Judging the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominations

Where are the Monkees? ... I'm serious!

By , Contributor

Hi kids. It’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination time, where I, a man with four guitars who can only play three whole songs, decide, based on my own taste and arrogance, who deserves to be inducted and who doesn’t.

Before we get to this year’s nominees I have two suggestions for the Rock Hall. Recently it came out that inductee and soul/funk legend Sly Stone is living in a van (not down by the river, but worse, in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles). Why not put him literally in the Hall of Fame? Give him a bed and a nice television set, and perhaps all the cocaine he needs and let the viewing public watch him live and occasionally shake his hand. It’s the least the Hall can do for all the great songs he produced and all the great gigs he was late to.

Similarly, why should Phil Spector be wasting taxpayer money in jail, when as yet another inductee he could serve his life sentence in Cleveland? Give him a cell right next to one of Elvis’s old jumpsuits, I’d pay to see that.

Back to the nominees... To get into the Rock Hall you need to be either huge like Elvis or the Beatles, incredibly influential like the Ramones or the Sex Pistols, a critical darling like Leonard Cohen, or have once been in the 69 position with Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner.  The process is hugely inconsistent and tends to enrage fans of bands like Rush, Yes, Slayer, and the Insane Clown Posse, whose fans are always enraged and usually throwing feces at topless women like Tia Tequila.

Here are this year’s contestants: Up for the first time are Joan Jett, Heart, Rufus with Chaka Khan, Guns `N Roses, Eric B. & Rakim, the Cure, the Small Faces/Faces, Freddie King, and the Spinners.

Previous nominees up again include the Beastie Boys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Donna Summer, Laura Nyro, Donovan, and War.

Unless you are completely tone deaf, only one act stands out as a "Ted Williams/Joe DiMaggio it would be a joke if they didn’t make it" entry and that’s GNR. Guns ‘N Roses were the biggest band in the world for as long as they could keep their drug use and hatred of each other in check and in reality they did more to kill “hair metal” than Nirvana. Not only do they deserve induction, the fallout from the induction will be fascinating. Who will show up? Who will agree to play together? Will there be fisticuffs? Does Buckethead get included? Call me entranced!

Joan Jett and Heart are sort of fascinating in that most of their credibility as nominees comes from the fact they were influential mostly because they were women rockers when there were basically no women rockers. I love girls with guitars so I’m sympathetic to their cause. The two biggest acts in this regard are already in the Hall (Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde), so I don’t think that either of this year’s noms is automatic. Frankly, I feel that Heart’s music wasn’t consistently good enough and that they sold out their Zeppelin roots in the mid-'80s.

Joan Jett is tougher for me. Her place in the first real all girl rock group the Runaways was as much exploitation as it was revolutionary. In reality, the Runaways had one great song ("Cherry Bomb") and a lot of unrealized potential. Joan then went on to have one mega-hit (her cover of the Arrows' "I Love Rock ‘n Roll") and a couple other nuggets ("Bad Reputation" and "Do You Wanna Touch"). Besides that, honestly, who really listens to much Joan Jett? It doesn’t matter. She was the first Riot Grrl, she still looks great, and she’s been a style icon for young women for years. I’d put her in.

I have no problem with putting the Cure in the Hall of Fame, but it seems hard for me to add them before the Smiths or other similarly ignored bands get in. I’d put the Red Hot Chili Peppers in because they’ll get naked or wear some other silly sort of costume, and they’ve been road warriors with a unique although not really eclectic sound for years.

The "Sabotage" video is so genius that you can’t keep the Beastie Boys out. They’ve been original and interesting for years and I love the song "No Sleep ‘til Brooklyn."

Donna Summer once recorded a song with 22 simulated orgasms (“Love to Love You Baby”) so I put her in. Disco may have been universally hated by the rock crowd, but she’s the Queen, she was hot, and she should be in.

The only other entry that gets much sympathy from me is the Faces. I love Steve Marriott and “Itchykoo Park,” but Rod Stewart is already in the Hall and the band, despite recording one of the first rock operas (Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake), falls a little short on my scorecard.

There are people who swear by the rap genius of Erik B & Rakim. I claim ignorance here and am willing to let other people argue their case.

Finally, I have a word on one purposeful snub that is just absurd. The Monkees will never be inducted, because they didn’t play on most of their hits and they will forever be known as “the pre-fab four,” a group of kids put together by auditions for a television show. Well, the Beach Boys didn’t play on most of their albums and neither did the Byrds. The Monkees had a ton of great songs and frankly I dare you to tell me why the Temptations are any different from the Monkees as a vocal group. Make Peter Tork happy and invite him and his pals to the party.

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Brad Laidman has been a freelance writer since 2000. His work has appeared in Film Threat, Perfect Sound Forever, and Rock and Rap Confidential. His defense of The Kinks' Dave Davies so moved the legendary guitarist that Davies labeled Brad his hero and he has the email to prove it.

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