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It’s been a while. Most of life is good, but it hasn’t been amenable to finishing this project. My wife has been finishing her Ph.D. I still have plenty of teaching responsibilities. And I’ve been on some anti-anxiety medication that’s been thankfully very effective. But it does have a bit of a side effect in that while it lets me access my better self when I’m under duress, it also makes it harder to get as completely, totally absorbed in my hobbies as I was once.

So while I intend to keep blogging, I have to face facts and admit that I just don’t have the compulsion to finish my update to the Top 100 Rock Hall Prospects. At least not in the sense I had hoped, where I wrote a very short essay on each artist. I still have the occasional reader asking for an update, so just to avoid leaving this thread hanging, here’s my Top 100 Rock Hall Prospects, not counting newly eligibles like Biggie or Weezer.

  1. Kraftwerk
  2. Carole King
  3. Judas Priest
  4. The Smiths
  5. The Spinners
  6. L.L. Cool J
  7. Mariah Carey
  8. Willie Nelson
  9. Depeche Mode
  10. Nine Inch Nails
  11. Eurythmics
  12. Kate Bush
  13. Smashing Pumpkins
  14. Outkast
  15. The Pixies
  16. Beck
  17. Duran Duran
  18. Pat Benatar
  19. Rage Against the Machine
  20. Dick Dale
  21. A Tribe Called Quest
  22. T. Rex
  23. Jethro Tull
  24. Tina Turner
  25. Sonic Youth
  26. Iron Maiden
  27. Brian Eno
  28. Big Mama Thornton
  29. Weird Al Yankovic
  30. Whitney Houston
  31. Rufus/Chaka Khan
  32. Jane’s Addiction
  33. The Monkees
  34. The Commodores
  35. The B-52s
  36. The Shangri-Las
  37. War
  38. Phil Collins
  39. The Replacements 
  40. Big Star 
  41. Bjork
  42. Ozzy Osbourne
  43. The Doobie Brothers
  44. Sting
  45. Soundgarden
  46. Billy Ward & His Dominoes
  47. Johnny Winter
  48. Motorhead
  49. MC5
  50. Mary J. Blige
  51. Peter, Paul & Mary
  52. Emmylou Harris
  53. Jimmy Buffet
  54. The Clovers
  55. TLC
  56. Indigo Girls
  57. Devo
  58. Black Flag
  59. De La Soul
  60. Kris Kristofferson 
  61. Dionne Warwick
  62. Richard Thompson
  63. No Doubt
  64. PJ Harvey
  65. Chic
  66. Toots and the Maytals 
  67. The Go Gos
  68. Cliff Richard & the Shadows
  69. Joy Division/New Order
  70. Dead Kennedys
  71. The Guess Who
  72. Phish
  73. Bad Brains
  74. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
  75. Eric B and Rakim 
  76. Nick Drake
  77. The Pogues
  78. Carly Simon 
  79. Los Lobos
  80. Flaming Lips
  81. The Roots
  82. The Marvelettes
  83. They Might Be Giants
  84. The Meters
  85. Tori Amos
  86. Moby
  87. Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees
  88. Kool & the Gang
  89. X
  90. Dave Mathews Band
  91. Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine
  92. Chuck Willis
  93. Foreigner
  94. Alice in Chains
  95. John Prine
  96. Tool
  97. Fela Kuti
  98. The Buzzcocks
  99. Emerson Lake and Palmer 
  100. Os Mutantes 
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It happened even earlier than I was expecting. Not even six weeks into 2019, we are seeing a flood of candidates for the presidency on the Democratic side formally entering the race: Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigeig are already in. Rumors suggest Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Joe Biden, and Amy Klobuchar aren’t far behind. So begins 22 months of punishing, round-the-clock coverage. It’s punishing for us. It’s punishing for journalists tasked with covering it. And heaven knows it’s punishing for candidates, their families, and their staffs.

And certainly a lot can happen, given that we are still a year out from even the earliest primaries and it will be months before we even start to see debates happen. If I were a betting man, though, I would wager that California senator Kamala Harris has the best chance of winning. Don’t be fooled by the early polls giving an advantage to Sanders or Biden– the polls are almost meaningless at this stage of the game, and there is plenty of opportunity to make an impression in a crowded field. There’s a number of reasons why I think that Harris will prevail. Fivethirtyeight does a good job of representing this visually: she covers most of the Democratic Party’s key demographics, with strong potential among black voters and Asian voters, while still performing respectably among party loyalists and millennials. A group that is characterized vaguely as “The Left” might represent some trouble– she’s not going to be the first or even second or third choice of Sanders partisans– but overall, Harris has strong potential even in a crowded field. It also helps that California, where Harris is a prohibitive favorite at this stage, has moved it’s primary up early this year. It’s part of a Super Tuesday after Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.

Anyway, it’s never too early to start thinking about running mates. Now, Harris is a historic candidate for a number of reasons. If elected, she would be the first woman to be president, the second president of African heritage, and the first of Asian heritage. Conventional wisdom suggests that her running mate be a white man. Is conventional wisdom correct, though? Is the U.S. willing to vote for a ticket with two women? Or two minorities? Or a woman and a queer person? It should be. Given the number of presidential tickets with two white guys that we’ve had in our history, it shouldn’t be an issue. And yet, groups that were once in a position of unchallenged power share that power unreadily, and often need to have their hand held in the process.

Kamala Harris’s platonic ideal of a running mate would therefore probably be a reasonably good-looking man in his 40s from the Midwest– a populist and a progressive with a knack for communicating with and energizing millennials and new Gen Z voters– but who can also articulate the needs of voters in smaller towns and in less urbane communities. There isn’t any one person who ticks each of these boxes, and every prospect comes with his or her own disadvantages. With this in mind, my fifteen top vice-presidential candidates for Kamala Harris are:

15. Cheri Bustos: If you look at a map of Illinois’s congressional delegation, there is only one Democrat from outside of the greater Chicagoland area, and that’s Bustos. Her 17th district hugs the northwest corner of the state, including Rockford, East Moline, and parts of Peoria. Given her constituents, Bustos is well positioned to articulate the needs of rural voters, as suggested by this video. It’s also very helpful that her district borders two swing states: Wisconsin and Iowa. In just a few terms, she’s already ascended into House leadership, and now serves as the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. With that position comes fundraising prowess and a keen awareness of how to recruit candidates and maximize the potential of grassroots politics.   Disadvantages? She is more of a moderate Blue Dog (which I don’t see as being electorally advantageous) and looks vaguely like Michelle Bachman.

14. Tom Harkin: This is a stretch, but hear me out. Harkin, as you may know, was a senator from Iowa from 1985 to 2015, choosing to retire ahead of the 2014 elections. Personally, I think he would have won another term if he chose to run. But to my point: Harkin has a stellar track record in this quintessential rural midwestern state winning handily in every statewide election he’s been in. He’s practically royalty in Iowa, and his annual steak-frys are where national political careers can be made. Moreover, he has a reputation as a congressional work-horse, and served as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Indeed, Bill Clinton in ’92, John Kerry in ’04, and even Obama in ’08 considered him as a running mate. For Harkin, the main disadvantage is age: he’ll be a few weeks shy of 81 on Election Day, 2020. But current footage suggests he hasn’t missed a beat, and I know many, many octogenarians who are as sharp as anyone decades younger. Perhaps if he chose up front to only serve one term as vice-president, that might allay some fears.

13. Russ Feingold: Another name from yesteryear. I don’t mean to keep pushing the upper-midwest thing, but I’m pretty sure Team Blue has 268 of the 270 votes they need to win: Hillary’s states, plus Pennsylvania and Michigan. One more state gets them over the hump, and Wisconsin is the best candidate. With Feingold, the warning sign is obvious: he lost winnable Senate races in 2010 and 2016 to a lackluster candidate. But other advantages abound. For one, in terms of generating grassroots progressive enthusiasm, Feingold hits the bull’s eye: people of my age, certainly, remember his courageous opposition to the Iraq War, and even his lone Senate vote against the PATRIOT Act. He also, of course, was for universal health care before it was cool and sponsored major campaign finance reform legislation with the late John McCain. If the DNC is held in Milwaukee, which is a distinct possibility, Feingold sends a clear message to the upper Midwest that their perspectives are valued. You get lots of progressive credentials with Feingold, as well as 18 years of Senate experience.

12. Tim Walz: While we’re in the upper midwest, let’s look at Tim Walz, who was just elected governor of Minnesota in November. The magnitude of his election is striking, for one. He succeeded a two-term Democratic governor in a swing state (not easy)- and did so by a margin of 10 points. For twelve years before that, Walz represented the southern part of Minnesota, easily winning in Trumpy territory and connecting with voters in a district with medium-size towns and small cities like Rochester. Walz also provides a quarter century of military service– a sharp contrast with the Republican ticket. Minnesota gave us two exemplary vice-presidents in Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. Perhaps Walz will be a third.

11. Greg Stanton: Alright, we’re moving out of the Midwest for the Sun Belt. Stanton was mayor of Phoenix for six years before getting elected to the House in November. If “Mayor of Phoenix” seems like an iffy qualification, remember that it’s our fifth or sixth biggest city. As mayor, Stanton put Phoenix on a long-term path to sustainability in an unforgiving desert environment. That’s included recycling wastewater, improving public transportation and infrastructure, and running the city’s vehicles on alternative fuels. Best of all, his environmental policies are correlated to Phoenix’s booming economy and the highest wage growth of any city in America. Look, if you win Maricopa County in Arizona, you’ve almost certainly won the state. And if the Democrats win Arizona, then all other things being equal, they’ve won the election.

10. Tammy Baldwin: So, Feingold’s problem is that he lost two statewide elections in Wisconsin within the last decade. In contrast, Baldwin has won two– including a near-landslide last November. Baldwin is also a progressive with a record of support for Medicare-for-All and gun safety. More importantly, she has a knack for communicating these ideas in an authentically Midwestern way, more Robert LaFollette than Ivy League. A Harris-Baldwin ticket would be additionally historic. Not only would it be the first to include two women, but it would also be the first to include an openly LGBT person. As a sitting senator, her replacement would be initially chosen by governor Tony Evers, a Democrat. But Wisconsin law holds for a statewide election not long afterwards to fill out the term–which might result in the loss of a Senate seat.

9. Jared Polis: Polis would also be the first LGBT person on a major party ticket if chosen.   Like Walz, he was just elected governor of his state (Colorado) in November after serving in congress. He’s also a businessman of some note, having started a few very successful online companies that earned him a fortune. His positions are generally within progressive orthodoxy, although he’s a bit more bullish on charter schools, even as his years on Colorado’s Board of Education give him solid education credentials. His favorable positions on bitcoin and marijuana legalization should also make him somewhat more appealing to the Bernie Sanders social libertarian wing of the party and attract some young “South Park Democrats” to reframe an old political phrase. Polis also opens some gateways in terms of funding the campaign, and his Jewish heritage might even make Florida more competitive. While Colorado’s definitely a blue-leaning state at this point, every bit of help to shore up the Southwest is appreciated.

8. Josh Shapiro: This choice is something of a wild card, and an unexpected selection. Shapiro is neither a governor nor a congress-critter, but the attorney general of Pennsylvania. Is it enough of a pedigree to be “one heartbeat away” from the presidency? I think so. He’s used that position to root out sexual abuse within the Catholic church, prevent residents from 3-D printing guns, and fight back against the Trump administration’s travel ban. A devout Jew, Shapiro would, like Polis, be the first person of that faith to serve as vice-president if elected. He would also be the first Pennsylvanian vice-president since the 1840s, oddly enough. He’s clearly ambitious, and potentially could be the deciding factor in both Pennsylvania and Florida in 2020.

7. Joe Kennedy III: Robert Kennedy’s grandson and a congressman from Massachusetts, Kennedy has the quintessential family pedigree. That includes not only the Kennedy name and the money and media attention that it brings, but public service (such as JK3’s time in the Peace Corps), the youth and “vig-ah”, and the unmatched ability to articulate a vision for the future. And that’s important– Vision, not not merely opposing Trump in visceral terms, but painting an alternative way that we shall live. His State of the Union response– compassionate and energetic– speaks volumes, and he should be able to decimate Mike Pence in the veep debate. (Stacy Abrams did a great State of the Union yesterday, but since she hasn’t held a high office yet, I can’t consider her a true contender. Experience matters.) I’ve tried to avoid picking running mates from the East Coast– it would be regrettable if the 2020 ticket gave no voice to the great American interior, but Kennedy is too talented a prospect to ignore.

6. Amy Klobuchar: All signs point to Klobuchar running for president on her own. But I don’t think the odds are in her favor. If she does everything right, she might be able to win the Iowa caucus, but like Tom Harkin in 1992…where does she go from there? No, Amy’s a born vice-president. Her work as a senator and Hennepin County Attorney is a testament to her ability to get across-the-aisle results, seek broad consensus, and please Americans who aren’t especially ideological, but simply wants the government to do the people’s work. She’s won all three of her Senate races by massive landslides, and– not to beat a dead horse– that kind of success in the suburban and small-town upper Midwest translates to an ability to reach voters in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan. To that effect, her 2018 re-election saw her winning forty counties in Minnesota that Trump had carried two years earlier. At the same time, her story adds a lot to the equation. Trump’s ratings were never lower than when he tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Klobuchar’s story– her daughter was born with a condition that inhibited her ability to swallow, thus requiring frequent hospital visits– makes the urgency of health care reform more personal and accessible.

5. Steve Bullock: Bullock is Montana’s governor, and like Brian Schweitzer before him, has a talent for getting elected even in unfavorable headwinds. Bullock won in 2012 when Mitt Romney carried Montana 14 points, and again in 2016 when Donald Trump won Big Sky by over 20 points. He has carried one of the most rural states in the country, and governed effectively even with the opposing party controlling Montana’s state legislature. As Bullock put it, “The Democratic Party didn’t necessarily change; we just haven’t been able to figure out the ways to speak to people off of the coasts. And if we can’t speak the language of Iowa or Michigan or Wisconsin, even if you get an electoral majority you’re never going to have a governing majority.” Yet Bullock screwed up a few times, botching up an aide’s sexual harassment scandal, and having some bad working relationships with former lieutenant governors. Bullock cannot win the presidential nomination– it defies everything we know about political gravity in the United States– but he might work as a vice-presidential choice and an envoy to rural America. But I’d rather he just run for Senate against Steve Daines in 2020.

4. Sherrod Brown: Brown is right out of central casting and checks most of the boxes I talked about earlier. He’s from the all-important swing-state of Ohio. He’s a scrappy champion of the working class. And he knows what makes Obama ’12/Trump ’16 voters tick, which is one reason why he’s much more of a tariffs and protectionism guy than almost anyone else on this list or in the wider Democratic field. Brown thinks and acts and legislates overtly in terms of class, and sides himself with the aggrieved persons of the deindustrialized Midwest. He’s made a few missteps lately…if he were going to run for president he should have made more noise about it sooner, and his skeptical answers about Medicare-for-All suggest a strikingly less-than-progressive stance. Yet, in terms of uniting the Clinton and Sanders wings of the party, nobody can do it better than Brown. One significant drawback, though– Governor Mike DeWine– who Brown unseated in the Senate back in 2006– gets to pick his replacement, costing Team Blue a critical spot in the chamber, and one that might be very difficult to win back.

3. William McRaven: One of the significant weaknesses of a Trump-Pence ticket is the lack of foreign policy experience and the lack of any kind of real service, military or otherwise. McRaven, of course, directed the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden, and has for years been esteemed within the military community for his leadership and character. In terms of picking someone not for their geographical strengths but strengths of character and experience, McRaven is a surefire win. Recently, he has served as chancellor of the University of Texas system. He has also criticized Trump for removing security clearance from his critics, and Trump’s response (“Wouldn’t it have been nice if we caught Osama sooner?”) blew up in the president’s face. McRaven demonstrates that this election isn’t about rock-em-sock-em politics, but about a nation’s destiny and its honor. The contrast couldn’t be clearer.

2. Martin Heinrich: The first rule of vice-presidential selection: do no harm. Heinrich offends no one, has strong environmental credentials, and just won a massive landslide re-election in his home state of New Mexico. Now, New Mexico isn’t really a swing state any longer, but Heinrich’s understanding of the issues of the Southwest– including immigration–could create some spillover appeal in Arizona, Nevada, and even Texas. He and fellow New Mexico senator Tom Udall have recently teamed up on legislation to prevent future family separation, helping take the moral initiative on this issue. He’s issues-oriented, and focused with a discipline that suggests his engineering background. As a partner for governing and campaigning, Heinrich is going to be near the top of the veepstakes.

  1. Beto O’Rourke: Is Beto running for president? Who knows. Lots of people are worried that he squandered his “moment” after nearly beating Ted Cruz in a Senate race for the ages, but that strikes me as an awful lot of pearl-clutching. Beto’s tapped into something, as advocate for a sensible, visionary, neighborly, and compassionate brand of politics that caught on. Beto towed a remarkable line in making somewhat moderate and sensible positions palatable to the Democratic Party’s squadron of young leftist activists by shear persuasion and personality. Harris-O’Rourke as a ticket would hit a kind of sweet spot in American politics, creating a ticket that touches on America’s multicultural identity, and is broadly acceptable to party regulars, grassroots activists, AOC people, Bernie people, minorities, and all permutations thereof. And Beto has six years in Congress, lest anyone think this guy is an empty suit– and has represented the crucial border city of El Paso.

 

So, those are my fifteen picks for vice-president, should Kamala Harris get the nomination. Did I miss any of your favorites? Are some of these choices better than others? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

This short post goes out to Follower, who has been requesting that I rank the Beatles songs that went largely unreleased until they were part of the Anthology collections in the 90s.

  1. Real Love
  2. Bésame Mucho
  3. All Things Must Pass
  4. Leave My Kitten Alone
  5. Free As a Bird
  6. In Spite of All the Danger
  7. That Means a Lot
  8. Three Cool Cats
  9. Searching
  10. Not Guilty
  11. That’ll Be the Day
  12. Hallelujah, I love Her So
  13. Cry for a Shadow
  14. Cayenne
  15. My Bonnie
  16. Ain’t She Sweet
  17. The Sheik of Araby
  18. Like Dreamers Do
  19. Hello Little Girl
  20. How do you do it?
  21. Lend Me Your Comb
  22. Shout
  23. You Know What to Do
  24. 12-bar original
  25. Step Inside Love
  26. Rip it Up/Shake Rattle and Roll
  27. If You’ve Got Trouble
  28. You’ll Be Mine
  29. Mailman, Bring Me No More blues
  30. Teddy Boy
  31. What’s the New Mary Jane

Welcome to our second installment of the Rock Hall Prospects! This one is a bit of a challenge because nine out of the ten artists on this list require new write-ups: they weren’t on the original version of this project that debuted three years ago. So, welcome and happy reading. This particular batch is very heavy on the quality of “zeitgeist”, and many are seminal live acts that are essentially to commemorating their time and place in rock and roll’s history.

dave mathews90. Dave Matthews Band: This could end up being the most divisive choice of the entire one hundred. DMB has a relatively narrow but wholly devoted base of fans, and is still selling out concerts to this day. When I worked at a venue in Saratoga, NY back in 2005, it was an event when Dave Matthews and his crew came to town. Excuses for not being able to work that weekend were simply not tolerated; this was an all-hands-on-deck series of concerts requiring all the manpower we had to settle demand for tickets, and dealing with bizarre requests from stoners. (“Do I get the tickets cheaper if I buy them for both nights?”) In terms of being evocative of a time and place, DMB is up there with the most prominent acts coming out of the 90s. Dave Matthews Band elicits memories of hacky-sacks, hemp necklaces, and downloading concerts from Napster. To those who understand, no explanation is necessary. To those who do not, no explanation will ever suffice. Unlike Phish, another “you have to see them live” act, DMB was able to leverage their concert act into mainstream success, with “Crash Into Me,” “Ants Marching,” and “What Would You Say” among other songs in regular rotation in the Top 40 back then. Their haters are legion, and not entirely wrong, but there’s still no argument for putting the Dead in the Hall that doesn’t apply just as strongly to the Dave Matthews Band.

xband89. X: Simply, they put L.A. punk on the map, and helped make it a scene in the wider public consciousness. More than most punk outfits, they knew who their forebears were, and in the case of X, there is a recurring rockabilly pedigree that becomes manifest. Guitarist Billy Zoom played with Gene Vincent at one point–an important lineage when you consider that Vincent was actually the sneering malcontent that the less informed thought Elvis was back in the 50s. Maybe they hung on a bit too long, maybe they had a few too many reunions that went nowhere, but you have to judge these acts by their peak and not their valley. Realistically, if artists like Ted Nugent baked their own soufflé by injecting a particularly noxious brand of far-right politics into their act, Exene isn’t too far behind. At one point, she was tweeting that the Santa Barbara mass shooting was a hoax designed to further the cause of gun control. Oh well. As it stands, X’s work helped save the music scene from falling further down the abyss of yacht rock, and their stripped-down and poetic style was a necessary tonic.

kool-and-the-gang-70s-portrait-billboard-154888. Kool & the Gang: Talk about longevity. Kool & the Gang have been at it for over fifty years now, still going strong, and thriving as a top concert draw. It’s tempting to write them off as a KC & the Sunshine Band-style act, but– meaning no offense to KC– few could touch Kool & the Gang’s effortless musicianship and stamina. In recent years, artists like Bruno Mars have cribbed from their style– what is “Uptown Funk” if not for Michael Jackson making a non-aggression pact with Kool? Moreover, they are one of the most sampled artists of all time, perhaps second only to James Brown in that regard. Like another exceptional live band- J. Geils- they stumbled onto some hits that don’t necessarily give a representative view of their career or importance. They aren’t quite “Celebration” and “Cherish” just as the Geils Band isn’t exactly “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame.” I’ll never forget my Sunday school teacher opining once that Kool & the Gang was the best live show she ever saw- and as she was married to a drummer, she had been to quite a few. Rock and roll is about getting up and dancing, and Kool & the Band may has this longer and more successfully than any active band today. Let’s hope that their recent induction into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame leads them to Cleveland as well.

siouxsie-sioux-siouxsie-and-the-banshees-1-jan-1979-cafe-brussels-belgium-philippe-carly87. Siouxsie Sioux & the Banshees: When I was in high school, the goth kids unnerved me a little bit. They were unhumorous, foreboding, joyless–at least that was my impression. Had I dug a little further back then, I would have found that my misgivings were not only prejudicial but wrong-headed. Goth wasn’t an invitation to violence or anti-social behavior, but an honest effort by the dispossessed and the misfitted to hash out who they were when the mainstream offered them little of value. Few people contributed to what became goth culture in the English-speaking world more than Siouxsie Sioux. Like many of the  Sex Pistols’ orphaned progeny, her group had to find a way after their idols self-destructed. Her visual medium and enrapturing live performances crafted a place where the darker and less sightly parts of life could be enjoyed– this coming in part from a traumatic childhood. In doing so, punk and art-rock joined forces to great effect. And it’s hard to find a more common denominator among alternative than Siouxsie Sioux. Admiration for their work can be seen in The Smiths, Radiohead, Jesus and Mary Chain, TV on the Radio, The Cure, PJ Harvey. The list just goes on. The asexual art-punk style she cultivated- if such a genre can be said to exist- makes her every bit of an original and trendsetter as Joan Jett.

moby86. Moby: Eventually, the Rock Hall will have to figure out the role of the deejay. There were a few easy inductions when they were part of a larger ensemble- witness someone like Grandmaster Flash- but Danger Mouse and others are on the horizon. Moreover, deejays were the medium by which rock and roll reached nearly every listener for generations. To wit, the Rock Hall’s Cleveland connection is largely justified because it was Alan Freed’s base of operations. With this in mind, deejay par excellence, Moby, needs to enter the Rock Hall conversation, having first become eligible this year. Moby didn’t invent techno, in much the same way that Nine Inch Nails didn’t invent industrial, but it was through his body of work that the genre reached a kind of artistic maturity and came into its own as a genre. With symphonic strings and synth rarely out of the mix, his beats borrow from disco, gospel, 80s pop, metal, and almost any other genre you can name, with some of kind of anthemic chorus cutting through just when the trance has lulled you into its grip. His eclectic and transcendental body of work reflected Moby’s own rich inner life. As a proud vegan and animal rights activist, he also practices a spiritualist form of Christianity at odds with conventional evangelicalism, while he also raises awareness of those who, like himself, suffer from deep anxiety. Both who he was and what he produced made Moby a kind of an icon for those on the younger side of Generation X, much as Morrissey was for the older side. And as a golden boy of the 90s and early 2000s rave scene, he scores strongly into the “zeitgeist” component that I weigh in my rankings; it’s hard to talk about that time and place without Moby factoring into the discussion. His two most indispensable works are the alternative-oriented 1995’s Everything is Wrong and the blues electronica of 1999’s Play, but this hardly does justice to the length and breadth of his career, which also includes soundtracks, remix projects, and commercials. He won’t get in for a long time, especially if Kraftwerk or solo Brian Eno or DJ Kool Herk aren’t in yet; it is a difficult route for artists who are more “organizers of sound” than traditional guitar-bass-and-drums musicians. But he should be someone to watch out for. Certainly, the Rolling Stone crowd and the critical community hold him in high esteem.

tori-amos-michel-linssen-redferns-getty85. Tori Amos: The wave of female songwriters that came of age in the early 1990s was one of the most important musical developments of that era. Full stop. In terms of exercising broad cultural influence, shaping worldview, and uniting hitherto disparate artists, I’d even go so far as to argue that it rivaled Lollapalooza and the Seattle grunge scene as a social force. Some other folks from that time and place will show up later, particularly those affiliated with Lilith Fair, but one of the most talented of that coterie was Tori Amos. From the start, Amos confronted taboos, wrote songs you had to puzzle out, and could contain hard-hitting truths underneath a lilting piano melody. Her first album alone has lines like “boy, you best pray I bleed real soon,” and had a shocking track called “Me and a Gun” that dwelled on an imagined revenge for a real-life rape that she survived. Sady Doyle describes her singularity thusly: “Unlike, say, Lady Gaga, you never get the sense that Amos’ politics or “shocking” choices are part of a cynical marketing strategy. It’s just the sound of a woman who is absolutely assured of what she has to say, and how she wants to say it. Which, given the world we live in, is the most courageous thing of all.” For the late Gen X-ers and early millennials that comprised her fan base, Tori Amos was emphatically not your mother’s kind of singer-songwriter.  Her confessional but experimental style set the bar for generations of alt-singer-songwriters to come after her.

meters 1084. The Meters: In the end, Cleveland won out, but there are a half a dozen other cities where a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would have made sense. Memphis might have surely worked. Philadelphia, home of American Bandstand, would have resonated. San Francisco could have evoked the Haight & Asbury era. Given that they created a decent rock and roll museum without being *the hall*, Seattle’s pedigree from Paul Revere to Pearl Jam could have sufficed. Heck, if you can put baseball’s Hall in tiny Cooperstown, New York, why not put rock and roll’s in Clear Lake, Iowa? But perhaps New Orleans has a better claim than any other city. A melting pot since before it was part of the USA, it’s rock and roll relevance runs through Fats and Ernie K. Doe and Dr. John– and, of course, The Meters. Their case isn’t that dissimilar to that of Booker T. and the MGs-  who were inducted way back in 1992. They were consummate sidemen and outstanding performers who could nonetheless produce sublime material on their own. Their contributions to funk are manifold, and they are up there with James Brown among the most sampled artists of all time in the hip-hop world. Although hardly apolitical, their style avoided the trappings of Black Pride of Brown or the Afro-futurism of Parliament, and they stuck to the singular subculture of New Orleans. You may not realize it, but they also helped inaugurate world music– listen to their collaboration with The Wild Tchoupitoulas as they create a sound both global, yet intricately rooted in The Big Easy. Unfortunately, it seems their fate to be nominated sporadically every few years and place close to dead last in the fan vote. But if any group has deserved the sobriquet of “Musical Excellence”, it’s the Neville Brothers and company.

tmbg_sep_copy.59f76e62f1a1683. They Might Be Giants: It’s never going to happen, but it should. They Might Be Giants has ridden their offbeat, goofball, but strikingly learned style to decades of success. The group has been around since the late 80s, debuted the Dial-A-Song feature, and made listeners scratch their heads ever since. There’s the covers that bring out absurdities originals never could–indeed, how many people know that “Istanbul not Constantinople” is not their own handiwork? In time, they further branched out into children’s music, broadway, television, and was one of the first artists to have truly their own online store, erasing the legions of middlemen between them and their listeners. And unlike another offbeat persona like Weird Al, their songs often made you think and weighed in on issues of substance–witness “Anna Ng” or “Your Racist Friend.” Indeed, my wife and I have used their songs in our classes, including “The Mesopotamians” and “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” When we think of alternative acts that need to be in the Hall, we think of Sonic Youth or The Smiths, but They Might Be Giants are also among the more deserving and innovative.

82. The Marvelettes: I kept them off the original 100 Rock Hall Prospects, but I heard marvelettesenough convincing arguments from Northumbrian Countdown’s readers to reconsider. The Marvelettes kick-started Motown’s reign in the 1960s, notching the label’s first #1 hit with the seminal “Please Mr. Postman.” In the end, the Marvelettes were undone partly because Berry Gordy fed his best material to The Supremes and The Vandellas in time, and partly because with two lead singers, it wasn’t clear who the group’s public face was. Without a Diana Ross or Gladys Knight or Martha Reeves, a lethal case of anonymity set in, contributing to a relatively short prime. For years, I assumed they were just a flash in the pan, because “Postman” was the only song of theirs that oldies radio played. Don’t make the same mistake I did, kids. “Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead,” “Too Many Fish in the Sea,” and “Beechwood 4-5789” hold up with the best girl-group numbers of their era. Indeed, “Beechwood” might be the original “Call Me Maybe”!

the roots81. The Roots: In an erudite essay written almost five years ago, Roots drummer Questlove muses: “Once hip-hop culture is ubiquitous, it is also invisible. Once it’s everywhere, it is nowhere. What once offered resistance to mainstream culture (it was part of the larger tapestry, spooky-action style, but it pulled at the fabric) is now an integral part of the sullen dominant.” The entire Roots oeuvre seems to grapple with this riddle, avoiding the hippy ephemera that endeared De La Soul to white Brooklynites while avoiding the conspicuous consumption that Biggie, P-Diddy and others oversaw in the mid-90s. The result is maybe the best ongoing, consistently engaging collection of albums by any rap or hip-hop artist: Phrenology, Things Fall Apart, and How I Got Over are among the genre’s very finest. Narrative without being biographical, funny and referential, the band relies heavily on the beats Quest picked up with his touring soul-singer parents and the complex lyrical genius of Black Thought. Although they might be the world’s tightest backing band and reach millions nightly via Jimmy Fallon, the Roots are no mere sidemen. Conflict of interest though it may been, given Questlove’s status on the Nominating Committee, the Roots deserve a place in the conversation for the next hip-hop act in the Hall.

One element that I will re-evaluate as 2019 and 2020 continue is the ideal presidential ticket and cabinet. Now, as most people reading this blog know by now, I identify politically as a progressive old-school McGovernite and would align myself with the “Christian Left” such as it is. That means, among other things, greater access to health care, LGBTQ protections, humane solutions to immigration, and more equitable taxation.

So, I need to find an ideal ticket to carry those ideas in the 2020 election. That means I need candidates who 1) can actually win the Democratic primaries, 2) beat Donald Trump in the general election, and 3) govern wisely, effectively, and honestly.

There are already something close to two dozen prospective candidates: Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Steve Bullock, Kamala Harris, Kirstin Gillibrand, Andrew Cuomo, Sherrod Brown, Joseph Kennedy III, Mike Bloomberg, Terry McAuliffe, John Delaney, Eric Garcetti, and lord knows who else.

duckworthMy pick for president isn’t on that list. But she should be. It’s Illinois’s Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth was a congresswoman from the suburban Chicagoland area and until being elected senator in 2016. I might add that she decimated her incumbent opponent by 15 points. Before her career in congress, she served in the Iraq War, losing both of her legs in a combat mission, and worked for Illinois’s department of veterans affairs. More recently, she made history for being the first sitting senator to give birth. And she’s only the second female Asian-American senator.

But there is much more to Duckworth than her biography. Her steely resolve, her grace and good humor under duress, even her biting wit- she was the one who named Trump “Cadet Bone Spurs”-work in her favor. She has the energy, discipline, and intellect to do the job and doesn’t come off as a policy wonk. Nobody else has the credibility to challenge military waste–think of the social programs we could have if we got that under control. Moreover, Duckworth’s story would resonate in ways that confound political geography. Her family’s military service and financial hardship add to the relatable factor. See, Duckworth’s appeal isn’t precisely suburban, or hispanic, or millennial. If the goal is simply to get to 270 electoral votes, Duckworth could easily win Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. If Wisconsin could elect another Tammy- this one an open lesbian- to the Senate in 2018, it shouldn’t have an issue sending the other Tammy to the White House.

Indeed, Duckworth’s background addresses a glaring issue. The last four presidents have had military service that was either non-existent (Trump, Obama, Clinton) or farcical (Bush 43). One can, of course, be a great commander-in-chief without much in the way of military experience, as Lincoln and FDR both demonstrated. But it is not ideal. Her experience in politics may not amount to a great many years, but her eight years of holding high office by 2020 nonetheless beats out Bush 43, Obama, and Trump. It isn’t why I picked her, but she would also be the first Asian president, first female president, and the first amputee president.

For her running mate, I have selected Beto O’Rourke, who ran a campaign for the betoSenate in Texas that exceeded all expectations. O’Rourke served for three terms as congressman of an El Paso-based district, and this proximity to the border gives him real insight on immigration issues. O’Rourke figured out the secret sauce between grassroots campaigning, projecting personality, and finding a good way to have lots of energetic support on the ground while not being so left-wing as to turn off suburban Texas. He’ll be a crucial mode of outreach to Hispanic voters, and will help generate no small number of eager activists.

So…Duckworth-O’Rourke 2020! Stay tuned, because I have an ideal cabinet for this administration all mapped out.

A little ahead of schedule, I’m delighted to begin my update on the 100 Greatest Rock Hall Prospects– one hundred artists who have been passed over at least once before, who I believe to be deserving of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.

osmutantesmutantes69c100. Os Mutantes: Our countdown begins with this obscure pick–indeed, so obscure that they do not even show up in my third edition Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. Although they will never be a household name stateside, Os Mutantes stand as a testament to the influence of rock and roll on geopolitics outside the English-speaking world. Like Czechoslovakia’s Plastic People of the Universe, this group played a key role in using rock and roll to challenge a totalitarian regime in the 1960s. While the Plastics were beholden to Zappa-esque freakiness, Os Mutantes was more aligned with early Pink Floyd infused with native bossa nova influences. Rugged electric folk blended with latin guitar and sonic experimentation in music that explored taboo and impolitic themes. In this fashion and in a time and place prone to right-wing military coups, they were a key part of the Tropicália scene in 60s Brazil. Incredibly, a version of Os Mutantes is still at it today throwing brickbats in this age of renewed strongman government across the world. Kurt Cobain, Beck, and Flea have all vouched for them in the past, and if an impactful, hyper-political act like MC5 can get nominated multiple times, Os Mutantes should as well.

ELP99. Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Prog has enjoyed a good few years at the Rock Hall. Perennial snubs Yes and The Moody Blues were inducted, as were a couple groups that longtime reader Enigmaticus calls “prog adjacent”- The Zombies, Chicago, and Electric Light Orchestra. The urgency to set wrongs aright for progressive rock has therefore lessened. But if we are going to tell prog’s story, we have to account for Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Enjoying greater longevity than King Crimson, ELP made several of the seminal albums in this genre: Tarkus, Brain Salad Surgery, and the Works albums among them. It’s hard, though, to say much original about ELP because so many of the clichés about prog ring true for them. There’s top notch musicianship and inventive compositional skill. Keith Emerson so often operated on a different plane from anyone else in the genre, and Greg Lake and Carl Palmer are two of the greatest ever on their respective instruments. In fact, Carl Palmer is probably the best drummer I’ve ever seen live (albeit with Asia.) And yet, there’s a difference between music that impresses and music that moves. For all the cleverness, and for all the mastery and technique, the results were often clunky and over-ambitious, like a 20-minute epic about a mutant armadillo. Nevertheless, in all their theatricality, and their bombast, and their undeniable virtuosity, it’s impossible to tell the story of prog without ELP.

buzzcocks98. The Buzzcocks: Punk is certainly one of the genres that the Hall has not done the best job of representing. It took the Sex Pistols several tries to get in, and a similar fate befell the Stooges. Green Day was, on the other hand, a striking success, a rare first-year eligible that made it in recent years. Granted, they were pop-punk, and lots of diehard punk fans scorn Green Day- made for bored American millennials who grew up in the suburbs and hated every minute of it. But Green Day played the long game, earning respect from rock and roll figureheads, showing up for award ceremonies, and even producing a Broadway musical. Anyway, if we are going to explore pop-punk, let’s look at one of Green Day’s most important ancestors, the Buzzcocks. Pete Shelley’s recent death was the kick in the ass we needed to remind us how good this group was, adding more melodic songwriting beyond the Sex Pistols’ pay grade, but also harboring a degree of crassness and sexuality that was merely implicit in ur-punk. Indeed, lines like “homo superior/in my interior” made veiled reference to Shelley’s bisexuality, while earning a ban from the BBC. On Shelley’s death, members of Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, The Cure, and REM all paid testament to the influence of his music. That alone should give the Buzzcocks some Rock Hall credibility.

fela-kuti97. Fela Kuti: If Os Mutantes represents the relevant contributions to rock and roll from South America, Fela Kuti stands in for the sundry artists who worked within postcolonial Africa. Like Bob Marley before him, Kuti operated outside the Anglo-American axis, and pioneered a bold new synthesis while standing up to political oppression. And also like Marley, he is regarded as much as a prophet as a musician. Kuti’s contribution is Afrobeat, a dynamic synthesis of funk and traditional Nigerian rhythms, and a key progenitor to world music. Redbull Music Guide calls him “A complex man who was equal parts shaman, showman, and trickster,” a crafty thorn in the side of the violent regimes that Nigerians endured during his lifetime. If it weren’t for the horrific migrations out of Africa in the 1600s and 1700s, rock and roll could have never happened, so it is incumbent on us to recognize a figure who, more than anyone else, brought it all back home.  If this seems like a far-fetched choice, remember that Kuti has plenty of admirers in high places, ranging from Jay-Z to his onetime collaborator, Ginger Baker. Fela’s music demonstrated a rebel spirit in the best rock and roll tradition, always one step ahead of those ready to arrest him and those ready to canonize him.

tool-band96. Tool: It’ll be a cold day in hell when Tool is nominated. For one, they may be too recent. For another, the Hall isn’t always great with metal and alternative acts–especially ones that don’t “play the game” and show up for marquee events. Instead, Tool merely has one of the best records of alternative metal in the 90s, with a handful of the genre’s most important albums, including Undertow, Laterus, and AEmina. In the past, I’ve advocated for someone like the Eurythmics partly because of how they developed rock and roll’s visual culture, and Tool deserves the same consideration. Their guitarist doubles as their art director, as the band made several brilliant but borderline-disturbing stop-motion music videos. The 90s and early 2000s had all kinds of terrible faux-metal (looking right at you, Limp Bizkit!), but Tool was something else. With their musicianship, cult following, and unusual time-signatures, they demonstrated that metal and alternative could be artful, inventive, and thought-provoking as well, without degenerating into self-mockery or Spinal Tap-ish spectacle. As we celebrate a group like Roxy Music getting into the Hall, let’s remember one of their more unlikely heirs.

john prine95. John Prine: What a surprise it was to see John Prine’s name among the Class of 2019 nominees back in October. I have to admit-  he was barely on my radar before this time, but the more I read about him and the more I listened to his work, I was taken aback by this thoughtful singer-songwriter. Drug abuse, relationships gone sour, veterans’ issues– there was hardly a topic Prine couldn’t explore with wry insights one could take away. One of my favorites of his was his evisceration of shallow middle-American patriotism, “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.” He wrote a good album in 1970, but this doesn’t make him any better or worse than 15 different Rock Hall prospects. What makes Prine remarkable is his modern relevance and his ability to bring out the best in those who admire him. He continues to crank out great albums and consistently wows the biggest names in the music industry, all without really becoming a household name. But excellence? He’s got it. Influence? He’s got it too. Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson–virtually everybody in Americana–as well as famous admirers ranging from Bob Dylan to Johnny Cash–are eager to sing his praises. As long as the purpose of the Rock Hall is partly to educate Americans on the history of rock music and not merely validate their favorites, there’s a place for John Prine.

alice in chains94. Alice in Chains: One change between the first version of the 100 Rock Hall prospects and this current one is that Soundgarden and Alice in Chains have switched spots, with Soundgarden now ranked higher. Both however, are seminal grunge acts with tragic histories. Even if Alice in Chains had longer and more sustained success, grunge was, in many ways, contemptuous and suspicious of success, especially extended success. Better to burn out than fade away and all that. Nevertheless, they kept at it.  From their breakout Dirt album from 1992, they stayed relevant. As late as 2013, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here was widely considered one of the best albums that came out that year.  Still, that longevity came with tragic consequences.  Years of hard living and drug addiction cost Layne Staley his life, and their frontman’s demise had a ripple effect.  Bassist Mike Starr, probably the last person to see Staley alive, never forgave himself for obeying his bandmate’s demand that he not call 911. Starr himself succumbed to an overdose in 2011. For all this, any discussion of the greatest songs of the 1990s that looks beyond pop has to account for “Rooster” and “Man in the Box.”  Their metal-fused alternative sound set the table for acts like Disturbed and Korn later in the decade. With the Hall still working on the 90s A-list (Radiohead failed to get in on the first try, Rage is still waiting, Mariah’s never been nominated), Alice in Chains has one heck of a long wait on their hands, I think.

foreigner93. Foreigner: One of my longstanding in-jokes with friends is the “Portuguese Phil Collins” dilemma: somebody in Portugal has to fill the same cultural space as Phil Collins does in the English speaking world. Let me use this as a springboard to make the case for Foreigner: somebody had to occupy the same ground they assumed. A rock band with a raft of hits, a command of the power ballad and the hook-filled chorus, and an ability to be played on both “soft rock classics” and “album-oriented rock” stations with equal legitimacy. And that somebody who occupied that ground could have well and truly sucked, could have crassly abandoned musical chops for image, and it would have been fine. They still could have remained popular for years and made shameful amounts of money. Foreigner could do all those things and maintain that kind of success while still being…kinda good. And, of course, Lou Gramm’s connection to my adopted hometown of Rochester doesn’t hurt either (indeed, my mother-in-law ran in his crowd back in the day.) They had more success than you remember: “Cold as Ice,” “Hot Blooded,” “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Urgent,” Juke Box Hero.” While just listing songs is no substitute for argument, they were very nearly Journey’s equal in finding a niche between rock and roll authenticity and mass mainstream success. But it doesn’t help their case that so many rock and roll insiders have carried water for them: Jann Wenner allegedly demanded that “I Want to Know What Love Is” be included in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll, and Ahmet Ertegun suggested that Foreigner- an act on his docket- be nominated before the rest of the committee politely but firmly rebuffed him.

chuck willis92. Chuck Willis: The Rock Hall has traditionally been very mindful of 50s R&B legends- people who didn’t have tons of hits that are played on Oldies radio today, but were indispensable to the foundations of rock and roll. But a few of them fell through the cracks. Joe Tex is one of them. Esther Phillips is another. But arguably the turban-wearing Chuck Willis is the most influential of the figures in this category. He was nominated on each of the Hall’s first five ballots and once again in 2011, each time without success.  As Rock Hall voters slowly move into late baby boomer and early Gen X territory, Willis’s window is probably gone unless he gets a backdoor “early influence” nod. It’s a shame, because he deserves induction without any asterisks. He wrote his own material in a genre where that rarely happened, popularized “C. C. Rider” and The Stroll, one of Rock’s first dance crazes, and toggled easily between sincere ballads and riveting rockers. His blend of crooning and wailing established the template for every number of R&B vocalists to come.  Unfortunately, he was felled by peritonitis in his prime, and died at the age of 30, one of rock and roll’s first big casualties, even predeceasing Buddy, Richie, and the Bopper.

Gloria Estefan91. Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine: In my own research, one striking theme is how many nominators–Dave Marsh among others- -want “south-of-the-border” music represented in the Rock Hall. This explains the otherwise-inexplicable nomination of the Sir Douglas Quintet back in …, as well as the more recent nomination of Los Lobos. If we are going to explore latin or tejano or norteño music and its connections to rock and roll, we should acknowledge one of the breakthrough artists of the 80s and 90s: Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine. Look, you can consider songs like “Conga” or “Rhythm is Gonna Get You” and smirk if it makes you feel smarter, but from the beginning, rock and roll was intended to get young people up and dancing. Estefan brilliantly merged Florida’s Cuban culture with burgeoning 80s dance music, so that Latin pop became a legitimate category, a stepping stone that eventually helped Selena, J-Lo, Ricky Martin, and the Macarena become commercially viable in the United States. Nowadays, an artist like Demi Lovato can make a latin-infused track and nobody bats an eyelash. Lots of different artists- Santana, Sergio Mendes, the Iglesiases, made it happen, but nobody did it so well, so long in a pop-rock medium as Estefan.

As we enjoy the coverage of our recent #RockHall2019 inductees, I wanted to announce the next big project for the Northumbrian Countdown. Looking back, the single series that earned the most views and comments and constructive feedback was the Top 100 Rock Hall Prospects series I began nearly three years ago. Since then, I’ve learned an awful lot as the community of Rock Hall bloggers and tweeters has grown, and my own reading has expanded.

Moreover, in the three years’ worth of classes since I started this project, a number of my original Top 100 Prospects have already been inducted, or will be inducted in a few months’ time: The Moody Blues, Janet Jackson, Dire Straits, Yes, The Cure, Journey, The Cars, The Zombies, Nina Simone, Joan Baez, Roxy Music, Electric Light Orchestra, Bon Jovi. That’s 14 acts, including 4 out of my top 10. (Three other deserving artists– Pearl Jam, Radiohead, and Tupac Shakur–didn’t qualify for the project, given that my rule was that you had to be passed over at least once at the time of its writing to qualify.)

In addition, the new category of singles has shaken things up. Procol Harum and Link Wray, two other original Prospects, were inducted for “Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Rumble,” respectively. Others may disagree, but for me, that’s good enough, and these songs encapsulate their artists’ importance. It also led me to jettison a few artists who I believed better fit the singles category: Ben E. King and Johnny Burnette and the Rock n’Roll Trio (sorry Charles!) for “Stand By Me” and “The Train Kept A’Rollin’.”

Finally, there were three more years of eligible artists to take into account, which means that we are more seriously delving into the nineties. My nineties childhood was a bit elliptical- I spent it listening to The Beatles and Elton John- but undoubtedly, it will color my impressions of that time. But you can expect more alternative, 90s R&B, and even some early indie in this new batch.

So this will be a full ranking, complete with new write-ups for new additions and updated commentary for the old standbys like Kraftwerk and the Doobie Brothers. Ultimately, you can expect 30 new additions to the list.