Each year, around this time, rock fans get to wring their hands over artists who are overlooked by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Byzantine logic that drives member-selection remains one of life’s great mysteries, but it’s a safe bet that industry politics plays a prime role. Not only are worthy artists absent, but artists who figured prominently in the careers of inducted bands have sometimes been neglected as well. Bob Welch, for instance, played a central role in Fleetwood Mac’s transition toward a more commercially viable pop-rock sound, and yet the Hall ignored Welch completely when Fleetwood Mac was inducted. In conjunction with this week’s announcement of the 2009 nominees, below are 10 artists whose absence from the Hall is indefensible.
The fact that AC/DC and Aerosmith are in the Hall, but the original Alice Cooper Group is not, is mind-boggling. From 1971 through 1973, the Alice Cooper Group unleashed four albums that shaped the rock landscape for years to come. Artists as diverse as ZZ Top and Kiss have cited Cooper as an influence. More importantly, “School’s Out,” “I’m Eighteen” and “Elected” have gone on to become American rock classics.
Comparable inductees: AC/DC, Aerosmith
Sure, the Velvet Underground is in the Hall, but what about solo Lou Reed? For two decades, from 1970 through 1989, Reed delivered classic albums on a regular basis. Transformer (1972), The Blue Mask (1982), and New York (1989) are masterpieces, each testifying to the power of the classic rock format of two guitars, bass, and drums. No less an artist than Pete Townshend once hailed Reed as rock’s equivalent of Charles Bukowski, only better.
Comparable inductees: Leonard Cohen, Dion
The Guess Who
With the exception of Creedence Clearwater Revival (and possibly the Doors), no band of the late ’60s and early ’70s released as many quality singles as the Guess Who. The band’s early hits ? “Undun,” “No Time” and “American Woman,” among others ? were notable for the innovative guitarwork of Randy Bachman, whose six-string style had a profound impact on fellow Winnipeg native Neil Young. Singer Burton Cummings often came off as a less gloomy version of Jim Morrison ? an altogether good thing.
Comparable Inductees: Lovin’ Spoonful, Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Say what you will about Todd Rundgren’s work in recent years; on the basis of his ’70s work alone, the man is worthy of induction. Rundgren’s 1972 opus, Something/Anything?, remains the greatest one-man-band effort in rock history, while the more adventurous A Wizard, A True Star and Todd adhere to just a slightly lesser standard. Add to those recordings an array of production credits that includes albums by Patti Smith, the New York Dolls and the Tubes, and it’s unfathomable that Rundgren has been neglected by the Hall.
Comparable inductees: Frank Zappa, Carole King
Notwithstanding the myriad personnel changes, Yes has been the standard-bearer for prog rock for 40 years. Even relatively recent albums ? such as 2001’s Magnification ? have pushed the genre forward. Quite rightly, the band is most deserving for the pioneering albums The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close to the Edge. Of its many members, those who should stand at the Hall podium are Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Alan White, Bill Bruford and Trevor Rabin.
Comparable inductees: Jefferson Airplane, Traffic.
Few bands have blended fabulous songwriting, a rousing stage show, and dazzling musicianship as effectively as Cheap Trick. Over the course of 35 years, the band has created some of the most infectious guitar-pop ever committed to vinyl. “Hello There,” “Surrender,” and “I Want You to Want Me” are classics of the idiom.
Comparable inductees: Blondie, Talking Heads
In the ’70s, T.Rex’s music was regarded as too “bubble-gum-y” for American tastes. But don't tell that to such songwriting greats as Alejandro Escovedo and Paul Westerberg, both of whom have cited T.Rex frontman Marc Bolan as a primary influence. At the time of his death in 1977, Bolan had amassed a body of work that’s inspired each successive generation of pop-rock artists.
Comparable inductees: Ramones, Blondie
If Black Sabbath warrants induction, then certainly these groundbreaking heavy metallists deserve as place in the Hall as well. With its “Mach II” lineup (Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover, Ian Paice and Jon Lord), the band recorded a series of classic albums that remain templates for bands who aspire toward technically sophisticated guitar rock. “Smoke on the Water,” “Space Truckin’” and “My Woman from Tokyo” are branded onto the classic-rock lexicon.
Comparable inductees: Black Sabbath, Cream
Sure, the Stooges may squeak into the Hall this year, but the band’s iconic frontman deserves the honor in his own right. As a solo artist, the ageless wonder has shown remarkable consistency over the course of 20-plus albums. To gauge his impact, count the number of Iggy songs recorded by David Bowie (“China Girl,” “Tonight,” “Neighborhood Threat,” etc.).
Comparable inductees: Patti Smith, Elvis Costello & the Attractions
What the Velvet Underground was to the ’60s, the Replacements were to the ’80s. Consigned to the backwaters of commercial success, the Minneapolis-based band nonetheless laid the groundwork for the alternative-rock explosion that took hold with Nirvana. Buoyed by his raggedly empathetic ’mates, frontman Paul Westerberg wrote brilliant songs that have since been covered by everyone from Kelly Willis to Shawn Colvin to Glen Campbell.
Comparable inductees: Velvet Underground, The Pretenders