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I think I’ll start a mini-countdown to commemorate the end of a project that took me over a year: watching every Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in sequence. That’s right, we went from the rough, badly-written first season to some of the finest Sci-Fi ever made in seasons 4 and 5, to the iffy conclusions of season 7.

Watching these episodes made me realize what a salutary show this has been. It was encouraging in difficult times to see the principal characters collaborate, devise creative solutions, and active work to better not just humanity but all the species they encountered. It also made me aware of a number of its flaws. The show was famously preachy and kneecapped itself by not allowing meaningful conflict between the characters. The female characters- not just Troi and Crusher, but also Yar, Pulaski, Ro, Guinan, were seldom written well and it’s astonishing how often a show this progressive fails the Bechdel test. Troi, especially, is rarely given much to do. She’s often absent when a counselor would be most useful, rarely gives good advice, and doesn’t evince much intelligence or sharpness of mind until she starts wearing a uniform mid-season 6 that covers Sirtis’s cleavage.

But gosh, when this show was good, it was really, really good. Here’s the bottom half of my top 20- I’ll continue with the top 10 later, and conclude with a survey of the bottom twenty episodes.

20. “Parallels” (Season 7, Episode 11): It’s the best episode in a very inconsistent final season, aside from the show’s sterling finale. It’s a great parallel universe story, but rather than taking the easy way out and redoing “Mirror Mirror” it has Worf flit in and out between universes, often realizing only belatedly that the change has taken place. It has Dorn’s best acting in the series; having such an straight-arrow, easily flustered character like Worf at the center of this madness was an inspired choice. Additionally, unlike “Mirror Mirror” it has a strong emotional core, as Worf learns that he is wed to Troi in some of the parallel universes and their relationship advances through the dimensions. I especially love the little underplayed differences in each universe, ranging from a Ferengi bridge officer to a blue-eyed Data.

19. “Relics” (Season 6, Episode 4): Ironically, Scotty gets more to do here than he ever did in the original series. (I don’t mean to bash TOS so often, but it’s weaknesses- particularly its parochialism, it’s grating masculinity, and it’s neglect of the supporting cast- turn me off big time.) Using a convenient plot twist to allow the miracle-working engineer to appear in an episode set 70 years after his last canonical appearance, it ruminates on the need of the old to feel useful and needed. The scene where Scotty conjures the original Enterprise bridge on the Holodeck and commiserates with Picard is one of my favorites in the series. It’s a great love letter to the original series and boasts strong sci-fi credentials with the appearance of a Dyson sphere.

18. “Data’s Day” (Season 4, Episode 11): Brent Spiner’s Data is delightfully curious and childlike in this episode where he records his observations during a 24-hour period that sees a Roman espionage plot, a childbirth, and Miles O’Brien’s wedding. This novel approach gives meat to the android’s series-long arc of becoming more human. Like “Relics” it has an iconic scene that rates among TNG’s best as Dr. Crusher teaches Data to tap dance (for which a pregnant McFadden did her own choreography). It’s Spiner’s best performance as Data that doesn’t involve him acting out of character or playing multiple personas.

17. “Unification, Part 1” (Season 5, Episode 7): As great as it is to see Spock in the second part of this story, I always felt it was a wasted opportunity centered around obvious betrayal and a weak villain in Sela. Part 1 though, is pure magic, as Les Landau gives it a cinematic scope. Mark Lenard gives his final performance as Sarek, giving the stentorian Vulcan a heartbreaking farewell. And for all the show’s pathos, it plays off its humor well, particularly as Picard endures an uncomfortable Klingon ship and its begrudging commander, and Riker and crew track down a Romulan plot with the help of a dour alien bureaucrat. It gives us some of our best looks yet into the Vulcan and Romulan psyches.

16. “Deja Q” (Season 3, Episode 13): One of the sharpest-written episodes that uses comic effect very well indeed. Q is kicked out of the continuum and is forced to seek refuge on the Enterprise. It’s a great premise, but made better by Guinan’s total lack of sympathy, some great deadpan one-liners from Worf, and Data’s attempt to inculcate the defrocked immortal into the ways of humanity.

15. “The Wounded” (Season 4, Episode 12): The Cardassians are introduced in this tightly-written episode that finds Picard and crew tracking down a rogue captain violently pursuing his own agenda. Given his later role on DS9, we forget how bold and trusting it was to give Colm Meany the lead in this episode as he struggles through his loyalties between his former and present commanders, while combatting his own prejudices. Between Bob Gunton as the tortured Captain Maxwell and Marc Alaimo as proto-Dukat Gul Macet, the guest acting is some of the series’ strongest as it explores the deep damage war exacts on those who survive.

14. “Q Who” (Season 2, Episode 16): Another key villain is introduced in this episode, the Borg in this case. Q decides to teach the crew a lesson and sends them to the farthest reaches of space. I love that, because it refutes Picard’s humanism in a subtle way, as the captain himself notes at the end of the episode: the Borg encounter, which exacts the highest number of crew deaths we’ve seen on the series so far, is needed to kick the Federation out of its smugness and complacency. The most dramatic scene, where a desperate Picard has to admit that he is out of his league and beg for help, is profound, and Riker, Worf, and Data’s exploration of the Borg Cube is pure sci-fi greatness as we learn about this hive species.

13 and 12. “Best of Both Worlds, Part 1 and 2” (Season 3, Episode 26; Season 4, Episode 1): This is often considered the high point of the series. It’s a smart two-parter that takes big risks that mostly pay off, but I can’t rank it that high for a few reasons. Part 1 is bogged down by a deeply uninteresting storyline about Riker’s promotion and his sense of competition with Commander Shelby. While it does have a rewarding climax, as Riker makes a truly command-level decision by firing a potentially lethal weapon at a ship holding an assimilated Picard, much of the build-up is shrill, obvious, and botched. Part II is a bit better, and succeeds because of a greater sense of its own bigness; it freely throws out phrases like “Wolf 356” as if it knows that they will become ensconced in Trek lore, and we can feel the palpable desperation of the crew through strong acting from the supporting cast, dramatic pacing, and an intense score.

11. “Cause and Effect” (Season 5, Episode 18): This episode could have been a disaster, as the crew is stuck in a time loop, and relives the same few days over and over again. Branon Braga writes his first of many mind blowing, reality-distorting episodes, using some clever conceits- a glass broken by Crusher, a card game that evinces a sense of deja vu. Frakes, too, does the right thing by shooting each round through the time loop differently, as slowly, the crew becomes aware of their dilemma and is able to communicate a message to their future selves. There’s a great payoff at the end too, as we see Frasier Crane arrive from the Original Series movie-era as a time-displaced Starfleet captain.

What do you think so far? I’ll reveal my top 10 soon, but to list my five honorable mentions of episodes that barely missed the top 20: “Lower Decks,” “Frame of Mind,” “Loud as a Whisper,” “The Emissary,” and “The First Duty.”

It’s way too early, but since others are posting their lists of possible Class of 2018 nominees, here’s mine. I proceeded on a perhaps-mistaken assumption: if you look closely at this year’s ballot, there were no acts that had been nominated in both of the previous two years, except for the perennial Chic. Nine Inch Nails? Absent. The Spinners? Gone. The Smiths? AWOL. I think they will follow that trajectory again, with the important exception of Janet, who becomes the new Chic. So, lots of worthy acts that were nominated the last two times out- The Cars, Chaka Khan- are going to be passed over, if that’s true. I assumed- maybe wrongly- that there would again be 19 acts on the ballot, with a great deal of chronological and stylistic breadth. I do think, though, that the Hall will back a bit away from70s/80s  classic-rock dominated ballots after the last two years. You can still get good ratings and still generate strong classes by incorporating other genres.

1. Radiohead: A near-undeniable first-ballot nominee

2. Beck: Lots of critical love, lots of longevity, ticks the country box  (FRL noted that Beck may not be eligible until the ballot for 2019. If that’s the case, cue Rage Against the Machine.)

3. Janet Jackson: a new baby, a big name, the strongest netroots Rock Hall campaign ever, and a matriarch of modern R&B. She’ll be back.

4. LL Cool J: There’s going to be a rap artist on every ballot from now til kingdom come. With NWA and Tupac in, the first great solo rapper returns to the ballot and becomes the man to beat.

5. A Tribe Called Quest: Of course, there might be two rap acts…

6. Nina Simone: I’m still shocked this has never happened given the recent documentary. She becomes the Baez/MC5 super-political pick.

7. War: Curiously, War gets nominated every time the ceremony is in Cleveland, and in three year intervals…

8. J. Geils Band : Our requisite critics’ pet blues act.

9. Eurythmics: The Rock Hall loves soulful singers. With my “two noms and a bye-week” trend in play, The Cars sit out and Annie Lennox makes her first appearance on the ballot.

10. Nine Inch Nails: With a ceremony in Cleveland, expect Trent Reznor to come roaring back on the ballot.

11. Moody Blues: Given the last two classes, the Nom Com must surely realize that classic rock bands have a significant leg up- 7 out of the last 11 artists fell clearly into that category. I’d expect the Hall to pull back in favor of other eras and genres, but give that crowd an important sop: a long-overdue nom for The Moody Blues. Our fan ballot winner.

12. Kraftwerk: A progenitor of modern electronica, and in my opinion, the most important act not in the Hall. Thankfully, lots of people at the Hall realize this as well.

13. The Cure: Unlike fellow 80s alternative act The Smiths, The Cure is actually likely to show up for a ceremony reasonably intact. Jane’s Addiction and Depeche Mode were the closest acts in their M.O. last time, but we’ll probably see the return of teen angst.

14. Motörhead: I think this will be who Dave Grohl will champion. With Deep Purple in, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and solo Ozzy seem next in line, and it’s anybody’s guess which of them they will nominate.

15. Big Star: Holly Robinson is an underrated influence on the committee, and she recently wrote a book on Alex Chilton. If Steppenwolf and MC5 can show up on a ballot, is Big Star really that great a stretch?

16. The Spinners: They were absent last time around, but Dave Marsh and Cliff Burnstein want them in.

17. New York Dolls: Last nominated way back in 2001, The New York Dolls’ mixture of early glam and punk are too influential to be ignored.

18. Devo: Another important new wave-ish, electronica-based act, and it’s strong connections to Ohio give them an advantage this year. (Two of its members were at Kent State when the infamous shootings happened, leading them to believe in humanity’s DE-eVOlution.)

19. Link Wray: I’ve got to believe there is still a critical mass of aficionados of early rock and roll on the committee. Maybe Wray’s coverage in the recent Sundance film will help him return to the ballot for the first time since the Class of 2014.

 

Obviously, these aren’t my ~official~ predictions, just my attempt to figure out the front-runners in this new year. If I had to guess who would get in out of this lot, I’d say Moody Blues, Radiohead, Janet Jackson, Nine Inch Nails, Nina Simone, and maybe Eurythmics or LL Cool J if there’s six. What do you think?

At 8:00 on Tuesday morning, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced their Class of 2017, which will be formally inducted in a ceremony in Brooklyn in April. The ballot for this class was immensely competitive and stylistically diverse, ranging from punk, alternative, disco, and electronic. In the end, however, the class was:

  • Pearl Jam
  • 2pac
  • Electric Light Orchestra
  • Joan Baez
  • Journey
  • Yes
  • Nile Rodgers (Musical Excellence Award)

What do I think? It’s a very good, but not quite great, class. It avoided being all-male–barely. And it avoided being all-white:–again, barely. There’s greater stylistic breadth than last time, and all six performer inductees are more than deserving. Pearl Jam and 2pac are both iconic 90s artists and profoundly influential in ways that reached beyond their genres. The other four artists were all easily in the top 50 of my 100 Greatest Rock Prospects project from earlier this year. Yes was highest at #10, then Journey at #14, Baez at #29, and ELO at #46. (Pearl Jam and 2pac weren’t eligible at the time I made my list, but if they were, they probably would have been somewhere in the top 15.)  Yes scratches the Prog Rock itch, Journey and ELO are fun, populist guilty pleasures only a curmudgeon could object to, and Baez was a critical part of introducing social consciousness into midcentury popular music. The massive and financially lucrative classic rocker crowd will be pleased, while critics can delight in the sustained artistic excellence of the others.

But lots of great artists on the ballot didn’t make it. My four-year trend of having my favorite artist on the ballot inducted ended when The Zombies fell short. Kraftwerk and Janet Jackson are respectively my 2nd and 3rd greatest Rock Hall Prospects, and neither made it. And there was an absence of a truly surprising inductee, like Miller or Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Many Rock Hall watchers-myself included- got four or five of their predictions correct. (I got all five right, but flubbed my “if there’s six” pick, eschewing Yes for alternately Janet and Chic.) As usual, out-of-mainstream acts like MC5, Bad Brains, and even Jane’s Addiction were left out in the cold.

But by far the most controversial news bite was inducting Rodgers under Musical Excellence without the rest of Chic. Now, I’ve advocated for this in the past- so I’m hardly blameless- but now that it’s happened, it’s disappointing, especially now that I’ve come to better appreciate the band’s ensemble sound. It was clear by now, however, that the voters just weren’t going to bite, no matter how many times Chic was nominated. Rodgers, in an interview with Rolling Stone, is trying to be gracious, but I can’t imagine how hurt he must feel to see his bandmates- most of whom he’s outlived- passed over. I guess it’s better than having nobody from Chic in, but there’s no doubt that the 900+ members of the voting committee collectively screwed up. Again.

Which brings me to my larger gripe about what is, I reiterate, a pretty good class. By this, I mean the lack of R&B. Let’s put it this way: the last four classes had exactly one black R&B artist inducted: Bill Withers. And the last four classes had upwards of a dozen 70s/80s classic rockers, depending on the breadth of your definition of classic rock. Certainly Chicago, KISS, Deep Purple, Cheap Trick, Steve Miller, Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Yes, Journey, and ELO, but maybe Cat, Joan Jett, Lou Reed, Linda Ronstadt, and Stevie Ray as well. And that’s fine- pound for pound, every one of those artists deserves to be enshrined. Yet, we’re exhausting the list of 70s classic rockers who really need to be there. After The Moodies, Dire Straits, The Cars, and a few others, we are close to exhausting that decade’s B-list and moving into the C-list.

But in those same four years, voters have passed over Chic, The Spinners, Joe Tex, Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, War, The JBs, and The Meters. Worse, this contributes to what some have already identified as a self-perpetuating problem: baby boomers inclined toward the 60s and 70s inducting bands from that era who in turn become voting members, who in turn become inclined toward their fellow 60s and 70s acts. Only two black men- ‘Pac and Nile Rodgers- got in this year, and the former is in no condition to vote!

Even worse, we haven’t had a woman of color get in during the last three classes (Ronstadt- the last such person in ’13- is partly Hispanic), and no living black woman all the way since Claudette Rogers Robinson got in with the other Miracles in 2012. So- again- this is a good class; every inductee deserves to be there. But the Hall needs to find a way to get over its lack of stylistic diversity as of late.  And not just R&B: we need more alternative, EDM, country-rock, punk, and other genres too. The Hall seems to have added many more critics to the voting rolls this year,- including the great Chris Molanphy- but it doesn’t seem to have affected the results all that much. Perhaps adding still more younger voters to a group whose average age rivals that of the College of Cardinals would be a good idea. (By the way, Cleveland- I’m 33, the third-best Rock Hall blogger out there, and a historian of the 1970s. Just sayin’.)

Okay! Having said that, let’s speculate on who will be chosen to induct these artists in April:

  • Pearl Jam: Some early buzz circulates around Neil Young. I see the appeal- he was a hero to the grunge movement- but go replay his awful induction speech for McCartney in ’99. Pearl Jam deserves better. Others have suggested David Grohl, and I agree– it would be a fine way to put to rest the bizarre feud between Nirvana and Pearl Jam, a key component of Steven Hyden’s recent book, Your Favorite Band is Killing Me.
  • 2Pac: The instinct here is to get a rapper- either the obvious Dr. Dre or someone like Nas. One site has a great suggestion- Janet Jackson. It’s counterintuitive, but remember, Jackson starred in Poetic Justice together. It’s rare that a nominee who wasn’t inducted makes a speech for someone who was, but I think Janet is classy enough to do it. And if she does it well, she might grease the skids for her own induction next time around.
  • Yes- I agree with the consensus- get Rush’s Geddy Lee to fill in for the late Chris Squire on bass.
  • Journey- I have an unusual suggestion: Carlos Santana. He would be a great tribute to the more arty early days of Journey, particularly since a couple founding members such as Gregg Rollie were also inducted as part of Santana many years prior.
  • ELO: Tom Petty is a good choice but too obvious. I propose a cross-generational induction: Duane Eddy, who has worked with Jeff Lynne before and connects ELO to rock’s pioneer generation, and Dhani Harrison, who will be returning the favor after Lynne inducted his father.
  • Joan Baez: Everybody wants Bob Dylan to do it, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. If Dylan can’t be guaranteed to show up for his own Nobel Prize ceremony, and was AWOL from other major accolades of Baez’s career, he’s not going to go out of his way to participate in a corporate music awards show. He don’t work on Wenner’s farm no more. Instead, they might choose fellow Greenwich Village folkie Peter Yarrow, or even better, The Indigo Girls. They recently toured with Baez, and are her most obvious heirs in terms of merging folk-rock with political advocacy.
  • Nile Rodgers: There’s no shortage of great artists that Rodgers has worked with over the years, but I suspect they’ll want at least one current hitmaker, so I’d predict Pharrell Williams.

I’m starting to like this. Imagine a jam with Santana, Nile Rodgers, Steve Howe, Eddy, and, um…Eddie trading guitar licks; Pharrell, Janet, Joan, and Steve Perry on vocals; Jeff Lynne and Rick Wakeman on keyboards; Geddy Lee on bass and Alan White on drums. They might do “Don’t Stop Believing,” followed by “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Little Red Corvette” in tribute to Prince, and closing with an a cappella “We Shall Overcome” led by Baez. Are you feeling chills?

And just for the hell of it, my first-take predictions for #RockHall2018, to be discarded later: Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Beck, Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, New York Dolls, Motorhead, The Spinners, Nine Inch Nails, War, The Cure, Kraftwerk, The Shangri-Las, Nina Simone, Moody Blues, Eurythmics, A Tribe Called Quest, Big Star, and J. Geils Band.

As we await the announcement for the Rock Hall’s Class of 2017, I’m going to spend some time looking at the most suspect inductions in the Rock Hall’s history. My friend Darin said that this wasn’t the kind of post that could end well, and he’s probably right. Everybody has their own ideas about who shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame- and many of them are genre-based. Some believe that pure pop acts, like Madonna or ABBA shouldn’t be in- that rock and roll is primarily guitar based. Others see rap, disco, country, and other genres as out of place in a pantheon commemorating the great rock and rollers. A study of rock’s history challenges all that, and none of my choices for the “least deserving” are premised on their not being “rock” enough. In fact, I think everybody in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame qualifies as being broadly in the rock and roll family tree- maybe with the exception of Miles Davis, but I’m willing to let that one go. I believe in a generous orthodoxy, to quote theologian Brian McLaren.

So here’s my picks for the ten least deserving. I realize, of course, that not everyone may agree, and some of these picks are provocative. In general, I looked at the quality of their body of work, and their ability to move the rock and roll narrative forward in some way. I also considered the “value over replacement player” theory from baseball stats- if someone got in when a better artist in their genre is not, I counted that against them. Also, please realize that, with maybe the exception of #10, these aren’t bad artists; they don’t “suck”- many of them had fine careers. But for me, they don’t pass the gossamer threshold of Hall of Fame greatness.

10. Sex Pistols: Okay, this one is going to generate some hate mail. I know how influential the Sex Pistols are. I understand their significance in the punk pantheon. I get how they were an act of dissent against pretentious and unaccessible rock musicianship during the age of prog. Nevertheless, I stand by this choice for the following reasons. 1) They didn’t want to be inducted, and if they are really so set against it, let’s kick ’em out and make room for someone who sees being in the Rock Hall as an honor. 2) An absurdly short lifespan 3) Poor musicianship- in fact arguably the worst musicianship of any Rock Hall inductee. I realize that was the point to a certain extent, but if we take rock and roll partly as an art form, it’s hard to imagine an act less interested in doing it well. 4) There is a certain Monkees-esque fakery to their act, and I am inclined toward the school of rock history that views the Sex Pistols as Malcolm McLaren’s band of little prefabricated dissidents. That’s especially problematic for punk, a movement based first and foremost on authenticity.

9. Paul Butterfield Blues Band: Make no mistake: this is a super-competent, extremely good blues act. The musicianship is top notch, but 1) unlike someone like Stevie Ray, it’s hard to see what they did that is particularly original; they were Chicago blues and that was that; 2) the lack of commercial success, although to an extent, that’s not the point of a blues band. I just don’t think they did enough for a hall of fame C.V. I can see why they might be a tempting choice- they were at Woodstock, and the legendary concert when Dylan went electric. But like some other artists I might name, if one or two prominent figures in the Rock Hall didn’t love them, they’d never get in. They are certainly a group every rock aficionado should be aware of, but they just don’t pass the “Hall of Fame” threshold for me.

8. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: Another problematic pick from the Class of 2015. Longtime readers will know I’m a bleeding heart for more women in the Rock Hall. Joan Jett was a rockist’s idea of a “rock and roll woman:” she played guitar, she sneered, she wrecked hotels, and didn’t give a damn what anybody thought. Peel back that image, and there isn’t a whole lot of substance: the covers, the lackluster guitar work, the fairly limited body of work. Yet, because she stood at the nexus of rock and femininity, she was quickly given the fast track into the hall, especially after performing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with the Nirvana rhythm section. (Replay that video; Jett’s vocals are iffy and she’s clearly having trouble with the lyrics.) Given the better, more substantive female rock acts out there, it’s hard to see Jett as essential. Pat Benatar, Cyndi Lauper, The Go-Gos, even her old band The Runaways have more going for them.

7. The Faces/Small Faces: Three years ago, I asked maybe half a dozen Rock Hall watchers which, say, 200 acts belonged in hall. Only three artists who were actually inducted appeared on zero lists. Two of them are at the end of this list. The third was The Faces/Small Faces. Even the tentative manner in which they framed this band, consisting of two distinct eras with two distinct lineups, signals the committee’s confusion on this artist. It seemed more like a cheap (and only half-successful) ploy to get Rod Stewart and Ron Wood to show up to a ceremony. I applaud picking a group that was more popular in England than in the USA- the Rock Hall almost never does that- but the Faces lack a signature hit that more casual listeners will remember, and if you think they should be in on the grounds of influence, why them and not Kraftwerk? Something doesn’t add up.

6. Del Shannon: Tom Lane and I had a short twitter discussion about this choice. He made the best possible case for Del Shannon, but ultimately I need to include him here. He isn’t without merit- his minor key ballads of longing presaged the way for groups like The Zombies. In the end, though, I need a canon of great material. While there are treasures to be mined in Shannon’s catalog (listen to “Keep Searchin'”), we’re talking about a guy whose third best song is called “Hats Off to Larry.”

5. The Dells: Two of my blog’s most loyal followers, Tom L. and Philip, are going to be irritated by this pick. Nevertheless, out of all the four or five 50s vocal groups who are borderline Rock Hall cases, The Dells have the least going for them. I honestly can’t tell what made them stand out from their peers, or what their distinctive calling card might have been. “Oh, What a Night” (not the December, 1963 one) isn’t iconic enough for the “they had lots of memorable songs that form our public consciousness card” that Bill Withers or someone can play. Again- not a bad group, and they had a long and successful touring career they can be proud of. But if they were never inducted, nobody would have noticed their absence.

4. George Harrison: Look, I love The Beatles. My high school graduation speech was about life lessons gleaned from their catalog. George’s death in 2001 was a traumatizing moment during my first semester of college. Nevertheless, the Nom Com got carried away in nominating him for his solo career as a posthumous gesture. Go back into George’s solo career, and you’ll find that a lot of it just isn’t very good. One struggles in vain to look for a Harrison effort that isn’t at least partly tedious, preachy (“The Lord Loves the One Who Loves the Lord,” “Try Some Buy Some”), and overly amused with itself (“Crackerbox Palace,” “This Song.”) Consider Harrison’s languid cover of “Bye Bye Love” with new lyrics to reflect his wife leaving him for Eric Clapton. Even supposed masterpieces like All Things Must Pass are overlong, drenched in echo, and unpleasant to listen to- worse, Harrison just wasn’t committed to being a good artist. He toured twice in 31 years, he failed to improve much as a musician, and when he recorded, it was just an excuse to fart around with his friends in the studio. Harrison’s contributions to The Beatles are deeply underrated, and his work from ’65-’68 to fuse Indian music with the Western Top 40 is maybe the single most interesting facet of The Beatles’ canon during those years for me. But his solo career was a long, dreary, retread of his finest work. I’m not sure how anyone could make Hindu spirituality sound tedious and puritanical, but George found a way.

3. Gene Pitney: As with choice #6, we’re dealing with rock and roll’s supposed “Dark Age” between Buddy Holly’s death and the British Invasion. And with #6, we’re dealing with someone most famous for torch songs about teen angst. Someone had to save us from the “Theme from a Summer Place” and “Pink Shoe Laces,” but Pitney just wasn’t up the task. His songs are a cut above some of the dreadful top 40 material of those years, and “It Hurts To Be in Love” has real promise. I’m fine with more obscure artists getting into the Hall, but Pitney is still a baffling choice given that some real innovators of that era- Dick Dale anyone?- are still waiting for a nomination. Nevertheless, the Nom Com put him on the ballot a Chic-esque 8 times (!) before he finally got through in 2002.

2. Laura Nyro: Many Rock Hall watchers love ragging on the Nom Com. I’m no different, although as the years have passed, I’ve given them a growing benefit of the doubt. This pick, though, is about as clear a case of Nom Com favoritism that you can find. Nyro has historically been a “critic’s pet” and is well-liked by some committee fixtures such as Holly Robinson. It took three nominations, but they finally got Nyro in for the Class of 2012. To put this in perspective, Nyro somehow got more votes that year than Heart, Donna Summer, The Spinners, War, AND The Cure. W.T.F.? To be sure, New York Tendaberry is a great early example of where singer-songwriters were heading in the 1970s, but Nyro was nearly hitless for  her own career. The fact that many of her songs- “Eli’s Coming,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “And When I Die”- delivered for other people underscores how misplaced she was. I’d have had no problem with Nyro inducted as a non-performer/songwriter. But for her to get in as an artist when Carole King, Carly Simon, Nina Simone, and Emmylou Harris are not is a crying shame.

1. Percy Sledge: If there’s one thing that most Rock Hall specialists agree on, it’s that Sledge is the single fishiest Rock Hall inductee. It’s a classic mixture of 1) favoritism- Little Stevie Van Zandt had Sledge perform “When a Man Loves a Woman” at his wedding and wanted to do him a solid. Dave Marsh is also a huge fan.  2) insider clubbiness- during those years, Ahmet Ertegum was still on the Nom Com, and Sledge recorded for Atlantic Records. And so, a guy with one top ten hit- a guy whose other material is forgettable to everyone except hardcore record collectors- a guy who wasn’t even an especially great performer- a guy whose only hit has an inexplicably out-of-tune horn section- got in on his first nomination.

Other artists I considered were: Brenda Lee, Clyde McPhatter, The Moonglows, Buffalo Springfield, Lavern Baker, Little Willie John, Richie Valens, Traffic, KISS (they’re a QVC broadcast more than a functioning band) and the Dave Clark Five.

What do you think? Is Alex Voltaire off his rocker? Let me know (gently, I would prefer) in the comments below.

Last week, I gave a cursory overview of our slate of nominees for next year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. There was a lot of ground to cover, especially with nineteen nominees, the most since the Rock Hall’s infancy, and a lot of my thoughts were simple reactions to some startling choices made by the Nom Com. This time around, I hope to examine the nominees in some greater depth. Before we dive in, lots of other Rock Hall monitors have written great takes worth a look, including Philip, Michelle, Donnie, Eric, and Tom.

For me, I’m listing the 19 nominees alphabetically, with three rankings: 1) their Worthiness of being inducted into the Rock Hall on the grounds of influence, excellence, and role in rock’s unfolding history, 2) their Likelihood of actually being inducted, and 3) how they measure in the purely subjective measure of Preference, or how much I like them.

Bad Brains (Worthiness: 16, Likelihood: 18, Preference: 19): For many, this was the biggest surprise on the ballot, given the Hall’s reticence toward punk. In some ways, nominating this hardcore D.C. area band, whose influence in straight-edge culture is very palpable, almost seems like a warning shot to naysayers demanding greater populism and the HBO executives demanding marketable acts. The low marks in all three categories might mistakenly give the impression that I don’t like Bad Brains. Honestly? If and when I revisit my top 100 Rock Hall prospects, it’s more likely than not that Bad Brains will have earned a berth. It’s a solid nomination with ties to a number of Cleveland-neglected genres, and it sends a message.

The Cars (Worthiness: 8, Likelihood: 7, Preference: 3): The Cars are back after a surprise nomination last year. While their fellow classic rockers on last year’s ballot beat them to the punch, The Cars look like they are in pretty good shape. They straddle the line between commercial success and critical acclaim as well as anybody on this list, and what’s more, my appreciation for them has only grown in the last year. At the time of this writing, they are seated comfortably at #3 on the fan ballot. While that counts for very little, it does signal a clamoring for The Cars among the wider public. They are among my top 20 biggest snubs, and I’d love to see them get in. Unfortunately, with classic rock having been overdone last time, a couple populist favorites on the list, and a couple no-brainer first-time nominees, The Cars may find themselves stuck in neutral this year.

Chaka Khan (Worthiness: 15, Likelihood: 13, Preference: 13): Last year, Khan earned a solo nomination, and once again, she’s up against two competitors with whom she does not compare favorably: Chic from her Rufus days and Janet Jackson from her 80s solo career. When you add her troubles with drug addiction that sent her to rehab this spring, the prospects aren’t looking good for Chaka Khan. She’s a singer of singular talent, but if it took Donna Summer five nominations and an untimely death, there’s little chance that Chaka Khan is going to make it on her third try.

Chic (Worthiness: 6, Likelihood: 11, Preference: 9): At this point, we’ve run out of metaphors and cliches to describe Chic’s predicament- seriously, at this point, Susan Lucci should start demanding royalties every time a music writer weighs in on them. If Chic couldn’t get in during the Class of 2014 with Niles Rodgers-produced “Get Lucky” riding high in the charts, there’s very little this year that makes their “plausible but unlikely” chances any better. Hope springs eternal, and it’s unlikely that the Nom Com would keep nominating if they kept tanking in votes every year. Yet there’s no reason to think this year’s outcome will be different from any other.

Depeche Mode (Worthiness: 11, Likelihood: 15, Preference: 15): It was a pleasant surprise to see Depeche Mode show up, given the Nom Com’s reluctance to give the late 80s/early 90s B-list their due, while chipping away at the 1960s and 1970s C-list. It’s unfortunate that they are up against Kraftwerk; Depeche Mode took many of their ideas and made them palatable to the general public. When facing one another, it becomes a tricky choice between influence and success. This is a worthy selection, and an interesting substitute for Nine Inch Nails this year, but their prospects are still unlikely.

Electric Light Orchestra (Worthiness: 12, Likelihood: 3, Preference: 5): Reflective of the Rock Hall’s populist turn these last few years, ELO fits in with the current zeitgeist. Vintage 1970s bands have done very well the last few years, between KISS, Chicago, Hall & Oates, Cheap Trick, Steve Miller (Band) and others. ELO enjoys the added bonus of having frontman Jeff Lynne work with many inductees over the years, so if Tom Petty, Duane Eddy, Paul & Ringo, and any number of other artists still fill out their ballots, there’s a good chance that they can find room for the Electric Light Orchestra. Rabid fans of their classical-infused rock music have got to be pleased about their chances- in some ways, they are this year’s Chicago.

J. Geils Band (Worthiness: 18, Likelihood: 12, Preference: 14): Kind of like Los Lobos last year, J. Geils Band is one of those outfits that has my respect, but isn’t quite Rock Hall-worthy. Their live stuff is pretty fun, and their proficiency in the blues during the 1970s is quite impressive, if at odds with “Freeze Frame” and “Centerfold.” Clearly, some people on the Nom Com love them, and they have returned for their fourth nomination. While they are among the least deserving, in my opinion, I’m hesitant to write off their chances. Blues acts have had lots of luck in the last five years, with Albert King, Stevie Ray, and Paul Butterfield Blues Band all getting in. Even Steve Miller arguably got a boost from being the closest thing to a blues artist on last year’s ballot. While I don’t think J. Geils Band will have similar luck, especially if the Hall keeps their promise of five nominees, I wouldn’t count them out.

Jane’s Addiction (Worthiness: 13, Likelihood: 14, Preference: 10): And here we have our 1980s/1990s early alternative slot given to these Lollapalooza legends who ranked an even #50 on my list of Rock Hall prospects. I’d love to see more bands like this get in, but it’s a little ridiculous that they might outpace The Smiths, The Cure, The Replacements, and Sonic Youth in doing so. Nevertheless, it would be a real public relations coup to get that crowd to harbor a less cynical attitude toward the Hall. But unless Cleveland bestowed voting rights to a critical mass of Gen X’ers, expect Jane’s Addiction to have a lengthy wait.

Janet Jackson (Worthiness: 3, Likelihood: 6, Preference: 8): It was downright shocking that Janet didn’t get in last year. Even with a stacked ballot of other long-neglected acts, I expected her to sail right through. With a bit of classic rock fatigue from last year, though, Janet’s chances are still very good- although I’m not taking anything for granted. If she does get in, expect a monumental comeback performance after what I hope will be the delivery of a healthy baby. A Janet induction would be a triumph, and then maybe we can move toward Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, and a pet project of mine, TLC.

Joan Baez (Worthiness: 10, Likelihood: 5, Preference: 2): In hindsight, a Baez induction should have been obvious. With an entire exhibit on rock and politics on display in Cleveland during the RNC, someone like Joan was hiding in plain sight. Although she is important on her own merits, the recent attention given to Bob Dylan with his Nobel Laureate can’t hurt. Moreover, the Hall loves singer-songwriters and they usually cruise right in: Bill Withers, Cat Stevens, Donovan, and I suppose Steve Miller all had fairly painless induction processes. And none of those can match the historicity of Baez, someone who actually opened for Martin Luther King at the March on Washington. (I hasten to add, though, that Baez didn’t always write her own songs. She came from an age where folk singers appropriated, re-arranged, and re-wrote existing songs, or “messing with tradition” as Dan Berggren puts it.) I’m sure of only two things for Rock Hall 2017: Pearl Jam is getting in, and there will be at least one female performer after last year’s sausage-fest fiasco. Whether that’s Janet or Joan- hopefully both- remains to be seen.

Joe Tex (Worthiness: 17, Likelihood: 17, Preference: 16): Now here was a surprise. Most Rock Hall watchers thought Joe Tex’s days on the ballot were over, and that he had been passed by in favor of more marquee names like Withers, The Spinners, or even the yet-to-be nominated Commodores. Well, someone on the committee thought otherwise, and this year’s 60s’ soul and 70’s funk slot goes to Tex for nomination #5. Tom Lane likes him, but I don’t quite share the love- while a good artist, Tex just didn’t excel at any one thing, always seeming to be outpaced by someone like James Brown or the Isley Brothers. He’s one of the least likely to get in- if The Spinners couldn’t do it on a weaker ballot, Tex doesn’t have a prayer. But for those who hope the Rock Hall will push the casual music listener against his instincts and force him to learn his history, the Joe Tex nomination is encouraging.

Journey (Worthiness: 7, Likelihood: 4, Preference: 6): And right on schedule, here’s our uber-populist pick this year. Right now, Journey is running away with the fan poll, with a potent combination of classic rock fans and a demographic I like to call “50-year-old women named Tammy.” And I don’t begrudge them that success; they have a boatload of Top 20 hits, the most downloaded song of all time in “Don’t Stop Believing,” and for ordinary Americans, Journey is a key part of their milieu. If you wonder how they will pick off a key section of actual Rock Hall voters, remember: three years ago, we weren’t aware of a single person who disclosed their ballot that was voting for KISS, a band with similar, even greater, critical hatred. KISS still got in, and so will Journey unless I miss my guess.

Kraftwerk (Worthiness: 2, Likelihood: 16, Preference: 7): It’s great to see Kraftwerk back. They are the highest-ranked artist from my 100 Rock Hall Prospects (and were only edged in worthiness by newcomer Pearl Jam.) Unfortunately, a German band that made 10-minute long electronic tracks is a tall order in any year, let alone a 19-act ballot this strong. I love you, Kraftwerk, but with another electronic act in Depeche Mode, and another nominally cerebral act in Yes, you don’t have a prayer.

MC5 (Worthiness: 14, Likelihood: 19, Preference: 17): Speaking of politics and rock, MC5 is back, probably at Tom Morello’s behest. While Baez preached a nonviolent message palatable to 60s peacefests, MC5 was a radical New Left group that wanted an honest to god revolution. Despite their lack of chart success, they were important to the development of punk in articulating their dissent with mainstream society. Their surviving members are still somewhat high-profile, if eccentric, but they won’t be getting that call to play in Cleveland. Again, history is instructive: if it took The Stooges, an act on Rolling Stone‘s list of 100 immortals, 8 tries to get in, MC5 isn’t going to make it on their second nomination.

Pearl Jam (Worthiness: 1, Likelihood: 1, Preference: 11): For years, 2017 has been blocked out as “the year Pearl Jam gets in.” Well, it’s finally here, and like everyone expected, they got nominated. They were one of the most important acts from the 1990s, almost as innovative as Nirvana but with longevity, and virtually every male rock singer for the rest of that decade tried to sound like Eddie Vedder. Their only danger is that too many people will think they are a sure thing, and spread their votes elsewhere.

Steppenwolf (Worthiness: 19, Likelihood: 10, Preference: 12): It is a credit to the Nom Com that this is their only truly indefensible pick this year. This isn’t going to be popular with some of my readers, but– seriously, Steppenwolf? Somewhere in Manitoba, Randy Bachman is sullen and disgusted, and is cracking open yet another Labatt Blue. They had two big hits that are well remembered, and while hardcore record collectors insist on “The Pusher” and other later-day tracks as genius, I don’t buy it. They failed to produce a single good album, and yet as classic rockers from the right era, they have as good a chance as anyone. Every year, an act I either detest or think is wholly undeserving gets in (NWA, KISS, Lou Reed, Rush), and I’m afraid that this year, it may be Steppenwolf.

Tupac Shakur (Worthiness: 4, Likelihood: 2, Preference: 18): Tupac is loved by all the right people. Rolling Stone, which is probably the single biggest institutional influence on the voting committee, helped make 2Pac a modern-day legend, the object of reverence and devotion like an inner-city semiotic cross between Bob Marley and Che Guevara. He’s every bit as relevant and revolutionary as NWA, but somehow never caught the stigma of violence and misogyny that followed them to ignominy (although his own personal life was also problematic in those regards.) Anyway, I’m calling it- Tupac is getting in, and as the most important eligible rapper, I have no objections, despite my mixed feelings toward the genre.

Yes (Worthiness: 5, Likelihood: 8, Preference: 4): Poor Yes- prog rockers have been clamoring for their induction for years, and even on some strong ballots, it seemed like Yes had a good shot. Last year, they had to watch on HBO as fellow classic rockers Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, and Steve Miller took to the podium in the Barclays Center. If Yes didn’t have what it took last year, it’s hard to see a different outcome this time, although one could have said the same thing about Deep Purple last year. Oh well. Should Yes get inducted, proggers can then commence complaining about King Crimson and ELP.

The Zombies (Worthiness: 9, Likelihood: 9, Preference: 1): I. Love. The Zombies. Rod Argent is probably my favorite rock keyboard player. Odessey and Oracle is in my top five favorite albums- all time. I am completely and totally in the tank for them. And yet, I’m still worried about their chances- I thought they would pull through when they were first nominated for the Class of 2014, but were somehow eclipsed by the likes of KISS and Hall & Oates. Well, one meaningless trend will help them this year- my favorite act on the ballot has made it in the last three years (Linda Ronstadt, Bill Withers, and Chicago, in case you were wondering). More seriously, I can see them pulling together an upset with a winning coalition. Surviving Dave Clark Fivers and other British Invasion vets will probably have their backs, and as one of the most soulful acts in that genre, it’s hard to see the odd Miracle or Vandella denying them a vote. If you add their sterling reputation in Indie circles, it’s not that hard to see The Zombies pull this off. I sure hope they do.

And there we stand. After last year, I think the Rock Hall will do anything in its power to get a more diverse class than last time- even if it involves some Class of 2007-style “creative arithmetic.” Expect at least one woman- probably Janet Jackson or Joan Baez- possibly both. If we go by likelihood, that means a class of Pearl Jam, Tupac, ELO, Journey, and Joan Baez if they stick with five, adding Janet Jackson if they go for six (they should), and The Cars if we get a supersized class of seven.

Who will I vote for in the Rock Hall’s fan ballot? Well, as I said before, Pearl Jam is massively influential and successful; although I don’t especially care for them, I have to vote for them. Because of her very real merits and my abiding respect for #InductJanet, Janet Jackson gets my vote too. They won’t get in, but as my 2nd most worthy Rock Hall prospect, Kraftwerk deserves it. We’re still seeing their massive influence play out today. I love The Zombies so much that I’ll overlook their somewhat brief heyday. And my inner McGovernite and my love of good folk music makes me pick Joan Baez to round out the list. But good lord! It’s kind of crazy that the Rock Hall cooked up a ballot so strong that I don’t have room for Yes, The Cars, Journey, ELO, 2Pac, or luckless Chic.

So- what do you think? Remember, these rankings are just one guy’s (hopefully informed) opinion. I’d love to hear who you think deserves induction in the comments below.

On Tuesday morning (well, Tuesday night for me, since I’m in Singapore) the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame unveiled its list of nominees for the Class of 2017. Although Troy Smith of the Cleveland Plain Dealer had telegraphed that the slate was very good and quite diverse, music fans across the world were taken by surprise to find that 19 nominees were put forth. This is more than any year since the Rock Hall’s foundational years, when the 1960s A-listers weren’t all in yet.

In case you haven’t heard, the nominees this year included: Bad Brains, Chic, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, The Zombies, Janet Jackson, Yes, The Cars, Chaka Khan, Joan Baez, Joe Tex, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Steppenwolf, MC5, J. Geils Band, Journey, Electric Light Orchestra, and Jane’s Addiction.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll run down the nominees one by one, offering my thoughts on who is worthy and who is not; who will get in and who probably won’t. But for now, let me just sketch out some of my first impressions on this fascinating list.

  • As others have already noted, there’s a little something for everybody here. Lots of different sub-genres from folk to punk to R&B made it, alongside some classic rock favorites.
  • I did notice one particular trend. With the exception of perennial Chic, every other artist who was on the last two ballots didn’t make it on to this one. In this case, that left Nine Inch Nails, The Smiths, and The Spinners in the lurch.
  • Congratulations, #InductJanet. You’ve run a great, classy, persuasive campaign that is still bearing fruit. I was skeptical that Jackson would be nominated, given her pregnancy and the possibility she might still be recovering when it’s time to perform. I’m delighted that the Rock Hall did the right thing and nominated her regardless.
  • The Rock Hall showed uncommon discipline this year; none of the names leaked or got out early, and they have replaced their robot-infested poll from last year with a new system requiring sign-in and limiting votes to one per day. It’s still possible, I suppose to get around it, and many aren’t happy that the vote totals are now secret, but I’m less bothered by it. It’s a step in the right direction.
  • In terms of our predictions, this made fools out of a great many of us. Despite 19 selections, I only got six right (Pearl Jam, Tupac, The Cars, Kraftwerk, Chic, and The Zombies). All of these were fairly obvious except for The Zombies, who I think I was the only Monitor to pick.
  • Also, a lot of artists we thought would make the ballot didn’t. Aside from NIN, The Smiths, and The Spinners, other frequently predicted artists who didn’t make the cut included: The Cure, The Monkees, Moody Blues, and Judas Priest.
  • Tom Lane correctly got nine (!!) predictions, while the rest of us tended to bottom out at six (Charles Crossley was another exception; he got eight correct.) Tom was especially prescient in naming Joan Baez.
  • This list is slightly (but only slightly) less America-centric than other years. There’s four British acts (ELO, Yes, The Zombies, and Depeche Mode), one Canadian act (Steppenwolf…Guess Who must be pissed right now), and out Teutonic overlords in Kraftwerk.
  • How does this connect to my Top 100 Rock Hall Prospects list? Remember- one of my rules was that each act must have been passed over at least once, so Pearl Jam and Tupac didn’t qualify at the time I wrote it. Other than that, three acts are from my top 10 (Kraftwerk, Janet, and Yes), and five others were in the top 30 (Journey, The Cars, Joan Baez, The Zombies, and Chic). Others placing on the list were Depeche Mode (#35), ELO (#46), Jane’s Addiction (#50), MC5 (#72), and Chaka Khan (#80). That leaves Bad Brains, Steppenwolf, J. Geils Band, and Joe Tex on the “bubbling under” chart. (Although if I had to do my list over, I’d include Bad Brains and maybe kick out Los Lobos purely out of spite, since they didn’t play “La Bamba” when I saw them this summer.)
  • Questlove’s fingerprints aren’t really on the ballot this year. There’s a couple acts he’s probably supportive of- notably Janet and Chaka Khan- but no act he’s on-the-record crazy about, like War, The Spinners, De La Soul, or A Tribe Called Quest. Did he miss the meeting this year?
  • It’s interesting that the Hall so prominently displayed the categories of inductees on their announcement page. It makes me wonder if we might have an Early Influence, Non-Performer, and Musical Excellence award. For the record, I’m going to call Sister Rosetta Tharpe for Influence, Brian Eno or Rick Rubin for Non-Performer, and The Revolution (as in Prince and…) for Musical Excellence.

So that’s where things stand presently. I’ll have a lot more to say soon, with formal rankings of the artists and deeper riffs in terms of what all this says about the Rock Hall and where it is going. For now, go vote for your favorites at Rockhall.com and stay tuned!

If you enjoy following or complaining about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this is a time of year that involves a great deal of waiting. We wait, especially, to hear about the slate of presumably 15 nominees for next year’s class. The last few years, that list comes out in the first week of October, but there’s always a chance that it might be sooner or later. Once that happens, music critics, armchair historians, deejays, and other riffraff will freely share their thoughts: no rock pioneers this year? How could Artist X be nominated before Artist Y?  Why has Artist Z been snubbed yet again?

Maybe in some sense this is a bit hobbyist, but there’s a reason why people tend to care so much, even those who profess that a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is unnecessary. Humanity is a pantheon-making creature, forever forming hierarchies and rankings, distinguishing that which is important or influential from that which is trivial and negligible. Perhaps it is the legacy of some evolutionary urge, or perhaps it is the product of too much free time, but we impose this sense of order on the music we love. We want to see our favorite bands enshrined. We want to see historically significant bands ignored by the wider public acknowledged. And we want to be part of the conversation about what makes rock and roll great.

In the interim, a number of Rock Hall followers have posted their own predictions as to who will appear on the ballot while we wait. Lots and lots of people have done this, but for the purposes of this post, I am going to limit my analysis to seven writers who consistently blog or post about Rock Hall issues and took the time to defend their choices. Those seven are Charles Crossley, Jr.; Tom Lane; the team at Future Rock Legends; Philip from Rock Hall Monitors, Eric from E-Rockcracy; my friend Donnie; and myself. I’ll share their lists, include my commentary, and then look for some trends.

Charles Crossley, Jr., a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of musical influence across the generations, predicted:

  1. Pearl Jam
  2. 2pac
  3. Nine Inch Nails
  4. Chic
  5. Big Mama Thornton
  6. Link Wray
  7. Electric Light Orchestra
  8. Kraftwerk
  9. The Spinners
  10. The Cars
  11. John Coltrane
  12. The Marvelettes
  13. Yes
  14. Janet Jackson
  15. Eurythmics

My take: This is a very well thought-out list, with a good mix of returning favorites like The Spinners and The Cars with some very plausible snubs showing up. Eurythmics is a solid choice: the Hall loves soul even though it is bearish on new wave, which makes Annie Lennox likely to be one of their first picks from that genre. John Coltrane is an interesting idea- not dissimilar to Miles Davis being chosen for the Class of 2008 despite a more tenuous connection to rock and roll. I do think, though, that there is a bit of wish fulfillment on Charles’s part: Wray, Thornton, Coltrane, and Marvelettes are collectively just too pre-British Invasion given the direction in which the Rock Hall has moved in the last couple years.

Tom Lane selected:

  1. Pearl Jam
  2. 2Pac
  3. Nine Inch Nails
  4. Chic
  5. Joan Baez
  6. The Monkees
  7. Eurythmics
  8. Kraftwerk
  9. The Commodores
  10. The Cars
  11. Chaka Khan
  12. Los Lobos
  13. Judas Priest
  14. Janet Jackson
  15. Yes

My take: This is another solid list. If there’s a trend in Tom’s line of thought, there’s lots of returning acts from last year’s ballot: 7 of them, in fact. He’s got The Commodores in lieu of one of his favorites, The Spinners, and like many of us, thinks that Judas Priest is the best poised to inherit Deep Purple’s spot as the heavy metal act on the ballot. Given Chaka Khan’s substance problems- she entered rehab a couple months ago- I wonder if the Hall might take a pass on her this year, especially when compounded with Janet’s pregnancy. But otherwise, great list. Baez deserves to get in.

Future Rock Legends released its annual list:

  1. Pearl Jam
  2. 2pac
  3. Nine Inch Nails
  4. Chic
  5. PJ Harvey
  6. Tommy James and the Shondells
  7. The Smiths
  8. Kraftwerk
  9. The Spinners
  10. Devo
  11. Janet Jackson
  12. Moody Blues
  13. Judas Priest
  14. Rage Against the Machine
  15. The Marvelettes

My take: I’d be thrilled if this were the actual ballot. It would be hard to complain about a slate that included 4 of my top 5 Rock Hall prospects from my project earlier this year (and 6 out of my top 10).  They are taking a big risk in suggesting 4 first-time-eligible nominees. They have 2pac and Pearl Jam, like everyone else, but also Harvey and RATM. It’s a bold move, but it would clearly signal a new direction after a very 70’s-heavy class last year. As always, FRL’s close eye on the news makes for a well-reasoned list of predictions.

Philip at Rock Hall Monitors:

  1. Pearl Jam
  2. 2Pac
  3. Nine Inch Nails
  4. Chic
  5. Pat Benatar
  6. The Monkees
  7. The Cure
  8. Kraftwerk
  9. The Spinners
  10. The Cars
  11. Janet Jackson
  12. The Smiths
  13. Judas Priest
  14. Los Lobos
  15. Moody Blues

My take: this is a slightly more plausible than FRL’s. By his own admission, Philip predicted conservatively this year; there isn’t a single pick I would describe as implausible. We have a striking 8 picks in common. Maybe the biggest surprise is Pat Benatar, but it is more than sensible for her to pick up some of Joan Jett’s support on the Nom Com, especially after last year’s all-male class.A nicely thought out list that balances critics’ favorites with longtime snubs.

Eric at E-Rockracy chose:

  1. Pearl Jam
  2. 2pac
  3. Nine Inch Nails
  4. Kool & the Gang
  5. Devo
  6. The Monkees
  7. The Cure
  8. Sonic Youth
  9. MC5
  10. The Cars
  11. The Go-Gos
  12. Link Wray
  13. Judas Priest
  14. Los Lobos
  15. The Shangri-Las

My take: Eric’s list is a bit idiosyncratic, but that’s not a bad thing at all. He and FRL chose Devo, a really crafty pick. With their Ohio connections, they would be a natural choice for the Rock Hall to promote. I think the Hall will have more R&B than this list suggests. And there’s two 80s alternative acts and two Tom Morello favorites in Judas Priest and MC5. Still, we share an off-kilter prediction- The Shangri-Las, of all people. The Go-Gos is also a courageous pick. They were the first group to put out a #1 record with all female musicians on it, but so far, I don’t believe a single member of the Nom Com is on record advocating for them.

Donnie picked 16 (which to be fair, happened for the Class of 2014):

  1. Pearl Jam
  2. 2pac
  3. Electric Light Orchestra
  4. The Commodores
  5. Pat Benatar
  6. The Monkees
  7. Sonic Youth
  8. Kraftwerk
  9. The Spinners
  10. The Cars
  11. Janet Jackson
  12. Smashing Pumpkins
  13. Judas Priest
  14. A Tribe Called Quest
  15. The Marvelettes
  16. Toots & the Maytals

My take: Donnie threw caution to the wind, suggesting Smashing Pumpkins in a year with lots of first-time-eligible artists, shared my far-fetched pick of ATCQ, and even put some reggae on the list with Toots & the Maytals. There’s an eye-popping 10 first-time nominees on his list. That’s an awful lot of snubs- many of them fan favorites- to get the nod at once, but that’s not totally dissimilar to what happened last year! Donnie took to heart the first rule of figuring out the Nominating Committee- expect the unexpected!

And finally to recap my list:

  1. Pearl Jam
  2. 2Pac
  3. Nine Inch Nails
  4. Chic
  5. Carole King
  6. The Zombies
  7. The Cure
  8. Kraftwerk
  9. The Meters
  10. The Cars
  11. Nina Simone
  12. Willie Nelson
  13. Judas Priest
  14. A Tribe Called Quest
  15. The Shangri-Las

My (revised) take: What I thought was a pretty conventional list is fraught with problems. There’s five artists on my slate that nobody else predicted (Zombies, King, Nelson, Simone, and The Meters) which isn’t an encouraging sign. Looking back, I wish that I had revised some of these to make room for Eurythmics, The Monkees, and maybe a more conventional R&B choice like The Commodores or The Spinners. The Monkees, especially, have a new album out with plenty of praise for Rolling Stone, and when KISS, Chicago, and Rush have gotten in, it’s clear that the Hall is letting go of some old grudges. But as The Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose put it (and that’s one group that we can agree will never be in the Hall), it’s too late to turn back now. I’ll stick with my selections.

So, let’s look at the picture that emerges from these seven lists. Two artists appeared on all seven slates, and both of them are eligible for the first time this year: Pearl Jam and 2Pac. Nine Inch Nails, Kraftwerk, The Cars, and Judas Priest (!) were near-unanimous, with 6 selections apiece. Also appearing on a majority of our lists were: Janet Jackson, Chic, The Monkees, and The Spinners.

Interestingly, we all seem to believe that some changes in genre are afoot: nobody picked a pure 70s singer-songwriter like Warren Zevon or Jim Croce. Nor is there a clear blues pick- Simone is sorta in that genre but is more widely considered a jazz-woman. Nobody selected, let’s say, Johnny Winter or J. Geils Band- and maybe that wasn’t a great idea given that two blues artists were inducted just two years ago. Similarly, outside of a couple picks of Link Wray and Charles’s ideas concerning Big Mama Thornton and John Coltrane, we’ve more or less given up on artists with meaningful roots in the 1950s.

Some recently nominated artists didn’t show up on any of our lists, including Sting, War, LL Cool J, and The JBs. LL Cool J makes perhaps the most amount of sense, given that Tupac is a prohibitive favorite for nomination and probably induction this year.

In sum, it was a great deal of fun to read predictions by some of my friends who also follow the Rock Hall. We all have our rationales behind our choices, but the great thing is that there is no such thing as a bad prediction for now. We’ll have to wait until October to see who- if anyone- was right. It’s very possible that the ballot produced for the Class of 2017 doesn’t include some artists we were in agreement on. And it’s downright likely that some artists that none of us saw coming will be included as well. Stay tuned…