A few days ago I wrote about how I had just read a fascinating article by Bill Wyman (former bass guitarist for the Rolling Stones), All 214 Artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ranked From Best to Worst.
I used my first post about the article to note how many of the words and phrases used in the article meant nothing to me, and I’ll use this post to talk about my take on the rankings.
Here is a list of the top 10, with a brief excerpt from Wyman on each one:
- Chuck Berry (Wyman calls him “One of the most consequential American cultural figures of the 20th century.)
- The Beatles (A joyous sound that turned ever inward, leading the way for just about everyone who followed — and, with Elvis, the epitome of pop stardom.)
- Bob Dylan (Blood on the Tracks is the best rock album ever made. Not even the Beatles can compete with the sheer quantity of his essential songs)
- Elvis Presley (He is rock’s greatest presence, shaking a country with a single-handed nuclear reaction of country, gospel, and the blues.)
- James Brown (A coiled figure of impenetrable gravity. He invented funk, and performed with a blistering focus that had never been seen before and never would again.)
- Prince (he could do virtually everything Brown did — and also wrote cosmic songs, and also played guitar just about as well as anyone on this list, and also sang like both an angel and devil, and also was a venturesome and sure-footed rock, pop, and soul producer and songwriter.)
- Ramones (The Ramones showed us that every once in a while rock needed to be rebuilt from scratch.)
- Nirvana (With the Sex Pistols the most influential and consequential band since the 1960s; with Public Enemy the most powerful and uncompromising ditto. Leader Kurt Cobain is an iconic a figure as rock has produced.)
- Buddy Holly (A gentle soul who died far too soon. His lyrics were nowhere near Berry’s, but there was a power and logic undergirding his songs that everyone from the Beatles to Springsteen recognized and would build on.)
- Muddy Waters (Waters is probably the greatest of the Chess Records stable, and indeed, all urban blues artists, and was an avatar for early rockers like Chuck Berry.)
Now for my analysis of the list; time to get honest here (and time to embarrass myself).
First, I know Prince was a mega superstar, and I’ve heard the names of a couple of his songs, but I don’t think I would actually know any of his songs if they came on the radio. So he would be the first one out of my top 10.
The next artist to eliminate would be the Ramones. Once again, at least I’ve heard of them, and when I went to look up their hit songs, I was familiar with them. But I would not have been able to tell you that I Wanna Be Sedated was by the Ramones.
Next out, Nirvana. All I know about Nirvana is Kurt Cobain. I also aways see the words grunge, Seattle, and Nirvana in the same sentence. Despite that I couldn’t tel you one of their songs, or recognize them if they came on the radio.
Muddy Waters has to go to. I know he’s a big name in the history of rock and roll, but again, I couldn’t tell you any of his songs.
As to the others that I would knock out, it’s just because I like other artists better.
So who would be in my top 10?
Well perhaps no surprise that Bruce Springsteen would be my number one. Here’s the rest of my top 10, showing Wyman’s rank in parentheses. There really is no order for my numbers 2-10, I just put them on the list as I thought of them.
- Bruce Springsteen (50)
- Eagles (132)
- Jimmy Buffett (not on list)
- Elvis Presley (4)
- Buddy Holly (9)
- Bob Seger (91)
- Fleetwood Mac (90)
- Aerosmith (155)
- Billy Joel (185)
- Creedence Clearwater Revival (119)
Some random fun facts:
The Sex Pistols (14) released only one studio album and played a total of eight American shows in a single disaster of a tour. They remain the one band that has refused to dignify their induction with anything more than a raspberry.
I’ve never heard of the following artists. This is not to say I may not have heard some fo their music, it’s just that I would not know which song goes with which artist.
- Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five (19)
- Parliament-Funkadelic (32)
- The Stooges (41)
- Al Green (44)
- Little Willie John (57)
- The Coasters (64)
- Eddie Cochran (65)
- Big Joe Turner (72)
- Hank Ballard (82)
- Sam Moore and Dave Prater (86)
- LaVern Baker (92)
- Albert King (106)
- Booker T. and the M.G.’s (111)
- Leonard Cohen (112)
- Ruth Brown (113)
- The Staple Singers (122)
- Duane Eddy (123)
- Laura Nygro (125)
- Lloyd Price (143)
- Nina Simone (148)
- Gene Vincent (149)
- The Flamingoes (156)
- Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers (160)
- Small Faces/Faces (161)
- Booby Blue Bland (164)
- Darlene Love (165)
- Clyde McPhatter (169)
- The Ventures (171)
- Del Shannon (174)
- The Moonglows (179)
- Solomon Burke (180)
- Gene Pitney (195)
- Little Anthony and the Imperials (196)
- The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (201)
- N.W.A. (207)
Looking back, that’s quite a substantial list! I guess I’m not very adventuresome with my music.
Wyman also lists the artists he believes should be in the Hall, but are not:
- Todd Rundgren
- Roxy Music
- Warren Zevon
- The Go-Go’s
- Lonnie Donegan
- KC & the Sunshine Band
- Joy Division/New Order
- Ian Hunter/Mott the Hoople
- Jonathan Richman
- Willie Nelson
- The New York Dolls
- The Doobie Brothers
- George Michael
- The Jam
- Graham Parker
- Los Lobos
I’m sure you may also be curious which artist Wyman ranked dead last (right after Queen), at number 214. That would be Bon Jovi. As Rolling Stones Jann Wenner puts it, “I don’t think they are very influential or highly original, which are my criteria for the hall of fame.
And here’s what he had to say about Queen: “When popularity is factored in, Queen is the most overrated band in the history of pop music.”
Well at least they weren’t in last place.