The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2019 induction class this morning, and as is the case every year, the internet is a-flutter with debates. To be eligible, a nominee's first recording must have come out at least 25 years ago, which means it will be another 25 years before the Ohio institution inducts Greta Van Fleet.
This year’s class will include Radiohead, The Cure, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks (who was previously inducted as part of Fleetwood Mac in 1998), Roxy Music, Def Leppard, and The Zombies. Other artists who were being considered for induction—including Devo, MC5, and Rage Against the Machine—did not make this year’s cut.
Will Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno reunite on the ceremony’s stage? Will the Hall of Fame committee bring out Muse to honor Radiohead? After the induction ceremony takes place March 29, you’ll have the chance to see for yourself when HBO airs the event. Until then, we’re looking at the essential albums of the 2019 inductees.
In the '90s, The Bends and OK Computer established Radiohead as a second-to-none rock band on the alt-rock airwaves with guitar riffs and angst-ridden vocals to spar with the best of the grunge and immediate post-grunge fare. And for all the adulation and fan loyalty those records have earned, it was Kid A that took Radiohead from really good rock band to sui-generis musical outfit. The hooks of the earlier records were still there, but this time, the band fused their songcraft with electronic elements and layers drawn from influences like Stockhausen, Aphex Twin, and a who's who of the Krautrock golden age.
Every Cure record has great songs on it. While often cast as the definitive sad goth kid, Robert Smith's vision and sonics with the band actual evolved quite a bit through the '80s, from the angular post-rock of Three Imaginary Boys and brooding menace of Pornography to more wistful and exploratory records like Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and Wish. But Disintegration from 1989 is Smith at the height of his powers. Every song is enveloping in texture and piercing in effect.
Between 1986 and 2001, Janet Jackson released five number one records in a row. Each one sold millions of copies, each one went on to become a cultural touchstone—but where did Janet's fierce creative realization start? Released in 1986, Control was Janet's first album free from the constraints of her father and former manager Joe Jackson, her first after an annulment with James Debarge, and her first record with Jam and Lewis, a production duo that would go on to help her craft 31 future hits. Control is the sound of Janet taking the reins of her career and never looking back. We thank her for it.
Bella Donna, from 1981, was Stevie Nicks' first solo record and was made while she was still an active member of Fleetwood Mac. While her defining contributions to Fleetwood Mac through the peak '70s records remain unimpeachable—she authored most of the band’s best tunes—Bella Donna saw Nicks’ powers as a songwriter on full display, on their own terms. “Edge of Seventeen”—an anthem by any measure—was the biggest hit, but there are lots of other Nicks treats on display here. The record also contains the Tom Petty collab "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," easily in the top five rock duet tracks of all time.
If one were to judge an album by its cover the moody, Peter Saville-directed photograph shows a warrior preparing to embark on a triumphant final journey—much like how Bryan Ferry and crew were preparing. 1982's Avalon was the bow on top of Roxy Music's transition from hip art-rockers to sophisticated pop auteurs. If their first album was the fireworks of a first kiss, then Avalon is the hushed kiss goodbye. Bittersweet.
Pyromania, like much of the hard rock of the early '80s, is driven by distorted guitars, melodic vocals, and huge drums. But behind the rock band facade is a whole new era of recording. Those gigantic snares and pummeling kicks are not played on a kit. Producer Mutt Lange and engineer Mike Shipley meticulously pieced together samples of drum sounds, constructing the drum tracks last, after the rest of the recording was in place. Combined with the impeccable production and perfectly arranged guitars, those sampled drums leapt out of speakers—and set the tone for the decade's bold brand of rock music.
As the story goes, between the time that The Zombies recorded Odessey and Oracle and the time that the label actually agreed to release it, the band had split up. It was a sad fate for one of the most tuneful bands of the British Invasion, but while the band was no more, the record that eventually made its way to shelves would unleash their biggest hit, "Time of the Season." For most fans though, the appeal of this sleeper classic has less to do with just one flower-power single and more to do with the engrossing melodies, delicate vocals, and instrumentation in each and every song. From the tack piano of opener "Care Of Cell 44" to the cinematic organ of "Butcher's Tale," this whole record laid the blueprint of the future indie rock ethos of bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Spoon. To learn more about the album's legacy, check out our handpicked crate of albums influenced by Odessey and Oracle.