Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time – The Elite Eight

HardRockMetal

Rather than delve into the delusion that currently is supposed to oversee this country (and trust me, there’s plenty to call the Tangerine Ignoramus out on simply from this last week alone, such as his inability to understand where a complete CARRIER GROUP is -you don’t say it is going to North Korea when it is just going on maneuvers with the Australians), I’ve decided to start something that will be much more fun. Since college basketball just recently completed the NCAA Basketball Championship, I thought it would be fun to do the same but in a different arena – the genre of hard rock/metal music.

What are the criteria for consideration? First, the band/singer would have to have some sort of longevity to their career – you don’t see many bands or singers that are considered “legendary’ if they were only around for a couple of albums (Amy Winehouse is a rare exception, but that’s a discussion for another time). Second, the band/singer would have to have an impact on the genre – did they do something particularly noteworthy or notorious that put them into the annals of the genre’s history, a song or “behavior” that was historic. Third, just how popular were they when they were in existence – a band or singer that was wildly popular with the fans might get some leeway over a critical darling OR vice versa (depending on tastes). Fourth, what accolades did they receive – awards, gold records, and recognition by the industry (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, hello?) are all under consideration here. Finally, was the band/singer influential on future generations of music – have they helped shape the genre since they have left the sphere?

This is the final step – the Elite Eight – before we enter the REAL battleground of the Final Four and crown a champion. The competitors have already worked their way through some very strong bands to reach this point, but only the greatest will be able to claim the prize of the greatest hard rock/metal band of all time. Without further ado, let’s get things started with a look at the final duo in the 1960s/70s bracket:

Led Zeppelin (1) vs. AC/DC (2)

If there were two titans of hard rock/metal in the 1960s/70s, it would be these two bands. Led Zeppelin were somewhat the originators of the sound, with the crunching guitars of such tunes as “Rock and Roll“ and “Whole Lotta Love“ while AC/DC took three chords and has churned out rock classics like “Highway to Hell“ and “Back in Black“ (Trust me, when I present examples for these bands, there is virtually a dozen songs that could be presented as examples.)

As a vocalist, Robert Plant is recognized as one of the iconic singers of the genre, but both the late Bon Scott and Brian Johnson could hold their own with Plant and provide a bit of growl as well. There’s no way you can say that guitarists Jimmy Page and Angus Young are of equal talent, but both bring their all for their own distinctive styles. And looking deeper into the band, you cannot put AC/DC’s rhythm section of Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd over Led Zep’s duo of John Paul Jones and the late John Bonham.

The one area that the boys from “Down Under” crush the lads from London? Longevity. The era of Zeppelin only lasted a little more than a decade (1968-1980). AC/DC has been at the forefront of the hard rock/metal genre for more than 40 years. Originating in 1973, AC/DC didn’t even slow down for the death of Scott in 1980, instead cranking out what would become their masterpiece Back in Black with Johnson wailing the vocals.

This one’s going to take some thought, fans. Every vote is going to count!

Now here’s the Final Four showdown (and the matchup for the 1960s/70s bracket) in the 2000s/10s:

Disturbed (1) vs. Slipknot (6)

The problem with rating bands that are still around is that they are still growing and maturing as performers. In some cases, they haven’t possibly created their magnum opus that will define the band for history, meaning that it is an incomplete ranking. With these two bands, however, there is plenty of material and plenty of history to be able to see them make the Elite Eight.

Slipknot has been the surprise of the tournament to this point, making the Elite Eight as the lowest ranked band in that group. The intriguing thing about Slipknot is that they are CONSTANTLY experimenting and looking for ways to broaden their and their fans’ horizons. There is another huge part of Slipknot’s existence – the fans. Slipknot shows are well known for their intensity, something that applies today even though the band has been around for almost two decades.

But they are going up against a juggernaut in this bracket. Disturbed has been the benchmark that other hard rock/metal bands have been compared to since their explosion just before the start of the 21st century. From their initial release “Down with the Sickness“ through their current album Immortalized – and perhaps their masterpiece in a remake of the Simon & Garfunkel classic “The Sounds of Silence“ – Disturbed has been showing the way for hard rock/metal.

There are those that don’t think that Disturbed is “heavy” enough to be in heavy metal, but they are apparently good enough for their fans. Disturbed is one of only three bands to have five consecutive studio albums debut in the #1 slot on the Billboard album sales chart (the other two? Metallica and the Dave Matthews Band).

Without further ado, let’s jump into the 1980s:

Bon Jovi (1) vs. Metallica (2)

Just like in the 1960s/70s bracket, it seems like these two bands were destined to meet at this point. And you couldn’t find more polar opposites than these two bands – the glammy, big hair and balladry rock of Bon Jovi completely unlike the gritty, thrash metal with a mind that was put up by Metallica. Even in looking at the individuals in the two bands, the yin/yang is still apparent.

It is arguable that Jon Bon Jovi is a better singer than James Hetfield, but that is a bit superficial to look at them in just that manner. Both men are the leaders of their respective units, with Hetfield offering a blistering backing guitar to go along with his rumble of a voice. Bon Jovi, also known to pick up the guitar on occasion, has the better vocal range, but I would posit that Hetfield actually makes you feel the lyrics that thunder from his mouth. While very different, they both epitomize their bands.

In looking at the lead guitarists, they are also quite distinctive. Richie Sambora (up until departing the band this year) is one of the top guitarists in the genre, but Metallica’s duo of first Dave Mustaine and then Kirk Hammett not only provide the searing blowtorch of their solos but also pound out the very existence of Metallica. Sambora might be better than Mustaine, but I don’t think he tops Hammett.

The rhythm sections aren’t comparable. Metallica rules this department, with bassists in the late Cliff Burton, Jason Newstead and now Robert Trujillo and drummer Lars Ulrich completely outclassing Bon Jovi’s unit (quick – without Google, name the bassist and drummer for the band?). It is in fact that foundation in Metallica that gives them their unique sound, whereas Bon Jovi is just good hard rock music.

Even when you look at sales (popularity), the two are nearly equal. Bon Jovi has sold around 130 million albums worldwide, Metallica 100 million. Although they are nowhere near the same, they are worthy opponents at this point in the tournament.

And, finally, the 1990s:

Nirvana (1) vs. Rage Against the Machine (2)

This was potentially the toughest of the regions in our competition. With the birth of grunge, rap metal and other genres during the decade, you had many different sounds competing for hard rock/metal fans attention. That is seen in the final two survivors, Nirvana and RATM.

It could possibly be said that Pearl Jam should be here instead of Nirvana, but Nirvana is the band that many people point to as the “fathers of grunge.” For what it’s worth, the late Kurt Cobain was a tremendous lyricist, albeit his singing left a great deal to be desired. He did surround himself with outstanding musicians in Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, who helped him to take Nirvana to the pinnacle of rock music – whether Cobain liked it or not.

By far Rage Against the Machine’s niche has been in their political stances. The band has long been known for their leftist (some would say anarchist) views, but they have delivered those views with a powerful brand of hard rock. With Tom Morello‘s groundbreaking guitar work and the vocals of Zack de la Rocha, the band has remained popular even though they haven’t been together since 2011 (their second stint – they were at their apex between 1991 and 2000, went on hiatus, then reformed in 2007).

With two powerful and influential bands such as these, who do you choose? The choice is now up to you. Who do you see moving on to the Final Four? And who eventually wins the crown?

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Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time, Sweet Sixteen Part 2

HardRockMetal

Rather than delve into the delusion that currently is supposed to oversee this country (and trust me, there’s plenty to call the Tangerine Ignoramus out on, especially his painfully visible attempts to recreate the film Wag the Dog by rattling the battle sabers against…well, whoever he thinks will distract attention from how corrupt and owing to the Russians him and his Confederacy of Dunces are), I’ve decided to start something that will be much more fun. Since college basketball just recently completed the NCAA Basketball Championship, I thought it would be fun to do the same but in a different arena – the genre of hard rock/metal music.

What are the criteria for consideration? First, the band/singer would have to have some sort of longevity to their career – yo’u don’t see many bands or singers that are considered “legendary” if they were only around for a couple of albums (Amy Winehouse is a rare exception, but that’s a discussion for another time). Second, the band/singer would have to have an impact on the genre – did they do something particularly noteworthy or notorious that put them into the annals of the genre’s history, a song or “behavior” that was historic. Third, just how popular were they when they were in existence – a band or singer that was wildly popular with the fans might get some leeway over a critical darling OR vice versa (depending on tastes). Fourth, what accolades did they receive – awards, gold records, and recognition by the industry (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, hello?) are all under consideration here. Finally, was the band/singer influential on future generations of music – have they helped shape the genre since they have left the sphere?

We’ve gotten down to crunch time – the Sweet Sixteen. With these competitors, you could probably make a solid argument for any of them to be the eventual winner of the tournament. But the thing is, we’re not looking for sixteen winners – we’re trying to determine who is the best. As such, we’re forging onward by working one side of the bracket – the 1980s and the 1990s – down to the four competitors who will vie for two of the Final Four seats. Who do you think should be there?

Let’s get things started with the 1980s bracket:

Gunners

Bon Jovi (1) vs. Guns ‘N Roses (4)

At first glance, these two bands are about as different as you can get, the gritty gang from L. A.’s Sunset Strip versus the Jersey Boys. But if you actually look closer, there are more similarities between them than you think. Both had enigmatic front men in Jon Bon Jovi and W. Axl Rose and both had virtuoso guitarists in Richie Sambora and Slash. Popularity wise, it is arguable that the Gunners were just as big as BJ, if not more popular, and they definitely had more of an impact on the music and served as inspirations for future headbangers. The big kicker here may be longevity, as GNR has disappeared from the scene for long periods of time; while they weren’t at the apex that they were through the 1980s, Bon Jovi has been consistently together (until the recent Sambora/Bon Jovi split) since their inception in the early 80s.

Metallica (2) vs. Slayer (6)

You knew this clash was coming between two of the monsters of metal. The problem is that it is a one-sided battle. Metallica defeats Slayer at virtually every criterion that we’ve set:  longevity, creativity, influence, popularity, and accolades. Slayer can lay claim to being the father of death metal, but Metallica were the ones who ensured that bands like Slayer could get heard somewhere. Metallica, despite their detractors who say they “sold out” when the Black Album shot them to superstardom, has always carried the banner for metal fans worldwide. Ask yourself this:  if there were no Metallica, would we have ever heard of Slayer?

And without further ado, here’s the 1990s bracket:

PearlJam

Nirvana (1) vs. Pearl Jam (4)

It was thisclose between Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters for the right to face Nirvana, but the 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees were able to stave off Dave Grohl and Co. at least this time around. Now they have to face off against Grohl’s first band, Nirvana, in what is an intriguing matchup.

It is really easy to say that Nirvana started the “Grunge Era” of hard rock/metal, but Pearl Jam was right along with them in breaking that ground. In fact, Pearl Jam’s Ten was released BEFORE Nirvana’s Nevermind hit the shelves (Ten was released on August 27, 1991; Nevermind was released September 24, 1991), making the argument for Pearl Jam to be the innovators of the grunge sound. Both of their vocalists perfectly captured the grunge attitude, with the late Kurt Cobain somewhat channeling Bob Dylan’s indecipherable vocal stylings and Eddie Vedder bringing an intensity to his aural assault. If there were one area that sets the two apart, it would be critical acclaim; from their start, Nirvana was always endorsed more by the critics than Pearl Jam ever was.

It’s a tough battle – but if it were easy, everyone would do it!

Rage Against the Machine (2) vs. Green Day (3)

In my opinion, this is a no-brainer, but I am sure there are plenty out there who might argue. Rage Against the Machine was damn close to being the “punk” band here, with their politically influenced lyrics, hammerhead guitars and “in your face” attitude. That has always been one of the criticisms of Green Day is that they were “punk-lite” and not a hardcore punk band (an insult to the members of Green Day, though).

Outside of that fact, the battle is a pretty close one here. Critical acclaim has to go to Rage, but in the other categories they are about dead even. You can give Green Day the edge as to longevity and maybe popularity (I am pretty sure that more people have heard of Green Day than Rage) and that might sway some of the votes. We’ll have to hear from the voters as to who gets the victor’s flag here.

RATM

Get your votes in quick because in a couple days we will take it to the Elite Eight! The middle of this week, we will see who has survived the carnage and will vie for the chance to reach the Final Four. By the end of the week, we will crown the champion and answer the question:  who is the greatest hard rock/metal band of all time?

Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time, Second Round Part 2

HardRockMetal

Rather than delve into the delusion that currently is supposed to oversee this country (and trust me, there’s plenty to call the Tangerine Ignoramus out on simply from this last weekend alone, such as his foray into international diplomacy at the end of a Tomahawk missile), I’ve decided to start something that will be much more fun. Since college basketball just recently completed the NCAA Basketball Championship, I thought it would be fun to do the same but in a different arena – the genre of hard rock/metal music.

What are the criteria for consideration? First, the band/singer would have to have some sort of longevity to their career – you don’t see many bands or singers that are considered “legendary” if they were only around for a couple of albums (Amy Winehouse is a rare exception, but that’s a discussion for another time). Second, the band/singer would have to have an impact on the genre – did they do something particularly noteworthy or notorious that put them into the annals of the genre’s history, a song or “behavior” that was historic. Third, just how popular were they when they were in existence – a band or singer that was wildly popular with the fans might get some leeway over a critical darling OR vice versa (depending on tastes). Fourth, what accolades did they receive – awards, gold records, and recognition by the industry (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, hello?) are all under consideration here. Finally, was the band/singer influential on future generations of music – have they helped shape the genre since they have left the sphere?

The first round of the four “regions” – the 1960s/70s, the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s/2010s – is complete and there were some big surprises. It’s now time to move into the second round of two of the regions who will match up in the Final Four of Hard Rock/Metal – the 1980s and the 1990s – and work them down to one half of the Sweet Sixteen. As always, cast your vote and/or opinion on who should win each battle by commenting here or on one of the many social media outlets where you might read this.

Without further ado, here’s the 1980s second round:

BON JOVI

Bon Jovi (1) vs. Mötley Crüe (8)

Part of me would like to see this be a real battle, but that’s not the case. Longevity is on the side of Bon Jovi in this case, as is virtually every other category that might be tallied. Sales, award recognition, fan support – all those things flow in the direction of the boys from New Jersey over the gang off the Sunset Strip. Although they might be “lightweights,” Bon Jovi for many WAS the 1980s and, as such, they will be moving on.

Guns ‘N Roses (4) vs. Iron Maiden (5)

This is going to be too close to call. The Gunners breathed new life into hard rock/metal in the late 1980s with their “take no prisoners” approach and bawdy behavior, but Iron Maiden’s throng of loyal supporters and longevity in the business can’t be overlooked. Even though GNR came back last year for a few concert appearances (and Axl Rose did some great work with AC/DC after the questionable circumstances regarding Brian Johnson’s departure), Iron Maiden almost always has seemed to “been there” since the early 1980s. The voters will have to make the call here.

Metallica (2) vs. Anthrax (10)

Anthrax, with their highly influential style of speed metal mixed with social commentary, emerged with an upset victory against Queensrÿche, but that may be where the train ends with running up against Metallica. If there were a group that could play just as fast as Anthrax, just as loud and have similar things to say, it would be Metallica. What puts it over the top? The 2009 induction of Metallica into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which says it best on their website when they comment, “Heavy metal went mainstream thanks to Metallica.”

Slayer

Def Leppard (3) vs. Slayer (6)

Opposites go to war in this matchup, with the poppier hard rock from Def Leppard running headlong into the death metal stylings of Slayer. Don’t be so quick to hand this battle to Def Leppard; Slayer, while a polarizing entity because of the style that they play, has been tremendously influential over ALL forms of music. They have influenced everyone from Pantera to Hatebreed and even reached to Italy to inspire Lacuna Coil. When you’ve got that type of power, it has an impact…but will the voters accept it?

And now, let’s look at the 1990s:

Nirvana (1) vs. Nine Inch Nails (9)

Although I’ve long had a fondness for Nirvana and the late Kurt Cobain, there is plenty of room for argument that Nine Inch Nails and front man Trent Reznor were more influential on hard rock/metal. Reznor’s influence runs the gamut from pop to industrial, dance to rock, and he’s also been a highly successful scorer of films (along with his partner Atticus Ross, they won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Social Network). While that may not be hardcore, it still shows tremendous talent, making this matchup not the slam dunk that many might have thought.

"Gone Girl" Special Screening

Pearl Jam (4) vs. Foo Fighters (5)

Another tough battle in the 4/5 seedings. You would think that Pearl Jam, coming off their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and nearly 30-year career (not to mention leading the “Grunge Revolution”), would be able to handle the Foo men easily. But Dave Grohl and Co. aren’t that easy to knock off. They’ve been getting raves over one of their recent efforts, Sonic Highways, which saw the band travel to eight different cities to “get a feel for” the cities as they recorded it (the production was followed by HBO for a miniseries of the same name). Grohl also carries some gravitas from his days with Nirvana. Is it possible that Grohl’s two bands could face off against each other in the Sweet Sixteen?

Rage Against the Machine (2) vs. Korn (7)

Although Korn ably defeated Tool to reach the second round, I don’t see a way that they get past RATM. In all areas, Rage Against the Machine are the dominant forces – popularity, commercial and critical success, influence and many others. About the only thing that Korn may have is longevity, but that would change if Rage guitarist Tom Morello and singer Zack de la Rocha buried the hatchet and hit the studio again (if not, there’s always Morello leading the other men from the band in their new outlet, Prophets of Rage). A bit of a mismatch here, unfortunately.

GreenDay

Green Day (3) vs. White Zombie/Rob Zombie (11)

A bit of a surprise as White Zombie and front man Rob Zombie were able to upend Alice in Chains to reach the second round of the tournament. They’ve got a great chance to take out the three-seed in Green Day as their style of “nightmare metal” has been mimicked by many bands in the early 2000s, even though Rob Zombie still performs. Green Day, however, has their own legion of devotees and can even say that they’ve gone to Broadway (the musical American Idiot brought punk music to the Great White Way). It is another battle that will be decided by the voters.

That closes the second round for these two regions. Be sure to get your votes in on who deserves to move on to the Sweet Sixteen! Starting this week, we’ll cut the Sweet Sixteen down to only one band, who will walk off with the title of the greatest hard rock/metal band in history!

Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time, Part 3 – The 1990s

HardRockMetal

Rather than delve into the delusion that currently is supposed to oversee this country (and trust me, there’s plenty to call the Tangerine Ignoramus out on simply from this last weekend alone), I’ve decided to start something that will definitely be much more fun. Since college basketball is deciding the 64 teams (OK, 68 teams because of those simply idiotic play in games the NCAA conducts) that will compete for their championship, thought it would be fun to do the same but in a different arena – the genre of hard rock/metal music.

As it is one of my personal fortes, hard rock/metal music is essentially celebrating its 50th Anniversary since the release of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild,” which contained the lines “Get your motor running/heavy metal thunder.” With this in mind, I’ve put together a compilation of the top 64 hard rock/metal bands from four different eras – the 1960s/70s, the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s/10s – and split them up in accordance with those eras into “regions.” We’ll break down the matchups in each bracket and, with hope, readers will make their own comments and vote on the matchups and perhaps they’ll be some sort of prize at the end – the management here (re:  me) is still trying to come up with that prize.

What are the criteria for consideration? First, the band/singer would have to have some sort of longevity to their career – you don’t see many bands or singers that are considered “legendary” if they were only around for a couple of albums (Amy Winehouse is a rare exception, but that’s a discussion for another time). Second, the band/singer would have to have an impact on the genre – did they do something particularly noteworthy or notorious that put them into the annals of the genre’s history, a song or “behavior” that was historic. Third, just how popular were they when they were in existence – a band or singer that was wildly popular with the fans might get some leeway over a critical darling OR vice versa (depending on tastes). Fourth, what accolades did they receive – awards, gold records, and recognition by the industry (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, hello?) are all under consideration here. Finally, was the band/singer influential on future generations of music – have they helped shape the genre since they have left the sphere?

RRHallofFame

We talked about the 1960s/70s in Part 1 and the 1980s in Part 2, so now we’re ready to head into a decade – the 1990s – that saw something that we have never seen before in rock music and probably won’t again. At the start of the decade, “hair metal” was still ruling the roost when it came to hard rock/metal, but it was quickly snuffed out by the sounds emanating from the Northwest. “Grunge,” for all intents, killed the “hair metal” band while embracing the mood of the culture of the day. That cannibalization by grunge in devouring the “hair metal” bands is something that we had never seen before in the industry – normally if something new comes along, it will eventually get folded in like an omelet into the existing structure(s). Grunge chowed down on “hair metal” rather than soak itself into the genre.

There were many candidates for this “regions” bracket and many of those selections reflect how grunge became the powerhouse of the 1990s. I am sure there will be some complaints as to the selections and, if so, please include those when you discuss the matchups in your reply!

Nirvana

Nirvana (1) vs. Primus (16)

Unfortunately for Les Claypool and the men from Primus, this looks like utter destruction from the start. Going against one of the bands considered the “fathers” of the grunge movement, a singer and musician considered the “voice of a generation” by their fans AND a critically, commercially, and historically lauded success (first-ballot entry into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame)? Hey, somebody had to be the #16 seed in this bracket…

Marilyn Manson (8) vs. Nine Inch Nails (9)

From whatever angle you look at the matchup, these two bands seem to be equals across the board. Challenging thoughts and beliefs in the masses? Check. Earn scorn from the “squares” for your appearance or actions? Yep. Influence a generation with your styles, songs, and subterfuge? You got it. Both Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails were the real groundbreakers during the decade. About the only way to set the two apart is that Marilyn Manson was a band; Nine Inch Nails was basically Trent Reznor playing all the instruments and producing the material. That may give him the edge.

Pearl Jam (4) vs. Ministry (13)

Yes, it may sound sacrilegious, but Pearl Jam only rated the #4 seed in the 1990s. Some might complain they should be in one of the top three slots but, as you’ll see, who do you toss out? As far as this matchup goes, Eddie Vedder and Co. get the nod for overall influence, commercial and critical success and various honors earned. Then again, the vote of those following this tournament may have something different to say about the subject.

Foo Fighters (5) vs. Nickelback (12)

For all the flak they receive, Nickelback is one of the most popular groups of the 1990s – amazing since no one admits to actually listening to them. They certainly churned out the music during the decade, no matter how banal it could be. Foo Fighters brings our first double nominee in the tournament – Dave Grohl, the drummer for Nirvana, went on to form Foo Fighters after the death of Kurt Cobain – and presents a band that was built for pop success but never forgot its rock roots. We’ll see if Nickelback’s loyal legions turn out to try to stop the Fighters from taking this one down.

RATM

Rage Against the Machine (2) vs. Linkin Park (15)

Just like the 1-16 matchup in this region, the 2-15 also looks to be a beat down. Rage Against the Machine was one of the most political bands in the history of rock music, let alone hard rock/metal, and used their powerful musicianship (in the hands of guitarist Tom Morello and vocalist Zack de la Rocha) to drive that message home. Linkin Park, while putting together some very good work of their own, couldn’t hold a candle to Rage, however. What might give some pause? Linkin Park is still around today – the same can’t be said for Rage Against the Machine (although there are murmurs that this could change).

Korn (7) vs. Tool (10)

There is one key thing that may give one of these groups the edge over the other. While both are very accomplished in the hard rock/metal arena, Korn continues to put out solid albums to an adoring fan base. Because of what the band has called “legal issues,” Tool hasn’t released any new music in a decade and doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to release anything now (those legal issues were resolved in 2015). Even without the nearly decade-long hiatus, it was going to be tough for Tool to unseat Korn – but we’ll see who the voters like.

Green Day (3) vs. Creed (14)

Green Day was the pseudo-punk band that everyone would love throughout the 1990s, but Creed – also trying to make their mark outside of the “grunge wave” with their pretentious songs and charismatic singer Scott Stapp – tried to match Green Day for supremacy, especially in the latter part of the decade. Stapp’s personal demons would catch up with Creed, however, breaking the band up as the new millennium started. Green Day has gone on to tremendous success commercially and critically and has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as one of the influential bands of the genre. Let’s just gloss over the fact that the “punks” have a Broadway show now…

WhiteZombie

Alice in Chains (6) vs. White Zombie/Rob Zombie (11)

I am sensing an upset here. While Alice in Chains was an integral part of the grunge movement, their time in the sun was a rather brief one that spanned only four years (90-94). White Zombie was about as “non-grunge” as it got, instead going into an Alice Cooper-like “nightmare metal” that Rob Zombie still performs to this day (the actual band dissolved in 1998). Perhaps because Zombie has been able to push into other fields – he is a noted film director and comic book buff – the notoriety of the band has prevailed while Alice in Chains has slowly disappeared.

(Writer’s note: I know Soundgarden was left out of the region. However, after you get by Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and some of the other grunge acts, Soundgarden was actually pretty far down the list, don’t you think?)

That’s it for the third “region” of our tournament. We’ll look at the 2000s/10s (and be thinking of who could be the #1 seed for that “region” – would love to hear those opinions) later this week and get into the second round, hopefully by next Monday. Don’t forget to vote by replying here and I will compile the responses – and maybe award a prize once a champion is crowned to a reader!

GASP! The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Gets It (Somewhat) Right!

 

rockhalloffame

Normally this time of year has everyone in some state of aggravation. Mostly it comes from the holiday preparations (every year I’ve said I plan to start things earlier and instead it seems to be later), but it also comes from the yearly announcement of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees (OK, maybe not everyone). For a change, however, the Class of 2017 isn’t that bad, meaning that the voters, writers, and fans (yes, the fans get a vote)…GASP!…got it (somewhat) right this year.

After years of inducting some clearly questionable candidates (in 2016, the induction of N.W.A. drew the ire of rock fans; in 2015, it was Bill Withers; in 2014, Cat Stevens…you can go back each year and pick at least one), the bands and individuals that were voted in were either a solid lock for entry or a great argument to get in. For example, Pearl Jam was as close to a lock as you could get from the list of nominees as one of the originators of the “grunge” sound of the late 80s/early 90s rock scene. They were on the ballot for the first time and, yes, were worthy of that induction.

The 80s rock generation (and part of the 70s) was represented first by Journey. I wouldn’t have called this one – I believe it is the Rock & Roll Hall of FAME, not the Hall of PRETTY GOOD – but I also am not bent out of shape about their induction. If they are to be inducted, they must be inducted with singer Steve Perry; any other incarnation of the group would be an insult to the legend of the band.

journeyescape

Joining Journey is straddling that 70s/80s line is another inductee for the 2017 class, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). Why they hadn’t been inducted previously is anyone’s guess, so it is far overdue for the Rock Hall to recognize the greatness of the band. It is also arguable that Jeff Lynne, the mastermind behind the ELO sound (and producer of some other great artists like Tom Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Brian Wilson), deserves an induction as a solo artist or contributor.

The band Yes…yes, they weren’t in the Hall yet…is a correction of one of the grossest errors of the Hall of Fame. Stretching from their early work in the late 60s to their powerful work in the 80s, Yes deserves the induction arguably more than even ELO did. The question is what lineup do you go with? If you go with the early 80s lineup, you’re leaving out Rick Wakeman, arguably one of the finest keyboardists of the rock era. If you go with the original lineup, then you leave out Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes (AND Wakeman), who were key to helping in the creation of the 80s sound of the group that led to their resurrection. I don’t envy the job of the Rock Hall staff in determining which people will be honored with induction as a member of Yes.

The singer/songwriters weren’t ignored this year either. Joan Baez, who was a part of the Vietnam protest era of the 1960s and continued to have an outstanding career in the early to mid-70s, wasn’t probably some people’s choice for that genre, but you cannot ignore her impact on rock music having a social impact. Baez inspired such women as Judy Collins, Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell to their activism and entrance into the rock arena.

Even one of the longest “problem” spots for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame got covered this year. Nile Rodgers, the legendary producer and leader of the funk/disco group Chic, will enter the Hall for “Musical Excellence.” This should, in the future, remove the attempts to put Chic into the Hall as a performer because, in all honesty, it was Rodgers and the late drummer Tony Thompson who were basically Chic (they had a rotating roster of female vocalists, never a defined female lead). Thompson, in his own right, should be looked at for this award in the future.

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The ONLY question mark about this year’s inductees would be the inclusion of rapper Tupac Shakur on the roster. Shakur was a tremendously influential part of the “West Coast” sound of gangsta rap, even taking it to the point where the “East Coast/West Coast” rap wars began. Because of this standoff, Shakur was brutally shot to death on the streets of Las Vegas 20 years ago and probably brought about the death of ChristopherThe Notorious B.I.G.” (“Biggie Smalls”) Wallace six months later, possibly adding to the legend.

Tupac is a question mark because he didn’t have a wealth of material before his premature death. He’s released more albums since his passing than when he was alive and, to be honest, nobody is claiming that the posthumous work is the reason he’s being inducted. It also leaves the question open that, if you’re inducting Tupac, you’ve got to put Biggie in also (and Biggie’s repertoire is even less than Shakur’s). If you’re going strictly as an influence, I might be swayed on Tupac; if it is on his body of work, then I’m not as solidly behind his induction.

Even with these inductions, there’s still a wealth of artists out there that are more than deserving of entry. Out of the 2017 nominees, I’m slowly coming around to The Cars being inducted. As a purveyor of the synth sound of the 1980s (and their early work in the late 70s), I’ve always been a bit on the fence with the band. Now, I believe there is a place in the Hall for the group, just as there should be for another synthesizer-based band and 2017 nominee, Kraftwerk.

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I’ve also discussed ad nauseam about who deserves to get into the Hall. I’ve seen others believe in my choices of Pat Benatar, The Runaways and Judas Priest, and some have even given credence to Thin Lizzy, an outstanding choice if there is one. I’ve also been a longtime proponent of inducting Warren Zevon and Jimmy Buffett, but will now add Motörhead onto that list alongside a host of others.

Whatever the list of inductees is for this year, the concert that honors those inductees promises to be a bit calmer than the 2016 induction ceremonies. Bringing back the original Cheap Trick – with their estranged original drummer Bun E. Carlos – was tricky, but they pulled it off. 2016 inductee Steve Miller was perhaps the most vocal about his displeasure about the ceremonies AND the induction, points that he made long and loud both pre- and post-induction. If they can figure out the Yes conundrum, then they should be able to get through the awards ceremony without problems.

As to when that show will be, we’ll just have to wait and see. But for one magical year, it appears things are right with the world and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame made the appropriate selections.

The Top Ten Underrated Hard Rock Songs, Part Two

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A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the first five songs that made up this list (and they are in no particular order other than awesome!). In that discussion, such bands as Faith No More, Body Count, Motörhead, Extreme, Faster Pussycat and Dangerous Toys, among others, and how certain songs performed by these bands just missed rocketing them to metal immortality. But there was something else that derailed these bands just as they were beginning to find their groove.

Hard rock and metal were staples of the late 80s/early 90s, but the times they were a changin’. Just as some of these bands began to work on their sophomore efforts (Dangerous Toys were particularly victim of this), the rumble out of the Northwest was heard. The “Seattle sound” – driven by its early popular practitioners such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana but also by such groups as early as Mudhoney and the Melvins and by such powerhouses as Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots – took over the ears of the disaffected youth and reflected their angst with life. The band Temple of the Dog was an amalgam of these groups, with members from Mother Love Bone, Green River, Bad Radio and Skin Yard joining with members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam for one of the monster efforts of what came to be called the “grunge” era.

If grunge couldn’t do the job by itself, then the second punch of gangsta rap finished off the 80s-hard rock/metal scene. Technically coming out at the same time as the 80s-hard rock/metal took off, gangsta rap became more accepted on both radio and in the culture as the 90s rolled around. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Ice-T (he was also known for his metal work, making him one person who was going to win either way), Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan, Nas…they all had a hand in the demise of hard rock as the 90s moved along. With the double blow of the emergence of both the gangsta rap and grunge genres – not only in popularity but also on radio and in the record stores – the “good times” were over for the 80s-hard rock/metal scene.

Alas, it probably couldn’t have been sustained much longer. By the early 90s, many of these bands were succumbing to the curse of the “rock and roll lifestyle” in the form of drug and alcohol addiction and becoming exactly what they had hated – the establishment (this was something that grunge carried on). Thus, even if these next five bands had found success with these underrated gems, they may not have been able to keep the fire burning for much longer.

Contraband, “All the Way to Memphis”

This was a group that should have been so much bigger than it was. Contraband was conceived as an outlet for members of several other groups to record while their “day jobs” (re: the band’s they were members of) were on hiatus. Members of Ratt, L. A. Guns, Vixen (one of the few all-female hard rock/metal bands), the Michael Schenker Group and Shark Island all contributed at least one member to the proceedings, which some might have thought would have been uncontrollable but came together quite well.

This particular song was a great choice. Originally done by Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople (Hunter would prove to be a popular writer for hard rock bands; his “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” was a huge hit for Great White), it lent itself well to the canoodling guitar work from Schenker and Tracii Guns and the howling vocals of Richard Black. The rest of the record was, if you’re a fan of the hard rock/metal genre, an outstanding effort (especially “Loud Guitars, Fast Cars and Wild, Wild Livin’”).

Unfortunately, Contraband was eventually devoured by what we discussed above. It also didn’t help when their eponymous debut record was poorly received by the public. Eventually, the players all went back to their original teams and a second record was never recorded.

Saxon, “Dallas 1PM”

This is one of the older selections on our list as Saxon was at the forefront of the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” (NWOBHM) scene of the late 70s/through the 1980s. The British act never did find the same acclaim as bands such as Def Leppard and Iron Maiden did, but they did not disappoint in driving out album after album for their rabid fans. Wheels of Steel and Solid Ball of Rock are two of their more notable efforts and, to this day, they still are on tour and in the studio.

This song comes from their 1980 effort Strong Arm of the Law and, if you don’t recognize the significance of the title, you probably didn’t pay much attention in history class. On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald as the President visited Dallas. At 1PM, doctors at the hospital declared Kennedy dead, hence the unlikely subject for a hard rock song.

There were a couple of problems that Saxon had with “Dallas 1PM.” First, citizens from the States of America hate having to think, especially about history. And second, citizens from the States of America hate having British people try to teach them history. The combination doomed what would have otherwise been an excellent chance to learn (and it is stunning how much you can learn if you listen to the lyrics of a hard rock/metal song…try it sometime).

Warrant, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”

One of the original deviants of the “hair metal” genre, Warrant was all about the party. From their songs such as “Cherry Pie” and their hedonistic touring “pleasures,” Warrant was known more for their fun-and-games persona than their music. They were all excellent musicians, however, who wanted to be known for their music rather than their outside activities. Thus, when they issued “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” from the Cherry Pie album, people weren’t quite sure what to think.

The song was supposed to be the first song released off the album (the record company overruled and selected the title track) and it is arguable whether they would have found success with it. The opening acoustic guitar shows some nimble finger work and the story – of two men (an uncle and his nephew) witnessing the local sheriff and a deputy dumping two bodies they murdered into the local swamp – was more adult than anything else ever attempted by Warrant.

By trying to make their sound a bit more adult and include some seriousness to their compositions, Warrant signed their…well, death warrant. Their next album, the much more serious Dog Eat Dog, did not reach the level of success of earlier Warrant efforts and the band broke up. In a demonstration of the changing scene, the late Jani Lane (the vocalist for Warrant) said he knew “the proverbial writing was on the wall” when the band’s framed photo in the foyer of the Columbia Records (their record label) offices was replaced by the Seattle band Alice in Chains.

Cinderella, “Shelter Me”

Here’s another entry into that “consider us serious musicians” category that didn’t end up working well for the group. Cinderella was pretty much a blueprint for the “hair metal” bands of the 80s. Big hair? Check. Big guitars? Check. Raspy vocalist screaming loudly? Check. The band broke through with such rock anthems as “Save Me” and ballads like “Nobody’s Fool” but, by their third album, they were wanting to stretch their musical legs.

On the album Heartbreak Station, lead singer/guitarist Tom Keifer began to add in different touches that you normally don’t see in a hard rock effort. Dobros, saxophones and horns, female backing vocals and a boogie piano were put into this song, making it a bit of a departure from the earlier work by the band. Then there were the lyrics, pointing out the things that people will utilize to get relief from a maddening world. Overall it was more of a blues song than a traditional hard rock song and people didn’t know what the hell to do with it.

Perhaps that change in styles was the thing that sent the band into a downward spiral. The album didn’t reach the level of their earlier efforts (Night Songs and Long Cold Winter) and their swan song, Still Climbing, never got off the ground. Kiefer still performs today with a version of Cinderella, but they haven’t released a studio album since Still Climbing in 1994.

Junkyard, “Hollywood”

Junkyard was about five years too late to be the big success they should have been. Formed in 1987, they didn’t get their debut effort out on the scene until 1989. That eponymous debut record had many comparing them to Guns N’ Roses, but Junkyard was unique (in my mind, at least) in their full-on embrace of the biker culture. With this addition, there were also some sounds in mind that would give one pause to think they were a Southern rock band.

This tune captured the essence of both the Sunset Strip and Tinseltown in its attitude and its decadence. A raucous assault of guitars and moxie, Junkyard would never again reach this level. Their second album, Sixes, Sevens and Nines, failed miserably and their third record wasn’t released by their label, Geffen Records. They would disband in 1992 but are now back together, rocking crowds if not the charts.

So, there you have it (although I’d love to hear some other thoughts on the subject). Although the bands on this list might have had some success, just what could they have been if the fates had shifted differently? One will never know.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Is Moving Closer to Parody than Relevance

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Let’s start this with a disclaimer.

From my youth, I’ve loved music. I can remember saving up my money when my age was yet in single digits to buy records to play at home. As I got into high school, me and my best friend DJ (his real name was Dennis, but DJ was the ONLY name he went by) would go on field trips to nearby Champaign and religiously make a pilgrimage to the University of Illinois’ campus record store, Mabel’s (yes, back then it was a record store and had a small performance area). We’d emerge after hours of scanning over the racks with armfuls of albums, with my stack normally leaning towards things like the Bus Boys, Elvis Costello and the Motels, among literally hundreds of others.

After high school, I delved into the world of music even more. While in college I started working as a radio DJ, something that would be a career over the next 20-plus years of my life. From that small college station until I was a Music Director at an AOR (Album Oriented Rock) station in a Top 75 market (and even afterwards when I went into news/talk), music – and rock music in particular – was a staple in my life. As I have gotten older, music still resonates with me and, with age, I’ve expanded my listening interests into many diverse styles of music including two that I previously despised, rap and country.

Thus, it pains me when I say the following:  After looking at the list of the nominees for induction into the Class of 2017 for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which was released a couple of weeks ago, I’ve now come to the realization that enshrinement in this group is moving closer to a parody along the lines of This is Spinal Tap than being the venerable Valhalla of rock music that it should be.

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Yes, there’s been these rumblings before. None were louder, perhaps, than the commentary from one of last year inductees, Steve Miller, regarding what the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has become. In various areas, Miller railed over pretty much every aspect of the Hall (“I think it’s time for the people running this to turn it over to new people…you don’t need to insult every artist that comes along,” was one of his calmer comments), signifying his displeasure with the outfit. “You tell me what the hell is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and what does it do besides talk about itself and sell postcards?” he asked.

Miller was the embodiment of what many had said of late regarding the Hall. Thought of originally as the pinnacle of rock music royalty, of late the Hall has been inducting what many would consider “non-rock” artists and bands, stating that their contributions “to rock music history and music overall” warranted their induction into rock music’s biggest honor. I’ve always contended that, in 9.9 of 10 of those cases where the artist wasn’t “rock” (a very wide ranging scope, to be honest), then their contribution to the actual evolution of rock was pertinent (this is why I don’t have a problem with Johnny Cash being in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame).

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In looking at the crop of nominees for the 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, there are some very qualified candidates on the list. One of the “first time” nominees for the hall is Pearl Jam and they should be a virtual lock for entry because of their contributions to the “Seattle sound” that was pioneered by Nirvana and their group. Another first-time nominee – and this one surprised me quite a bit – was Electric Light Orchestra, who should also find their way into the Hall for their innovative usage of electronics, keyboards and production (all in the masterful hands of Jeff Lynne) and their contributions to the music.

Whereas in year’s past I didn’t get bugged by some of the “non-rock” nominees – hell, I agree that rap acts like the Beastie Boys, Run DMC and N.W.A. and other “non-rock” acts like Donna Summer, Darlene Love and Bob Marley SHOULD be in the Hall – this year’s list of nominees left me wondering why they were being nominated when they shouldn’t have even been considered. Besides Pearl Jam and ELO, here’s the list of other nominations (asterisk means it is a first-time nomination):

Kraftwerk
Yes
The Cars
The Zombies
Joe Tex
J. Geils Band
The MC5
Bad Brains*
Depeche Mode*
Jane’s Addiction*
Joan Baez*
Journey*
Steppenwolf*
Janet Jackson
Chaka Khan
Chic
Tupac Shakur*

Now, you could give me viable reasons for any of the artists down to Steppenwolf being nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Personally, why Journey and Steppenwolf have never been considered previously is gross misconduct by Hall voters. Over the remainder of the list, I personally would question the inclusion of Joe Tex (yes, a hard-working individual who overcame a great deal of adversity to become a rival of Hall of Famer James Brown), the J. Geils Band (solid group, not “Hall of Fame” outstanding) and Bad Brains and maybe Jane’s Addiction (reasoning ditto to J. Geils’ nomination). Where it goes off the rails for me – repeat, for the first time ever – is in some of the “non-rock” nominations.

Chic has been nominated several times and, on first view, they would be a viable contender. The real drivers of that group, however, were Nile Rodgers, the late Bernard Edwards and the late drummer Tony Thompson. Inducting a “group” requires that all the members were great and that’s where Chic falls short. I can see nominating and even inducting Rodgers and Thompson (I remember his powerful work with Robert Palmer and The Power Station – outstanding music), but to put every person in Chic (usually featuring a rotating cast of female vocalists that joined Rodgers and Edwards) isn’t Hall worthy.

Jackson and Khan, while fine vocalists who were charting gold during their careers, didn’t exactly do anything that would have separated them away and make them Hall worthy, either. Being the sister of the members of the Jackson 5 isn’t an immediate pass (and, really, what did she do that was notable?). Khan, if you include her time with Rufus, has a bit more credibility as to Hall-worthiness, but there’s not enough of it on the resume to push her over the top.

My biggest criticism would be with Shakur, however. Yes, Tupac was one of the first voices for “gangsta rap,” but we’ve already inducted the originator of that field in N.W.A. Additionally, if you induct Shakur, why aren’t you inducting Biggie Smalls (just as powerful a performer and rapper) or Sean “Puff Daddy/P-Diddy (or whatever the hell he calls himself these days)” Combs for their work? Shakur is one of those performers that, in many people’s eyes, an early (and violent) death made them a musical martyr. As such, he must be revered in their opinion…reverence because of near-deification is not what I would call Hall worthy.

When it comes to “non-rock” entities, you’ve got to have blown the doors off things to be considered for entry inside the gates. A Madonna, a Johnny Cash, a Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five…THESE are the types of performers who, by their music and by their styles, personified the “rock attitude” despite the fact they weren’t performing traditional “rock” music. Every one of the persons or bands nominated this year don’t fit that category for enshrinement.

Of course, I couldn’t end this without my own “WHY AREN’T THESE GUYS NOMINATED” choices, and this is just a sample of those that should have already been in the Hall. Pat Benatar, Warren Zevon, Jimmy Buffett, Dolly Parton (one hell of a songwriter who has had an impact on music overall, what the Hall is supposed to venerate), Kate Bush, Roxy Music, Iron Maiden, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, X, Duran Duran and Kool and the Gang (all never nominated) and the New York Dolls, the Wailers and Afrika Bambaataa all should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame RIGHT NOW as they have arguably done more for “rock” music than those under consideration for 2017.

But I digress, at least for now. We’ve got the list of nominees and, for this year, we’ll have to deal with them. But if the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t want to continue down that road of becoming a joke of itself, a parody of what it is supposed to represent, it would behoove them to start considering the actual ROCK artists (and those “non-rock” performers who truly had an impact) that they are bypassing.