Six Degrees of Rock Hall Separation: Connecting the 2019 Class
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class of 2019 are probably the most musically diverse in the Cleveland institution’s history. Genre-wise, we’re talking alternative rock (Radiohead), glam metal (Def Leppard), pop/rock (Stevie Nicks), R&B (Janet Jackson), art rock (Roxy Music), post-punk (the Cure) and baroque pop (the Zombies).
When the list of acts was revealed in December 2018, even some of the performers were scratching their heads over what might unite these seven inductees – or even three or four of them. Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott openly questioned whether they'd be able to mount the all-star jam that typically closes each ceremony.
“It might one of those awkward moments where I’m saying, ‘I’m uncomfortable. I’m not doing it’,” Elliott told Rolling Stone. “‘Do they really want to play with us? Do we want to play with them?’ I don’t know. It depends on the kumbaya-ness of the evening.”
It could be smart to center a possible jam around Roxy Music. After all, Def Leppard and some of the Radiohead guys have covered their fellow Brits, and members of Roxy Music and the Cure have worked together. But how Jackson or Nicks would be included is another question.
Yet, these musicians aren’t as separated as you might guess. Using the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” method, we were able to find collaborative connections between all of 2019’s inductees. Some were short (members of Radiohead and Roxy Music recorded together) and others were longer (it takes a few turns to get from Janet Jackson to the Zombies), but all could be joined in five degrees or less. We tried to maintain each degree as a substantial project – i.e., membership, recording or touring, rather than a one-off live appearance.
There are countless alternate paths (and maybe some quicker ones that we didn’t think up), so feel free to play along at home. Let’s begin with two of 2019’s inductees into the Rock Hall.
Roxy Music to Radiohead: Zero Degrees of Separation
The closest connection between this year’s Rock Hall inductees is made via a project that included full-time members of both bands. Roxy Music saxophonist Andy Mackay joined Radiohead singer Thom Yorke and guitarist Jonny Greenwood in Venus in Furs, a group created to record Roxy covers for the soundtrack for Todd Haynes' 1998 glam-rock movie Velvet Goldmine. (Bonus connection: Greenwood also worked with Roxy members Mackay, Phil Manzanera, Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry on Ferry’s 2010 solo album, Olympia).
Radiohead to Stevie Nicks: Two Degrees of Separation
Both of Radiohead’s guitarists, Jonny Greenwood and Ed O’Brien, plus drummer Phil Selway, were part of the 7 World Collide supergroup led by Crowded House frontman Neil Finn (1). Finn later joined Stevie Nicks in Fleetwood Mac to help replace Lindsey Buckingham on tour (2).
Stevie Nicks to Def Leppard: Two Degrees of Separation
Nicks was part of the all-star coterie that guested on Sheryl Crow’s 2002 album C’mon, C’mon. Stevie sang on the title track as well as “Diamond Road,” a song co-written by Crow and Marti Frederiksen (1). The rock/pop/country songwriter and producer has worked with Aerosmith and Mötley Crüe, among many others, including Def Leppard (2). He collaborated on the band’s 2002 X album, co-writing three songs and producing some of the recordings.
Def Leppard to the Zombies: Three Degrees of Separation
Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell also toured with Thin Lizzy in 2010-11, while his main gig was on hiatus (1). During Lizzy’s heyday, the Irish band intermittently featured the talents of Gary Moore (2). The guitar great worked with Zombies keyboardist Rod Argent (3) on a few projects, including two Jack Lancaster albums in the late ’70s and early ’80s, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1978 classical/rock fusion LP Variations.
The Zombies to Janet Jackson: Four Degrees of Separation
Zombies member Rod Argent also worked with the Who, playing piano and synths on 1978’s Who Are You (1). The band’s guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend was part of Paul McCartney’s one-off Rockestra project in 1979 (2). In the early ’80s, McCartney and Michael Jackson collaborated on some duets, including “The Girl is Mine” and “Say Say Say" (3). Michael also found a duet partner in his younger sister Janet on 1995’s “Scream” (4).
Janet Jackson to the Cure: Four Degrees of Separation
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have helmed nearly all of Jackson's studio albums since 1986’s Control (1). The Minnesota-based songwriter/producers also have worked with a host of other pop performers, including Bryan Adams on his 2002 single, “Here I Am” (2). Adams teamed with Phil Thornalley, another songwriter/producer, for a smattering of recordings since the late ’90s (3). Thornalley produced the Cure early on (4); he also served as their bassist for a year and a half, although Thornalley was not inducted as a member of the band.
The Cure to Roxy Music: Two Degrees of Separation
Guitarist Reeves Gabrels has been a member of the Cure since 2012, and was inducted with the band. He first worked with the group in the ’90s, when he met leader Robert Smith through David Bowie (1), Gabrels' frequent collaborator and one-time Tin Machine bandmate. The Thin White Duke also served as Gabrels’ connection to Roxy Music co-founder Brian Eno. Gabrels and Eno both worked on Bowie’s Outside album in 1995 (2).
Roxy Music to Stevie Nicks: Two Degrees of Separation
Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry tapped Waddy Wachtel to play lead guitar on his fifth solo album, 1978’s The Bride Stripped Bare (1). Wachtel has served as a sideman with a range of superstars – including Keith Richards, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor – but his longest-running musical partnership has been with Stevie Nicks, going back to the Buckingham Nicks era (2).
Stevie Nicks to Janet Jackson: Three Degrees of Separation
Nicks’s 1983 hit “Stand Back” wasn’t just inspired by Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.” It also featured him in an uncredited performance on synthesizer (1). Prince had lengthy musical relationship with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (2). They played keyboards and bass, respectively, in the Time, a band Prince oversaw. After being fired by Prince, Jam and Lewis began a massively successful production career, which included working on nearly all of Jackson’s biggest hit singles and albums (3).
Janet Jackson to Radiohead: Two Degrees of Separation
Dave Navarro and Flea, then bandmates in the Red Hot Chili Peppers joined Jackson for 1995’s janet.Remixed, crafting a new version of “What’ll I Do” (1). Flea was later part of Atoms for Peace, a side project fronted by Radiohead singer Thom Yorke (2).
Radiohead to Def Leppard: Four Degrees of Separation
Speaking of remixes, Radiohead songs have been given that treatment on a couple of occasions, one of them by famous DJ Paul Oakenfold (1). Years earlier, Oakenfold produced the Happy Mondays (2), including the band’s biggest U.K. hit, "Step On." That song was a reworking of John Kongos’ 1971 single “He’s Gonna Step on You Again,” which was sampled in the Mondays’ version (3). Kongos, a singer and songwriter from South Africa, programmed the Fairlight synthesizers on Def Leppard’s 1983 album, Pyromania (4).
Def Leppard to Roxy Music: Three Degrees of Separation/strong>
Thomas “She Blinded Me With Science” Dolby was another contributor to Def Leppard's Pyromania, handling keyboards under the alias “Booker T. Boffin” (1). In more recent years, Dolby has been the bandleader at TED Conferences, working with former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne in 2010 (2). Byrne has infrequently collaborated with early Roxy Music member Brian Eno (3), dating back to the Talking Heads' second album.
Roxy Music to the Zombies: Three Degrees of Separation
Phil Manzanera has shared a decades-long friendship with David Gilmour (1), collaborating on Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Endless River. Long before those albums, Pink Floyd worked with Alan Parsons (2), who made significant contributions as an engineer on 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon. Parsons later formed the Alan Parsons Project, which featured lead vocals from the Zombies' Colin Blunstone (3) on four albums.
The Zombies to the Cure: Four Degrees of Separation
The late Jim Rodford co-founded Rod Argent’s post-Zombies band Argent and later became a member of the Zombies for their post-2000 reunion (1). Rodford also played bass with the Kinks from 1978 through 1996 (2). In their early days, the Kinks relied on the session talents of a young Jimmy Page (3), who later founded Led Zeppelin. Page reunited with Robert Plant more than a decade after Zeppelin ended for the Page and Plant side project. The backing band included guitarist Pearl Thompson (4), who was a member of the Cure in the early days and rejoined the group during their most commercially successful run in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
The Cure to Radiohead: Three Degrees of Separation
Paul Corkett (1) produced the Cure’s 2000 album Bloodflowers after engineering 1996’s Wild Mood Swings. He also served as engineer on Björk’s 1993 Debut (2). Björk has duetted several times with Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead, including the Oscar-nominated “I’ve Seen it All” in 2000 (3).
Radiohead to the Zombies: Four Degrees of Separation
At this point, producer Nigel Godrich (1) might as well be considered the sixth member of Radiohead. After all, he's produced every one of their albums since 1997’s OK Computer. But he’s also collaborated with other big acts, producing Paul McCartney's 2005 album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2). McCartney worked with engineer Alan Parsons (3) both as a member of the Beatles and as a solo artist. The Alan Parsons Project later featured guest vocals from Colin Blunstone, the once and future frontman of the Zombies (4).
The Zombies to Stevie Nicks: Four Degrees of Separation
Zombies keyboard player Rod Argent tapped then-Genesis drummer Phil Collins (1) to play on his 1978 solo debut, Moving Home. Collins often collaborated with Eric Clapton (2) in the '80s. That included Slowhand’s 1985 album Behind the Sun, which featured rhythm guitar work from Lindsey Buckingham on one track (3). Buckingham had a lengthy, if rocky, personal and professional relationship with Stevie Nicks (4), both as members of Fleetwood Mac and as a couple.
Stevie Nicks to the Cure: Three Degrees of Separation
Session drummer extraordinaire Kenny Aronoff (1) played on Stevie Nicks’ 1994 Street Angel album. Later that decade, Billy Corgan (2) tapped Aronoff to fill in with the temporarily drummer-less Smashing Pumpkins for a tour to promote 1998’s Adore. TheFutureEmbrace, Corgan's 2005 solo debut, featured assistance from the Cure’s Robert Smith (3) on a cover of the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody.”
The Cure to Def Leppard: Four Degrees of Separation
Cure producer and one-time bassist Phil Thornalley (1) co-wrote and produced songs with Bryan Adams (2) in the ’90s and ’00s. The Canadian rocker also partnered with Robert John “Mutt” Lange (3), who helmed 1991’s Waking Up the Neighbors. Lange boasts his share of high-profile collaborations, but none is perhaps more notable than Def Leppard (4). Highlights include High ’n’ Dry, Pyromania and and Hysteria.
Def Leppard to Janet Jackson: Three Degrees of Separation
Thomas Dolby (1) played keyboards on Def Leppard’s Pyromania. Not long after, he produced and played synthesizers on Joni Mitchell’s 1985 LP Dog Eat Dog (2). Mitchell subsequently appeared (via sample) on Janet Jackson’s “Got ’til It’s Gone” (3). Janet called Joni personally to secure the snippet of “Big Yellow Taxi” and was surprised when she learned that the songwriter loved Jackson’s track.
Janet Jackson to Roxy Music: Four Degrees of Separation
Not only did Jackson’s 1997 hit “Got ’til It’s Gone” feature Joni Mitchell's voice, it also included Q-Tip (1) from A Tribe Called Quest rapping her praises. Q-Tip has guested on recordings by a variety of artists, including Kendrick Lamar's 2018 song “What U 2 Want” (2). U2 collaborated on Lamar's Damn, and the rapper appeared on U2’s Songs of Experience, both from 2017 (3). U2's lengthy working relationship with Roxy Music co-founder Brian Eno (4) dates back to his production work on 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire.