Normally I write about a band or singer a month that has been unfairly excluded from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but I feel it necessary to talk about a band whose exclusion appears particularly puzzling. If you heard of a band that had four straight #1 albums in the 1960’s, several #1 hits and top 40 hits even into the 1980’s, along with a top 20 album that had been released earlier in 2016, one would think that such an act would obviously be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, right? What band could possibly record songs that remain important standards covered by contemporary acts, still perform new music that is relevant in the world of pop music, and have sold so many albums in a period where it seems that nearly every major act has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of FAme without being inducted themselves? The answer to this question is: The Monkees.
The Influence Of The Monkees
Why aren’t the Monkees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? If we are simply looking at the band from the perspective of relevant music and chart success, this is a band that, for a while at least, was a rival to the Beatles. They were not only a band made up of legitimate musicians who proved their chops at musicianship and songwriting at least from the time of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd, but they were on a successful television show and yet were not merely a product of that show, producing worthwhile and successful music long after their television career was done. And lest one think that wanting to be part of an obviously successful television act would make one less musically qualified, Stephen Stills (a twice-inducted musician himself) was rejected for his bad teeth, and he hasn’t lost any of his credibility as a serious musician for wanting to be a part of the Monkees. Why should those singers and musicians with better teeth suffer because they had such immense success as part of a television show, or because they worked with amazing songwriters and also wrote their own material after having to fight for it? Should not a band that fought for artistic credibility be rewarded for it, rather than punished for being perceived as being handed pop success?
Why The Monkees Belong In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
It seems a bit unreal that I should have to defend the Monkees as a worthy rock & roll band. To be sure, this is a band that many people write me about and ask about, and it seems as if this is a band that should not require a defense . Let us, however, look at the numbers. The first four albums from the Monkees hit #1, and all of them have gone multi-platinum, while their fifth album has gone platinum. These albums, especially the later ones, showed some immense growth in musicianship and some dedication to songwriting craft as well. The band had a top 20 album in 2016 with Good Times! as well. Concerning their singles, the band hit #1 with memorable songs like Last Train To Clarksville, Daydream Believer, and I’m A Believer, all of which remain vital songs as part of the 1960’s pop catalog, and also had serious hits with songs like Pleasant Valley Sunday, Valleri, A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You, D.W. Washburn, (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone, and That Was Then, This Is Now, which hit the top 20 in 1986 . There are many bands that have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with far fewer album sales, with far less influence, and with far fewer worthy and lasting songs. Given the importance of image to musical acts, and the rarity of a band forging a lasting career as a serious act from a television show, those acts that are able to survive in such a hothouse atmosphere deserve a great deal of credit rather than blame for having gotten their success in combination with television success. Would we consider contemporary acts like Daughtry, Carrie Underwood, or Kelly Clarkson as less serious simply because their got their start on American Idol? Far from it–witness the many acts that won the show and were unable to have lasting careers with multiple hit albums and years of success in making good music in various genres like pop, country, and rock? And these are acts whose success owes something to that of the Monkees, who were the original act to combine television success with musical chops, leading to a host of imitations over the next few decades, a balance that few acts were able to handle well.
Why Aren’t The Monkees In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?
The only reason that makes sense, given the lasting success as a live band, their lasting songs, their enduring reputation, and the fact that they were and are a beloved band for many people, is that their initial success as a pop act is being held against them. This makes no sense whatsoever. The Monkees are one of the most important bands of all time, certainly in showing the fertile relationship between music and television, and their induction should have happened decades ago. That it has not happened yet is without excuse.
Verdict: Put them in; they should be right at the front of the line. I feel bad even having to say it.
 See, for example: