It’s hardly a secret that Jann Wenner, co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, has been keeping The Monkees out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since its inception. I’m far from the only person who feels righteous indignation at this élitist ass for excluding so many important acts based on his own musical taste. You don’t have to adore every single band or performer, but you can at least understand or respect his, her, or their legacy, continued popularity, and positive critical reception.
Guidelines dictate one becomes eligible for induction 25 years after one’s first record. That’s a fair wait, since many bands and artists never achieve long-lasting popularity and critical legacy. However, The Monkees became eligible in 1991, and they’ve consistently been snubbed by Wenner.
Meanwhile, a lot of other acts have been rushed in the moment they became eligible, like Nirvana, The Beastie Boys, Madonna, Run-D.M.C., and Public Enemy. Many of the acts inducted in recent years aren’t even rockers, though we now have both a Pop and Hip Hop Hall of Fame.
I’m also shocked Chicago finally made it in this year! Wenner snubbed them for 22 years!
It’s not just The Monkees. Wenner also kept my belovèd Hollies out till 2010, didn’t let Kiss in till 2014, and snubbed The Small Faces till 2012. His refusal to induct the abovementioned Chicago was also legendary. Other ongoing snubs:
Connie Francis (eligible for 33 years)
The Marvelettes (eligible for 30 years)
The Doobie Brothers (eligible for 20 years)
The Moody Blues (eligible for 27 years)
Jethro Tull (eligible for 23 years)
Ozzy Osbourne as a solo artist (eligible for 11 years)
Pat Benetar (eligible for 12 years, and one of the greatest female vocalists in rock)
Procol Harem (eligible for 24 years)
Yes (eligible for 22 years)
The Zombies (eligible for 27 years)
Herman’s Hermits (eligible for 26 years, and hugely underrated)
Duran Duran (eligible for 10 years)
There’s also a category for early influences on rock (e.g., Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole, Woody Guthrie, Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington). Snubs in this category include Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Ravi Shankar, Scott Joplin, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
Getting into the Hall of Fame isn’t just about popularity or number of records sold. If that were the case, anyone who ever had a #1, or who was really popular for a few years, would be in there. It also includes:
Enduring legacy! The Monkees are still incredibly popular and belovèd 50 years on, with a huge musical and cultural influence (more on that in Part IV). Their music stands the test of time.
Wide-ranging catalogue. I love bands who aren’t one-trick ponies. No two albums should sound the same. Even if a band has a general, easily-recognisable sound, they can still make a wide range of music within that. There’s such a difference between songs like “Mommy and Daddy,” “Zor and Zam,” “Writing Wrongs,” “Auntie’s Municipal Court,” “Star Collector,” “Love Is Only Sleeping,” “The Door into Summer,” and “Papa Gene’s Blues.”
Gads and gads of talent! Peter and Nez were both accomplished musicians when they joined the group, Nez was an up-and-coming songwriter who blossomed into a great songwriter, Davy was a talented vocalist, and Micky is not only one of the most criminally underrated male voices in rock, but he also taught himself to play the drums.
Innovativeness. To give just one example, “Star Collector” was the first song to feature a Moog synthesiser.
Back when the group formed, it was pretty damn normal to rely upon outside songwriters and session musicians, and no one crucified The Beatles for not always playing all their own instruments and doing some covers. Nowadays, no one bats an eye at performers not writing their own songs and playing their own instruments.
Yes, they were put together as a fictional band on a TV show, and were four actors chosen from 437 auditions. However, they rebelled against their handlers and became a real band. You also can’t just throw four random people together and expect them to mesh together so beautifully and perfectly. It was destiny that these four guys were the ones chosen, and that they worked so well together.
So many groups and bands from the Sixties are forgotten today. I only know them because I’ve listened to so much oldies and classic rock radio for 23 years and counting. If I weren’t such an anomaly, I doubt I’d know about groups like Gary Lewis and The Playboys, Gerry and The Pacemakers, or Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas.
The Monkees meanwhile have become an entrenched part of the culture. People of all ages know their music, and their influence is very wide-ranging. I really hope Chicago’s long-denied induction has opened the door for similarly snubbed bands like The Monkees and The Moody Blues.