The Pointer Sisters
As singles artists the Pointer Sisters are massively successful and stylistically covered as much ground as possible as any female group over multiple decades. They enjoyed critical respect and were always held in the highest esteem by other artists. So what happened? Considering the voters have been known to seek out female candidates to balance the scales in the traditionally male dominated field the fact they haven't gotten any attention yet is stunning. But both the 80's and dance-rock have been shamefully neglected by the Hall since first becoming eligible and The Pointer Sisters are one of the most grievous omissions to date. A class act that deserves recognition.
Hair metal was a dominant form of rock in the 80's, but because it wasn't as uncompromising as darker styles the hardcore metal fan base derided it, and because it was so flamboyant critics detested it as well. All of which means that no matter how successful a band was their chances for recognition by the Hall remains fairly small. Poison deserve some attention though - six Top Ten songs and a number one hit with the definitive hair metal ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" give them more than enough commercial impact. For such a key area of rock to have no representation based solely on voter's negative impressions of it is harmful to presenting rock's full unedited history.
Lauded in Britain where they were among the most visible proponents of electronic dance music, particularly with the remixed hit "Loaded". As the 90's dawned they were stars and were widely credited with bringing dance and techno music into the mainstream. Their failure to even dent the American consciousness showed the growing divide in tastes between the two continents who once shared similar musical views, and consequently Primal Scream's recognition for their role in the British rock scene for a decade is far from universally acknowledged.
Considered by many to be the first progressive rock artists, the lack of inductees in that area doesn't bode well for their chances as the innovators of the style. However, with "A Whiter Shade of Pale" they do have that one monumental mainstream radio hit single that often makes the difference, something many prog stars lack, though past that their catalog remains unfamiliar to most. Guitarist Robin Trower's reputation is their ace in the hole maybe but they're still a long shot.
One of the most influential bands of the 80's in not just their chaotic post-punk hardcore style, including some of the best albums of their times, but also the anti-commercialism aesthetic they personified which kept them from ever breaking through, despite their widespread underground acclaim. When they finally took steps to conform to the professionalism standards required for mass success it was almost too late for them, for while they scored their first hits as the 80's wound down, by then the next generation who'd been influenced by them but largely avoided their missteps were poised to take over. An early nomination shows that the Hall is leaning towards alt-rock as the years go on, which bodes well for their ultimate odds of making it.
Paul Revere & The Raiders
A prolific 60's group that hasn't been elevated to immortal status is a rare find but here's one that has been wrongly ignored. Maybe it was their silly Revolutionary War-era costumes that has people passing them off as irrelevant but the Raiders were both popular and groundbreaking (the first band to have a hit with an openly anti-drug song for instance). Their stuff is hardly heard anymore, their image seems to run against the perceived grain of the 60's, but their career was far deeper than many of their more praised contemporaries.
On the surface her multi-faceted career that remains just as visible a quarter century later would seem to be a benefit to her candidacy, which already should be fairly strong due to her helping to carve out a much needed spot at the table for female MC's in hip-hop at the dawn of the 90's when she scored big with a string of classic records. But the fact she later went on to more mainstream acclaim as an actress and all-around entertainer probably detracts from her perceived legitimacy as a rap pioneer for a Hall that remains bedeviled with image considerations when considering how their choices will be received by their harsher critics. Add to that the Hall's dubious record for properly honoring rap to begin with and the fact her branching out into other venues so soon after her breakthrough sidetracked her musical momentum just as she needed to consolidate her status, all of which makes her getting even a nomination doubtful despite the fact she'd be the most well-known face at most year's ceremonies.
Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
Probably the greatest 70's artist not yet inducted, and far more qualified than many who've made it in from that decade, The Hall has turned their candidacy into a confusing mess by alternating nominations between the group and its lead singer rather than first seeing to it that Rufus gets inducted as a whole before turning their attention to the solo career of Khan. Just to set matters straight, Rufus's run of hit albums in the 70's were among the most diverse in rock, featuring everything from blistering funk workouts showcasing the instrumental chops of the band to seductive ballads of every stylistic shade from jazzy to country influenced, all topped by Khan's unrivaled vocal prowess in any approach. The group is long overdue for induction... then The Hall can turn their attention to getting Chaka in a second time on her own.
Rap began as a male-dominant style often featuring mysognistic lyrics and a growing need to present an authentic thug-life persona to appeal to hip-hop's biggest fans. But Salt-N-Pepa broke the male stranglehold of the genre and opened the door for a host of female stars to follow. Far from just being ground breaking the group were authentic hitmakers for over a decade as hip-hop itself broke through to the mainstream, for which they deserve as much credit as any of their male counterparts. Rap needs much more representation in the Hall and these girls should be the first female representatives of the style, pronto.
Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs
The kings of wild frat rock they've been written off by critics as repetitive party animals with two enduring hits ("Wooly Bully" & "Lil Red Riding Hood") to their credit and nothing more of note, despite a handful of other decent sized hits. In truth they were far more versatile than believed and were the perfect examples of the trashy rock 'n' roll mindset that is celebrated even today. The 60's still hold an allure to voters, something which might boost their chances slightly, but they probably will remain in with the out crowd anyway and not quite cut it.
Stylized girl-group specializing in over-the-top dramatic soap operas that resulted in a number of big hits including a #1 smash in "Leader of the Pack". Though their melodramatic records were seen as somewhat campy at the time their reputation has gotten significantly stronger over the years after many punk artists cited them as a major influence. A recognizable 60's group with multiple hits to their credit can never be counted out.
Shirley & Lee
If the New Orleans Katrina disaster didn't get them a sympathetic nomination then maybe there's no chance for them, which is a shame. They have one transcendent song in "Let The Good Times Roll" to keep their names out there but the rest of their output was consistently good, popular and innovative, as they were the first artists in rock to have an ongoing story told via subsequent releases - a pre-album era "concept singles/rock opera" evolution. Probably not well known enough today to get much support but definitely deserving of consideration.
With their dire lyrics and controversial image Slayer was instrumental in the rise of death metal with Reign In Blood one of the style's most influential albums. The fact that it was done with producer Rick Rubin may help keep their name from being totally forgotten by the type of people who oversee the Hall, but that doesn't mean it will give the group itself any help in being offered as a candidate. If the tide turned in metal's favor there'd still be a handful of bigger names to get in first, and since even that seems unlikely to happen anytime soon, Slayer and their hardcore fans shouldn't make any plans to attend any ceremonies.
If the Hall ever gets around to acknowledging that music didn't stop being made once the 1980's came along, let alone the 90's, Smashing Pumpkins could be a beneficiary of this shocking development and make it in as the token post-70's act one year. They had the requisite success with six Top Ten Albums, the respect of their peers as one of the most vital alt-rock acts of their era, and they play in a guitar-driven style that the mostly out of touch Hall voters can at least relate to better than many of the dominant sample-heavy rock styles post-disco. It's still no sure thing though, at least until the aging electorate dies off, but they're probably better bets than most of that era at least.
If the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame was based in Great Britain there'd be no question The Smiths would be in it. There they were among the most popular 80's groups with 13 Top 25 singles, and every one of their original LP's going Top Ten in the U.K. But they failed to make any commercial impact in America and so the severe split in perception makes them more of a dark horse candidate for induction. In front man Morrissey they had a controversial but very literate spokesman who captivated the British rock press, gaining them enormous media coverage. Their hook-filled back to basics rock made them very radio friendly and spearheaded a widespread return to that simpler style.
Among the most enduring underground rock groups of the 80's were Sonic Youth, whose noise-rock brought the harsher sounds of feedback and dissonance to the forefront than could ever be found in the mainstream. By the time they broke through in 1988 with the album Daydream Nation the styles they helped pioneer were beginning to influence the next generation of artists under the new term alternative rock. Their own moment of mainstream success coincided with that and didn't last long, but their impact on its emergence was considerable and have remained fairly high profile since, so they'll probably get a shot eventually.
Sonny & Cher
The perception of them all but assures they'll never even be nominated, for while the Hall voters love wide name recognition for their candidates they are petrified of nominating anyone who could be used to make fun of those voters too. Yet Sonny & Cher were major forces in the mid to late 60's, helping usher in the folk-rock boom with "I Got You Babe", kicking off a string of hits before sliding into television by the 70's. Bono was also a prolific writer/producer stretching back to the late 50's for a wide array of artists. With Sonny's death ending any chance of a memorable induction night speech together they probably have no shot at all.
Soundgarden was one of the first Northwest bands to emerge in the grunge revolution, with a powerhouse lead singer in Chris Cornell, but were beaten to superstardom by Nirvana. While they benefitted from the boom nonetheless, and for a brief time were as big as any band in rock, they never matched that early output and they disintegrated just a few years later, having left their stamp on the style but never quite becoming the superstars they seemed destined for. Critics took to grunge like no style since punk and as a result their chances might be better, but it's doubtful they're a sure thing.
Though remembered today for just one big hit, that hit "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight", looms as large as virtually any from rock's first decade, which always will keep them on the radar. In truth the Spaniels were a much deeper group, charting their first record way back in 1953 on the newly formed Vee-Jay records, which put that label on the map, and scoring a final hit in 1970. In Pookie Hudson they have one of the most beloved lead vocalists of a highly romanticized era. Doo-wop played such a vital role in crossing rock over that it needs to be more widely recognized by the Hall.
Numerous hits and a position as one of the top groups of the 70's hasn't resulted in much respect from the voters, who view the Gamble-Huff production teams as the real stars without giving credit to the singers who carried it off. Public support among fellow black vocal group artists who faced a similar lack of respect themselves before getting in after multiple tries might get them some attention from the voting body, but it still seems this is an area the Hall is lax in addressing.
Though relatively short lived with just a few major hits their forays into the emerging harder rock sounds of the late 60's along with the introduction to music of the words "heavy metal thunder" make them outside contenders for induction. Considering the voting body's occasional obsession with one immortal song, the fact that Steppenwolf has that in "Born To Be Wild", along with a near-immortal follow up, "Magic Carpet Ride", might get them more support than their accomplishments warrant.
Unlike other artists who achieved success and then died far too young there's been no large cult that's grown around Billy Stewart, even though he's deserving of some lasting acknowledgment for his utterly unique singing style, superb voice and beautiful song craftsmanship. His drastic reworking of "Summertime" was as audacious as anything an artist of that time had ever tried, and being discovered by Bo Diddley doesn't exactly hurt his credentials. A lack of modern familiarity, despite two epic soul ballads, probably prevents him from being widely considered.
The Stone Roses
Another act whose career when looked at through the prism of British audiences will be eminently deserving, while Americans will shrug their shoulders. Their hook-filled music was seen as a return to classic sounds in the U.K. but while their success spawned imitators that's not exactly the same as the influence in creating an entirely new, previously unheard, style of rock. That along with their rather short-lived time on top and the dichotomy in their success on either side of the Atlantic means they'll probably remain off the radar for awhile.
The Stray Cats
Usually revival stylists are never critically respected, even if they briefly recapture the public's imagination by breathing new life into a long forgotten sound, but The Stray Cats were the exception to the rule, bringing back rockabilly to the masses, and in fact scoring bigger with it as a whole than any original rockabilly artist. In Brian Setzer they have one of the most respected guitarists of his era and they manage to appeal to people who remember the original style from the 50's and those who loved the Cats in the 80's. A better bet than might first appear.
Dominant early 70's run including 13 Top Ten R&B hits in 14 tries (including 12 straight with the other missing by just three spots), 5 of which also cracked the Pop Top Ten and two more in the Pop Top Twenty is damn hard to overlook. But chart success alone aren't their only credentials, in Russell Thompkins Jr. they had one of the most distinctive leads of the 1970's and were among the leading proponents of the vaunted Philly-soul sound that ruled the era. Long overdue for at least a nomination.