), while seven of those studio albums hit the Top 10 of the Billboard album charts here in the States.  On the flip side, the band has had bigger radio success in the US than the UK.  In the UK, they have only had four Top 40 hits and only one Top 10 hit.  But in the US, they have had six songs that have hit the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, with one #1 (1983's "Owner of a Lonely Heart").  What surprised me was their success in the '80s and '90s on rock radio.  They had a string of 16 singles in a row that cracked the Top 40 of the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts between 1983 and 1997 (with 9 Top 10s and three #1s).  Other than "Owner of a Lonely Heart," you probably know "Roundabout" and "I've Seen All Good People," which are classic rock radio staples.

I'd like to once again thank the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters for reading this blog and taking my opinions into account, as last year, I argued that ELO, Journey, and Yes deserved to be inducted (Pearl Jam and Tupac were not yet eligible).  Since the voters have clearly been heeding my advice year after year, 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, 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, and Styx

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)
It's time for '80s rock to make its move into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  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 11 platinum albums, 17 Top 40 albums, 12 Top 10 albums, and 6 #1 albums -- including Top 5 albums in the '80s, '90s, '00s, and '10s and a #1 album in 2013 and 2016.  Their worst-charting studio album of their eleven 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 stadiums, which few other bands can do.

3. The Cars (1978)
I don't know how The Cars haven't been inducted yet.  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.  Janet Jackson (1982)
Janet Jackson is one of the most successful female artists of all-time, so it's kind of a shock that she hasn't had more Rock Hall momentum.  I understand the argument that her music is not rock and roll, but neither was most of her brother's music (or Madonna's music or the music of many others who are in the Rock Hall), although "Black Cat" is pretty rockin'.  The numbers certainly don't lie.  She has sold over 100 million albums worldwide, with ten albums that have reached #3 or higher on the Billboard album charts, including 7 #1 albums -- and at least one in each of the last four decades.  Jackson has also had 36 Top 40 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 (including 7 songs on which she collaborated with other artists), 29 of which cracked the Top 10 and ten of which hit #1.  Her 1989 album Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 had seven Top 5 hits, making her the only artist in the history of Billboard charts to accomplish that feat.  Unlike some other pop stars who may have had similar success (Whitney Houston comes to mind), Janet wrote or co-wrote most of her songs, and I think that gives her a leg up on Rock Hall credibility.  And she was Willis's girlfriend on Diff'rent Strokes, so that should be worth at least a few votes.

9. Mötley Crüe (1981)
Mötley Crüe is now officially disbanded forever.  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.

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