Not in Hall of Fame has recently posted its updated list of artists not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I was privileged to be asked to help rank that list. But as I was assiduously assessing all of the more than 500 of the artists under review, it occurred to me that there were several artists missing from that list.

Let's be clear: I wasn't digging deep down into the weeds for obscurities. In other words, I'm not bemoaning the omission of Trotsky Icepick (despite the coolly arcane historical reference in its name) or John Trubee and the Ugly Janitors of America, whose bitter, wildly uneven, and ultimately mediocre 1984 album The Communists Are Coming to Kill Us! once graced my collection but, alas, has been thinned out over time.

Quite the opposite. Of the 500 artists on the current list, my optimistic view is that at best the first 100 even merit any kind of hypothetical discussion. More pragmatically, I narrow that down to the first 50—if not just the first 25—as having a realistic chance of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In fact, I have written extensively on this site, in a series of "audits" of the Hall's current inductees (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5, with Part 6 in the works—really!), that the Hall has been much too generous in its inductions—there are too many artists already in the Hall not deserving of enshrinement.

No, listing 500 artists is, in my view, only an acknowledgement of the artists and their contributions to the music. They made a mark that was more lasting than many, but except for the first few on the list, it isn't going to be enough to earn them a spot in the Hall of Fame.

To that end, make no mistake: None of the more than 50 artists listed below are a "find" that somehow mysteriously eluded discovery until now and should be put on the express train to Cleveland. However, these artists have, I believe, equivalent credentials to the 500 artists on the recently revised list, whether those artists are near the top of the current list, somewhere in the middle, or buried near the end of the list.

So even though I do not think that any of the artists I have listed below are likely to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a few could warrant at least polite discussion while all of them could easily supplant artists already on the current list. My point is to underscore just how broad and deep is the pool of artists from which we make our acknowledgements, considerations, and final assessments.

Presented in alphabetical order.

The Alarm. In the early 1980s, Rolling Stone dubbed them "worried men with worried songs," and these worried Welshmen's first full-length album, Declaration, did contain enough earnest social consciousness ("Sixty-Eight Guns," "Howling Wind") to suggest what the Clash would sound like as a folk-rock act. Then they got a U2 injection for Strength, which bought them US airplay ("Knife Edge," "Strength") even as they found themselves tagged as imitators.

Gregg Allman. The Southern rock Man of Constant Sorrow has kept a solo career going alongside the band he formed with dearly departed brother Duane, one long enough to merit the greatest-hits collection I saw recently in a bargain bin. After ratting out the Allmans' road manager on a drug charge and a quickie marriage to Cher in the 1970s, Gregg produced the fine confession "I'm No Angel" along with his own take on "Midnight Rider" and other notables.

Argent. All anyone remembers now is "Hold Your Head High"—and for good reason: it's moody, atmospheric, and encouraging without being overbearing. Leave that to "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You," although "Celebration" and "Thunder and Lightning" show that the band wasn't a flash in the pan—keyboardist Rod Argent (late of the Zombies) and singer-guitarist Russ Ballard (later of the solo hit "Voices") provided Deep Purple-like firepower.

Art of Noise. Producer Trevor Horn's ubiquitous presence in the 1980s shouldn't overshadow this out-of-left-field outfit's blending of synth-pop, light prog-rock, and early electronica. Art of Noise got Tom Jones to deliver a pretty decent version of Prince's "Kiss" while nuh-nuh-nodding to avant-television's Max Headroom (kids, ask your parents) with "Paranoimia" and taking the nostalgic route—with twangy Duane Eddy, no less!—on a swanky, swaggering "Peter Gunn."

Be-Bop Deluxe. It's tempting to call guitarist Bill Nelson the English Todd Rundgren with his double barrels sporting both technical flash and wistful romanticism—just check out the marvelous "Life in the Air Age" to hear what can make a robot cry. True, prog-rock was about to face the firing squad when this Nelson-led combo raised its polished head, which doesn't make "Sister Seagull" or "Sleep That Burns" any less endearing.

Big Brother and the Holding Company. You could say that the Hall has this one covered with Janis Joplin already inducted, and I would hardly argue that the 1960s is underrepresented in Cleveland. On the other hand, some of Janis's biggest numbers were done fronting this half-hard, half-sloppy proto jam band—it made "Down on Me," "Summertime," and "Piece of My Heart" that much more memorable, although "Combination of the Two" might be the sleeper whooper.

Big Country. Just when the early 1980s seemed awash with synthesizers, this Scottish post-punk quartet not only brought back wailing guitars—they sounded like bagpipes! Pitch transposers and E-bows aside, Big Country peaked early in the U.S.—1983's "In a Big Country" was the band's biggest Stateside hit—but the riff-happy "Wonderland," the winsome "Look Away," and even the bluesy screed "Republican Party Reptile" showed continued growth.

The Blackbyrds. Like the Crusaders and the Meters, this jazz-R&B band skirted the funk-rock-soul periphery although they charted big in 1975 with the infectious "Walkin' in Rhythm," with "Happy Music" the Blackbyrds' only other splash on the pop charts. But sinuous stuff like "The One-Eyed Two-Step" is for the adults while the percolating "Do It, Fluid," "Blackbyrds Theme," and other tasty treats proved to be prime sampling fodder for many latter-day hip-hoppers.

Blackfoot. These guys could make Lynyrd Skynyrd sound like genteel Southern gentlemen—Blackfoot veered closer to 1970s metal than any Dixie-rock outfit on roaring blasts like "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme," "Rattlesnake Rock 'n' Roller," and "Too Hard to Handle." Yet they slyly played to country corn with "The Fox Chase" and their signature anthem "Train, Train" while giving a fair shake to the often-overlooked Free gem "Wishing Well."

Bonzo Dog Band. How hard is it to combine music and humor? "Weird Al" never got past parody while Frank Zappa channeled Igor Stravinsky for credibility. These English looners sounded like a musical Monty Python—no surprise as Bonzo mainstay Neil Innes is known as "the Seventh Python"—on deathless tunes like "Can Blue Men Sing the Whites?," "I'm the Urban Spaceman," and "Death Cab for Cutie"; yes, the indie band took its name from that.

The Call. Perhaps a little too earnest at times—although "Oklahoma" remains refreshingly manic—the Call established itself in the 1980s with a edgy mix of the secular ("Blood Red (America)") and the spiritual ("I Still Believe (Grand Design)"), concocting a tough yet atmospheric sound that garnered heavyweight support from Peter Gabriel and the Band's Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson. "Everywhere I Go" and "Let the Day Begin" endure.

Clarence Carter. Not to evoke how low the Hall of Fame bar has fallen, but Carter is just as good a Southern soul singer as Percy Sledge is, and Carter has the cheese factor down cold—just check out his half-salacious, half-creepy cheatin' rap at the top of "Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street)." That shtick also worked for his nostalgic hit "Patches" while "Slip Away" became his other cheatin' anthem, with "Too Weak to Fight" splitting the difference. I think.

The Chi-Lites. Maybe because they came from Chicago instead of 1970s soul hotbeds Memphis or Philadelphia, the Chi-Lites get overlooked despite lead singer Eugene Record's memorable pleading on the group's biggest hit, "Oh, Girl," as well as his equally winsome heartbreak on "Have You Seen Her." The Chi-Lites weren't shy about adding a little social commentary in the form of "(For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People," either.

Circle Jerks. This, er, seminal L.A. hardcore band has its bona fides—singer Keith Morris came from Black Flag, and guitarist Greg Hetson split to Bad Religion—but its on-again, off-again romance with itself kept it from getting consistent traction. Too bad, because "World Up My Ass," "Coup d'État," and even "Exhaust Breath" remain prime underground fodder—and these guys played the lounge band in Alex Cox's terrific film Repo Man. That's punk.

Bruce Cockburn. Whether it's because this compelling folk-rocker is Canadian, Christian, or politically progressive—or any or all of those—Bruce Cockburn never became the star he should have been despite committed ("If I Had a Rocket Launcher"), wistful ("Wondering Where the Lions Are"), and simply gorgeous ("Lovers in a Dangerous Time") songcraft. Meanwhile, "Call It Democracy" crosses Noam Chomsky with Joe Strummer for a scathing social science lesson.

Bootsy Collins. True, this infectiously elastic bassist is already in the Hall as a member of George Clinton's whole Parliafunkadelicment thang. But Bootsy was practically the only one with the chops and the charisma to make it solo. True, he was still playing da funk with the same Parliafunkadelicment characters. But how can you resist "Psychoticbumpschool," "Bootzilla," and especially the irresistible "The Pinocchio Theory"? I know I can't.

The Crusaders. Had they kept the original "Jazz" modifier in front of "Crusaders" and kept with their straight-ahead sessions from the 1960s, I could see not mentioning these guys. But they got funky right around the time of Sly Stone—check their bravura take on "Thank You"—and proceeded to lay down some Grade A grease through the 1970s, including "Put It Where You Want It," the appropriately named "Greasy Spoon," and the infectious "Stomp and Buck Dance."

Bill Doggett. Granted, this soul-jazz organist had one claim to genuine rock and soul fame: the timeless instrumental "Honky Tonk," which became a huge hit in 1956—although it was actually the faster, peppier "Pt. 2" that was the ticket. But this isn't another Dave "Baby" Cortez here—Doggett delivered a series of appetizing sax-and-organ pieces, both slinky ("High Heels," "Slow Walk") and sprightly ("Leaps and Bounds," "Ram-Bunk-Shush") in a long career.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Oh, they've gigged forever, and bigger stars from Eric Clapton to Carlos Santana have always sung their praises, but the T-Birds just have never taken off despite singer-harmonica player Kim Wilson's engaging earnestness and a string of hotshot guitarists including Stevie Ray's older brother, Jimmie Vaughan. Still doesn't take anything away from "Tuff Enuff," "Wrap It Up," or even "Look at That, Look at That."

fIREHOSE. When he died, there was no way to replace D. Boon in the Minutemen, so survivors Mike Watt and George Hurley went the low-key route with singer-guitarist Ed fROMOHIO, spawning a stylized new name in the process. Which means that only the Minutemen are Hall of Fame-caliber, but fIREHOSE is still an appealing gusher of alt-rock, with three good indie albums (especially if'n) and one not-really-sellout major-label job (flyin' the flannel).

The Fixx. Speaking of the Minutemen, they once asked, "Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth?" With the Fixx, you got a little of both. This lean synth-rock outfit mixed vaguely urgent social warnings ("Red Skies," "Stand or Fall") with chichi social observations ("One Thing Leads to Another," "Saved by Zero") throughout the 1980s. You were never quite sure what they meant—"Less Cities, More Moving People"?—but it sounded pretty good.

John Fogerty. As the linchpin of the whole Creedence Clearwater Revival operation, hoarse 'n' wailin' John Fogerty seemed set for a bright solo career and a possible second Hall induction because of it. That never panned out for various reasons, but in the mid-1980s, after a decade's absence following the hit "Rockin' All Over the World," Fogerty emerged triumphant with Centerfield. And got sued by his label for plagiarizing himself. Talk about a bad moon rising.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Look, if Gwar manages to get onto the list of 500 either because the Committee Chairman wants to hear their acceptance speech or because Beavis loved them, then surely Frankie's fifteen minutes deserves a mention. Leaving aside the videos and T-shirts and even the not-bad "Relax," Frankie's eight-minute opus "Two Tribes (Carnage)," despite its end-of-the-world portentousness, is a driving, burning, compulsive highlight of the 1980s.

The Gap Band. All right, the album titles were as creative as Chicago's, and the Gap Band couldn't look much further than sex and partying, which ultimately limited their musical inspiration too. But even if this Johnny-come-lately funk band tried to keep it rolling on the dance floor (wink, wink), it still served up a delight or two with "Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)," "Party Train," and—you guessed it—"You Dropped a Bomb on Me."

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Last modified on Thursday, 22 March 2018 01:53

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