We all know that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is all about popularity rather than influence. I considered writing a four thousand word screed against its very existence, but felt that I could get my point across equally well just by listing ten bands that are, disgracefully, not yet in there. To be fair, the list could go to one hundred and there’d still be bands left over. It’s a farce.
Let’s get on with this.
1. The Smiths
With a near unparalleled fan devotion and musical influence, Manchester quartet The Smiths should really have been a shoe in years. Here are some bands who list them as a huge influence: The Stone Roses, Oasis, Suede, Pulp, Blur, The Libertines, Radiohead, and, well, pretty much every British band that has formed since the early 80’s. But they’re English. That’s what it comes down to, right?
2. My Bloody Valentine
Well these Irish shoegaze pioneers were huge in Japan and Billy Corgan, Trent Reznor, Courtney Love, Radiohead, the Edge (is that a good thing?) have all sung their praises. Perhaps they’re a bit too esoteric and abstract for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Still though, they pioneered a genre of music that has had such an influence that it began to split into other subgenres such as metalgaze, and nugaze while also having a massive influence on the chillwave movement. Savage.
3. Nine Inch Nails
This one is a bit of a mind boggler. Trent Reznor’s industrial rock project Nine Inch Nails has been hugely influential, sold loads of records, and remains relevant to this very day. You’d think they’d be a shoe in. Perhaps Trent pissed someone off. That would hardly be a surprise. He strikes me as rather prickly.
4. The Cure
A band who managed to go from goth/post punk dreary explorations to pop song brilliance. Then they opted to combine the two. For my money, Robert Smith has written some of the best pop songs this side of the Beatles. And all with a wry sense of humour and underlying sorrow. Plus, Disintegration might be the best album. Ever.
The Velvet Underground of their generation. Didn’t sell many albums during their existence, but everyone who heard them started a band. They popularised the loudQUIETloud dynamic that led Nirvana to fame and that many bands adopted wholesale in the 90’s with less success. Their success can be gauged in how varied their admirers are. Plus, Steve Albini pretty much owes them all his pay cheques due to Surfer Rosa. A grand bunch of lads.
6. Joy Division
A huge influence on defining a particular sound, for better or for worse, for post-punk and creating a tone that was adopted by the Gothic rock movement, Manchester’s Joy Division importance cannot be understated. There’s a reason why so many bands in the post punk revival movement essentially aped Ian Curtis and co. So simple and yet so affecting.
7. Sonic Youth
Coming out of the avant garde music scene in New York to combine with with the burgeoning alternative rock scene of the late 80’s, Sonic Youth are perhaps the most expansive and out there band of that era. Another, frankly astonishing, success in their career as their music remained at a pretty damn excellent up until their untimely demise. Murray Street is a gem.
8. Dinosaur Jr.
Probably haven’t gotten one because J. would be too lazy to turn up for the award ceremony. Another band that is hugely influential and still actually good. Their last album was a total banger. Plus, I love them and that’s good enough for me.
9. Hüsker Dü
So Bob Mould and Hüsker Dü pretty much invented alternative rock melding hardcore punk with pop melodies. Seriously, listen to anything on Zen Arcade and then fast forward to what was in the charts ten years later. A band ahead of their time. You should read Bob Mould’s autobiography. A portrait of a very humble man.
10. The Replacements
Paul Westerberg’s The Replacements released their revolutionary mixture of hardcore punk and pop melodies a few months after Hüsker Dü did. For this time, they got a little more serious and stopped singing about how school sucks. It’s not quite as ambitious, and bears a large debt to Big Star. Which leads me to another question: why aren’t Big Star in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Ah, fuck it.