ABBA Is In, KISS Is Still Out

12 116

That place out in Cleveland has done it again. You know the one I’m talking about. I’ve pretty much sworn off mentioning the name of the place here – after all this is Real Rock News – but since that’s a bit silly, I’ll just go ahead with it.

The fact that 70’s Swedish pop stars ABBA have been given the nod for inclusion in the so-called “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” and KISS is still awaiting their invite has reignited the debate about what kind of institution they are running out there. We’ve been down this road before, and it probably won’t be the last time.

Before I go on, it’s important to understand I actually like ABBA. At least I did back in the day when they were all over the radio and I was a young teenager. It didn’t hurt that I thought the blond one was really hot!

Be that as it may, it’s important to note that I still give a listen to some of ABBA’s hits on occasion. It really brings back memories. Classic rock is my favorite, but there are other kinds of music I enjoy as well. ABBA were quite the influential pop group back in those days, and that’s exactly my point. ABBA was clearly a pop group, and wasn’t even close to what I consider rock and roll.

Even though I’m really not a KISS fan, there is no denying that they are enormously popular, and have sold a whole lot of records. Rock and roll records.

“Hall of Fame” is an interesting name. What exactly is fame? defines fame as, “widespread reputation, esp. of a favorable character; renown; public eminence.”

I’d have to say that KISS certainly justifies the association of that word with their enduring career. I may not be all that crazy about them, but they do have an enviable fan base, and they do indeed play rock and roll music. While ABBA certainly passes the “fame” test with flying colors, they don’t quite score a passing grade on the “rock and roll” test.

Each time we get word on the latest inductees into that institution, it seems like they drift further and further away from rock, and into genres that clearly don’t meet that criteria. There’s no sign that they will put an end to this nonsense, and I won’t deny that some of the non-rock artists that have been honored there are very talented, and quite deserving of recognition on a grand scale. However, not under the banner of “rock and roll.”

I think there’s a simple solution to all of this. I have no illusions that this could actually ever happen, but I think they should rename it something like “The Music Hall of Fame,” or something else that is more inclusive, if they are going to continue giving the nod to groups like ABBA while ignoring KISS, Rush, Yes, and a host of other bona fide rockers.

Isn’t inducting the likes of ABBA and Run-D.M.C. in the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” akin to someone opening a car dealership with a big sign out front that advertises Toyotas, and then filling the lot with Fords? Should we start calling hot dogs hamburgers? If we subscribe to the logic they are using to decide who gets the coveted invite to the “Rock Hall,” we may as well.

Although I may be the only one, I believe I will begin to refer to that institution as the “Music Hall of Fame” instead of the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” from now on. It certainly makes a whole lot more sense to me.


  1. Jason December 21, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Living here in Austin TX, we’re still quite shocked that Stevie Ray Vaughan has never even been balloted–what a crock–

  2. Max December 22, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Well, this is what I have found on another forum about why it’s stupid to say that ABBA shouldn’t be in the Rock and roll Hal of Fame because it’s no rock music:
    ABBA embodies pop music at its fizziest and most effervescent. They certainly are a far cry from Hendrix, the Stones, Bob Dylan, and the like. This much is true. But those rock “purists” miss something when they bemoan the celebration of pop music. Pop and rock have always been intertwined, as have R&B and rock, hip hop and rock, folk and rock, soul and rock, country and rock, blues and rock, and on and on and on. In fact, I can’t think of any artist or band that represents “pure” rock and roll. That genre just doesn’t exist. Rock is a word that always requires an antecedent, a musical inspiration apart from itself. Let’s take my aforementioned examples: Jimi Hendrix made blues-rock, the Stones R&B-rock (and sometimes soul-rock, blues-rock, and country-rock), and Bob Dylan folk-rock.

    ABBA is not rock music, strictly speaking, but the group has its lineage in the music of Phil Spector and the girl groups of the sixties. Those groups’ influence on rock music, especially on the Beatles and the Stones, was undeniable. Listen to ABBA’s “Waterloo,” arguably their greatest song (see below). No other song channels and matches the glory of Spector’s Wall of Sound. Further, ABBA, even at their most syrupy (“The Winner Takes It All,” “Fernando”), wrote breathtaking melodies. Rock music has always sought to match pop’s knack for melody, albeit with thrashing guitars, loud drums, and large doses of go-fuck-yourself attitude. That’s why a band as seemingly anti-pop as Sonic Youth can worship the music of the Carpenters and still seem cool.

    I think the problem some people have with ABBA is that their music is so universally loved, a crime only the Beatles are allowed to get away with. But let’s not forget that the Beatles were first and foremost a pop group, and they are loved for their gorgeous melodies. Maybe ABBA will never be accepted as being cool. But their music is better than cool. It’s wonderful.

    • Real Rock News December 22, 2009 at 9:23 am

      Clever way to approach the argument there, Max. Quoting something from another forum suggests that you think it’s “stupid” to say that ABBA shouldn’t be in the Rock Hall without actually saying it yourself.

      I was expecting exactly this kind of debate, having seen it on other blogs and forums. But what the heck, why not add more fuel to the fire?

      Anyway, the argument you quoted backfires, and I’ll tell you why.

      All music is connected in one way or another. Hell, much of rock’s influence comes from the early jazz that we saw coming out of places like New Orleans and Memphis. I’m no historian but those are places that hold themselves up as some of the key birthplaces of that genre. And that was some pretty cool music, too.

      And let’s not forget, I actually still like ABBA. By no means do I listen to them every day, or even every 6 months for that matter, but I still crank on “Waterloo” or “S.O.S.” once in a while. So in this case, this “rock purist” isn’t missing anything.

      Getting back to the facts, if the proponents of the “ABBA in the rock hall” argument want to use the history and origins of various types of music, and how its influence has shaped various “new” genres that came along later, it’s an argument that blows up in their collective face.

      As I was eluding to earlier, just about all music is connected. If we wanted to go back far enough, perhaps we could connect rock to rhythmic drumming that may have had its roots in Africa thousands of years ago or something of the sort.

      That’s my whole point, and I’m sorry to inform those who want to argue for things like ABBA’s inclusion in the so-called rock hall, their argument holds no water; not even a drop. It’s a losing argument on their part.

      Let’s just get right down to it, shall we? Should we divide music up into genres or not? Should we just throw our hands up and just call it all “music?” You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you’re going to stand by the argument that ABBA and other artists who us “rock purists” don’t want in the so-called rock hall, then let’s induct Frank Sinatra, Waylon Jennings, Insane Clown Posse and Glenn Miller. Why not?

      I could sit here and trace back through history and pontificate about how rock was influenced by some subtly in Glenn Miller’s music, or the “big band” era in general, and hell, there is probably some truth to it. That’s why I suggest it be called the “Music Hall of Fame.”

      Is there someone out there who is actually “stupid” (your word, not mine) enough to argue that the likes of Run-D.M.C., Gladys Knight and the Pips and Johnny Cash were rockers? If so, I’d like to argue that the Moon is made of green cheese and the cow in fact, did jump over it!

  3. Todd December 22, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I agree. Change it to “Music Hall Of Fame”. Or at least “Modern Music Hall Of Fame” or “Pop & Rock Hall Of Fame” or something. I too have NOTHING against Abba. Or Madonna. Or Patti Smith. But come ON!! This is a bit ridiculous.

  4. Andy December 23, 2009 at 12:33 am

    What’s sad is that it was labeled Rock and Roll Hall of fame, and honestly, we haven’t had such a close debate until now because most of the “pop” acts of the 1960’s were really guitar oriented bands that were spun out of the original concept of Rock and Roll in the 50’s. Now that we’re getting to that point in time where bands from the 70’s are more commonly featured, the line gets a little more blurry.

    Sure, ABBA can be considered Rock and Roll… great. I’m fine with that, unless there is an overall “MUSIC” hall of fame. There already is a “Country Music Hall of Fame”, so why does the “Rock Hall” have to take in EVERYONE else? RUN DMC? Grand Master Flash? Come on… this is Rap, have a “Hip-Hop/Rap Hall”….

    Good point about SRV not being in. I’m not going to lie, I was pissed off that he wasn’t even nominated on his first 2 years eligible. WTF!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

    Oh, and on a side note… I think with Genesis now going in, the doors are being opened for Prog rockers! It’s not out of the realm of possibility to see either Yes or Rush go next year! Yes looks to have an active summer and keep themselves in the news, and Rush appears to be signaling they are gearing up for touring and an album.

    • Real Rock News December 23, 2009 at 9:09 am

      Yeah, I meant to check in on the SRV thing myself. Thanks for reminding me, Andy.

      SRV is also a fave of mine, and — dare I say it — in my opinion, about the greatest guitarist ever. Remember folks, I said “in my opinion,” which means you are welcome to yours also. I just can’t stand those schoolyard “no way, so-and-so is better” arguments. They are so damn pointless.

      Would be great to see SRV, Yes, and Rush recognized, but at this point, perhaps some of them think it’s more of an honor to be excluded than included in the infamous “rock hall.”

  5. Todd December 23, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I can’t help but be reminded that the Sex Pistols referred to the HOF as a “piss stain”. Under the circumstances & the way things have been done, I can’t help but think that they may be right. I call it a good idea gone in the wrong direction. Pop music is a type of rock & roll. I agree. And while I may sound contradictory to myself, I just don’t think that Run DMC, Abba, or Madonna are quite what MOST rock & roll fans had in mind.

  6. mark bowsher December 30, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    No Grand Funk Railroad ? Abba deserves the Rock Hall like I deserve to live in the White House.Abba influenced more elevators then future Rockers !

  7. Rudolf Ondrich February 17, 2010 at 7:31 am

    There is nothing light and fluffy about the music of ABBA. The Album (1977), Super Trouper (1980) and The Visitors (1981) are all brilliant, well crafted albums. Most people make the assumption ABBA only wrote Mamma Mia or Dancing Queen over and over again, that is simply the most silliest idea one can have about the music of ABBA.

    I think this is one of the best comments about the inclusion of ABBA in the R&RHOF (not written by me personally but someone on the Steve Hoffman forums)

    [“wolfram – I don’t remember anyone claiming ABBA were a rock band. But it’s not the Rock Hall of Fame, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When I hear Rock and Roll I think of Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard etc. So obviously the name Rock and Roll Hall of Fame includes what developed from that 50s dance music genre over the following decades. Pop music would surely be a part of that.

    I’m pretty amazed anyway how so many here seem to know precisely what is Rock and what is Pop. I find those terms to be so flexible I could not tell you for bands like Oasis, U2 or the Talking Heads what they are. I always felt the Beatles to be mainly a Pop band. No place in the Hall for them?

    Unfortunatly there is no definition of Rock and Roll on the homepage of the RNRHOF. Might make this discussion easier.”]

    Ringo himself thought The Beatles were a pop group – “When the Beatles were inducted, Ringo Starr responded to that gentle ribbing from Jagger with a zinger of his own. “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” he said from behind his aviator shades. “I love it. They always called us a pop group!”

    Here is my personal input – In the mid-19th Century the music of the composer Richard Wagner represented a new phase of music, whereas the music of the composer Johannes Brahms was considered much more conservative and old-fashioned. At the time, everyone considered the music of these two men to be totally separate and no one would say they are the same genre, (Old Style Vs New Style), whereas nowadays they are seen under the same umbrella (ie German Romanticism). Could one day Rock Vs Pop become one group of music?

    • Real Rock News February 17, 2010 at 9:14 am

      Thanks for your well-thought-out response, Rudolf.

      The problem is, in my opinion, that when we are talking about music, we may as well be talking about ice cream. Let me explain.

      You state that “There is nothing light and fluffy about the music of ABBA. The Album (1977), Super Trouper (1980) and The Visitors (1981) are all brilliant, well crafted albums.”

      Keeping in mind, that I actually like a lot of ABBA’s work, someone can just as easily say that ABBA is trash and always have been. Obviously, you would not agree, but that does not make their opinion any less valuable than yours. It’s just that they don’t like ABBA.

      We could play games with genres and origins all day long. Were the Beatles rock or pop? The bottom line is that it depends on who you ask. I consider them rock, and therefore worthy of inclusion in an institution using the name “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” However, as I have indicated, I have grown tired of the discussion about an institution that is controlled by people who have their own likes, dislikes and biases, and I’m afraid nobody on this planet can convince me that does not dictate who gets the nod for inclusion.

      I’ve spent enough time talking about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to adequately convey my feelings about it, and about who belongs and who does not. Those are my opinions and I am sticking to them. 🙂

      You are, of course, are welcome to your own, as is everyone else. Unless of course they are unfortunate enough to live in a place like Iran or North Korea.

      Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate you taking the time to enter a well-researched and thoughtful comment. I just don’t happen to fully agree with it.

  8. Rudolf Ondrich February 18, 2010 at 5:28 am

    It is quite a complex issue I think. As it has been shown there are many ways of looking at Rock and Roll, and indeed music in general.

    I think though that the Hall of Fame in their liberty have taken a more liberal stance, hence ABBA, Madonna, Bee-Gees etc being Inducted. The HoF even states that “They [ABBA] are one of the biggest-selling acts in pop-history” ( which for me shows that they are taking a broad view of what constitutes Rock and Roll in their eyes.

    At the end of the day though accolades and awards really aren’t that important in my view. Even if everyone on the world hated ABBA, that wouldn’t stop me loving them 😉 Nor do I see the greatest musician and composer ever, Beethoven, being inducted into the RRHoF any time soon.

    Rudolf 🙂

  9. Enio Marini (Connecticut) May 11, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Although I am a huge KISS fan and I believe they should be inducted into the Rock n roll hall of fame but I am glad to see ABBA there also and I will tell you why???? for a band that was around for about a decade ABBA has sold about 400 million records around the world as a band they are 2nd to the BEATLES quite impressive KISS has sold about 80 million records around the world maybe somwhere down the line they will reach 100 million that’s it and they constantly tour where ABBA has been disbanded since 1983 ABBA has surpassed LED-ZEPPELIN, PINK FLOYD, who both average about 300 million records sold around the world as a band writing music and singing they were great as concert performers well that can be argued let’s hope KISS one day gets the recognition they deserve.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *