A Considered Look at Every Inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Part 13

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 2. So 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 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, and Part 12 of this series.

2008

 

The Dave Clark Five

WHO THEY ARE: A British Invasion that had, somehow, gone heretofore uninducted. 

WHY THEY’RE HERE: I think the better question is why were Herman’s Hermits left out? They were at least funny.

AND…?: I don’t actually have an opinion on the Dave Clark Five. I like their suits. Good look, that. I wish more people did stuff like it. That’s about it.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: No. Heck of a start we’re off to, here. 

Leonard Cohen

WHO HE IS: Canada’s finest songwriter not named “Young”. 

 

WHY HE’S HERE: He wrote a tonne of great songs, and although none of them were giant hits, at least one of them (“Hallelujah”) went on to great, soaring heights of popularity 3, and he pretty well established a sort of alternate-model depressive-singer-songwriter that proved to be enormously influential. He was also a Scientologist and I assume they bribed somebody or whatever. 

AND…: Oh, I love Leonard Cohen, or at least I love the Leonard Cohen that I love.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure

Madonna

WHO SHE IS: Oh come on, you all know who Madonna is. She was the subject of the second-highest-traffic post on this site before I changed hosts.

WHY SHE’S HERE: Because, no matter how much I think it’s a travesty of human belief, people seem to believe she’s worth vaunting.

AND…?: I hate Madonna’s music so much. Maybe on aggregate more than anyone else’s taken in purely musical terms 4

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: No

John Mellencamp

WHO HE IS: A dude from Indiana who (according to legend) used to get really upset about not getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 5

WHY HE’S HERE: Of all the not-Bruce Springsteens the world has produced, he’s one of the not-Bruce Springsteeniest, and has therefore sold a boatload of records and was willing to play ball to an absurd degree with the Powers That Used to Sell Records. So it was probably inevitable, even though I can’t imagine who would listen to his music and be in any way inspired. 

AND…?: It’s not bad, as such. I don’t know that I’ve ever bothered to quantify an opinion about John Mellencamp. I don’t actively like any of it, but it doesn’t send me from the room screaming. I liked that Van Morrison cover he did with Meshell Ndege’ocello

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: No

The Ventures

WHO THEY ARE: One of precious few instrumental bands in the HOF, and one of the first instrumental rock and roll bands full stop.

 

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They were hugely influential in ways that aren’t usually celebrated here – they used effects heavily, based their albums around concepts, and folded a bunch of different ways of playing into their music before any of those things was commonplace. They managed ot be weird as hell and still have a couple of giant hits 6. Good job, guys.

AND…?: I like the Ventures a lot, and given that a significant percentage of my music-listening free time is spent on instrumental rock music, I probably owe them some literal money or something.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes 

Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff

WHO THEY ARE: They’re the dudes that created the Philly sound.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: When you think of, say, “Me and Mrs. Jones” or “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” or “Love Train,” you’re thinking of the sounds they made in the studio. Hell of a legacy, that, and that’s leaving aside the many, many other songs they made sound awesome.

AND…?: Philly soul is like, the third or fourth best kind of soul 7. I’m happy to see them here.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Absolutely

Little Walter

WHO HE IS: There have been other people inducted who played the harmonica, certainly, but he’s the first guy to get inducted specifically for playing the harmonica.

WHY HE’S HERE: He played the hell out of that harmonica.

AND…?: I mean, he’s inducted as a sideman for playing the harmonica. I dunno, seems legit I guess.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure

2009

Jeff Beck

WHO HE IS: Guitar dude. He was in the Yardbirds. 

WHY HE’S HERE: He’s the guitar dude’s guitar dude. He was as mechanically talented as anyone has ever been. The fact that most of his records are awful and that he hasn’t been in a band people actually listen to for many decades appears not to matter much in this case. Guitar dude. But a bunch of people really do get super into what he does, so it would be impossible to claim he wasn’t pretty influential on a lot of the stuff that got in.

AND…?: There’s good Jeff Beck out there, and the stuff that’s good I like quite a lot, but I haven’t listened to any of it in forever, and there really isn’t that much of it. He’s got a real bad signal-to-noise ratio. 

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: I guess. He’s a heck of a guitar player. 

Little Anthony and the Imperials

WHO THEY ARE: A doo-wop group.

WHY THEY’RE HERE: So, this isn’t specifically about Little Anthony and the Imperials, but this is as good a place as any to say it. As these go on, it becomes apparent that the “big ones” have already gotten in at this point, and the voting-in body hasn’t turned over 8 enough to allow for actually-interesting stuff to be here. There are some good choices in 2009, but really this is about clearing the remaining old-timey doo-wop dudes out, and getting them in there. Whatever Little Anthony and the Imperials may have done, this isn’t about them, this is about a weird sort of past-worshipping completism that, ultimately, is what drags down all endeavors such as this one.

AND…?: They’re fine. I quite like “Tears on My Pillow” and “Take Me Back,” such as it is.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not really

Metallica

WHO THEY ARE: 

WHY THEY’RE HERE: They are the most popular heavy metal band in history, and while heavy metal is never going to have a particularly smooth relationship with the HOF, it’s pretty undeniable that they belong there. They made great records, they sold a bunch of records 9, they’re still out there doing whatever they do for their own reasons. Pretty easy shot, honestly. 

AND…?: Some of it is genuinely terrific music, and has enriched my life immeasurably.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes

Run-DMC

WHO THEY ARE: Early-ish rappers. 

WHY THEY’RE HERE: Well, they were revolutionary to the form of hip-hop, certainly. And there were guitars on their records, so they have more to do with rock music than most other rappers. That’s something. I mean, they’re legends of their idiom, and nigh-universally beloved, and made a bunch of people want to do exactly what they were doing, so in that sense they’re here for the same reasons as a bunch of other people, they just didn’t make rock music.

AND…?: They’re fine. I think I’m on the record at this point as not really being a Run-DMC fan, but I get it, and I like some of it well enough. 

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure

Bobby Womack

WHO HE IS: Cleveland’s own! A hometown boy! I could have sworn he had, like, an official nickname but he does not appear to!

WHY HE’S HERE: I could’ve done the thing I did above about Little Anthony down here, but I like Bobby Womack more and he’s from Cleveland, so I’m basically just jazzed about that instead. He sang a bunch of hits, he was good at it, etc. The usual reasons. 

AND…?: He’s very good, I like his songs. Don’t know if he belongs in a Hall of Fame, but he’s good enough.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Not really

Wanda Jackson

WHO SHE IS: A recently-retired early rock and roller, notably one of the first women to be one of those.

WHY SHE’S HERE: Well, she’s in the early influencers category despite recording in the same time frame as a whole bunch of people who are inducted as performers, so she’s here for all the right reasons (she was awesome, made great music that influenced thousands, the usual), but she’s in the wrong category, and it’s real fuckin’ hard not to think that’s because she’s a woman who was largely-ignored for several decades following her period of most-frequent activity.

AND…?: Wanda Jackson is great and should be inducted as a performer.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Yes, but in the wrong category. It’s embarrassing it took them this long, also. 

Bill Black

WHO HE IS: One of the last three people (as of 2019) to be inducted as a sideman. He was Elvis’s bass player.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was Elvis’s bass player.

AND…?: He played the bass on Elvis songs. He did that pretty well, and they are pretty good. Seems pretty open and shut.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure

DJ Fontana

WHO HE IS: One of the last three people (as of 2019) to be inducted as a sideman. He was Elvis’s drummer.

WHY HE’S HERE: He was Elvis’s drummer.

AND…?: He played drums on Elvis songs. He did that pretty well, and they are pretty good. Seems pretty open and shut.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: Sure

Spooner Oldham

WHO HE IS: One of the last three people (as of 2019) to be inducted as a sideman. He played the organ for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, which is what got him in.

WHY HE’S HERE: He’s inducted as a sideman, and not as a songwriter, which is fucking baffling, since I’ve never been as impressed by the organ playing on the records he played on than by the songs he wrote with Dan Penn. I’m just utterly flummoxed. 2009: the year people were inducted in the wrong category.

AND…?: I have, like, no real opinion about his organ playing. It seems fine. I’ve never listened carefully enough to notice it specifically, but it’s not like I don’t notice it. It could turn out that he was terrific, and I should think this is long-awaited and completely justified. His songs are great, though. Maybe he’ll be inducted twice.

RIGHTFULLY INDUCTED: This is the hardest call so far. I mean, he absolutely deserves a spot, but maybe not as a sideman? I dunno. I guess I say “yes,” tentatively, against the possibility that he doesn’t get in as a songwriter. 


  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. it’s probably telling, in fact, that this is several years after “Hallelujah” got covered to death 
  4. That is to say that there are people that have made music that makes me think of how much I hate them, which I hate more than just the regular bad music that Madonna makes, but without them being terrible would not be as bad. I mean if Ted Nugent were just a regular dude and not a fucking idiot monster, I would hate his music less than Madonna’s, for example. 
  5. I think that I have heard stories about his displeasure that are separate and distinct from the stories I’ve heard about Jon Bon Jovi, but it could also be the case that I’ve lumped them together as “dudes who have the same first name as me that I don’t care about”, in which case if I have spread lies about John Mellencamp, I apologize.  
  6. historically, “Walk, Don’t Run” was a huge one, although the other one, “Telstar,” is the one that most people remember. 
  7. nobody tell Daryl Hall I said so.
     
  8. which will make this somewhat more interesting a few years from 2009 
  9. the fact that these two clauses describe two separate groups of records is not really of concern here 

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