On Monday, December 17, 2013, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the acts for the 2014 Hall of Fame Class. Every year at this time, rock and roll fans either rejoice, or cringe when the controversial institution makes its announcement of which musical acts will be inducted. Every year, fans either praise or berate the Hall for putting in or snubbing this act or that act. I too, have written several blogs about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and my love/hate relationship (so to speak) with it.
After all, music is very subjective as it is, and a lot of politics is played as to who gets in, so it is understandable that many rock fans and many in the press are not all on board with how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chooses their inductees. Then again, when it’s backed by “Rolling Stone,” the same magazine that referred to Led Zeppelin’s debut album as a “limp blimp,” it is quite understandable that the Hall and it’s backers and voters are under fire at times.
I am going to discuss each inductee briefly, and then give my musical opinion, as a former musician, as to whether the Hall got it right, or got it wrong, and why. As there are artists who are being inducted as “Performers,” and others who are being inducted by receiving awards, I have decided to do my critique by putting the performers all together, and the award winners all together.
The following artists who will be inducted as PERFORMERS are:
The band KISS are known for their hard rocking sound and incredible concerts. The 70’s legends are also famous for their makeup, and costumes. Originally founded in 1972-73 by bassist Gene Simmons, rhythm guitarist/lead vocals Paul Stanley, lead guitarist Ace Frehley, and drummer Peter Criss. Managed in the 1970’s and early 1980’s by Bill Aucoin, the band would tour as support acts for artists like Blue Oyster Cult.
Wearing their trademark makeup, Gene would be the “Demon.” Paul would be the “Starchild.” Peter would be the “Catman.” Ace would be the “Spaceman.” The makeup and costumes were to be extensions of the personalities of the person wearing them. Even though their first three studio albums (“KISS,” “Hotter Than Hell,” and “Dressed to Kill”) didn’t sell, KISS were awesome as a live act. So awesome, they’d blow their headliners off the stage with their wild stage show.
Gene’s “Demon” would spit blood, and breath fire. Peter Criss would be this “Cat,” who played a powerful drum technique. Ace would not only play his classic riffs, which turned him into a guitar legend, and a huge influence, but he would burn the guitar. When KISS became huge, he’d shoot rockets out of the guitar. Paul, the “StarChild,” or the “Lover,” would just ooze sex appeal, and command the center stage with his awesome vocals, and his excellent stage presence. KISS became household names with the album, “ALIVE,” which was a souvenir of their live shows, and even saved their record company, “Casablanca.”
In the mid to late 70’s KISS became the “Hottest Band in the World.” Later, substance issues caused Ace and Peter to depart. In the 1980’s KISS eventually removed their makeup, and had success with various lineups. In the mid 90’s, KISS reunited for a very successful Reunion Tour. In the 2000’s due to contract, personal, and substance issues, Ace and Peter were out,.The band currently performs, with Tommy Thayer now playing as the “Spaceman,” and drummer Eric Singer plays as the “Catman.”
As of this writing, it is my understanding that it will be the ORIGINAL LINEUP (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss) that is going to be inducted. I am sure I will be writing more blogs, as more information comes in about the Ceremony, so if anything changes, I will let my readers know.
My Musical Opinion: Finally, the Hall of Fame got it right. KISS, whether you like their music, or not, should have been in the Hall a long time ago. I don’t know why it took so long, but I am glad it finally happened.
Full disclosure, KISS is my all time favorite band.
That being said, I have heard all the arguments against them being inducted, and none of them make sense. I don’t know if it was the fact that KISS is celebrating their 40th Anniversary of having a great career (including the highs and lows) their own way, that finally got the voters to admit them, but I am very happy my personal heroes are in.
I am particularly happy to see Ace Frehley, my favorite member, and one of my all time favorite guitarist get in. Say what you want about Ace Frehley, but the man is one of the most influential rock guitarists. Guys like Hall of Famer Slash call Ace an influence. Ace has had his ups and downs. However, I am so proud to see one of the great guitar influences get recognized. He earned it, and deserves it.
Known for his musical and personal journey that lead him to change his name to Yusuf Islam and convert to Islam, Cat Stevens is a huge center piece of the singer-songwriter movement. He is known for such classics as “The First Cut Is The Deepest,” and “Morning Has Broken.” His music is known for being very introspective, and full of hope. There was a lot of controversy when Stevens did change his name, and converted to Islam. Fans had thought that his new religion was the reason he left the business. Stevens said of his conversion to Islam that he was looking for a “spiritual path,” that could be found in his music.
My Music Opinion: Musically, I get why Stevens is in. The singer-songwriter movement has a huge influence on the rock and roll genre. There are greats, such as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Gordon Lightfoot, to name a few. These artists have had a huge influence on rock music with their storytelling. Stevens’ music has been performed by many artists, such as Rod Stewart (“The First Cut Is The Deepest”). His music has influenced artists such as Taylor , also. Undoubtedly, I would put Stevens in. The Hall got it right.
If you want to talk about a band that virtually jump started a movement, look no further than Washington State’s own Nirvana. Led by now deceased guitarist and lead vocalist Kurt Cobain, Nirvana started an entire new music genre called “grunge.” Cobain would sing vocals, and play guitar. David Grohl (Foo Fighters) was the drummer (replacing Chad Channing). Krist Novoselic, who founded the band with Cobain, played bass. With their rebellious anthem, “Smells Like Teen Spirt,” and their two smash albums, “Nevermind,” and “In Utero,” Nirvana ushered in a new genre called grunge. Bands like Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, and others were able to breakthrough with their grunge sound, and become mainstream stars.
Nirvana was a big catalyst for this new movement. These alternative/grunge bands dressed in flannel. They didn’t conform to the Reagan/Bush era of conservatism, and rebelled against it. More importantly, the hair bands, such Cinderella, Poison, and the like were pretty much wiped out. Once Nirvana, and other such bands got popular, “hair bands” went “Poof.” Going on the MTV “Unplugged” series solidified their credibility as stars. Sadly, in April of 1994, Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Cobain was dealing with substance abuse, and was having problems with dealing with fame. He was 27 years old.
My Musical Opinion: This band, without a doubt, belongs in the Hall of Fame. Nirvana spearheaded an entire new movement of music. Nirvana virtually made a whole genre (hair bands) disappear overnight. Bands like Pearl Jam, Alice and Chains, Alter Bridge have made it in the mainstream thanks to Nirvana taking that first step. Drummer David Grohl (Foo Fighters) is an awesome drummer in his own right. The Hall definitely got this one right.
Daryl Hall & John Oates
This duo formed in Philadelphia, PA. Daryl Hall & John Oates, known as Hall & Oates are known for their signature sound which combined soul, rock, and pop. Hall and Oates are known for their singles, “Sara Smile,” “Private Eyes, ” “Kiss On My List,” “Family Man,” and others. The due has amazing vocal harmonies, when combined with the Philadelphia Soul, creates an amazing combination. Their hits would top the pop and R & B charts. The duo’s music had an ability to cross over, which helped artists like Prince.
My Musical Opinion: Even though I understand why Hall & Oates are inductees, and I totally get it, I am sitting on the fence. When I hear Hall & Oates, I just think “80’s pop.” That is just my personal association. Of course, the duo did have songs like “She’s Gone,” which is a great, soulful song. I am going to say the Hall likely got this one right. I just personally am not a huge fan of the pick.
Linda Ronstadt was a powerhouse singer, especially in the genre of country rock. She particularly was talented in knowing how to sing country, and cross over into that genre. Rondstadt would sing songs by early rockers like Buddy Holly, and moved on to guys like Roy Orbison. This songstress would sing in Spanish as well. Some of her great albums are “Heart Like A Wheel,” “Simple Dreams,” and “Hasten Down the Wind.” Rondstadt’s contribution to rock is her diversity of different styles. She is now suffering from Parkinson’s, and can no longer sing.
My Musical Opinion: Rondstadt’s diversity had impact on rock music. When she sang songs written by others, she had such an awesome voice, that she was able to make that song hers. She won Grammies in multiple categories. I get that. I think she was an awesome singer, and in my opinion, rock music is not monolithic. That being said, this pick for the Hall is a head scratcher. She sold a ton of records, but I am just not sold on this pick, as there were better choices to pick from the Nominee field.
Formerly the lead singer for Genesis, Peter Gabriel’s known for using synthesizers, and gated drums, and combined it with soul to produce a new sound during the 80’s. He had a huge run of hits, accompanied by progressive videos, such as “In Your Eyes,” “Shock the Monkey,” and “Sledge Hammer.” Gabriel is known for his WOMAD Festival, which can be described as a way to mix up different styles of music. “Bilko,” a song protesting Apartheid, by Gabriel, lead the “Artists Against Apartheid” movement.
My Musical Opinion: Peter Gabriel shows his impact on the rock genre. He shows that rock music can be expanded beyond the typical three chords, and beyond the “sex and drugs” that are typically associated with the genre. He shows that rock music can do a lot more, and be more. Peter Gabriel also continues the tradition of rock music being used as protest music. I definitely think the Hall picked the right artist here.
This ends my analysis of the performers who got in. It is a rather eclectic group. However, I would have put the great band, Deep Purple in the Hall of Fame, instead of Linda Ronstadt. Who could forget “Smoke on the Water?” The band should get in the Hall based on that song alone. Purple had great albums, like “Perfect Strangers,” and others too. The band had awesome musicians, such as the late keyboardist, Jon Lord, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, and so many others, through it’s 40 year history.
The rest of the nominees were YES, Chic, NWA, and a couple of others. Chic was co-founded by Nile Rodgers, who is an amazing musician and producer in his own right, outside of Chic. Rodgers should get into the Hall, even though Chic is a disco artist. Disco has influenced rock, which is the logic behind ABBA’s induction. If you don’t believe me, look up “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” by KISS. Many bands, including the Stones, (“Miss You”) did a disco song. YES (WWE’s Daniel Bryan would love the band’s name with his “YES. YES YES” chant.) would have also been a good choice also. NWA, much like their Hall of Fame rap counterparts RUN DMC, Public Enemy, have influenced rock (see Anthrax). They’re not my cup of tea personally.
Now, I will analyze the Inductees who are being honored with Special Awards.
The 2014 Hall of Fame Inductees being honored for Special Awards are:
The E Street Band: The Award for Musical Excellence
When I first saw that this band was inducted, I was scratching my head. After all, most people know that the E Street Band is Bruce Springsteen’s backing band, so why are they getting their own induction? Well, I’ve been doing some research, and I am just blown away. Yes, I know they are amazing musicians. To work with a legend like Bruce Springsteen, they’d have to be awesome. My favorite member was the late, great Clarence Clemons. That man could play sax like nobody’s business.
That being said, I didn’t realize that they worked with so many other artists. They worked with the likes of Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Meatloaf (“Bat Out of Hell”), Sting, Ian Hunter, and the list goes on. Steven Van Zandt (a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominating Committee) is an awesome musician on guitar and backing vocals. What else is there to say about the late Clarence Clemons? Not only was he a great player, he also had a great stage presence. He and Springsteen worked great together in concert.
My Musical Opinion: Producers, and others have gotten this honor. This back up band is definitely exceptional, and deserve the honor. These musicians have had a fantastic career in being involved with so many great musicians. This was a great pick by the Hall.
Andrew Loog Oldham: Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement
If any group of fans are happy, it has to be fans of the Rolling Stones. Andrew Loo Oldham is well known for producing the Stones, and strongly encouraging Sir Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards to come up with original music. Oldham also was the architect for the band’s bad boy image. The image was the band’s calling card, but at the same time it did become a bit of an albatross. Oldham managed the band from 1963 till 1967.
Oldham was raised by a pretty eccentric mother, after his father died in WWII a few months before Oldham was born. Oldham was attracted to music and film. He eventually started working publicity for a producer named Joe Meek. He also worked for Brian Epstein’s NEMS stable of artists (the Beatles included). Around the same time, Oldham got wind of another band that was making waves. That was the Rolling Stones, and the rest is history.
My Musical Opinion: Oldham was awesome. What else is there to say? He also had his own label which featured the Faces/Small Faces, which featured a guy name Rod Stewart (another Rock and Roll Hall of Famer). The man’s a genius.
Brian Epstein: Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement
The man, who’s been called by many (even Paul McCartney agreed), “the fifth Beatle,” Brian Epstein is being honored at the Hall of Fame. He is known famously for managing the group from 1962 to 1967. Born in 1934, in Liverpool, Epstein worked at his parents’ NEMS music store. The store became so successful, that it turned into a place for folks to listen to up and coming pop music. It was at this place where Epstein found out about a quartet named the Beatles.
My Musical Opinion: As a rock fan whose been introduced to the genre by the way of “Meet the Beatles,” I am beyond thrilled. I think Brian Epstein should have gotten into the Hall a very long time ago. I thought he was in already. Anyway, this pick was a home run by the Hall.
Well, I hope my readers enjoyed this column. I am looking forward to the feedback. Thanks for reading.
Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan
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