SCOTT'S ROCK & SOUL HALL OF FAME (1960-Present)
If given a vote, these are the artists who would make my Rock & Soul Hall Of Fame as of right now (12/31/2015). I’m not imposing any silly limitations like the real Hall Of Fame in Cleveland has; there’s no 25 year waiting period or any limit to the number of inductees. This list is based primarily on musical achievement: the quality of one's recordings and live shows. Although commercial success is certainly a factor that may help an artist's cause, I won't penalize great artists for a lack of commercial success, so long as they made great and impactful music (The Velvet Underground and Big Star are obvious examples of bands who made great music that didn’t sell in large quantities, but which proved to be immensely influential). Like the rest of this website, this list covers artists from 1960-present, so apologies to '50s greats such as Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Coasters, Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley, The Platters, and so on who didn't make the cut. Artists who are clearly blues rather than rock, like B.B. King, Freddie King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf, also aren't included, even though maybe they should be. Like the rest of this book, this list is free of any rap/hip-hop artists, and artists who are clearly disco or pop (ABBA, Madonna, Donna Summer, Chic, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, etc.) have also been excluded. Also, there are some joint entries for artists who spread their output among multiple bands and who might be borderline with one but taken together are deserving (that's probably cheating but hey it's my Hall Of Fame!). I’m only including main performers, not sidemen (i.e. “musical excellence”) and non-performers, but sidemen with notable enough solo/band careers in addition to their support role accomplishments will be considered. As per all my lists, I don't claim this list to be definitive (I'm sure I overlooked some deserving artists and will have some inductees that others will consider questionable), and I expect it to continuously evolve as time passes and additional artists establish Hall Of Fame credentials. P.S. I won’t be singling out which band members should or shouldn’t be inducted; if you were in the band at some point, and the band gets inducted, you’re in. The fans know who the major player were in the band, and this way I’ll avoid the ridiculousness of Bob Welch getting omitted from Fleetwood Mac, or Ronnie James Dio getting omitted from Black Sabbath (and so on). P.P.S. Originally this HOF was more a list of personal favorites, but I’ve tried to make it more like what I feel the real HOF should look like. Although obviously influenced by my own personal taste, in some cases I’ve omitted personal favorites like Catherine Wheel and Tindersticks because even though I feel that they made great albums that I’ll always love, in the grand scheme of things they didn’t make enough of an impact to warrant a legitimate induction.
AC/DC - Pure rock n' roll energy, tons of great songs. Not much range but hey if it ain't broke...I'm partial to the Bon Scott era of the band, though Back In Black is their most famous (and many would argue best) album.
Aerosmith - Though dogged by a "poor man's Stones" label, in the mid-70s they damn near earned their other label ("America's greatest rock n' roll band"), and though from an artistic standpoint their '80s (and beyond) comeback was often a pale shadow of their former glories, it nevertheless was a spectacular return to relevance from their drug-induced abyss.
Alice Cooper - By Alice Cooper I'm mostly referring to the Alice Cooper Band, who made a bunch of theatrical hard rockin' garage-y classics in the early '70s before Alice went solo. He's done some good solo stuff too, and of course he was influential as an early "shock rocker," but musically speaking I prefer the early band stuff with producer Bob Ezrin best.
Alice in Chains - These guys were among the very best of the so-called "grunge" bands that played such a big part in the story of ‘90s rock. I've always loved their uniquely whacked out harmonies and Jerry Cantrell's songwriting and guitar playing along with Layne Staley's tortured lead vocals. Dirt and Jar Of Flies are the standout albums for me, both for totally different reasons, but their other albums are very good too (including the two surprisingly good comeback albums they’ve released thus far with new singer William DuVall after Layne’s deadly drug overdose).
The Allman Brothers Band - The ultimate Southern rock band, they could've really been an all-time, all-time band had not tragedy struck so often, but they're still one of the all-time greats. Obviously the Duane-era of the band was the best, but they've since had their fair share of admirable comebacks as well, and few guys (white or black) could sing the blues as well as Gregg Allman.
The Animals - Led by a pair of towering talents in singer Eric Burdon and organist Alan Price, The Animals ranked with The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds as the prime British Invasion purveyors of American blues. Later shifting of personnel saw the band rebranded as "Eric Burdon and the Animals," who performed in a less successful psychedelic vein that also had its moments.
Arcade Fire - Perhaps this is a premature selection, but they've already released a great trilogy of albums as I write this, including one of the best debut albums ever in Funeral. I'll be very surprised if the band doesn't continue to deliver high quality albums of impassioned, majestic, and epic music.
The B52’s – Musically and visually, they made being kitschy cool and are one of the quintessential new wave bands whose best songs (“Rock Lobster,” “Private Idaho,” “Love Shack,” “Roam,” etc.) can still kick start any party.
The Band - A band whose influential sound, so rich and timeless, greatly appeals to me. The Band drew their musical inspiration from various musical sources (rockabilly, ragtime, r&b, blues, country, folk, etc.), and wove them into a seamless, earthy rock sound that was uniquely their own. Their first two albums are total classics, and some of their later ones are undervalued as well. Plus there’s the Bob Dylan association and the classic The Last Waltz concert film.
The Beach Boys - The band had a brilliant singer-songwriter-producer in Brian Wilson and several other terrific singers who, when combined, provided arguably the best pop harmonies ever. When Brian's mental problems limited his contributions after releasing his masterpiece Pet Sounds, the rest of the band (most notably brothers Carl and Dennis) stepped up to fill the void. After their prime years they became America's #1 "oldies" based nostalgia act.
The Beatles - It's always been them and Zep 1-2 for me, I'm not even sure in which order, it depends on the day. No explanation is really necessary here other than to say that The Beatles are the most famous, most popular, and many would argue, best rock band ever.
Beck - Beck Hansen never seems to stay in one place or stick to any one style, and his cross-genre hybridizations, encompassing folk, blues, hip-hop, rock, and r&b, are almost always interesting even if they're rarely thrilling and they sometimes sound overly experimental musically (i.e. noise at the expense of melody) and overly ironic lyrically. He captured the '90s zeitgeist on Odelay (with help from the Dust Brothers production team) and proved he could show a more personal side on the bittersweet breakup album Sea Change, probably his two best albums, but every album I've heard from him has had a least a few stellar tracks.
Jeff Beck - Arguably rock's greatest guitarist, he did pioneering stuff with The Yardbirds before helping birth heavy metal with the first Jeff Beck Group. Although you can certainly make a case that he's underachieved at times, Jeff Beck the solo artist has still released his fair share of stellar stuff, his mid-70s fusion albums in particular.
The Bee Gees - Starting as a Beatles-influenced pop rock group and peaking by defining the disco era, the Bee Gees were great singers (their high pitched harmonies are unmistakable) and songwriters who had a lot of classic songs.
Belle & Sebastian - Simply put, they've released some of the most charmingly beautiful pop rock albums of the past 20 years.
Big Star - This legendary cult "power pop" band was actually far more diverse and rocking than generally given credit for, at least before their "bummer" third album Third/Sister Lovers (also great). This unlucky (if highly influential) band had two distinctive (at first, anyway) singer-songwriter-guitarists (Alex Chilton and Chris Bell) and they deserved a lot more commercial success than they got. Recommendation: Get the 2-for-1 release of #1 Record/Radio City.
Bjork - A one of a kind weirdo with a voice for the ages, her first four solo albums are all stellar, though she's sometimes lost the plot since (i.e. Medulla). The swan dress alone would make for a most welcome museum exhibit!
The Black Crowes - Led by brothers Rich and Chris Robinson, The Black Crowes were like a breath of fresh air when they hit the airwaves amid all the hair bands in the early '90s. They may not have been the most original band, but (aside from a three year break from 2002-2005) they've consistently delivered the rock 'n' roll goods for two decades now, even though the radio hits dried up after their first two albums. Dig deeper and you'll find a discography that's much richer than most have given them credit for; simply put, they're a great band and deserving Hall Of Famers.
Black Flag – This hardcore punk band inspired many bands with their “DIY” work ethic, which wouldn’t mean much if they weren’t good. They were, influencing many bands ranging from Nirvana to Slayer. And though Damaged is the album that most people point to (including yours truly as it’s the only one I’ve reviewed), they did other good stuff as well, including later on when they somewhat controversially slowed down and pursued a more metallic direction.
Black Sabbath - Ground zero for heavy metal. Six great albums with Ozzy and they did great stuff with Dio too.
Blondie – Originally CBGB’s “least likely to succeed,” Blondie ended up being the most commercially successful of all those New York City bands. Led by iconic pinup Debbie Harry, the group delivered some classic singles and at least one near-perfect pop album with 1978’s Parallel Lines. In the process they became one of the definitive new wave groups.
Blue Oyster Cult - These highly intelligent and underrated early hard rockers from New York have been reduced to three songs ("(Don't Fear) The Reaper," "Burnin' For You," and occasionally "Godzilla") by classic rock radio, but their highly productive first decade together makes them Hall Of Famers in my book. All together now: "more cowbell!"
Blur - They were probably "better" than Oasis because their output is much more diverse, but I just like Oasis better. Still, that much made comparison out of the way, Blur were one of the best bands of the '90s, and their "English life trilogy" in particular helped define "Britpop." Woo-hoo!
Booker T. & The MG's - The greatest studio backing band ever (for Stax Records) also cut some prime instrumental stuff on their own, most notably the omnipresent "Green Onions."
Boston - They deserve induction for the first album alone, which comes across more like a greatest hits album than an album proper (literally every song on it has made the rounds on "classic rock radio" over the years). Actually, the first two albums in particular still sound great, and Third Stage was a solid release and a major commercial success as well. "Guilty pleasures" my ass; couple Tom Scholz and Barry Goudreau’s incandescent walls of guitars with Brad Delp’s incredible vocals and what you have is simply one of the most effortlessly ear pleasing sounds around.
David Bowie - A real chameleon, I don't love (or even like) everything he does but I really like a lot of it, especially his '70s work. Heck, I love a lot of his '70s work, if not a lot of his post-'70s work. Among other things, Bowie brought a sense of theater to rock n’ roll by introducing the concept of role playing, he introduced a generation of white boys to soul (albeit “plastic soul”), and he brought a chilly European glaze to some truly revolutionary electronic experiments. He was also the cross dressing king of glam, he brought pianos, saxophones, and science fiction to a high level of rock 'n' roll prominence, and he always had a killer band (most notably the Spiders from Mars) backing him up. But for all of Bowie’s stylistic innovations, what ultimately mattered most was that he produced a lot of great music.
James Brown - “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” “Mr. Dynamite.” "Soul Brother No. 1." “The Godfather of Soul.” These are some of his official nicknames, and you could also add "The Man Who Invented Funk" and "The Most Sampled Man in Hip-Hop." Most importantly, he was a great singer, a phenomenal performer (Michael Jackson had nothing on him), and he led super-tight bands who performed many classic songs. Sure, variety wasn't really his thing, and he had his share of personal problems, but JB was one of the musical giants of the 20th Century.
Jackson Browne – His music and singing can be a bit boring but he’s a brilliant lyricist, plus his band’s playing, in particular guitarist David Lindley, is impeccable on his best (‘70s) albums. “Late For The Sky,” “Doctor My Eyes,” “Take It Easy,” “For Everyman,” “These Days,” “Your Bright Baby Blues,” “Running On Empty,” “The Load Out/Stay,” “For A Dancer,” “Fountain Of Sorrow,” “Before The Deluge,” “The Pretender,” “Who Loves The Thunder,” “Here Come Those Tears Again,” “Somebody’s Baby,” “Boulevard” (to list some random examples) – this guy has written some great (very much adult-themed) songs, and he’s among the quintessential West Coast confessional singer-songwriters.
Jeff Buckley - Arguably a bigger loss to modern music than Kurt Cobain, the supremely handsome and talented Buckley (one of my favorite singers ever and a gifted songwriter and guitarist) dropped one instant classic of an album (Grace) before disappearing into the muddy waters of a Memphis river one night. Several inconsistent but worthwhile posthumous releases ensued, the best of which is worthy of comparison to Grace; what a tremendous loss.
Built To Spill - Though they have a cult following, this is another band who deserves more success than they've thus far achieved, at least from the paying public (they've long been critic's faves). Neil Young is but one of Doug Martsch's main influences, and along with J. Mascis, Ira Kaplan, and maybe a few others he brought the guitar hero back to alternative rock. Perfect From Now On and Keep It Like A Secret in particular are two of the best albums of the '90s.
Solomon Burke - Legendary Atlantic Records producer/executive Jerry Wexler considered him perhaps the greatest soul singer of them all, and his excellent late career comeback only further cemented his legacy.
Kate Bush - A true one-of-a-kind original, Kate Bush's artsy, challenging, eclectic avant pop isn't for everybody, and she's recorded infrequently over the past couple of decades, but she's still one of the greatest female artists ever.
Paul Butterfield Blues Band - Although best known in some quarters for backing Bob Dylan when he controversially "went electric," the Paul Butterfield Blues Band contributed mightily to the rock and roll cause (or more accurately, the blues rock cause) even without Bob Dylan. For one thing, they were one of the first racially integrated bands, and they were a blues band who played with a force and amplification that greatly appealed to rock audiences, making them one of the first American blues bands to “cross over.” Anyone who’s ever said that “white guys can’t play the blues” obviously never heard Paul Butterfield play harmonica (he was a virtuoso) or Michael Bloomfield play guitar (second guitarist Elvin Bishop was no slouch either). One of the first "guitar heroes," Bloomfield rivaled Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck as the guitarist of the mid-'60s, and his playing on East-West in particular, most notably the monumental 13-minute title track, still sounds ahead of its time, almost 50 years later (remember this was before Cream or Hendrix). Their prime together was brief and both Butterfield and Bloomfield's subsequent careers were largely derailed by drugs, but during their short time together they made a major impact that deserves recognition.
The Buzzcocks - Arguably the best British singles band of the punk era (for proof, check out Singles Going Steady). Punk, power pop, whatever you want to call it, they were a really good (and in retrospect, highly influential) band.
The Byrds - Fantastic sound. Great harmonies. Great guitar player(s). Very good songwriters. They pioneered folk rock, jangly guitars, country rock, and psychedelia! If anything they're underrated despite being Hall Of Famers.
Can - The greatest "krautrock" band.
Captain Beefheart - Though certainly not for everybody, the Captain was an influential one of a kind weirdo genius.
The Carpenters – We can debate how rock or soul they are, but Karen Carpenter’s voice certainly deserves to be immortalized. Plus, they were massively successful at their peak and as such helped embody that era (the early ‘70s).
The Cars - One of the quintessential new wave bands whose many hits still sound great on the radio.
Johnny Cash - Although considered a country artist, the legendary "Man In Black" was really a genre unto himself whose music also veered into folk and rockabilly, plus his two prison albums are about as punk rock as you can get.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - The influential dark prince of alternative rock, Cave and his excellent backing band the Bad Seeds have have consistently and prolifically delivered the musical goods over the past 3 decades.
Ray Charles - The blind man who invented soul music was also one of the greatest practitioners of the form. He easily tackled other styles (jazz, country, etc.) as well, and anything he did sounded soulful.
Cheap Trick - This is primarily based on their first five albums, when they were a legitimately great and influential band whose heavy power pop sound mixed The Beatles with hard rock. They had the tunes, an underrated guitarist in Rick Nielson (also the band's songwriter), and a great singer in Robin Zander. They also had a cool look in the way the two good looking guys (Zander, bassist Tom Petersson) contrasted with the two shall we say less photogenic members (Nielson and excellent drummer Bun E. Carlos), and they’ve always had a rep as a great live band as well.
Chicago - Ignore the later years of "easy listening" blather and focus on the early years, when Chicago was truly an innovative and creative (and surprisingly hard rocking) ensemble. In addition to their prominent horn section, they boasted three stellar singer-songwriters in Robert Lamm, Peter Cetera, and Terry Kath, who was also a legitimate guitar hero (the band never quite recovered from his accidental self-inflicted gunshot death). Songs such as "25 or 6 to 4," "Saturday In The Park," "Feeling Stronger Every Day," and "Beginnings" (my favorite) still sound great today.
The Commodores – One of the premiere funk/soul/pop groups of the ‘70s (and into the ‘80s) whose leader Lionel Richie graduated onto a superstar solo career. The FUNKY “Brick House,” the effortlessly relaxed “Easy,” and the moving tribute song “Nightshift” (their major post-Richie moment) are but three of their plentiful hits.
Eric Clapton - Eric "Slowhand" Clapton is one of the best guitar players ever, period. This entry includes his many band projects (especially Derek and the Dominos) as well as his very good if often disappointing solo career, excluding Cream and The Yardbirds who deserve their own entries.
The Clash - Not quite "the only band that matters" but they were THE U.K. punk band along with the Sex Pistols, though their reach sometimes exceeded their grasp and they turned to utter crap after Mick Jones was fired.
Joe Cocker – He may not have lived up to his early promise (where he excelled with help from The Grease Band and the Mad Dogs and Englishmen band), but he had a great one-of-a-kind voice, and every song he sang he made into his own. Although not really known as a songwriter, he deserves credit as one of rock and soul’s great interpreters.
Leonard Cohen - A true poet and one of the best lyricists ever. Oh, and his influential music is surprisingly good too.
Coldplay - I was on the fence with these guys as Hall Of Famers until I saw them live on December 30, 2012, when they put on a terrific show and reminded me just how much I like them. Sure, they've benefitted from Radiohead getting weird and U2 getting old and less hungry, but being in the right place at the right time shouldn't be held against them, nor should their popularity with "soccer moms" and their unpopularity with the "hipster" crowd. Bottom line is, at worst they’re a great singles band who put on an excellent live show, and A Rush Of Blood To The Head in particular is one of my favorite albums of the new millennium. The list of classic Coldplay songs, already including "Yellow," "Clocks," "Fix You," and "Viva la Vida," among others, should only continue to grow, as Coldplay continues to be the rare modern day rock band who still gets played on mainstream radio, and deservedly so.
Sam Cooke - To quote Art Garfunkel in Rolling Stone: "It was a tremendous loss when he was killed. I remember thinking, "Oh, that can't be." He was such a rising star, a fabulous singer with intelligence. And that brilliant smile. I used to think he was just a great singer. Now I think he's better than that. Almost nobody since then can touch him."
Elvis Costello and the Attractions - I'd fault him for being an average singer and an overly wordy songwriter who tried out too many musical styles, but he's still a great singer-songwriter, and the Attractions (comprised of keyboardist Steve Nieve, bassist Bruce Thomas, and drummer Pete Thomas) are one of the great backing bands.
Cream - The first "power trio" and one of the first hard rock bands who psychedelicized the blues. Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, and Eric Clapton were indeed among the cream of the '60s crop, whether inconsistently but at times awesomely pioneering live improvisations or producing more succinct and at times brilliant studio songs.
Creedence Clearwater Revival - These guys were a fantastic singles band who made some great albums too. John Fogerty was a great songwriter and vocalist as well as a very underrated guitar player. With help from Tom Fogerty (rhythm guitar), Stu Cook (bass), and Doug Clifford (drums), they had that great swampy Southern groove too.
Crosby, Stills, & Nash - This is an umbrella entry that encompasses not only their own impressive (early on, anyway) but limited work together, but also their myriad solo (and duo) projects, of which I prefer Stills' (their most talented member) stuff the best (especially his Manassas album). Neil Young warrants his own entry but obviously the CSN&Y stuff is included here as well.
The Cure - Overshadowed by his image as "Mr. Mope," Robert Smith is a great pop songwriter and guitar player. I adore so many of their songs, even though they never made that perfect album (Disintegration comes closest) and like some others on this list (Bob Dylan, Billy Corgan, Tom Waits) his voice is definitely an "acquired taste." Given their musical excellence, influence on goth-rock, and commercial success, the induction of The Cure should be a no-brainer.
Dick Dale – The King Of The Surf Guitar.
Dave Clark Five – These guys were a big deal back in their 1964-67 heyday, when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show a whopping 18 times (more than any other pop/rock act) and for a while were the biggest threat to The Beatles' popularity in America, where they scored fifteen consecutive top 20 hits, most of which have aged extremely well.
Dave Matthews Band – Another modern “jam band” a la Phish but one who has had actual radio hits. They have their critics (i.e. “boring dad rock”), but those are counterbalanced by their many rabid supporters. The sax-violin lineup certainly gives them a “uniqueness” factor, they’ve had excellent musicians (particularly drummer Carter Beauford and saxophonist LeRoi Moore), and they’ve remained one of the hottest live bands around for over 20 years now.
Deep Purple - The loudest band of them all at one point, according to the Guinness Book Of World Records. Too bad about all the band turnover, this pioneering hard rock/heavy metal band was extremely talented, especially their classic Mark II lineup, and of course many of the individual band members went on to notable subsequent projects: Rainbow, Whitesnake, Gillan, Captain Beyond, Warhorse, Tommy Bolin solo, Glenn Hughes solo, Hughes/Thrall, etc.
Def Leppard - Starting out as one of the brightest lights leading the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), Def Leppard found their greatest successes in the early-to-mid-'80s with producer Mutt Lange on albums such as High n' Dry, Pyromania, and Hysteria. The latter two were massive sellers known for their glossy multi-layered guitar sound and catchy vocal hooks that made their songs easy to sing along to. I found ther subsequent career to be extremely disappointing, but that doesn't change the fact that Def Leppard were one of the quintessential bands of the 1980s, and the aforementioned albums are filled with eminently likeable, radio ready anthems that still sound great.
Depeche Mode - Although synthesizer-based music is generally not my cup of tea, the influence, versatility, and longevity of this band makes them HOF-worthy. Yes, Kraftwerk was first, and New Order was more innovative, but Depeche Mode was easily the most popular exponent of this type of music, selling many, many millions of albums, selling out stadiums, and generally doing their own thing regardless of trends. Their fans just can't get enough, and Violator in particular is a legitimately great album.
Neil Diamond – This legendary singer-songwriter-performer has written many popular songs and albums and has retained his popularity and relevance across generations. Who among us hasn’t sung along to “Sweet Caroline?”
The Dictators – They may not have had much commercial success, but many punk (and metal) bands cite these brash, hard rocking New Yorkers as an influence, and in their heyday they were one of most flat-out fun bands around.
Dinosaur Jr. - He may lack range and his "whiny" voice is an acquired taste, but J. Mascis is a great songwriter and an excitingly loud (if sloppy) guitar player. Couple influence with excellence and a HOF nod is indeed warranted.
Dio - Ronnie James Dio had a fantastic 10-year run from the mid-'70s to the mid-'80s, first with Rainbow and Black Sabbath (both also on this list), and then with his own excellent band Dio (I just wish he had been able to keep the original lineup with bassist Jimmy Bain, drummer Vinny Appice, and guitarist Vivian Campbell together longer, because they were a true band with terrific chemistry). A small man with a gigantic voice, Ronnie was arguably the greatest heavy metal singer of them all, and a true believer of the form. \m/
Dion & the Belmonts – Whether early on with the Belmonts (on songs like “Teenager In Love” and “I Wonder Why”) or as a solo artist (the 1961 party anthems “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer” are both among the most universally beloved songs of all-time), Dion was an essential contributor in bridging doo-wop and rock. And he didn’t stop there, delivering the lovely top 5 hit tribute ballad “Abraham, Martin and John” in 1968, a belatedly acclaimed album with Phil Spector in 1975 (Born To Be With You), and several subsequent “comebacks” as well.
Dire Straits – Mark Knopfler's strong songwriting and incredible guitar playing in particular earns these guys my HOF nod. They sold millions of records too, which doesn't hurt. “Lady Writer,” “Tunnel Of Love,” “Telegraph Road,” “Money For Nothing,” “Brothers In Arms,” and (especially) “Sultans Of Swing” are among their most notable songs.
Donovan – When I think of hippy-dippy singer-songwriters from the '60s Donovan is among the first that comes to mind. He's not a top-tier Hall Of Famer to me, but classic songs like "Sunshine Superman," "Season Of The Witch," "Mellow Yellow," "Hurdy Gurdy Man," and "Atlantis" (among other quality efforts) make him a worthy inductee.
The Doobie Brothers – These guys were pretty ubiquitous in their ‘70s prime, and their best stuff holds up very well. Not many bands have had tremendous success with two totally different incarnations of the band, but these guys did.
The Doors - They had a fantastic and unique (keyboard led) sound due to great group chemistry, plus despite his flaws Morrison was one of the ultimate rock gods. It was destined not to last, but they left behind a lasting musical legacy.
Nick Drake - His sad music, whether ornate (Bryter Layter), stripped down (Pink Moon), or somewhere in between (Five Leaves Left), is about as beautiful as can be. It's a pity that he didn't live to see how his reputation has grown.
The Drifters - Legendary Atlantic executive Ahmet Ertegun called The Drifters “the all-time greatest Atlantic group,” no mean feat given that label's stellar roster. Whether led by legendary lead throats Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King, or the lesser known but still excellent likes of Rudy Lewis and Johnny Moore, The Drifters delivered many classic songs produced and/or penned by the legendary likes of Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Burt Bacharach & Hal David, and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weill. To quote writer Marv Goldberg in summing up the group: “The Drifters began as one of the greatest of the r&b groups, easily transformed themselves into a rock 'n roll group, switched to pop stars in the early '60s, and finished up as soul singers in the later '60s. The Drifters could do it all. The Drifters did it all.”
The Drive-By Truckers – I’ll take the easy way out here and quote the excellent writer Steven Hyden: “No rock band has ever married thunderous guitar riffs with novelistic storytelling quite like them.” They’re a great live band, too.
Bob Dylan - He's written so many great songs and has often led good bands, such as The Band. Sure, he's done his fair share of crap and his voice is an acquired taste, but he's an immensely influential genius who is rock music's greatest lyricist.
The Eagles - Though they could be a bit "smarmy" or too "middle of the road," few bands possessed the overall talent of The Eagles, whose The Greatest Hits 1971-1975 compilation is the bestselling album ever in the United States.
Earth, Wind, & Fire - At their best, this group's uplifting, spiritual, and catchy funk pop makes me feel darn good.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – These critics whipping boys may have been “pretentious” show offs who went overboard at times (especially Emerson on the keyboards, but hey if you’ve got it you might as well flaunt it, right?), but they were incredible musicians who in their ‘70s prime epitomized progressive rock.
Brian Eno - Although best known for being in Roxy Music (first two albums only) and for being a genius producer (U2, Talking Heads, etc.) who also invented "ambient" music and who has partaken in many collaborative efforts with the likes of David Bowie, John Cale, David Byrne, and Robert Fripp, Eno's first four solo albums in particular are simply terrific.
The Everly Brothers - Influencing The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and many others, Phil and Don Everly's flawless harmonies was their greatest asset. Best known for their Cadence classics in the '50s, the brothers released a series of strong albums in the '60s as well.
Fairport Convention - This long lived band is best known for their brief late '60s-early '70s peak with brilliant singer-songwriter-guitarist Richard Thompson and fabulous female singer-songwriter Sandy Denny. During this time they were arguably the best British folk rock band ever, but some of their other periods are undervalued as well.
Faith No More - The only great "rap metal" band, but then again they were much more than just that. They were one of a kind, really, and though they could be willfully difficult at times, at their best they were thrillingly idiosyncratic, atmospheric, and rocking.
The Flaming Lips - Wayne Coyne's noisy alternative rockers always had a way with pop melodies (weird though they often were), and they got better as they went along, later finding "maturity" with a more lush, layered sound that improbably brought them mainstream success.
Fleetwood Mac - They had so many lineups and such a crazy history, but the Peter Green era and the famous Buckingham-Nicks era in particular did some great stuff. Rumours is flawless pop rock that will be played forever.
Flying Burrito Brothers / Gram Parsons - After helping birth country rock on the classic The Gilded Palace Of Sin album, Gram Parsons' solo career (with a major assist from Emmylou Harris) shined brightly before his premature drug induced death. He may not have moved many units, but his talent and his influence was massive.
Foo Fighters - I think they're a great singles band who generally make merely good to very good albums, but there's no denying the number of first class individual songs the band has released over the years, and they're as much if not more of a radio presence, both on current and "classic rock" stations, as pretty much any other great rock band from the past 20 or so years that you could care to mention (like Nirvana). They're a really good live band too.
The Four Seasons - Most fondly remembered for Frankie Valli's unforgettably high-pitched falsetto vocals, like their West Coast rivals The Beach Boys they had inventive vocal harmonies, albeit with a doo-wop flavor, but these legendary Jersey Boys also had a knack for tough rhythm tracks with a distinctly urban touch.
The Four Tops - They had Motown's grittiest, most impassioned lead singer in Levi Stubbs, and the rest of the group (Motown's longest lasting with regards to keeping the original group together) lent the haunting harmonies that made songs such as "Reach Out" and "Bernadette" so unforgettable. In their '60s prime they also had the peerless Holland-Dozier-Holland production team writing them hit after hit.
Aretha Franklin - The Queen Of Soul wasn't only the greatest female singer ever, she was a talented pianist and songwriter who in her late '60s/early '70s Atlantic heyday always had a killer band backing her.
Free / Bad Company - This is probably cheating because these were two significantly different bands linked by a single drummer (Simon Kirke) and lead singer (Paul Rodgers). However, Rodgers had one of the best bluesy macho hard rock voices ever, which deserves enshrinement. Free was notable for far more than their one well-known song, "All Right Now," and in fact they were one of the best blues-based hard rock bands of the late-'60s/early-'70s, in part because ill-fated guitarist Paul Kossoff was one of the most underrated players ever. Bad Company was a "supergroup" known for their Led Zeppelin connection, but though they were more straightforwardly commercial and more formulaic than Free, they also had their fair share of classic tunes, some of which remain firm FM “classic rock” radio favorites.
Fugazi – In addition to following a much-admired model of DIY ethics, rock's most principled band was also comprised of terrific musicians. If The Argument turns out to be the last Fugazi album, it was a hell of a way to go.
Peter Gabriel - The former Genesis main man pursued a very different direction when he went solo, but he has crafted a solo career that is also Hall Of Fame worthy. Embracing chilly synthesizers and being among the first mainstream artists to foray into World Music, his best work is artsy yet accessible and is quite powerful. It’s a pity that his productivity has declined so drastically over the past two decades, but hopefully he still has some more quality stuff in him.
Rory Gallagher – I’ve always thought of him as an Irish Stevie Ray Vaughan, except he came first, going way back to the late ‘60s with his power trio Taste. This hard rocking bluesman was a talented singer, songwriter, and (especially) guitar player, and though he never had any type of significant mainstream success, that’s partially because he preferred it that way. His output is remarkably consistent, he was a terrific live performer, and the respect and love he receives from his fans and peers is off the charts, plus he was extremely influential on the Irish music scene.
Marvin Gaye - From '60s hitmaker, both as a solo artist and as Motown's go-go duet guy (Tammi Terrell being his most notable partner), to his socially conscious and/or sexually charged '70s work, Marvin Gaye could do it all, never more wonderfully than on his signature album What's Going On. He may have lacked the consistency of some of his peer, but at his best few were better than Marvin Gaye, who above all else was one of the greatest singers ever.
Genesis - Peter Gabriel-led art rock giants turned stadium filling pop superstars (the Phil Collins-led era), I rather like both eras though it is the less commercially successful Gabriel era that most hardcore Genesis fans prefer these days. Gabriel's quite different solo career is also often superb, while Collins of course was inescapable in the '80s. Guitarist Steve Hackett has also done some good solo stuff, and Mike Rutherford had considerable commercial success with Mike and the Mechanics.
Grateful Dead - The biggest cult band of all time, and one of the great live bands, though in some ways "you had to have been there, man...".
Al Green - My favorite singer of all time. He was a great songwriter too, albeit limited stylistically, and it didn't hurt that his backing band (the Hi Rhythm Section) and producer (Willie Mitchell) were among the best at their craft as well.
Green Day - The bottom line is that this band had not one but two great (and massive selling) albums that helped define that particular era, 10 years apart! Dookie brought punk, or more accurately, punk pop, kicking and screaming into the mainstream, while American Idiot (later the basis of a successful Broadway show!) revived the rock opera while bashing George W. Bush. Some of their other albums and singles were successful as well, such as the deeply affecting if decidedly un-punk ballad "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)."
The Guess Who– These guys had a bunch of hits (both mellow and hard rocking) that are still played on classic rock radio and which still make me take notice whenever they come on. Led by a terrific singer in the raspy-voiced Burton Cummings, they also had “impact” in the way that they helped open the doors for subsequent successful Canadian acts. (When guitarist Randy Bachmann left to form Bachmann-Turner Overdrive, or BTO as everyone calls them, they had a handful of hard rocking hits that are still played some 40 odd years later, thus proving their durability as well.)
Guided By Voices – Sure, quality control has been an issue (Robert Pollard makes Ryan Adams seem like a slacker!), as has band membership turnover, but along with Pavement GBV defined the “lo-fi” indie movement of the ‘90s. Like Pavement they moved towards a more professional sound but the quality songs continued. Obviously indebted to The Beatles, The Who, all the right influences, basically, the fact of the matter is that despite their flaws few bands have produced more great songs than GBV over the past 20+ years, and GBV are a cult band in the best sense of the term.
Guns n' Roses - Their prime was all too brief, and frankly they blew it big time, but during that brief period they were the biggest and arguably best band in the world. P.S. The current incarnation of GNR with Axl Rose as the only remaining original member is a fraudulent co-option of the band's name that has nothing to do with the original GNR.
Hall & Oates - Although many critics find Daryl Hall (great soul singer) and John Oates (great moustache) to be too tasteful and refined (i.e. too slick for their own good), and they certainly had cheesy characteristics that gives their music a dated quality from time to time, at their best these guys produced some of the best mainstream pop songs of the ‘70s and ‘80s (i.e. “Sara Smile,” “She’s Gone,” “You Make My Dreams,” etc.). Simply put, they dominated commercial radio and MTV in the early ‘80s, and even today they remain the bestselling pop duo of all-time.
Emmylou Harris – If I’m inducting Gram Parsons it only makes sense to induct Emmylou Harris as well. The “Queen Of Country Rock” is simply one of the finest female singers ever, which is why so many greats have done duets with her. She’s had tremendously talented musicians in her band (including Rodney Crowell, Rick Skaggs, Albert Lee, and James Burton) and some of her albums, like my personal favorite, her 1995 collaboration with Daniel Lanois Wrecking Ball, are anything but straight up country. Emmylou Harris is pure class in every way and is a deserving Hall Of Famer.
George Harrison - Sure he was always overshadowed in The Beatles, and his monumental first album All Things Must Pass (arguably the best solo album from any former Beatle) towers over everything else he ever did as a solo artist, but what an album that was! Besides, it's not like he stopped making good music thereafter, both as a solo artist and as the de-facto leader of the Traveling Wilburys. Plus, his Bangladesh concerts showed that rockers could use their clout to make a real difference in the world, paving the way for future massive benefit concerts such as Live Aid, Farm Aid, and the "A Conspiracy of Hope" series of concerts on behalf of Amnesty International.
P.J. Harvey - A true original whose intense, challenging, tough, stripped-down, blues-based music can be tough to love but is impossible to ignore or forget. To call her one of the best female artists of the past 2+ decades sells her short.
Isaac Hayes - Before Barry White there was Isaac Hayes (who I far prefer), whose ultra-lush and sensuous yet sometimes funky brand of psychedelic soul reached its apex on Hot Buttered Soul and the Shaft soundtrack. He also wrote (with David Porter) many classic songs for Sam and Dave, and sometimes sat in with Booker T. & The MG's.
Heart - I'm not sure they meet the greatness bar, but they were certainly a very good and extremely influential band. The Wilson sisters (Ann and Nancy) inspired legions of females to pick up guitars and sing, though very few do it as well as these two ladies (Ann in particular is one of the best female vocalists ever). Songs such as "Crazy On You," "Magic Man," and "Barracuda" still regularly make the rounds on classic rock radio, and though from an artistic standpoint you could argue against the merits of their glossy '80s work, which attained their greatest commercial success, they still deserve credit for continually reinventing themselves (and besides "Alone" is a killer power ballad).
Jimi Hendrix Experience - The ultimate guitar hero and rock star, he led a great band and was also an underrated singer-songwriter.
The Hollies - More than being just the first band of Graham Nash (after all they continued to have hits after Nash left the fold), The Hollies were a great British Invasion (pop) band best known for their brilliantly high-pitched three-part harmonies.
Husker Du / Sugar - OK, I'm cheating here so that I can include both Hüsker Dü and the underrated Sugar, two of the best alternative rock bands of the past 30 years (and Hüsker Dü was one of the main underground bands who laid the groundwork for Nirvana). Bob Mould's solo work is generally good too even though I prefer his band work.
The Impressions - Before Curtis Mayfield spectacularly went solo, he wrote and performed some of the greatest soul pop songs of the '60s with The Impressions, including "Gypsy Woman," "It's All Right," "I'm So Proud," "Keep On Pushin’," and "People Get Ready."
Iron Maiden - MY group maybe more than any other on this list. I probably listened to these guys throughout my teenage and young adult years more than anyone else, and I still love 'em, though they've definitely had some down periods as well (particularly the lost Blaze Bayley years, but that was a tough time for heavy metal in general). They were my 2nd concert, and they're one of the best and most important hard rock/heavy metal bands ever, period.
The Isley Brothers - They charted hits over 6 decades, starting with early classics "Shout" and "Twist and Shout" and peaking with their '70s lineup, which brought the funk and the pop and featured Jimi Hendrix acolyte Ernie Isley impressing on guitar.
Janet Jackson – Although overshadowed by brother Michael and the infamous “Nipplegate” Super Bowl scandal (hey years earlier she did warn us that she was “Nasty,” right?), the lovely Ms. Jackson was a dominant dance-funk-pop-r&b force for a good 15 years, with a slew of fine albums and big hit singles to her name. Producers/collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis deserve much credit as well in helping shape her at times surprisingly edgy sound.
Michael Jackson / The Jackson 5 - The King Of Pop. Forget all the weirdness and his controversial death if you can, and remember a young Michael who once ruled the entertainment world, first with his brothers and then as a solo artist. Few artists were as electrifying as a live performer, and he dominated MTV as arguably the best video artist ever.
The Jam - Despite never making much of an impact in the U.S., they were THE U.K. band for many people in the late-'70s/early-'80s, and their music (especially their singles) still holds up extremely well. They were grouped among the punks (uneasily) but let's not forget that they also influenced many later post-punk and "Britpop" bands.
Etta James – The Hall could certainly use more of a female presence, but at least they inducted the great Etta James!
Jane’s Addiction – Sure, Perry Farrell is another “acquired taste” singer, the band broke up prematurely, and many have been underwhelmed by their comeback efforts (which I think have been better than generally advertised), but you could easily argue that Jane’s started opening the doors that Nirvana and others later crashed through. They had a unique hybrid sound (obviously indebted to funk, metal, and Zep but still uniquely their own; how could it not be with Farrell singing?) and a great band chemistry that shined brightest on Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual. They had a rep as an incendiary live act and of course Farrell also organized the Lollapalooza Festival.
Jefferson Airplane / Jefferson Starship (but not Starship!) - Though much of their music definitely has a dated quality to it, the Jefferson Airplane did some great stuff that defined the psychedelic hippy era of the late '60s, in particular Grace Slick sung songs such as "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit."After the band's most accomplished musicians (bassist Jack Casady and guitarist Jorma Kaukonen) left to form Hot Tuna, Jefferson Starship, with key new members such as guitarist Craig Chaquico and later singer Mickey Thomas joining Airplane holdovers Slick, Paul Kantner, and sometimes Marty Balin (among others as the band had a rotating cast of musicians), also had a successful run, peaking in 1975 with the #1 album Red Octopus and its massive Balin-sung hit "Miracles" and later packing arenas as a hard rocking AOR band best exemplified by excellent hits such as "Jane," “Find Your Way Back,” and "Stranger." Unfortunately Slick (who also briefly left the band in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s) and Thomas continued with the truly dreadful, overly poppy Starship (of “We Built This City” infamy), but that doesn't diminish their earlier accomplishments.
Jethro Tull - The first band I ever saw in concert, they'll always have a special place in my heart for that reason. Regardless, in their prime (roughly 1969-1978) they were an excellent band who successfully mixed together folk, prog, pop, and hard rock. But their most impressive feat may have been making the flute cool to rock audiences!
Billy Joel - Yeah he had his flaws but I won't focus on those because the bottom line is that this piano man sang many songs that millions took to heart. It's a pity about that premature retirement, but better than sticking around too long.
Elton John - The current generation brought up on The Lion King and Princess Di tributes often forget how truly great this guy was in the '70s, where he was extraordinarily prolific and productive. This guy was a great singer, songwriter (with help from lyricist Bernie Taupin), and piano player, and his backing band on his classic albums was great too.
Janis Joplin & Big Brother and the Holding Company - Although her legend eclipses her actual recorded output, nobody sang the blues with such unfettered emotion or exuded such a raw vulnerability, whether with Big Brother and the Holding Company (most notably Cheap Thrills) or on her subsequent solo tilts (most notably Pearl).
Journey - From humble beginnings as an underrated prog/fusion band (the Gregg Rollie era), the band later found massive success as stadium filling superstars (the Steve Perry/Jonathan Cain era). Although hated by most critics and hipsters, the band’s core members possessed undeniable talent (in particular singer Perry and guitarist Neal Schon) and they wrote and performed many songs that millions enjoy. “Don’t Step Believin’” especially is a timeless classic.
Joy Division / New Order - Joy Division only had two proper albums, but both are classics. They had some great non-album singles as well, some of their greatest songs in fact, plus they released a remarkable (and remarkably little known) live album. People harp on how gloomy they were but rarely mention how intense and rocking they were. New Order were pretty great too, albeit in a more dance oriented style that is less appealing to me on the whole.
Judas Priest - One of the all-time heavy metal bands, period. People forget just how ahead of their time they were in the mid to late '70s, as they were the first metal band to popularize the non-bluesy, European twin-guitar sound that became so prominent thereafter. Second only to Black Sabbath in terms of influence among metal bands, they had a very long and consistent run producing top-shelf material, and Rob Halford may be the greatest of all metal singers.
Carole King - One could argue that she deserves enshrinement for Tapestry alone given that it is arguably the definitive female singer-songwriter album. Factor in all those hits she wrote for others with former husband Gerry Goffin, and her generally worthwhile and underrated non-Tapestry output, and I feel that she is very deserving.
King Crimson - This band kickstarted the progressive rock subgenre and had a least three classic lineups. Sure, they recorded a fair amount of filler, but at their best Robert Fripp's hard-hitting progsters are one of the few bands who can leave me awestruck, so massive was their virtuosic talent. Greg Lake, John Wetton, Bill Bruford, Tony Levin, and Adrian Belew are but some of the supremely talented members who have graced the band's ranks over the years.
The Kinks - Most people don't realize just how great The Kinks were since their best albums (late '60s - early '70s) were among their least popular. I even like the less subtle later arena rock stuff, though earlier they went too far with concept albums and they petered out at the very end. Ray Davies was a brilliant songwriter and lyricist, and brother Dave was a very underrated guitarist (and a fine songwriter himself whose backing vocals also often hit the spot).
KISS - A live band first and foremost, they were all about the live spectacle. That said, they also wrote their fair share of classic hard rock tunes, though too often the marketing of goods seemed to take precedence over the music.
Gladys Knight & The Pips – A classy singer of many styles on several labels (most notably Motown and Buddah), Gladys Knight and her Pips were a quality act for many years.
Kool and the Gang – One of the premier funk/soul/pop groups of the ‘70s (and into the early ‘80s), whether urging you to (jungle) boogie or to celebrate (or cherish) good times.
Kraftwerk - I’m not a huge fan of their music, but they deserve to be in any rock Hall Of Fame because you could make a case that no other band did more than this influential German ensemble to help popularize synthesizer-based electronic music. (P.S. Early members Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger formed the also influential group Neu!)
Kyuss / Queens Of The Stone Age - Kyuss was the definitive "stoner rock" cult band who dropped two classic albums (Blues For The Red Sun, Welcome To Sky Valley) before Homme formed the more commercial (and far more successful) Queens Of The Stone Age with ex-Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri (since kicked out of the band which is Homme's baby through and through anyway, though notable guests such as singer Mark Lanegan and drummer Dave Grohl have also made stellar contributions). Songs For The Deaf is one of the best albums of the 2000s, and Homme has been prolific with other projects as well, including his series of Desert Sessions albums, Eagles Of Death Metal, and Them Crooked Vultures (his “supergroup” with Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl).
Led Zeppelin - Amazing band. I love the first 6 studio albums and like the last 2, plus the archive live albums are great (and The Song Remains The Same has its moments as well). Each musician is among the best at what they do, but together they were greater than the sum of their individual parts. My favorite band along with The Beatles.
John Lennon - Although inconsistent, John's impeccably honest solo career spawned two classic albums (Plastic Ono Band, Imagine), numerous great songs, and the promise of much more before he was gunned down by a madman in his adopted hometown of New York City.
Little Feat - Led by terrific singer-songwriter-guitarist Lowell George, these eclectic, supremely underrated Southern rockers were one of the best bands of the '70s.
Los Lobos – Although technically a “one-hit wonder” via their popular rendition of Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” (a #1 hit), these Tex-Mex titans have been an incredibly consistent, versatile, and innovative band for over 30 years now.
Love – This legendary West Coast cult band led by Arthur Lee is best known for the enduring critic’s classic Forever Changes (1967). They never made it big like their Elektra label mates The Doors, but their reputation has continued to grow over the years, and deservedly so. Combine musical excellence with influence and they are worthy of induction.
The Lovin' Spoonful - One of those great second tier singles bands of the sixties, the band had an excellent singer-songwriter in John Sebastian and an eclectic sound that encompassed a dizzying array of styles (bluegrass, country, ragtime, orchestral pop, gentle ballads, dramatic rockers, etc.). Though the band had a lighter (i.e. unpolitical), less groundbreaking agenda than other major rock acts of their time (’65-’67), the best songs of the Lovin’ Spoonful (including “Do You Believe In Magic,” “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” “Daydream,” and “Summer In The City”) have a timeless appeal. The band at their best will undoubtedly brighten your mood and make you nostalgic for a bygone era.
Lynyrd Skynyrd - The second greatest southern rock band had some of rock's all-time anthems. They were cut down in their prime but still left behind an impressive legacy. "Tuesday's Gone," "Simple Man," "Saturday Night Special," "That Smell," and of course "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Freebird" are but some of their legendary songs.
The Mahavishnu Orchestra - John McLaughlin's band was simply one of the most talented musical ensembles ever, each member a virtuoso. Their "classic lineup" was together only briefly in the early ‘70s, but they recorded two dazzling studio albums and left many concert audiences completely awed; the best "fusion" band ever, period.
The Mamas and the Papas – Known for their stellar male-female harmonies, striking visual image (mostly due to the contrast between the extra-petite bombshell Michelle Phillips and the extra-large Mama Cass Elliott), incestuous inter-band relationships, and John Phillips' fine songs ("California Dreaming" and "Monday Morning" in particular were enduring #1 hits), this quintessential West Coast folk-pop combo was short-lived but made a lasting impact.
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Bob Marley IS reggae, but he could also play folk, soul, and rock, and The Wailers always provided perfect accompaniment. His omnipresent hits collection sums him up perfectly with a single succinct word: Legend.
Martha and the Vandellas - They had a tougher sound than most of their Motown peers, and with the help of the peerless Holland-Dozier-Holland production team, during their 1963-1967 prime they produced some of the greatest songs of the '60s, chief among them "Heat Wave," "Nowhere To Run," and "Dancing In The Street."
Massive Attack - Few bands can claim to have invented a genre, but that's just what this Bristol-based collective did when they dropped their classic "trip-hop" album Blue Lines in 1991. They later topped it with the even more impressive Mezzanine in 1998, and early contributor Tricky released his own great solo album Maxinquaye in 1995.
Mastodon - This may be a premature selection if they subsequently turn to crap (not likely), but in my opinion they are probably the best truly heavy metal band of the 2000s (drummer Brann Dailor in particular is incredible). Leviathan and Crack the Skye are modern masterpieces.
John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers - "The Godfather of British Blues," John Mayall was a major instigator of his nation's blues boom in the mid-to-late '60s. The ranks of his band (and it was his band, though his more famous bandmates all eventually left for "bigger things") reads like a "who's who" of major blues rock figures from that era, and only the Yardbirds can rival the guitar triumvirate of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor (other members who came and went included drummers Mick Fleetwood and Aynsley Dunbar plus bassists Jack Bruce and John McVie). Their albums from 1966 through 1969 in particular are well worth the time of any blues rock fan.
Curtis Mayfield - On superb solo albums such as Curtis and his classic "blaxploitation" soundtrack Superfly, Mayfield wrote gritty urban dramas that read like the best short stories. Ultimately an optimist (more obvious on his early Impressions sides), he also had a serious romantic streak, and his underrated guitar playing and creamy falsetto vocals only added to an overall package that was pure class.
Paul McCartney & Wings - Paul gets a bit of a bad rap for writing too many silly love songs, but he's also produced his fair share of classics with and without his band Wings. Ram and Band On The Run in particular are terrific albums, and songs such as "Maybe I'm Amazed," "Band On The Run," "Jet," and "Live and Let Die" are worthy of comparison to his best Beatles work.
MC5 - Although short-lived and somewhat overshadowed by their fellow Detroit proto-punk peers The Stooges, these motherf**kers could really kick out the jams with a ferocious attack that could also be quite musical.
Megadeth - I saw them live 4 times and they were great each time. Heavy but accessible, with terrific musicianship (especially the classic Mustaine/Ellefson/Menza/Friedman lineup), Megadeth are the thinking man's metal band. Rust In Peace is one of the best metal albums ever, and they have several other high quality releases as well. I wish that group leader and musical mastermind Dave Mustaine would get over the whole Metallica thing already, though.
John Mellencamp – This heartland rocker may not be the most exciting or original artist - certainly he owes a debt to the Stones, CCR, and most notably Springsteen - but he sure has written a lot of good songs over the years, and he was a steady presence on the singles charts for a good 15 years (before radio stopped playing new material by older classic rockers). His band was always good too, and his values were especially embraced by “small town” Americans.
Metallica - 20 years ago they'd probably be in my top 10, maybe even top 5, but on record they've been mediocre or worse a lot longer than they were actually great at this point. However, for five albums they were the best heavy metal band ever, and Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets in particular are among the best of the best.
The Meters – Similar to Booker T. & The MG’s, this great groove band spectacularly backed tons of artists while also releasing some fine albums in their own right (from ‘69-‘77). The Meters define the rich, funky sound of New Orleans.
Steve Miller Band - Most people aren't aware that this guy has been around since the '60s, when he made a series of very good bluesy psychedelic rock albums (a couple with future star Boz Scaggs as part of the band). Of course, he hit his commercial stride in the mid-'70s with the songs - chief among them "The Joker," "Take The Money and Run," "Rock 'n Me," "Swingtown," "Jungle Love," "Fly Like An Eagle" - that comprise his Greatest Hits 1974-78 album, which is inescapable on any college campus (or at least it was back when I attended college from 1987-1991). The hits dried up after 1982's fluke-ish single "Abracadabra," as Steve wasn't exactly tailor made for the MTV era, but his smooth, catchy tunes continue to live on, and they still sound damn good whenever they come on classic rock radio.
Joni Mitchell - Whether singing literate, highly confessional singer songwriter fare (most notably on the seminal Blue), or delivering more musically fleshed out, jazzier compositions (on classic albums like Court and Spark, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns, and Hejira), Joni Mitchell's music is almost always interesting and original even if it's rarely easy listening. She also happens to be one of the best lyricists ever and is an underrated singer and guitar player.
The Monkees - Regardless of whether or not they were a "manufactured band," their influence is undeniable. Every manufactured "boy band" owes them a debt (for better and mostly worse), and they were the single most important band to marry audio and visual mediums, which ultimately led to MTV. So what if they didn't play on their first two albums? A lot of famous bands can say the same thing, that's how it was done back in the day. Besides, they ultimately gained their independence and became a "real band," and a very good one at that. Most importantly, they have some of the most universally beloved songs of all time, chief among them "Last Train To Clarksville," "I'm a Believer," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," and "Daydream Believer."
The Moody Blues - These guys were never critics' faves, which is perhaps one reason why I don't completely trust critics! Their 1967-72 prime in particular makes these artsy symphonic prog pop rockers easily worthy of induction.
Van Morrison - He's a crank and a sourpuss but from '68-'79 he was utterly brilliant, as good as anyone really. Astral Weeks may be the greatest album ever, and Moondance, Saint Dominic's Preview, Veedon Fleece, and Into The Music would all contend for my top 100 too (Moondance top 50). Some of his later albums are quite solid as well.
Motley Crue – I will always love the first two Motley Crue albums and feel that they were underachievers thereafter, being more concerned with partying than producing good music. But they had their fair share of good individual songs thereafter as well, they’ve remained a strong touring unit, and it seems right that at least one other L.A. “hair band” other than Guns n’ Roses should be inducted. Like it or not, pretty boy hard rock dominated much of the 1980s.
Motörhead - The ultimate grunge band, really. Pure power, I just love their dirty sound. I dig the quote where Lemmy said "if we moved next door your lawn would die." They have many thrilling, hard rocking songs (of particular note is the immortal “Ace Of Spades”) and they always deliver the goods live, especially incredible drummer Mikkey Dee.
Mott The Hoople / Ian Hunter - Like some other great bands on this list (Free, Procol Harum, Thin Lizzy), Mott The Hoople are unfairly remembered in the U.S. as a "one hit wonder," in this case for the brilliant "All The Young Dudes" which they famously didn't even write (David Bowie did though it is Ian Hunter's inspired lead vocal that makes it such a standout). Fact is, Hunter's glam-era outfit, known for their self-mythologizing lyrics, were a gritty band of underdogs who did some great stuff. Hunter's subsequent solo career, at times with guitarist Mick Ronson, is also well-worth following (start with his self-titled debut or You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic), and of course original guitarist Mick Ralphs (replaced by Ariel Bender) later found fame and fortune in Bad Company.
The Move / ELO - Although these bands were very different, with the eclectic Roy Wood-led The Move trying everything from whimsical pop, psychedelia, and even hard rock, and the Jeff Lynne-led ELO (Lynne joined The Move late and Wood left ELO after their first album) perfecting an at first artsy but increasingly commercial classical influenced brand of Beatles-esque pop, I believe that they are a very worthy 2-for-1 induction, especially if you consider Wood's post-ELO career (his band Wizzard and solo albums such as Boulders) and Lynne's influential producer career collaborating with the likes of fellow Traveling Wilburys George Harrison and Tom Petty. (Heck, ELO are worthy all by themselves, but I feel that The Move are criminally underrated and worth another look as well.)
My Bloody Valentine - THE shoegazer band, with THE shoegazer album (Loveless). Their other proper albums, Isn't Anything and the belatedly released mbv are also quite good, and some of their EPs contain some prime stuff as well.
My Morning Jacket - Perhaps this selection is a bit premature, but these guys are among my favorite modern day bands. I dig their relaxed yet rocking reverb-drenched sound, leader Jim James is an excellent singer/songwriter/guitarist, and this "jam band" can really bring it live (check out their great live album Okonokos).
Willie Nelson – If Johnny Cash belongs in my Hall Of Fame (and he does) then so does fellow “outlaw” Willie.
Neutral Milk Hotel - Only two albums, but one of them, In the Aeorplane Over The Sea, is one of my favorite albums ever; it's a cornerstone of any serious indie rock collection, and is one of the signature albums of the late '90s.
Randy Newman - His brilliantly sarcastic sense of humor wouldn't mean much if he wasn't such a superb songwriter (he can greatly move me as well as make me laugh). I only wish he had done less soundtrack work and more (less lucrative, presumably) proper singer-songwriter albums. He's got a friend in me, in any event.
The New Pornographers - This “Canadian indie rock supergroup” instantly delivered three wonderfully colorful, catchy, and propulsively rocking pop albums. Their subsequent two albums have merely been very good, but I feel that they are especially Hall Of Fame worthy if you consider the band as an extended family and include key members' solo albums (Colin Newman, Neko Case) and other band albums (Dan Bejar's Destroyer).
New York Dolls - This glammy New York "proto-punk" band influenced much of the subsequent punk, new wave, and glam metal movements. Taking their musical cues from The Rolling Stones and girl groups, the band's sloppy but exciting sound originally yielded two seminal albums before the band members went their separate ways. Singer David Johansen and guitarist/junkie Johnny Thunders (first with The Heartbreakers and then solo) had the most productive post-Dolls careers, and Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain
improbably regrouped in the mid-2000s and continue to play together (the rest of the band is deceased, alas, Thunders from an all too predictable drug overdose).
Harry Nilsson – This uniquely talented and eccentric singer-songwriter, much beloved by The Beatles and a drinking buddy of John Lennon, is best known for the singles “Everybody’s Talkin’” and “Without You,” both of which featured his fantastic lead vocals. Although his two biggest hits were covers, Nilsson (sometimes he’s only known by his last name) was also a strong songwriter in his own right (for example, Three Dog Night had a big hit with his song “One”).
Nine Inch Nails - The most popular "industrial" artist ever and one of the quintessential acts of the 1990s, Trent Reznor has remained relevant in the 2000s even though he (let's face it, he is Nine Inch Nails) has unsurprisingly failed to match his earlier impact. The Downward Spiral in particular is one of the defining albums of the 1990s.
Nirvana - They had a small discography but what an impact. And they were legitimately great. Pity they were so (literally) short-lived.
Laura Nyro – A highly innovative and influential singer-songwriter best known for penning hits for others, her own superb albums, in particular the early ones released between 1967-1971, make her a worthy Hall Of Fame inductee.
Oasis - Mostly for those first 2 albums (Definitely Maybe, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?), both of which I will always love, though some of their later stuff is underrated as well; they never stopped being good even if they did stop being great. At their best they produced timeless music that defined Britpop in the '90s.
The O'Jays - This vocal group hit their peak in the 1970s, particularly on albums such as Back Stabbers and Ship Ahoy, which helped define "Philly soul" with considerable assistance from the legendary production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and the MFSB house band.
Opeth - A great proggy modern day death metal band who do heavy and atmospheric exceptionally well. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for their more extreme vocals and super-long songs, though, that I must admit.
Roy Orbison - Nobody sang for the lonely better than Roy Orbison, who had a distinctive look and a one in a trillion voice.
Ozzy Osbourne - Yes his solo career warrants induction as well, mostly for the Randy Rhoads era, though he did some good stuff afterwards as well, most notably No More Tears. The best concert I've ever attended - BY FAR - was during Ozzy's "retirement tour" in 1991. It's a pity that he didn't stick to his word because he's become little more than a punch line in recent years.
Pantera - One of the '90s heaviest and most important heavy metal bands, Pantera were an ultra-intense live act whose Far Beyond Driven album may be Billboard's most uncompromising #1 album ever. I actually prefer the two prior albums, Cowboys From Hell and Vulgar Display Of Power, as the band got a bit too heavy and unmelodic for their own good later on. They also influenced a lot of crappy bands but that's no more their fault than Nirvana or Pearl Jam for spawning post-grunge (ewe).
Graham Parker and the Rumour - If Elvis Costello belongs in the Hall Of Fame then so does Graham Parker (the two “angry young men” are often compared and I for one prefer Parker at his best). In particular, albums such as Howlin’ Wind, Heat Treatment, and Squeezing Out Sparks should greatly appeal to fans of early Bruce Springsteen and Van Morrison. After his great mid-to-late-‘70s run his output was decidedly more hit-and-miss, but he did have some “hits” (if not actual chart hits) and by then he’d done enough to warrant induction anyway (in this Hall Of Fame at least!). Special mention for The Rumour, one of the great backing bands who appeared on his best albums.
Pavement - They defined slacker "lo-fi" indie cool in the early '90s before pursuing a more professional sound. The quality songs continued, however. Slanted and Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain are among the best albums of the '90s.
Pearl Jam - GREAT debut album, a very consistent career (even if they're consistent in their inconsistency). Excellent musicians, with one of rock's most compelling lead singers in Eddie Vedder, they've accumulated the most great material of all the grunge bands simply by sticking around, and they’ve remained a top touring attraction.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - A consistently good (and prolific) album maker and a consistently great singles artist with a top-notch band behind him (even his solo albums usually featured at least one or two Heartbreakers).
P-Funk - Including Parliament, Funkadelic, and many other offshoots, these guys were simply out of this world, whether rocking out with hard psychedelic rock on the early Funkadelic albums or making you (and the entire world) shake your booty to the many dancehall smashes during Parliament's heyday. Bassist Bootsy Collins, guitarist Eddie Hazel, and keyboardist Bernie Worrell are but the most notable musicians who participated in George Clinton's funk empire.
Phish – THE post-Grateful Dead “jam band,” for better or (some would argue) worse. I like ‘em so here they are.
Wilson Pickett - "Wicked" Wilson Pickett was simply one of the best Southern soul singers ever.
Pink Floyd - I think the early psychedelic Syd Barrett period is a bit overrated but during their '70s prime they were one of the best bands ever. The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall in particular are among the bestselling, and best, albums ever. The ultimate "album band," just press play and chill out.
Pixies - They went from being underrated to a bit overrated due to their supposed influence on many alternative bands including Nirvana, but they were still one of a kind and did a lot of great stuff in a very short period of time. Also, their successful comeback ignited many other similar comebacks, as once again the Pixies led rather than followed.
The Police - Early on they mixed punk, pop, and reggae, while later they briefly achieved "biggest band in the world" status due to Sting's superior pop songwriting. And then, rarity of rarities, they broke up while still on top. (Of course, Sting has gone on to have a very successful solo career, but like most people I far prefer his work with The Police.)
Porcupine Tree – Among modern day prog oriented bands, this Steven Wilson led ensemble definitely stands out from the pack, and they’ve already attained at least semi-legendary (cult band) status. Whether delivering atmospheric, spacey ballads or near-metallic rockers, there’s little that this talented band doesn’t do extremely well.
Portishead - Their output is thus far limited to only three studio albums and a live album, but everything they have released has been great, in particular their debut album Dummy which I consider to be the quintessential trip-hop album. They have a uniquely atmospheric sound and a great singer; I just wish that they were more prolific.
Elvis Presley - The once, future, and forever King Of Rock 'n' Roll.
The Pretenders – I was surprised that they got into the real Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame on their first try given how many more worthy acts (in my opinion, of course) are still on the outside looking in. Then again, they have an iconic female frontwoman with a great voice, their first album (recorded before James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon died way too young) is a classic, and I guess they’ve done enough high-quality stuff thereafter to warrant induction.
Prince - The Purple One was beyond weird (Unpronounceable Symbol, anyone?) and way too prolific for his own good, but he's also a genius multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, guitar hero, and singer. Most of his '80s albums are essential, and some of his later stuff is also undervalued (plus let’s not forget that he was a badass live performer).
Procol Harum - It's absurd that this consistently stellar band are known almost exclusively in the United States for one song, the undeniably classic "A Whiter Shade Of Pale." Intelligent lyrics (Keith Reid), soulful vocals (Gary Brooker), strong musicianship (in particular guitarist Robin Trower, keyboardist Matthew Fisher, and drummer B.J. Wilson), an innovative sound that merged classical music, prog, and hard rock, plus ambitious, well-written songs; what more could you want? Guitarist Robin Trower went on to a notable solo career delivering bluesy hard rock as well.
Pulp – Think ‘90s “Britpop” and Oasis and Blur immediately come to mind, but many people actually preferred Pulp. Their lack of significant success in the U.S. will likely preclude them from ever entering the museum in Cleveland without a ticket, but based on merit their stellar four album run from 1994-1998 makes them worthy of induction.
Queen - Never critics faves, and there is a campy datedness to much of their material, but at their best these guys were truly great, in particular innovative guitarist Brian May and flamboyant singer Freddie Mercury, an all-time frontman and singer who sadly passed away far too young.
Radiohead - Hands down the best band of the past 15 years (1995-2010) and one of the very best bands ever.
Rage Against The Machine - I'm not really a fan of their style or their singer but the fact that they were basically THE rap metal band of their era makes them worthy of induction, plus Tom Morello was one of the most innovative guitar players of '90s. Best experienced on record in limited dosages, they were first and foremost a powerhouse live unit.
Rainbow - The Ritchie Blackmore/Ronnie James Dio version of the band birthed "power metal" and influenced countless hard rock bands. Subsequent (increasingly commercial) incarnations of the band were less impressive but had their moments as well.
Bonnie Raitt – A very good singer and guitar player (especially on slide), Bonnie was a journeywoman survivor who belatedly became a superstar. She's not a top-tier Hall Of Famer to me, as her music isn't the most exciting around, but she has all the boxes checked to warrant induction: she's influential especially to women performers, she's released a lot of high quality music, some of which sold very well, she's won several Grammy Awards (not that I'm a big proponent of the Grammys but having them on the shelf sure doesn't hurt), and is a top-notch live performer.
Ramones - The most important and best American punk band. Their first four albums in particular are essential.
The Rascals - Another band who are right up my alley, I just LOVE their sound, rocking yet so soulful. Dino Dinelli is one of the best drummer's ever. Their prime years were brief but their best singles remain timeless classics.
Otis Redding - The personification of gritty Southern soul music, Otis was one of the all-time greats despite tragically dying from a plane crash far too young. Stax Records was never quite the same after his passing.
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Like 'em or loathe 'em, there's no getting around the fact that these guys are frontrunners of a specific type of music (funk rock), and that they have been consistent hitmakers for over two decades now.
Lou Reed - Although his inconsistent solo career has always been overshadowed by his groundbreaking work in The Velvet Underground, it has had enough peaks (amid some dire valleys) to warrant Lou being a two time inductee.
R.E.M. - These guys became stars the right way, constantly evolving and broadening their fan base, with no loss of artistic integrity. Mostly, they're just an amazingly consistent band, even though they slipped after Bill Berry left. They came back strong at the end though, and exited while still in fine form; not a bad way to go out if you ask me.
The Replacements - The 'Mats early stuff was a bit too sloppy and under-developed, their later stuff a bit too slick and unexciting, but for three albums (Let It Be, Tim, Pleased To Meet Me) they got everything just about right. A much beloved, truly great garage rock band with one of the best lyricists ever.
The Righteous Brothers – Along with The Rascals these guys (deep voiced Bill Medley and high-pitched Bobby Hatfield) epitomized “blue-eyed soul” in the ‘60s and, typically with more than a little help from producer Phil Spector, delivered a handful of all-time classic singles, chief among them “You’ve Lost The Lovin’ Feeling,” “Unchained Melody” (my wedding song!), “Just Once In My Life,” and (without Spector) “Soul and Inspiration.”
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - I'm not sure that he was "America's greatest living poet," as Bob Dylan famously said, but he was a great lyricist, songwriter, and singer, and he was probably the second most important person at Motown behind Berry Gordy. This entry includes Smokey’s work with the Miracles and his successful solo career.
The Rolling Stones - They had as many great songs as anyone, though unlike The Beatles and Led Zeppelin they didn't know when to call it a day. Still, for many years they lived up to their "world's greatest rock 'n' roll band" moniker.
Linda Ronstadt – The pre-eminent female pop-rock singer of the ‘70s, she had many notable successes in a variety of genres thereafter as well. Her crystal clear voice always sounds immaculate and is immediately recognizeable.
The Ronettes – Led by Ronnie Spector vocally and producer Phil Spector and The Wrecking Crew musically, these three gals (also including Ronnie’s sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley) only released one proper album (Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica) and some singles, but what songs they were! At their best, especially on the immortal “Be My Baby” (other classics included “”Baby, I Love You,” “(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up,” and “Walking In The Rain”), this “girl group” released some of the greatest songs of the mid-‘60s.
Roxy Music - They were ahead of their time and sounded like nobody else (hell they sounded like they were from another planet), though they influenced a lot of the new wave music that followed. Their first five albums are all really good to great and Avalon was an elegant swan song.
Rufus & Chaka Khan – Whether with her stellar first band Rufus (often billed as Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan) or during her subsequent solo career, Chaka Khan deserves recognition as one of the premiere female r&b/funk vocalists ever.
Todd Rundgren and Utopia - He may be inconsistent and overly prolific but Todd is a legitimate genius with a ton of top stuff (especially in the ‘70s, his most commercially successful period), both solo and with his groups The Nazz and especially Utopia. He's also a very underrated singer and guitar player, and a top-shelf songwriter and producer.
Rush - The ultimate "progressive hard rock" power trio. Fantastic musicianship, great live. Worshipped by nerds worldwide. A band with many great songs and albums though they never really nailed that ultra-classic album.
Sam and Dave - Double Dynamite, their prime only lasted a couple of years (1966-68) but during that time this dynamic duo (Sam Moore and Dave Prater) gave even Otis Redding a run for his money. P.S. Props are also due to the songwriting team of David Porter (not Prater) and Isaac Hayes for providing these guys with great material.
Santana - Mostly for their pioneering early albums, back when Santana was the name of an actual band rather than a guy. Of course, that guy, Carlos Santana, was a fantastic guitar player with one of the purest, most emotional guitar tones ever, but the entire ensemble could really cook up powerful Latin rock grooves.
Joe Satriani – Primarily an instrumental artist (who have typically been given extremely short thrift by the Hall Of Fame voting committee), I'm inducting Joe because not only is he one of the greatest guitarists ever, but he represents other instrumentalists of his ilk (his student Steve Vai and Eric Johnson, among others). He has consistently delivered ambitious, high-quality albums for three decades now, and he has maintained a hardcore cult following throughout, even during the heyday of the '90s alternative rock era when guitar virtuosity was frowned upon.
The Scorpions - The early albums were highlighted by Uli Jon Roth's extraordinary guitar playing. When he left the band pursued a more commercial, highly successful path, but the steely Euro riffs, strong vocals, and quality tunes continued through 1984's Love At First Sting. I'm not a fan of their later albums, but their productive first decade and their reputation as a stellar live act throughout their career makes them easily worthy of a Hall Of Fame induction.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band - To quote Wikipedia: "A roots rocker with a classic raspy, shouting voice, Seger wrote and recorded songs that dealt with blue-collar themes and was an exemplar of heartland rock. Seger has recorded many hits, including "Night Moves," "Turn the Page," "We've Got Tonight," "Against the Wind," and "Like a Rock."" Although he could be rather generic, some of his early stuff rocked surprisingly hard (though strong albums like Ramblin' Gamblin' Man and Back in '72 are distressingly hard to find), and additional classic tracks like "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," "2 + 2 = ?" (the greatest anti-war song ever?), "Beautiful Loser," "Main Street," "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," "Still The Same," "Hollywood Nights," "'Till It Shines," "Feel Like a Number," "Her Strut," and "Fire Lake" makes him (and his stellar band) Hall Of Fame worthy despite being a victim of classic rock radio overexposure.
The Sex Pistols - These thuggish anarchists changed the world, and for a brief spell were a terrific rock band as well.
The Shangri-Las - Formed around the singing talents of a pair of sisters, Mary (who sang lead) and Elizabeth "Betty" Weiss, and identical twins Marguerite "Marge" and Mary Ann Ganser, The Shangri-Las had the tough gal look (i.e. tight leather outfits with go-go boots), the songs (often supplied by the legendary tandem of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich), and the sound (producer George "Shadow" Morton was a similarly inventive rival of Phil Spector). They had it all, really, and at least for a little while (1964-1966) they did teenage melodrama as well as any “girl group.”
The Shirelles - One of the most important styles of rock music, especially during the period between when Elvis first hit and the Beatles-led British Invasion, was the "girl group sound," and one of the greatest proponents of that sound was the supremely classy and stylish Shirelles, who even got the stamp of approval from the Fab Four themselves.
Sigur Rós - This otherworldly Icelandic combo makes some of most beautiful and unique music imaginable.
Simon & Garfunkel - Take Paul Simon's great songs, add Garfunkel's peerless voice and sprinkle in Paul's for some of the prettiest harmonies ever, and what you have is pure folk rock magic.
Paul Simon - Sure there are times when I miss Garfunkel's pure pipes, but Simon's adventurous, globetrotting solo career has also had its fair share of stupendous peaks, most notably the great Graceland.
Slayer - The quintessential thrash metal band. F**ckin’ Slayer!!!
Sleater-Kinney - The best all-female band ever, and one of the best bands from 1996-2005, period, even if their shrill, abrasive (but at times quite beautiful) sound is perhaps something of an "acquired taste."
Sly & The Family Stone - The greatest funk rock band ever. Sly was a visionary genius, even if their prime was brief. Their Greatest Hits album is the ultimate party album, and There's A Riot Goin' On is the ultimate 2AM chill out bummer album.
The Small Faces / The Faces - The exceedingly British "Mod" band The Small Faces brief career shined brightly, led by powerhouse singer Steve Marriott. When Marriott left to form the underrated Humble Pie, he was replaced by Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood, and the newly christened The Faces became one of the great good-time party bands. (P.S. I also really like the solo work of Ronnie Lane, and Wood has done some good solo stuff too. Rod has his own entry.)
Smashing Pumpkins - They made two of my all-time favorite albums (Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, decade defining albums both), plus plenty of other high-quality stuff as well. Some people don't like his voice or think that he's a pretentious a-hole, and maybe they have a point, but he's also a brilliant songwriter and guitarist so who cares? (Besides, I like his voice, at least on their mellower material; it's certainly unique.)
Elliott Smith - Whether delivering spare acoustic confessionals or lush Beatles-esque compositions, Elliott Smith is always a compelling if decidedly depressing singer-songwriter. A modern day Nick Drake who met a similarly sad (if far more gruesome) early demise and whose reputation has likewise only grown since then.
Patti Smith Group - The punk poetess and her garage-rocking backing band influenced many future rockers (like R.E.M. and P.J. Harvey). A riveting live performer, her debut album Horses in particular is essential listening.
The Smiths - People who like lead singer/lyricist Morrissey and The Smiths REALLY like them. Like in a completely obsessive way. Their actual chart success, certainly in the U.S., was limited, but during their brief time together, led by Johnny Marr's jangly guitars and Morrissey's clever if often depressive lyrics (they’re especially worshipped by a certain sector of miserabilists), The Smiths were probably the most important British indie band of the '80s.
Sonic Youth - A long, consistent, and highly influential career that's occasionally been bogged down by over-experimentation and a certain cooler than thou hipness, the bottom line is that few bands have ever had a cooler sound than Sonic Youth, whose music could be both incredibly abrasive and shockingly beautiful.
Soundgarden - Chris Cornell is one of the best hard rock vocalists ever, and Soundgarden was easily his best band. I think it was Rolling Stone who called them "a Led Zeppelin for the '90s," which is a fitting description.
Dusty Springfield - "The White Queen Of Soul" was one of the great female singers; her Dusty In Memphis album in particular is essential listening.
The Spinners - This long running vocal group are best remembered for being perhaps the quintessential "Philly soul" group of the 1970s, with a string of seductive hits often overseen by producer Thom Bell.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - One of the greatest live performers ever, Bruce (with apologies to James Brown) was truly the hardest working man in show business, and a true artist. GREAT backing band. Brilliant lyricist. I love the mingling of r&b and rock n' roll, especially on the early albums which remain my favorites.
The Staple Singers – A family affair led by “Pops” Staples and powerhouse singer Mavis Staples, this legendary gospel-soul group are best remembered for the empowering civil rights anthem “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There.”
Steppenwolf – Similar to Blue Oyster Cult, these influential forefathers of hard rock are too often remembered for only three songs: “Born To Be Wild,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” and (to a lesser extent) “The Pusher” (God damn the pusher man!). But they had plenty of other good songs (particularly during their prolific 1968-1971 prime), and besides, the biker anthem “Born To Be Wild,” which coined the term “heavy metal,” is one of the all-time rock songs and alone makes them worthy of HOF consideration (hey if Percy Sledge can get in…). The band was also notable for their social-political lyrics, and gruff-voiced group leader John Kay was one of rock’s most distinctive lead singers.
Steely Dan - Great musicianship (particularly great guitar playing), cleverly cynical lyrics, catchy yet intricate songs, and state of the art production were the calling cards of Donald Fagen, Walter Becker, and their assorted sidekicks. In the '70s they produced a series of classic albums and songs that are still reliably entertaining and eminently tuneful.
Stereolab - Whether doling out droning Velvet Underground-inspired grooves or later helping define a certain strain of tropicalia-influenced "post-rock," this band had a wonderfully appealing (if rather homogenous) sound.
Rod Stewart - In the early '70s Rod Stewart was a great artist, both solo and with The Faces. Feel free to ignore Rod's later descent into mediocrity and worse, and instead check out Rod's work in the late '60s with the Jeff Beck Group.
The Stone Roses - Like several other borderline bands on this list, I'm inducting these guys primarily because of one album (take a guess), but again that one album is among the most perfectly realized rock albums ever, and for "cultural relevance" the band defined the brief but bright "Madchester" scene of the late-'80s/early-'90s, and they were a key early influence on what came to be known as "Britpop."
Stone Temple Pilots – People forget that for a while there in the ‘90s, the “grunge” band you were most likely to hear on the radio was Stone Temple Pilots (STP). Of course, they really weren’t a grunge band after their (derivative but still pretty great) first album, revealing a versatility and a pop sense that owed much to The Beatles and Led Zeppelin but which sounded damn good on the radio just the same. STP released six high quality albums with lead singer Scott Weiland (a master of vocal hooks), whose drug habits derailed the band on multiple occasions. He was kicked out of the band seemingly for good in 2013, but by then I feel that STP had already amassed a Hall Of Fame song catalog.
The Stooges / Iggy Pop - Iggy and the Stooges incendiary proto-punk has been oft-imitated but rarely bettered. Few bands were as dangerous or flat-out crazy (yes that's a compliment) as The Stooges. And of course Iggy later did some cool solo albums with David Bowie and James Williamson, though much of his subsequent output has been disappointing as he nevertheless basks in the respect of his peers as the so-called "Godfather Of Punk."
The Strokes – Maybe it’s premature to put them here, but they were one of the “it” bands of the early 2000s when they helped spearhead the “garage rock revival.” They might not be the most original or diverse band around, but they sure have a knack for delivering really good songs, and Is This It is simply one of the best debut albums ever.
The Stylistics – Seventies soul is definitely under-represented in the real Hall, so I’m making room for one of my favorite “Philly soul” groups. Masterminded by producer Thom Bell/lyricist Linda Creed and led by the wondrous falsetto vocals of Russell Thompkins, Jr., The Stylistics had many delectably lush and singable soft soul hits in their early-to-mid ‘70s prime.
The Supremes - With assistance from producers Holland-Dozier-Holland, few artists mastered the soulful pop single more so than Diana Ross and the fabulous Supremes, as attested to by their dazzlingly successful run of 12 #1 hits.
Talking Heads - Starting as a twitchy new wave band and evolving into a world class, worldly, wildly eclectic funk band with an extended lineup and assistance from producer Brian Eno (as well as unofficial members like Adrian Belew and Bernie Worrell), the Talking Heads were simply one of the best bands around during their 1977-1985 prime.
Talk Talk - From meager beginnings as a synth-pop band this Mark Hollis led combo can claim much credit for helping birth the "post-rock" subgenre on beautiful, adventurous albums such as The Colour Of Spring, The Spirit Of Eden, and Laughing Stock.
James Taylor – It’s arguable whether he’s “rock” if we want to quibble about such things, but I’ll go with “soft rock” and give him the benefit of the doubt. Originally I didn’t include him, as let’s face it he’s not the most exciting artist around. But I recently heard his Greatest Hits album and I knew and was able to sing along to every single song (and that doesn't even include later hits like "Handy Man," "Your Smiling Face," "Her Town Too," and "Copperline"). JT has had a very successful and durable career and he’s just about the quintessential ‘70s West Coast singer-songwriter.
Television - Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were one of the great guitar tandems, and Marquee Moon is one of the all-time great guitar albums. The hopelessly overshadowed Adventure was a fine follow up as well, and they were a great live act.
The Temptations - The greatest Motown group and maybe the greatest vocal group ever.
Thin Lizzy - Why these guys aren't revered is beyond me. "One hit wonder" my ass! They had a slew of great songs and albums, and were right up my alley; melodic hard rock with soul. Great guitarists (albeit too many of them) whose magical harmonized guitar sound would influence many a later hard rock band. Great songwriter and vocalist who was a total rock star only without the huge popularity (at least in the U.S.). Great live band. They had it all, really.
Richard Thompson / Richard and Linda Thompson - Whether with Fairport Convention, ex-wife Linda (I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight in particular is a classic), or during his prolific solo career, Thompson has been a consistently great songwriter and guitar player (if only an average singer, unlike Fairport's Sandy Denny and Linda, thankfully).
Tool - These artsy but heavy as hell prog-metal behemoths have unprolifically been producing extremely uncompromising but extremely successful music for over 20 years now. Though I find I need to be in the mood for them, challenging but extremely rewarding albums like Aenima and Lateralus are classics of their type, and the bands live shows and even their (self-made) videos are always dark, interesting, and unremittingly intense.
Traffic - The best of Steve Winwood's many productive career outlets (also briefly including the Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith, and his long and productive if not quite HOF-worthy solo career). Few singers, white or black, could sing with the soul of Mr. Winwood, who is also one heck of a keyboard player and an underrated guitarist to boot. The rest of the band, including Dave Mason (at times), Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood, was extremely talented as well.
T. Rex - Stylistically limited, perhaps, and therefore eventually left in the dust by the more ambitious likes of David Bowie, '70s U.K. pin-up king Marc Bolan and company nevertheless delivered some classic glitter rock.
Ike and Tina Turner - I don't often listen to their music, but they deserve induction because Ike was one of the architects of rock and roll, and Tina was (and still is) one of the great live performers, both with and without Ike.
UFO - One of the most underrated hard rock bands ever, UFO were at their best in the mid-to-late '70s with guitar hero Michael Schenker, peaking with 1979's Strangers In The Night, one of the greatest live albums ever. These guys should've been huge (just ask DJ Eddie Trunk; he’ll talk your ears off all night long about how much he loves them).
U2 - They have 3 of my top 50 favorite albums (The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, and Achtung Baby), and I just love their sound, especially Bono and The Edge. Yeah Bono has a big ego and he wants to save the world, but what's so bad about that? Probably the biggest rock band of the past 35 years, and not by accident.
Van Halen - The ultimate frontman/rock star and the greatest guitar player of the past 35 years; what's not to like? Most of all these guys were a lot of fun in their heyday (1978-1984). True, there have been many missed opportunities since, but the Van Hagar years are inconsistent but kinda underrated as well, though obviously it's the Diamond Dave years that made them legends. The less said about the mercifully brief Gary Cherone era the better.
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - One of the greatest guitarists ever (with a top-notch backing band), SRV poured every ounce of his soul into his performances. He was unfortunately cut down in his prime, and there are those unfortunate Hendrix comparisons that everyone seems to make (despite the fact that he's far more straight blues than Hendrix ever was), but check out some of his live clips on youtube; I guarantee that you'll be blown away.
The Velvet Underground - Another band with a very unique sound that greatly appeals to me, and there's quite a bit of variety throughout their small but essential discography. What came to be known as "alternative rock" started with this band.
The Ventures – This legendary long running instrumental band was best known for their “surf rock” sound on songs such as “Walk - Don’t Run” and “Hawaii Five-O.”
Tom Waits - This man has one of the most unique voices ever, though his frog-in-throat vocals may be off putting to some. Regardless, Waits writes some of the best lyrics and creates some of the most vivid characters and scenes ever set to music. He has consistently evolved musically as well, perhaps peaking in the mid-'80s with Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs, but maintaining an admirably high quality throughout his long and illustrious career.
War - I'm a bit burnt out in trying to write these descriptions, so I'm going to give myself a breather and quote the great Wikipedia Web site: "War (originally called Eric Burdon and War) is an American funk band from California, known for the hit songs "Low Rider", "Spill the Wine", "The Cisco Kid", "The World is a Ghetto", and "Why Can't We Be Friends?". Formed in 1969, War was a musical crossover band which fused elements of rock, funk, jazz, Latin, rhythm and blues, and reggae. The band also transcended racial and cultural barriers with a multi-ethnic line-up. The band has sold over 50 million records to date. Although War's lyrics are often socio-political in nature, their music usually had a laid-back, California funk vibe. A particular feature of War's sound is the use of harmonica and saxophone playing melody lines in unison, sounding like a single instrument, for example in the melody of "Low Rider". Their music has been sampled and recorded by many singers and groups."
Dionne Warwick – With the help of the legendary songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Dionne had many classy easy listening hits, most notably “Walk On By” one of the most perfect soft soul songs ever.
Weezer - Yeah like everybody I'm partial to the first two albums (especially The Blue Album), but I don't think their later stuff is as bad as many make it out to be, either. Emo, power pop, whatever you want to call it, the band at their best are a lot of fun.
The White Stripes - This unique two-person band (singer-guitarist Jack White and drummer Meg White) led the 2000's "garage rock revival" (along with The Strokes) and produced some excellent hard rocking music in the process.
The Who - They may not have the quantity of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, but The Who at their best were as good as it gets. The Who delivered some of the greatest songs ("My Generation, " "Baba O'Riley, " "Won't Get Fooled Again, " etc.) in rock history, each man was a genius at what they did, like Led Zeppelin they were greater than the sum of their individual parts, and above all else they may have been the greatest live band in rock history.
Wilco - These guys are just a great, extremely diverse band. Jeff Tweedy is a terrific songwriter, and this band will always be special to me because my review of Being There was the first one I ever got published. Regardless, this constantly evolving band - responsible for country rock, sumptuous summery pop, "American Radiohead"-esque art pop, Neil Young-ian guitar ravers, and everything else in between - is arguably the best American band of the past 20 years.
Lucinda Williams - Simply a brilliant songwriter and singer who has led very good backing bands. If there’s no room in the Hall Of Fame for one of the best female singer-songwriters ever, something’s wrong with that Hall Of Fame.
Jackie Wilson - Although he wasn't a songwriter and his taste was often questionable, Jackie Wilson was one of the best singers and performers ever. The title of his box set says it all: Mr. Excitement!
Johnny Winter - At his best, this Texas albino was one of the blues rock greats. High energy music and tremendous guitar playing (especially slide guitar playing) were his trademarks. (P.S. His brother Edgar was damn good as well.)
Wishbone Ash – They pioneered the twin lead guitar thing later used by Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, among others, so they have “impact” covered. And with epic songs such as “Phoenix” and the entirety of their Argus album these guys have “musical excellence” covered as well. Which makes them worthy Hall Of Famers in my book.
Bill Withers - His prime was relatively brief, in part because he started his music career late and he had little tolerance for the music business, but he had a unique folk soul sound that yielded classic songs such as "Ain't No Sunshine," "Use Me," and "Lean On Me." His first two solo albums and his live album at Carnegie Hall in particular are excellent.
Stevie Wonder - One of the all-time greats, simple as that, and an amazing success story given the handicap that he overcame. His string of albums in the early-to-mid-'70s has few rivals in modern music.
Link Wray - To steal from www.linkwray.com: "Father of the POWER CHORD. Creator of Distortion. Punk, heavy metal, grunge, garage, real rock guitar...it all started here."
X – Probably my favorite among the early ‘80s West Coast punk bands, X just seemed more mature and sophisticated than their peers. They boasted excellent musicians in drummer D.J. Bonebrake and guitarist Billy Zoom, and the traded off vocals of John Doe and Exene Cervenka (also the primary songwriters) were uniquely their own.
XTC - To quote the All Music Guide: "The band has left behind a remarkably rich and varied series of albums that make a convincing argument that XTC is the great lost pop band." I wholeheartedly agree.
The Yardbirds - Famous for at various times housing three of the greatest guitarists of all time (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page), the rest of the band wasn't shabby, either (and for the record I feel they did their best work by far with Jeff Beck). They had some great songs, too, some penned by outside hands such as Graham Gouldman (later of 10cc). The band was very innovative and ahead of their time, such as the way they integrated Eastern influences into their music; their last great guitarist, Jimmy Page, was certainly taking notes for his even better next project...
Yes - The ultimate progressive rock band. Fantastic musicians as well as great songwriters, when they were "on" in their '70s prime they were amazing.
Yo La Tengo - Along with Doug Martsch, J. Mascis, and a few others, singer-guitarist Ira Kaplan made being a guitar hero cool again, and Yo La Tengo have been one of the most consistently excellent bands of the past two decades. Along with his wife Georgia Hubley (who drums quite capably and sings beautifully), Yo La Tengo make being a happily married couple seem impossibly cool. (P.S. Bassist James McNew rounds out the band’s classic lineup.)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - A brilliant songwriter, he's done a lot of crap but also an amazing amount of great stuff. Love his technically limited but raw and exciting guitar playing. Great backing band in Crazy Horse (again despite limited technical abilities). Lots of beautiful folksy ballads too. Another true artist, sometimes to his detriment though. His peak periods were from 1969-1979 and 1989-1995; I'd advise you to tread more carefully elsewhere.
Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention - Mr. Zappa was absurdly prolific and he could therefore be frustratingly inconsistent, his "humor" is sometimes mean-spirited and unfunny, and the vocal quality is at times lacking. Regardless, he was a brilliant composer, arranger, band leader (he led some tremendously talented bands), and guitar hero. Hot Rats is probably the best starting point within a daunting discography that is frankly a bit overwhelming.
Warren Zevon - Another “one hit wonder” (“Werewolves of London”) who deserved far more success, though many of his songs were covered by others, Zevon was a cutting lyricist who made some fine music and who exited this Earth with a rare dignity shortly after recording one of his best albums. Hope he’s enjoying a hearty sandwich in Heaven.
The Zombies - Although sadly short-lived, The Zombies were a terrific pop rock band. Led by Rod Argent's moody keyboards and Colin Blunstone's breathy lead vocals, they peaked on the brilliant baroque pop of Odessey and Oracle, a quintessential '60s album that nevertheless has a timeless quality. Unfortunately, by the time the album was released and its "Time Of The Season" single became a big success, the band had already broken up.
ZZ Top - Led by excellent guitarist Billy Gibbons, these guys delivered straightforward but well-done blues rock for over a decade before embracing synthesizers, fast cars, hot girls, and MTV, for which they were rewarded with massive success. Not bad for a "little 'ol band from Texas." (P.S. My kids love how Frank Beard is the only guy in the band without a beard.)