So, here are the folks who will be enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class of 2020:
- Depeche Mode
- The Doobie Brothers
- Whitney Houston
- Nine Inch Nails
- The Notorious B.I.G.
- T. Rex
I’ve argued for the The Doobie Brothers in the past — so, right on! Go, Doobie Brothers! And I love Nine Inch Nails (for inspiring Johnny Cash alone), the Notorious B.I.G. (a seminal hip-hop godfather) and T. Tex (so much love for Marc Bolan’s groovy, grungy, proto-New Wave guitar sound) “Get It On”, etc., though he had only a few giant Top-40 hits.
But Whitney Houston and Depeche Mode? Really? Rock & Roll?
Did Whitney Houston — as prodigious a vocal instrument as she possessed — record a single rock and roll track? Did she chart a single rock & roll single? Did she ever rock?
How in the hell is Whitney Houston a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
Let’s put it this way. Is Ella Fitzgerald in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Ella won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums — but she was a jazz singer — not a rock & roll singer. She’s not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Soulful, bluesy, risk-taking jazz singer Billie Holiday is in the Hall as a bold and fearless, raw and soulful early influence — but slick, pop-oriented Whitney Houston hardly qualifies. Especially when more deserving rockers have been, once again, overlooked.
There is a national shame and outrage that I must address here and now…
Why — oh why? — aren’t Tommy James & The Shondells in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
I’m a Cleveland boy, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a shining jewel on my hometown lakefront — but that only makes such an injustice a more personal matter.
Tommy James & The Shondells have been waiting since 1991 to get a call from the Hall. For 29 years, they’ve had to endure the enshrinement of acts like Abba, Kiss and Whitney in an institution supposedly devoted to rock and roll – while the band that gave garage bands worldwide rock classics like “Mony Mony” and “Hanky Panky” is continually and criminally passed over.
How can it be that overproduced purveyors of techno pop-rock (Depeche Mode) and pure, chart-topping pop (Whitney Houston) win out over the inspired 60’s rockers who put “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Crimson and Clover” down on vinyl?
At the 2014 Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Rage Against the Machine’s lead guitarist Tom Morello – a man whose shredding virtuosity and politics I admire – made a convincing case for why Kiss had a rightful place in the Rock Hall. But while Kiss may have blazed a trail for visual and musical bombast and pyro in arena rock – their sound and fury signify nothing like the string of hits that Tommy James and his band delivered in the late 1960s.
Besides their two #1 hit single in the U.S. – “Hanky Panky” in ’66 and “Crimson and Clover” in ’69 — Tommy James & The Shondells charted twelve other Top 40 hits, including five in the top ten. Remember a platter entitled “Crystal Blue Persuasion”?
How about 14 Top 40 hits during the greatest period in rock and roll radio history? All while competing with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone – and those Motown artists cranking out classics in Hitsville, USA.
All of those great rockers are in the Hall of Fame — so, why not Tommy James & The Shondells?
And I don’t want to hear that Tommy James was “bubblegum”. Please. When was the last time you listened to “Mony Mony” or “Draggin the Line”? Guitars. Groove. Harmony. Drive. Horns. Hooks. Lots and lots of classic rock and roll hooks.
Tommy James & The Shondells should go into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fames very next class or the whole institution is a sham.
Honor Tommy James while the man is still alive and well and rocking.
I can wait no longer.
I’m just going to enshrine Tommy James & The Shondells here and now.
I’m announcing The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2021 must include Tommy James & The Shondells — Eligible since 1991. And now about…
The Monkees — Eligible since 1991
Not even gonna argue about this.
The Monkees should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Hell, The Beatles respected The Monkees – so why should anyone else deny their undeniable greatness?
Morons who I have little patience for say The Monkees were a fabricated band – “The Pre-Fab Four” — surrounded by studio musicians. I know for a fact that The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, and others in the Hall of Fame were backed by the very same group of studio cats: the Wrecking Crew. So, what? I said I wasn’t gonna argue.
At their peak in ‘67, The Monkees outsold The Beatles and Rolling Stones combined. 12 Top-40 hits, three #1 hits — and a TV show that brought melodic, witty, well-written and beautifully sung rock and roll music (and surprisingly subversive comedy) into homes across America.
I won’t even mention the songs by name. You know them. You sing them. You’ll probably hear one on the radio today.
“Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”. That’s just five.
And now I’m really not gonna argue any more.
The Rock N Roll Trio — Eligible since 1981
Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio were the best damn rockabilly band that ever thumped a standup bass, whacked out the backbeat on a snare, and sang like drunken wildcats.
“Rock Billy Boogie”, “Rock Therapy”, “Train Kept A-Rollin”, “Honey Hush”, “Tear It Up” – Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio served up fundamental, elemental, essential rock and roll.
Johnny Burnette and the Rock & Roll Trio featured no frills, no gimmicks, no costumes, and no pyrotechnics — other than the fire they produced by their passionate playing.
Sorry, Depeche Mode, this is rock and roll with real, gritty, driving heart and soul. I don’t give a damn what hits they had or where they charted. When I need rock therapy — they give it to me.
They should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
11 responses to “WTF: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2020”
Paul, blistering and profoundly truthful observations ! Thank you. Two cents from the Peanut Gallery to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame folks : WAKE UP, for crying out loud, WAKE UP, please !
My old boss at VH1, John Sykes, is in charge at the Rock & Roll HOF. Can’t imagine how he let this miscarriage of musical justice happen.
Excellent analysis. I’ve been arguing for decades that the Monkees are long overdue. Your case for Tommy James & the Shondelles is spot on.
The HOF are pretentious snobs. They ignored the deserving Pat Benetar who this year got close to 900K fan votes. Less than 8% of inductees are women. Benetar was the first woman played on MTV and her videos were vital to their success.
They ignored Dusty Springfield for decades and finally inducted her on her deathbed. (She died before the ceremony) and they overlooked Linda Ronstadt for decades— again only inducting her after Parkinson’s robbed her of her voice.
They are a shameful organization.
Here’s my 50 cents on the matter….
I endorse, with vigor, everything you say about Tommy James. Your argument is pitch perfect, and your taking it upon yourself to enshrine Tommy James and Shondells seems, to me, entirely appropriate and long overdue. Ditto The Monkees, for God’s sake. Another band of our particular vintage that seems almost criminally absent is Three Dog Night. And the absence of the Rock n Roll trio, too, is nuts. Your Depeche Mode arguments, again, without fault…
But I part company with you on Whitney Houston. Most of your argument is that she doesn’t fit a particular definition of Rock n Roll singing, but the Rock n Roll Hall of fame gave up that definition many years ago to become, really, the Hall of Fame Of Popular Music in the Rock N Roll era – thus, soul, pop, country, rap, disco, etc are thoroughly eligible and well represented. What is NOT well represented is the FEMALE voice. In her time, no female voice was more influential, powerful or popular that Whitney Houston’s. The force and authority of that voice, along with her well-curated image of beauty, strength, and glamour – this might have had more impact on young women (especially young black women) of her time than any other artist. If you asked current female rock and pop artists to name their influences, I bet you’d get a lot of Whitney H. There’s got to be room in the hall for the kind of innovative vocal interpretation and hit making that Whitney absolutely epitomizes. Sure, she didn’t write her songs, but, really, in that era, until Beyonce, was there a more original, skillful, regal, pop vocalist? And, nothing against her but, fucking Brenda Lee is in the Hall of Fame, so, Jesus…
The fact that Whitney is only the third post 1970 African American woman inducted, well… Come on (the others are Janet Jackson and Donna Summer, those famous Rock n Roll singers…) The SOUND of Whitney’s voice, the way she brilliantly pre-saged all that horrible American Idol bullshit – but did it right? I think Whitney belongs in Hall right alongside Tommy James and Shondells and the Monkees, The Rock’n’Roll trio and maybe even Three Dog Night.
Then, we can start rectifying the general lack of females that Shelly mentions – don’t forget Carol King isn’t in (as a performer) nor Patsy Kline nor Dolly Parton nor Julie London, nor Roberta Flack nor….
Yeah, for my Mony Mony, Whitney can have a seat next to Dusty Springfield (soul supreme!), Brenda Lee (Pop!) and Madonna (Uh, I think that’s glam-pop-dance music, right?).
By the way the Riffmaster has been eligible for DECADES. I’d just like to hear Mr Mo’s short induction-speech…
Yes, Three Dog Night! Those harmonies!
There was a good article in today’s (1/19/20) Plain Dealer echoing your comments about Whitney Houston.
Tommy James and DONOVAN. Hello!!
Amen! Tommy James and the Shondells have been much more influential and much groovier than several acts that beat them to the Hall. TOMMY TIME IS HERE!! The very stars command it!!
I know this article is old but the person who wrote it is griping that Whitney Houston and Depeche Mode are in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame since they are not considered Rock n Roll. You mentioned the fact that Ella Fitzgerald isn’t in. Let me remind you of the fact that if it wasn’t for the influence of black music, especially the blues, there would NOT be a rock and roll genre. Do some research on who were the major influences of the great white recipients of this award like Eric Clapton, The Beatles, The Rollingstones, Elvis.. I can go on and on. They all were influenced, taught and copied music, style from black musicians such as Robert Johnson, Billie Holliday and yes, Ella Fitzgerald. So if your going to get mad at why anyone still isn’t in the hall of fame yet, use your writing skills to gripe about why Ella has yet to be voted in. You will scream when you find out Dolly Pardon is now an honoree. There is nothing Rock and roll about her but she is a wonderful influencer and very talented singer who deserves her props. The very same thing can be said of Whitney Houston AND Ella Fitzgerald
I certainly meant no disrespect to Black music or people. The influence of black musicians on blues and rock and roll are obvious. And celebrated. The great bluesmen are all in the hall as they should be. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke, Jimmy, Otis Redding, and all those great Doo Wop and soul singing groups are there — as they should be. I was making a narrow point about a genuine rock & roll hitmaker like Tommy James being shunned while non-rockers like Whitney Houston and Depeche Mode are in. Do some research? You obviously do not follow my blog. And for the record, I do not think Dolly should be in the R&R HOF — and neither does she.
BTW — The previous comment by “Anonymous” is by Paul, the blogger. That’s me. (I must have hit the wrong reply button — and I’m doing it again.) I may be technically challenged, but I know my rock and roll. BTW, I love Ella. Just love her. There was no finer jazz singer who ever strode up to a microphone. But Ella wasn’t a rocker. Aretha? Now, SHE rocked. It’s not about race. It’s about genre. And justice for Tommy James & the Shondells.