There is one thing I am bummed about this year with the Rock Hall class of 2014 and that was N.W.A. didn’t get the nod. I am a big fan of old school rap first off, secondly I think rap in todays format is something completely different from the pioneers of the genre in the 80’s and 90’s. I have no doubt in my mind 25 years from now we are not going to see much rap in the Rock Hall. With very few exceptions rap today just does not have the staying power of the songs of bands like NWA, Public Enemy, or The Beastie Boys. The artists today are interchangeable and lack the social awareness of their forefathers. NWA managed to sell over 10 million records and were banned from radio airplay. They were to rap what the Sex Pistols were to punk. They were the renegades of rap. Banned from commercial airwaves they still managed to find an audience and that audience crossed the barriers of race, culture and economic status. Their gritty sound and hardcore lyrics were urban poetry. This band spawned brilliant solo careers of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E (not to mention DJ Yella, MC Ren, and Arabian Prince). They were the rap soapbox of the west coast. In time, I am certain, they will get the nod, but this wasn’t their year.
The rest of the cast of inductees is pretty stellar. Cat Stevens is a solid choice with songs like “Wild World”, “Peace Train”, “Father and Son”, and “The First Cut is the Deepest”. This an an artist who walked away from it all to find his spiritual path turning his back on a very successful career to get right with himself. One only can guess if fellow inductee Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain choose that path rather than one of suicide where music might be today. In the short time Nirvana was putting out music they changed the course of music history with a song called “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the album Nevermind. That song and that album seriously stopped music dead in it’s tracks. It spawned an alternative rock movement that continues on to this day. The musical landscape of the time was power ballads, hair metal and the tail end of the new wave period. Alternative and college rock bands were gaining momentum but always on the outskirts of arena venues. Once Nirvana hit the game was changed for ever. People were more into real rock and roll and yearned to discover what else was out there. If this little noisy band from Seattle were out there and making music like this, what else was out there? The grunge scene blew up and with it the alternative rock scene caught fire.
Let me talk about the elephant in the room; Kiss. I have never been a huge Kiss fan. I think growing up in the 70’s it was required to own Kiss Alive in your record collection, and I did, or maybe my older brother did. We were caught up in the hype of this freakish band in scary makeup. Kiss, to me, never moved on from just being a novelty act. The amount of Kiss songs that I know off the top of my head would make for an amazing greatest hits record, but I can’t listen to an entire album without being bored. Some of the records are just outright terrible. Music From the Elder, Hot in the Shade, Asylum, Animalize, and Crazy Nights are some of the worst records ever made. Kiss was not made for loving you, Kiss was made for making money. Kiss is the pyramid scheme of music. There is always that one super fan who convinces you to try them out and you do and some don’t fall for it and move on and others get sucked into the vortex of the Kiss Army. My big question is who is inducted? Is it original Kiss or will The Fox and The Ankh Warrior be inducted too? I remember the hype in the early 80’s on MTV when Kiss was finally unmasked after that the mystique was gone for me. They completely sold out at that point to sell more records, and honestly some really bad ones. When the unmasked thing stopped working for them, the makeup went back on. Kiss is without a doubt the longest running novelty act in rock and roll and for that congratulations on making the cut.
The one I heard a lot of comments on, outside of N.W.A, in a bad way was Hall and Oates. I will admit, they put out some sappy pop crap in the 80’s with “Maneater” and “One on One”, but the more I dig deeper into these guys the more I discover other hidden gems. I think a lot of this backlash falls on the fact that everyone would always assume they were a gay couple. I distinctly remember liking Hall and Oates back in the 80’s questioned your sexuality. I am not sure why exactly, but I am sure it had something to do with the fact they wrote really good love songs. If you look back into their catalog they have some outstanding fun and soulful songs. Songs from the 70’s like “Sara’s Smile” and “Rich Girl” still get airplay to this day, but the one song that does it for me is “You Make My Dreams Come True”. That intro is one of the best intros in the history of 80’s rock. Daryl Hall has an amazing voice, John Oates was a pretty damn good guitar player.
How is Peter Gabriel not in the hall already as a solo artist? He was way overdue for the nod. Great to see him on the list. Just the iconic John Cusak scene from Say Anything alone blasting “In Your Eyes” boombox held over his head to woo Ione Skye seals the deal for me. Throw the entire So record into the mix and add the fact the song Biko pretty much made the world aware of the apartheid movement and you have a talented artist that spent years fighting for social change. Gabriel was never afraid to branch out and made some pretty interesting music. He brought in a new generation to listen to and discover obscure music from around the globe with his Real World label, and continues to be a voice for human rights.
Also rounding out the class of 2014 are The E Street Band, Linda Ronstadt, Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham. The E Street Band arguably is one of the most amazing backup bands ever. Ronstadt, was a crossover hit maker both in rock, pop and country and Epstein and Oldham were the guys behind two of the greatest rock and roll bands in the world. I think the Rock Hall did really well in their choices this year. There is always going to be someone you want in there left out. There is always going to be someone on the list that you don’t agree with. Rock and Roll was made to cause controversy. That’s the beauty of it. Last year Rush, this year Kiss, next year maybe we can get Deep Purple in so the majority of the loudmouths can be silenced. As a music lover, and not just a band junkie I respect these choices. I don’t have to agree with all of them but you have to respect them for their contribution to rock and roll. Let’s just hope we don’t have a disgusting repeat performance ala Alex Lifeson and his Blah Blah Blah speech of a bitter aging rocker. Stay classy.