Billboard Magazine has noted that the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame may skimp on inducting “80’s alternative mainstays, but the ’90s, they seem to be good with: Nirvana and Green Day both got in on their first shots.” Next up? The popular choice: Pearl Jam. Billboard describes them as the most “classic rock of grunge-era breakout bands.” I have seen Pearl Jam several times live and they are indeed a great band and worthy of all RNRHOF acclaim. They are an anomaly among the grunge groups in that they have maintained their original line-up over time. Quite a feat and lead singer Eddie Vedder hasn’t gone the way of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Layne Staley of Alice-in-Chains by OD-ing on drugs. Which brings me to the subject of Alice-in-Chains–a great band that has suffered from being entirely under-rated but is also very deserving of future honors in the RNRHOF.
I am writing this open letter to Tom Morello to appeal for a consideration of AIC as the next grunge band to receive the prestigious honor. I admit I am biased because the grunge era was my heyday. I loved all the music coming out of Seattle; most especially my beloved Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. It is my mission to make sure that all the great grunge bands receive the acclaim and honor that they are due. Grunge is not just another side note in 90’s music history but helped define the culture of Generation X, and effectively started the alternative rock movement of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Grunge powerfully drew the eyes of the world to rainy Seattle and helped transform the city into the independent music powerhouse it is today. More than just a fad, grunge turned out to be a global phenomenon. “Because grunge wasn’t just another musical or youth trend – it was the ultimate expression and fusion of most of the defining cultural, ideological and social threads of the modern western world. Feminism, liberalism, irony, apathy, cynicism/idealism (those opposite sides of one frustrated coin), anti-authoritarianism, wry post-modernism, and not least a love of dirty, abrasive music; grunge reconciled all these into a seminal whole,” said a story in the Guardian.
It is painful to read all the online threads that argue about who is/was the best grunge band. IMO, they are all good in their own way and deserving of props. I don’t like to see great bands over-looked and it is my intention here to remedy that situation. MTV.com noted “Alice in Chains’ musical contribution and impact had often been overlooked” — with attention usually focused on Nirvana or Pearl Jam. Not right since “Alice in Chains burned as brightly as either — establishing their own identity and leaving their own impressive legacy.” AIC is still together today with a great new lead singer, William DuVall, since 2006. They recently finished a very successful North American tour that saw their concerts selling out and the fans as excited as ever. Many AIC songs are played on good rotation to this day on radio stations, along with other grunge greats. Despite some dark lyrical subject matter, AIC was no slacker band in terms of sales. Of the three studio albums released by the band from 1990-1995, all sold at least 1.5 million copies. The AIC installment in the Unplugged series charted at #3 in August 1996, and has gone on to tally more than 1.24 million in cumulative sales. Not too shabby.
Alice in Chains also compare favorably with the other big Grunge three (Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden), with Alice having totaled more than 11.27 million in overall sales, according to SoundScan.bsite. Perhaps it is the dark and macabre flavor of their music, but it is a fact: Alice in Chains’ effect on rock music in the early ’90s is undeniable, although unfortunately underappreciated. They continue to record and tour to this very day and their musical influences color the work of current bands such as the Deftones, Godsmack, Staind and Creed, said MTV.com. Alice in Chains are supremely worthy of the recognition accorded by the RNRHOF. The individual members of AIC are all skilled musicians. Drummer Sean Kinney has mad effortless skills. One blogger said that “it looks like the sticks are doing all the work by themselves, and his hands are simply guiding them to where they need to be. So accurate and fluid, poetry in motion.” William DuVall, who took over lead vocals for the band in 2006, has that great strong rock voice and stage presence. He blows fans away with the ease in which he has transitioned into the lead gig and has said he no longer feels like “the new guy” anymore. Bassist Mike Inez provides awesome steady pulses for AIC and has also played with Ozzy Osbourne, Heart, Slash, Black Label Society, and Michael Schenker. Then there is the incomparable Jerry Cantrell, who gives AIC’s sound a heavy metal edge mixed in with the basic grunge style. He has kept the band going and that is, in itself, worthy of award. It is not a easy thing to do. Chris Martin of Coldplay said it best when he noted that “We respect any musician, particularly ones who’ve kept going and not changed line up and have always been good.” Jerry Cantrell managed to take the almost irreparable loss of lead singer Layne Staley, keep the rest of the band together and then find a perfect new replacement singer and rise AIC up from the ashes to today’s current glory.
According to a story on http://www.npr.com, it is the Rock Hall’s Nominating Committee that holds sway in the selection process. “Before the Hall’s hundreds of voters, or its millions of fans, can vote on their favorites —an elite committee of a few dozen critics, musicians and Hall insiders determines who is worthy of the vote in the first place.” http://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2015/10/24/451226961/rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-2016-the-only-system-weve-got.
This Nominating Committee, of which I am aware you are a member of, has been pared down recently and the refreshed Hall’s “Committee appears hell-bent on clearing the bench and inducting some long-overdues — many of them long overdue.” sad the NPR story. I say Hallelujah to that! I hope that is what can be done here to move along AIC towards consideration.
I understand that the selection process is part of a voting process and I am hopeful that in your Rock and Roll Hall of Fame capacity, you will consider the induction of Alice in Chains for a 2017 honor or if possible, help to put this great band up for a fan vote. I know that the passionate AIC fans will make it happen if a fan vote is on the agenda.
In order to be eligible for an induction the artist/s must have released a record at least 25 years prior to the year of induction and have demonstrated musical excellence. Alice in Chains was “signed to “Columbia Records” in 1989, and released its first EP,”We Die Young” in 1990. Later that year, the band released its debut studio album, “Facelift” according to Wikipedia. So they are indeed eligible as far as time goes. And yes, AIC have also demonstrated musical excellence. Rolling Stone called them “A metal band with an alternative-rock edge,” and one of “the biggest (bands) to emerge from the grunge scene that spawned Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.” I like how Rolling Stone was able to so precisely decipher the exact niche that AIC resides in: “the group’s dark, bitter songs, laden with references to drug addiction and death, occupy a musical landscape somewhere between Metallica’s dense head-bangers and Pearl Jam’s grinding anthems.” Alice was popular, toured heavily and sold a lot of records. In September 1991, their first album, Face Lift, had sold a half-million copies and featured the Grammy-nominated “Man in the Box.” Rolling Stone noted their sophomore effort, Dirt, went platinum in 1992 (eventually selling 3 million copies), and the “group’s appearance on the following summer’s Lollapalooza Tour confirmed its popularity among fans.” Talk about drug addiction and internal tensions effectively iced the band for many years. Despite lead singer Staley’s tragic passing, Alice fans always kept hope alive that the band would be resurrected. In 2009, with new lead singer William DuVall, the Alice comeback was in full swing: Black Gives Way to Blue album hit #5 on the Billboard charts and went gold while racking up two Grammy nominations. The new Alice release, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, arrived in the summer of 2013 and the band has gone out on the road for successful and sold out shows throughout North America. I was at the latest one here in San Diego in October 2016 and went to grunge heaven! Wikipedia said “Peaking at number two on the Billboard 200” The Devil Put Dinosaurs was well received by music critics and fans. And AIC continues to work on new music, as I write.
It would seem that death and division might strive to put an end to the band. But that hasn’t happened and the ability of this band to rise above the dire situations it finds itself (and it’s music) in and reemerge even stronger than ever is a testament to both the band’s musical strength and fan popularity. Not just head-bangers but grunge devotees such as myself and fans of the Seattle scene, the world over, love and revere Alice. Now AIC might define themselves to be more metal than grunge, but they just might have to settle for the grunge-label since that is what got them rich and famous.
Another thing the Hall of Fame looks at: an artist’s musical influence on other artists, and innovation and superiority in style and technique are taken into consideration. Alice’s musical influences on other artists are exceptional. Even though the band was primarily a metal band at first and then marketed into a grunge outfit, it’s influence on other bands is enormous. It is ironic that this great, under-rated band, who some have called “the ugly stepchild of grunge’s big names,” ended up (intentionally or unintentionally) being the “prime influence for hundreds of bands that came around the decade after their demise,.” (http://goodnonsense.blogspot.com/2006/06/influence-of-alice-in-chains.html)
Alice’s most successful imitator, Godsmack, found it’s very name from the title of an Alice in Chains song! How’s that for influence? Members of Slipknot, Korn, Staind, Papa Roach, Machine Head, Disturbed and even Portugal the Man (out of Alaska!) have all proclaimed their inspiration from AIC. Artists Direct website said “You can search the entire canon of recorded music, and you’ll never find a band that can do what these Seattle Legends can.”
I have so much love and respect for you, Tom. You have played a part in so many great bands and so much enlightening music. I have enjoyed seeing you perform with RATM many times and am hopeful that here now, you will be able to help AIC. I remember that you once played a song with the late Layne Staley in the Class of ’99 band. That alternative supergroup featured yourself, Layne, Stephen Jenkins and Martyn LeNoble collaborating to cover Pink Floyd‘s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” (as well as “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)”) for the soundtrack to Robert Rodriguez‘s 1998 science-fiction horror film, The Faculty. That was awesome. And I also read where you said Layne was an “amazingly talented singer who sang like an angry angel.” I hope you will remember him today and help be our (not angry) angel to move forward AIC to the proper recognition they deserve. It would mean– I know– the world to the band and their many fans and show how Tom Morello stands up for the underdog, once again, to right grievous (musical) wrongs.
For my generation,”grunge was more than just music: it was subterfuge, knowledge, philosophy, empathy, wit, courage, love, desire and anger,” said the Guardian story. Grunge is the greatest because it is when mass popular culture transcended humble origins to become something profound, subversive and greater than itself. I know that is something you can relate to. Let’s always celebrate that.
Thank you for any assistance you can provide here for the great AIC. Rage on!