Hall Pass: From Stevie Ray Vaughan to Ozzy Osbourne, 14 Glaring Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Omissions
How in good conscience can an institution that has admitted Gladys Knight & the Pips overlook Ozzy Osbourne?
That was the burning question that kept us awake after we learned about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s inductees for 2014.
Don’t get us wrong. We were thrilled to see Kiss and Nirvana finally listed among this year’s entrants. But after 28 years, we think it’s time that the Hall shower a little respect on some of the musicians that have thrilled and inspired Guitar World and its readers over the past 35 years.
And so to the judges who choose the Hall of Fame’s nominees, we say: Your honors, we plead insanity. We’re just crazy about the following 14 acts (in honor of 2014, of course). We think you should be too.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
The Rock Hall has always generously acknowledged blues guitarists, from Robert Johnson to T-Bone Walker to B.B., Albert and Freddie King to Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton.
So an induction for Stevie Ray Vaughan would be a logical next step. Coming up in the Eighties, SRV revitalized an interest in the blues among older fans while turning a whole new generation on to this vital American musical genre.
In a field crowded with titans, Stevie Ray brought his own unique style to the blues idiom, incorporating elements of western swing and post-Hendrix rock guitar histrionics into his dazzling six-string approach. He’s one of the major reasons why the blues is still going strong today.
You’d think the King of the Surf Guitar would be a shoe-in for the Rock Hall. Dick Dale crafted one of the most distinctive and influential sounds of the early rock era, consulting with Leo Fender to develop much of the gear needed to create his tone.
He brought beguiling Middle Eastern flavors to rock’s palette with his 1962 classic “Misirlou,” and his plectrum-melting double-picking technique sent echoes down the rock history pipeline that would energize everything from shred to prog-metal in the decades that followed.
Beyond all this, Dale is a living personification of this thing we call rock and roll—an upside-down-lefty outsider who did it his way. He still is doing it, for that matter, at age 76.
The Rock Hall’s prior recognition of metal originators like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin sets a clear precedent for inducting Deep Purple as well. Why leave out the band that gave the world one of the most-played heavy guitar riffs in the universe, 1972’s “Smoke on the Water”?
The nimble legato stylings of Deep Purple guitarist and founding member Ritchie Blackmore have inspired countless rock ax wielders, both famous and infamous.
While some of the post-Blackmore lineups have been a bit dubious, Deep Purple’s early Seventies impact on the sound and style of rock music is an unassailable credential.
The fact that Yes have not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, while Rush have been, is a lapse of taste and judgment on the order of admitting Oasis to your party but telling the Beatles you can’t find their name on the guest list. Yes not only did it first, they did it better than most who followed.
The group formed in 1968, a banner year for stylistically adventurous U.K. rock bands that also saw the birth of King Crimson and Jethro Tull, two more suitable candidates for Rock Hall induction. But no group sums up all the best aspects of prog-rock more eloquently and beautifully than Yes.
Their early Seventies golden trilogy—Fragile, Close to the Edge and Tales from Topographic Oceans—set an unequaled benchmark for epic orchestral keyboard arrangements, complex time signatures and the fervently ambitious guitar agenda of Steve Howe, fearlessly fusing elements of classical, jazz, folk, flamenco and rock.
Singer Jon Anderson brought a Beatles-esque melodic sensibility to the prog arena—hummable tunes are all too rare in the genre—and was one of the few artists in the genre who could spin a mesmerizing lyric without getting bogged down in grandiose conceptual gimmicks.
When indie, metal, thrash and grunge guitarists give interviews, they invariably cite Fugazi as a key influence.
In certain circles, a Fugazi T-shirt is as de rigueur as a pair of Doc Martens boots and a wallet chain. With their D.I.Y. business ethics and egalitarian politics, the Washington, D.C., post-hardcore stalwarts brought the best aspects of Seventies and Eighties indie punk into a new era.
By refusing to play the music-biz game, Fugazi guitarist and leader Ian MacKaye and his colleagues have consistently produced quality records and maintained a reputation for integrity. Isn’t that the kind of thing that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is supposed to commend and recognize?
Cheap Trick have been called America’s Beatles. They’re one band that appeals to rock fans of every stripe—from punk rockers and Nuggets-loving garage-band geeks to metalheads to classic rock traditionalists. Why is this?
Because Cheap Trick embody the very essence of rock and roll music—great tunes driven home by powerhouse beats and a manic guitar attack that makes you want to jump up on your seat and pump your fist in the air. Plus, they’ve never taken themselves too seriously. How many other rock bands that have been around for almost 40 years can claim that?
With his Huntz Hall baseball caps, bow ties and multinecked “novelty” guitars, Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen makes it all look so easy. But guitarists can recognize the consummate artistry behind his seemingly nonchalant approach.
Rock critics have always loved Cheap Trick as well. So why the hell aren’t they in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame already?
Whatever one thinks of the Seventies AOR radio format, few if any had the formula more succinctly dialed in than Boston mastermind Tom Scholz.
As Boston’s guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter and producer, Scholz had his finger on every aspect of what made records sell in the multimillions back in the polyester decade. He’d studied his antecedents well: the pomp and circumstance of Yes and ELP, turbocharged by Queen’s massive guitar overdub overkill.
But Scholz brought his own consummately hooky songwriting sensibility and immaculate instrumental craftsmanship to the party. A scientist as well as an artist, he often designed and built the gear—notably the Rockman preamp—required to create the tonalities he heard in his head, a sound that came roaring over the ultra-compressed FM radio airwaves like a fighter jet.
Boston’s influence on subsequent rock music has been pervasive. What is Nirvana’s sacrosanct “Smells Like Teen Spirit” riff if not a recasting of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling”?
Induct a joke band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? It wouldn’t be the first time. Presumably, one reason why bands get inducted is that they’ve exerted a pervasive influence over rock culture in particular and popular culture at large.
By that criterion alone, Spinal Tap deserve a nod. They made exploding drummers and amps that go to 11 as much a part of rock music as backstage passes and crooked record contracts.
And if artists get inducted for exhibiting a profound understanding of what makes rock tick, Spinal Tap creator Rob Reiner certainly deserves Rock Hall enshrinement. Next time you go to an arena rock concert, consider that the band you’ve paid big money to see probably watched This Is Spinal Tap on its tour bus en route to the gig. If that isn’t rock and roll inspiration, then what is?
While the Rock Hall has done a splendid job of acknowledging significant blues guitarists, the absence of Johnny Winter among the Hall’s hallowed ranks is one glaring omission.
Along with players like Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and Taj Mahal, Winter was a key figure in the late-Sixties explosion of blues onto the rock scene. His 1969 self-titled debut album on Columbia Records is an absolute classic that put the world hip to Winter’s remarkably fluid yet gritty take on the Texas blues guitar tradition.
Winter could segue effortlessly into rock—his Rick Derringer collaboration “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” has become a bar-band standard—but his heart has always belonged to the blues. His late-Seventies recordings with Muddy Waters came as a testament that albinos can play the blues too.
Recent performances at high-visibility events, like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Eric Clapton’s Crossroads, have proven that Johnny Winter has still got what it takes almost half a century into his career.
Some might argue that since Metallica are already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there’s no need for Slayer (or Megadeth or Anthrax or…). But the honest-to-Satan fact is that more metal bands today sound like Slayer than anyone else from the Big Four.
Metal may be split into more subcategories than there are varieties of women’s jeans at the Gap, but whether you call it black, death, doom, extreme, grindcore, thrash or whatever, the bulk of it still sounds an awful lot like Slayer.
Of course, Metallica made it into the Hall of Fame because at some point they became safe for the masses. But Slayer have always been dangerous and frightening to the mild mannered, and they have continued to get heavier (in musical terms, not just physically) with each passing year.
Classic Slayer albums like Hell Awaits, Reign in Blood and Seasons in the Abyss still sound menacing and scary today, even though they’re almost 25 to 30 years old.
If rock music is all about rebellion, then Pantera may have been the ultimate rebels. Coming from deep in the heart of Texas, where the local music scene was better known for blues or outlaw country, Pantera did their own thing and innovated a signature style of music that is best described by their self-created tag of groove metal.
Pantera didn’t need any local scene or movement to bolster them, and even without the support of radio or MTV, their albums debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200 and routinely went Platinum because their music resonated with alienated, disaffected youth perhaps even more than Kurt Cobain’s musings did.
But what really makes Pantera stand out from the pack, especially among the thrash metal set they commiserated with, is the fact that they were one of the few bands of that ilk with a genuine guitar hero.
Dimebag Darrell took what came before him—the sinister riffs of Tony Iommi, the flash of Eddie Van Halen, the melodic sense of Randy Rhoads and the bludgeoning force of Metallica—and turned it into his own signature sound. In a sense, Dimebag was to metal what fellow Texan Stevie Ray Vaughan was to the blues: often imitated, never equaled.
Before Soundgarden, Seattle was known only for the Space Needle, and the city’s only nationally recognized musician was Jimi Hendrix…and he was dead.
While the roots of what later became known as grunge reach back to mid-Eighties bands like the Melvins and the U-Men, Soundgarden caused the world to focus its attention on the Emerald City by being its first local heroes to release an album—1988's Grammy-nominated Ultramega OK—on a major label. Soundgarden’s success blew open the doors for other Seattle bands, like Alice in Chains, Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
What Soundgarden did next is why they truly belong in the Hall of Fame. Like no other band since Led Zeppelin, they fused numerous styles, including metal, psychedelia, punk, blues and even acoustic and Middle Eastern music.
In doing so, they defied the limiting grunge tag. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Soundgarden’s music has aged very well, and songs like “Rusty Cage,” “Black Hole Sun” and “Pretty Noose” may sound even better today than when they were released. The recently reformed band still sounds vital, potent and visionary.
Bands like Motörhead and Saxon generated a few tremors during the late Seventies, but when Iron Maiden hit the scene in the early Eighties, they were the 8.0 Richter-scale earthquake that turned the New Wave of British Heavy Metal into a tsunami.
Iron Maiden’s twin- (eventually triple-) guitar attack made them like a younger and angrier version of Judas Priest, but they showed they were smarter too with sophisticated, progressive rock-inspired epics and subject matter derived from Greek mythology, Edgar Allan Poe and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
The group’s first three albums (Iron Maiden, Killers, The Number of the Beast) are essential must-haves for any metal fan’s playlist—hell, the first seven studio albums should already be in any serious metal fan’s collection. And the band continues to deliver the goods onstage and in the studio today.
It’s hard to imagine a bigger comeback than Ozzy Osbourne. Kicked out of Black Sabbath in 1979 for his rampant drug and alcohol abuse, he was replaced by no less than Ronnie James Dio, which would drive the average mere mortal toward an overdose.
But Ozzy didn’t get depressed; he got even, by enlisting the incredible Randy Rhoads on guitar. Even Rhoads’ tragic death couldn’t stop Ozzy—he continued to work with and discover the best talent out there, including Bernie Tormé, Brad Gillis, Jake E. Lee and Zakk Wylde.
Ozzy deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame for his albums alone, but his role as a defender and advocate of metal music as the founder of the Ozzfest should have made him a shoo-in his first year of eligibility. The man even once put a live bat in his mouth onstage. You just can’t get any more rock and roll than that.