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Now, I wanna be your dancing queen: Is the Rock Hall embarking on a new era?

AbbaNow, all bets are off. With ABBA about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the old boundaries around rock -- both as a blues-based, American music and as art of a higher order than slick commercial pop -- would seem to have dissolved. Yet the Rock Hall's nominating committee and voters have done something very canny by choosing ABBA for the class of 2010, as well as by finally welcoming in the Stooges, one of the bands most often held up by dyed-in-the-wool rockers as embodying what's best about the art form.

Lovers of rock's noise and mayhem can rejoice that the band that unleashed Iggy Pop on the world is finally getting its due after several years of being snubbed. (It’s sad that guitarist Ron Asheton died before seeing it happen, but the same is true of Joey Ramone and the Velvet Underground’s Sterling Morrison. Punks die too young.) Others, who’ve long wished that the cults of purism and authenticity that long determined what many thought was “important” pop music would dissolve, will join in a celebratory chorus of “Dancing Queen.”

But here’s the truth: Iggy might just join that chorus too. Nothing if not a showman, and attached to the glam-rock movement by his strong association with David Bowie, the brilliant Mr. Osterberg understands that pop exists to wreck hierarchies. These days, he’s just as much a crooner as he is a night crawler, and he apparently sees no need to distinguish between the two sides of his P.T. Barnum personality.

The binary split represented by ABBA and the Stooges is further complicated by the induction of other unlikely third parties: Genesis, repping for the long-scorned subgenre of progressive rock, and Jimmy Cliff, whose ska-pop spin on reggae brought Jamaica to Hollywood. Even the induction of the Hollies messes with the formula a bit, since that band was the poppiest of the British Invasion. This all bodes well for the Rock Hall, an institution that grows more interesting with every violation of its own rules.

-- Ann Powers

File photo of ABBA from 1978


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Comments () | Archives (12)

Why not ABBA? The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is already a joke.

Abba, Madonna, Billy Joel, and they still have the guts to call it the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When are Perry Como and The Partridge Family going in?

Interesting points, but ABBA's inclusion still marks the downfall of Western civilization – or at least, the criterion of actual contributions to the art form of rock 'n' roll. ABBA is in for one reason: It represents an international audience the HOF wants more of. Rock is worldwide, but non-English-speaking rockers in the HOF are non-existent. It has nothing to do with their talent or long-term impact (besides sales, that is). ABBA's inclusion means Britney Spears will be making her entry in another 15 or so years. The Chili Peppers, on the other hand, created a form of Cali-influenced funk-rock that still hasn't been duplicated, and definitely deserves HOF recognition. As for the Hollies, well, it's about time. Any student of early rock knows how many acts they influenced. ABBA represents everything that was wrong about music in the '80s. Their music was treacle, and that will never change, no matter how many Broadway revivals and Meryl Streep films they turn it into.

The RHOF is a complete JOKE! Why not Leo Sayer, Air Supply, In Sync....?

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a great concept, but to me it has absolutely no, no, no credibility without the Moody Blues on their "distinguished" list of inductees. End of story.

I disagree with a lot of the snobbish comments I've read about Abba; their music has such obvious echoes of Phil Spector (certainly the girl groups he produced), as well as (in terms of melody and harmony) the Beach Boys and the Beatles. Abba's music may not be rock and roll in the strictest sense, but it's certainly influenced by it. In turn, many rock greats have cited Abba's records as influential. Do you disqualify Phil Spector as being "too pop"? Well, Buddy Holly's usage of strings - as well as his light-hearted love songs ("Everyday") - influenced a lot of the teeny-bopper nonsense that followed; do we disqualify him, too? Sorry, but I think "pop" that displays an obvious rock influence has just as much a right to be in the Hall as the harder stuff.

Hey Lynne,

Just a little FYI... Abba were a product of the 70's, not the 80's. They finished in 1982-83.

I grow so tired of the olden tirade against the 80's, when a lot of great bands were actually birthed in this time period, who resonate to this day. The Top 40 in the mid to late 80's in particular might have been dreck, but if you were too lazy to step outside of the small realm of music it is no one's fault but your own.


Is Jethro Tull in the HOF? If not, something is wrong.

Is Jethro Tull in the HOF? No mention of great bands can be made without their inclusion.

A few points to consider:

1) ABBA were the most influential pop group in the history of recorded music...fact.

2) In terms of global success (not just the U.S.) ABBA are the most successful pop group in the history of recorded music...fact.

3) ABBA took pop music to its greatest heights. In terms of pop music, all roads lead to ABBA and all roads have lead from them since they stopped recording in 1982. This of course is an opinion...but the evidence is easy to find.

ABBA were and remain in a class of their own. They were sublime, exquisite and incredibly rare. There were so many things about them that set them apart from everyone else at the time. The fact that they radiated from Sweden, at a time when there were really only two acknowledged recording industries that were taken "seriously" on a global scale cannot be ignored...it was a huge achievement in itself.

The ultimate blend of the four individual talents, brought together via a remarkable series of twists and turns through their lives. Two incredible song writers and two magnificent vocal talents. The sound that the two women made when they harmonised, that amazing "third voice" they created remains unparalleled...there is nothing else like it to be heard even after all these years.

Love them or hate them, they were a beautiful chapter in the history of recorded music. They were pop music's real deal...they were "the one" to joyous pop as The Beatles were to emerging rock in the sixties.

ABBA deserve to be inducted into the Rock Hall as much as any act that has been in the past and will be in the future. They are important, very influential and they truly deserve reverence.

The dividing line between pop and rock is so blurred as to be meaningless to all but the most obsessed purists. I worked top 40 radio for most of the 70s and 80s and could easily segue from Led Zeppelin to ABBA to Billy Joel and not a soul gave a damn. But the question is meaningless as far as induction to the Rock Hall is concerned. The induction criteria do not demand that an act fit any narrow definition of "rock", only that they demonstrate influence and significance in the development of the form. On that question ABBA qualify on two counts, in my opinion. They were the first act who were true outsiders to the US and UK music establishment to achieve sustained international success, and without moving to LA or London. They were also pioneers of the now-ubiquitous music video, the first act to truly use professionally-produced video to effectively extend their fan base. Virtually all of ABBA's singles and significant album tracks were produced on video, and most of them before MTV was even dreamed of.

Why ABBA? Don't get me wrong, they are great artist, but rockers? You might as well induct Franky Sinatra.


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