As readers of my lengthy series of posts on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame snubs are no doubt well familiar with , the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame judges bands based on their influence on rock & roll. Influence is a very tricky matter–some bands are clearly influential and popular. Other hands have achieved great popularity, even for a long period of time, without being rewarded for what appear to be subjective reasons, while others did not need to be popular at all to be seen as influential. Despite the subjectivity of influence, there is at least one aspect of influence that ought to be undeniable: any band that achives any degree of mainstream popularity while inventing a genre ought to be considered a shoe-in for induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Such was the case in the last artist I examined, Gram Parsons , and this is also true with the band Talk Talk.
At the beginning of their career, Talk Talk was a member of the New Romantics of Punk and New Wave, considered to be a copycat of bands like Duran Duran (which also deserve to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and may be a future subject of this blog series, time permitting). With each album over their career, the band got more and more experimental. Their first album was punk, their second album richer and deeper (containing their biggest American hit, “It’s My Life,” which was covered successfully by No Doubt ), their third album hinting at experimental tendencies hitherto unsuspected (including their remarkable single “Life’s What You Make It” , a song covered by Wheezer), and their fourth and fifth albums largely invented the genre of experimental alternative music known as post-rock, a genre which is still vital and rich.
The Contribution Of Talk Talk
What contribution did Talk Talk make to the history of rock & roll? Their contribution rests really in a couple of different directions. For one, they left behind a body of work that continues to remain relevant within rock & roll music, given that their songs have been recorded by future rock & roll hall of fame worthy acts such as No Doubt and Wheezer. Similarly, they were viewed with a great deal of respect by their peers, including Peter Gabriel and Duran Duran, both of whom are worthy of induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame themselves. While Talk Talk as a band, despite the quality and success of their work, has not gained a great deal of public popularity, the fact that so many artists view their contributions to music so fondly augers well for their place within rock music history.
Why Talk Talk Is A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Talk Talk, despite their relative obscurity among the general public, is really a no-brainer for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for two reasons: their music and approach to music remain a model for other musicians, and they (along with the even lesser known Slint) invented the genre of post-rock. Any time a band or artist is responsible for breaking new ground in rock & roll that is followed by other bands, they deserve to be recognized within rock & roll history. If bands like the Velvet Underground can be recognized with barely any sales and no hits, a band that breaks down barriers between jazz and rock & roll to produce music that is still played and that still inspires such current bands as Sigur Ros deserves recognition on those same grounds–even more so because their music was still accessible enough to have music that is still played in mainstream rock and roll as well as providing groundbreaking experimental directions for other bands to follow.
Why Isn’t Talk Talk In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?
By and large, the groundbreaking bands of the 1980’s, much less their commerical brethren, have not fared well in admission into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Considering that disco acts are just starting to get their just recognition, just in time for the most influential grunge acts to receive their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it appears as if the most influential bands of the 1980’s will have a bit longer to wait, unless there is a groundswell of support within the ranks of artists and music critics for the reconition of Talk Talk, which has not happened yet. They are worthy, but there are so many worthy bands and artists that have not yet been inducted that it will simply take time (more so if less deserving acts like Laura Nyro and Small Faces/Faces are inducted ahead of those who are more worthy).
Verdict: Put Talk Talk in already. Again, if a band invents a genre of music while managing to have music that remains popular (even if in re-recorded forms) twenty to thirty years after it was made, the band deserves some recogniton. This is especially true when the band in question is not well-known by the general public, is full of people who are not attention whores, and therefore would greatly benefit from the exposure that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame would give because they would not otherwise receive the attention that they deserve for their musical legacy.