October 16, 2019 (Updated Feb. 1 2020) The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has its fans and its detractors. Some say there are acts voted into The Hall that don’t belong there. There have been one hit wonders, bands that mainly were voted in due to longevity and others that really have nothing to do with Rock and Roll. Part popularity contest, part politics and part “who knows what(?)”, The Hall has been a subject of contention for the most part since its inception. Particularly annoyed at The Hall’s choices are the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal fans. They have long argued that the guitar bands of Rock and Metal have been largely ignored while the more mundane and Top 40 acts have garnered more attention. This year, it seems that The Rock Hall and its members may have finally started listening. This year’s list of nominees for the 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony is loaded with guitar bands. Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, The Doobie Brothers – all Rock “guitar bands” that have been nominated along with Soundgarden and T.Rex. Even Pat Benatar, with husband Neil Geraldo’s tasty licks supplying the backbone of her sound has gotten a nod. The question that I have is that even with all of the nominations of the guitar bands this year, how many (if any) will get in and which of the guitar bands will lead the RRHOF pack?
Judas Priest – JP is a tough band to try and rationalize in the context of the Rock Hall. They have never stopped recording and touring and though they have had some personnel changes in recent years, the nucleus of singer Rob Halford, bassist Ian Hill and guitarist Glenn Tipton have been together most of that time. The fact that Glenn Tipton has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and it being the band’s 50th anniversary may sway voters to induct them. Here’s the rub though: as late as last year Judas Priest were considered but could not garner enough support from the voters to nominate them. In fact, they were so abhorred by the board that they decided to nominate Def Leppard instead. ‘Leppard was deserving for sure but the ‘Priest was just too Metal for what seems like the old fuddy-duddies who vote to handle.
Thin Lizzy – I am a huge Thin Lizzy fan; they more or less created the twin guitar Hard Rock sound. They also broke barriers; being the first Hard Rock band with a black lead singer. Like Judas Priest, they are celebrating fifty years as a Rock stalwart though they only play out occasionally these days. Still, getting in on the first ballot will be tough, extremely tough! First of all, Lizzy is only known for two songs in America – “The Boys are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak.” While other artists have gotten in on the basis of only one song (Ben E. King for “Stand by Me” comes to mind), they were much more influential in Europe. The general public here really knows nothing about them, which is a shame.
Motorhead – in a similar vein, Motorhead has always had a dedicated following in Europe but they have always been an underground band here. Those that know them love them but not enough of the general public does and they are an acquired taste. In addition, I feel that to Hall voters Motorhead is the type of band they love to hate.
The Doobie Brothers – another longtime favorite of mine, their early albums were laced with groovin’ guitar goodness. “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, “China Grove”, “Jesus is Just Alright” and others were FM staples and are still heard on Classic Rock stations around the country. After excursions into jazz and soul-tinged numbers they are back touring as a guitar band once again with Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons on guitar and Johnston’s silky voice leading the way. I personally think that Tom Johnston has always been the heart and soul of the Doobies sound. I have a feeling the board will have no problem inducting them because they are the most ear-pleasing of the guitar bands being nominated and have the least abrasive attitude. Seriously though, what is Rock and Roll without attitude? They will probably get the nod.
T.Rex – OK, T.Rex had only one hit song in the U.S.; “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” and it’s a great song. It’s a hummable, sing-along song with a great groove. Even if you didn’t know what the song was about, you still liked it. How many songs can you say that about? Mark Bolan was a popular guitarist. In the world of seventies Glam, they led the charge along with Slade, David Bowie and others. In reality though, they had just that one big hit. If The Hall is going to play it safe, this is one of the bands they’ll induct. If it were me, I’m sorry but I’d say no; one hit wonders shouldn’t get in the HOF.
Soundgarden – another safe pick. Chris Cornell’s death two years ago sent shockwaves through the music world. Even if you weren’t much of a fan, like me, you still had to respect the guy’s singing. He had elephant balls and would have made a hell of a Metal singer but chose his own path. Soundgarden was thinking man’s Grunge with a bit more substance to it than Nirvana. They were more of an underground band as well but had a huge following. The guitar playing, while not great, was better than most of the Grunge era and I’m guessing because of the sentimentality of Cornell’s passing they’ll get in.
Pat Benatar – I think Pat will get in and here’s why. Back in the early 80s Hard Rock didn’t have a female who grabbed the bull by the horns and shook them for all they were worth like Pat Benatar did. Here was a ballsy female singer with looks to boot and a hot (playing) guitarist. It was Hard Rock with attitude but it was also a thinking woman’s Hard Rock. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, “Hell is for Children”, “(You’re a) Heartbreaker”, “Promises in the Dark”; these were all great songs and even I was impressed. I think she had more male fans than female fans and her attitude was right up their alley. Neil Geraldo supplied the heat on guitar, with tasty runs and chunky rhythms that made it alright to like a rock band led by a female singer. She got a little sappy with later releases and the guitar was placed more in the background. Still, when Pat hit the scene she hit it hard and for the next few years she ruled it among female rockers. Because she was a bit of a groundbreaker who led the charge for women in Hard Rock and because she had a string of hits, she’ll get in. I would bet on it.
Todd Rundgren – Todd had a series of hits in the seventies (among them “I saw the Light”, “Can We Still be Friends?”) and was known as a very good guitarist back then. Because his songs were radio friendly and the voters on the board are about his age I’m guessing he will get the nod as well.
Other nominees include –
- The Dave Matthews Band – OK, they brought Zydeco to the masses. Personally, I didn’t care for their sound or Matthews’ quirky singing. People love them, I don’t but they’ll probably get in at some point.
- Kraftwerk – A German synth band that made their name with robotic rhythms and soulless lyrics. They are too underground to get in, though they had a big influence on the samplers of Hip-Hop.
- MC5 – the Punk band’s punk band, I don’t think they’ll garner enough votes either by the public or the board so, no.
- Depeche Mode – is another underground band with a huge following. They have one hit song that most people only know the chorus of (“Personal Jesus”.) Def Leppard covered it on their “The Story so Far” album. Still, I doubt they’ll get the votes.
- Rufus featuring Chaka Khan – Funk masters with some big hits. Is Funk, Rock? Funk-Rock – I guess it is. The Board will probably vote them in.
- Nine Inch Nails – Industrial Rock came, then went just as quickly – no amount of Viagra could save it. Artsy crap is still crap. No.
- Notorious BIG – one word, WHY?
So there you have it – my picks for the Rock Hall. Would I love to see Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy get in? Yes, without a doubt. Will they? I kind of doubt it for the reasons mentioned above. The Hall isn’t really about fairness and a lot of the time it isn’t about Rock. It’s about politics and the leftover hippies who make the decisions. Hippies don’t like Hard Rock and Metal; they just don’t. Hopefully some of these deserving bands will get in while they are still around.
(UPDATE) Nov 13, 2019 – As predicted here, Pat Benatar, The Doobie Brothers, Soundgarden and (not surprisingly) Judas Priest are all in the top 5 vote getters according to the Rock Hall’s website as of this writing. Keep in mind that fan voting only amounts to one vote of the more than 1000 ballots cast by the Hall’s voters. Hopefully the voters will take the fans into account when they cast their votes.
(UPDATE) Feb, 1 2020 – Not surprisingly and true to form, The Hall chose only one band from the top five fan vote getters; The Doobie Brothers. The other inductees included Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and T.Rex along with non-rock acts as Whitney Houston and The Notorious BIG. I believe as I stated above; that the Doobies are deserving while the others I question as for their importance, relevance and selection before more deserving bands that have come before. The Hall has proven to everyone over the years that choosing inductees is not a popularity contest and that true Rock acts get passed over in favor of whomever The Hall decides. In truth, fan voting only accounts for one vote in the total number of votes cast by The Hall and its designated voters. Why Rap and other non-rock acts continually get inducted into an organization that calls itself The ROCK AND ROLL Hall of fame is confusing at the very least. Perhaps The Hall should change its name to The Pop Music Hall of Fame instead. True Rock acts deserve their own place in history and to be immortalized for it. They should also be voted in by the fans, who would make up the core of the voting base. Hopefully, at some point this will be remedied and fan frustration eventually rewarded.
What bands would you vote for to be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?