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News January 17, 2020

Australian acts are sorely missing from the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame

Senior Journalist, B2B
Australian acts are sorely missing from the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame

When the 2020 class for the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame was announced earlier this week, the news was accompanied with the traditional guffawing, belly aching and mock horror of armchair critics the world over.

Yes, Judas Priest are still not in the Rock Hall. Nor is Chic, which is perennially overlooked. Eleven times, to be accurate (it got so embarrassing for the Rock Hall’s panel, they eventually let in Nile Rodgers for “Musical Excellence,” on his own).

The list of oversights is longer than Andrew Bogut’s arm. The MC5, Soundgarden, Motorhead and Thin Lizzy have been robbed of  Rock Hall entry. Several Australian acts should be on the inside.

Millions of music fans this week could be heard sucking through their teeth, as five new entrants were read out.

Among them, The Notorious B.I.G., a man short on rock but big on rap, gets a posthumous entry card.

Whitney Houston, the late pop and R&B singer was inducted into an elite circle which is, after all, a Rock And Roll playground. There was furious anger from folks who like their rock, hard. Houston, however, is one of just 70 females historically inducted into the Rock Hall, a paltry number against the 900-plus men.

Australia’s very own institution for the gods of our stages and airwaves, the ARIA Hall of Fame, was launched in the late 1980s. Since then, more than 70 performers and groups have been inducted, including the most recent and first “boy band” to get the nod, Human Nature.

The U.S. Rock Hall was established in 1983, its HQ in The Land — Cleveland, Ohio. Three years later, ten all-time greats were tapped as new members, with Elvis Presley, James Brown, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly among the newly-appointed immortals.

British artists have been kicking goals for fun in recent years, as Depeche Mode, The Zombies, Roxy Music, Radiohead, Def Leppard and The Cure all got the call in the past 12 months.

Axl Rose and Angus Young

Just how many Australian artists are enshrined in America’s mighty rock hall? Short answer, not many.

The first came in 1997, when the brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb, better known as the Bee Gees, were elevated with Beach Boy Brian Wilson and Raffael Saddiq on hand to induct the band. Though born in Britain, the Gibbs relocated to Redcliffe, Queensland in 1952 and the lads started their musical career before the decade was out, performing during breaks in the action at speedways. The rest, is musical history.

As legend has it, Barry and his mother signed the group’s music contract with speedway promoter Bill Goode and radio announcer Bill Gates – the BGs in the Bee Gees — on the family’s kitchen table in Redcliffe.

The disco kings were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in the same year, alongside Paul Kelly and Graeme Bell.

Watch Bee Gees’ ‘How Deep Is Your Love’:

It’s a long way to the top, but AC/DC did it in 2003 when they were elevated at a U.S. ceremony with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler on induction duties.

“For close to thirty years,” reads an essay penned by Brad Tolinski for the Rock Hall, “these Australian hard-rock hooligans have been spreading their gospel of cigarette smoke, drunken debauchery and power chords with such skill and exuberance that one enraptured critic was moved to proclaim them ‘the Coleridges of cock rock, the Tennysons of testosterone, the Shakespeares of salacious, schoolboy smut.’”

AC/DC was one of the first names read out for induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame. They were feted at a ceremony in 1988, alongside Dame Joan Sutherland, Johnny O’Keefe, Slim Dusty, Col Joye and Vanda & Young.

Watch AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’:

No other ARIA Hall of Famer also has their name in lights in Cleveland’s musical shine, though Michael Balzary, better known as Flea, qualifies as an Aussie in the Rock Hall. The 57-year-old bass player was born in Melbourne, and got the red carpet treatment when he and his Red Hot Chili Pepper bandmates were inducted in the Rock Hall class of 2012.

So, as anoraks the world over rung their hands as Whitney’s name was read out, spare a thought for the likes of INXS, The Seekers and Olivia Newton-John, who’ve topped the charts in the United States over several years and sold millions of records in the home of rock ‘n’ roll, but haven’t earned membership to the greatest stage of them all. They’ve been stiffed.

There’s always another year.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.

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