Ask any music snob, and I’m sure they’ll give you a list of all the artists annually snubbed by the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. The Monkees. Neil Diamond. Chicago (they were great in the early ’70s).
I’ve always included The Hollies as my wild-card pick. After all, they had a litany of respectable hits. They were an underrated band in a key era: the 1960s British Invasion. And one of their leaders was Graham Nash, the only member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young whose original group wasn’t in the Hall.
But voters fixed that recently. Tahe Hollies are one of the five acts inducted this year — joining ABBA, Genesis, The Stooges and Jimmy Cliff.
Actually, you could call this class one of the most under-sung the Rock Hall has ever seen.
Genesis is another one of those why-has-the-Rock-Hall-forgtotten-them bands. There was a reason: Critics felt their first phase — with Peter Gabriel as lead singer — was pretentious prog-rock, complete with 21-minute song suites and flower-people costumes. And their second phase — with Phil Collins as lead singer — was derided for being the complete opposite: a commercial hit-making machine.
In reality? Early Genesis was endlessly interesting — and actually had its share of catchy, concise songs (‘Counting Out Time,’ ‘I Know What I Like’). And later Genesis actually had a steady stream of nice pop tunes (‘That’s All,’ ‘In Too Deep’). Plus, unlike Devo, they were the un-cool kind of white-guy dorks — but still managed to become pop stars. And that’s cool on its own.
As for ABBA? Well, they’re awesome. Really. Every single one of their hits is instantly memorable — fully of hooks, unexpected chord changes and sweeping melodies. If pop is candy, they’re wild cherry Life Savers. So what if they were cheesy? They were Swedish.
And they are also one of Elvis Costello’s favorite bands — which is also awesome. Listen to the melodies of his songs — and how he aped the cascading piano part of ‘Dancing Queen’ for ‘Oliver’s Army.’ Hello, guilty-pleasure street cred:
It’s also nice to see Jimmy Cliff, a major influence on ska, reggae and island music, finally make it. It seems the Hall really is trying to branch out to include more below-the-popular-consciousness artists.
Which brings us to The Stooges. It’s fair to say The Velvet Underground laid the ground for grunge, alt-rock, new wave, post-punk and noise rock. But The Stooges really were the first punk band — in frontman Iggy Pop’s stage antics, in the crushing chords, in the nonchalant stance of their lyrics. The Rock Hall has already inducted The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Elvis Costello — but here, by inducting The Stooges, the Hall is really starting to recognize influential bands that not everyone knows.
And that makes me hopeful that groups like The Jam, The Smiths and The Cure — all semi-popular and all incredible — may soon be next.