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Zeppelin, Young Top List for Rock Hall : Pop music: Both were named in their first year of eligibility, but a few omissions have some concerned that there's an emphasis on popular acts over less mainstream but artistically valued performers.

November 16, 1994|STEVE HOCHMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For many rock fans, the idea of Neil Young jamming with Led Zeppelin might seem like an impossible dream.

But it could happen Jan. 12 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, where both acts will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All-star jam sessions often follow the gala banquet, and while there's no guarantee they'll play together, Young and Led Zeppelin--who head the just-announced list of new inductees--will likely be the big attractions for the 10th annual ceremony.

Young and Led Zeppelin were named in their first year of eligibility by a panel of more than 600 record executives, musicians and critics, as were Al Green, the Allman Brothers Band and the late Janis Joplin. The iconoclastic Frank Zappa, who died of cancer last year, was elected in his second year of eligibility as a solo artist, while Motown's Martha & the Vandellas made it in their seventh try.

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But those who long to see Joni Mitchell and the Velvet Underground taking part in the celebration will be out of luck--again. Mitchell was passed over for the second year, and the Velvets--the short-lived but influential '60s group fronted by Lou Reed--for the fourth time.

Other notable acts that were passed over include the Jackson 5 and Parliament-Funkadelic. Each was in its first year of eligibility, which comes 25 years after an act's first recording. According to Hall of Fame guidelines, only seven acts can be voted in each year.

Some Hall of Fame voters have expressed concern that the continued exclusion of the Velvets and Mitchell indicates an emphasis on popular acts over less mainstream but artistically valued performers.

"The inductees are all very worthy, but it's astonishing to me that Joni Mitchell and the Velvet Underground have been left out again," says voter Bill Flanagan, editor of Musician magazine. "It's shameful. . . . (It represents) a fairly narrow view of what constitutes rock 'n' roll."

Toronto-born Young, who was also eligible as a member of the Buffalo Springfield (passed over for the fourth time this year) and will be again next year as part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, has charted a singular, mercurial path. In the '70s he was simultaneously a top figure in the California folk-rock scene and a daring rocker, and at 49 he serves as a musical father figure for such alternative-rock forces as Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth.

Led Zeppelin's induction comes on the heels of the hit "No Quarter" album, which reunites the group's singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page. Their planned tour is expected to be among next year's top attractions. The English group's powerful, blues-based sound and legendary debauchery formed the archetype of heavy metal in the late '60s and early '70s. The band's original lineup included bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham, who died in 1980 from asphyxiation.

Al Green, 48, was to the '70s what Otis Redding was to the '60s--a stunning voice and a visionary who expanded the language of soul music by venturing into country and rock territory for material. At the core of his trademark Memphis sound was the struggle between the secular and the sacred, with the latter increasingly becoming his focus through the '80s and '90s.

When Janis Joplin died at age 27 in 1970, she was the top female singer in rock, known for her powerful, raspy voice and feeling for the blues, as well as for her brash persona and flamboyant lifestyle.

Georgia's Allman Brothers Band was arguably the premier instrumental ensemble in rock in the early '70s, with the fluid guitar work of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts leading soaring, blues-based excursions. The group's creativity dipped some after Allman's 1971 death, but the group has been a popular touring act in recent years. From his first albums leading the Los Angeles-based Mothers of Invention, Zappa made it clear that he stood apart from the rock 'n' roll world. He considered himself more an avant-garde composer and social commentator than pop musician, and his canon of complex music--often mated with puerile, mocking humor--is to many as much an embodiment of rock individuality as Young's.

Though ultimately overshadowed by the likes of the Supremes and the Four Tops, Martha & the Vandellas were one of Motown's first star acts, with 1964's "Dancing in the Streets" serving as a party anthem and, later, a call to action for the '60s youth culture.

The Hall of Fame will also honor the '40s-'50s vocal group the Orioles as an early influence, and former Billboard magazine editor Paul Ackerman as a non-performer inductee.

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