In my last post I blogged about the 2018 Hall Of Fame induction ceremony. This of course got me thinking about some of the bands we didn’t see that evening. I’m sure there are myriad reasons why some bands get in and some bands don’t. I imagine it comes down to more than just the “ear test.” That said, seeing some bands get in while others don’t can certainly leave you scratching your head sometimes.
I could spend a month on here talking about all the bands and solo artists who probably should be in, as well as discussing those who have no business being in. For this post’s purposes, I want to focus on two eras/genres, and three particular bands.
Part One: 1980s
The blaring, loud party that was the 1980s! Though I spent the height of my formative years in the early ’90s and listened to rock from a different scene, my childhood was firmly planted in the ’80s. Having two older brothers, I was fully exposed to the offerings of what would affectionately become known as the “Hair Metal” era.
I believe there’s a Mt. Rushmore comparison for just about everything. You know, the four best of something. The Mt. Rushmore of basketball players, mafia movies, fast food burger joints, anything and everything. When it comes to ’80s hard rock bands, I have a Mt. Rushmore for that as well. Bands like AC/DC, Kiss, and Aerosmith enjoyed commercial success in the ’80s and even into the ’90s, but I consider them more 1970s Rushmore material. Primarily because, they directly influenced the ’80s Rushmore bands. Now Van Halen started in the late ’70s, but the peak of their commercial success and fame came in the ’80s. They are one of my 1980’s Hard Rock / “Hair Metal” Mt. Rushmore bands. They became Hall of Famers 10 years ago. Bon Jovi, who just got inducted last month, is another band I have on the ’80s Mt. Rushmore. The other two bands however, are currently not in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame:
In my last post I mentioned how Bon Jovi was the biggest rock band in the ’80s. What we may forget is for a two or three-year period in that same decade Def Leppard was every bit as big and wildly popular as Jovi. Though my favorite album of theirs was 1983’s Pyromania, the world’s favorite was the insanely successful 1987 Hysteria. I believe that album charted for 3 years. It produced something like 5 or 6 singles. MTV couldn’t go an hour in 1988-89 without showing a Def Leppard video.
I know what you’re probably thinking if I said there was something unique about this band. To your surprise, I’m actually not referring to their one-armed drummer. I’m talking about their sound. All genres/eras of rock produce imitators. There were plenty of bands who tried to sound and look like Bon Jovi. Some successful. Some not. Likewise there were plenty of bands who tried to look like Def Leppard, but there really weren’t any who sounded quite like them. Their vocals separated them from most bands. A lot bands have one, maybe two guys who can provide decent background vocals. Everybody in Def Leppard could sing. Their harmonies were great. Add to that their layered guitars and endless hooks, and you had a pretty delightful, original sound.
Leppard has now been Hall Of Fame eligible for 14 years. Though I agreed with Bon Jovi’s induction, I’ve wondered this past year why Jovi got in before Leppard. My only guess is because Bon Jovi never really went away. It’s not that Def Leppard ever disbanded or anything, but there was a period of years when they couldn’t seem to book major American venues. I think it’s fair to say people sort of forgot about them for a while. Perhaps the Hall Of Fame forgot about them too. It’s time to put the third band on my ’80s Mt. Rushmore in the Rock Hall.
Lastly, the fourth member of my 1980’s Mt. Rushmore of Rock……the one and only Motley Crue. These guys seemed nearly as big as Jovi, Halen, and Leppard, but they were definitely a different animal. Though moms out there probably thought it was cute when their daughters had posters of the cute boys from Def Leppard and Bon Jovi plastered on their bedroom walls, I can promise you those same mothers didn’t want their little girls coming within 1,000 miles of these guys! They looked dirty, a little scary, and you couldn’t even make fun of them for wearing fish nets because they’d probably kick your ass! I mentioned the Bon Jovi imitators of the world. Motley Crue had even more. Yet you could always tell a Crue song from a Crue knockoff. They were a noticeable cut above the others.
Some folks look back on this era of rock with love and nostalgia. Some think it was belligerent nonsense. Personally, I could take the vast majority of it and flush it straight down the toilet. Sure, I still like Whitesnake and don’t mind a Ratt song when I hear it, but I think there are four bands that best defined this genre/era of rock. Two are now in the Rock Hall. Time for Def Leppard and Motley Crue to join Van Halen and Bon Jovi.
Part Two: 1990s
Many ’80s rock music fans hate the term, “Hair Metal.” Many ’90s rock music fans (myself included) hate the term “Grunge.” Nonetheless, this term seems forever linked to the bands of college years. Guess what? I’ve got a Mt. Rushmore for 1990s rock bands too. Whatever you want to call them….grunge, alternative rock, Seattle rock, doesn’t matter. In no particular order, my ’90s Mt. Rushmore consists of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains.
Nirvana was the first to receive induction into the Rock Hall. They were enshrined in their very first year of Rock Hall eligibility. Though I agree Nirvana deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, I was surprised they went in right away. I think it had more to do with the legend of Kurt Cobain than the band itself. You see, when Cobain died in ’94, music outlets such as MTV and Rolling Stone magazine painted Kurt Cobain as the “John Lennon of my generation.” Don’t get me wrong, I think Cobain was a brilliant songwriter, and I believe Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind ushered in a new era of rock music, but Cobain was no John Lennon. He’d have told you that himself.
Pearl Jam made the Hall last year. I covered my thoughts on them here: https://victorlovisa.com/2017/04/30/from-seattle-to-the-hall/
This leads me to my final talking point in this post……
I recently read a book called, Everybody Loves Our Town. The line comes from the song “Overblown” by the Seattle-based band, Mudhoney. The book chronicles the rise and fall of Seattle’s “Grunge” scene, from its earliest beginnings in the mid ’80s, through the height of its commercial dominance, and eventual burnout by the mid-’90s. The book is entirely comprised of quotes. Musings from anyone and everyone who ever played a part in that scene on any level. Producers, record company execs, managers, roadies, bands members, significant others of band members….you name it.
Throughout the pages of this very enjoyable read, you’ll come across praise and criticism directed towards everyone: the successful bands, as well as those who never made it big time. Folks had good things to say about Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Chains. Others talked crap about all three. The one band however, that received universal praise, respect, and appreciation from seemingly everyone who mentioned them in this book……..Soundgarden.
Cobain credited Chris Cornell as a song writing influence. Eddie Vedder credited Cornell as showing him how to be a frontman. Nearly all bands from the scene viewed Soundgarden as the measuring stick and model for how to conduct themselves as songwriters, musicians, and performers. Long story short, the general consensus from those who actually lived the scene was that Soundgarden was the best band to come out of Seattle. They were after all, the first band from the scene to sign a major record label deal as well.
I enjoy listening to a podcast call Trunk Nation, featuring who Sammy Hagar calls “The Rainman of Rock and Roll,” Eddie Trunk. Many a nights Eddie’s podcast is my companion during cigar time in the garage. Trunk is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voter. One of his biggest criteria for induction, which I agree wholeheartedly with, is influence. How did a band influence a particular scene, genre, era of rock and roll, etc.? Soundgarden had commercial success. They had platinum selling albums and hit singles. They sold out plenty of shows. They also seemed to be one of, if not the most influential bands to an era that once dominated pop culture and rock in America.
We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of Chris Cornell’s death. I eulogized him on this blog space here last year:
I know how people love to bestow honors and recognition on folks once they’re gone. I firmly believe Soundgarden will get in the Hall of Fame. At the very least, I can see them inducting Cornell individually for his contributions to Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Audioslave. It will probably happen sooner now that Chris is gone. Though I’ll be thrilled when that happens, it’s also disappointing. This band should have been in the Hall while he was still here. They’ve been eligible for 8 years now. For the record, Green Day is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for God’s sake! No offense to Green Day, but come on man. Time to do the right thing Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Vic’s 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees:
(and not mentioned in the post, but worthy in my opinion)
The Doobie Brothers