Mamma Mia! How’d They Get in?

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies were held last week. And one of the 2010 inductees left me scratching my head: ABBA. Yes, I know that ABBA has sold a ton of records. And I get that it was cool that they sung in English without the ability to really speak the language. The success of Mamma Mia–both on stage and film–yes, that counts for something too. What I don’t understand is why ABBA got the nod before so many other bands?

According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s website, criteria for induction as a performer is as follows:

Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists’ contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll.”

How does ABBA fit that bill? Twenty-five years, okay, they’ve got that. But what did they really contribute to the “development and perpetuation of rock and roll”? What about T. Rex? E.L.O.? The B-52’s? How in the world is ABBA in–and KISS isn’t?

KISS, like them or not, influenced a generation of future artists. They wore makeup and costumes and  paved the way for the heavy metal glam bands of the eighties. The B-52’s were responsible for John Lennon’s return to music after five years of retirement–that alone is hugely important–no? Without T. Rex to influence him, there might never have been a David Bowie. And E.L.O., they practically invented symphonic rock and inspired future stars such as Axl Rose, so why not them? ABBA, was and is popular, but I don’t see anything about popularity in the section on criteria.

Clearly the point is moot, ABBA is in and those other bands aren’t. Regardless, I am curious to know what you think, so please let me know by voting in the poll below. Do you think ABBA deserved (based on RARHOF criteria) to be inducted? Are there any other acts you believe should be in–who aren’t?

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18 responses

  1. I think we agree here. I have nothing against ABBA. In fact, I actually like ABBA. There’s nothing wrong with a perfectly crafted, melodic pop song. In fact, looking at the history of “pop” music, it’s damned hard to create such a sustained run of chart topping tunes, and one that – love ’em or hate ’em – has withstood the test of time and remains popular with audiences across generations.

    However, were I a voter, I would have voted in ELO before ABBA. ELO’s tunes can be equally as catchy, but there was a level of craftsmanship and ambition present with their output that, in my eyes, makes them Hall-worthy before ABBA. They took many of the excesses of hardcore “prog rock,” combined those with classical, pop and rock n roll influences, and fashioned them into songs that resonated across a wide swath of tastes. Plus, Jeff Lynne was a sensational songwriter and producer; and ELO’s stage shows raised the bar for technical achievement and eye-popping entertainment.

    It’s hard to find a better way to start the day than with “Mr. Blue Sky.”

    As for the other bands you mention, it’s hard to be objective about the B-52s. LOVE them. T-Rex was at the forefront of the glitter rock era. Kiss made up for writing and musical trailblazing with theatricality and cultivation of a passionate fanbase (and were vanguards in marketing and merchandising). All important, and probably worth of an induction at some point. You don’t necessarily have to love a band (or their music) to appreciate what they accomplished. Still, I’m mystified that ELO hasn’t received a call from the Hall yet.

    • Well said Shan!

      Maybe it is the music snob in me that doesn’t get ABBA’s induction? I’ll admit to loving them when I was growing up, but as noted in another post, I also loved Suzy Q’s. My love and appreciation(maybe that’s key?) for E.L.O. has grown over time, with ABBA, the opposite has occurred.

      • I think part of it is in the name of the Hall itself. There’s a huge mental disconnect between “Rock n Roll” and “ABBA.” Even if you’re blonde, Swedish and have an iPod that features “Dancing Queen” on a permanent loop, you’d have a hard time classifying ABBA as “rock.” If it was a “Pop Music Hall of Fame,” they would be first ballot, stone cold locks.

        There are similar style incongruities with R&B artists, country artists and the like, that don’t fit a strict definition of “rock n roll.”

        ABBA is infectious, lightweight pop, but if you think of all the one hit pop wonders that have come and gone, crafting a sturdy, timeless pop hit is a lot harder than it looks. (Plus, unlike a lot of folks today, they wrote, sang and played intruments!) So while they may not be in my music pantheon, I’ll certainly give them their props.

        Also, consider new inductees Genesis. They started as a groundbreaking, theatrical, prog-rock outfit driven by Peter Gabriel, and evolved into a rock-pop, Top 40 group featuring the sensibilities of Phil Collins. Even if you love one phase of their development over the other, it’s still an achievement. So for the most part, I’ll go along with the Hall and their choices. But put ELO in! 🙂

      • I think Genesis definitely deserves to be in. The Stooges too. And I don’t have a problem with the inclusion of country, rhythm and blues, folk, or rap artists. I just don’t see how ABBA’s influence was greater (and therefore deserving induction before) than any of the bands I listed in the post. For that matter, I could have added Donna Summer to the list. I believe she was nominated but did not make it—and yet ABBA did.

    • Yeah, it’s a word: Perpetuation: 1. To cause to continue indefinitely; make perpetual.
      2. To prolong the existence of; cause to be remembered
      Am thinking now that maybe this is all a plot to prolong ABBA’s existence.

  2. If it wasn’t for ABBA, I wouldn’t be able to sing Dancing Queen at karaoke bars or make a play on words and sing “Mama Mary, Here I go again, my my how can I resist you?”

    But I do have a soft spot for the B-52’s for providing every party or dance I ever attended in the 80’s with “the best get your party goers on the dance floor song and watch them do weird dances” song with Rock Lobster.

  3. I voted for KISS, if anything for the childhood memories. As teenagers, we layered on make-up, made our costumes and put on a KISS concert in the back yard that was the envy of the neighborhood. We charged an entrance fee, too.

    BTW, great post!

  4. Jennifer, I’d almost swear that the house in the left side of your photo is the corporate playhouse for Kyocera (or used to be in the late 80s). Is it?

  5. IMO, all of those bands deserve a vote for varying reasons. I voted for the B-52s but I’m probably a little biased being from GA. However I am a huge 70s rock fan so ELO was a close second. Except I’ve never been a big KISS fan. Mark Bolan (sp?) and T-Rex deserve a vote in, but barely.

    • Hard not to let personal bias come into play when voting. I didn’t vote, but if I did, I’d probably have to pull the lever for KISS. I much prefer ELO and the B-52’s, but I think based on the criteria listed by the Hall of Fame KISS wins hands down.

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