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The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

on December 13, 2018, 11:30am
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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has revealed the nominees for its class of 2020. They include Nine Inch Nails, Kraftwerk, The Notorious B.I.G., Soundgarden, Depeche Mode, Motörhead, and Whitney Houston.

Other finalists include Dave Matthews Band, Rufus with Chaka Khan, T. Rex, The Doobie Brothers, Judas Priest, MC5, Thin Lizzy, Todd Rundgren, and Pat Benatar.

Sadly, only five of the nominees can get voted in. Those left out, however, won’t exactly be in poor company. Many great artists have been shut out from the warm confines of the Cleveland institution. Here’s a list of 20 artists who have yet to be enshrined, accompanied with rankings and our semi-formal arguments for their inclusion.

As this list proves, however, things do change.


20. Warren Zevon

screen shot 2018 10 09 at 11 26 33 am The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 26

Number of Albums: 12

Chart Performance: Thanks to “Werewolves of London”, Warren Zevon’s third studio album, 1978’s Excitable Boy, remains the late singer’s most successful effort to date, peaking at No. 8 and finally going Platinum in 1997. Outside of that, he saw relatively modest success — his final album, 2003’s The Wind, topped at No. 12 and was certified Gold — which perhaps explains why he’s been cruelly excluded all these years.

Accolades: After spending years behind the scenes, where he wrote for The Turtles and toured as a session musician for The Everly Brothers, Zevon really came into his own. He collaborated with greats like Jackson Browne and Fleetwood Mac, eventually becoming rock critics’ favorite best-kept secret. Although he’s remained a cult icon, even long after his sudden 2003 passing, his trademark wit and intuitive lyrics continue to inspire countless musicians year after year.

19. Depeche Mode

depeche mode new york 21 07 2016 44 The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 13

Number of Albums: 14

Chart Performance: After finding their footing in the mid-’80s, Depeche Mode have sold more than 100 million records and run off a string of eight straight Top 10 albums in the United States, including last year’s Spirit.

Accolades: Arguably the most popular and influential electronic outfit ever, Depeche Mode finally getting into the Hall of Fame one of these years could open up new opportunities for both their own influences (Kraftwerk) and bands they’ve gone on to inspire (Nine Inch Nails). This year they were passed over after being nominated two years in a row.

Editor’s Note: Depeche Mode have been nominated for 2020.


18. Nick Drake

nick drake The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 26

Number of Albums: 3

Chart Performance: His albums sold terribly upon release, but have since become essential albums posthumously. His final studio album, 1972’s Pink Moon, sits at No. 321 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time list.

Accolades: Since his early death, he’s been cited as an influence by R.E.M., The Cure, Lucinda Williams, Ben Folds, Badly Drawn Boy, Lou Barlow, Mikael Åkerfeldt, and many more. Pink Moon ranked No. 45 among Consequence of Sound’s Top 100 Albums.


17. Iron Maiden

iron maiden

Number of Years Snubbed: 16

Number of Albums: 16

Chart Performance: With little radio or television support, Iron Maiden have sold over 90 million records worldwide. And yet regardless of the lineup shifts, several of their albums have received platinum and gold albums both stateside and overseas, specifically 1982’s The Number of the Beast, 1983’s Piece of Mind, 1984’s Powerslave, 1985’s live release Live After Death, 1986’s Somewhere in Time, and 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.

Accolades: As of October 2013, the band have played over 2,000 live shows throughout their career. In 2002, they received the Ivor Novello Award for international achievement, and in 2005, were also inducted into the Hollywood RockWalk on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA.

16. Pat Benatar

screen shot 2018 10 09 at 11 59 15 am The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 15

Number of Albums: 12

Chart Performance: Let’s see, Pat Benatar has two multi-Platinum albums (1980’s Crimes of Passion and 1981’s Precious Time), five platinum albums, three gold albums, and 15 Top 40 singles, including four No. 1 hits (“Hit Me with Your Best Shot”, “Love Is a Battlefield”, “We Belong”, and “Invincible”). To date, she’s sold over 30 million records worldwide.

Accolades: Benatar was unstoppable in the early ’80s, walking away with four consecutive Grammy wins in the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance: 1981 for Crimes of Passion, 1982 for “Fire and Ice”, 1983 for “Shadows of the Night”, and 1984 for “Love Is a Battlefield”. She was an icon then and she remains one today with her music featured in every facet of pop culture.

Editor’s Note: Ms. Benatar has been nominated for 2020.


15. New Order

new order The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 14

Number of Albums: 10

Chart Performance: Through their 68 total releases — including LPs, EPs, and singles — New Order have been an unstoppable presence in the UK charts with three Gold albums, two Platinum compilations, three Silver albums, and, you know, the best selling 12-inch single of all time with “Blue Monday”. Stateside, they secured two Gold albums and their Substance compilation was even certified Platinum.

Accolades: Chart success aside, they’ve only been nominated once by the Grammys, and it wasn’t until 2005, and it was a small nomination at that (i.e. Best Dance Recording for “Guilt Is a Useless Emotion” off Waiting for the Siren’s Call). Still, the outfit’s one of the most critically-acclaimed and influential acts of the last 30 years, changing the face of techno, rock, and pop forever.


14. Pixies

pixies The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 8

Number of Albums: 6

Chart Performance: Surfer Rosa spent 60 weeks on the UK Indie Chart, peaking at No. 2. In 2005, a solid 17 years after its release, it was finally certified gold by the RIAA. Its followup, Doolittle, peaked at No. 98 on the US Billboard 200 and at No. 8 on the UK Albums Chart. In 1995, it was certified gold by the RIAA. Bossanova, however, was released on a major label (Elektra) and nabbed No. 70 on the Billboard 200 and No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart.

Accolades: Both Surfer Rosa and Doolittle are consistently cited as one of the greatest albums of the ’80s and the most important albums in alternative rock, having influenced everyone from Nirvana to Radiohead, The Strokes to Pavement. It should be noted their 2009 box set, Minotaur, received a Grammy nomination and that Doolittle ranked No. 14 among Consequence of Sound’s Top 100 Albums.

13. Devo

devo The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 18

Number of Albums: 9

Chart Performance: Their critically acclaimed debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! reached No. 12 in the UK and No. 78 in the US. However, its 1980 follow-up, Freedom of Choice, went Platinum in the US and Gold in Canada, making it their highest-selling album. 1981’s New Traditionalists and 2010’s Something for Everybody peaked at No. 23 and No. 30 on U.S. charts, respectively.

Accolades: Their cult acclaim has only awarded them the first-ever Moog Innovator Award, which they received in 2010 at Moogfest in Asheville, NC. What’s integral about Devo is their pioneering sound and style, which impacted New Wave, industrial, and alternative in addition to how music videos could be conceived. Duty Now for the Future ranked No. 66 among Consequence of Sound’s Top 100 Albums. They were once again passed over by the Hall of Fame after being nominated this year.


12. Nine Inch Nails

nine inch nails The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 5

Number of Albums: 9

Chart Performance: The band’s debut, 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine, spent a total of 115 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart and became the first independently released record to attain a Platinum certification (it’s since been certified thrice). The album’s followup, The Downward Spiral, debuted at No. 2 and remains their most successful album to date at 4x Platinum. Both 1999’s double album The Fragile and 2005’s With Teeth debuted at No. 1. Shall we go on?

Accolades: In addition to hallmarking industrial music for mainstream audiences, Nine Inch Nails has remained one of the most influential acts to come out of Generation X. To date, they’ve been nominated for 12 Grammys, winning two for Best Metal Performance (“Wish”, “Happiness in Slavery”). It should be noted its mastermind Trent Reznor has nabbed several choice awards, specifically an Oscar for his original score behind David Fincher’s The Social Network.

Editor’s Note: Nine Inch Nails have been nominated for 2020.

11. Sonic Youth

sonic youth The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 13

Number of Albums: 16

Chart Performance: Their final album, 2009’s The Eternal, peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard 200 and was the band’s highest charting album of their career. However, it did clock in at No. 01 on the US Billboard Tastemakers Albums.

Accolades: In 2009, they won an Innovation in Sound award at the Q Awards. Outside of that, however, zilch — which is quite depressing given their jaw-dropping legacy of 16 studio albums, seven extended plays, three compilation albums, seven video releases, 21 singles, 46 music videos, and eight releases in the Sonic Youth Recordings series. To date, their legacy has redefined the way critics and musicians look at music altogether, having influenced the alternative and art house scenes for decades. Daydream Nation ranked No. 51 among Consequence of Sound’s Top 100 Albums.

10. Brian Eno

Brian Eno

Number of Years Snubbed: 21

Number of Albums: 26

Chart Performance: His highest charting album was his 1974 solo debut, Here Come the Warm Jets, which peaked at No. 151 on the US Billboard charts. However, 2016’s The Ship hit No. 1 on the US Electronic charts and became his highest charting album since his 1981 collaboration with David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Accolades: He’s produced everyone from Talking Heads to U2, Bowie to Coldplay and has been showered with BRIT and Grammy Awards. He’s also pretty much responsible for what we know call ‘ambient music.’ The term “influential” doesn’t even begin to describe the guy, and while he’s being inducted with Roxy Music, the Eno brand more than deserves its own place.

09. Kate Bush

kate bush The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 16

Number of Albums: 10

Chart Performance: Bush is one of the UK’s most successful solo female performers of the last 35 years. At the age of 19, she became the first woman to have a self-written UK No. 1 song with “Wuthering Heights”, which spent four weeks atop the UK Singles Chart. Since then, three of her 10 albums have topped the UK Albums Chart, 25 singles have hit the UK Top 40, which include six Top 10 hits.

Accolades: Her three Grammy nominations are trumped by her 1987 Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist, her 2002 Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, and the fact that Queen Elizabeth II appointed her Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2013. Bottom line: She’s good enough for Cleveland. Hounds of Love ranked No. 17 among Consequence of Sound’s Top 100 Albums. After being ignored since 2003, Bush finally received a nomination for the Hall of Fame in 2018, only to get shut out.


08. Björk

bjork reddit ama

Number of Years Snubbed: 18

Number of Albums: 9

Chart Performance: According to her label, One Little Indian, by 2003 she had already sold more than 15 million albums worldwide. Her 2007 album, Volta, spent nine weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Electronic Albums chart and in the first three months of release sold over half a million copies worldwide.

Accolades: Björk has received five BRIT Awards and four MTV Video Music Awards. Although she’s received 14 nominations from the Grammy Awards, she’s never received one. (Fun fact: She was nominated every year from 1996 to 2002.) Her 2000 song, “I’ve Seen It All”, received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture. Altogether, Björk has received 106 awards from 229 nominations.


07. T. Rex

t rex The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 26

Number of Albums: 12

Chart Performance: T. Rex’s iconic sophomore album, 1971’s Electric Warrior, reached No. 1 on the UK charts and became the best selling album of that year. It also produced the band’s only US hit, “Bang A Gong (Get It On)”.

Accolades: Okay, so the charts are shit, but their influence is infinite. The English rockers were a nuclear explosion in rock ‘n’ roll, tipping off the glam movement and changing the game for every rock band that meant a damn. Scan over enough microgenres and they all somehow trace back to this outfit, be it punk, post-punk, Britpop, or even straight-up Alternative.

Editor’s Note: T. Rex have been nominated for 2020.


06. The Smiths

smiths The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 12

Number of Albums: 4

Chart Performance: Since the inception of SoundScan back in 1992, The Smiths have sold over 2.7 million copies in the US. Two of the band’s albums, 1986’s The Queen Is Dead and 1987’s Strangeways, Here We Come, each went gold in the US, with Queen peaking at No. 70 on the Billboard 200 chart and garnering an impressive 17-week run.

Accolades: Without netting much in the way of Grammys or similar industry nods (sans a few NME awards), the band is often cited as a pioneer of the subsequent Britpop explosion, influencing bands like Oasis, the Stone Roses, and more. The BBC once called The Smiths “the band that inspired deeper devotion than any British group since The Beatles.” The Smiths ranked No. 69 among Consequence of Sound’s Top 100 Albums.

05. Kraftwerk


Number of Years Snubbed: 24

Number of Albums: 5

Chart Performance: Kraftwerk have surprisingly had lucrative success Stateside with 1974’s Autobahn hitting No. 5 on the Billboard 200. Outside of that, the German outfit’s success has mostly been relegated to overseas. Autobahn, 1975’s Radio-Activity, 1977’s Trans-Europe Express, 1978’s The Man-Machine, and 1981’s Computer World have all been certified at the very least Silver by either the BPI or SNEP.

Accolades: Without leaning too hard on hyperbole, Kraftwerk set the bar for electrionic music, paving the way for all kinds of new genres, from dance to new wave to industrial music. Hell, even the Grammys finally came around to their influence. Over the last four years alone, the German outfit has taken back home three integral awards, specifically a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, a highly coveted Hall of Fame award for Autobahn in 2015, and, finally, a Best Dance/Electronic Album win for their 2017 live album 3-D The Catalogue in 2018.

What’s your excuse, Cleveland? Why’d you pass them over again?

Editor’s Note: Kraftwerk have been nominated for 2020.

04. John Coltrane

coltrane The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 39

Number of Albums: 45

Chart Performance: 1958’s Gold Train, 1961’s My Favorite Things, and 1965’s A Love Supreme were all certified Gold in the United States with the latter considered to be one of the greatest albums in jazz if not of all time. Though, it’s unfair to focus on commercial performance when the genre has consistently been marginalized by American audiences.

Accolades: Where do you begin? Arguably the preeminent saxophonist, Coltrane’s legacy has influenced countless musicians and has changed the course of music history, from jazz to even rock ‘n’ roll. In 1997, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and 10 years later he received a special Pulitzer Prize for his “masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.”


03. Joy Division

 The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 17

Number of Albums: 2

Chart Performance: Their 1979 debut, Unknown Pleasures, had no singles and didn’t chart. Their 1980 followup, Closer, reached No. 6 on the UK Albums Chart and peaked at No. 3 in New Zealand by September 1981. In the time that’s passed since Ian Curtis’ tragic early death, the Manchester outfit has grown from a cult act to one of the most important bands in modern music.

Accolades: The band’s inclusion here is strictly by their legacy. Both of their albums are critical diamonds, capturing their unprecedented brand of post-punk that remains unrivaled. In their short four-year time span, they became auteurs of what would go down as goth rock — in fact, Closer was the first album to be reviewed under that genre title — and went on to influence other icons such as Bono and Robert Smith.

As the U2 frontman wrote in the band’s autobiography, “It would be harder to find a darker place in music than Joy Division. Their name, their lyrics and their singer were as big a black cloud as you could find in the sky. With Joy Division, you felt from this singer, beauty was truth and truth was beauty, and theirs was a search for both.” What’s more, Unknown Pleasures ranked No. 15 among Consequence of Sound’s Top 100 Albums.


02. Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston

Number of Years Snubbed: 10

Number of Albums: 6

Chart Performance: Where to start? How about these two factotums: Houston is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits and the only female artist to have two No. 1 Billboard 200 Album awards on the Billboard magazine year-end charts. Not enough? How about how her 1985 self-titled debut became the best-selling debut album by a female act at the time of its release? Or how her landmark hit, “I Will Always Love You”, went on to become the best-selling single by a female artist in music history? No? Let’s keep going: Did you know The Bodyguard is the fourth best-selling album of all-time? The triumphs keep going; in fact, her soundtrack to The Preacher’s Wife remains the best-selling gospel album of all time. Small potatoes in a mound of them.

Accolades: Too many to list, so thank god one sentence says it all: In 2009, Guinness Book of World Records cited her as the most awarded female act of all time. Grammys? Check. American Music Awards? Check. Billboard Music Awards? Check. Emmys? Check. RIAA Certifications? Get out of here.

Editor’s Note: Ms. Houston has been nominated for 2020.


01. OutKast

outkast The 20 Worst Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Snubs

Number of Years Snubbed: 2

Number of Albums: 6

Chart Performance: Their 1994 debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik debuted at No. 20 in the US. Both 1996’s ATLiens and 1998’s Aquemini peaked at No. 2 and went Platinum twice. 2000’s Stankonia hit No. 2 and sold 530,000 copies in  the first week and has since gone quadruple Platinum. Their 2003 double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below became their first album to reach No. 1 and went on to be certified Diamond and a staggering 11 times Platinum. Don’t even start on the singles.

Accolades: Well, they’re arguably the most beloved hip-hop group of all time, having won six Grammy Awards — ahem, Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (“Ms. Jackson”), Best Rap Album (Stankonia), Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (“The Whole World”), Best Urban/Alternative Performance (“Hey Ya!”), Album of the Year (Speakerboxxx/The Love Below), Best Rap Album) — and numerous appearances on Best-Of lists by the most esteemed rock critics out there. They should have been a shoo-in.

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