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Artists Overlooked By The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…Again

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced their nominations for 2010 inductees and once again there are glaring omissions.

Some Blogcritics contributors offer their assistance for 2011:

Glen Boyd nominates Alice Cooper (eligible since 1996)

When I heard that KISS were among the nominees up for induction into this year's class of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, I just about fell outta' my chair. I mean, KISS? I've got two words for you, Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame: Alice Cooper.

Sure, KISS sold more records and enjoyed a longer run on top, but Alice Cooper provided the blueprint for not only Gene, Paul, Ace, and Peter's act, but for the countless other theatrically based "shock-rock" bands that have come since — from Twisted Sister and Motley Crue, to Slipknot and Marilyn Manson. Most, if not all of these bands owe their very existence to Alice Cooper — a fact that many of them readily will admit to being true. At least, the smart ones will.

Beginning with the album Love It To Death, the original Alice Cooper band had a short, but phenomenal run as the biggest rock and roll act in the world in the early seventies, with a string of albums that also included Killer, Schools Out, and Billion Dollar Babies.

During this time, Alice Cooper also revolutionized the idea of rock and roll as theatre. Their elaborate stage shows revolved around the twisted, mascaraed Alice — a uni-sexual character straight out of your worst slasher-film nightmare, who ultimately paid for his crimes with onstage executions that included the electric chair, beheadings and hangings. Alice Cooper were universally reviled by parents, politicians, and the religious right as a result of these shows. Naturally, the fans loved them all the more for it.

After the breakup of the original band, Alice himself enjoyed sporadic success as a solo artist with albums like Welcome To My Nightmare — but with successors like KISS taking the greasepaint and the rock theatre a step further — things were never quite the same again.

It's high time the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame rightfully recognize the band who paved the way for KISS and others like them. Michael Bruce, Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway, the late Glenn Buxton, and of course Alice Cooper himself. Members of the Academy (or whatever you call yourselves), I submit to you the original Alice Cooper Band.

Donald Gibson nominates Tom Waits (eligible since 1998)

Rock and Roll is a veritable island of misfit toys, a stomping ground where incorrigible and wayward souls find salvation in rebellion—and get away with it. Enlivened with a spirit long-since sparked by the Devil and Delta Blues, its greatest exponents have always been those who’ve integrated their influences with their own talents to forge a distinct creative voice.

Over the past four decades, there has been no voice—in ways both literal and figurative—like that of Tom Waits. For his artistry, his influence, his mercurial spirit, and, most of all, for his singular talent, he belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Waits has consistently challenged himself as well as his listeners, from the beatnik bravado of Small Change and Heartattack and Vine to the innovative vignettes on Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs to the industrial assault of Bone Machine. In short, Waits was Alternative before Alternative was cool.

As further testimony to his talent, a shortlist of artists who’ve covered his works includes Bruce Springsteen (“Jersey Girl”), The Ramones (“I Don’t Want To Grow Up”), Norah Jones (“The Long Way Home”), 10,000 Maniacs (“I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love With You”), Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (“Trampled Rose”), and Pearl Jam (“Picture in a Frame”).

His audiences appreciate his gifts and contributions to his craft as do his peers and protégés. And each year that passes without nominating—and not inducting—Tom Waits into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame only further diminishes the integrity of the honor itself.

Tom Johnson nominates Rush (eligible since 1999) 

Another year, another induction ceremony sans Rush. It's kind of grown to be a joke among fans, the kind of thing tossed out with disdain, you know, "Well, Rush didn't want to be a part of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame anyway!" It's kind of true, however. The band themselves have expressed disinterest in the whole thing, with guitarist Alex Lifeson explicitly stating, "I couldn't care less, look who's up for induction, it's a joke."

Regardless, it might be nice for some industry appreciation. They've been stuck being the Rodney Dangerfield of rock – "can't get no respect." Despite being cited as influences by countless bands, and that's outside of the prog-rock genre, the Hall just can't seem to take notice. And it's not for lack of fans – Rush has a ravenous, die-hard fanbase who follow their every move. And who knows how many casual fans are out there, the ones who air-drum to "Tom Sawyer" and emote to "Subdivisions" in their cars on the way to work. Maybe that's the thing – Rush is kind of the little band that could, doing everything it's done over the years with little or no major effort on the part of their labels. Everyone else, it seems, has needed that big push to keep their name out there. With Rush, all they needed were their fans. With Rush, it seems, once you're a fan, you're always a fan. That, however, just isn't enough for the Hall Of Fame.

What does it take? I don't know. There's some mysterious, magic formula of pop culture icon status and legendary chart-topping success that adds up to "induction." Rush has famously missed out on both of these prerequisites for pretty much their entire career, instead being steady, solid sellers, even garnering 24 gold and 14 platinum records because of that. It's not enough, sadly, to gain the favor of the Hall, which leads me to believe there has to be more to this pop culture phenomenon than most might think.

Rush has suffered being one of those bands you were supposed to be ashamed of liking, but few, if any fans actually were. As a result, being pop culture kryptonite like they had been, they slowly have started to gain a sort of counter-culture cool factor that I believe is eventually going to work in their favor. NBC's short-lived Freaks And Geeks featured a character, Nick (played by Jason Segel), who was obsessed with Rush and drummer Neil Peart, and Segel later paired up with Paul Rudd where the two played a couple of big Rush fans in this year's I Love You Man. In fact, the band has been popping up in so many places I can't possibly mention them all; check them all out here. In July, 2008, Rolling Stone had a major feature on Rush after decades of famously ripping holes into them at every opportunity, even if they couldn't help playing up the dork-angle of their listeners. The tide is clearly turning, though, if slowly, even if the band doesn't care that much. They're going to get the recognition someday. In the meantime, they're still turning out highly respected, great new music, which is something the majority of the inductees can't say. Is no longer putting out music, or just putting out music as an excuse to tour, part of the secret Hall Of Fame formula?

El Bicho nominates The Cure (eligible since 2004)

When I reviewed The Cure in June 2008, I wrote they “are a musical force that has certainly left a mark on popular music as indelible as anyone in the last twenty years of the twentieth century. Their absence from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a travesty, and reflects poorly on the Hall and its members.” I still stand by that claim.

Although they have gone through multiple configurations and band members, the main creative force behind The Cure has been Robert Smith. He is one of rock's best lyricists, capturing a wide range of life’s emotions, and not just the dark ones. He is also one of the individuals responsible for the mainstream’s embrace of alternative music.

The Cure started as a post-punk trio on their debut Three Imaginary Boys, and then segued into a gothic phase with a trio of albums that climaxed with their classic album, Pornography. On that tour they began wearing their trademark big hair, makeup, and dark clothes; a look many young fans have emulated since.

Not content to do the same thing, they altered their sound. Keyboards replaced guitars and the lyrics were more upbeat. This earned them chart success with three successive singles: “Let’s Go To Bed,” “The Walk,” and the jazzy “The Lovecats.” The guitar came back as did the somber moods. They continued to grow in popularity with the beloved “Just Like Heaven” in 1987, and 1989 saw the release of Disintegration, “the best album ever,” according to South Park’s Kyle and a great many others.

Since 1992’s Wish, they have released a studio album every four years and continue to deliver three-hour concerts filled with deep cuts when they could easily just coast on short sets of their greatest hits. They even made news recently at Coachella 2009 for playing so long past curfew the power got cut off.

Although I am sure he has no interest in being part of it, Robert Smith and The Cure deserve to be in Hall. If you have any doubts, ask yourself one question: Who do you think has inspired more people to play music and form a band: The Cure or HoF inductee Billy Joel?

Josh Hathaway nominates Stevie Ray Vaughn (eligible since 2008)

There's a school of thought put forth by some that if you have to explain why someone is a Hall of Famer, they're not.  I buy that most of the time, but it somewhat defeats the purpose of the discussion if I just say "Stevie Ray Vaughan, period."  To me, that should be enough. 

I know what you're thinking, and you're wrong.  Yes, Stevie Ray was a bluesman and this is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  It's a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though, that started inducting rappers and already includes bluesman Buddy Guy.  For better and worse, the Hall of Fame abandoned puritanism in its inductees a long time ago.  Besides that, Muddy Waters was right: "the blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll."  Acknowledging SRV's greatness is acknowledging the source.

Beyond that, Stevie Ray Vaughan was more than just a bluesman.  Vaughan was as influenced by Jimi Hendrix and respected him as much as he admired Albert King, Albert Collins, and Otis Rush.  Vaughan could play that pure Texas blues, but he also knew how to rock out and electrify a crowd. 

The blues as a genre had been moribund for years when Vaughan released Texas Flood. Vaughan may not have inspired major labels to invest in the blues again, but for a generation of listeners he is the sound of the blues. He also turned some of those same listeners on to the artists who inspired him. Just as it took the Rolling Stones to introduce America to Howlin' Wolf four decades ago, it was Vaughan who helped carry that torch.

Like Hendrix before him, Vaughan lived long enough to release three acclaimed records and we're left to wonder what might have come had he not been taken so young. Of the archival material released posthumously — particularly The Sky is Crying — we get a sense he was far from empty. His legacy is incomplete but his accomplishments are Hall worthy.

Do you agree with our picks or have one of your own?

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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