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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame votes yes on KISS, no on Yes

By MALCOLM X ABRAM AKRON BEACON JOURNAL

This article was published December 26, 2013 at 3:13 a.m.

The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were recently announced, which means rock fans still interested in the hall’s machinations or who at least have a rooting interest in the nominees can officially began hailing the voters for their decisions or airing their grievances.

I’d say it’s a pretty strong group with no obvious “say wha?” choices. But there is at least one fairly glaring omission among the folks who didn’t make it in.

First, let’s take a quick run through the rock hall class of 2014.

Peter Gabriel

The singer with the haunting voice can now stand alongside the slowly growing number of double inductees, as he is already in the hall as a member of Genesis. He may not be a sexy pick, but Peter Gabriel’s done the work.

Some folks may not have heard of Gabriel before his big mid-’80s albums - Security, which contained the MTV and chart-topping radio hit “Shock the Monkey,” followed by his biggest solo album, SO, which featured the Motown-influenced pop tune “Sledgehammer” and officially made Gabriel a pop star. But Gabriel also helped spark the rise of “World Music” “world music” (i.e. music from places that ain’t America or Western Europe), and his early adoption of drum machines and use of electronics have influenced pop music.

Hall & Oates

I’m guessing some hard rock fans are probably wincing at Hall & Oates being enshrined, but remember, in terms of enshrinement it’s “the Rock and Roll and Pop Music Hall of Fame,” and Daryl Hall and John Oates made plenty of good pop songs in the 1970s and 1980s.

The term “blue-eyed soul” has pretty much died in the music lexicon, but Hall & Oates were adept at taking the Philly soul sound in which they were musically raised and adding a pop/rock sheen. Tunes such as “Sara Smile,” “She’s Gone” and “I Can’t Go for That” are rooted in R&B (the latter song also topped the R&B charts), while hits such as “Kiss on My List” and “You Make My Dreams Come True” are peppy, upbeat pop tunes that are still heard on the radio (be it terrestrial or satellite) or in retail stores every day.

Nirvana

I doubt anyone is surprised by Nirvana being welcomed in its first year of eligibility. Back in 1991, the trio’s mega-platinum Nevermind crystallized the “alternative rock” genre and by extension punk rock’s growing pop influence, for better and for worse. Quite simply, Nevermind changed contemporary rock radio, driving several nails deep into the coffin of the fun and freewheeling hair/ arena metal era that had been ruling since the mid-’80s.

Suddenly, Seattle was the hippest place on earth and singing about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll as a way of life and dressing like a walking billboard for spandex and animal prints was way uncool. Sure, Nirvana left many uninteresting and uninspiring bands in their wake, but for many young rock fans, the early days of what would become known as “grunge” and inextricably tied to slackers and Generation X was a truer mirror of their young life experiences.

Linda Ronstadt

The hall can always use a dose of musical estrogen, and Linda Ronstadt certainly fits in with “The Rock and Roll and Pop Music Hall of Fame” concept.

Across the span of her 40-plus year career Ronstadt, who has officially retired since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, covered an impressive amount of musical ground, has long been praised as one of the best interpretative singers and was one of the most successful singers of the 1970s.

Ronstadt has sung rock, country-rock, R&B, big band jazz, New Wave, Gilbert & Sullivan, traditional Mexican music and Cajun music. She’s had huge hits with other folks’ songs, leading to her string of eight consecutive platinum records, and she’s scored 11 Grammys and numerous other awards. Ronstadt’s resume and her immediately recognizable voice are unassailable.

Yusuf Islam

The artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, with his beard, curly locks and acoustic guitar and introspective spiritual and peace-themed lyrics, was one of the quintessential 1970s sensitive singer/songwriters. Over the decades, many of Yusuf Islam’s tunes have been hits for multiple artists, such as “Wild World” (Jimmy Cliff, Mr. Big) and “The First Cut Is the Deepest” (Sheryl Crow, Rod Stewart), and songs such as “Peace Train,” “Morning Has Broken” and “Moon Shadow” have become classic pop radio staples.

Islam ended his 1970s run with his conversion to Islam and eschewing his pop music career and became more known in the ’80s and ’90s for his controversial views before returning to pop music in the 2010s, but the “Peace Train” is still running and now it will run through the rock hall.

KISS

Rejoice, KISS Army members, your heroes have finally been properly enshrined.

Seriously, the fact that KISS’ inclusion into the rock hall took this long (eligible since 1999) is pretty ridiculous and embarrassing and has long been a go-to argument for folks who question the nebulous voting body’s credentials and personal agendas.

Whether you are an actual KISS fan or not, objectively the New York quartet “brought Barnum & Bailey into rock and roll,” as ex-drummer Peter Criss told the Associated Press, and wrote one of the most well known anthemic choruses in rock music (“I! Wanna rock and roll all nite! And party ev-er-ee day!”). It was one of the biggest bands in the world and upped the ante for its hard-rock peers in terms of stage shows. The band really pioneered and has fully explored the now mega-lucrative world of licensing (dude, a “standard” Kiss Kasket cost $3,299!).

The runners-up

As for the folks left behind - influential New Orleans funkmeisters the Meters (twice nominated), Cosmopolitan R&B / disco masters Chic (seven nominations), emcee LL Cool J (twice), N.W.A. (once), indie rock icons the Replacements, guitarist Link Wray, hit-making prog-rockers Yes, groovy ’60s band the Zombies and hard rock/heavy metal pioneers Deep Purple - they will have to wait.

Of that group, Deep Purple seems to be the most egregious exclusion. Adding insult to (ego) injury is the fact that this year was the first time Deep Purple has even been nominated. That’s a shame.

The foursome of In Rock, Fireball, Machine Head and Made in Japan should be enough to get the band in, then add its influence on the late 1970s New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, which influenced Metallica (inducted into the hall in 2009), and that gives fans yet another reason to question or outright disregard the rock hall’s motives.

All that being said, congratulations to the 2014 class, which will be inducted in April in New York. And remember, per the agreement between the actual rock hall and the Rock Hall Foundation, the 2015 ceremony will take place in Cleveland.

Weekend, Pages 31 on 12/26/2013

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