Taking a Red Pen to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

PART I: Set it Up

Here it is. A challenge. Review the current Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and whittle out the superfluous rhetoric. Artists that lack relevancy, so to speak. I don’t begrudge those that came before us or their contribution, but as someone put it to me – imagine a future without music. What will the future generation glean from our choices of whom we heap the heaviest praise upon.

So, here I whittle. With some help, but mostly alone. Research is allowable, of course. As is consideration of the opinions of others. I am deleting and, yet, I’m bucking authority (and in this case, I do rather enjoy that…) by adding as well. Those that I feel have been overlooked for political posturing. For example, noting the incongruous nature of including a band like the Red Hot Chili Peppers but overlooking Pearl Jam and Nirvana entirely.

I had six days. Six days to consider, debate internally and ponder this list. On Day One, I began with Criteria. The checklist that would become my basis of inclusion or exclusion. And, as I do with most rules, I felt free to toss that checklist out the proverbial window to suit my own personal taste and take on the current climate of music. I promised, however, to not inundate you with sentimentality or nostalgia. A feat of heroic proportions on my part and a demand of someone who knows my tendency toward the cheesiest of whiz. This is a rule I will attempt to follow dutifully. Shock and awe ensue, I’m sure. Like a new-found patience, it is a valuable lesson learned.

So, what gets the boots and what gets the scoops? The current criteria for inclusion reads as follows:

To be eligible for induction as an artist (as a performer, composer or musician) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the artist must have released a record, in the generally accepted sense of that phrase, at least 25 years prior to the year of induction; and have demonstrated unquestionable musical excellence. We shall consider factors such as an artist’s musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique, but musical excellence shall be the essential qualification of induction.”

Hmm. Okay. Let’s amend this. 25 years? Ridiculous. I switched up my criteria – no time limit. However, relevancy is key. If there was significant enough accomplishment and influence – IN MORE THAN ONE ALBUM (no one trick ponies here please) – length of time since the first record seems irrelevant.

So, #1: Must have considerable success, accomplishment and/or influence over the course of at least two albums. Caveat: Relevance is key.

Next – I took out all strictly country artists. Or if I considered them “country”. Full stop. They have their own Hall of Fame. ‘Nuff said. It’s redundant to have them potentially in both. Exceptions were made on a case by case basis and for artists that transcend more than one genre with success.

So, #2: No Country.

Next – record sales had nothing to do with this list. I don’t care if an album went gold/platinum or any kind of mineral colour. Influence isn’t gauged on how many records a band can sell. Relevancy isn’t based on dollar signs. Perhaps in the world of corporate music, sales equal money equal influence. I’m not that world.

So, #3: I’m so done with numbers.

And those are my Three Rules. I’ll bend them, hell, I’ll probably break them. But for the most part, I’ll try to follow them.

Side note – my list has Canadian Content rules as well. Not a specific percentage, per se, but a bit of patriotism never hurt anyone. Plus, I like my Canadian artists.

I am never going to allow more than 99 inductees at any given time and even then, that seemed too many. Mostly I needed to give myself a cap, since I often require editing. Secondly, 99 is roughly 1/3 of the current inductee list (there are 296 currently). Thirdly, nine is a kick ass number. Fourthly (am I still going?), I am also stating that “Early Influence” includes anyone who has not released an album or song, or anything of musical relevance in the last 20 years (as always, there are exceptions to this for those artists who continue to influence music even when not producing music of their own). They are not, for the purposes of this challenge, part of this list.

PART II: Cut, Cut, Cut

Even with my “99” rule, I managed to cut loose more of the superfluous artists. So my cuts were made. However, I wanted feedback. So, to the trusted influences the list was revealed. And more cuts were made. Debates were had. Not second guessing, per se, however, taking in opinions I respect and considering thoughts that were valid in point. 54 inductees. That is my current number. No more, no less. A good coincidental number based on my 99 rule.

This process was actually more difficult than my original cuts. Those were easy in comparison. It was justifying choices and providing reasonable explanations for those that were left behind. It was being able to listen to other ideas and conceding when those ideas were better than my own. Collaboration makes for an improved result. Debates were waged, comparisons drawn, gauntlets thrown. Talks like who was the original “boy band” – The Beach Boys or the Beatles? (Wikipedia and Google were utilized as inherent research vessels) Was Queen “just another rock band?” (my answer: No.. they helped originate ‘glam rock’). You get the idea…

So, I cut, then I edited the cuts. Next, I added. I will admit that some of my additions did fall under the “sentimental” category. Review of them did not last long before the cheese was admitted and discarded out of hand. Other additions were considered. For example – Nirvana versus Pearl Jam. I couldn’t choose just one of these bands.

PART III: The Final Countdown

So, here it is. Weeks worth of thought and collaboration and this is my own personal Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. An exercise that has made me look at musical motivation and influence in my life. How I trend toward sentimentality and memory (which isn’t actually a bad thing), but am not afraid to ignore my nostalgic leanings to acknowledge great music that may not be my wheelhouse.

Before the list, here is the link for the current Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: http://rockhall.com/inductees/ Take a peek. Consider what you would add or leave out in the cold. Debate my choices, disagree with me and tell me what you would have done differently. The one thing I have discovered about this list is that it has created an endless conversation that is never dull and always thought provoking. I’m not even going to say the list is done. I am going to keep it and look at it once in a while. Pulling it out like one of those movies you can never get tired of watching on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The List. Lemme hear your thoughts:

  1. Alice Cooper
  2. The Beach Boys
  3. Beastie Boys
  4. The Beatles
  5. Black Sabbath
  6. David Bowie
  7. James Brown
  8. Johnny Cash
  9. Eric Clapton
  10. The Clash
  11. The Cure
  12. Leonard Cohen
  13. Cream
  14. Neil Diamond
  15. Bob Dylan
  16. Aretha Franklin
  17. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
  18. Green Day
  19. Billie Holiday
  20. Michael Jackson
  21. Etta James
  22. The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  23. Elton John
  24. Fleetwood Mac
  25. Janis Joplin
  26. Joy Division
  27. Madonna
  28. Bob Marley
  29. Metallica
  30. Joni Mitchell
  31. Van Morrison
  32. Ministry
  33. Nirvana
  34. Pearl Jam
  35. The Pixies
  36. Pink Floyd
  37. Elvis Presley
  38. Prince
  39. Public Enemy
  40. Queen
  41. Ramones
  42. The Rolling Stones
  43. Santana
  44. Sex Pistols
  45. Bruce Springsteen
  46. The Smiths
  47. Tina Turner
  48. U2
  49. Velvet Underground
  50. Weezer
  51. The Who
  52. Stevie Wonder
  53. Neil Young
  54. ZZ Top

p.s. There is one artist I added after a point was made last week. It is my version of a concession of cheese. A gift of sorts. I couldn’t help myself. It wasn’t that the point made wasn’t valid, or the artist unworthy a spot. But they would not have been my first choice.

Hit us up with your thoughts – don’t be afraid to overshare and disagree. Many thanks to the purveyor of inspired thought and the thrower of gauntlets. It came at the perfect time and has been greatly appreciated.

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About Betty Beat

Musical afficionado extraordinaire. View all posts by Betty Beat

10 responses to “Taking a Red Pen to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

  • Steel Man

    Absolutely a great post. A fun read too. I still might have left Zeppelin just for nostalgia sake. A truly fantastic job on this piece. Thank you.

    Steel Man

  • Lila Lyric

    Bets, great job, a big endeavor. I’m with Marti on Kiss though. Revolutionaries that keep on chugging.

    Green Day, Weezer and Ministry I don’t see a place for. I’d add Radiohead, Perry Farrell before them. What Radiohead is doing right now is worth a spot, what Perry did in the 90’s and continues today is worth a spot.

    I can’t fathom a spot for Weezer when Radiohead isn’t listed.

    • Betty Beat

      KISS was on my radar for all reasons mentioned. I chose Queen. I like the argument for KISS though (merch) that you and Marti are handing down though. Good points all.

      Weezer and Green Day are newer additions. Green Day for their contribution to rock theatre and for a newer introduction to the concept album. And for Foxboro Hot Tubs – who else pulls off an alter-ego band so well? Weezer for their ability to change members and maintain their sound, their influence on modern day pop-punk (although they range from emo to power pop successfully). Mostly because it modernizes and makes relevant classics like the Pixies and Sonic Youth with a range of other influence.

      Perhaps too new, however, Weezer has had 9 albums, not including the solo work of Rivers Cuomo.

      Interesting to note – Weezer claims influence from Green Day, both bands that have come under fire for inclusion. I like that coincidence.

      This is why spots were left open. I love the discussion. Perfection.

      • Lila Lyric

        Discuss exclusion of Radiohead. You include Metallica and warranted just for their sales and sell out shows with zero radio play in the early days, the art of ‘word of mouth’ and sharing music (ironically considering their Napster woes) from metalhead to metalhead was epic. Well Radiohead’s epic endeavor releasing In Rainbows digitally and the ‘pay what you want’ was a turning point in the industry – in my opinion.

        Go.

  • zeuzeuze

    The “relevance” part of the criteria is pretty subjective. I noticed you put Green Day on your list. They wouldn’t have been a blip on my radar. Oh, great band and I can see how they could be relevant to a certain demographic, but I don’t feel that their work over time supports their appearance on the list over other worthy contenders.

    To wit, Crosby, Stills & Nash (with Young for additional ooomph). For me, CSN(Y) were huuuugely relevant in terms of social activism and human rights in general. Who can forget “Ohio” and “Teach your Children”?

    In my opinion, their music continues to be relevant in a global way, particularly in light of recent social uprisings in Africa and the Middle East, and the “Occupy” movements across Canada, the US and Europe. I half expect the band to get back together to sing “We are the 99%” or something like that.

    Locally, I think of the McGill University protest of November 10th which culminated in Riot Police storming the campus, beating, tear-gassing and pepper-spraying students, professors and passers-by indiscriminately and with brutal force.

    It’s these kind of social injustices that Crosby and the boys put front and centre in our lives, and this before the time of social media and other electronic networking. They are as relevant now as they were then, giving their music/their message a timeless spirit which transcends geography and demographics.

    I respectfully submit CSN(Y) for your consideration.

  • pete

    Very interesting blog! I read the whole thing until i got to your Rock and Roll Hall of Fame List. I read that 27 times because i couldn’t find Led Zeppelin and possibly the best band of all time, RADIOHEAD! I’m sure it was a mistake and they will be added soon.

  • Betty Beat

    27 times seems like a lot of reading, Pete! Ha! Thank you!!

    Okay – Zeppelin, I get. Nostalgic classic rock. Yes. But, as mentioned previously, they are purveyors of the never-ending 2726 minute song. Seeing as I spend an inordinate amount of my day sitting in cars with classic rock stations blaring (don’t judge y’all, it’s the only stations that we can pick up inside a tin can…), having a 2736 minute song means my day seems that much longer. Omitted due to situational circumstance. While unfortunate, it had to be done.

    Radiohead. Sigh. Yes. They are great. Yes. They do deserve a spot. But Thom Yorke’s recent hideously bad live performances (*cough* SNL last fall springs to mind) and their slightly indulgent new album irritated me enough to suspend my addition of them. I’d be willing to revise this one once I get over my tantrum.

    ~ B.

    p.s. When issued this challenge, I was directed to leave sentimentality out of my choices. Nothing was said of my personal (and often somewhat convoluted) biases. Those are obviously included. Ha!

  • Lila Lyric

    Pete,
    Betty has a crack problem, somehow Zeppelin and Radiohead fell through it. Moby*fucking*Dick…nuff said.
    ~Lila 😉

  • pete

    lol, I can only imagine that even people on crack know that radiohead is awesome and should be on the list. Something else must be wrong.

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