Perhaps through its very nature, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is bound to snub dozens of deserving artists from its hallowed halls. Therefore, the act of narrowing down a list of '80s artists that will almost surely remain overlooked is quite a delicate one. Nonetheless, here's a look at five artists that deserve such accolades with a level of certainty at least equal to that of the likelihood that they will never receive them. Argue amongst yourselves, as always.
1. Dead Kennedys
Frontman Jello Biafra's unbridled anger and unwillingness to spare any potential target from his pulverizing satirical eye probably help guarantee that San Francisco hardcore legends Dead Kennedys never get their due from a staid, authoritative institution like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But that doesn't mean the original quartet does not belong there in terms of musicianship, tireless energy and groundbreaking influence. Biafra would probably scoff anyway if such recognition ever came from the powers that be, but I would imagine there are many punk rock purists who would be secretly gratified by such a miracle announcement. No one has ever filled the void of leftist rock music commentary more ably or fiercely than the Dead Kennedys.
Another band that may not have been together terribly long but also never wasted a moment in terms of vital impact, Boston's Pixies practically invented the angular guitar style and cryptic lyrical approach that has defined so much music known thereafter as modern or alternative rock. The group probably doesn't want to be associated very much with the ultimately corporate, controlled sound of much of this genre's offerings of the last 15 years, but there's no denying the influence of this talented and defiant quartet. Surfer Rosa and Doolittle will probably always remain two of the most revered rock albums of the last 25 years, and with plenty of good reason.
3. The Replacements
Pardon me for focusing my attention so heavily on college rock and alternative rock for this list, but there's simply no extant, reasonable explanation for keeping quintessential rockers the Replacements out of a hall of fame celebrating the essence of rock and roll. This is a legitimate carrier of the torch (held aloft for so long by the Rolling Stones) for spirited if sometimes sloppy rock and roll full of energy, aggression and smarts-fueled abandon. Led by remarkably versatile singer-songwriter Paul Westerberg, the Replacements used punk rock as a launching pad but never a tightly closed container for its unique blend of pure pop, rock fury and unpredictability. Again, I don't hold out much hope for this one, but I can rant anyway.
With all due respect to worthy English '80s bands from the Smiths to the Cure to the Jesus and Mary Chain, I almost think the near certainty that the pop/rock genius of XTC will be overlooked by the Rock Hall irks me a tad more. Granted, it doesn't surprise me in the least that a clearly Beatles-inspired but also highly original band like this should remain uncelebrated at Cleveland's most famous landmark. Still, the songwriting artistry of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding strikes me as the sort of sophisticated, brainy rock sensibility that should draw wider mainstream acclaim than it ever has. As vital a link in rock and roll's ever-billowing foundation as has ever been, XTC helped keep various '80s styles vibrant and amply reflective.
5. Warren Zevon
The legacy of wildman poet and charming misanthropic personality Warren Zevon will probably not benefit from an early death from cancer in 2003 nearly as much as the reputations of many of his contemporaries would have. Zevon's gallows humor would probably have expected nothing less from a music industry that never had a chance at figuring out what to do with him. Still, as his highly literate and impassioned songwriting through three full decades proved so well, Zevon deftly refracted the urgency of rock through the exasperated critical eyes of a pained intellectual. Appreciation was probably never his greatest concern, but even an incomplete trip through Zevon's catalogue convincingly confirms his undisputed rock and roll credibility.