IN A RECENT EDITION OF QUORA, someone asked why the Moody Blues haven’t been inducted into the bloody Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It would certainly seem that the Moody Blues are far more qualified than many inductees, so I began preparing a lengthy answer, thinking I might provide some insight. But I got sidetracked with another project and failed to get around to posting my comment.
I revisited Quora to address the question and found a very intelligent response already made by Brett Pasternack:
“What it comes down to is that the nominating committee has very specific tastes. For a while, there were a lot of artists to be inducted who were so huge that your personal tastes didn’t matter.
But having run out of those giants, but continuing to want to induct artists from the ’60s and ’70s (the nominating committee has, unfortunately, lost interest in the ’50s), they tend toward what they like.
The Moody Blues are far more qualified than many other inductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
There’s some love for ‘alternative’ rock and its roots, too. Generally NOT in their wheelhouse are poppier sounds, metal, modern forms of R&B, and, most relevant here, prog.
So, the Moody Blues. If ‘musical excellence’ is measured by critical acclaim, they don’t do as well as some candidates, but certainly not badly. If you interpret the term in terms of technical proficiency, they’d be well ahead of most groups in the Hall.”
That is a truncated version of Brett’s comment—his full answer is much longer, and touched on several points I had intended to address myself. But instead of boring readers with redundancies, I cut my answer down to a fraction of its original size.
To read Brett’s comment and my response, click on over to “Why has the Moody Blues group been overlooked by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?”
Then come back here and read on.
Every person I knew who did acid in the ’60s and ’70s considered the Moody Blues required listening for most trips. On my first outing, my friends played IN SEARCH OF THE LOST CHORD, whose opening track, Ride My Seesaw, remains one of the great invitations of the Psychedelic Sixties: “Ride, ride my see-saw, take this place on this trip just for me. Ride, take a free ride, take my place, have my seat, it’s for free.”
No objective standards
So, why aren’t the Moody Blues in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? First, keep in mind that there are no “objective” standards for inclusion in the HoF. Artists are nominated based on a consensus of the opinions of the nominating committee, who are generally very knowledgeable in the field of rock & roll history and criticism.
The artists are then inducted based on a consensus of the opinions of the Hall’s also expert voters. (And I will refer to both groups as voters from this point on.) While this is probably the safest way to run such an institution, some nod towards objectivity might be considered by the HoF. 1
For example, at what point do you stop denying induction to an artist with an endless string of hit singles and a wall full of Gold Records just because you don’t like his music? (See “The world’s most successful singer-songwriter” below.) 2
Second, there are many artists that rockwriters love to hate, often because they find those artists to be endowed with one or more irritating qualities, included (but not limited to): 3
• too slick
• too pretentious
• too pop
Check out the early editions of the Rolling Stone Album Guide and be amazed/appalled at the artists who received dismissively low ratings (less than two stars) for good and better albums. This includes:
• Beach Boys
• Bee Gees
• Glen Campbell
And, of course, the Moody Blues.
What have they all in common is that they’re white artists who mixed pop with their rock, often with excellent results! 4
Even though most rockwriters seem to loathe Neil Diamond, many of them rave about HOT AUGUST NIGHT, his double-album live set from 1972. But not all: to one critic, this album was “great, pretentious, goofy pop. There’s always a place for good corn and good pomp too. And when it comes to hamming it up, Neil’s one of the few who can actually outdo Elvis!” (Lester Bangs)
The most successful singer-songwriter?
This bias against pop-oriented artists appears to be quite healthy among the people at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A perfect example of neglect is Neil Diamond, perhaps the most over-qualified candidate in the Hall’s history to have to wait more than twenty years for inclusion. At the time of his initial eligibility he had:
• 38 Top 40 hit singles, including three #1 records
• 23 RIAA Gold Record Awards for album sales
• 16 RIAA Platinum Record Awards for album sales
These numbers alone make him one of the most successful recording artists in history, a statistic that should be impossible to ignore, regardless of the nominators’ personal tastes. Then consider that he wrote almost all of the hit singles and most of the songs on all those million-selling records! 5
Neil Diamond may have been the most over-qualified candidate to have to wait twenty years for induction!
At this time, he has 39 RIAA Gold Record Awards for album sales, 22 of which have also received Platinum Awards. In terms of RIAA Awards, Neil Diamond is one of the most successful singer-songwriters in the world!
This is something that ‘serious’ rock music aficionados do not wants to recognize, let alone acknowledge. 6
Aside from those figures, there’s some gravy: Neil has scored a pair of movies (neither of which did well at the box office but the soundtrack albums each sold millions), sold out countless live shows, and starred in his own television specials! 7
By anything resembling objective standards, Neil Diamond was one of the most qualified artists in the history of rock & roll on his first ballot in 1987—and he wasn’t even nominated! He didn’t get inducted until twenty-four years later, in 2011!
Because many rock critics love to hate Neil Diamond. Hell, some of those critics hate Neil because of his fans, many being middle-age-ish females. if there’s anything that makes a guy who takes his rock music serious think twice about an artist, it’s singers with lots of female fans. I know because I used to be one of them!
Apparently, they love to hate the Moody Blues even more.
Like their two previous concept albums, ON THE THRESHOLD OF A DREAM (1969) was a facile blend of progressive, psychedelic, and pretentious pop and rock music that made for a fun listen while tripping! Plus they were so much better recorded than most of the other albums of the Psychedelic Sixties, which greatly added to their appeal to pioneering psychonauts.
Do I wanna be a rock & roll star?
Years ago, my name was put forward to be a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee. I knew several people on both the nominating and voting committees personally or professionally, and I knew the ‘type’ of artists that many of them did not want in the Hall at the time.
Many of the voters came from the same ‘school’ that the Rolling Stone writers had attended, preferring their rock & roll with some basis in or association with black music—or at least something resembling the emotional honesty of black music.
I received a phone call from a representative of the committee and we had a no-nonsense conversation that served as a vetting of my qualifications. This was done via a series of questions, each involving my views of the eligibility of various artists, several of which I have already mentioned.
The last question was, “Would you nominate the Moody Blues for induction into the Hall?”
I knew the answer he/they wanted to hear.
I knew that my getting on the committee depended on my answering negatively.
Couldn’t do it.
Said “Yes” instead.
Never heard from them again . . .
FEATURED IMAGE: During the height of their popularity, the Moody Blues were (left to right) Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder, Graeme Edge, Justin Hayward, and John Lodge. By 2002, both Pinder and Thomas had retired from the group, making the current Moody Blues a trio of Hayward, Lodge, and Edge.
1 No matter how serious you take your rock music, the history of rock & roll is tied directly to the popularity of AM radio Top 40 stations from the 1950s into the ’80s. In assessing a candidate’s qualifications for the HoF, surely some weight should be given to artists who consistently placed records in the rotations of thousands of stations and on the turntables of millions of record buyers year after year. Of course, if the Hall considered this, then they would eventually have to ponder Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, something I’m sure they all dread.
2 Apparently, all such institutions are run similarly, including the venerable Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Even though baseball greatness is all but defined by statistics, the Hall is filled with members who got there for other reasons. For a fascinating and eminently readable look at the inner workings and history of this Cooperstown shrine, find yourself a copy of Bill James’s Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?
3 I use the term rockwriter as an umbrella that covers record reviewers, critics, journalists, historians, and now bloggers.
4 Coincidentally, the same Rolling Stone writers awarded a minimum of three stars to almost every album by a black artist, regardless of how forgettable it is!
5 I used the Billboard Hot 100 as it was readily available, although I prefer the Cash Box Top 100 as the more accurate survey.
6 To give you an idea of Diamond’s sales accomplishment, Bob Dylan (the most famous singer-songwriter) is in first place with 39 RIAA Gold Record Awards, of which 16 have also received Platinum Awards. James Taylor (the artist for whom they coined the term singer-songwriter) has 21 RIAA Gold Record Awards, of which 14 have also received Platinum Awards. (But what if we consider Elton John a singer-songwriter?)
7 Of course, a typical Neil concert since the ’70s has featured an uncommonly large percentage of former-hotties turned middle-aged wives and mothers. This alone was enough to make many of us mock Diamond as an artist. Still does . . .