Monday, January 9, 2012

When the fifteen nominees for this year’s class were announced, I proceeded to rank those fifteen nominees in as objective a fashion as possible.  While I expected a lot of criticism for my rankings, the feedback was actually pretty encouraging, as most applauded my objective take.  Now, I try to take on a bigger task.  This time, I intend to rank all the past nominees who have yet to be inducted.  To date, there are thirty-five nominees who have not been inducted.  I am not including the five nominees who were later inducted in other categories (including this year’s Early Influence, Freddie King).  As I did last time, I tried once again to give innovation, influence, and impact (including commercial success) as equal footing as possible; I also tried to show no favoritism towards any particular genre or sub-genre of rock ‘n’ roll, meaning punk, doo-wop, hip-hop—all for the most part treated as equally (there was some discounting of country) as possible.  Remember, these are acts that have actually been nominated.  Not ones that should have, and this isn't a list of biggest snubs. 

The number rankings aren’t completely hard and set.  It’s more of a general area of where I place them.  Give or take about three places, or so.  Parenthetical numbers are the number of nominations so far.  Enough with the jibber-jabber.  Time to give you all something to complain about.

35. Conway Twitty (1):  He was a teen idol in his early days and a country superstar later on, neither of which tend to bode that well with getting an act inducted.  Additionally, not much influence.

34. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts (1): Despite the resounding party rock anthem of “I Love Rock ‘N Roll”, she has very little to her credit that goes beyond her mere riot girl image

33. Steve Winwood (1):  As a reminder, we’re only talking about his solo career, which has some cool breeze kinds of songs, but didn’t really break any new ground. 

32. Cat Stevens (1):  As far as singer/songwriters of the ‘70s go, his hardness of rocking places him somewhere between Gordon Lightfoot and Don McLean, with lyrics that were occasionally the wrong (read: TMI) kind of “personal.”

31. Randy Newman (1):  His greatest asset, his turn-of-phrase cleverness, is also his greatest liability.  He makes well-crafted songs that tend to come off as novelty.  He has a certain amount of influence, but it’s mostly of bourgeois appeal and doesn’t travel as far as it should.

30. Esther Phillips (2):  Her pre-‘60s (and arguably pre-rock era) hits were almost exclusively as the chanteuse for whatever name Johnny Otis’s band went by on any given record, and so inducting her as a soloist based on those is not entirely fitting.  Her ‘60s-and-later hits were sporadic and primarily covers, which doesn’t garner much accolades.

29. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1):  Despite a small handful of classics, even the fact that his band was interracial didn’t really fuel a blues revival during the height of the British Invasion.  Call it bad timing: had he broken out in the early ‘80s before his death in 1987, he could have had a good run of hits on the newly created “Top [[Album] Rock] Tracks” chart, a chart that helped spread the name, music, and reputation of another great blues revival outfit: Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble.

28. Johnny Ace (2):  A promising career cut short by folly.  Still, he had some good accomplishments as an R&B singer leading up to that.

27. The Sir Douglas Quintet (1):  They were innovative and influential in helping to create a new sub-genre; however, Tex-Mex is still a pretty niche style of music, and not all that pertinent to represent in the Hall Of Fame.

26. Gram Parsons (3):  Another powerful one-two combo of innovation and influence; however, alt-country pioneering really merits induction into the Country Music Hall Of Fame, not the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, however strongly alt-country and its pioneers are linked to the folk-rock and the ever-changing music scenes of the late-‘60’s. 

25. The Chantels (2):  Broke out at the same time as the Shirelles, but never reached the same heights.  Still, “Maybe” and “Look In My Eyes” are excellent records and foundational to the girl group sound.

24. The Meters (1): Moderately influential in the realms of funk and soul, but not a lot of name recognition, and the songs are only somewhat well known.

23. Rufus with Chaka Khan (1): They had a solid string of R&B hits, dispersed intermittently with Chaka’s solo career, but as a group, the Pop crossover was not so immense, and they ended up standing in the shadows of bigger acts of the time.

22. Mary Wells (2):  Despite an enviable run of both R&B and Pop chart success, her chief accomplishment was really done by the Marvelettes first, even if it was on “Tamla” rather than the titular mother company “Motown.”  However, she also did help bring a Latin flavor to the R&B scene, which is something in itself, as many danceable rap songs nowadays are danceable because they’re infused with danceable Latin rhythmic schemes. 

21. The “5” Royales (2):  With an impressive string of six Top Ten R&B chart hits in the early-to-mid-‘50s, this vocal R&B group would make a fine representative of doo-wop.

20. Chuck Willis (6): Another career cut way too short, his legacy as the “Stroll King” or “Sheik Of The Blues” culminates nicely to get him six nominations so far.  The man who helped bring dancing to rock ‘n’ roll music, he’d be undisputed royalty if he’d lived and recorded through the ‘50s.

19. The J. Geils Band (3): Solid blues-influenced rock ‘n’ roll band with a solid run of hits and classics, but not regarded as being all that influential or innovative, and some even claim cronyism for their three nominations to date.

18. Afrika Bambaataa (1): Recognized as one of the founding fathers of hip-hop, but having never gotten big beyond the New York scene, and without the Soul Sonic Force as part of his nomination, he doesn’t merit any higher on the list.

17. Joe Tex (4): An impressive string of R&B and Pop chart hits, and considered by some to help influence rap’s style of vocal delivery, but he wasn’t the only one doing that (see also: Johnnie Taylor), and a lot of his songs are variations on the same theme.

16. The New York Dolls (1): Surprisingly influential in both the worlds of punk and of glam.  No real chart success, and arrived a few years after a couple of the other proto-punk acts.

15. Lou Reed (2): Probably unpopular call to put him this low, but the “godfather of punk” is too closely tied to his former group to earn his solo career the serious individual merit it may or may not deserve.  Plus, limited commercial success.  Still, he’s in the upper half of this list.

14. War (2): Funky Latin rock music.  They crossed a lot of barriers with memorable songs, despite not being very innovative.

13. Bon Jovi (1): Though not hugely innovative, they are a household name with a huge amount of commercial success and arguably epitomize an entire decade or generation.

12. Chic (6): “Good Times” is an extremely important record, plus their musical proficiency and production wizardry, it stands to reason that they’re going to get in eventually.

11. Heart (1): A powerhouse rock act whose songs have had staying power, and successfully spanned two somewhat different mini-epochs in rock ‘n’ roll history.

10. Eric B. And Rakim (1): Extremely well-crafted and flawlessly executed hip-hop music that took it to new levels, bridging two ages of hip-hop.

9. The MC5 (1): The proto-punk act that pioneered distortion as a musical gimmick, and helped influence a lot of bands, plus the title alone of their only hit, “Kick Out The Jams” seems to sum up the movement they helped create..

8. Ben E. King (3): Another solo artist that had some trouble distinguishing himself from his former group, this man had more commercial success than Reed, plus two songs that are absolute milestones of 60’s R&B, one of which contains the arguably most important and famous bass line in all of rock ‘n’ roll.

7. The Spinners (1): Among the groups that facilitated the transition from smooth soul to disco and beyond, they were one of the best.  A long string of R&B and Pop hits make them an eventuality now that they’ve finally been nominated.

6. The Dominoes (1): A full dozen Top 10 R&B hits in the formative days of rock ‘n’ roll, managing to cross over twice to the mainstream audience despite the for-the-time raunchy nature of “Sixty-Minute Man”, helped knock down the racial barriers, a seminal group of the pre-Elvis rock ‘n’ roll years.

5. Donna Summer (4): The Queen Of Disco helped influence a future generation of R&B and dance music stars, plus a superstar of the Pop, R&B and disco scene in her own right.

4. Kraftwerk (1): A Krautrock act that evolved greatly and is basically responsible for electronica music becoming what it is today.

3. The Cure (1): They’re the group that struck the alternative scene in its epicenter and sent it spiraling in many different directions.  A fair amount of commercial success to go with it, too.

2. LL Cool J (2): One of rap’s first superstars, not only did he help rap transition from an outfit form to a solo MC’s game, he also helped segue R&B into its smoother form during the mid-‘90s.  Much of mainstream pop music today is still built somewhat upon plans he helped lay.

1. KISS (1): While Nirvana may have ended KISS’s reign of influence (or maybe not), those years were an incredibly fruitful era, with many young guitarists influenced by KISS.  Their commercial success is extensive though seldom ever top of the heap.  Nonetheless, they’re cultural icons transcending more than just their genre, they transcended their industry.

So there you go, the thirty-five nominated-but-not-in acts.  It’s not definitive, but it’s an attempt.  Feel free to tear it apart.

P.S.  Welcome to 2012.


  1. good list, but I still believe Kraftwerk is number 1 biggest snub ever.

  2. Like I said, it's pretty fluid. Picking some of the spots with some of the candidates got pretty difficult. I tried to give the Eurocentric viewpoint due perspective, and that's a lot of what got Kraftwerk as high up as it is. Like I said, though. +/- 3 spots for the spread. Glad you liked it.

  3. LL Cool J - hurt by his acting career

    Randy Newman - hurt by his Movie scores, but most of his 70's work, and even recent stuff is great

    Gram Parsons - hurt by only 2 solo records. But those 2 were highly influential works. Add his Byrds + Burritos (maybe they should be nominated) work and and it's a big snub. But I expect he'll get nominated again.

    I love Doug Sahm, but, well, like you said, Tex-Mex isn't exactly known for its wide appeal among the voters.

    Love Conway, too, but he's rightly in the Country Hall. His Rock Nom has to be the biggest head-scratcher amongst all these.

    Lots of those 50's R&B names, are sadly becoming a distant memory to the voting bloc.

  4. I would never tear this apart. A well thought out ranking that is hard to argue with. In my mind more than anything it says that the Hall needs to look in other directions for their nominees. IMO only 4 of the above truly are deserving: KISS, Kraftwerk, The Cure, and The Spinners.

  5. All these years later, I wonder if LL Cool J would be in first now, or if Conway Twitty would still be in last.

    1. You know, it probably should be updated every five years or so, and we're now on 6 years. By the time we finish the Songs Of Proof trek, it'll be time for the nominees for next year to come out, or thereabouts, so probably something I should look into doing in early '19.