This weekend, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts its class of 2012, which consists of Donovan, the Beastie Boys, the late singer-songwriter Laura Nyro, the Small Faces and the Faces, blues guitarist Freddie King, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Guns N’ Roses, although not lead singer Axl Rose, who declined the induction earlier this week. Rose notwithstanding, dozens of artists have been snubbed for the Hall over the years; it took the Stooges—the Stooges!—a half-dozen ballots to make it in. The Hall’s official party line states that it honors “the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.” But the list of artists who issued their first records 25 or more years ago (the Hall’s qualification for nomination) who would be first-ballot shoo-ins in any Rock and Roll Hall of Fame committed to the continuous, vital culture of rock music is long. Even without considering influential jazz, folk, hip-hop, electronic, dance, pop, funk, dub, and dance artists, staggering amounts of genuine and important rock artists have never even reached the ballot.
Here are 10 artists who’ve made legitimate contributions to rock and roll as the term is generally understood (even by baby boomers). Sure, to actually enshrine any of them would also negate the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s symbolic importance for all that is hilarious about itself, and that would be a loss. But it’s only rock and roll.
1. The Monkees
Somebody had to be the first the manufactured band, and the Monkees weren’t even that. But they were the best, made amazing records, and—whether considered as individuals, an actual band, or a collective containing producers and songwriters—became an unquestionable and archetypal part of rock’s narrative.
2. Sonic Youth
R.E.M. made it as soon as they were eligible in 2007, but the early-’80s indie underground remains entirely untapped by the powers that be. Let Sonic Youth’s silvery noise-pop, art-world fusions, and godparenting a generation of avant-rockers, then, stand-in for their unnominated brethren in the Minutemen, Yo La Tengo, Hüsker Dü, the Feelies, and dozens of others.
3. GG Allin
If one accepts the notion of rock and roll as dangerous, there were few more dangerous—and creatively so—than G.G. Allin. As the above video of his final performance in 1993 shows, he used chaos to completely annihilate every boundary between rock and roll, life, and death.
4. Os Mutantes
As rock and roll has played a part in our national story, it has served equal importance in dozens, if not hundreds, of countries around the globe, sometimes even feeding back into the American pop mainstream. Though it took some decades for their music to take hold outside of Brazil, Os Mutantes, the fresh-faced flower children of the Brazilian tropicalismo, have been a beloved reference point for international musicians for some two decades now. (See also: Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil.)
5. Spïnal Tap
Nearly every song in the slim Spïnal Tap songbook, and nearly every line of the accompanying This Is Spïnal Tap mockumentary, has become part and parcel with rock and roll’s lingua franca.
6. The Shaggs
Like the Monkees, the Shaggs are another irreplaceable rock archetype: the Worst Band Ever. But Shaggs classics like “My Pal Foot-Foot” and “Philosophy of the World” have entered the shared knowledge of rock music not because they’re terrible, but because they’re cool, creative, and legitimately memorable tunes that sound like nobody else, before or since—a massive achievement.
“There were three great beats in the ’70s,” Brian Eno said. “Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat, James Brown’s funk, and Klaus Dinger’s Neu! beat.” The Neu! duo of Dinger and guitarist Michael Rother—who both served duty in the early Kraftwerk lineups—provided the central casting Krautrock pulse, a minimalist thump as important as the Bo Diddley groove.
8. Brian Eno
Speaking of which. Discounting his fifth-member status for Hall inductees like Talking Heads and U2 or his run of albums with David Bowie, forgetting that he co-founded Roxy Music, recorded four perfect smart-pop albums between 1973 and 1978, and invented ambient music, he’s still Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle motherfucking Eno. Respect.
9. Alex Chilton
Like his self-destructing doppelganger Lou Reed, Chilton rejected the fantasies of the ’60s (and unlike Reed, the heaviness of the ’70s) for an aching and realistic pop expression. With one No. 1 hit (as teenage frontman for the Box Tops, on “The Letter”) and countless acolytes, his three albums with Big Star are part of indie rock’s basic building blocks.
10. Lester Bangs
While perhaps not on the strength of his recordings with his Birdland or the Delinquents, the late Lester Bangs—the World’s Greatest Rock Critic or whatever—is as important to the rock pantheon as any of the non-performing acts inducted over the years. Forget executives who’ve come in under the Hall’s Ahmet Ertegun—how about recognizing some of rock’s most important professional fans?
And all of this leaves out Captain Beefheart, Devo, Minor Threat, Black Flag, Ted Nugent, the Residents…
(P.S. Phish is eligible next year.)