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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. That’ll Be the Day
  11. Hallelujah, I love Her So
  12. Cry for a Shadow
  13. Cayenne
  14. My Bonnie
  15. Ain’t She Sweet
  16. The Sheik of Araby
  17. Like Dreamers Do
  18. Hello Little Girl
  19. How do you do it?
  20. Lend Me Your Comb
  21. Shout
  22. You Know What to Do
  23. 12-bar original
  24. Not Guilty
  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
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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.

The suspense is over, after a summer of speculating about the ballot and an autumn of speculating about who on that ballot would win. The end result is a remarkably fine and praiseworthy class that gives just about everybody something to be happy about. Given how monochromatic the Classes of 2016 and 2018 were, #RockHall2019 goes off in a number of different stylistic directions. For advocates of a populist Classic rock hall, you have Def Leppard and Stevie Nicks. For critics and writers and those more interested in commemorating the history and breadth of rock music, Roxy Music and The Cure have earned their spots- both mild surprises. I had them listed as the 10th and 11th most likely acts to get in out of this batch of 15. It would be a pretty shabby class if R&B weren’t represented in some way, so a major influence and hitmaker like Janet Jackson has finally earned her place. Radiohead gives one of the most important acts of the late 90s their due. The Zombies validates a group that contributed to mod culture and prog rock. They are a longtime favorite of mine, and full of gentlemen who seem genuinely chuffed to be in the Rock Hall. This is also a very British class…five out of seven acts are from the UK. I’ll have to check, but this could be the first class in the Rock Hall’s history without any American men.

It doesn’t look like there are any inductees for the other categories, which is very unusual. 7 acts will eat up a whole lot of time, so perhaps it’s for the best. (But my god, they are going to have to get the acceptance speeches under control, given the number of Cure and Roxy Music members getting in.) It’s a shame; I know Questlove was rooting for Don Cornelius of Soul Train fame to get in as a non-performer. Not this year, it seems.

So now we get to see them put on a show. I’m sure we’ll have the usual drama…will Roxy Music put the band back together? Who is going to headline? Janet, Radiohead, and Def Leppard all have legitimate claims.

And what about the singles category? I thought they might announce them with the inductees, but that’s apparently wrong. Joel Peresman suggested that the list this year’s crop will focus less on previous nominees. (Indeed, the first batch had Link Wray, Procol Harum, and Steppenwolf among their failed nominees.) That’s not a bad idea, and will cut down on problematic back-door inductions. Anyway, this policy is good news for the Flamingos, The Troggs, Don McLean, and Dick Dale, and probably bad news for The Marvelettes, MC5, The Chantels, and Ben E. King.

This will also have some interesting repercussions for future classes. Def Leppard and Stevie Nicks have shown that the fan vote, at the very least, significantly correlates with the voting committee. It also shows the power of those kiosks at the Rock Hall Museum in Cleveland…but let’s hope that we don’t end up with solo Freddie Mercury next year! Without Janet, one of Questlove’s perennial picks is taken care of…does this help, say, A Tribe Called Quest? Paul Shafer had been advocating The Zombies…will this free him to finally make a case for Warren Zevon? Janet, obviously, opens doors for Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. The Cure finally broke down the barriers preventing 80s alternative acts from getting in– which augers well for The Smiths and Depeche Mode. Stevie Nicks paves the way for The Go-Gos and Pat Benatar. Or maybe Carole King? If there was one common reaction to Nicks’ induction, it was along the lines of Carole King being a better pick for the first woman inducted twice. Def Leppard leads us to guessing who the next populist pick will be– my guess is still on Duran Duran.

What do you think? I’m pretty happy with this group. Two of my five biggest personal snubs– Janet and The Zombies– are in. Despite my reservations about Def Leppard and solo Stevie, I’m ultimately fine with this class. Onward to Brooklyn!

For the next installment of our series, we’ll look at the governors’ races that are coming up within the next two years. There’s plenty of ground to make up: Democrats lost a number of winnable races in 2016, Vermont and New Hampshire being the most prominent. Even worse, only three incumbent Democratic governors are liable to run for a second term– John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, Roy Cooper of North Carolina, and John Carney of Delaware.

Mississippi (2019): Do you think this is a pipe dream? Think again. Jim Hood is the last blue-dog Democrat in the South, an anti-abortion, pro-gun good-ol-boy who keeps getting elected the state’s attorney general. Hood looks like he’s finally pulling the trigger on a run for the governor’s mansion. And as a rare Democratic statewide officeholder in the Deep South, he’s probably the only one who could make it competitive.

Kentucky (2019): Here’s a fun fact for you: no Republican has ever served more than four years as governor of Kentucky. Something tells me that deeply unpopular Matt Bevin won’t be the first. This fall, his disapproval rating was nearly 20 points higher than his approval rating after facing a nasty teacher’s strike and Medicare expansion controversies. Andy Beshear, another state attorney general and the son of the previous governor, seems like the guy to take him on. He’s already running- which makes this suggestion merely academic- but I’m glad he is.

Vermont: Phil Scott, the Republican governor of the Green Mountain State, isn’t a bad guy. He was elected due in part to a solid record of public service in the past and weak candidates in both his 2016 and 2018 campaigns. Vermont is traditionally hospitable to old-school George Aiken Republicans–Scott was re-elected in 2018 even as Bernie won by 40 points in his Senate race. But consider this- Vermont has two U.S. senators deep in their seventies. If something should happen to Sen. Sanders or Sen. Leahy, Scott would get to fill the vacancies. T.J. Donovan, another state attorney general (sorry…) has the best chance of nationalizing this race. He’s been burning the midnight oil addressing Vermont’s opioid crisis, cracking down on for-profit prisons, and taking on Donald Trump.

New Hampshire: Alongside Vermont, this is one of only two states which elects governors every two years instead of every four. (Believe it or not, this used to be the norm in most states a century ago.) One element that makes this hard to predict is…what will governor Chris Sununu end up doing? Running for a third term? Challenging Jeanne Shaheen for her Senate seat? Regardless, Joyce Craig is my selection for the Democrats’ nominee. Her recent election as mayor of Manchester is telling– Manchester is the part of New Hampshire that’s home to a bunch of Massachusetts tax exiles. If a progressive like Craig can win there, she has a good shot at a statewide victory.

West Virginia: Since I started following politics in 2005, a strange and somewhat counterintuitive trend emerged: a Democrat had always been elected governor of West Virginia. Even in 2016, as Donald Trump won the state easily, the Democratic candidate, Jim Justice, eked out a win. Yet within months of taking office, Justice switched parties (or rather, switched back–he had been a Republican earlier in life.) Going against an incumbent during a presidential election year is a tall order. But Justice has a negative approval rating, creating an opening for young, handsome Carte Goodwin. Goodwin was the interim senator to fill out Robert Byrd’s term after the elderly statesman passed away. Before that, he was part of Joe Manchin’s team and fundamentally understands how Charleston works. He would be well poised to lead West Virginia into a better future where it doesn’t need to decimate its environment to eek out an economy.

Missouri: Eric Greitens’ governorship crashed and burned after it came to light that he physically abused and blackmailed a woman with whom he had an affair. The new governor, Mike Parson, is a more typical, not at all flashy, Missouri conservative. That might be enough to slide by, but let’s look at Nicole Galloway instead. Even as Claire McCaskill lost her re-election bid, millennial Galloway won an impressive victory for a full term as state auditor. How did she do it? By keeping the margins of defeat lower in the Missouri hinterland. It’s helpful that she’s young and good-looking, but she’s also earned a strong reputation as the state’s financial watchdog and has proven that she can overcome political headwinds.

Indiana: Indiana’s gubernatorial races often promise to be competitive, but disappoint Democrats in the end. Well, it’s time for the future. People who follow politics have been talking up Pete Buttigieg for years and it’s time to see him tango. He’s proven to be adept in using social media and has earned accolades as mayor of hardscrabble South Bend, Indiana. As a gay man who is also an army veteran, Buttigieg has also figured out the art of serving constituents in the Rust Belt while maintaining an active progressive fanbase.  You can be progressive and appeal to the white working class. Buttigieg is going to show the way.

North Dakota: This is an exercise in futility. Doug Burgum will run for another term. Being a popular, pragmatic Republican in North Freaking Dakota during an election year, he’ll win. Erin Oban, a young state senator who represents Bismarck, managed to beat an incumbent in 2014. Oban will almost certainly lose a gubernatorial race, but it might provide her with valuable experience running statewide if she wants to look for a higher office further down the road.

Montana: There were some congressional candidates in 2018 that I really hoped would win. Kathleen Williams was one of them. She had strong environmental credentials, having worked for Montana’s natural resources and environmental divisions before becoming a state assemblywoman. Unfortunately, she lost– and lost to Greg Gianforte, most famous for assaulting a reporter on the eve of his previous election. But Williams will not be facing an incumbent if she runs for Montana governor in 2020. And she’ll be succeeding the popular Steve Bullock and has had experience running a statewide campaign (Montana having only one at-large House seat). I’d love to see her become governor of Montana.

Utah: This state has weathered its fair share of political scandals recently, and when combined with Trump’s languid popularity in the state, a plausible chance for success in the governor’s race might emerge. Jim Matheson is probably the best-known Democrat in the state, having served as congressman of the Salt Lake City-based district for seven terms. His father was the last Democrat to have served as governor, having left office in 1985. But he may find himself up against Jason Chaffetz or Josh Romney.

Washington: And so we end this exercise where we started…picking state attorney generals to run for governor. Bob Ferguson is one of the best in the nation. A fascinating guy (he is an expert chess player and outdoorsman), his tenure in Olympia is marked by consumer protection, humanitarian action, and challenging Trump- particularly on immigration.

And there we have it! Stay tuned for the next installment when I put together my ideal presidential administration.