When I was in college in Columbus, OH, a roommate was crazy about this small, college radio band (that’s what they were called then). He thought they were the perfect rock and roll group. I’d never heard of them. Move forward a few years, I’ve moved to Los Angeles, and I’m going to the Olympic Auditorium for the debut concert of Jane’s Addiction first reunion tour — with Flea filling in. Broken up, they had become bigger than when they were first together. Maybe it was because Perry Ferrel started a concert tour he called Lollapalooza as their farewell and went on to jump-start the careers of Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, The Smashing Pumpkins, Arcade Fire, and on and on. Maybe it was because Dave Navarro joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers (and became a TV reality star when he married Carmen Electra). Maybe it was because they just one of those bands that was ahead of their time. Their blend of hard rock and trippy psychedelia and lyrics about being a freak in Hollywood at first didn’t take off at first. But somehow, over time, we’ve caught up with them. They’ve got a new single out now and a new album out in September. Who’s to say if they’ll keep going, but you can say if they should be in the hall.
At the same time my roommate was introducing me to Jane’s Addiction, The Replacements came through town on what became their farewell tour. Columbus was not a big college rock town, OSU didn’t have a college radio station, and local radio was mainly ‘classic rock’, ‘urban music,’ top 40, or country, so I didn’t know them from the other small-ish bands that came through (like The Red Hot Chili Peppers or Pearl Jam — shows I missed, but I did see Edie Brickell & New Bohemians!). It’s possible that I could have seen them at their notorious worst, playing drunk and sloppy, indifferent or angry at their audience. Or I could have seen Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson (Bob Stinson and Chris Mars had left by than) at their best; playing loud and fast, pop-friendly hooks with a strong back beat and telling whimsical, heart-on-their-sleeve tales of tragedy and woe. Their classic trifecta of albums; Let It Be, Tim and Pleased to Meet Me shows how a band evolves from their punk & Suicide Commandos/Hüsker Dü inspired roots to a distinctive voice, becoming the prototypical indie band, when indie music was still college music. It was just after they broke up that their style of music took off (Paul Westerberg’s contributions to the soundtrack of Singles is almost like him passing the torch to the acts that would bring alternative rock to the mainstream). Will the HoF continue to ignore them and other influential bands that never had major popular success (Big Star, anyone?) to the point of irrelevance? Probably, but let’s hope not.
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