Who is The Greatest Hard Rock/Metal Band of All Time, Sweet Sixteen Part 1

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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 press secretary Sean “Spicy” Spicer trying to rewrite history that Hitler never used chemical weapons and that Jews went to “Holocaust centers”), 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?

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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 1960s/70s and the 2000s/10s – down to the four competitors who will vie for two of the Final Four seats. Who do you think should be there?

Let’s start with the 1960s/70s bracket:

Led Zeppelin (1) vs. Judas Priest (4)

It’s almost as if these two were destined to meet at this point. In looking at the two competitors, both have left legacies that are unmatched. Both have iconic singers (Robert Plant for Zep, Rob Halford for Priest), both have iconic guitarists (Jimmy Page versus two for the Priest, K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton). The backbeat is where there’s a notable difference as Zeppelin had John Paul Jones on the bass, a better player than Ian Hill. Drumming is also where the two bands separate as Led Zep had the powerful John Bonham on the skins while Judas Priest had a revolving door of drummers (they were the inspiration for the drummer du jour in This is Spinal Tap). But Priest has longevity on their side, still being a viable act on the road today. Zeppelin ended with the death of Bonham, although the other members went on to quite successful solo careers.

What might make the biggest difference is that Led Zeppelin are the better musicians overall than their counterparts in Judas Priest, but that is also highly debatable and there are legions of Priest fans who would love to debate it! It’s going to be a tough choice. Who do you see moving on?

ACDC

AC/DC (2) vs. The Who (6)

The Who has been surprising the opposition to this point (perhaps underseeded?). After going through Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple, they have the audacious task of taking on the behemoths from “Down Under” in AC/DC. Both have inspired their fair share of musicians and singers in their times, they’ve received accolades for their lengthy careers and both are recognized as Hall of Famers. You can bring up the musicianship here, but what is tougher…taking three chords and making a 40-plus year career out of it (AC/DC) or creating the “rock opera” (Who)? Â

Now let’s follow it up with the 2000s/10s:

Disturbed (1) vs. Godsmack (5)

As much as I love Halestorm, they are still on their way up to rock immortality. Godsmack has already been at the pinnacle of the game and serves to inspire today’s hard rock fans and musicians to perform. The problem is that one of those two bands had to run into Disturbed, who are at the peak of their powers now and arguably the most dominant force in hard rock/metal music today. Against anyone else, Godsmack might have been able to move on…I don’t see them pulling the upset over David Draiman and Co.

Disturbed

System of a Down (2) vs. Slipknot (6)

I’ve got to be honest here. Because of the paucity of their recording and touring output, System of a Down should lose this contest. Although I am not a huge fan of their work, Slipknot has been the most visible of the two groups, consistently churning out quality music and serving as the inspiration to teenagers who want to be rock gods in the next decade. If I had my druthers, I’d see System of a Down to the next round. But the real choice here should be Slipknot.

You can ponder these selections for a couple of days, but we’ll have to move on soon. The Sweet Sixteen matchups in the 1980s and 1990s are just around the corner and, after they have played out, we’ll bring it down to the Final Four, probably next week. By the end of the month, we’ll see who is the greatest hard rock/metal band of all time.

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.