April 5, 2016

Where Do We Go Now? '80s Hard Rock and Metal's Future in the Rock Hall

Is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ready to rock?! Well, that will be decided by committee. But with British hard rock legends Deep Purple about to be inducted this week in Brooklyn, it certainly opens the door for others in the genre. Who's next in the hard rock/metal world to get a Rock Hall nod, specifically acts that hit it big in the '80s? Call it hard rock, call it heavy metal, call it hair metal, call it pop metal... to quote Tesla, call it what you want. There are tons of acts carrying these labels that should now be a loud-and-proud part of the Rock Hall conversation, and justifiably so.

Bon Jovi is a major act that is in this mix. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're relevant to this discussion as they've actually been nominated (in 2010, but not inducted yet), so their chances are better than most. But hey, there are a lot of other artists that Warrant (sorry...) consideration as well. Guns N' Roses is the rare hard-edged band of the '80s era that has enjoyed an induction, and a first ballot one, at that. KISS got in 3 years ago, Deep Purple gets in last year: It's all good news for '80s hard rock and metal acts as far as their Rock Hall chances are concerned, as their predecessors are getting out of the way. But what are the odds? Who's likely to go in?
If you'll forgive the conceit, Bon Jovi songs are being used below as categories to forecast the likelihood of Rock Hall induction for a sampling of acts that either emerged or found great success in the '80s. The scale is most likely ("Wanted Dead or Alive"), somewhat likely ("Keep the Faith") and least likely ("Livin' on a Prayer"). 

Wanted Dead or Alive

Bon Jovi - Previously nominated, a truckload of hits. Just a matter of time. But will Jon and Richie mend fences before then for a proper induction performance? Come on guys, don't Cetera out on us.

Judas Priest - Yes, their first album dropped in 1974, but their major album successes came in the Reagan era with British Steel (1980) and especially Screaming for Vengeance (1982), and MTV videos were a factor in their visibility. Consistently mentioned alongside of Iron Maiden as a glaring Rock Hall snub, but the smart bet has them going in first, when they do go.

Iron Maiden - Try to imagine '80s heavy metal without them; it's tough. A heroic howler of a singer in Bruce Dickinson, undeniable musicianship, striking iconography, and they're still at it, putting out their latest album The Book of Souls in 2015. I think I speak for most metal fans when I say that seeing their mascot "Eddie" (no, not Trunk) sauntering onstage during a Rock Hall induction ceremony performance would be beyond killer. 
Mötley CrüeTheir flaming pentagram looms large over the '80s; deny their impact at your peril. People often forget that in the conservative, PMRC-scourged early-'80s, they once embodied darkness and danger, arguably as much so as the already-inducted Gun N' Roses. Shout at the Devil alone should get them into the Hall. 

Keep the Faith

ScorpionsNo question their legacy extends well before and after the 80s, as their debut came out in 1972. However, as with Priest, theres's no denying the '80s/MTV era and the Scorpions' place in it, as they had massive success with the albums Blackout (featuring the hit single "No One Like You") and especially Love at First Sting, featuring "Rock You Like a Hurricane". There were also the hits "Still Loving You" and the politically-conscious "Winds of Change." Finally, any band that can sell the lyric "An exploding shot of pleasure / Is what I have for you..." deserves at least a Spinal Tap award of some sort, if not a Rock Hall induction, both of which I would wholeheartedly support. The Scorpions are a worthy dark horse that should be looked at for the Hall; it's a shame they aren't talked about more, given their longevity, amazing live shows, and work ethic. This is the sting that belongs in the Rock Hall.

Def LeppardAmong the crop of bands in the "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" that even influenced Lars and Metallica, people often forget how raw and vital Def Leppard's early stuff was. High and Dry (1981) features knockout tracks like "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" and "Lady Strange." They went on to churn out an endless string of Mutt Lange-produced hits from their blockbuster efforts Pyromania and Hysteria, all of which seemingly had an accompanying MTV video. Bon Jovi, another juggernaut of this time period, will get in before them, but Def Leppard feels worthy of consideration too. Their drummer has one arm and still plays, for god's sake.

MotörheadThere's a hesitation to include these guys as they are timeless and transcend the '80s. Also, Lemmy was averse to labels, insisting they were not a heavy metal band, but just a "rock and roll band." Nevertheless, we're talking about the '80s, and Ace of Spades came out in 1980, and its title track is their signature song. They belong in the Hall, but one wonders if Lemmy's passing last December will now somehow delay their consideration. Being dead may help an artist's chances in the Hall, but at this point it would sort of seem cruel and insulting for the Rock Hall to induct them anytime soon, especially when they could have nominated them starting in 2002. 

Slayer Among the "Big 4 of Heavy Metal" (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax), Slayer, blood-soaked and ever mighty, would be the next logical act to stomp into the Hall, as Metallica is already in. They're legendary, uncompromising and are masters of the pummel-you-to-death thrash universe. Their fringe status, something that ideally the Rock Hall would value, is making them feel like a long shot at this point, but hopefully that won't be the case.

Dio - The fact that the late Ronnie James Dio was not inducted as part of Black Sabbath really puts weight behind the induction argument for his namesake band. Dio delivered some huge metal hits, landmark albums like Holy Diver and was possessed of a signature, highly influential voice that has been both celebrated and satirized. Metal is unthinkable without his contributions. Worst case, give him a Musical Excellence award for all of his career. And speaking of the Musical Excellence award...
Randy RhoadsTom Morello, a Rock Hall Nomination Committee member, is evidently pushing for the late Ozzy Osbourne guitar wizard to get the Musical Excellence Award. Rhoads is rightly revered as a guitarist, and played on such key Ozzy solo records as Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. This induction actually happening will be a key litmus test for two things: Morello's sway within the nomination process, and heavy metal's future in the Hall. 

Livin' on a Prayer

PoisonBret Michaels, C.C. DeVille, Rikki Rockett and Bobby Dall were hair metal (an eye-rolling pejorative as soon as Nirvana came around), wading neck-deep into the excesses of their genre aesthetically, musically, and lifestyle-wise. They had catchy songs, a "Behind the Music"-worthy history, and a number one hit, the power ballad "Every Rose Has its Thorn." They just won't ever be taken seriously by the Rock Hall. And maybe that's OK.

WhitesnakeIt's a total bummer that David Coverdale, inducted this week with Deep Purple, is apparently not going to be given a chance to sing his DP-era songs alongside bassist Glenn Hughes; this is most likely Coverdale's only dance at the Hall. As mega-popular as Whitesnake was in the 80s, they embodied hair metal and all the video vixen/power ballad fluff that went with it. They certainly don't have critics on their side, despite some well-produced, full-throttle records in their discography. (Also, if you look at the chart on Wikipedia as to the dozens of cats who have actually been members of Whitesnake, it's enough to make an entire Rock Hall Nomination Committee run screaming.)

MegadethAn important band in their genre, and Mustaine is a gifted guitarist and lyricist that's still putting out dazzling, whiplash-inducing albums. But Metallica, from whence Mustaine was sprung, is already inducted, and that's one reason it's difficult to see a path to a nomination. I'd love to be wrong.

AnthraxThrash done with style, virtuosity, and humor. They even teamed up with Public Enemy on a cover of "Bring the Noise." But in the larger picture of metal, their commercial success is spotty, and unfortunately, it doesn't feel like they'll get serious consideration.
Quiet RiotSome huge anthems in "Metal Health" and "Cum on Feel the Noize," and Rhandy Rhoads was an original member. Also, they sort of ushered in the whole hair metal era as their videos were a staple of MTV in 1983. But they're a bit heavy on the Slade covers, and success of Quiet Riot's ilk really doesn't translate to Rock Hall consideration; they simply lack the type of career that fits the Rock Hall paradigm.

Cinderella/Tesla/Skid RowAll far better groups than they have ever been given credit for, but the Rock Hall's acceptance of bands in this realm as inductee candidates looks very limited indeed. That's taking nothing away from all three's formidable hits, nor the notion that their albums have aged way better than anyone might have predicted. Not getting into the Rock Hall? Don't sweat it. You guys are in good company.