A Considered Look at Every Inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 8

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a place that I find, as an institution, vexing. The actual, physical hall of fame – the pyramidal building on the lake in Cleveland – is pretty cool, but it is spoken and thought of often as an intangible – as a sort of arbitrating body on the worthiness of the body of rock musicians. My thought, for many years upon surveying lists 1 and the like was to think that they have about a fifty percent success rate for getting it anything like right.

But what if it doesn’t? Previously I listened to and considered each of the best-selling albums of all time, and learned that they were considerably more of a mixed bag than I had thought 2So what if the inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are the same sort of deal?

And so it’s time to dive in and take a look at what the nominees and their enshrinement actually are.

Click the links for Part 1,Part 2,  Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7 of this series.

Class of 1998

Eagles

WHO THEY ARE: Our nation’s foremost country-rock ruiners 3, recently re-re-considered.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: The number of records they sold in their unaccountably long career can only be called “staggering”. And, y’know, as it goes, they certainly inspired a bunch of other bands by being technically proficient at and capable of the individual elements of being in a rock band, but never really doing anything to them except putting them together in the most basic, least-interesting way in the pursuit of “smoothness”.

AND…?: I, obviously, am not the dude that wants the Eagles to be enshrined in anything.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Popular and influential they may have been, but they were garbage. So no.

Fleetwood Mac

WHO THEY ARE: Well, they’re also a radio-friendly California band that sucks, but they suck significantly less than The Eagles.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Same reasons, really. Trainloads of records and all that. Fleetwood Mac are also pioneers of being able to sell records on the back of your band having a really interesting gossipy backstory behind it also, which has certainly been influential, although one has to wonder how much of that influence is actually “good”.

AND…?: They’re also having something of a moment right now, with kid bands praising them and web outlets “re-evaluating” them. They have, like, three good songs. I can’t imagine why all of this would be necessary.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Well, they really were tremendously popular and people really do like them, and they aren’t as overtly harmful as The Eagles, so sure.

The Mamas & The Papas

WHO THEY ARE: Entry #3 in the “boring Californians” year, this one also comes with a….erm….colorful back story.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: You’re never going to believe this, but it’s because they made blandly likable music that got extremely popular.

AND…?: I like The Mamas & The Papas more than The Eagles and less than Fleetwood Mac, and obviously thinking about the details of John Phillips as little as possible is good for everyone’s mental health.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: No.

Lloyd Price

WHO HE IS: Mr. Personality, known mostly for being the pioneer of having basically two careers – once as the one-hit wonder behind “Personality,” and once as a sort of ambassador of the New Orleans sound, where his records were much better, but not quite as popular.

WHY HE’S HERE: Uh…he’s an old R&B guy? The New Orleans R&B sound was great, but its impact on rock and roll as such is pretty limited, and he wasn’t Leon Russell 4 or The Meters 5. But, y’know, old R&B guys were a hot HOF commodity in the nineties.

AND…?: His later records are great. I’m not as familiar with his early stuff, but he was a good singer and I’m sure it’s fine.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not really

Santana

WHO THEY ARE: The amorphous set of musicians that coalesce around noted guitar-hotshot Carlos Santana.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They played at Woodstock, for starters. They also did more than anyone else to include “world” musics in their rock and roll schema, building on the Latin music that Carlos Santana had grown up on and welding it, basically, to Jimi Hendrix.

AND…?: I don’t have much of a relationship with Santana’s records, but they were undeniably important and their innovations were certainly very influential.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Gene Vincent

WHO HE IS: A fifties rockabilly guy, behind “Be Bop a Lula” among other things.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was the last of early white rock and roll dudes, and an early rockabilly dude. A double dude!

AND…?: I like Gene Vincent’s records a whole lot, but he was basically the first person to build a career on ripping off Elvis. Someday I’ll make my grand argument about why derivativeness isn’t a sin, and Gene Vincent will be a part of that, but he didn’t do much that was original to him, even if his music was effective anyway.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: As much as it pains me to say it, no.

Jelly Roll Morton

WHO HE IS: He was quite possibly jazz’s first arranger. He was almost certainly the first person to have jazz music published as sheet music.

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, he’s obviously hugely important to…jazz. Which would eventually be important to rock and roll.

AND…?: 1998 was a big year for New Orleans at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Jelly Roll Morton was indeed an early influence on several important New Orleans folk who were then, in turn, important to Rock and Roll. But of course the way this works is that this guy is the early influence and those guys are the performers and Rock and Roll never actually enters into it.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I suppose so, but only by the rules hereby established, where influencing a genre that would influence rock and roll (eventually) counts as influencing directly. It’s tortuous, y’know?

Allen Toussaint

WHO HE IS: Would you believe he’s…a guy from New Orleans? I’m not sure why 1998 was the year they all got in.

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, he wrote a bunch of songs you know, and produced a bunch of other ones.

AND….?: The selection of record producers they’ve selected would, if considered in isolation, give one a supremely weird view of rock-music-based record production, but it’s not like he’s not deserving.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure, why not.

Class of 1999

Billy Joel

WHO HE IS: THE piano man! The very one himself!

WHY HE’S HERE: He wrote a bunch of songs that became hits in a bunch of different subgenres. Two of them are even pretty good.

AND…: He was likable enough to sell squillions of records despite the fact that most of his music is dull as toast. That’s an accomplishment. He was like Elton John without the flair. Or Randy Newman without the…well, without anything that makes Randy Newman 6 great.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: No.

Curtis Mayfield

WHO HE IS: A guy who branched out of The Impressions to become our foremost conscious soul singer for awhile there.

WHY HE’S HERE: “Superfly” was a giant hit, and his socially-active hitmaking created a sort of template for not only R&B singers with a conscience 7, but also provided a huge influence (and set of samples) to backpack rap as well.

AND…?: He was pretty great, and he continued to be great as a performer and recording act even after he got paralyzed by a light rig onstage in 1990.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Paul McCartney

WHO HE IS: The former singer of Wings. He was also in a band in the sixties.

WHY HE’S HERE: The important question wasn’t “will he get in” it was clearly “how long after we induct John Lennon do we let him in”. The answer: four years.

AND…?: He was the least-consistent Beatle always – his high points are unimaginably high, and his low points are unlistenable. But, y’know, he’s got a lot of high points, even as a solo artist.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Del Shannon

WHO HE IS: The “Runaway” himself!

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, Wikipedia tells me he had hits that were not “The Runaway”, so that’s neat. Good job, Del Shannon.

AND…?: I mean, “The Runaway” is an ok song in a sort-of-forgotten kind of way.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I’m going to say no here.

Dusty Springfield

WHO SHE IS: A chanteuse, and an early purveyor of blue-eyed soul.

WHY SHE’S HERE: She had some hits and, in so doing, made a lot of people (i.e. the people that originally performed the songs she had hits with) more famous than they would have been otherwise. She also more-or-less created the space for sad white ladies to sing soul music, which is something.

AND…?: She is cultishly adored by the people that like her. Even now she continues to have a crazy-rabid fanbase. This is always a sign that there is more going on there than I am necessarily grasping, and I’m willing to concede that point.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure.

Bruce Springsteen

WHO HE IS: The Boss!

WHY HE’S HERE: Because he’s one of the most widely-copied dudes in all of rock music. Because he wrote a bunch of great songs on a bunch of great albums. While he has bad albums, he also doesn’t have any disqualified periods of albums – any given album is at least as likely as not to be good work. He assembled one of rock and roll’s greatest big bands 8, and he made his best album without any of them. Dude is a powerhouse.

AND…?: He’s the only absolute dead-nuts slam-dunk candidate other than Paul McCartney in this entire induction class.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Staple Stingers

WHO THEY ARE: Would you believe that they are a group of sisters whose last name is Staples? You should. Mavis is one of them, and has made a bunch of late-career albums here in the last few years that are wonderful.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They were fantastic and had a bunch of hits, and then they decided to be weird as hell. Their willingness to jump out and do more experimental stuff should have been more influential than it was, quite frankly. As it was plenty of people took plenty of things from their records, and they were very successful.

AND…?: Oh, I love the Staple Singers.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys

WHO HE IS: The King of Western Swing. I am always happy when these people have nicknames, so I can use them to fill this line without actually having to do any work, guys. It’s just great.

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, he helped invent Western Swing, which was important to country music which, once again, is not rock and roll, but here we find ourselves anyway.

AND…?: Bob Wills was great. Without Bob Wills we don’t get Buck Owens or Merle Haggard, and that oughta be enough.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Charles Brown

WHO HE IS: Piano blues guy. Not the round-headed son of a barber from Minnesota.

WHY HE’S HERE: Well, his major innovation was “what if the blues….but slower and played on a piano,” which I guess was influential to people who would be into that sort of thing.

AND…?: I have no capacity to evaluate this music because I can’t stand listening to it, but it also has fuck-all to do with rock and roll, and even the tenuous “blues —–> rock and roll” thing that gets most people into the “early influencers” category is pretty well wiped out by the fact that what Charles Brown did was basically take the parts of the blues that would influence rock and roll out of the blues.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: No.

 


  1.  also the centerpiece of the museum itself, for those that have never been there, is a very long video encapsulating each inducted class, with clips of performances by most of them and things like that, and is generally a pretty cool thing to behold. 
  2.  although they did, as you can read here and going back from there, skew toward “pretty bad” 
  3.  in the sense that they did their best to ruin both country and rock. 
  4.  who is not in as a rock and roll performer, but whos status as a piano man was still hugely influential on other rock and roll piano men, and thus belongs here more than Lloyd Price. 
  5.  who are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at all, in a gigantic miscarriage of justice. 
  6.  Randy Newman would not be inducted until 2013, but he would be inducted by Billy Joel, and Billy Joel’s induction speech of Randy Newman is my favorite thing Billy Joel has ever done, supplanting his role in Oliver and Company. 
  7. currently visible in the form of John Legend, Alicia Keys, Alessia Cara, etc. 
  8.  this is obviously not meant in the sense of “big band” music, which is not what he played, but in the sense that the E-Street Band includes basically every resident of New Jersey. 

6 thoughts on “A Considered Look at Every Inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 8

  1. Pingback: A Considered Look at Every Inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 9 | Ohio Needs a Train

  2. Pingback: A Considered Look at Every Inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 10 | Ohio Needs a Train

  3. Pingback: A Considered Look at Every Inductee Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 11 | Ohio Needs a Train

  4. Pingback: A Considered Look at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 12 | Ohio Needs a Train

  5. Pingback: A Considered Look at Every Inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 13 | Ohio Needs a Train

  6. Pingback: A Considered Look at Every Inductee Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 14 | Ohio Needs a Train

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