These three N.Y.C. smartasses are more than just the Rock Hall's annual nod to hip-hop; in a way, Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock exemplify what the best music of the past 25 years has been about: part punk, part rap, kinda funky, and all-around game for trying anything to get that perfect beat. Their 1986 debut, Licensed to Ill, was the first rap album to reach No. 1, but their greatest triumph came three years later with the sampledelic Paul's Boutique, which was a commercial bomb but has since become an essential part of countless record collections. Mid-'90s albums Check Your Head and Ill Communication add space-age funk and sloppy punk to the hip-hop mix. Last year's Hot Sauce Committee Part Two warmed up the verse-trading rhymes of their breakthrough LP.
First Cleveland gig: Public Hall on May 16, 1985 (opening for Madonna) For your playlist: "Sabotage," "So What'cha Want," "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)"
One of the greatest images of Donovan shows up in the 1967 Bob Dylan documentary Don't Look Back. It's 1965, and Dylan is in a London hotel room entertaining friends and hangers-on with his guitar. Among the guests is 18-year-old Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan Leitch, who plays a song for his famously cranky musical hero, whose face soon breaks out in a wide smile. Donovan's career can be summed up on 1969's excellent Greatest Hits set, his four-year run marked by a No. 1 single (1966's "Sunshine Superman"), one of psych-rock's first freakouts ("Season of the Witch," also from 1966), and one of the best Dylan rip-offs ever recorded (his 1965 debut single "Catch the Wind"). In 1996, producer Rick Rubin tried to resurrect Donovan's career like he did Johnny
Cash's, but the album tanked.
First Cleveland gig: Music Hall on October 23, 1969
For your playlist: "Catch the Wind," "Mellow Yellow," "Season of the Witch"
Unlike the five other main artists being inducted this year, Laura Nyro is better known for the songs she wrote rather than the songs she sang. She penned "Wedding Bell Blues" and "Stoned Soul Picnic," both Top 3 hits for the 5th Dimension in the late '60s; "And When I Die," which Blood, Sweat & Tears took to No. 2 in 1969; and "Eli's Coming," a Top 10 hit for Three Dog Night in 1969. Nyro's own versions of these songs — two of which can be found on 1968's
Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, her second and best album — are infinitely greater than their more popular covers. Oddly enough, Nyro's best-selling single was a cover of Carole King and Gerry Goffin's "Up on the Roof." Sadly, Nyro died of cancer in 1997 at the age of 49.
First Cleveland gig: Blossom Music Center on July 13, 1971
For your playlist: "Eli's Comin'," "Stoned Soul Picnic," "Wedding Bell Blues"
Guns N' Roses
The big question surrounding this year's Rock Hall induction ceremony isn't Will Guns N' Roses show up?; it's Which members will be onstage representing the constantly bickering band? By 1994, singer Axl Rose was the only one of the original classic quintet still in the group. With various musicians, including the Replacements' bass player for chrissakes and a guy called Buckethead who — wait for it — wears a bucket on his head, Rose has tried and mostly failed to keep the GNR name alive (tours are unreliable, and Chinese Democracy was a mess). But 1987's Appetite for Destruction remains one of the most powerful debuts of the past quarter-century, a wicked punch in the face by a group of guys who'd smoke, drink, and fuck anything within their heavily tatted arms' reach.
First Cleveland gig: Music Hall on May 5, 1988
For your playlist: "Paradise City," "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Welcome to the Jungle"
The Red Hot Chili Peppers
We're guessing these L.A. knuckleheads made the cut this year because of Flea's increasing MVP/journeyman status and not because they spent the first part of their career playing shirtless and with socks on their dicks. It wasn't until 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik that they finally stepped back and did a little self-evaluation on "Under the Bridge," singer Anthony Kiedis' somber meditation on his drug use (you can tell it meant something to him because he used his serious Kermit voice on the song). The hard-partying Chili Peppers have had about a gazillion different guitar players since their 1983 inception (including Jane's Addiction ass clown Dave Navarro and Hillel Slovak, who died long before they started making money). They released their 10th album, I'm With You, last year.
First Cleveland gig: October 17, 1984, though, fittingly,
nobody can seem to recall where
For your playlist: "Give It Away," "Scar Tissue," "Under the Bridge"
The Small Faces/The Faces
They're two different groups, really, with only a couple of shared members and one word in their monikers linking them. The former is a very British-sounding band from the '60s that had one minor hit in the U.S.; the latter is one of the most underrated rock bands of the '70s. And record-company execs have been meddling with them from the start, when they insisted that the reconfigured Small Faces — now with singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood — keep their old name. But the Faces (pictured) sounded nothing like the old group, tearing through their songs about cheap booze and even cheaper women with a sexy, Stonesy swagger. They released only four albums during their brief run — five if you count Stewart's
Every Picture Tells a Story, one of the greatest rock records ever made, which is also pretty much a Faces album.
First Cleveland gig: The Small Faces never toured the U.S.,
but the Faces played Public Hall on July 10, 1971
For your playlist: "Itchycoo Park" (Small Faces), "Ooh La La," "Stay With Me" (Faces)