By Brian Ives
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced their inductees today, so get ready to rumble… for the honor of your favorite act who either got in, or was snubbed. This year’s inductees include power-pop legends Cheap Trick, rock/R&B/jazz hybrid Chicago, seminal British hard rock band Deep Purple, gangsta-rap pioneers N.W.A., and classic rock radio fixture Steve Miller.
If you ask any hard rock or metal fan, the #1 most egregiously ignored band by the Rock Hall is Deep Purple (especially now that Black Sabbath and KISS have been inducted in recent years). Ritchie Blackmore’s classically informed guitar playing, Ian Gillian’s wailing vocals and even Jon Lord’s keyboards helped shape the sound of the genre for decades to come. But what made the band so explosively great in the ’70s (and ’80s) also tore them apart, and that mix of personalities might make for a drama-fuelled induction, if all the principals show up. It was a no-brainer that the “Mark II” version of the band — which lasted from 1969 – 1973 and later reunited in 1984 — would be inducted. That included founding members Blackmore, Lord and drummer Ian Paice, along with Gillian and bassist Roger Glover. Original singer Rod Evans, who was in the band from 1967 – 1969 is being included, but original bass player, Nick Simper, who was in the band at the same time, isn’t. “Mark III” version singer David Coverdale (who later went on to greater fame with Whitesnake) and bassist/singer Glenn Hughes are being included as well, but none of the members who joined afterwards are. So guitarist Steve Morse, who has been in Purple for 20 years, can attend the ceremony, but isn’t being inducted. Which versions of the band will perform? That’s anyone’s guess. But it’s well known that Gillian and Blackmore can’t stand each other, so odds are against a reunion of the band’s principals (also, Lord passed away in 2012). Drummer Ian Paice, the only guy to endure every version of the band, said in a recent interview that getting all of those guys in the same place could end up in “a punch-up.”
One way to make the Purple induction a bigger event, especially in lieu of a reunion, would be to have Metallica handle the speech and performance, as they did for Black Sabbath in 2006. Lars Ulrich has been a longtime huge fan of the band.
Cheap Trick has never been the best selling band in the land (they have a few platinum albums, one multi-platinum, but those aren’t Zeppelin- or Floyd-like numbers), and they have never been critic’s darlings. But what they do have is the love of fans, and love from radio — which has been playing their hits for decades — as well as the respect of other rockers. In fact, it seems like a toss up as to who will get the honor of presenting them at the ceremony. It could be Pearl Jam: frontman Eddie Vedder is a fellow Chicagoan and a big fan, and bassist Jeff Ament has played a checkered bass, seemingly a tribute to Rick Nielsen’s guitar. It could be the Foo Fighters, who invited Nielsen to guest on their Sonic Highways album and documentary (drummer Taylor Hawkins said during the Chicago episode that he didn’t care at all about the city’s blues scene, but he loves Cheap Trick). Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, another Chicagoan who has long been a fan and supporter of Cheap Trick would be a good choice. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, whose band owes more than a small debt to Cheap Trick, would do a great job as well. Or even Cheap Trick’s peers like Gene Simmons or Joe Perry, both friends and fans of the band. This list of potential presenters gives you an idea why this band deserves their spot. The one thing that can bring this induction down? The band unceremoniously fired founding drummer Bun E. Carlos in 2010; a lawsuit has since been resolved, but the relationship was no doubt damaged pretty badly.
Chicago haven’t had a story that has made it to the big screen like N.W.A., or rock bands citing them as a seminal influence and bringing them to younger audiences, like Cheap Trick and Deep Purple. Nevertheless, they have consistently played large amphitheaters on the summer circuit for decades, despite the fact that their guitarist/singer Terry Kath died in 1978, and bassist/singer Peter Cetera, who sang most of their biggest hits, left in 1985. A Chicago/Cetera reunion would surely delight fans, not to mention concert promoters. But who would present the band? Questlove made a great speech on behalf of Hall & Oates two years ago, he’d be a good choice.
Like Chicago, Steve Miller isn’t a guy who seems to have translated to younger audiences for decades. Like Chicago, he still tours consistently to crowds who care not one bit about what is “in.” And like Chicago, radio never tires of his hits. For whatever reason, the various members of the lineups of his Steve Miller Band aren’t being included, so there’s no inter-band tension there, happily. But Miller is famously a curmudgeon, so his speech is sure to entertain. Who should present him? Easy: the one arena headliner who doesn’t care who knows about his love of unhip classic rock: Kid Rock.
The 31st Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on Friday, April 8, 2016 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. HBO will broadcast the ceremony in spring 2016. Tickets for the show go on sale via Ticketmaster this Friday, but be warned: no performances have been announced yet.