Twenty years ago Wednesday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland. This was not the beginning of the concept of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; acts have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1986, but it had no home. Cleveland agreed to foot the bill for an actual, tangible place to keep music history, and made the connection to the Hall because Alan Freed, who coined the term “rock and roll,” worked in the city as a disc jockey.
What the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has really done, more than celebrate music’s biggest legends, though, is give music fans something to complain about. We speak, of course, of snubs. Everybody loves snubs. Everybody has a snub they find particularly egregious. Obviously, this is a subjective, and particularly murky, topic. What truly makes a band or artist Hall worthy? What’s most important? Quality? Impact on music? Longevity? In truth, it will forever be a matter of debate, and that’s probably part of the point.
Let it not be said that we are above this debate, though. Here are 20 of the biggest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame snubs, five each from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Why only those decades? Because you’re not eligible for Hall induction until 25 years from your first release, which means this year’s vote will be the first to include artists from the ‘90s. Artists such as Mariah Carey, Blur, and Teenage Fanclub are becoming eligible for the first time. You’ll have to wait to grouse about any of their snubs.
Patsy Cline (first Album: 1957’s Patsy Cline) – Cline is one of the most prominent voices in country music from the turn of the decade. She first hit it big in 1957 with “Walkin’ After Midnight,” but her huge, lasting legacy is probably tied to the Willie Nelson-written “Crazy.” Unfortunately, she died at the age of 30, which kept her from adding to her already impressive discography, and perhaps is keeping her out of the Hall.
Connie Francis (1958’s Who’s Sorry Now?) – Francis had the traditional career of the ‘50s-‘60s pop star. Her music career turned into an acting career, although her films, such as Where the Boys Are, did not exactly lead to great success (she did get to be in a movie with Frank Gorshin, so that’s a plus). Songs such as “Who’s Sorry Now?” and “Stupid Cupid” remain timeless hits. Many of her contemporaries have been inducted, but Francis remains on the outside looking in. She’s been eligible for 31 years, and has gotten exactly zero nominations.
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (1958’s At Home with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) – Hawkins made his name before he even released an album with his 1956 single “I Put a Spell on You.” It’s a song you’ve heard before, and once you’ve heard it, you remember it, because Hawkins’ voice is one of the most forceful and visceral in rock music history. He was also one of the greatest, most influential showmen of all-time. Hawkins emerged from a coffin onstage, wore garish outfits replete with capes, and had all sorts of macabre props on stage. There may not have been an Alice Cooper or a Marilyn Manson without Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
Carole King (1970’s Writer) – Yes, King’s first full studio album came out in 1970, but her music career started years before that. She released some singles in the ‘50s, and on top of that, she was one of the most successful and in-demand songwriters for the Brill Building alongside Gerry Goffin. Then, she turned back to her recording career, and in 1971, she released Tapestry, an amazing album. That alone should get her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Link Wray (1960’s Link Wray & The Wraymen) – Before releasing his first album, Wray released a couple of singles. One of them was “Rumble.” Rock music basically was shaped in the image of “Rumble.” Distorted guitar, power chords, and the building blocks of punk are in his songs. Wray’s music has not necessarily had staying power, but his impact has been so massive that he deserves recognition.
MC5 (1969’s Kick Out the Jams) – When the Motor City 5 told us it was time to kick out the jams, motherf*ckers, it was something of a turning point in music. Also, it’s a really good song. Their loud, aggressive, driving music has gotten them named as one of the preeminent bands of protopunk. Their output wasn’t as large as other bands of the era – drug problems and prison time saw to that – but their impact, combined with the quality of the music, makes them a good call for induction.
The Monkees (1966’s The Monkees) – The Monkees are one of the most divisive bands when it comes to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in part because some don’t see them as a band at all. Yes, they didn’t really play their own music on their early records. However, if you watch or read anything about music in the ‘60s, you know how much sessions musicians were involved in the actual production of many notable records. What cannot be argued is that The Monkees were a band, and they were one of the most popular bands of their era. Plus, their television show was funny, and that was what was most important when it came to The Monkees. They may not have been virtuoso musicians, but the output of The Monkees is worthy of the Hall.
Dolly Parton (1967’s, Hello, I’m Dolly) – Dolly Parton is a Kennedy Center Honoree, but she is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She’s one of the most recognizable women in music history. She has her own amusement park! C’mon, how much more does she need to do? Isn’t Dollywood enough for you jackals? If not, listen to “Jolene” sometime. That should tip the scales.
The Shangri-Las (1965’s Leader of the Pack) – Of all the girl groups that emerged in the ‘60s, The Shangri-Las were the best. They were the “bad girls” of genre, but they also had some of the most heartfelt, emotionally resonant music of the girl groups. “Leader of the Pack” is one of the most iconic teenage tragedy songs, but “Out on the Streets” is, in its own way, even more impactful. It’s an area of music that deserves recognition, and if anybody should be held up as the luminaries of the girl group sound, it’s The Shangri-Las.
The Zombies (1965’s Being There/The Zombies, depending on if you are British or American) – Our cups overfloweth with British rock bands of the 1960s, and, unfortunately, The Zombies sort of have fallen through the cracks. They were probably the most successful of the psych rock bands of the era, and a few of their singles, such as “Time of the Season” are as well-known as any rock song. Odyssey and Oracle was named the 100th best album of all-time by Rolling Stone, and yet, after 25 years of eligibility, they have only been nominated once.
Cheap Trick (1977’s Cheap Trick) – Every studio album Cheap Trick has released combined can’t hold a candle to Live at Budokan, their classic live album that went platinum three times over. They weren’t necessarily inventive. In fact, Cheap Trick is pretty much the platonic ideal of a ‘70s rock band. However, that’s not a bad thing, especially when you listen to iconic ‘70s rock anthems “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender.” Sometimes, the Hall is about rewarding quality, and not just innovation.
Brian Eno (1974’s Here Come the Warm Jets) – While this is technically about Eno’s impact as an individual, it’s fair to at least consider his work with Roxy Music when it comes to his case as an inductee. That being said, even if you excise that work, he has a worthwhile resume. His work in electronic music has been supremely influential, but on top of that, his work as a producer is worth lauding, as well. Eno’s fingerprints have been all over music for decades, and his exclusion from the Hall is particularly galling.
Iggy Pop (1977’s The Idiot) – Much as with Eno, Pop is known in part for work with a band, in this case, The Stooges. The Stooges were, in fact, inducted in 2010, but Pop deserves to be inducted by himself, as well. He helped set the stage for punk music, his onstage exploits are legendary and infamous. Should a man be rewarded for thrashing around the stage shirtless and covered in his own blood? Perhaps not, but you also don’t need further proof of how much Pop has given to music and his fans. Also, he played a suburban dad on The Adventures of Pete & Pete. That was fun.
Joy Division (1979’s Unknown Pleasures) – Joy Division is one of those bands whose impact and legacy seems to have grown exponentially, perhaps, morbid as it is, because they only released one album before lead singer Ian Curtis killed himself. However, Joy Division is not merely a band people like because of their dark backstory. Their music, while bleak, is also beautiful. It’s equal parts wonderful and heartbreaking. That’s the real reason for the lasting affinity people have for them.
Weird Al Yankovic (1983’s “Weird Al” Yankovic) – Yankovic first made his mark with his 1979 single “My Bologna,” which would eventually feature on his debut album. Unlike most of the musicians on this list, Yankovic is still going strong. In fact, based on the quality of 2014’s Mandatory Fun, he’s arguably as good as ever. He’s the foremost parody musician, and comedy musician, in the history of music. How many people can say they are clearly the most successful artist in their genre? Weird Al can do that.
Hüsker Dü (1983’s Everything Falls Apart) – Hüsker Dü started out as a very fast hardcore band, and they were good. Then, they became a much more melodic band on later records, such as the excellent Candy Apple Grey, and they became great. They released six strong albums in the course of their run, and they influenced iconic ‘90s rock bands such as Nirvana and Pixies. It would probably be impossible to get all three members to show up to accept an induction, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving.
Janet Jackson (1982’s Janet Jackson) – Janet will never be as notable as her brother Michael, but that’s no reason to overlook her own success, which is extensive. She’s one of the most successful female artists of all-time. She had 18-straight top-10 hits, a record for a woman. An artist with as many accreditations to her name as Jackson needs to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, especially because she is about to release new music, a sign that she still has life left in her career.
N.W.A. (1988’s Straight Outta Compton) – Rap and hip-hop are a new sticking point for the Hall, now that several luminary rappers are eligible for induction. N.W.A. may not have been the best rappers, but, as the success of their biopic shows, they are as popular and impactful as any rap group currently eligible. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are two of the bigger names in hip-hop history. They helped turn gangsta rap into a thing. For that influence alone, they need to be voted in.
Pavement (1989’s Slay Tracks EP) – Thanks to their 1989 EP Slay Tracks (1933-1969), Pavement is freshly eligible, and they need to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Why? Because they are the best band in the history of time, that’s why. If the greatest band in the world isn’t going to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, then why bother even having it? As for the less subjective argument, they were at the forefront of slacker indie rock, and influenced a bunch of bands we hear today. However, the main argument remains how awesome they were.
The Replacements (1981’s Sorry, Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash) – Their live shows may have been famously sloppy, but their recorded work simply sounds fantastic. It ran the gamut from low-fi punk to horn-drenched rock, and while people tend to prefer one end of that spectrum or the other, they could make both sides of it work. Paul Westerberg was one of the best, perhaps the best, songwriter of his era. If you are going to honor an ‘80s rock group, it should be The Replacements.