If there is anything as expected as the announcement of the new year’s inductees into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, it is the massive blowback it receives from the supporters of those who remain overlooked from consideration. After careful mulling over the holidays, it has been surmised that these ten artists rank at the top of any list conspired in the wake of the upcoming ceremony in Cleveland on April 18, 2015. And while it is certainly a delight to see such deserving folks as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lou Reed, Joan Jett, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Bill Withers get nods, how these following ten acts continue to get snubbed by Jann Wenner and his crew is beyond comprehension.
1. Joe Cocker
Its shocking to think Mr. Cocker, who sadly passed away just before Christmas at age 70 following a long battle with lung cancer, wasn’t inducted within the first five years of the Hall’s existence. How this oversight was possible, especially for a guy like Joe who has always totally been in Rolling Stone’s wheelhouse, might be more mind boggling than most snubs. It is sternly suggested by this committee that in lieu of his death, Wenner and co. should give serious consideration to adding him to this year’s roll call. And while they are at it, they should induct John Belushi, too. If you need a little inspiration, just check out this live performance of “The Letter” from his 1970 masterpiece Mad Dogs and Englishmen featuring Leon Russell on piano. RIP Joe.
2. Jim Keltner
Its great that Ringo Starr has finally been inducted in 2015 under his own guise, but if ever there was a drummer who deserves to be included amongst his peers at the apex of their craft, its Jim Keltner. Most people might know him as the bearded backbone of the Traveling Wilburys, but Keltner has provided the backbone for some of the most important recordings of the last 40-odd years, including Bob Dylan’s soundtrack to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, George Harrison’s Living in the Material World, John Lennon’s Imagine as well as Walls and Bridges, the aforementioned Mr. Starkey’s own Ringo LP, Steely Dan’s Aja and Richard Thompson’s Rumor and Sigh to name but a few. And it is that golden reputation as rock’s foremost session drummer which solidifies his eligibility to join the many peers he has worked alongside through the years in the HoF.
3. Brian Eno
Few artists have perpetuated as consistent a vision of rock’s limitless future for as long as Brian Eno has over the course of his 40-plus years in the game. During his all-too-brief tenure in Roxy Music, he pushed glam to the brink of the avant-garde before claiming the sound he invented for his own solo career as heard on such prog-pop masterpieces as Here Come the Warm Jets and Another Green World. As a producer and collaborator, he is as comfortable working alongside Coldplay as he is Cluster and responsible for the best albums by David Bowie, Talking Heads and U2. Now, as a marquee act for venerated electronic music imprint Warp Records, he’s keeping up with the likes of Chris Clark, Flying Lotus, Rustie and Aphex Twin at the vanguard of the 21st century. Why Brian Eno isn’t already in the Hall is shock enough. Why the call for his induction isn’t as loud as it should be is just plain criminal.
4. Sam “Lightnin'” Hopkins
Of all the great bluesmen who’ve yet to be inducted into the HoF, the omission of Lightnin’ Hopkins is the most befuddling. He was a chief architect of the Texas blues idiom, without whom this year’s inductee Stevie Ray Vaughan might have never had the opportunity to make it. But his distinct style was entirely his own, often imitated but never duplicated. Among his most prolific acolytes are Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Jorma Kaukonen and his post-Airplane outfit Hot Tuna, Jerry Garcia, Townes Van Zandt and R.E.M., who named one of their best songs after him. In the obituary he wrote for the New York Times following the death of Hopkins in early 1982, Wolfgang Saxon rightfully declared him “perhaps the single greatest influence on rock guitar players.” And what self-respecting rock fan could go through life without experiencing Free Form Patterns, which paired up Lightnin’ members of fellow Texans the 13th Floor Elevators back in 1968 that arguably ranks as the best amongst the fusions of traditional blues and psychedelia that were so in vogue at the time. As the must-watch Les Blank documentary The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins illustrates, few straddled the line of scrimmage between rural and urban blues like this great man, whose time for induction is long, long overdue.
5. Deep Purple
Seems like the HoF has been heeding the complaints of Eddie Trunk and his massive listenership after the likes of Rush and Kiss finally being inducted after years of arrogant overlooking. But for some strange reason, Wenner and his pals still continue to snub Deep Purple, a band arguably as crucial to the fabric of heavy guitar rock as Rolling Stone’s beloved Led Zeppelin, perhaps even more so. If you need a little reminder to understand Purple’s indelible reach, dig this: I don’t really play guitar, but I know how to strum out the riff to “Smoke on the Water”. The saddest part is that for years this band has been eligible for induction, and during all that time the full lineup was alive and well. Now if and when Deep Purple do, in fact, get the nod they so richly deserve, it will be without original keyboardist Jon Lord, the man who transformed the Hammond B3 into a fully functional weapon of destruction.
6. A Tribe Called Quest
Few hip-hop groups managed to blur the lines between samples and musicianship like Linden Boulevard’s finest, whose quintet of classic LPs greatly assisted in hip-hop’s acceptance amongst the elder statesmen Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad they paid homage to with their distinct Queens-bred homebrew of beats, bop and the blues. Their pioneering spirit flew in the face of the rising gangsta rap movement of the late 80s/early 90s, providing an alternate universe for those who weren’t down with the likes of N.W.A., Schooly D. and Too $hort and saw the future of hip-hop designed in the perception of the Native Tongues abstract. Today, they are regarded the way Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan are in many ways, if not most importantly their prominent role in bringing the worlds of pop and jazz all that much closer to the sustainable balance it enjoys today.
7. Kate Bush
Sorry Lady Gaga, but there is only one true queen of art pop, and her name is Kate Bush. Some of the most important women in rock have finally been inducted into the Hall in recent years, including Joan Jett, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Patti Smith, Darlene Love, Linda Ronstadt, The Ronettes, Madonna, Donna Summer and Debbie Harry. And while Kate might not have produced the kinds of hits these other amazing gals have in her 40 year career in music here in the States, the singer’s singular, unapologetically progressive style of glacial piano pop has provided the bedrock for the last three decades of sonic adventure for humanity’s better half, from Sinead O’Connor to Tori Amos to Zola Jesus and then some. Meanwhile, her 1985 masterpiece The Hounds of Love, hailed as an inspiration for everyone from Outkast to Fiona Apple, knocked Madonna’s Like a Virgin out of the No. 1 spot on the UK charts, not too shabby for an album whose entire second side is based on a poem about King Arthur.
8. The Cure
I could name a good dozen bands from the British post-punk movement of the late 70s/early 80s who deserve a place in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. But if there had to be just one, there is no other choice than The Cure. Many might like to pigeonhole them as a “goth” band, but that only does an incredible disservice to the brilliant songwriting prowess of Mr. Robert Smith, which not only helped bring the 80s rock underground into the mainstream lexicon but also inspired countless acts over the course of the last 30 years from Tears for Fears to Nine Inch Nails to Smashing Pumpkins to Deftones to Interpol to Robert Plant to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and then some. To see the classic lineup of Smith, Porl Thompson, Simon Gallup and Lol Tolhurst reunite for a set at the Hall of Fame ceremony could turn even the blackest heart pink with joy.
9. John Coltrane
Carlos Santana will be the first to tell you of ‘Trane’s crucial importance to the DNA of rock music. The sax giant’s unprecedented incorporation of spirituality and improvisation not only influenced the likes of such heavy hitters in AOR as Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia, Neil Young, Derek Trucks and countless others, but the sheer hurricane force that came out of his alto during his LSD years paved the way for Swans, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine to boot. Coltrane has been eligible since 1981, but his reach into the outer limits of rock music remains as vital as ever.
Prog rock might not be cool in the eyes of whatever hipsters are working in the editorial department of Rolling Stone these days. But for a great many of us, Yes will always be where it’s at, and the idea of seeing a super deluxe version of the long-standing institution of all things angular and grandiose coming together for a performance at the HoF induction ceremony with a lineup of Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Bill Bruford and Chris Squire with Jon Anderson and Trevor Horn sharing frontman duties would be mind-blowing for fans who hold both Fragile and 90125 in equally high regard.
Five Honorable Mentions
The Moody Blues