Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | Hall Passes & Fails

Track 170 | Who's in and who's out?

Rush waited 15 years to get into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. At the time, they were still an active, touring band with a new album out. Their inclusion in 2013 didn’t require any caveats or explanations — they weren’t a folk, country or hip-hop group. They were, and always were, a rock band. They even had a 2009 covers album where they do blistering versions of classic rock tracks like The Seeker, Summertime Blues and Crossroads.

Like them or hate them, Rush were an uncompromising rock band who became one of the biggest acts on the planet without any hit singles. They did it by building a fan base who were interested in albums and concerts. And they did this through hard work, sacrifice and commitment to always sharpening their skills and never making the same record twice. So, for many — fans especially — their exclusion was inexplicable. I’m hard-pressed to think of any other group or artist who constitutes a bigger snub. But I’ll try!

Before we start, let’s first establish how someone gets in the Hall in the first place. Established in 1986 and physically based in Cleveland since 1995, you can go in as a performer or as an industry person. Musicians and bands are required to have put out their first music at least 25 years ago in order to be eligible. They can be inducted for up to three different reasons. First and most commonly, as a “performer.” There are currently 255 of those. Rush is one of them. They became eligible in 1998.

Individuals and bands can also be elected for displaying “musical excellence.” This one gets a little muddy for me. The official description is those whose “originality and influence creating music have had a dramatic effect on music.” But, among the 30 inductees in this category are lyricist Bernie Taupin, Ringo Starr and Judas Priest.

Let’s unpack this a little. My takeaway is, sure, Taupin deserves to be there because he wrote the words to all Elton John’s best songs. But he’s not the frontman, or a musician — apart from two forgettable albums he made back in the 1980s. And he’s not an industry person, so he belongs in this category. I mean, I guess. Ringo is in here, presumably, because his drumming was influential. But none of the other Beatles are. In fact, they’re all “performer” inductees individually in addition to being inducted as members of The Beatles. But not Ringo. So, basically, this is a snub. Or as close to a snub as you can give a living Beatle. Perhaps it’s because he’s made nothing but awful, awful music since 1974. And Judas Priest? Why are they not in the “performer” category? I mean, AC/DC and Aerosmith are in there as “performers.” I don’t get it.

The third way musicians can be inducted is as “early influencers.” Among the 40 individuals and acts here are Bessie Smith and Pete Seeger, which I totally understand. But Kraftwerk are also included. I think they belong in the “performer” category. I’d have Amon Duul II here instead. But now we’re splitting hairs.

The fourth category is for industry people, who can be inducted in a non-performing category called the Ahmet Ertegun Award. This was established for individuals who have fostered things like creative development, growth and providing new opportunities. There are currently 55 of those, including promoters like Bill Graham, DJs like Alan Freed, and record executive / producer Clive Davis.

So who isn’t in the Hall who should be? The first group that spring to mind are Grand Funk Railroad. These dudes sold out Shea Stadium faster than The Beatles. When they called it a day in 1976, Frank Zappa freaked out and demanded they make one more album, which he produced. He famously said that Grand Funk were fantastic — with an F that’s three times taller than you are. They had six platinum albums (seven gold albums) between 1969 and 1976. And OMFG did they ever rock. At least six of their records are must-owns, if you asked me. And they were from Flint, Mich., for gawdsakes.

Neither Bad Company nor Free are in the Hall. Free are the better band for sure, but most folks would consider Bad Company the more famous one. Neither had the success that Grand Funk enjoyed. I’d consider both of these Paul Rodgers-fronted bands to be right on the line when it comes to eligibility.

How the hell is Fela Kuti not in? He was practically a god. I guess North American success during the band’s prime is important to the Hall. Kuti was an Afrobeat pioneer and a political and cultural superstar in Nigeria. He made 30 albums in the ’70s. Thirty. Zombie (1977) is perhaps his most famous — not just because it tops so many best-ever album lists, but also because it was so critical of the government that many connect this to his mother being killed and his commune destroyed. If ever there was someone who belongs in any of the three performer categories, it’s Fela.

I don’t understand how both Yes and Genesis are inductees, but King Crimson is not. The hugely influential and successful prog band of Robert Fripp mark 30 years of eligibility this year. The Sex Pistols are in, but not The Buzzcocks, The Damned, Bad Brains or Dead Kennedys. Brian Eno is as a member of Roxy Music, but not on his own merits as a solo artist or producer. One of the acts he produced, Devo, are somehow not in there either. Neither are The B-52’s, Joy Division/New Order, Hüsker Dü, The Smiths, Sonic Youth, Sparks, Flaming Lips or XTC. And if Roxy Music are in, why aren’t Big Star, Foreigner, The Guess Who, Jethro Tull, Blue Öyster Cult, Steppenwolf, Thin Lizzy or Three Dog Night?

Paul McCartney is in as a member of The Beatles and as a solo artist, but Wings — his band from 1971 to 1979 — are not. Only guitarist Denny Laine is an inductee, but as a member of The Moody Blues. Similar to Eno, Ozzy Osbourne was inducted as a member of Black Sabbath, but obviously has equal fame in his own right as a solo artist and personality. Hanging out with Ozzy are the equally snubbed Iron Maiden, Motörhead and Mötley Crüe.

As I mentioned, Kraftwerk are in. But Can are not. I suppose it would be a slight stretch to suggest Neu! deserve to be there as well, but Can are a no-brainer. The Hall features Bono (as a member of U2) but not Sonny Bono — or, somehow, Cher! Like McCartney and Wings, Frank Zappa is in but The Mothers Of Invention are not. And if Zappa is there, I suggest Captain Beefheart should be too. Oh, and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.

Link Wray is included as an “early influencer” even though I like his stuff from the early ’70s best. But right next to Link should be Dick Dale, who is absent. Pearl Jam are included, but not Soundgarden or Oasis. Parliament-Funkadelic were rightfully inducted, but neither The Commodores, Chic or War have been — yet. No Herbie Hancock, either. And neither Gram Parsons nor Nick Drake are in the Hall.

I was actually surprised to discover neither Dr. Dre nor Wu-Tang Clan have been inducted. And, there’s a slew of influencers, including Memphis Minnie, Mississippi John Hurt, Lonnie Donegan, Patsy Cline, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Son House, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Big Mama Thornton and Chubby Checker.

So I’ll leave you with this thought — Britney Spears’ debut album …Baby One More Time came out 25 years ago. That means she’s eligible for the Hall. If she gets in before Big Mama Thornton, rock is dead.

•         •         •

Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.


Previous articleThunder Pie | Q&A Vol. 1
Next articleNext Week in Music | Feb. 12-18 • On TV