After a short hiatus, I am back to chip away at the remaining Rock Hall Prospects, the presently-eligible artists who are up for consideration for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There are two previous nominees on this list, and although I didn’t plan it this way, as a group, this set is heavily focused on solo artists.  In fact, fully seven of these are individuals, and only three are groups.  This list is especially rich in innovators and influencers, and is relatively (but not entirely) light on big hitmakers.  Do you think I made the right call with this collection of Rock Hall prospects?  Let me know in the comments below.

afrika bambaataa40.  Afrika Bambaataa:  Bambaataa is hip-hop’s Patient Zero.  Rather than using funk tracks as a background, Afrika Bambaataa dug deep and came up with Kraftwerk: the most incongruous choice imaginable, but one that became the gold standard of much of the hip-hop that came after, using its synthetic rhythm as a cornerstone.  He brought rap to the dance floor and party scene in ways that hadn’t been done before.  And he did this by embracing an ethos of self-awareness derived from his pan-African identity (Afrika Bambaataa, after all, is a Zulu-inspired title.)  Bambaataa was sharp, innovative, and like Grandmaster Flash before him, established the blueprints for many of the various rap dynasties that followed.  As Rolling Stone magazine put it, “Planet Rock launched hip-hop beyond two turntables and and party jams and created a space for Avant-Dance and Rap artists to work in harmony, presaging today’s anything-goes musical landscape.”  He was no dummy, either; Cornell University appointed him as a visiting professor a handful of years ago.

gram parsons39.  Gram Parsons:  “The Father of Country Rock.”  That distinction slights the very real contributions of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Gary Stewart, Pure Prairie League, Poco, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and others.  The difference, of course, is that Parsons is widely seen as cooler than many of these choices.  This is partly by virtue of his untimely death (he didn’t even make it to the age of 27, when rockers usually go). And this may be partly by virtue of the even more untimely immolation of his corpse by a bunch of his friends who kidnapped his body to honor his wish of laying to rest at the Joshua Tree in southern California.  (I say “untimely immolation” as if such a thing as a timely immolation existed.)  Parsons has been nominated thrice before, during the height of the alt-country boom at the beginning of the 21st century.  This is for good reason: Parsons’s work to merge country and rock into a synthesis seemed seamless, organic, and the most natural thing in the world.  He knew country masterfully- what makes it swing, what makes it twang, what made it hit resonant notes in the soul that rock and roll hadn’t quite managed to achieve in his time.  It was more than just taking pedal steel to a rock track- his work was some of the most emotionally intelligent committed to record.  While I think his overall importance has been overblown by obscurantist rock critics, I can’t disagree with Parson’s worthiness.  I’d love to see him get in, if only for the inevitable Beck/Emmylou Harris duet at the ceremony.

pat benatar38.  Pat Benatar:  Partly on the “strength” of her performance with Nirvana, Joan Jett, Benatar’s chief rival, was inducted handily last year.  (I put “strength” in quotation marks  because if you replay the footage from the ’14 ceremony, Jett is clearly looking at a monitor for the lyrics to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the duration of the song.  If you don’t know the words to that song, it shouldn’t enhance your chances of getting in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)  Jett may have been more ~culturally~ important in terms of setting the table for riot grrrls, and her classic black leather look weathered the decades better than Pat’s blue eye shadow and spandex which place her unmistakably in the early 80s.  But the fundamentals always favored Benatar to me.  Pat has more hits, a better voice, advanced guitar skills, and a superior edge as a songwriter (although for both women, many of their hits were covers).  For a handful of years, she was the most important woman in Top 40 rock, wracking up a number of masterfully crafted songs, many of which were foundational to the video culture that accrued from the early years of MTV: “Love is a Battlefield,” “We Belong,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and “Heartbreaker.”  Given that the Rock Hall is rightly criticized for including fewer women and fewer 80s artists than it ought, a Benatar induction would help set this to rights.

dead kennedys37.  Dead Kennedys:  With Dead Kennedys, punk music took a decidedly political turn, and by politics in this case, I mean world politics, geo-politics, not the lower-middle class ranting that typified the Sex Pistols.  Their frontman satirized the banality of American consumer culture with a deadly civil war in Nigeria to create the alter ego Jello Biafra.  Coming out of 1970s San Francisco, the group raged against all that was shallow, self-absorbed and superficial, taking particular glee in trashing New Age hippie-dippy lifestyles they saw around them, the “Suede/denim secret police,” as they called them in “California Uber Alles.”  Biafra boldly spoke out against skinheads and other violent types that had infiltrated the California punk movement, and even argued with Tipper Gore on the Oprah Winfrey Show about musical censorship.  They even got into a famous lawsuit for including a poster of “Penis Landscape” as an…um…insert into their Frankenchrist album. The Dead Kennedys were an impactful cultural marker, and a solid representation of punk’s evolution.

pixies36.  Pixies:  If we are going by declarations of influence, the Pixies stand out among late 80s and early 90s artists.  The sheer volume of alternative artists looking up to them is formidable, and not the least of their students was a young Kurt Cobain.  The excellent website Not in the Hall of Fame puts it this way: they “followed the rules of rock and roll construction and yet broke them at the same time.”  Their jerky rhythms, their build up from a lethargic verse to a visceral chorus, the female bass player before female bass players were cool–in every way you can measure, the Pixies were ahead of their time.  And unlike many bands whose Rock Hall merits are based on influence, the Pixies actually delivered the goods in terms of their catalog.  “Monkey Gone to Heaven” highlighted their trademark absurdity, while “Here Comes Your Man” showed an abiding respect for 1960s pop.  And, of course, several of their albums deserve consideration as among the best of their era, particularly Sub Rosa and Doolittle.  Given that the Rock Hall has nominated artists in the Pixies’ basic dojo–the Replacements, the Smiths–one can hold out hope that they will make it onto the ballot in the not too distant future.

depeche mode35.  Depeche Mode:  Depeche Mode’s sound was the product of Kraftwerk’s electronic experiments into a top 40 context, originally with hints of new wave pop (note the nod to Devo in the nonchalant background vocals of “Just Can’t Get Enough.”) and even traces of Velvet Underground and David Bowie artiness.  Depeche Mode took all these influences, combined them into a format that was synthetic but never less than fully authentic, and ended up selling 100 million records.  The band hit the scene in the 1980s, and got progressively darker, less pop, and unexpectedly, even more popular.  They submitted a classic for the ages in “Personal Jesus,” and a genuine benchmark in electronic pop, “Enjoy the Silence.”  To this effect, they filled stadiums in ways that few electronic acts had done before.   There’s a chance they might well be the most popular electronic band of all time, and one of the most impactful, with artists as eclectic as Marilyn Manson and Kanye West citing them as an influence, to say nothing of more obvious candidates like The Killers, Coldplay, and Arcade Fire.  They even snuck onto VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.  It should raise some flags that they got on the list, and say, Simon and Garfunkel didn’t.  But when the Hall starts addressing the 80s more seriously (are you noticing this is a recurring theme?) Depeche Mode will be an important part of the conversation.

whitney houston34.  Whitney Houston:  Soul divas belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Deal with it.  And Whitney stands out among them.  She was almost certainly R&B’s biggest name from the mid-1980s into the early 90s, wracking up multiple #1 hits, multiple #1 albums, and setting a new standard for soul vocalists with flawless technique.  On top of that, she lived an archetypical rock and roll life, with widely publicized battles with drugs, tumultuous love affairs, and a tragic and premature death.  For several years, she had the honor of the longest-charted #1 hit, “I Will Always Love You,” an underrated candidate for the best Prom song of all time.  But as we see, chart success alone doesn’t a Rock Hall prospect make.  Lots of chart-busters aren’t on my list; good luck finding Conway Twitty, Olivia Newton-John, Cher, Huey Lewis and others on here.  They didn’t make the list and weren’t seriously considered.  Whitney was something different, someone the gods had clearly blessed with abundant talent, but not necessarily the self-possession to handle superstardom.  Journalist Tris McCall makes a case for her longstanding importance.  Vocalists- not just from pop music, but alternative and experimental alike- “nick her cadences, her inflection, her lightning-quick upper register, her sudden earthy growls, her carefully controlled melisma.”   One problem that stands out baldly is production values.  Houston’s overproduced and gaudy backing tracks have just not aged well except as nostalgia pieces; listen to that delicate but cringe-inducing electric piano part on “Greatest Love of All.”  If you put a mid-90s Mariah song on the radio today, it would more or less hold up.  Houston, for better or worse, belongs to ages past.

Brian Eno33.  Brian Eno:  Few have changed the sonic boundaries of the rock and roll universe in quite the way Brian Eno has.  With a pedigree that began with a turn as Roxy Music’s synth player, Eno charted a course that began in glam and art rock and led him to challenge the purpose of not just rock, but music itself.  While his early work had a certain spontaneity which informed Here Comes the Warm Jets, his very best contributions were immaculately and intricately arranged to evoke feeling.  First with Discreet Music and later with Music for Airports, his work strived to reconceptualize music as part of its environment, making sonic landscapes that fit into a natural setting in ways that paralleled Frank Lloyd Wright’s approach to architecture.  It didn’t create atmosphere so much as it complemented atmosphere to make its listening experience more contextual and fulfilling.  Since Eno’s ambient albums were the soundtrack for dozens of grading sessions for moribund undergraduate essays, I feel like I owe him one.  As someone who has used oblique strategies as a problem-solving tool, I feel like I owe him doubly.  While some might make a case for Eno has a Musical Excellence guy or non-performer, owing to his production work for U2, David Bowie, Coldplay and others, Eno’s record as a performer and artist eclipse all of these considerations.

Nina Simone32.  Nina Simone:  Simone was a study in contradiction.  She learned her craft at a conservatory and was one of the most gifted pianists in popular music in her day, but cleaved to a jazzy nightclub style that infused most of her catalog.  She showed up to play at the Selma marches, but disagreed with the pacifism that imbued the civil rights movement.  Simone wanted to violently smash Jim Crow out of existence, and by the mid-60s, was hanging out with the Malcolm X crowd.  At the peak of her career, she absconded to Africa partly to escape an abusive husband and partly to escape the toxic atmosphere that engulfed so much of America by the late 60s.  Her work had channeled the deep suffering of the black American experience perhaps more than any other musician of her era in ways that can only be described as haunting and evocative.  There’s the revenge of a life well-lived in “Feeling Good,” the prophetic condemnation of “Mississippi Goddamn”, and the finger-pointing of “Backlash Blues” that challenged white Americans bitching about quotas and busing.  Simone had experienced real suffering and true inequality, and she wasn’t afraid to tell you.  In all this, she conversed easily with more mainstream rock and roll, covering songs like “Don’t Let Me Be Understood” and “To Love Somebody,” while bequeathing songs like “See Line Woman” and “Young, Gifted, and Black” to the rock oeuvre.  Moody, enigmatic, and dangerous, Simone was one of the great performers of the 20th century.  She was so rock and roll that even most rock and rollers didn’t know what to make of her.

dick dale31.  Dick Dale:  If we are going to discuss overlooked rock and roll guitar heroes, the conversation has to include Dick Dale.  He was foundational to the creation of the evocative surf rock sound, capturing the motions of waves by achieving a rumbling vibrato from his guitar.  Rock and roll had plenty of really good guitarists before him, but Dale was the first one who seemed to come from another planet, the first one who could claim to be a true virtuoso.  “Miserlou” was a bolt out of the blue, taking a traditional Mediterranean melody, adding rock backing, and essentially creating a whole new genre- all decades before rock stars got cute by cribbing influences from world music. The most amazing part of all of this is that Dick Dale never really went away.  He performed with Stevie Ray Vaughan, toured consistently, and received an unexpected career boost in the 1990s courtesy of Pulp Fiction.  Even seemingly small decisions he made- using heavier strings or more powerful amps- triggered a series of events that are still playing out in popular music today.  At 78, he’s still out there, heedless of the diabetes and cancer he’s struggled with, sometimes performing with a catheter attached to his side.  This is one choice the Rock Hall really can’t screw up: get Dick Dale in the Hall of Fame while he’s still among the living.

We’ve made it past the halfway point, and continue our upward trajectory to the very greatest Rock Hall prospects.  This particular group is a bit more classic rock-heavy than other entries, but if this series has tried to convey anything, it’s that artists from all kinds of genres deserve serious consideration for the Hall of Fame, as long as their pedigree traces back in some form to those 1950s pioneers.  There’s only one previous nominee in this batch, only one woman unfortunately, and just one potential member of the Clyde McPhatter Club.

Also, I want to add my voice to the chorus of those mourning the loss of Glenn Frey of The Eagles.  As someone who loves 1970s AM-radio rock with lush harmonies, The Eagles were always a favorite of mine.  The opening act of the first rock concert I attended was Jack Tempchin, who co-wrote “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Already Gone,” “You Belong to the City,” and other songs that Glenn made part of our lives.  I remember seeing The Eagles in 2003, with a close friend who had just come out as gay and was afraid I would disapprove because I went to an evangelical college.  It was an incredible show that ended up reinforcing our friendship.  I remember being part of the Odyssey of the Mind program in high school, which involves a group of 7 or so students putting on ten-minute skits with bizarre requirements.  Ours my senior year required, among other criteria, that the skit include a bird from a work of art.  Naturally, we chose The Eagles, construing the rules broadly to include popular music.  I played Don Henley and my buddy Nate played Glenn Frey, who we both portrayed as forgetful old men in a nursing home.  Unfortunately, Frey won’t get to become an old man, and we are all the poorer for it.

Finally, I wanted to say that this may be the last time I’m able to post on this series for a few weeks.  I’m flying to Singapore to start the Spring 2016 semester, I’m finishing a book manuscript for the University of Massachusetts Press, and I’m putting together a panel for the American Historical Association conference.  As much as I love Rock Hall discussion, my attention needs to turn elsewhere for a short while.  But I will be back.

janes addiction50.  Jane’s Addiction:  Why is Jane’s Addiction in the Top 50, you ask?  I can sum up the argument in their favor with one word: Lollapalooza.  I can’t overstate how important the festival scene was to understanding how the music of the 90s worked, and Lollapolooza was, in its way, as important to Generation X as Woodstock was to Baby Boomers.  It was a watershed moment of coming together, and Jane’s Addiction organized the festival and headlined its first itineration.  Wry, ironic, and yet not without feeling, they perfectly embodied the cynicism and the rejection of mainstream ethos that personified their era and that particular concert scene.  Their songs were engrossing and gripping, and almost trance-inducing, best seen in “Classic Girl” and “Jane Says.”  They were present at the creation of alternative music, but were always within that segment of alternative that cleaved closer to metal than indie.  Longevity is not in their favor: they only recorded two studio albums before their first break-up, but the Rock Hall is filled with influential groups that burned brightly for only a short time before going supernova: Velvet Underground, Cream, Guns N Roses.  Although on the surface, Jane’s Addiction seems like a far-fetched choice, the Hall inducted a similar funk-metal band in Red Hot Chili Peppers, and they have iconic personalities in singer Perry Farrell and guitarist Dave Nararro which always seems to helps one’s induction prospects.

49.  de la soulDe La Soul:  This ensemble represents hip-hop’s great road not taken.  At a time when N.W.A. dominated the rap scene, De La Soul offered a very different worldview, as did others in the Native Tongues collective that we explored during A Tribe Called Quest’s section.  The Daily Beast had a useful way to categorize De La Soul: alternative hip-hop.  If you view alternative rock, like the aforementioned Jane’s Addiction, as a recourse against the dominant strand of rock represented by Def Leppard and Bon Jovi, with big hair and screeching guitars, De La Soul did something similar for hip-hop.  If you were put off by the violent overtones of N.W.A. or the politicizing of Public Enemy, De La Soul emerged as a viable alternative to empty boasting and thug life.  It’s vision was a kind of countercultural ethos that owed a lot to the 1960s, and was epitomized by the D.A.I.S.Y. (Da Inner Sound, Y’All) philosophy that effused their debut effort, 3 Feet High and Rising.  “Me, Myself, and I” was idiosyncratic, self-deprecating, and ponderous. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if De La Soul was the guiding force of 90s hip-hop, rather than Tupac and Biggie.  But De La Soul always struggled with its hippie reputation, and seemed to bristle against being a hip-hop group that white kids in suburbia could relate to.  Their very next album was called De La Soul is Dead and featured a broken daisy pot on the cover.   Although they’ve disbanded and reunited a couple times- and most notably resurfaced in Gorillaz’s “Feel Good, Inc.” about a decade ago- their excellence during their time and place can’t be forgotten.  If Public Enemy was “Street CNN” then De La Soul was something like “Street Wavy Gravy,” not entirely serious but effusing an ethos of fraternal love.  Oh, by the way, Questlove idolizes De La Soul and dedicated multiple pages to his memoir Mo’ Meta Blues to talking about how great they were. And Quest usually gets what he wants, so I wouldn’t shortchange their chances of a nomination.

48.  roxy musicRoxy Music:  Bryan Ferry and the other denizens of Roxy Music took their art school training and treated the rock and roll community to something really special.  Originally, their erratic stage act made them a natural fit for glam, but that puts them in a box more narrow than they deserve.  Art-rock is often used more often to describe their sound, but with the rich synthesizers (played, at first, by Brian Eno), they also paved the way for new wave.  Unlike many groups in their dojo, they had a strong sense of rhythm (listen to that bassline in “Love Is the Drug.”)  With highbrow lyrical references, and a style of dress that hearkened back to the 1950s, they were utterly baffling, but no one can question their influence.   Duran Duran, The Cars, and even Nile Rogers of Chic have all praised Roxy Music and credited them as an inspiration to their sound, as do more contemporary groups like Franz Ferdinand and Scissor Sisters.  Their atonal synth solos influenced Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo.  Second-generation art rockers like Talking Heads and Cabaret Voltaire (no relation to myself) praise them to high heavens.  I’ll be honest, this is another group I just don’t care for personally, but I have no trouble seeing how influential they were to countless other artists, for combining glam sensibilities with a high artistic pedigree and making significant inroads for electronic-based sound.   If you think Roxy Music is listed too low, I can offer you partial recompense: a prospect is coming up in a future installment that will make up for it.

47.  can bandCan:  Occasionally, mistakes cancel each other out.  I originally put the Spencer Davis Group in this spot before I replayed some of their stuff, and realized that “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m A Man” were their only good songs.  I panicked.  Then I realized that I could put a band that I just clean forgot about in their place: hence, Can.  Starting out in psychedelia, they dabbled in funk, avant-garde, and experimental sounds, and are considered foundational to any serious discussion of krautrock.  Almost jazz-like, they highly valued improvisation, getting into a groove and editing the best parts of their reveries into the final track.  Their extended, even hypnotic approach to laying down tracks in some ways laid the groundwork for trance.  Listen to a track like “Sing Swan Song” from Ege Bamyasi, an utterly captivating sonic soundscape that draws you in with its exotic touches and its sense of the moment. But alas, the Rock Hall is not kind to artists who fall out of the Anglophone axis, even though their influence is wide and deep like Roxy Music’s.  One can name a boatload of Indie and post-punk artists who looked up to them: The Fall, Public Image, Ltd., The Stone Roses, Pavement, Joy Division, Spoon, and even heavy hitters like David Bowie and Talking Heads.  Unfortunately for them, Can faces an Autobahn-sized hurdle for even getting nominated: they have zero chance until Kraftwerk gets in.  And while the Nom Com has done right by Kraftwerk, the voting committee just isn’t having it.  Can deserves to be on this list, and I was in the wrong for forgetting them in the first place.  Sorry, Mr. Winwood.

46.  eloElectric Light Orchestra:  ELO has its advocates, with a corps of devoted fans who enjoy their radio-friendly singles from the 1970s.  They wracked up a number of memorable hits that often had classical sensibilities and came from Jeff Lynne’s love of The Beatles, especially their production values.  “Mr. Blue Sky,” “Don’t Bring Me Down,” “Evil Woman,” “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” the list goes on and on.  What I respect about ELO is that they captured the one element of The Beatles that most of their admirers forgot: the ability to surprise with a striking change in tempo, a bridge when you least expect it, an instrumental solo from an instrument you weren’t expecting to hear.  Lynne knew, and had a deep reverence for, rock’s beginnings, as suggested by his work alongside a number of now-deceased legends: Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Del Shannon.  With a multitudinous membership, and longstanding acrimony stemming from Lynne’s heavy-handed tactics, the question of who shows up will cause Cleveland some headaches.  Still, given the number of people Lynne has worked with over the years: McCartney, Starr, Petty, Duane Eddy, Brian Wilson, Joe Walsh– ELO shouldn’t have any trouble getting in once they make it to the ballot.

45.  The Guess WhoThe Guess Who:  Here’s the problem attendant to any discussion of Rock Hall prospects.  Many of us are geared toward praising bands that were underground darlings, genre-crossers, or inspired a bevy of future musicians.  The Guess Who, frankly, don’t fit any of those criteria.  They were a solid, successful, utterly listenable band that wrote and performed great songs with remarkable consistency: “These Eyes,” “Laughing,” “No Time,” “Share the Land,” and one of my favorites, “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature.”  And that’s to say nothing of their magnum opus, “American Woman,” rightly remembered as an iconic indictment of the military-industrial complex at a time when the U.S. had illegally invaded Cambodia.  So, why is Guess Who on the list, and not, say, Bad Company?  Because Guess Who are absolute legends- no, rock and roll gods– in Canada.  Seriously.  I could probably get anybody in Calgary to lend me $20 by lauding the excellence of Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings.  As an act of international diplomacy, at the very least, their induction would secure good relations with our neighbor to the north for a generation or two.  If we accept the premise that the Rock Hall exists not just to educate but to edify as well, let’s give these workmanlike Canucks a well-deserved enshrinement.

44. War War:  They’ve been nominated three times before, in three-year increments (2009, 2012, and 2015), although they’ve fallen short on each occasion.  War was innovative, cool, urban, and found both commercial and critical plaudits.  After a chance meeting with Jerry Goldstein (who was involved with the Angels, Strangeloves, and McCoys, a kind of lucky charm for 60’s second-stringers), he agreed to be their manager and crucially introduced them to Eric Burdon of the Animals.  They recorded some great tracks including the legendary “Spill the Wine.”  When Burdon left, most people assumed that War’s meal ticket had gone with it, but War persevered and became even greater in Burdon’s absence.  With strong latin influences, with funk rhythms and jazz sensibilities, War defied genre categories.  They recorded one of the better albums from the 1970s (The World is a Ghetto), which included some of the decade’s best “deep tracks”: “The Cisco Kid,” and “Four-Cornered Room.”  And, of course, they are responsible for “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” and the most overplayed song in the history of television commercials: “Low Rider.”  But “Low Rider’s” descent into cliche shouldn’t make us forget its original greatness, and it’s doubling of the harmonica and sax line was absolutely brilliant.  War’s heyday was a watershed movement in the history of R&B, where genre lines and racial boundaries were blurred and easily traversed.  You can complain about the Nom Com all you want, and you’ll probably be right, but they absolutely made the right choice by recognizing War with three nominations.  Let’s hope the fourth time is the charm.

43.  big mama thorntonBig Mama Thornton:  I’m about to break one of my own rules.  My policy was “if you peaked before 1954, you’re an Early Influence, not a straight-up rock and roll performer.”  There is one and exactly one exception I’m making: Big Mama Thornton.  When you are recording a Leiber-Stoller song called “Hound Dog,” it doesn’t matter if it’s only 1953; you’ve crossed the boundary into rock and roll.  Moreover, she was a witness to the first and perhaps most shocking death in the annals of rock and roll: Johnny Ace’s self-inflicted gunshot wound when playing Russian roulette.  A blueswoman from way back, her songs were imbued with deep suffering and profound soul, but weren’t without some sly winks to the audience, and often a greater sense of joyousness.  Kind of like B.B. King or Muddy Waters’ blues work, she adopts a persona that her songs of suffering are built around, often with more of a tinkling piano than a wailing guitar.  Give “Rolling Stone,” and “Gonna Leave You” a spin, and you’ll see what I mean.  She was brassy, powerful, and kick-ass in an age where female performers were expected to be demure.  Are you a rockist who insists that you need to write your own songs and play an instrument to be a real rock and roller?  Guess what: Big Mama played harmonica and drums and wrote many of her songs.  One of them was “Ball and Chain,” obviously made even more famous by Janis Joplin down the road.

42.  Warren ZevonWarren Zevon:  There are few figures in the legendarium of rock and roll with a catalog of songs as rich and distinctive as that of Warren Zevon.  His body of work is typified by dark, morose, ironic, and sick humor, with flecks of rich characterization and surprising emotional authenticity that was never too far from the surface.  For every comical satire of U.S. foreign policy (“Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”), there’s a sweet “Keep Me in your Heart” or a regretful “Accidentally Like a Martyr.”  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that he didn’t do anything beyond “Werewolves of London.”  If there’s anything counting against him, it’s that much of his appeal is that of an insider.  Rock and roll musicians, experts, and critics tend to love him, while even his best efforts were rarely better than mediocre in their chart performance.  He also has a probable advocate in the form of Paul Shaffer, a close friend who might well honor his boss David Letterman’s wish that Zevon be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  In the same way that Randy Newman, Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits cruised to relatively easy inductions, Zevon is very much in that vein.  Assuming he isn’t up against 7 classic rock bands, he’d probably get in on his first ballot apperance.

41.  MotorheadMotorhead:  Philip over at Rock Hall Monitors has a useful phrase for when a recent death increases someone’s likelihood of getting into the Rock Hall: the “Death Fairy.”  Sometimes, the Death Fairy’s morbid magic works, as we saw in the cases of Lou Reed and Donna Summer, or to go back even further in Rock Hall history, George Harrison, Frank Zappa, and even Ricky Nelson.  Arguably all of these figures got into the Rock Hall ahead of  schedule because their untimely deaths reminded everyone why they were so important to the rock scene.  So it may prove with Motorhead.  Blessed with one of the great frontmen, the hard-living Lemmy Kilmister, they were one of the finest metal bands to have graced rock and roll.  So much of their music, in “Ace of Spades,” in “Overkill,” in “Marching Off to War,” is foundational to their genre: the thrashing guitar style, partly borrowed from punk.  Metal went in more ornate and elaborate directions in those years, but Motorhead kept their own body of work closer to stripped-down rock and roll, with a relentless drum beat keeping its songs in forward motion.  They produced an enviable body of work, and earned wide industry respect that often belied the mainstream music press’s disdain of heavy metal.  Dave Grohl told a story at Lemmy’s funeral about his daughter meeting the famous frontman. He talked glowingly about how the iconic rock star put out his cigarette, and authentically switched personas when addressing his daughter, unwilling to be a bad example to a small child.  The outpouring of stories like this in the wake of Lemmy’s death- as well as equally great stories of Lemmy’s debauchery- make it a very real possibility that Motorhead might be the next metal artist in the Hall, now that Deep Purple is in.

This next installment of the 100 Greatest Rock Hall Prospects brings us to the halfway point in our exploration of the performers best poised to take their rightful place in Cleveland.  This batch includes 2 previous nominees, and 2 potential members of the Clyde McPhatter Club.  It’s also a good time to remember the loss of David Bowie, an artist in every sense of the word who showed all of us the limitless possibilities of rock and roll’s promise.

60.  The CommodoresThe Commodores:  Someone- I think it was Dave Marsh, but I’ve forgotten- described The Commodores as funk music for guys who sit when they pee.  It’s a cruel jibe, and like most cruel jibes, contains an element of truth.   But certainly, it isn’t the whole truth.  The Commodores started off as a surprisingly good funk outfit, though closer to the Bar-Kays than Parliament.  It’s easy to forget that their first big hit, “Machine Gun,” was a fast-paced instrumental, not a ballad.   For years, they produced top-notch funk that was forgotten as they transitioned to singers of smooth Lionel Richie-penned numbers later in their career.  Listen to “The Bump,” “Too Hot Ta Trot,” “Slippery When Wet,” and other songs from that era, and you’ll see what I mean.  But the slower songs were also of high quality: “Easy” is a brilliantly-crafted smooth love song, and even the schmaltzy “Three Times a Lady” is better understood as more of an aberration in their catalog.  Most of their slower songs were more thoughtful; witness “Sail On,” a forgotten minor hit that even channels a bit of CSNY.  Maybe some purists aren’t happy with the fact that the Commodores went in a more commercial direction instead of  emphasizing the black nationalism of many other artists in their wheelhouse.  But it wasn’t easy to find a sweet spot between the pop charts and groovy R&B, but they succeeded in a big way in joining these worlds.  Lionel Richie also gives them a kind of ace in the hole in terms of induction, generating both name power and what I call the “fondness factor”. Remember that the only black R&B artist voted in during the last three years is the one with the greatest “fondness factor,” or nostalgia attached to his candidacy, Bill Withers.  Partly through Richie’s enduring celebrity, the Commodores are broadly loved by the wider public in a way that Chic, War, and other, perhaps more technically artistic choices, are not.  And these days, like it or not, that’s probably enough.

59.  Smashing PumpkinsSmashing Pumpkins:  At the risk of oversimplifying, they took alternative and made it beautiful and ethereal.  Doesn’t their resume look Rock Hall-ish?  They certainly pass the zeitgeist test, and they do so in an interesting way, by appealing to both those on the later side of Generation X and the older side of Millenials like myself.  You couldn’t listen to music in 1995 and not be conversant in the Smashing Pumpkins.  They brought back some things that grunge, for all of its authenticity, lacked: melody and listenable production instincts.  Lots of different people could like them, which wasn’t true of many artists in the 1990s.  The kids listening to pop could dig the Pumpkins, and so could the grunge and alternative people, without looking like sell-outs to their friends.  When you consider how hopelessly balkanized that decade was from the standpoint of taste, how few common points of reference existed for the wider body of music listeners, that is a profound accomplishment.  They recorded two albums that factor into “best of the decade” discussion, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Siamese Dream.  Iconic songs deeply identifiable to their decade?  Sure: “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” “1979,” “Tonight, Tonight,” “Disarm,” “Today.”  Enigmatic and erratic frontman?  check.  Not only that, but Billy Corgan has a long list of collaborations with other artists that lots of artists with Rock Hall level profiles tend to have and signal wide industry respect.  Collaborators range from Courtney Love to Robert Smith of The Cure to Ray Davies.  Oh, and he also inducted Pink Floyd in 1996, when hundreds of artists would have killed for that honor.  Clearly, the Rock Hall went in a 70s classic rock direction for 2015, the first year they were eligible.  But it will only be a matter of time until Smashing Pumpkins are on the ballot.

58.  the replacementsThe Replacements:  Last time around, I explained why Big Star deserves more serious attention, and one reason is because groups like The Replacements studied their work and brought their own personal sensibilities to it.  Alex Parenne was right when he said that the band’s oeuvre was “a glorious, extended tribute to a particularly upper-Midwestern variety of failure.”  Failure is about right: the band had only one top 100 hit, but many of its fans wear their lack of success as a badge of honor.  Their music gave outcasts of the 1980s a place to ruminate, combining the morose elements of post-punk with the pulled-back power pop of Big Star often thrown in, as appropriately seen in “Alex Chilton.”  As low-fi pioneers, they were instrumental in the creation of alternative music, never loud for the sake of being loud, thoughtful without being cerebral.  Their temperament was bemused, even as Paul Westerberg’s vocals communicated anguish and hurt in his own inimitable way.  If you like your music wry, ironic, and out of the mainstream, The Replacements are probably in your dojo.  They were nominated once before, for the Class of 2014, but they were given a hopeless scenario of going up against Nirvana and a bunch of 70s and 80s classic rock favorites.  They never had a chance, and unless Generation X exerts a greater control over Rock Hall affairs, they may have a long wait to get into the Hall.

57.  peter toshPeter Tosh:   With the exception of Jimmy Cliff’s surprise nomination and induction in 2010, it’s like the Rock Hall forgot that reggae existed apart from Bob Marley.  While I’m still not entirely sold on the merits of Cliff’s induction, Peter Tosh is clearly the next man up in the reggae queue.  His music was decidedly different from his contemporary Marley.  There were stronger R&B influences, frequent collaborations with Anglo-American artists, and a greater swagger to his music (“Walking Razor”) that contrasted to Marley’s universal bonhomie.  With his early work with the Wailers (who weren’t inducted with Bob, I might add), he was present at the birth of reggae which adapted rocksteady beats, infusing politics and social concerns, and playing a ragged guitar during the offbeats.  Like many of the great rock legends, Tosh’s music was of a piece with his activism.  He strongly supported marijuana legalization, like many a rastaman before him, but also spoke out for human rights (“Equal Rights”) and against nuclear proliferation.  His death in 1987 (a home robbery gone wrong which may or may not have had ties to the Jamaican government) brought a prolific career and a singular life to an end.

56.  Black FlagBlack Flag:  In some ways, this choice is my attempt at something close to objectivity: out of all 100 prospects, I probably dread listening to Black Flag the most.  “T.V. Party” is the worst track I’ve ever heard.  I’m not saying that in a twee “‘T.V. Party’ is the worst track I’ve ever heard, but it’s great” sense.  Don’t misunderstand me.  It is actually the worst track I’ve ever heard by a major artist.  If you thought the Ramones were a little too polished and played their instruments a little too proficiently, Black Flag was there for you.  They were a crucial part of the 1970s and 1980s punk scene in L.A. and contributed to the creation of hardcore as its own legitimate field of punk music.  In terms of their worldview and aesthetic, they also helped pioneer the D-I-Y culture that thrived in punk, and that included their own record label. More than anything else, a band like this is emblematic of the deep distrust in institutions- any institutions- that Americans felt toward the end of the 1970s.  Listen to the hopelessness of “Gimme Gimme Gimme”, the disillusionment of “My War,” and there’s that raw, visceral quality that clearly spoke to people in an L.A. soaked in materialism and the military-industrial complex during an age of limits.  As a historian of that era, I find them fascinating, if only because they help explain the jaundiced worldview that caused so many people to buy Pet Rocks as gag gifts.  As a Rock Hall watcher, I allow that they are clearly one of the most significant punk acts that isn’t in the Hall yet.  (Not that there are very many punk acts there to begin with.)  As a listener, I still think they’re terrible.  But that was probably the point all along.

55.  MonkeesThe Monkees:  Last year, an article on Buzzfeed went viral that purported to debunk every reason that’s ever been used to keep the Monkees out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Some of their arguments are quite sound.  Object to them not playing their own instruments?  Well, then you must object to Motown as well.  Do you think they were just television stars?  Well, they were the progenitors of MTV too.  But the article misses one crucial counter-argument.  The Temptations and The Supremes might not have written their own stuff or played any instruments on their records.  But David Ruffin never sat behind a drum set on national television to give the public the impression that he did!  Oh, and the Motown groups all paid their dues thanklessly for at least a few years, and weren’t just told to sing into a microphone like Mickey Dolenz or Davy Jones (ironically, the two Monkees with no prior musical training) for instant, guaranteed success.  So the Monkees remain divisive among rock experts, although a consensus is slowly forming in their favor.   They were a studio creation designed to capitalize on The Beatles’ success, but over time, the band found their voice, learned to play instruments acceptably, eventually wrote some of their own material, and slowly degenerated into terrible artistic choices (Head) before petering out.  And it’s hard to dismiss those great early records.  Don Kirshner used the best Brill Building songwriters and a crack team of musicians to create a signature sound indebted to The Beatles and The Byrds but with a joyousness all its own.  “I’m a Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and “Daydream Believer” are all rightfully iconic.  And their records are immensely more listenable than any other teen idol from the 60s.  Go ahead, listen to some early Sedaka, or Frankie Avalon, or Bobby Sherman and see if any of them hold up nearly as well.  As a group that followed Pinnochio’s trajectory and started out a creation before slowly earning personhood, the Monkees were an inseparable part of the Sixties sound, and introduced countless pre-teens to the world of rock and roll.

54.  StingSting:  #54 and #53 are of a piece.  Both are Englishmen who struck out on solo careers after success in a legendary band.  Both played unconventional instruments for a lead singer.  Both have recorded soundtracks for a Disney animated feature.  First, let’s discuss Sting.  When Sting was nominated for the Class of 2015, a lot of people were horrified and thought he was undeserving.  I don’t think that’s true, but I wonder if a lot of that reaction was an optical illusion.  Peter Gabriel had just gotten in the year before, so for Sting, who was manifestly not as important as Gabriel, to possibly get in just one year later seemed a miscarriage of justice.  Honestly, it’s not that Sting was inducted too soon, it’s that Gabriel was inducted far later than he should have been.  At any rate, here’s my case for Sting.  He was an important contributor to world music, and his albums, including Dream of the Blue Turtles, Nothing Like the Sun, Ten Summoners’ Tales, and Brand New Day found ways to incorporate jazz, reggae, folk, and in BND’s case, trance in ways that rarely succeeded in a top 40 format.  A lot of people dismiss that and they shouldn’t.  If, say, receptionists at dentist’s offices and middle-school English teachers like Sting, why does the critical community treat this as a bad thing?  It’s a genuine breakthrough when that happens.  And if Sting is a gateway drug to exploring, say, Tosh at #57, or Fela Kuti at #100, so much the better.  Oh, and he recorded one of the few really good Christmas albums in the entire rock canon: the evocative If On a Winter’s Night, which cleverly incorporated medieval hymnody and folk songs, when most artists would have done “White Christmas” and “Let It Snow.”  Sting’s musicology, his eclectic style, his ability to use music from anywhere in the world without seeming derivative or appropriating, is unparalleled.

53.  Phil CollinsPhil Collins:  This pick is going to seriously piss some people off, but hear me out.  Collins was one of the voices that dominated the 1980s, whether you like it or not.  His songs formed, in some ways, the spine of the burgeoning adult contemporary format which was, by 1980, trying to distance itself from its earlier reputation as the “Easy Listening” format.  Rock and roll is often contemptuous of the old, and Collins found a way to remain in the conversation and keep aging, balding baby boomers engaged in the sphere of the rock tradition as well.  Fundamentally, his music spoke to people who were not teenagers and may not have even been young adults anymore, people whose first marriage turned out to be a mistake, and struggled to make sense of their lives between driving their eight-year-old to karate practice and fulfilling their alimony payments.  “Take a Look at Me Now,” “One More Night,” and  “I Wish It Would Rain Down,” became self-suffering torch songs for that demographic.  His songs live on in pop culture infamy: “what the hell is Sussudio”?  “Is the drowning from ‘In the Air Tonight’ literal or metaphorical?”  “Who is Billy, and why might he lose that number?”  And show me anyone who says that they haven’t air-drummed to “Take Me Home,” and I’ll show you a liar.  Although the charts don’t make any definitive case, it’s worth remembering that he had 16 top 20 hits, and a few important tracks like “You’ll Be in My Heart” that just missed that goal.  Why is Collins higher than his contemporary from The Police?  Because “In the Air Tonight” is in the debate for “Best Song of the 1980s” and has one of the most iconic drum parts ever recorded, that’s why.  Beat that, Sting!

52.  Salt N PepaSalt N Pepa:  The Hall needs to get around to nominating their first female rap artist eventually.  Some people might think that honor should go to Queen Latifah, but I’d advocate for Salt N Pepa.  Here’s why.  Making it as a female rapper in an industry with rampant, egregious misogyny could not possibly have been easy.  They refused to be objectified, demanded respect, and set the terms for themselves- both in their lyrics and in real life.    While Madonna was frankly sexual largely to attract attention to herself and generate water-cooler buzz, Salt N Pepa were frankly sexual with a larger purpose in mind.  “Let’s Talk About Sex” made lots of parents nervous, but it was a plea for honest communication that abstained from abstinence and talked about sex as a wonderful thing, but warned their fans not to be taken advantage of.  In an age of bad PSAs that we all had to watch in Health class in high school, “Let’s Talk About Sex” was funny, daring, and honest.  And, of course, their catalog goes even further.  “Push It” and “Shoop” found Salt N Pepa (along with DJ Spinderella) reveling in their sexuality in ways girls were not encouraged to do, oggling boys in ways that male rock artists had been oggling women since time immemorial.  “None of Your Business” challenged slut-shaming before anybody was even talking about slut-shaming.  “Whatta Man,” their collaboration with En Vogue, was the master stroke in all this, a celebration of healthy relationships that never crossed the line into mawkishness.  Salt N Pepa were sharp, self-possessed pioneers who took risks, and managed to succeed in the hip-hop world and the pop universe at the same time.  It’s time the Hall recognized them as such.

51.  DevoDevo:  One traumatic moment can change a life.  Or two.  That’s what happened to Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale, two undergraduates at Kent State in 1970.  In Casale’s case, he witnessed with his own eyes the moment when the Ohio National Guard turned their rifles on their fellow citizens in a spray of gunfire that killed four and injured many more.  Both knew some of the victims.  It’s effect on them was profound, imparting on them a sense that humanity was de-evolving into a primative, ersatz state, a philosophy that guided their musical output.  Consider “Whip It”: harmless fun, but with sinister hints of violence and fascism (Whip it, after all, is a command, not a request.)  Elie Attie of the Washington Post nails it when he says this about their bloodless, synthetic, almost intentionally bad cover of the teenage anthem “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”: “it can be seen as a turning point in rock: the moment earnestness melted into irony, the moment that swagger turned to self-consciousness and scrutiny.”  Yes!  That’s it exactly.  And Devo did this by incorporating a rich, though often disturbing, visual element that implied a nuclear holocaust that somehow resulted in everybody wearing the same yellow jumpsuits and stupid red hats.  The lyrics were never the point; they were intentionally banal.  Go ahead, read the lyrics to “Uncontrollable Urge” and “Mongoloid.”  As such, they represented perhaps rock’s most decisive break with the ethos of love and New Left idealism that reigned in the 60s, in favor of cynicism and deconstruction.  The only question is: would anyone vote for them?  As we’ve seen, a certain amount of nostalgia and sentimentality is behind nearly any Rock Hall induction, and frankly, nobody feels nostalgic for Devo.  Unless, of course, your stock portfolio includes hefty investments in yellow jumpsuits and stupid red hats.

Welcome to our fourth chapter in the unfolding series, The 100 Greatest Rock Hall Prospects, looking at five score eligible artists most deserving of induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Last time, our ten prospects were heavily weighted toward the 90s and beyond.  This group is a bit more eclectic, bookended by  1950s legends who are unjustly forgotten by the wider public.  In between, there’s the customary mix of classic rock, blues, hip-hop and other important genres critical to the development and evolution of rock and roll.  Also, out of my 100 Rock Hall prospects, I’m ashamed to say that I have only seen six of them perform in person.  (Hey, as my blog shows, I also love Disney World too, and I can’t afford two expensive hobbies.)  Two of those six- #66 and #64- are in this post.

70.  link wrayLink Wray:  How much do you weigh influence, how much do you weigh longevity, and how much do you weigh chart performance?  At the center of these questions stands Link Wray.  He had a total of one top 20 hit.  But that hit was “Rumble,” a fierce instrumental evocative of street fights in an age where rockers had brass knuckles, not contract riders.  Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page have all sung his praises.  His records are probably the first ones to use power chords and intentional distortion.  On the other hand, the Hall is a public institute, and his catalog- perhaps even “Rumble”- isn’t largely known to the wider public.  So what you think about Link says a lot about what you want the Rock Hall to be: a museum to educate?  A place to celebrate success?  Whatever you believe, the Hall has taken notice of Wray: he has friends on the Nom Com, and his lone nomination for the Class of 2014 generated lots of positive buzz.  But the last two years, not a single 50s act was on the ballot.  Is the Hall giving up on these acts? We had a purging of early rock and roll experts from the Nominating Committee this year, which may give us one clue that the Hall wants to pivot out of the 1950s.

69.  johnny winterJohnny Winter:  The last few years have been good ones for blues fans who follow the Rock Hall.  Albert King snuck into the Class of 2013 as a performer, when everyone thought that his presence on the ballot was a stalking horse for an Early Influence induction.  The Class of 2015 was even more auspicious, with two acts, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band getting in.  One obstacle, though, is that a lot of great bluesmen are better candidates for Early Influence than as rock-era performers.  Tom Lane has a terrific catalog of blues greats deserving of Rock Hall recognition, but almost all of them will get in as Early Influences, their careers having peaked before the beginning of the rock era.  So- whither the bluesman?  It seems to me that Johnny Winter would be the next great blues prospect for the Rock Hall as an era-appropriate performer.  Although his death two summers ago did not result in a Rock Hall nomination, his record is sound.  He was one of the great Texas blues guitarists, and an important trail-blazer for people like Stevie Ray.  He did one of the more polished sets at Woodstock.  He recorded three of the best blues albums of the period: Johnny Winter, Second Winter, as well as Johnny Winter And.  In these albums, his voice, halfway between a snarl and a wail, blazed an influential trail.  Bruce Conforth of the University of Michigan was only exaggerating by a modicum when he said, “any blues artist who picked up a guitar after 1968 was influenced by Johnny Winter.”  Winter also wracked up a number of accolades without ever seeming a critic’s pet: he earned multiple Grammy nominations, was on the cover of the first issue of Guitar World, and was the first white (in his case, really white) musician inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

68.  ozzy osbourneOzzy Osbourne:  F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed that there are no second acts in American lives.  That may be true, but there can be second acts for unhinged Englishmen who decapitate bats with their own teeth.  Heaven knows that the Hall likes ushering people into the Clyde McPhatter Club for two-time inductees, so I guess Ozzy has that going for him.  In some ways, solo Osbourne picked up where Black Sabbath left off, with dark themes and metallic ambiance.  In other ways, he exceeded Sabbath, heretical as that might seem.  Insofar as that’s true, much of the credit goes to his sideman Randy Rhoads, who was one of the greatest guitarists of his age, bringing classicist influence to the world of heavy metal.  Rhoads and Osbourne made two great albums together Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman before Rhoads’ untimely death in a plane crash.  He has an advocate too: Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello is on the Nominating Committee, and has expressed hope for getting Rhoads- in some fashion- into the Hall.  And for perspective, Morello named his son Rhoads!  Moreover, Ozzy played a role in keeping metal alive, using his name recognition to headline Ozzfest, which introduced the genre to new generations and brought dozens of bands a wider audience and recognition.  Osbourne may come across like a sentence-slurring buffoon, but there is method in his madness.

67.  bjorkBjork:  Although her best work was deep in the 90s, Bjork is eligible for the Rock Hall through a glaring technicality.  Her first album was recorded when she was an 11-year-old Icelandic wunderkind in 1977, easily clearing the Rock Hall’s 25-year requirement.  Once into adulthood, Bjork became the toast of the art pop world: enigmatic, elfin, and always pushing boundaries.  Bjork is, in her own words, a “communicator between all sorts of different worlds:” a kind of emissary or intermediary connecting the avant garde, academics, and culture vultures to the wider public.  When I listen to “Unravel” or “Army of Me,” I have the same “my mind has been seriously messed with,” feeling from the last time I was at the Tate Modern in London.  There was nobody like her: her work was danceable (4 #1 hits on the US Dance Chart, btw), thoughtful, engaging, and not nearly as pretentious as it could have been.  Out of all the Rock Hall prospects on my list, maybe nobody embodies the ideal of the artist as well as Bjork.  Will the Hall agree?  I avant garde a clue.

66.  three dog nightThree Dog Night:  When was the last time the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame successfully inducted a white, male artist who did not largely write his own material?  Believe it or not, it was in 2002, 14 years ago, with the Righteous Brothers.  For a plethora of reasons that have a lot to do with our cultural conditioning, we accept African-Americans and women who interpret songs as artists, but we dismiss white guys who do the same as inauthentic and hackish, even if we acknowledge their vocal talent.  Here, we arrive at Three Dog Night, a group that was repeatedly successful, even dominant, during some of rock and roll’s most competitive years.  I remember them fondly; a solid 8 or 9 of their songs were on regular rotation on the Oldies station when I grew up: “Celebration,” “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” “Easy to Be Hard,” and on it goes.  Any band would have coveted one top-shelf soul singer; 3DN had a trio of them: Chuck Negron, Danny Hutton, and the late Cory Wells, each with a distinctive style.  Is there a more iconic moment from 1971 than Negron wailing, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog?” with such conviction that the line actually made sense?  They often arranged the songs themselves, and found a kind of top 40 nirvana that was tailor-made for their easy harmonies, and smart production.  A lot of critics are contemptuous of success, but earning a Top 20 song isn’t easy, and Three Dog Night had over a dozen in just five years.  In doing this, they provided necessary ballast for some important singer-songwriters whose careers were shaky at the time: Laura Nyro, Paul Williams, Harry Nilsson, Hoyt Axton, Randy Newman, and more.  Maybe your favorite bands rocked harder, or wrote their own stuff, but I see no reason to punish Three Dog Night for being roundly successful interpretive singers.  That’s the worst kind of rockist snobbery.

65.  big starBig Star:  Let’s explore where rock and roll was in 1972.  In some quarters, rock was getting soft, sensitive and introspective, courtesy of James Taylor, Jim Croce, Loggins and Messina and others.  In other quarters, metal was coming into its own, courtesy of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple.  And in still other sectors, solo artists coming out of the 60s were still trying to establish their own solo careers after their first band imploded.  Wings, Argent, EL&P, CSNY, Blind Faith, War, BTO, and countless other bands began as flotsam from the great sinking galleons of the Age of Aquarius.  In a way, Big Star could be counted among them too; its frontman was Alex Chilton, late of The Box Tops.  That’s him doing the impassioned lead vocal on “The Letter” at the tender age of 17.  Anyway, Big Star intuited that maybe the best direction to go isn’t louder or softer, but back.  Not in the sense of being backward-looking or reactionary, but to pull your punches, aiming for a hypnotically droll sound, as if everything is in the back of the mix.  Even the upbeat rockers in their catalog have a strange lulling effect.  They created some great songs along the way: “The Ballad of El Goodo,” “Way Out West,” “In the Street,” but you probably haven’t heard them very often on classic rock radio.  While the group tanked commercially, it was their fellow musicians who took note of their sound.  R.E.M., Pixies, Wilco, Counting Crows, and the Gin Blossoms all borrowed from their almost alt-country, power-pop sound.   As I said last year, the band is like a secret handshake among musicians, to see who really knows their history.  Big Star has so many fans in so many quarters of influence and power that I can’t see them not getting a nomination sometime soon.  Holly George-Warren, who is on the Nom Com, actually wrote a book on Chilton a couple years ago, which is a good omen.

64.  Indigo GirlsIndigo Girls:  What’s the point of blogging if you aren’t going to try and influence people?  Every time I blog about the Rock Hall, I get about 300 extra visitors from retweets and other publicity.  I want to use that limited, but very real, exposure to make perhaps the first credible case for the Indigo Girls in the Rock Hall.  Did they light up the charts?  No, but quite a few Rock Hall prospects didn’t either.  Their importance is in one of the only criteria that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame explicitly states: excellence.  Their songwriting is sublime and thoughtfully mature.  “Galileo” talks about how we make the same mistakes over and over again in our lives.  “Closer to Fine” is about self-realization.  “Ship of Hope” is about abandoning optimism.  “Shame on You” challenges white privilege, including their own.  (I love the line “You know me and Jesus, we’re of the same heart; the only thing that keeps us distant is that I keep fucking up.”)  They managed to be relevant and even political without ever being shrill.  Amy Ray and Emily Sailers couldn’t have come at a better time.  In an age where electronics dominated music (not always a bad thing, of course), they offered a badly-needed acoustic alternative.  They resuscitated folk rock, mentored dozens of other fledgling female singer-songwriters, earned a handful of Grammy nominations (and absolutely should have won Best New Artist in 1990, which went to Milli Vanilli.)  Oh, and they were among the leading lights of Lilith Fair, an absolutely crucial component of women finding their own voices as artists in an industry dominated by men in the 1990s.  Our culture does extremely poorly by women of medium build over the age of 50.  If you aren’t conventionally sexy, nobody wants anything to do with you.  I take great comfort and hope in Ray and Sailers kicking ass in concert, proudly playing their own instruments and writing their own material, as talented, self-possessed middle aged women.  We really need to see more of that.

63.  Eric B. and RakimEric B. & Rakim: The name of the duo itself reflects the priority’s of rap’s early days: the DJ (Eric in this case) got first billing over the rapper (Rakim), in much the same way that Grandmaster Flash got billing over the Furious Five.  As such, they set the template for much of rap that would follow; as Stetasonic would later rap, “James Brown was old until Eric and Ra came out.”  It turns out that the decision to sample the Godfather of Soul in “Eric B. is President” was a portentous one that built the mold for funk-indebted rap for years to come.  I described Big Star as being in the back of the mix, but the same could be said of Rakim’s raps.  His style is slow, contemplative, and reflective, maybe best seen in “I Know You Got Soul,” a sharp contrast to the aggressive, combative style of many of his contemporaries who attacked the mic ferociously.  And the samplers ended up being sampled themselves: Eric B. and Rakim remain hip-hop and rap staples to this day, and Jay-Z, Nas, and countless others stand on their shoulders.

62.  The B-52sThe B-52s:  Do you think this is a silly choice?  You shouldn’t.  The essence of rock and roll is partying, and with their call-and-response lyrics, firm grasp of rock and roll bop, and Fred Schneider’s staccato vocals, there aren’t many bands that make people smile quite so readily.  They knew their history, too: listen to that organ riff from “Rock Lobster,” and there’s an artist who owes a debt to ? and the Mysterians.  Much of their appeal was in their backwards-looking nature: the bouffant wigs, the beach party thematics, and their unironic desire to have a good time embodied the sunniest aspects of 1960s pop.  But they were hardly reactionaries.  Although they never took themselves too seriously, they were in some respects important innovators.  They helped bring new wave music into the mainstream, but in a far different direction from Blondie and Talking Heads (both of whom got in years ago, by the way), embracing what new wave actually sounded like (campy sci-fi) and running with it.  What else?  Few acts had so many openly gay band members, and The B-52s helped create a safe space in the aftermath of the death of disco where sexuality could be expressed honestly and celebratorily.

61.  Johnny BurnetteJohnny Burnette & the Rock ‘N Roll Trio:  If you haven’t listened to “Train Kept A-Rollin,'” do me a favor and listen to it before reading any further.  It’s okay.  I’ll wait.  (Twiddles thumbs.  Whistles.)  Wasn’t that amazing?  It’s only a bit over two minutes, but it’s powerful and it’s relentless.  You won’t hear the Rock ‘N Roll Trio much on the radio, and for whatever reason, they aren’t remembered as nostalgically as their contemporaries.  But in terms of influence, and above all, quality, they stand apart.  The Rock ‘N Roll Trio were important pioneers of the sound that was eventually called rockabilly- rock and roll music with country-and-western and hillbilly twang emphasized.  You can hear elements of Buddy Holly with Burnette’s hiccuping vocals (although Burnette largely predated him.)  And you can hear elements of Carl Perkins in the twang.  But while Holly affected innocence and Perkins oozed a rough-hewn but genteel warmth, the Trio were threatening, tough, and sexual.  Their admiration by their peers and descendants is also very solid.  Aerosmith and the Yardbirds idolized them, and The Beatles played “Lonesome Tears In My Eyes” as part of their Cavern-era repertoire.  And they were doing more or less the same thing as Elvis at the same time Elvis started.  As their biggest advocate, Charles Crossley, points out, Elvis’s very first radio appearance was in 1953, performing alongside the Rock ‘N Roll Trio.  Burnette also probably gets some cred for his solo career as well, which includes “You’re Sixteen,” which was turned into a #1 hit by Ringo Starr of all people.  At any rate, the era of the 1950s shouldn’t be over for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  It’s a shame that the voting body just won’t have it.

After some controversial and acrimonious choices last time, perhaps this list is on surer footing.  One reason I suspect this is because there isn’t a single artist I’m crazy about, in terms of personal taste, in this group.  Hopefully that’s a sign of objectivity?

Well, here’s the next batch of ten artists who deserve some more attention from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Mostly by coincidence, they are focused a bit more on post-80s artists, and include some sterling live acts whose chart performances and studio recordings don’t tell the whole story.  Three of these artists have been nominated before.

80.  chaka khanChaka Khan/Rufus:  Whether you prefer Rufus as a group or Chaka Khan as a solo artist, one of these permutations should get some serious Rock Hall love.  As we’ll see, the Rock Hall is historically unkind to divas not named Aretha, and Chaka Khan is among the very greatest of divas.  (And this is emblematic of a larger problem.  Less than 8% of those inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are women.)  “Chaka Khan” and “Rufus w/Chaka Khan” have each been nominated once before.  With Rufus, she was part of the transition from funk to disco, with a certain rough edge seen in the anthemic chorus of “Tell Me Something Good.”  On her own, she further honed one of the most powerful voices in popular music.  Peter Cetera loves telling the story of how  the two of them were performing a duet on the Arsenio Hall Show, and Chaka’s voice actually broke the microphone.  “I Feel for You” was a landmark record: a synthesis of rap, pop, and R&B. The problem might be that Chaka’s production values from the mid-80s sounds extremely dated: heavy, synthetic, and overdone, to the point that even her powerhouse voice gets lost in the mix.  Just listen to “Ain’t Nobody” or “Through the Fire” from that era and you’ll see what I mean.  So, Chaka Khan is damned by her association with two genres in disrepute: disco and 80s R&B.  Ironically, that selfsame legacy may endear her to the Nom Com, which has always had a soft spot for talented, though oft-ridiculed disco artists.  And with advocates like Questlove in her corner, Chaka Khan- one way or another- can probably expect another nomination real soon.  And she may very well get in, if she’s not against a bevy of classic rockers.  Can you imagine what a great moment it would be to end Chaka’s part of the show joined by Mary J. Blige and Laura Hill joining her for “I’m Every Woman?”

79.  flaming lipsThe Flaming Lips:  Including bands of more recent vintage on a list like this is always a chancy prospect.  Although eligible today, a group like The Flaming Lips has a very long wait ahead of them until they see a nomination, and who knows how well they’ll be remembered by that time.  Although formed in 1983, and achieving a mid-90s break with “She Don’t Use Jelly,” The Flaming Lips did not achieve their greatest success until arguably after the new millennium had arrived.  Their music is often described as “psychedelic,” but while that’s not wrong, it is an incomplete assessment; they are a long way off from Jefferson Airplane.   Their work is moody, world-building, atmospheric, and transcendental.  Often- and not unreasonably- compared to Pet Sounds, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots was a landmark album.  There’s nothing like it.  With electronic experimentation, swooping orchestration, bombastic yet achingly vulnerable, it also had roots in the 60s with Neil Young-ish delivery and thank God somebody brought back the electric sitar!  Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at #27 on their list of the best album of the 2000s.  The amazing thing was how easily The Flaming Lips revived the genre of the psychedelic, notorious for its lack of focus and inconsistency, and infused it with the ethos of self-conscious, authenticity-driven alternative music and made this unlikely synthesis work.  Less well remembered are their experiments to make the listening experience more interactive.  At one point in the 90s, the band set up shop in parking lots and having a makeshift audience trigger pre-recorded sounds.  This led to the Zaireeka experiment- a sprawling four-disc set one could listen to simultaneously or in sequence.  Through it all, they remain an ethereal live act with a strong emphasis on visual spectacle.  They are intensely private and public at the same time, like Wayne Coyne locked inside his clear plastic hamster ball during one of their concerts.  And their epochal weirdness isn’t even through yet–it appears the group is working on a collaboration with Miley Cyrus as we speak.

78.  dionne warwickDionne Warwick:  She had 31 top forty hits.  69 top 100 hits.  Contributed to a #1 hit in three different decades if you count both the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B charts.  She remained one of the most bankable artists in the industry for two decades.  She was the sweet voice by which the sublime songwriting of Hal David and Burt Bacharach entered the public consciousness.  And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, take note of how  The Carpenters copied Warwick’s template for “Close to You” as did Dusty Springfield for “Wishin’ and Hopin'” to massive success.  So, why isn’t Dionne in yet?  There’s a couple reasons.  Several of her records are not even soft rock, but easy listening.  Her velvety voice and breezy arrangements conjure images of cocktail hour and plastic on the furniture that is sometimes discordant with the image of rock and roll.  Others note, not unfairly, that if she recorded on Atlantic Records she’d be in by now.  And there’s no doubt that she hurt her image in the 1990s doing those goofy “Psychic Friends Network” commercials that exploited the desperate and gullible.  But Warwick delivered the decisive version of some of the 20th century’s best songs, and in ways that aren’t easy to appreciate today, was a pioneer for black women.  Can you name many African-American women who were given their own television special in the 60s?  I can’t; but Warwick wrapped up that honor in 1969.  So, while Aretha and Diana Ross and the others are more fondly remembered by rock historians, we can’t forget Warwick’s vital contributions during one of America’s most turbulent decades.

77.  Slayer2Slayer:  One of the four horsemen of thrash metal, the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll is dead on: “if Slayer did not exist, the tabloid press would invent it.”  With Hades, Satan, death camps, and mass murder as recurring themes in their music, they seemed to come out of central casting to assault middle-class values.  What I appreciate about this is that one can certainly argue that they aren’t glorifying any of these visceral themes, but are perhaps ruminating on the evil of the human condition.  Everything about their music is fast, relentless, and a sonic hellscape.  With guitar parts evocative of the fiercest tempest you’ve heard, deep drums, and an unsettling vibrato, they set the template for countless thrash bands that came after them.  Kerry King respectfully expressed a hope that Slayer will get into the Hall one day, but he may have to be patient.  Presently, talking about a Slayer induction is a mere thought experiment; they haven’t got a prayer until Judas Priest and Iron Maiden are in.  But when these acts are cleared, perhaps the Hall can more seriously discuss metal- a genre most of its members hold in some measure of disdain.  At this rate, Slayer’s producer, Rick Rubin, is probably more likely to enter the Hall of Fame before they do.  But for their bold engagement with unsavory topics, their role in the creation of a major sub-genre, their continued success selling out arenas even today, and their reputation as lightning rods of controversy make them an indelible part of what rock and roll is all about.

76.  FugaziFugazi/Minor Threat:  Out of the 100 prospects on this list, Fugazi and their predecessors in Minor Threat might be near the bottom in terms of name recognition.  It’s a pity, because they were both a key ingredient of the hardcore scene, and helped create the straightedge culture that eschewed sex, drugs, and alcohol to stay present-minded and clear-headed.  Moreover, they were devout advocates of the D-I-Y ethos.  For all of Pearl Jam’s famous battles with Ticketmaster, Fugazi went several steps farther, often printing their own tickets, and avoiding major labels so that they could produce their music affordably and as they see fit.  Ian MacKaye and his mates probably left millions of dollars on the table in order to be true to their beliefs, which strikes me as remarkably bad-ass.  But I’ve focused  perhaps too much on their attitude, and not enough on their music.  This, too, is significant.  While incorporating elements from punk and metal is hardly original- dozens of groups did that before them- they also used some reggae beats to create a more eclectic and worldly sound to the sometimes-juvenile hardcore scene.  Unfortunately, in an age where the music-industrial complex runs roughshod over the artists and their fans, running up unfair margins on CDs and concert tickets, Fugazi and Minor Threat have been M-I-A for a dozen years now.  Their wholesale rejection of all that is institutional and back-scratching makes them incongruous with how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame operates.  Which is why artists of their character are needed now more than ever.

75.  dominoesBilly Ward & His Dominoes:  Billy Ward was, by all accounts, a ruthless taskmaster, but his Dominoes, who at various points included Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson, were one of the more important vocal groups of the 1950s.  They just barely cruise in as an artist, rather than an early influence, on a technicality: their biggest hit was “St. Therese of the Roses” from 1956, and peaking 1954 or after is the cut-off for this project, at least where I’m concerned.  At any rate, the Dominoes were an important piece of 1950s R&B, capable of being smooth and ornate one moment, and raunchy and rude the next.  1952’s “Have Mercy Baby” is a genuine contender for the first real rock and roll song, with edge and swagger that more straightforward R&B didn’t have.  And of course, there’s the brilliant sexual innuendo of “Sixty Minute Man,” clever enough to not attract attention from the naive, but with fantastic lines like “fifteen minutes for blowin’ my top.”  It’s a bold boast of black sexual prowess at a time when black expressions of sexuality could still get someone lynched.  Despite its ribaldry, it was the first R&B song recorded by a black artist to reach the top of the pop charts, an important auger of things to come.  And they even have some historical cred by being scheduled to perform at the Moondog Coronation Ball, arguably the first rock and roll concert.  Here’s a crazy thought-piece.  Given the number of famous people who got their start in this group, a Dominoes induction would make Jackie Wilson a member of the Clyde McPhatter Club for two-time inductees.  Would it also mean that Clyde McPhatter (also inducted with the Drifters and as a solo artist) is no longer the first member of the Clyde McPhatter Club, but the second member of the Eric Clapton Club for three-time inductees?  My head hurts now.

74.  phishPhish:  When you talk about can’t-miss live acts, Phish has got to be near the top of the list.  They have a fanatical cult following, so often compared to the Grateful Dead, that follows them from city to city like a rock and roll stations of the cross.  Their music lends itself readily to the extended jams and sense of belonging that have become their calling card.  As many of their fans know, Phish is committed to making each concert a unique experience to be cherished, never repeating a setlist in an age where most artists repeat the same show city after city.  And they did more than copy the Dead, for sure; they are virtuoso musicians, merging the requisite rock and roll with Vermont-country, and a bit of the improvisational character of jazz.  Phish is, no doubt, on the Rock Hall’s radar.  In 2010, they inducted no less a group than Genesis, and Trey Anastasio recently toured the vaults with Rock Hall CEO Greg Harris.  Furthermore, Future Rock Legends predicted a Phish nomination for 2016 like a bolt out of the blue, which suggests that they know something I don’t.  My dream Phish induction?  Having Trey Anastasio team up with Dennis DeYoung for a supergroup called Phish-Styx.  We’ll see.  The Rock Hall tends to favor chart success and artists whose support is wide, rather than deep, and it cuts against the Rolling Stone-sanctioned history of “serious music” the 1990s as one of angsty grunge.

73.  alice in chainsAlice in Chains:  Speaking of the 1990s as a decade of angsty grunge, we come to Alice in Chains.  Maybe you disagree with my placing them above Soundgarden, but there’s no denying their importance to the grunge movement.  One important element they have over Soundgarden is their more enduring success at a national level.  It’s tricky to engage with that element, because grunge was, in many ways, contemptuous and suspicious of success, especially extended success.  Nevertheless, they kept at it.  From their breakout Dirt album from 1992, they stayed relevant.  Even in 2013, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here was widely considered one of the best albums that came out that year, and a follow-up is in the pipeline.  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 isn’t completely fixated on 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.   Eligible for the first time this year, they may have to wait a while in order to receive a nomination.

72.  MC5MC5:  When I talked about the Sixties as a turbulent decade in Warwick’s section, few encapsulated the decade’s revolutionary atmosphere better than the MC5.  Initially, I thought I hated The MC5.  As it turned out, I simply don’t like their best known song, “Kick Out the Jams.”  Once you get into the rest of their catalog, though, you’ll encounter a remarkably prophetic group.  With this band, garage rock fulfilled its destiny and got political; these guys were genuine revolutionaries- to the point of hiring John Sinclair as their first producer and joining the White Panther Party.  (Contrary to how the name might sound, the organization was radically anti-racist, not a white nationalist group).   At a time when Detroit was in the midst of race riots born from decades of police oppression and ghettoizing public policies, MC5 chose to stand with those who were speaking out and fighting back.  With their far-left politics, they fundamentally wanted to overturn the system, and the revolution permeated their music in “Motor City is Burning” and “The American Ruse.”  They even played at the notorious Chicago 1968 demonstrations where Mayor Daley’s goons beat up on protestors with what Senator Abraham Ribicoff called “Gestapo tactics.”  Their influence resounds through the decades, and punk, metal, and alternative artists all claim them as influences.  Guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith married Patti Smith and played a role in her career’s success, and was also the namesake of Sonic Youth.  And Wayne Kramer remains a legendary figure, still dreaming of revolution after all these years.  They were nominated once in 2003 and haven’t returned to the ballot since.  But with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and presumably their second manager, Jon Landau- both Nom Com members- pulling for them, we might very well see a return appearance from the true Motor City madmen.  Longevity isn’t on their side- they recorded only three studio albums in their prime- but everything else points to MC5’s long-term significance.

71.  doobie brothersThe Doobie Brothers:  It is starting to annoy me when people list their chief Rock Hall snubs, and every single act is a 70s classic rock artist.  It’s usually a sign of narrow musical interest and little historical perspective on what rock and roll actually was and where it came from.  Still, there is no shortage of deserving artists in the area, and while they shouldn’t have a monopoly on the Rock Hall, there are several worthy contenders from that world still waiting in the wings.  The Doobie Brothers clearly stand among them.  Given how much of Deep Purple’s case depends on that iconic riff from “Smoke on the Water,” isn’t the riff from “China Grove” on that same level of significance?  Moreover, The Doobies were a juggernaut that could dominate any way you liked with their versatility.  They charted hit after hit that remains in radio rotation to this day: “Long Train Runnin,'” “Listen to the Music,” “Black Water,” “Jesus is Just Alright” while also making cohesive, explorative albums that showed off their top-notch musicianship and the interesting rhythmic possibilities that came with having two drummers.  Longevity?  How about top ten hits in 1973 and 1989?  They also found a sweet spot between popular and critical acclaim, racking up 4 multi-platinum albums and a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.  And they even had two distinct eras with the more rootsy Tom Johnston days at the beginning giving way to the velvet tenor of Michael McDonald by the late 70s so often associated with soft jazz and yacht rock.  More than anything else, these guys were fun.  Their music boogied with a well-acknowledged debt to R&B, and was never more serious than it had to be. Hidden Under Headphones, which has its own very fine list of Rock Hall prospects, wrote that “their music is a time, a place, a spirit, an essence”- evocative of many of the best qualities of the 70s and 70s music, it’s layered harmony symbolized partly by the band’s multi-racial membership.  Nevertheless, This upcoming year’s inducted class of classic rockers bodes well for The Doobie Brothers.  I had, in my head, put them roughly at the same level of both worthiness and likelihood as someone like fellow Bay Area guy Steve Miller, so Miller getting in shortens the queue for them.  But the Miller induction, without his eponymous band, also points to a problem.  One factor that may hurt The Doobie Brothers’ chances is their voluminous membership at a time when the Rock Hall wants to cut down on ceremony run times and induction speeches.  This band had a higher turnover rate than an insolvent Radioshack franchise.

I am delighted that my first round of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame prospects, rounding out the bottom ten, was so well received.  I should add, in response to some confusion, that I am ranking them based on my perception of how deserving they are, as opposed to their likelihood of induction.  (I’d like to think that the two are related, but that doesn’t always happen, of course.)

This next round includes some of my more controversial choices, as well as a few artists who are consensus “why aren’t they in yet?” picks.  Two of my choices became eligible for the first time in the past year, but were passed over by the Nominating Committee.  And only one from this batch of ten has been nominated before.

90.  pogues2The Pogues: Maybe because it was Christmastime and “Fairytale of New York” got its annual moment to shine, but The Pogues were the final addition to the list.  (I always knew the bottom 10 artists I wanted on my list- usually borderline choices, symbolic of a larger trend or genre- but this next batch of ten saw more changes and shifts than any.)  Anyway, The Pogues ushered in one of more intuitive syntheses in 1980s music, that of punk and folk- particularly Celtic folk.  In a way, the visceral anger at oppression at the hands of the English middle class made traditional Irish music and post-Sex Pistols punk a natural fit for one another, with an embrace of non-conformity serving as the impetus for a catalog rich with stories of boozehounds and rejects that make up the canon of Shane McGowan, Jem Finer, and company.  The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll calls their music “Joycean” and that’s a great assessment, with fragmentary stories without satisfactory conclusions carry the day.    While “they inspired bands like Dropkick Murphys” isn’t exactly the kind of impact most artists dream of, they showed the greater, almost novelistic, lyrical possibilities of punk.  But amazingly, this loutish group, always a couple strokes of bad luck away from being a below-average pub band in Stoke Newington, grew as artists.  If I Should Fall From the Grace of God replaced Irish instruments with a Middle Eastern motif in the “Turkish Song of the Damned” and jazz, Greek, and singer-songwriter influences in their music, without it ever seeming like a desperate try at a world music album for the Grammys.

89.  mobyMoby:  The role of the deejay is an ephemeral one, often selecting and arranging music but rarely creating it.  And yet, 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 wins the “zeitgeist” component I established in my criteria by a country mile; 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 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.

88.  Photo of SOUNDGARDENSoundgarden:  It didn’t all start with Nirvana.  As we explored with Moby, inventing a genre and being a crucial part of a genre’s success are not the same thing.  Now, I wasn’t listening to grunge in the 90s; I never heard “Black Hole Sun” until it showed up as part of Weird Al’s “Alternative Polka.”  Mindful of this, I asked my friend Ryan, who actually did follow that scene as a teenager, why Soundgarden was important. And here’s what he said: “…well, important is very relative. Important to what, specifically? If we’re talking about the Seattle grunge scene, anything that brought more spotlights to it is, in many ways, good. They were around long before Nirvana, like Alice in Chains, and had respectable levels of success prior to Nevermind…They morphed heavy metal with something different- something more funk, more raw”  Great answer Ryan!  (And you should totally check out Ryan’s band, The Strange Neighbors.)  Within the world of 90s alternative and grunge, there is a tendency to see Nirvana as Artist Zero, but in fact, many of their contemporaries outdated Cobain and company and laid more of the foundations for the Seattle scene.  Louder Than Love (1990) and Badmotorfinger (1991) both made waves as the first grunge albums supported by a major label.  Even if they didn’t reach a wider audience until Nirvana kicked those doors open, that matters.  Finding a way to merge the authenticity of post-punk, the gravity of metal, and the relentless rhythm of funk, their work cast a gloomy and introspective shadow filled with angst and contained rage that resonated with plenty of people who were disillusioned with the rank commercialism of the 90s.  As the recent death of Scott Weiland reminds us, the grunge and alternative scene exacted a heavy price on its darlings.  Soundgarden quit when they were hot, as Ryan reminded me, and played the game on their own terms.  Now that Nirvana is in, the question of the next grunge/90s alternative act on the docket is one that weighs on the minds of many Rock Hall watchers.  The answer is probably Pearl Jam, eligible for the Class of 2017, but after that?  The smart money, I think, is on Soundgarden.

87.  emmylou harrisEmmylou Harris:  What are the boundaries of rock and roll?  Did Miles Davis deserve induction in 2008 as a jazz artist who merely collaborated with rockers on occasion?  What about a Nina Simone induction?  This kind of question is a particular puzzler for country, partly because country not only predates rock and roll, but was a crucial antecedent and one of rock and roll’s chief dialogue partners going forward.  So, how far do you go inducting country-oriented stars into a museum for rock and roll?  That’s a tough question to answer.  Johnny Cash got in without much controversy.  Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline are on most people’s radar.  My own philosophy is that if an artist worked heavily in conversation with rock and roll, they should be considered.  And few bridged the chasm between rock and roll and country with the longevity and the artistry of Emmylou Harris.  Her own duet partner, Gram Parsons, has been nominated before and is considered a top-shelf omission from the Rock Hall because of his seminal work in laying the foundations of country-rock, and as a distance ancestor to alt-country.  I agree with that, even as I am astounded that Harris isn’t always given the same respect.  Harris was smart (she wasn’t valedictorian of her high school class for nothing) and marketed her music to both the Opry crowd and fans of country-rock that experienced a mid-70s heyday when The Eagles and like-minded bands were at their apex.  Listen to Luxury Liner, and it’s pure mastery.  It swings and twangs with the requisite pedal steel, but it has rock and roll’s edge and the singer-songwriter’s introspection.  She’s also earned points for staying artistically active; while many Seventies artists’ output became criminally uninteresting in the 90s and after, Emmylou’s work has continued on without any perceptible decline in quality.  Her body of work grew old as gracefully as she did.  Besides her work with Parsons, she’s kept her rock rolodex filled with collaborations with Linda Ronstadt, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, and The Band among many, many others.  If she were ever nominated, there’s a suitcase full of artists in the Hall who stand ready for vote for her.  And as one of the first people to successfully exist in both the rock and country milieus simultaneously, like a songbird Padre Pio, she should get more serious attention for the Rock Hall.  And if she doesn’t, she can always polish those 13 Grammy Awards.

86.  the shadowsThe Shadows:  Many before me have noted that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has a decidedly American accent.  While obvious cases like The Beatles or The Who were inducted readily and eagerly, more borderline cases from the U.K. tend to have longer waits, simply because it is less likely that someone on the Nom Com saw them in a club before they got famous.  I could take or leave the man who was often their frontman, Cliff Richard, who many of the major British Invasion acts despised as a second-rate Elvis (although jealousy of his massive chart success may have factored into their derision.)  Richard may have been the first rock superstar in Britain, but his records often had a derivative and calculated sound, analogous to those early Pat Boone or Conway Twitty records.  No, I’m more interested in his backing band, The Shadows.  From the late 50s until well into the 1960s, they pioneered the modern rock and roll combo of lead and rhythm guitar, bass, and drums and anticipated much of the British Invasion.  Led by Hank Marvin, they embarked upon a series of evocative instrumental records.  “Apache” was probably the most well-loved of them (and was later reincarnated as a funky rap song by the Sugar Hill Gang).  But one shouldn’t neglect “Walk Don’t Run,” “Kon Tiki”, or “The Frightened City”, each of which has its own personality that shimmers in the barren years between the Day the Music Died and The Beatles’ debut on Ed Sullivan.   Altogether, they racked up 14 British Top 10 hits without Richard within the space of five years.  Remember, one of the first numbers The Beatles recorded in a professional studio on their own was an instrumental tribute to this band called “Cry for a Shadow.” If The Shadows have an encouraging antecedent, it’s The Ventures, another glittering Sixties instrumental group that was a surprise victor in their very first nomination.

85.  los lobosLos Lobos:  The Nominating Committee dropped a huge surprise when Los Lobos surfaced as one of the nominees for the Class of 2016.  One faithful reader of this blog, KING, correctly predicted this outcome, but almost everyone else was astonished, even though Future Rock Legends listed them among artists that had been previously considered before.  I originally thought this was a borderline-absurd choice, but when I did my research, I realized how mistaken I was.  Whatever you think of Los Lobos’ chances, don’t dismiss them as just the band that recorded a bunch of Ritchie Valens covers for the La Bamba soundtrack.  No, this was a band that paid its dues the way few have, breaking out only when its members were older adults after years of toiling in small clubs and wedding receptions, finding a way to merge roots rock with a strong pedigree in the norteno milieu.  As one band member put it, “we found America through the service entrance.”   In every sense, they were workmanlike innovators who merged genres.  How Will the Wolf Survive is regarded by many as one of the best albums of the 1980s, and recorded both a traditional Mexican album La pistola y el corazon as well as a collection of Disney covers, neither sounding remotely gimmicky, and each in the spirit of their overall body of work.  And we are just scratching the surface and ignoring worthy albums like Kiko and The Neighborhood.  Dave Marsh, the august music critic, seems to have played a critical role in getting them on the ballot this year, vociferously defending them in a radio interview he gave in November.  Los Lobos, he maintained, “took the folkloric style of Mexican music, combined it with the funkier side of [the punk scene in L.A.]”  Getting into the Hall of Fame, he went on, should be based on how famous you should be, not on how famous you are.  And to be sure, Latin music has not gotten fair credit for it’s role in shaping rock and roll, like a forgotten ancestor whose name has been scratched out of the family tree.  So far, only Santana and Valens and maybe some of Linda Ronstadt’s later work are nods in this direction- and Valens had barely begun exploring the fusion of latin and rock when he died at age 17.  For years, I wished that the industry experts would listen to ordinary rock and roll fans rather than using the Nom Com to impose their tastes on Rock Hall enshrinement.  I still think that to a certain degree, but I also now believe the inverse to be true: rock fans should listen up when a group as well versed as the Nom Com thinks an artist is worthy of nomination: just because you haven’t heard very much about them doesn’t mean they aren’t very good.  Two years ago, when I started following the Rock Hall seriously, I thought the two worst picks on the 2014 ballot were The Meters and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, just because I had never run into them before.  As it turned out, that was entirely wrong.  In this case, the experts were right, and they are right again here– Los Lobos hadn’t entered many conversations on Rock Hall prospects, but they should be part of the discussion.

84.  dan fogelbergDan Fogelberg:  Most people reading this have at least sorta agreed with my choices…up to this point.  Dan Fogelberg belongs to that most maligned phylum of musical creatures, the sensitive 1970s singer-songwriter.  There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive, but I prefer to consider Fogelberg an excellent storyteller in the best American tradition.  More eclectic than many of his contemporaries, he readily incorporated jazz, folk, and bluegrass, and was a natural multi-instrumentalist.  And if you take the trouble to listen to any of his albums all the way through, you’ll see that he could rock as well; many of his best songs are strong uptempo numbers like “Phoenix” and “The Language of Love,” not just ballads about meeting your old lover at the grocery store.  But those, too, are well-crafted.  Listen to The Innocent Age, a sprawling double album addressing nostalgia and looking back at childhood and adolescence.  It’s easy to scoff at this introspective topic, but this record is one of the very finest in the singer-songwriter genre, every bit as good as Sweet Baby James and Tapestry.  In fact, it’s one of my twenty favorite albums, easily.  Holiday staple “Same Old Lang Syne” is on there, as was top 10 hit “Leader of the Band.”  But listen to the complex lyrics and epic scope of “Into the Passage” and the Celtic-infused “Nexus”- two great songs that never got onto radio rotation.  Soft rock harbored some of the most thoughtful and reflective of material in the rock milieu, and it should not be easily dismissed as “yacht rock” for the nouveau rich of the Kissinger era.  If we’re looking at quality of material within its genre, Fogelberg deserves a chance to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  It’s true.

83.  jimmybuffettJimmy Buffett:  If putting Fogelberg on a list of people who should be in the Rock Hall made you skeptical, including Jimmy Buffett might make you think I’ve lost my damn mind.  Like Rush and KISS, Buffett is disadvantaged by the churlish reputation of his fans.  Your wife’s ne’er-do-well brother who never had a real job is a Parrothead.  The jackass in Human Resources who just cut your buddy’s department but always seems to enjoy a martini lunch is a Parrothead.  I get that.  I do.  But I also get that Jimmy Buffett has created his own mythos in his songs and in his novels that compares with little else in the rock and roll legendarium.  It’s a kind of Gulf Coast Narnia for the dissolute, littered with eccentrics, drifters, and remittance men.  Buffett’s best songs in his 27 studio albums create compelling character sketches that span the Caribbean, from the most-interesting-man he encounters in “Last Mango in Paris,” to the mythical Jolly Mon, to the exotic and enigmatic Salome of “Salome Plays the Drums.”  All of this coheres into a hedonist philosophy of living for today, embracing the absurd and spontaneous, and lamenting the inevitable hangover the next day.  Go listen to the stream-of-consciousness “Fruitcakes”, or the nostalgia of “Pencil Thin Mustache” or the bildungsroman of “Pascagoula Run.”  Buffett fans aren’t stupid; many of them live terribly uninteresting lives with his music as their chief Bacchanalian outlet.  And more than anyone this side of the Grateful Dead or Bob Marley, Buffett’s catalog and concert culture created a way of life, a worldview; even if its disciples wore Hawaiian shirts and cargo shorts.  There’s a reason his career is stronger than ever 40 years in, and he was racking up #1 albums in the 2000s.  Even in terms of genre, Buffett contributed to a Gulf Coast sound, merging elements of country and western with nearby Latin and Caribbean influences coming in from the sea lanes- with occasional flecks of roots rock and Cajun showing up every now and then as well.  Altogether, it’s a cohesive testament on par with the work of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, even if Buffett never shared their critical acclaim and hipster credentials. If you forget the mercenary element of his career, shamelessly hawking frozen coconut shrimp and boxed margarita mix, there’s a body of work that is Rock Hall worthy– even if it is sometimes worthy in spite of itself.

82.  a tribe called questA Tribe Called Quest: The first but certainly not the last hip-hop artist to appear on the list, A Tribe Called Quest emerged in the early 90s as part of the Native Tongues collective on the New York scene.  Hip hop was still accruing its sense of self as a genre, in the years following the landmark Afrika Bambaataa records.  In a way, ATCQ and its contemporaries were kind of a counter-reformation challenging the violence and hard-edged street life of N.W.A.  In contrast, the Native Tongues people felt like they were in the middle of a love fest.  Afrocentric ideas and beats, an indirect legacy of 70s icons like Maulana Karenga, served as the cornerstone for this vibrant, but in many ways unfortunately short-lived movement.  One of their biggest advocates, Questlove, effused that they were “stylish, jazzy, funny, soulful, smart, and everything else.  They were socially conscious without being too self-conscious about it.”  By far the most jazz-oriented group in this collective, Q-Tip and company had wonderful improvisation to their work, often sampling jazz records and jazz licks as easily as others might sample a drum beat or horn break from James Brown.  (“Mind Power” from Beats, Rhymes, and Life is one of my favorite essays in this medium.) But this belies the hard work and craftsmanship that so many of their listeners missed.  Philosophical but never ponderous, they were just as conscious about being black in America- and all that implied- as N.W.A., but chose artful self-realization instead of the gangsta life.

81.  The CloversThe Clovers: My chronological rule separating performers from early influences was “peaking in 1954 or later”- a tad arbitrary, but there you have it.  The Clovers might bend that rule, but they certainly do not break it.  Their most remembered hit song,1959’s  “Love Potion #9” was a Leiber-Stoller favorite that received a popular cover version in the British Invasion era- the one that is, unfortunately, covered on your local Oldies station instead of The Clovers.  The Hall has not been kind in recent years to the manifold R&B vocal groups from the 1950s.  It’s been over a decade since The Dells were inducted, and the Moonglows and the Flamingos before them.  The Five Royales only squeaked in last year as an “Early Influence.”  I do hope that the era of 50s R&B  isn’t closed yet.  And certainly, rock and roll was not always kind to them, it’s a shame that by the mid-1950s, harmonic vocal work was often limited to intentionally bland, colorless background set to rock and roll backing- think of the Jordanaires’ work on Elvis’s records.  It’s like watching an exceptional group of actors relegated to nondescript supporting roles on a cheesy sitcom that’s beneath their talents.  In contrast, The Clovers’ vocals pop with personality, build to climax, and shine with flecks of humor that anticipated a group like The Coasters (I love the line in “One Mint Julep”: “I got six extra children from bein’ frisky.”)  We praise artists for invention in the form of albums, and forget that a full 33 rpm disc was a luxury afforded only to established artists.  Instead, The Clovers made a series of great 45-rpm records with sparkling piano, wailing saxophone, and five guys singing their hearts out.   


Here is the first installment of my “100 Greatest Rock Hall Prospects” list, starting out at #100, and moving on to #1 in the coming weeks.  (Chicago, fortunately, lost their spot at #1 by virtue of being inducted.)  Hopefully, I’ll be able to imbed a Spotify playlist on this blog shortly, but please bear with me; I haven’t quite figured that trick out yet.  This particular batch has some eclectic, but somewhat borderline, cases.  Interestingly, five of these artists have already been nominated, but haven’t made it in yet.  Let me know your thoughts as we journey through the epochs of rock and roll.  Remember- this is just one guy’s opinion, so I hope you won’t take umbrage if your favorites aren’t on the list or are ranked too low for your liking.

100.  fela-kutiFela Kuti:  For all we complain about certain “snubs” from the Rock Hall, there are some genres, and indeed, some geographical regions that are left out in the cold entirely.  No artist who spent their career working from Africa, to give one less obvious example, has been inducted.  If the Hall ever looks in that direction, they could do no better than Fela Kuti.  Like Bob Marley before him, Kuti worked 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.

99.  Husker Du:  Husker-DuI was a bit dismissive about Husker Du in my introduction to this project, but they still deserve serious consideration for a Rock Hall induction.  They helped create alt-rock and set the table for Green Day and other latter-day acts that dominated radio when I was a teenager, except they did it years before it was cool.  Ultimately, they were a musician’s band, more famous for influence than for record sales.  Patrick Smith said it best: “To say that Hüsker Dü never cultivated any sort of image, in the usual manner of rock bands, is putting it mildly. These guys just didn’t look or carry themselves like musicians. And they didn’t care.”  Their records rarely had a picture of the band, but they were workmanlike, touring relentlessly to break out of the underground scene they were beholden to.  Husker Du bridged the gap between thrash and alternative, recording an essential album, Zen Arcade, with little time and a meager budget.  Nirvana, Pixies, the Foo Fighters and countless other acts cite them as an important influence.

98.  D.C. Talk: d.c. talkOne important genre that the Rock Hall has heretofore neglected (and will probably neglect for a very long time) is Christian Contemporary.  This is probably because its artists and its audience exist in a somewhat insular subculture in America far removed from anybody on the Nominating Committee.  But if your daddy listened to James Dobson on the radio and your mama read Amish romance novels, chances are, D.C. Talk was a part of your life in the 1990s.  D.C. Talk remains the most historically important Christian contemporary artist for the Rock Hall’s consideration, at least until Jars of Clay become eligible in 2020.  They started out recording plenty of spiritually uplifiting secular songs like “Lean On Me” and “Jesus Is Just Alright” before 1995’s Jesus Freak came out like a bolt out of the blue.  A lot of music that white evangelicals were listening to…well…let’s just say it was shoddily recorded and noticeably derivative.  There were lots of earnest singer-songwriters with acoustic guitars and beards, or Styx-wannabes like Petra.  D.C. Talk broke away from the evangelical tendency toward second-rate music, playing conscientious hip-hop-infused rock that didn’t sound like a pale imitation of existing artists.  Wisely, they tapped into post-punk and alternative’s need for personal authenticity and its identification with society’s misfits and losers, balancing the introspective with a finely-developed social consciousness.  Virtually every edgy Christian songwriter of a generation began his or her education with D.C. Talk.

97.  NyDolls3 New York Dolls: This pick goes against everything I stand for in terms of my personal taste, but it is tough to deny their longstanding influence.  The New York Dolls were gender-bending to a striking, and apparently persuasive, degree (just this semester, one of my students foolishly included them in a diorama on “women in rock.”)  There was this sorta Jagger-knock-off feel to their sound and their sneering and pouting temperament, but they were an important piece of what became punk music.  Even if they got there by way of glam.  I love that their first gig was in a homeless shelter; it’s the perfect encapsulation of the New York underground scene that embraced all kinds of people who were rejected elsewhere.  They challenged convention (particularly gender convention) with their wardrobe choices and became heroes to Patti Smith, The Ramones, and other top-shelf acts that became massively big later on.  (Then again, they also influenced KISS.  This isn’t something to be proud of; it’s more like remembering Lee Harvey Oswald for influencing Mark David Chapman.)  At a time when popular music was getting more complex and ethereal, New York Dolls not only brought it back down to earth, but into the gutter.  They lived fast, some of them died hard, and they enjoyed only a short career before disbanding, but everyone who was there at the time vouches for their importance.  The band was nominated once in 2001, but it may be a long time before they see the inside of the Rock Hall.  If it took the Sex Pistols five tries and the Stooges eight tries, they may have quite a wait ahead of them.

96. Harold Melvin Blue NotesTeddy Pendergrass/Harold Melvin and the Blue NotesEvery genre in the rock and roll family tree moves the listener in a different way.  The deep soul branch touches the most plaintive notes of our conscious selves, and speaks to our deepest hurts and our most aching longings.  I can think of no outfit that did this quite so well as Pendergrass- either with or without Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.  Their most important (and most widely covered) hit, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” is a track of profound emotional depth, and that’s just one of a small armada of hits that tore up the R&B charts through the 70s.  Pendergrass kept this going in his solo career, which was cut short by a freak accident that paralyzed him and shortened his life (eerie parallels to Curtis Mayfield, no?)  Actually, like Mayfield, Pendergrass and the Blue Notes also threaded a careful line between love songs and socially conscious numbers in tune with their times (give a listen to “Wake Up Everybody” for a fine essay in this genre.)  While figures like Barry White had a more conspicuous calling card in his spoken-word seduction, Pendergrass had chops that weren’t overshadowed by deceptive production.  Philadelphia artists have a habit of being ignored by the Rock Hall, as Daryl Hall pointed out at his own induction, and the Blue Notes would be a worthy addition given the absence of Philly soul from the Cleveland halls.  Classic rockers will have a fit, but I’d rather have a first rate soul outfit than a group of second-rate rockers.

95.  Procol HarumProcol Harum: For a few years, it seemed like Cleveland was letting every British invasion act it could remember into its halls.  When Procol Harum was nominated for the Class of 2013, it sure looked like a front-runner on a ballot filled with dicey blues and rap prospects.  Yet, they failed to get the votes, and I wonder why.  Inductees Dave Clark Five and The Hollies certainly had more hits, I’ll grant you that, but Procol Harum had significantly more vision behind it, and was a better fit for the Hall’s own agenda.  With a full-time lyricist at their disposal, they challenged rock and roll’s artistic boundaries, using greater classical influences, and a broader array of instruments- with the organ at the front of the mix- to create baroque pop.  The result of this technique was the glorious “Whiter Shade of Pale,” a track that serves as the exemplar of ambitious (if somewhat obtuse) psychedelia.  But don’t stop there, because “The Devil Came From Kansas,” “Conquistador,” and “A Salty Dog” were all ambitious and masterfully composed, rich gems waiting for those who are willing to delve further into their catalog.  All these factors make them important antecedents to progressive rock sensibilities.  Today, every artist records with a full orchestra as a fun lark.  But Procol Harum was perhaps the first band to do so with a 1972 album with the Edmonton Symphonic Orchestra, exploring how classical and rock and roll might be genres in collaboration rather than competition.  Procol Harum is still on tour today with its frontman Gary Brooker, and despite recurring lawsuits over “Whiter,” the band would be able to perform, and even skip the light fandango, if called upon.

94.  chuck willisChuck 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 never quite made it past the hurdles of induction.  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, without success.  As the voting body becomes younger and perhaps less historically astute, 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.

93.  mary wellsMary Wells: Has the Rock Hall milked Motown dry?  It seems like every significant Motown artist is enshrined in the Hall, although the Nom Com seems on the lookout for more of them.  The Marvelettes have been nominated a couple times, most recently for the Class of 2015, but I think a stronger case can be made for Mary Wells if you’re going to close the book on Hitsville, USA.  Go back and listen to her old 45s, and you’ll hear a remarkable self-possession and personality shine through.  Sultry but sweet, emotive but confident, she should have had a much bigger career than she enjoyed.  It must have been tough as a female artist in the 60s, with the virgin/whore dichotomy at full bore.  Your output had to be demure enough to be respectable but sensuous enough to be interesting.  There aren’t many songs that are simultaneously both seductive and innocent as her vocal work on the coda of “My Guy.”  Unfortunately, she violated Rock and Roll Rule #3: Don’t Cross Berry Gordy.  (Rule #1 is “Don’t bite the head off a bat” and Rule #2 is “don’t marry your 13-year-old cousin.”)  Rumors persist that Gordy sabotaged her career after she left Motown, irritated by The Supremes getting more attention, better promotion, and more quality material.  But any way you slice it, the hits dried up prematurely for one of soul’s most talented vocalists.   

92.  megadethMegadeth: there are probably metal bands that deserve to be in before Megadeth, but they are certainly in the queue.  Founded by Metallica castaway Dave Muscatine, Megadeth presided over the creation of thrash-metal: angry, focused, intentional, and intense.  The band has danced with the devil for decades, with lyrics that explore death and destruction, but never wholly endorsing a violent worldview.  In terms of zeitgeist, it’s remarkable how well Megadeth directed their ire at the bloodlust of the 1980s, with a revived Cold War and a lot of unnecessary, phallus-waggling American incursions into Latin America and the Caribbean.  Nobody, as it turns out, was buying peace.  Although Muscatine has expressed interest in induction, it’s probably a long way off.  The Nom Com just isn’t interested in thrash metal, and their rivals, Metallica, belong to the Rock Hall’s “in-club” and these guys most definitely do not.

91.  bon joviBon Jovi: If you really stop and think about it, one of Cleveland’s more insidious biases is against artists that women tend to like more than men- perhaps a reflection of the male super-duper-majority on the Nom Com.  How many artists in the Hall of Fame today have a decisively female fan base?  Bobby Darin?  Ricky Nelson?  Neil Diamond?  I can’t think of too many more.  Teen idols tend to get passed over as long on image and short on chops.  Every once in a while, an exception like Peter Frampton- a surprisingly good guitarist- challenges that stereotype, but otherwise, good luck waiting for Bobby Vinton, Frankie Avalon, Lief Garrett, and Neil Sedaka to come to Cleveland.  But in the mid-to-late 1980s, Bon Jovi were not only teen idols, but the most well-remembered emblems of hair bands.  With long mullets, screechy guitar solos, and ear-worm hooks, bands like Bon Jovi tore up the charts in the mid-to-late 80s.  They wracked up a number of big hits made for stadium sing-alongs and Jon holding out the microphone to the audience (every song they’ve done seems to have a “wuhhh-oh” or an “aaah-ah” in the chorus crafted for this kind of moment.)  It was listener friendly, but almost factory-designed to vex the serious listener or critic, ever searching for technique and nuance.  But technique and nuance were never part of Bon Jovi’s appeal.  I had just started listening to Top 40 radio when “Always” was out, inaugurating Bon Jovi 2.0, and several years later, they did it again with “It’s My Life” and later remade themselves into John Mellencamp-style heartland rockers in the new millennium.  In a crazy way, a Bon Jovi comeback seemed more far-fetched and anachronistic than its contemporary Santana and Cher comebacks, partly because it was so tough to disassociate them from the mullet-infested, Dollar Store Springsteen side of the 80s.  After all, didn’t Nirvana exist to save us from bands like Bon Jovi?  Nevertheless, as a cultural artifact, as hitmakers of astonishing resilience, and as contributors to the rock and roll milieu, Bon Jovi deserves a place in the Hall.  “Tommy used to work on the docks” is one of the great opening lines in all of rock history.   Bon Jovi has been nominated once before- for the Class of 2011- but didn’t get in.  With the recent exception of Janet Jackson, that’s probably the most shocking non-induction in the last decade of Rock Hall history.  I’d expect them to get a second chance sooner rather than later- especially under the aggressive new management of Irving Azoff.


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