Oh boy! Have we got some good ones today awaiting us in the final six-line section of Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament’s shirt from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony this year. In case you’re new or you’ve been away for a while, I have been taking a look and listen to the artists written upon Ament’s shirt whom he and many others believe are worthy of inclusion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You can recap the first and the second and the third posts in this series if you so choose before we round out the last leg today in what might be the most fun quarter yet. Let’s rock to it.
The Jam – We begin the end with a good one I have not heard from previous to reading Mr. Ament’s attire. For 10 years in the 70s and early 80s, they dabbled in a few rock styles including punk, modern, and psychedelia, and helped form the new wave of 1980s rock. Let’s start this finale show appropriately with “That’s Entertainment”. These guys definitely know how to live up to their name.
The Smiths – Speaking of that new wave, The Smiths were at the forefront of the post-punk movement that shifted into early alternative rock and was one of the signature styles of the 1980s. Picking up during the same year The Jam spread out (1982), The Smiths were a force driven by background instrumentation and effects that are easy on the ears like a summer’s breeze coming off the ocean with more than a touch of melancholy, all the better to accentuate the haunting vocals of lead singer Morrissey. They have been in the voting discussion for Rock Hall induction for the last few years, and it is understandable why when you listen to “This Charming Man”, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”, and “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”. Yet my favorite will always be “How Soon Is Now?”
Descendents – Between the United Kingdom and southern California there have been a lot of punk bands making a lot of noise aimed at the government, teachers, parents, and other sources of authority preaching agendas the punk rockers don’t share. Descendents (yes, it’s spelled like that; even the English language isn’t safe!) hail from SoCal and on and off since the late 70s they have been protesting authority and hypocrisy while also embodying teenage angst and life well beyond their own teen years in an energetic punk style. I like “Clean Sheets”.
Kraftwerk -Oh those wacky Germans and their electronica! Kraftwerk helped lay the foundation of avant garde heavy synthesizer electronic pop and rock from as far back as 1969. You can hear pieces of their work sampled in many a hip-hop jam and it’s easy to see why with tunes like “Man Machine”. Daft Punk would not be around without the road these guys constructed, especially the “Autobahn”. Yes, that song is over 20 minutes long.
Sonic Youth – Some people, including Juno and myself with some tracks, hear Sonic Youth as “just noise”. The American post-punk rockers do definitely have some good stuff though, and much of it is intended to be experimental noise. I heard one radio host on Little Steven’s Underground Garage refer to them as the greatest American rock band and one of the most influential music acts of their time. If enough people feel that way, then these guys deserve a spot in the Rock Hall. Listen to “Teenage Riot” and “Superstar” to see what you think of their noise.
Todd Rundgren – Another “oh that’s that guy’s name!” entries on Ament’s shirt, you have heard Todd Rundgren before but probably did not know exactly who he was, and almost certainly did not connect one of his most famous songs to him given its wildly different tempo and style from his other works. Aside from his solo song work, Rundgren served as a producer for albums for Badfinger, The Band (which he almost joined), Hall & Oates, and Grand Funk Railroad, to name a few. Yet, he will best be known for three songs: “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me” which fit within his more mainstream soft, easy style, but his most notable song is one of the most fun songs you’ll ever hear and has helped sell more than its fair share of Carnival cruises:
Ted Nugent – I have made this argument before, and I will make it again, but this time I’m not alone. Ted Nugent is cray-cray to be sure, but he is a guitar god and a highly entertaining and influential musician. He deserves inclusion in the Rock Hall. I’d say more, but his music speaks for itself:
The Cure – One of my favorite bands not yet in, and more importantly, one of the best and blackest of the 1970s through today, but especially in the 80s and early 90s. Singer/guitar player Robert Smith has been the primary dose of The Cure since their formation in 1976, and he is the only original member of the band today. His gothic makeup and haunting lyrics can lead observers to believe The Cure are morose, and they can be, but mostly their work is a surprisingly varied blend of new age and alternative rock and roll that can be equally uplifting and devastating. There have been some masterful uses of The Cure’s songs in TV and film that serves a testament to their incredible emotional power. Plus, Smith is the key to stopping Mecha-Streisand when she gets her hands on the Triangle of Zinthar. Disintegration is one of the best albums ever, and these are some of the best songs ever: “Boys Don’t Cry”, “Lovesong”, “Pictures of You” (I was bawling when they played this in Season 1 of Mr. Robot after showing the flashback of Elliot meeting Shayla; perfectly used), “Friday I’m In Love”, and my favorite, “Just Like Heaven”:
MC5 – One of the earliest and most influential (I know that I’ve used that word a lot, but seeing as that is one of the two requirements for Rock Hall induction, it bears repeating for so many of these artists) garage rock bands that emerged from the Detroit-area like so many other garage rockers throughout the years, MC5 will always be remembered for their fanatical energy and “Kick Out the Jams”. One of MC5’s guitarists, Fred “Sonic” Smith is half the namesake of Sonic Youth.
Captain Beefheart – In my research on all of these artists, I cannot think of any other artist not already in the Rock Hall whose name I came across as frequently as Captain Beefheart; seems like he also has the influence box checked. Born Don Glen Vliet in Glendale, California in 1941, the man who would become Captain Beefheart and command his Magic Band, had a noticeably kooky style similar to his frenemy Frank Zappa, and like Zappa Dappa Doo, he dived into multiple styles of music and in the process contributed to making a few. I was not supremely familiar with him and his stuff prior to writing these posts – and I’m still not an expert now – but just like when I first listened to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, I can tell this guy and his group belong with the rest of the rockers already in Cleveland. Give a listen to “Sure ‘Nuff ‘n’ Yes, I Do” which I like for its bluesy opening and flow and rocking pickup, but mostly for the mention of my oft-overlooked hometown!
Warren Zevon – Speaking of weird and wonderful, ain’t nobody fits into that category quite like Warren Zevon. Ever the showman, it’s no wonder that David Letterman was such a big fan of Zevon and had him on his show so often over the years before Zevon’s death in 2003. Like too many rock and rollers, Zevon struggled with addiction, and like a few others he translated his internal dependency struggles into his music, but not to the degree that his songs all focus on drugs and alcohol. In fact, it’s not always clear where his bombastic lyrics stem from, but I’ll be damned if they’re not poetic and beautifully sang and perfectly paired with a bevy of instruments to create some truly great music. You really can’t go wrong with Warren, but try “Lawyers, Guns and Money”, “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”, “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me”, “My Shit’s Fucked Up” (you can see where the drugs and booze may have influenced that one), his cover of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, and “Night Time in the Switching Yard” – a funky take on a classic blues trope. However, his greatest and most popular is indubitably the gorgeously goofy “Werewolves of London”. Even if Kid Rock pulled a Vanilla Ice with the melody of that music, it only whets my appetite for the real deal from Zevon’s brilliant bodacious mind.
Link Wray – You may not have heard the name, but you sure as hell have heard his music. Wray was one of the earliest influences in modern rock music, playing guitar with distortion and tempo that could often classify as surf rock or rockabilly. With his band, the Ray Men, he crafted music akin to his contemporaries Dick Dale and Duane Eddy. Though you may not have heard it by name, you have undoubtedly heard “Rumble” before.
Weather Report – This may come as a shock, but they did not actually report the weather. They did, however, make some funky fresh jazz fusion that is a whole lotta fun. Take a trip to “Birdland” and let me know if it gets you flying.
DEVO – If Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a band it would resemble this band of brothers (and Alan Myers) from Kent and Akron. DEVO may be as famous for their unique outfits, stage showmanship, and videos as they are for their unique new wave music. They have a collection of sweetly strange songs, including one of my favorite covers with “[I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction”, but they will always be best known and beloved for “Whip It”. It seems certain that DEVO will secure their rock and roll legacy not far from where it began in northeast Ohio.
Flaming Lips – An inventive bunch from Oklahoma whose style is hard to peg down, but undeniably they are good. They sound reminiscent of The Pixies. Roll with the spacey sounds of their continued act with songs like “She Use Jelly”, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1”, “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”, and mostly “Do You Realize??” which in 2009 was honored as the official rock song of Oklahoma. I guess they figured to follow the example of the superior “O” state. Shots fired. I do really like “Do You Realize??” though, and it has a message that just might be worth repeating at the end of the year.
Nick Drake – A brightly-burning musician who made some remarkable music in a short timespan before his suicide at the age of 26. A sufferer of depression, Drake channeled his strong emotions into his softly played guitar. I liked what I’ve listened to so far, including “Northern Sky” and “Things Behind the Sun”, but I really like “Pink Moon”.
Harry Nilsson – Frequently simply referred to as Nilsson, he’s another one of the “that’s who that guy is!” artists. Predominantly a songwriter, he started his success by penning hits for other artists like the Little Richard, The Monkees, and Three Dog Night. Nevertheless, his own songs made even bigger waves, and like fellow “that’s his name” rocker Todd Rundgren, Nilsson had a trifecta of hits: “Without You”, “Coconut”, and definitely “Everybody’s Talking” which won a Grammy after it was used in Midnight Cowboy.
NEU! – Oh those wacky Germans are at it again! In fact, it is the same wacky Germans I spoke of earlier, as NEU! was formed by Kraftwerk members Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother after that band’s breakup. Kraftwerk and NEU! each represent the epitome of krautrock, the German electronic experimental rock that they manufactured and helped to create future subgenres of rock and roll with. They were inspirational to many other rockers over the years, perhaps most notably David Bowie who was a big fan of their song “Hero” and reflected it in his own Berlin-made (with Brian Eno) album Heroes. I much prefer “Super 16” which will be familiar to any Kill Bill fans for its use in Volume 1 of that story, a choice that stems from the use of NEU!’s songs “Super 16” and “Super 78” (slowed and sped up versions respectively of their own song “Super” all off their second album) being used in the 1976 classic martial arts film Master of the Flying Guillotine which features a martial arts master who wields a mace of sorts with a razor blade encircled around it, the exact same weapon that is favored by sadistic schoolgirl Gogo.
Chad Channing – An interesting inclusion, and possibly one meant partly as a jab to Pearl Jam’s (superior) crosstown rivals, Nirvana. Channing was the fifth Beatle if you will of Nirvana. He was the band’s original drummer, and did most of the drum work on their introductory album Bleach, as well as “Polly” on Nevermind, an album he also helped lay the drumming groundwork for his replacement, Dave Grohl. Now I say it may be partly meant as a jab to Nirvana for eschewing Channing (a collective and civil decision made by the band over creative differences), however, I think Ament and the rest of Pearl Jam are including Channing more as a condemnation of the Rock Hall for not including him alongside Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Grohl when Nirvana were inducted a few years ago, especially considering his early involvement in the band – not to mention that he performed alongside of them when they were still called Bliss. Ever the good sport, Dave Grohl personally thanked Channing for his work with Nirvana at the 2014 Induction Ceremony which Channing (also a good sport) attended.
While Channing may be best remembered for his brief time in Nirvana, he has since played in bands called Fire Ants, The Methodist, and Before Cars, and previously with Tic-Dolly Row.
Sweet – Are you ready, Steve? Uh-huh. Andy? Yeah. Mick? Okay. All right fellas, let’s go!
Oh yeah, let’s get some glam rock up in this biotch. Not to say I’m not a fan of the predominantly punk and new wave bands this shirt list has contained, but it is nice to mix it up, and especially so when it such a fun group. Sweet turned more than a few heads with more than just their gaudy attire from the late 1960s to early 1980s, producing a few notable hits that are all worth a listen. “Fox on the Run” had a major chart revival last year after its inclusion in the first few trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and “Love Is Like Oxygen” has also received some love over the years, but nothing will ever match the wild energy of their oft played and covered classic “Ballroom Blitz”:
Raymond Pettibon – Similar to Hipgnosis, Pettibon, born Raymond Ginn, is an artist artist who created posters and album covers for a number of artists, including a few on this list, most notably punk and alternative bands on the independent record label SST, or Solid State Turners, an electronics provider turned music label founded by Greg Ginn, Raymond’s brother and frontman of Black Flag, another entry on this list.
Oasis -Originally led by Liam Gallagher and eventually featuring his older brother Noel who would become the leader after some of I-think-I’m-the-second-coming-of-John-Lennon Liam’s antics, Oasis was one of the preeminent bands of the 1990s, and one of the few that did not tap into the angst and anger of grunge to do it – not that there’s anything wrong with that. It is all the more impressive though, given the well-publicized in-fighting among the Gallagher brothers, that Oasis soared as high and long as they did. Easily the top of the Britpop bunch that included rivals of sorts in The Blur, Pulp, and Suede, Oasis kept ahead of them all with easy to listen to music that frequently delved deeper into human emotion than its poppy rhythm would lead listeners to believe. Find refreshment in anything from “Stand By Me” to “Supersonic”, or “Champagne Supernova”, but mostly in their two best: “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Wonderwall”.
Bad Company – Finally we have come to the end, for better or worse, but as I promised, we round this lengthy list out with one of the best, and frankly one of the most shocking omissions yet. I have stated that Steppenwolf is the most heinous exclusion from the Rock Hall, but these guys are not far off, and personally I like them better, thanks mainly to a more expansive discography, some inventive guitar work mixed with a great medley of other classic rock instruments, and Paul Rodgers inimitable vocals. Previously I discussed Free, the band Rodgers and Simon Kirke left to join Bad Company, and if they ever get in (which they probably will) then Bad Company are a lock (as if they are not already) Rodgers and Kirke may be on the outside currently, but they very well may be placed in twice in the near future.
Bad Company played with power, even in their softer songs, and brought their heart and soul to every note. Their strong showings on stage and in the recording booth, coupled with their obvious influence on ensuing acts should be more than sufficient for inclusion, but their best argument is found in their excellent music with songs like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy”, “Burnin’ Sky”, “Silver, Blue, and Gold”, “Run With the Pack”, “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad”, “Rock Steady”, “Ready For Love”, “Shooting Star”, “Can’t Get Enough”, and “Feel Like Makin’ Love”. However, their best will always be the song off their debut album that shares its name with that album and their band:
Thanks for reading and listening, and for rocking for rolling with my extended four-part series studying the names on Jeff Ament’s shirt more closely than their text. This really was a lot of fun for me, and I have discovered some new artists that I would not have otherwise, so thanks to Ament for helping to introduce me to those while also bringing awareness to other acts that may or may not have been known or considered for rock and roll royalty by most casual music lovers. I have no doubt that most of these guys and girls will get in, especially those who have been under consideration for voting in the past, but perhaps this small showcase of their names and others will spark the fuse that blows the walls of the Rock Hall open to them. Bravo to you and Pearl Jam for expressing your opinion, and cheers for crafting a list of candidates from a number of musical styles and countries not to represent diversity, but because they are worthy as contributors to rock and roll which is the most diverse collection of music that has ever existed.
Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to windmill swing your way back here next week for – oh God, what I am going to write about now!?! Eh, I’ll think of something; I always do.
R.I.P. Chris Cornell, frontman for Soundgarden and Audioslave and his solo projects. Take small comfort in the thought that he’ll be inducted someday.