By Brian Ives
If you’re a fan of the history of rock music, you probably will, at some point, get drawn into a debate about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, no matter what you think of the institution itself. So we decided to round up guys who spend a lot more time than the average fan talking about rock and roll: DJs from CBS Radio’s affiliate stations. Say hello to Carter Alan from WZLX in Boston, Scott Vanderpool from KZOK in Seattle and Michael Stanley from WNCX in Cleveland and without further adieu, here’s our IM chat about this year’s inductees.
Radio.com: OK, let’s talk about Green Day first. Along with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana, they’re among the first of the “alt-rock” artists of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s to be inducted. Do they seem too young to get in, even though they’ve been around for the required 25 years?
Michael Stanley: Nope, they’re a well deserved choice; they write good songs and know how to rock!
Scott Vanderpool: They’re certainly a serviceable Clash/Buzzcocks influenced punk band, and they have some very catchy songs, but I do think Green Day could wait a bit. I think even Billie Joe Armstrong might admit the ridiculousness of being in the Hall of Fame before Cheap Trick, let alone the Buzzcocks, who they’ve borrowed so heavily from. For that matter, I think Kurt Cobain would have wanted both those in before Nirvana. But Green Day didn’t kill ’80s “buttock.” We’d all still be playing Winger if not for Nirvana.
Carter Alan: Green Day displayed a surprising amount of maturity after Dookie, and American Idiot was huge. I think they deserve it too!
Radio.com: Agreed. I wasn’t quite sold on them until the album before American Idiot, Warning. The title track kind of ripped off the Kinks‘ “Picture Book,” which for some reason impressed me.
Michael Stanley: Ripping off The Kinks is not always impressive; just ask the Doors!
Radio.com: Ha ha ha, good point. Was it surprising to see Green Day get in before other alt-rock acts like Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails? (NIN was on the ballot this year, Jane’s weren’t even nominated)
Scott Vanderpool: Jane’s and NIN can wait if Deep Purple have to. I’d give Soundgarden the nod for musical influence too, lot of bands wouldn’t be around if not for them not to name names… Alice in Chains.
Carter Alan: Sales and popularity plays here too. Green Day has sold a lot more than either Jane’s or NIN.
Radio.com: True enough.
MIchael Stanley: I was very surprised at NIN’s lack of attention but Green Day is far more of an actual “rock” band!
Radio.com: That’s true too. I see NIN as more like Pink Floyd. Rock fans love them, but they’re not like “rock and roll” in the conventional sense.
Carter Alan: A band doesn’t necessarily need to rock; hey, they inducted Madonna!
MIchael Stanley: [Nine Inch Nails’] Trent Reznor cut some new paths that, whether or not you dug the content, were certainly sonically different for the time. But Madonna? Don’t get me started on that path…
Carter Alan: I’ll agree that NIN should be in. Trent is also an underrated frontman in concert.
Radio.com: I think with Madonna, the feeling was that “rock and roll” casts a wide net, which includes reggae (Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff), country (Johnny Cash), and pop (Madonna, even Neil Diamond). And Madonna has a sort of rebellious spirit that is like rock and roll, even if her music doesn’t sound like a rock band. And Michael, I definitely agree with you on NIN. they introduced sampling/drum machines/electronic music in a way that resonated with rock fans. And yeah, Trent is great live. NIN blew my mind when I saw them last summer with Soundgarden.
Scott Vanderpool: Sometimes that wide net seems like a huge planet-raping industrial fishing trawler…the RRHOF knows most people want plain old cod, but they keep getting clogged up with gross slimy things, and they don’t always throw them back in the water. ‘Course, I’m a drummer, so I naturally think of sampling/drum machines/electronic music as gross slimy things.
Radio.com: On to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts: was this a long time coming? What do you think her influence has been? She seems to me to be like one of those artists with a lot of radio hits – like the J. Geils Band, the Dire Straits, Joe Cocker, Bad Company/Free – who are respected, who also haven’t been voted in yet.
Michael Stanley: Joan’s a nice lady but in NO WAY belongs in the Rock Hall. This opens the whole question of standards for induction.
Carter Alan: I disagree. Joan is a survivor and has made quality rock and roll all the way, was a punk pioneer in the Runaways, she paid her dues warming up for everybody.
Michael Stanley: Any of the above (J. Geils, Dire Straits, etc) are far more deserving! But that’s why they make chocolate and vanilla I guess; I totally disagree on the “quality rock and roll” point, and what does longevity have to do with anything?
Radio.com: We covered a Joan tribute concert last year [click through to the review above], and Billie Joe Armstrong performed, Mike Ness of Social Distortion, a few other punk rock types. I think she’s been really influential on that scene. And there’s also the fact that she probably influenced more than a few women to pick up guitars and start their own bands. And to me, a big part of the Hall of Fame should be influence, combined with popularity.
Michael Stanley: She’s got a strong look, a lot of attitude, and maybe three tunes.
Radio.com: Just three? What are the three?
Michael Stanley: I can only name one: “Bad Reputation.” I was being kind!
Carter Alan: The influence factor though is huge. A strong woman in the punk scene…who lasted.
Radio.com: I agree with Carter on that. I feel like she has more than three impactful tunes, but I may be biased. “I Love Rock and Roll,” “Crimson and Clover,” “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” “Light of Day,” “Fake Friends.” I know she didn’t write all of them, but to me, that doesn’t matter.
Carter Alan: “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and her version of the Rolling Stones‘ “Star Star” rocked!
Michael Stanley: So, by the standards of a strong woman in the punk scene, are we just biding our time before Courtney Love and/or Hole get in?
Carter Alan: I think Courtney will get the nod.
Scott Vanderpool: I hope Courtney doesn’t. Can’t think of many cultural icons that are poorer role models for young women. Maybe Paris Hilton. Not gonna go further on that subject, I’d have to lawyer up.
Radio.com: I also think Joan was important because during an era of new wave, synths etc. she stripped rock and roll down to its essentials. Hole – that will be interesting to see. Live Through This was a massive album.
Michael Stanley: I am now officially speechless (which you might like).
Carter Alan: Ha Ha! I’m not a huge fan of Hole at all, but I think Courtney Love will be inducted eventualy.
Radio.com: I’ll be curious to see what other alt rock bands will get in – besides Jane’s and NIN, I’d think Soundgarden deserves it. That’s a conversation for another time!
Michael Stanley: Doesn’t this strike you guys as totally insane? I’m all for “influence” but talent has to enter in at some small level. I’m referring to Hole not Soundgarden.
Carter Alan: Well, I agree that talent should play into it, but ‘coolness’ always seems to be an important factor – or else bands like Yes and Jethro Tull would be in there. The Rock Hall of Voters vote “cool!”
Radio.com: Courtney Love is talented, she wrote a lot of great songs and delivered them really well. She’s not a great singer, but she delivered those songs perfectly, and with the right band behind her. Like Lou Reed. Speaking of! Lou Reed is being inducted for the second time; he’s already in the Rock Hall as a member of the Velvet Underground. Do you think his solo career is deserving of induction?
Michael Stanley: Lou was cool…and so, yes, they voted him in. Was there really a question that they wouldn’t?
Radio.com: I was a bit surprised. I figured they’d have thought that being inducted as a member of the Velvet Underground would be enough. I love Lou, but I don’t think I would have voted for him.
Michael Stanley: Being inducted with the Velvet Underground should have been enough, but, like you said, the voters want to be seen as “hip.” But really? You would have voted for Joan and not Lou?
Radio.com: I think her career was more influential than his, if you subtract the Velvet Underground from it.
Carter Alan: I think Lou’s talent and influence were huge since he was a major motivator, especially at the end of the Velvets and had the courage to follow his muse through that long solo career. Transformer and New York were tremendous albums.
Radio.com: I think a lot of people may have re-evaluated his impact after he passed; I know when someone dies, people kind of “binge-listen” to that artist. Maybe it reminded them of how much they liked his solo music. For me: I’m a fan, but he made a hell of a lot of not-great albums between Transformer and New York, both of which I love. On the other hand, while he may have been more influential with the Velvets, but I think he was more popular solo, right:? Correct me if I’m wrong, it seems like “Walk On The Wild Side” and even “Dirty Blvd” have gotten more radio play over the years than any of the Velvets songs. And I feel like if I hear “Sweet Jane,” it’s Lou’s solo live version from Rock and Roll Animal, and not the Velvets’ version.
Scott Vanderpool: The Velvet Underground are another one of those bands that weren’t that big in their day, but everyone who liked ’em started a band of their own. Sometimes that influence creeps up to rock radio, which may have ignored ’em first go-round; we sometimes jump on the bandwagon late. Some of those artists who are in the RRHOF include the Stooges, the Ramones and even Black Sabbath. The Replacements and Buzzcocks could fit that category as well.
Michael Stanley: True…the Velvets were the ultimate niche band; heavy on angst and now musical chops…that’s what draws in the newbies!
Radio.com: Ha ha I love Metallica but I agree about that album (Lulu). However, I give everyone involved credit for doing something that both fanbases were guaranteed to hate. So, let’s talk about Stevie Ray Vaughan. I have to say, I was surprised that Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble hadn’t been inducted yet. I thought he was someone who everyone – radio and the media – agreed on, and he seemed to single handledly bring blues to a younger audience when he started out in the ‘80s. Are you guys surprised that it’s taken this long for them to be voted in?
Carter Alan: The delay on Stevie Ray Vaughan was surprising. He was one of those who kept the blues alive through the skinny-tie era!
Scott Vanderpool: SRV should have been in long ago.
Michael Stanley: I was very surprised about that too.
Carter Alan: I’m glad they inducted the whole band and not just Stevie.
Radio.com: Ditto. On to Bill Withers; I think he was a great choice: I think he may have been overlooked over the years because he retired and never came back; he’s also not part of any movement like Chess Records or Sun Records or Motown or Stax. But would you guys have voted for him?
Michael Stanley: He’s certainly more deserving than some inductees! But no, I wouldn’t have even considered him.
Carter Alan: The Rolling Stone story on Bill Withers was fantastic. He completely left the business. Those songs are timeless. Jam-band favorites too!
Radio.com: I read that Rolling Stone article too. I’d filmed an interview with him a few years ago, and he was just like, done, with music. I was listening to his first two albums, Just as I Am and Still Bill, and I think he’s really overlooked. I originally got turned on to him in the ’90s when Mick Jagger and Lenny Kravitz covered “Use Me.”
Carter Alan: Maybe now he’ll be inspired to go back in the studio.
Radio.com: Per that story, I don’t think so. If Questlove can’t convince him, I don’t know who could! But let’s talk about the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. That’s a rare inductee who many people haven’t even heard of. Even if they know the name, they couldn’t name any songs by. Why are they so important?
Carter Alan: They were one of the first interracial rock bands!
Michael Stanley: They made it OK for white boys to play the blues (and I can name a bunch of songs)…and anyone who could steal Howlin’ Wolf’s rhythm section and live to tell the tale deserves something!
Carter Alan: Mike Bloomfield was a true virtuoso. Paul Butterfield was a master harp player. Elvin Bishop was no slouch on guitar. They helped bring the blues to the college campuses
Radio.com: All great points but it seems like, unlike other bands of the time – Cream, the Allman Brothers Band, Santana – they aren’t as well remembered. If I’m not mistaken, even classic rock radio doesn’t play them (am I wrong?)
Michael Stanley: We could probably get away with it once in a while, but that’s pretty deep stuff for people who want to hear Joan Jett (sorry…couldn’t resist)
Scott Vanderpool: Paul Butterfield Blues Band was playing stuff the folkies liked, but it was electric. They were a huge influence, which is probably why Dylan did “that thing” with ’em at Newport.
Carter Alan: We play Paul Butterfield Blues Band on our Sunday Blues show and thats it.
Radio.com: A couple of years ago Rhino Records put out a 2 CD Paul Butterfield Blues Band collection and I got a copy, and I thought it was great (especially the earlier stuff). it doesn’t sound like a huge stretch for people who like ’60s blues/rock hybrids.
Michael Stanley: Early Butterfield is anything but slick, so for a lot of folks it sounds almost prehistoric…but they are great, great albums!
Carter Alan: They deserve to be inducted just for backing Dylan at Newport.
Radio.com: On to Ringo Starr. I was kind of surprised to see him inducted with the Award for Musical Excellence, even though he wasn’t on the ballot. I guess it’s for a combination of his solo career and his drumming on other people’s records (notably John, Paul and George’s). Your thoughts?
Scott Vanderpool: Ringo should probably be in for his influence on only every drummer ever. Zildjian ran out of cymbals in the mid ’60s because of him. All the other Beatles are in solo, I reckon Ringo should be too.
Carter Alan: Ringo is an all-around entertainer and a legend. But folks forget he has one of the best backbeats in the biz!
Radio.com: Absolutely, but I was surprised anyway. I thought that that award – the Award for Musical Excellence – was for people who hadn’t been recognized, i.e. the E Street Band not being inducted with Springsteen, or Leon Russell, who had just plain been overlooked. Of course, Ringo is a Hall of Famer as a Beatle. But I agree, and I think that people who criticize his drumming generally miss the point. Anyway – who are some notable rock hall “snubs.” Who should be inducted who hasn’t been yet?
Scott Vanderpool: Yes.
Carter Alan: Well, in Boston, we can’t figure out why the Cars or J.Geils Band have been shut out.
Radio.com: I agree the Cars seem like a glaring omission
Carter Alan: The Cars were a major link between punk and new wave, and sold a ton of records. They had Influence and popularity.
Radio.com: Agree, 100% – I’d equate them with Blondie, who was inducted years ago. They had a sound that was so new and fresh at the time, but wasn’t alienating at all.
Carter Alan: I mentioned J. Geils because they also carried the blues torch, plus Peter Wolf is a true historian and amazing frontman.
Scott Vanderpool: There are entire websites and “WTF?” pages on Facebook devoted to all the glaring snubs that should have been in before ABBA, Madonna, and the usual laundry list the Rock Hall voters deem “important. Certainly the Cars, and going back a little further the Modern Lovers, J. Geils, and the Pixies. But I think some of the most influential artists not in would be Cheap Trick, Deep Purple and Yes. Also, probably no “glam” would have happened without T. Rex. And, hey, which of your flute-totin’ band-dork friends doesn’t love Chicago?
Radio.com: To me, the biggest omission is the entire post-punk era, both in England (the Cure, the Smiths, Joy Division and Depeche Mode) and here (the Replacements, Sonic Youth, the Pixies)
Scott Vanderpool: No doubt. Not the band. The Jam put on the best rock show I have ever seen, and I’ve been to a lot. Joy Division another that launched a thousand bands.
Radio.com: Well, that’s it; thanks for playing guys. Here’s hoping that some of those “snubs” will be the inductees that we’ll be talking about next year.
We’ll have coverage of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony here Saturday night and Sunday morning. And HBO will broadcast an edited version of the show on May 30.