The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced last week the 16 nominees that will be considered for the Class of 2020, which will be officially inducted May 2 in Cleveland, Ohio.
To be eligible for nomination, artists must have released their first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination. Nine of the nominees are on the ballot for the first time, including Dave Matthews Band, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Motörhead, The Notorious B.I.G., Pat Benatar, Soundgarden, T. Rex and Thin Lizzy.
The other nominees include Depeche Mode, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Nine Inch Nails, Kraftwerk, MC5, Todd Rundgren and Judas Priest.
My sense is that The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Pat Benatar, The Notorious B.I.G. and Chaka Khan will be honored at the ceremony in Public Auditorium.
I will write about the official class another time, but I will say that the Hall of Fame rectified its biggest oversight when they finally nominated The Doobie Brothers. This was an unbelievable slight and hopefully the band, which includes John Cowan on bass and vocals, will finally enter the Hall of Fame. Yes, Johnny C is headed for the Hall of Fame.
The hall’s international body of voters is often so out of touch with musical reality that they have very little credibility with me.
Another person with whom they have very little credibility is Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I’ve interviewed Campbell before and asked him if he thought JJ Cale, Campbell’s biggest guitar influence, would ever get in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously.
Here’s how he responded, “The Hall of Fame? Is that rock ’n’ roll anymore? JJ Cale might be too good for the Hall of Fame. They need to start a new Hall of Fame and start with JJ.”
Cale has never been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His songs have been covered by dozens of artists, including Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Merle Haggard, Tom Petty, The Band, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Lukas Nelson, just to name a few. Neil Young, when asked if he had to listen to one artist and one artist only, said it would be JJ Cale. He also cited Cale as one of his favorite guitarists. The Hall of Fame is so clueless regarding JJ Cale that to see rappers on the ballot makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little.
Another favorite artist of mine who has never gotten the hall nod is Taj Mahal. Taj is universally respected by other musicians. I would venture to guess he might have collaborated as a guest on other people’s records over 200 times. Taj’s mix of country, blues, soul, calypso and roots music has given me musical eargasms for almost 30 years, yet when it comes to the Hall of Fame, crickets.
Another band that so deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, that has never been nominated, is Little Feat. This is one of the greatest rock ’n’ roll bands of all time, but because they didn’t have monster No. 1 hits, they have been snubbed by the knuckleheads in Cleveland. “Dixie Chicken” alone should grant them entry into the Hall of Fame in the corner known as the Spanish Moon.
The biggest oversight in the 2020 class is Beck, who is eligible this year. I like Dave Matthews Band, but no Beck? He is one of the greatest geniuses of the last 25 years, and his exclusion is further proof that the Hall of Fame is often clueless.
That’s just my two cents. I’ll pass it over to Editor Justin Criado to discuss a few bands that are outside my knowledge base. Take it away, J …
MORE METAL, PLEASE
First off, I look at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a tourist gimmick that gives people something to do whenever they visit Cleveland, Ohio, because what the hell else is there to do in Cleveland, Ohio? Stare at that stinky lake? Anyway, as a metalhead, the hall lost credibility with me many moons ago, as the voters repeatedly refuse to recognize some of alternative music’s most influential acts. Yeah, Black Sabbath, Metallica and the Stooges are in there, but there’s at least a dozen more bands I can think of that haven’t even sniffed a hall nod. This year, at least, Thin Lizzy, Motörhead and Judas Priest may get their long overdue hall calls.
Thin Lizzy, alongside the likes of future Hall of Famers Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, epitomized 1970s hard rock. The boys from Dublin, Ireland, pounded out nine records during the ’70s, including classics like their self-titled debut (1971) and “Jailbreak” (1976). Thin Lizzy is a band you assume is already in the hall. It’s kind of surprising when you realize they’re not, and this year is their first time on the ballot. So let’s raise a whiskey to the late Phil Lynott, one of rock’s greatest bass-playing frontmen.
Speaking of iconic band leaders who wielded a bass, Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister was rock ’n’ roll, and his music and band, Motörhead, is a never-say-die testament to that.
Forming in 1975, the members of Motörhead — Lemmy, drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor and guitatrist “Fast” Eddie Clarke — were the outcasts who couldn’t be properly categorized. Were they dirty punks, heavy metal originators or bikers on too much speed to care? They answer is all of the above. Lemmy, who passed away in 2015, always maintained that Motörhead was a rock ’n’ roll band that liked to play fast and loud, and that’s exactly what they did for 40 years. “Overkill” (1979), “Bomber” (1979) and “Ace of Spades” (1980) make Motörhead worthy of the hall. Those three records motivated countless numbers of disenfranchised youths to pick up an instrument and start a band. Motörhead was that rare band that both punks and metalheads liked, and that’s saying something, given the contentious history between the two subgenres. Born to lose, live to win.
If Motörhead shirked the heavy metal tag, Judas Priest was the first band to fully embrace it, as well as create the leather-clad image that metal is still most associated with. “Sad Wings of Destiny” (1976) is arguably the first heavy metal album, which sparked the New Wave of British Heavy Metal — a movement that included bands like Iron Maiden, Diamond Head and Saxon. The British bands, led by Priest, influenced American kids playing metal, which spawned a new subgenre called thrash metal. The biggest thrash band? A San Francisco Bay area outfit named Metallica.
Yeah, Priest is pretty rad. “Screaming for Vengeance” (1982), “Defenders of the Faith” (1984) and “Painkiller” (1990) will always be required listening for metalheads.
As of press time Wednesday afternoon, Priest was one of the top five vote getters in the hall’s fan poll with 113,000. The top five fan favorites have their votes counted toward the overall tally that’s decided by the 1,000-plus hall voters. We may be marginalized, but we are mighty.
I’m not going to make a prediction about this year’s class because I’m not as well-versed in the other genres that the hall has chosen to honor. But as for other nominees this year, T. Rex should get some consideration for its role in essentially inventing glam rock. Same with MC5 and garage rock. Soundgarden will get in the hall eventually; they’re on the Mount Rushmore of Grunge, alongside Nirvana (Class of 2014), Pearl Jam (Class of 2017) and Alice in Chains (sorry, Melvins). If the hall wants to include industrial rock on its hallowed grounds, start with Ministry, not Nine Inch Nails.
For what it’s worth, it would be nice if Iron Maiden, Slayer, The Pixies, Sonic Youth and The Smiths got some hall love, but, yeah, Dave Matthews first.