The 2013 Rock Hall Nominees

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its ballot for induction this year. It’s a pretty impressive list: Nirvana, Hall & Oates, Deep Purple, NWA, Chic, Linda Rondstadt, KISS, Cat Stevens, LL Cool J, Peter Gabriel, The Zombies, The Replacements, Yes, The Meters, Link Wray, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

That’s an impressive and extremely eclectic list. A couple of these have me scratching my head as to why they aren’t already in. The Hall is letting people vote on their choices through December 10. The top five vote getters will have their tallies factored into the final decision by the Hall. Fans can only vote for five each. I voted. I’m not happy I can only do five because really, 3/4 of them deserve it, and the rest all have reputations that make a case for inclusion. So who did I vote for?

Nirvana on MTV's Unplugged

Source: MTV

NIRVANA

This one is kind of a no-brainer, one of those bands that should get in on the first ballot. Nevermind was one of those watershed moments in rock when the music changed. Grunge was coming. No doubt about it. But Alice in Chains tried to be a heavy metal band before Nirvana exploded, and Pearl Jam’s label marketed them as hair metal. The combination of moody Kurt Cobain’s song writing, the frenetic drumming of Dave Grohl, and the calm center of the storm that was Krist Novocelic caused an earthquake in rock music. Add to that Pat Smear of The Germs at the end of the band’s career, and you have a revolutionary band that dragged punk kicking and screaming and into the mainstream.

The music died with Cobain, but it freed up future Hall of Famer Grohl to create The Foo Fighters with Smear, members of Sunny Day Real Estate, and Dave’s blonde, bearded clone Taylor Hawkins.

KISS live in 2013

Llan We, used under Creative Commons

KISS

Rock as theater taken to the nth degree. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have kept the hell fire burning since 1973 with an impressive line-up of side players, current drummer Eric Singer the longest lasting member.

The band went hair metal in the 1980’s after ditching the make-up, but came roaring back with the original line-up for a time, returning to their grease paint ways. KISS is definitely a marketing machine, but how many kids picked up a guitar because Paul was the Star Child, Gene was the Demon, and the rest played a whole host of other comic book-inspired characters? They might be a money-making juggernaut, but they definitely impacted rock and roll in a big way.

NWA

Source: EMI (?)

NWA

Okay, I admit it. I’m not a fan. But I’m not much of a hip hop fan to begin with. But like their contemporaries, Nirvana, they caused an earthquake in music. And they weren’t shy with the lyrics. Their classic Straight Outta Compton scared the hell out of people.

Though Easy E died in the early 1990’s, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre went on to be giants in hip hop. Dre would discover Snoop Dogg, stare down thuggish impresario Shug Knight, and do what Knight couldn’t do: Bring the world a white rapper with cred, in this case, Eminem. Before NWA, I said, “What the hell is rap?” Since NWA has faded into history, I’ve said, “What the hell happened to rap?”

Deep Purple in 2013

Photo: Jonas Rogowski, used under Creative Commons

Deep Purple

Geddy Lee of called out the Hall for overlooking Deep Purple again when Rush was inducted into the Hall of Fame. At one time rivaling Led Zeppelin, Purple has one of the largest family trees in rock. Ritchie Blackmore is cited as a major influence by a majority of rock guitarists, including his two replacements in Purple, Steve Morse and the late Tommy Bolin. The band overlapped Black Sabbath, giving that band two of its post-Ozzy lead singers, and spawned Rainbow and Whitesnake. Plus how can you go wrong when you’ve created one of the most memorable riffs in rock history? You know. Da da dah! Da da du-Dah!

Hall & Oates

Photo: Gary Harris, used under Creative Commons

Daryl Hall and John Oates

This is one duo that, like Deep Purple, should have been in long ago. They came out of Philadelphia around the same time as prog pop artist Todd Rundgren, and there’s a similarity between the sound of the two acts that’s hard to define.

But Hall & Oates were all about blue-eyed soul. “Sara Smile” is a seventies classic, but then there’s that string of eighties tunes starting with “Kiss on my List” and going all the way through “One on One.” The videos might have been silly, but the sound was real in a way many R&B artists have forgotten how to make happen.

Their approach is on display on Hall’s show Live from Daryl’s House. The music is played live, using the room (until this coming season, a restored colonial house Hall owned) as an instrument unto itself, with all the imperfections and happy accidents left intact. This is how he and John Oates have made music since 1973.

Favorite Bands: KISS

KISS live in 2013

Llan We, used under Creative Commons

Back in the fifth grade, I was a proud member of the KISS Army. I went next door to listen to the neighbor kids’ copies of Destroyer and begged my mom for a copy of Rock and Roll Over for Christmas one year. What’s not to love? Scary guys in makeup rocking out. The tall one even spat blood and fire on stage. I tells ya, kids, it was better than a Saturday morning cartoon. I even dutifully endured KISS Meets the Phantom. (OK, that was above and beyond.)

KISS was the original shock band of the 1970’s, and despite the sexually explicit lyrics (which horrified my mother more than Gene Simmons’ Demon character), they were targeting us kids as well as the high school teens and college students. Why do you think they’re still around after almost 40 years?

For us as kids, KISS was mysterious. They never appeared publicly without their makeup. Even after leaving the band, original drummer Peter Criss did television interviews with his back to the camera. And we kids rocked out to “Detroit Rock City,” “God of Thunder,” and “Rock and Roll All Nite.” They had range, too, with Peter Criss supplying the ballad “Beth” and the mellower “Hard Luck Woman.”

Then in 1979, something went wrong. They came out with “I Was Made for Loving You,” which, while a classic, was probably ill-advised. Peter Criss quit, replaced by Eric Carr. Then original guitarist Ace Frehley quit. In the early 1980’s cameĀ Music from the Elder, which can only be explained by producer Bob Ezrin mouring the breakup of Pink Floyd. After that, founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley made the decision to break with the past and get rid of the makeup. We finally got to see that Gene Simmons was not a demon but a really big Isreali with a goofy grin. KISS became a glam metal band, going through two more guitarists before settling on Bruce Kurlick. They eventually ended the nineties with a grunge album (looking more like Metallica than Nirvana). And then…

The makeup came back. KISS embarked on the never-ending farewell tour, starting with the original line-up, then substituting Tommy Thayer for Ace Frehley. Peter Criss swapped the drummers stool with Eric Singer, who replaced the late Eric Carr (who died of cancer.) They’ve been primarily a live act since then. One of the things that has kept KISS in the limelight is Gene Simmons Osbournes-like reality show with partner (and now wife) Shannon Tweed and their two kids. Simmons has been rather open about his life on the show, in recent seasons letting the cameras see him in more dickish moments.

Sometimes, you wonder if KISS is a bit too mercenary. Would The Beatles go this far? The Stones? U2? But then The Beatles did, if only because nobody knew how to do rock and roll yet. But The Beatles were musicians. KISS is a show.