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We arrive at our penultimate installation of our Rock Hall Prospect series, looking at the 100 artists currently eligible for the Hall (Class of 2016 or earlier).  I didn’t plan it this way intentionally, but one theme that stands out in this batch is its very distinct 1980s flavor.  In fact, possibly 9 out of the 10 following artists (either clearly or arguably) peaked at some time in that decade.  Again, this isn’t by design on my part, but nevertheless, it does show that the Rock Hall has neglected some of the most iconic artists from that time period, as it whittles away at the 1960s and 1970s C-lists.  Although these are some of our most highly-ranked contenders, the Rock Hall isn’t quite in agreement: only 4 have been nominated previously.

I have also updated the links sidebar on my site, getting rid of defunct or dormant pages, and including some newer ones, including an excellent blog that serves as a digital archive of Horizons, my favorite Disney attraction.

weird al yankovic20.  Weird Al Yankovic:  It’s quite likely that some readers think Weird Al is placed too high, or maybe should not be on the list at all.  Let me explain my case as best I can.  Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia takes place across several decades, and in every scene features a tortoise, the sole creature with the longevity to witness to the entire narrative as it unfolds.  In a lot of ways, Weird Al was like that tortoise.  As trend after trend unfolded, as political and cultural events marched through the landscape of history, as movies and television shows came and went, Weird Al was there, resiliently bursting their bubble and busting their balls.  Some of the acts he lampooned were ushered into the rock and roll pantheon: Nirvana, Madonna, and Green Day are but a few of the artists whose legitimacy was validated by the fact that Weird Al made fun of them.  Others fell by the wayside, as he parodied forgotten mooks like Men Without Hats and Gerardo.  But the craziest thing of all was that Weird Al kept getting better.  Eventually the songs about food and television gave way to funny, but slyly insightful material.  “Party in the CIA” took on the national security state in a way no serious song could. “Whatever U Like” was the smartest take I heard on the 2008 economic collapse, and “Skipper Dan” was a strangely affecting meditation on broken dreams, where a Julliard-trained actor ends up as the guide on Disneyland’s “Jungle Cruise.”  Way back in my intro to this series, I described one of my chief criteria as “zeitgeist,” the ineffable quality of representing one’s time.  Almost every person who was a fourteen-year-old boy at some point between Al’s debut and the present remembers a time when he was the funniest person he knew.  Watching the video for “Amish Paradise” for the first time was one of my ten most cherished music memories of all time.  And other people can say the same for the first time they heard “Eat It” or the time they came across “White and Nerdy” on youtube.  Last year, Al debuted his last conventional album from a brick-and-mortar record label, ending an over 30-year trajectory where he entered our homes through MTV, and concluded with Mandatory Fun.  Al realized that he had even managed to outlive the record industry itself.  Al is the tortoise, man.  Al is the tortoise.

duran duran19.  Duran Duran: What made the 1980s so memorable?  I would argue that it’s partly the visual element brought about by MTV, but it is also the tension between mainstream rock and alternative rock- between bravado and vulnerability, between “rocking pretty hard” and reaching out to various outcasts, drifters, and slackers. Duran Duran didn’t always make a good impression, but they brought back the ethos of snotty rock star behavior to heights not seen since the Rolling Stones’ prime.  (My favorite moment was when they sued their own fan club in 2014.) In spite of themselves, they helped construct the fabric of their decade more fully than almost any artist not yet in the Hall.  I was searching for the right way to characterize them, and an article from the Guardian finally gave me the right framework: they were escapism.  “Girls on Film” and other songs in their canon flaunt riches they didn’t yet have, and their videos used exotic locales most of their fans could only hope to visit one day, in the midst of dreary Thatcherism. It worked: “Hungry Like the Wolf” is vintage early 1980s, “Rio” is utterly classic, and “Ordinary World” as mature a pop ballad as any.  But you need some quality beyond “having lots of hits” and “rocking pretty hard.” Ultimately, Duran Duran pointed toward the directions pop music would go: sarcastically earnest, assisted by electronics, and beholden to supplementing the music with videos.

Kate Bush18.  Kate Bush: She did us all an immense favor by making art rock actually sound intimate.  A wunderkind protege of David Gilmour, Bush developed into a consummate artist.  She took  the ambitious scope and artistry of prog and had the gall to make it sensual.  “Wuthering Heights” is more than just another prog piece with literary pretensions; Bush injects both haunting spiritualism and carnal yearning into the mix.  Or consider one of my favorite tracks- not just of hers, but of anyone’s- “The Man with the Child In His Eyes.”  She wrote that when she was 13, but it’s one of the most natural, emotionally resonant pieces I’ve heard from any artist.  Overall, her work kicked 80s British songwriting in directions it needed to go: the jaunty choruses (“Babushka”), the expressionism, the girl power (“Wuthering Heights” was the first song written and performed by a woman to be a UK #1.) Most female songwriters were of the slower, more introspective type.  Bush made it possible for one to be innovative, techie, and smart as well; Lady Gaga probably owes Kate Bush far more than she will ever owe Madonna. Unfortunately, most of her hits were in Great Britain, and we all know what the Rock Hall thinks of acts that only made a big splash on the other side of the pond.  Still, on the heels of a triumphant series of concert performances- her first in over thirty years, in fact- Kate Bush is back, and a Rock Hall nomination would be a great way to celebrate one of its great visionaries.

Arts

17.  The Cars: When The Cars received a surprise nomination in October, many music fans were cheered by this accolade.  The Cars, after all, managed to be both entirely presentist and fully backward-looking when they hit their peak as the 70s turned to the 80s.  They mastered the new wave use of synth with the economy of punk.  And yet, their simple, straightforward name for themselves hearkened back to rock’s earliest roots.  The titles of their songs, like “My Best Friend’s Girl,” made rock and roll music about being a teenager again.  From their rockabilly-throwback guitar solos to their reliance on catchy riffs, they were fun without being silly, good songwriters without fretting about authenticity, and embraced mainstream success without ever seeming to sell out.  That’s a tough balance to strike, let alone doing so with lyrics that were, as Bob Stanley put it, “worthy of Buddy Holly” in their effective simplicity.  This Boston band was one of rock and roll’s great success stories of its time, and a no-brainer for Rock Hall induction.  I frankly wish they had gotten in this year instead of maybe Cheap Trick and Deep Purple, but that, as they say, is life.

ll cool j16.  L.L. Cool J.: L.L. Cool J is significant for, I think, two reasons.  Firstly, his debut marked the moment where rap focused chiefly on the rapper, something that seems intuitive today, but in it’s earlier days was much more of a dynamic partnership between a rapper and the deejay (see, for example, Eric B. & Rakim).  This doubled with the growing significance of the rapper as a solo artist, not as part of a posse- other than outliers like Wu-Tang Clan, we haven’t seen too many ensembles succeed for more than a brief moment in time.  Ultimately, L.L. Cool J. brought more braggadocio and swagger to rap- listen to “Mama Said Knock You Out” one more time, and it’s words apart from the slower, chiller approach of the Furious Five or Rakim.  In essence, he epitomized a moment where rap transitioned from “street CNN” to self-promotion mixed with personal introspection.  (consider, for example, some of his 90s work, where he unpacks the trauma of seeing his father shoot his mother and grandfather.)  This all actually leads to my second point, L.L. Cool J’s work to make rap mainstream.  When Kanye or Jay-Z or Eminem records go multiple platinum rather than mere gold, that’s because people like Cool J. blazed the trail of mainstream acceptance.  Sometimes it didn’t work- the ballads on 1989’s Walking with a Panther were toxic in hip-hop circles and almost killed his career in the cradle.  More recently, he collaborated with Brad Paisley on “The Accidental Racist.”  It was one of the most clueless tracks I had heard in a long time- it compared centuries of institutional racism and labor theft with Paisley’s…um…discomfiture with ghetto culture, I guess.  I actually use that song to illustrate the concept of “false equivalency” in my classes.  It singlehandedly torpedoed his candidacy for the Class of 2014.  But when L.L. Cool J. connected, he really connected, and managed to turn rap and hip-hop into a part of the national vernacular.

journey15.  Journey:  I’ve been religiously following Rock Hall affairs for a little over two years now, and maybe one element that always bothers me at some level is the occasional contempt that I perceive for mainstream rock and roll and it’s fans. Everybody wants to be a Sonic Youth fan, nobody admits to liking Journey. I’ll be the first to grant you that much of more radio-oriented rock isn’t  carefully crafted, or especially memorable.  Yet, there is a denial of what these acts mean to their listeners. I spent four summers during college working in the assignment department at the phone company. (Back when people had landlines, these were the individuals who assigned you a phone number when you moved into the area, and programmed your account to have features such as 3-way calling or Caller ID.) My co-workers were almost all women in their 40s, born in the early 1960s, whose education did not go further than high school. Most were named Debbie or Tina. It’s distressingly easy for critics to dismiss their tastes as a lowbrow gumbo of NASCAR, Red Lobster, and above all, Journey. That would be deeply in error. For many in this category, Journey takes on an almost mythic significance. “Don’t Stop Believing'” is their Iliad, Steve Perry is their Homer. Journey made more household-name songs than perhaps anybody on my list of 100: “Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin’,” “Faithfully,” “Open Arms,” “Any Way You Want It.” Writing memorable songs with strong hooks isn’t as easy as it looks, and to do that a dozen times with songs that still resound on classic rock radio today is a remarkable accomplishment. After all, “Don’t Stop Believing,” a track over 30 years old, is the most downloaded song of all time. As I said in my earlier posts, “Zeitgeist” is one factor I take into consideration, and as far as influencing its time and place, Journey’s power ballads and arena rock had an impact as deep as it was wide.

Eurythmics14.  Eurythmics: While we’re on the topic of major 80s hitmakers, you can’t discount Eurythmics.  Somewhere in the meeting point of synth-pop and new wave, this duo harnessed the possibilities that were germinating in electronic popular music, but gave it a distinctive emotive feel and artistic flair.  David Stewart’s arrangements and technical wizardry was part of that equation, but probably more of their success was due to the singular talent of Annie Lennox.  Her ethereal, husky, and above all soulful voice, her sharp androgynous look, and the surprising vulnerability that she brought to songs like “Here Comes the Rain Again” made them perhaps the most successful new wave artist, even if Talking Heads was the most critically acclaimed.  Lennox was exactly what top 40 needed at the time- a brassy, commanding voice and a strong visual presence to navigate the early MTV era, best seen in that immortal video for “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This.)”  I almost feel like the duet with Aretha, “Sisters are Doin’ It For Themselves” was a kind of passing of the torch, not just between generations, but between genres as well.

chic13.  Chic: Who else could be at the unlucky #13 spot than Chic?  Chic has now been nominated and rejected 10 times, more than any other artist.  Some of those nominations were, in my opinion, foolish ones– what was the Nom Com thinking by putting two disco artists on the same ballot year after year, when Donna Summer and Chic took votes away from one another?  Every year, we think something- Nile Rogers’s cancer scare, or Pharrell Williams’ success with the Rogers-produced “Get Lucky”- will push them over the top, but to no avail.  That’s a shame, really.  Chic, in their time, revolutionized dance music and the production of top 40 pop.  They came together with a knowledge of how to build a compelling sonic palette (it’s not a coincidence that Rogers and Bernie Edwards met as musicians for a stage production of Sesame Street, which specialized in packaging soul and R&B songs for the masses.  Witness “The Skin I’m In” or even the famous Philly-Soul pinball sequence.) In their time, they mattered: “Le Freak,” “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Good Times” were fundaments of 70s R&B-turned-disco, and we easily forget that the first purpose of rock and roll was music for dancing and movement, not music for listening alone with a fancy set of noise-canceling headphones. Since those halcyon disco days, the importance of Chic remains intact- Rogers-produced work, and even the recent “Uptown Funk” that was #1 for over ten weeks are linear descendants of the groove-based, non-linear sound devised by this ensemble.  Make fun of disco all you want if it makes you feel like a big man, but know this: it was one of the only safe spaces for persons of color and gay, lesbian and gender-queer individuals during it’s time.  Chic’s rhythmic emphasis, its inspiration of hundreds of hip-hop beats, and its ingenious banality that made all welcome on the dance floor are lasting contributions to the rock and roll story.

the cure12.  The Cure: The Cure is adamant that they are not a goth band, but their influence over other goth bands and emo bands, which often challenge traditional masculinity, cannot be overstated. Tracks like “Boys Don’t Cry” fundamentally rethought gender relationships in the rock and roll universe. With the wild-haired Robert Smith fronting the group, they embraced teenage melancholy and loss, the sadder side of what the Cars did at #17, as evinced in “Just Like Heaven” and “Lovesong.” For all their mopey reputation, they were also far more stylistically diverse than popular memory affords.  Listen to the slightly jazzy “Lovecats,” or the poppy “Friday I’m In Love,” or the synth-heavy “Lullaby” that unexpectedly used some reggae rhythms for emphasis. These were genuinely great musicians, not a bunch of whiners in mascara. Given how their dark tones, dreary spirituality, and intense brooding had an impact on underground acts for decades since, The Cure is an essential non-mainstream choice for the Rock Hall.  If, of course, we’re judging things by influence over a lifestyle or subculture, rather than total records sold. They were nominated in 2012, but they were up against Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Guns N Roses.  (Absurdly, Laura Nyro and The Small Faces, only two of the Rock Hall’s worst choices, also got in that year.) Although the Nom Com has turned elsewhere in recent years, they’ll be back on the ballot before long.

iron maiden11.  Iron Maiden:  My friend Dani works in New York State politics and has a mantra she recites to herself around Election Night: “signs don’t vote, but people do.”  In other words, don’t confuse enthusiastic, outward professions of support with the overall atmosphere beneath the surface, where a candidate with quieter supporters may prevail.  If Rock Hall inductions were determined by t-shirt sales, or raw fan devotion, Iron Maiden would have gotten in a long time ago.  I’ll say this: Iron Maiden may be the most successful heavy metal band behind Metallica, in terms of records sold and in maintaining a devoted fan base.  They didn’t invent metal, certainly, but they did refine it, figure out its aesthetic, and give it a manifesto that it lacked before.  There isn’t much politics in Black Sabbath, except of the most nebulous kind.  “Run to the Hills,” however, is a chilling track about the extermination of the American Indian, one that counters the stereotype of metal being thoughtless head-banging music.  Through all this, Iron Maiden has clung on to relevance and longevity, still selling out stadiums decades after their prime.  That they did this without much mainstream radio play or MTV exposure is a testament to word of mouth and the community- both real and virtual- that metal fans have created for one another.  While some metal fans can cleave to a narrow, Eddie Trunk-like point of view that views metal as the culmination and fulfillment of rock and roll, metal-heads are right about one thing: Iron Maiden is a serious snub of the higher order.  Now that Deep Purple is in, perhaps Iron Maiden will finally have their chance at a nomination.

And now- all that’s left is the top ten!  Anybody want to take some guesses as to which artists made it, and in what order?

We only have three installments left, and this one will bring us up to the cusp of our top 20.  Although some of these artists are among our strongest contenders, amazingly only 3 have been nominated before.  This batch of artists is, as every batch of ten has been, an eclectic group: R&B, alternative, folk, the British Invasion, and classic rock are all represented.

ben e. king30.  Ben E. King:  How much should one or two sublime songs transform someone into a contender?  That’s the question attendant to any discussion on Ben E. King.  “Spanish Harlem” is still remembered fondly, and he had a string of R&B hits that extended well into the 1970s.  But at the end of the day, his credentials come down to three words: “Stand By Me.”  It is rightly one of the most well-loved songs of its time, and it’s been covered by so many artists I wouldn’t dream of even beginning to list them.  The song was inducted into the Library of Congress registry, and according to BMI, was the fourth-most played song of the 20th century.  There’s precedence for cases like King’s where a couple songs overshadowed a long and eclectic career.  Ultimately, both the Nom Com and the voters thought Bill Withers deserved to be in, and his case rested essentially on the nostalgic value of “Lean On Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.”  If King at #30 seems too high, consider this: there probably isn’t a rock and roll song as important as “Stand By Me” whose (eligible) singer isn’t in the Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, since his death in the spring of 2015, the Nom Com had a great chance to nominate him last November and decided not to do so.  Although he was nominated once during the Rock Hall’s early years, he appears to be one more victim of the unspoken consensus to move beyond the 1950s and early 60s.

Joan Baez29.  Joan Baez:  In the beginning, there was Baez.  She played the guitar acceptably, and didn’t usually write her own music, but in the best folk tradition tinkered with songs, deconstructed them, rearranged them, and made them her own.  Of course, one man looms over her career, her former boyfriend Bob Dylan, whom Baez quietly encouraged and ushered into the Greenwich Village scene and into greatness.  Dylan more or less quit the social activism as soon as people started to, you know, look up to him for it.  He almost immediately shot back with tracks like “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Maggie’s Farm” which blithely told the seekers of the Sixties to look elsewhere.  It wasn’t him, babe.  Baez, though, stayed with it- playing Woodstock, visiting Vietnam with a peace delegation, and supporting LGBT rights before it was cool.  Baez was even banned from playing in several South American countries in the 80s, for fear that she would inspire revolution and reform if she challenged the iron-fisted juntas that ruled at the time.  She was a voice of deep conscience connecting folk with what would eventually become known as soft rock.  Play her debut album from 1960, and you’ll find that it’s a near-masterpiece.  The pacing, the depth, nuance, and control make it something far from the wan Kingston Trio tracks of the same era.  What came after was even more special, from “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” to “Diamonds and Rust” and “Sweet Sir Galahad.”  As one of popular music’s singular voices and a lynchpin of rock and roll’s engagement in the great questions of its era, Baez is one of the most important figures not yet inducted.

willie nelson28.  Willie Nelson: He has become such a cultural icon that we forget just how good the music actually is.  Often low-key, plaintive, and the very soul of expression, Willie Nelson never needed artifice to communicate with the public, just a song, a headband, and his faithful guitar, Trigger.  Nelson’s career, spanning well over 50 years, has been a touchstone in the close relationship shared between country and rock and roll.  The red-haired stranger has spent that time not only been building bridges between these two genres, but also speeding over that bridge in pimped-out tour bus smoking a $3,000 doobie.  His time in Austin in the late 60s could not have been more fortuitous, putting him in a Southern city with a burgeoning hippie scene.  It was the perfect place for him to cultivate the authentic and yet carefully crafted public persona that made him a household name.  Pick whichever Nelson you prefer: the early 60s Opry hand, the 1970s outlaw, the Farm Aid activist, or the 90s evergreen running afoul of the IRS but remaining a can’t-miss live act well into his old age.  When you look at his body of work, and how important that was for country-rock, his resume basically writes itself: “Always on my Mind,” “Mothers Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” “Whiskey River,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “On the Road Again.”  If you think Willie Nelson isn’t rock and roll enough to be in the Hall of Fame, all I have to say is that I’m amazed you found my blog, Mr. Simmons.

sonic youth27.  Sonic Youth:  The last two times I tried to guess the Rock Hall’s annual ballot, I predicted a Sonic Youth nomination and was proven wrong both times.  But I remain unchanged in my belief that Sonic Youth could- and should- get nominated any year now, especially as those who came of age in the 80s gain a greater toehold on the nominating process.  Sonic Youth were kind of like the cool babysitters to lots of alternative, grunge, and other underground types when they were kids, if that makes sense.  Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore and company recorded a legendarium that defied easy categorization, with tracks like “Teenage Riot” and “Schizophrenia” that definitely weren’t pop, clearly weren’t metal, but were harder than most of what passed for alternative in those days.  They picked up where Velvet Underground and eventually Patti Smith left off, cribbed a bit of Big Star along the way, and developed their own deliberate, intense, and ultimately enveloping style that avoided easy hooks in favor of the experiential.  Jason Woodbury of the Phoenix New Times describes them this way: “Sonic Youth asserted their importance in introducing a whole generation of slacker kids to outsider music by using Spin and Rolling Stone as a pulpit for preaching the gospel of white noise, hardcore history, and experimental music.”  Sonic Youth created a form of music that was too cool for mainstream radio and content to be darlings of the underground.  Whatever indie was, and whatever it became, Sonic Youth helped make that happen.

tina turner26.  Tina Turner:  The question of including Tina Turner was a great philosophical puzzle for me.  She was inducted once already as Tina Turner, alongside Ike in the early 90s.  I thought, “does she deserve another induction as Tina Turner?”  It’s one thing if Croz, for example, gets in once as a Byrd and again thru CSN, but what about getting inducted twice under one’s own name?  And then I remembered the precedent where Paul Simon got inducted twice under a similar aegis, once via Simon & Garfunkel and again through his solo work.  So, that settles it, at least for me.  It’s time to induct Tina Turner for her own solo career.  Let’s get her an induction where her name isn’t resting beside an egotistical and sullen bully like Ike who beat her and bruised her and tormented her, even as they made some of the great records of the 1960s and 70s together.  Tina Turner was one of the very greatest rock and roll performers, with a commanding stage presence that suffered no fools nor any second-raters.  She pulled off the greatest mid-life renaissance by any artist I’ve seen- male or female- with a string of 1980s hits that included “Private Dancer,” “The Best,” and the immortal “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”  Turner’s career is so lauded and so decorated that there’s a wikipedia page devoted to the awards she’s received.  Among them are seven Grammy Awards since her breakup with Ike, and placement in Rolling Stone‘s very competitive 100 Immortals list.

The Zombies25.  The Zombies:  Let’s do the British Invasion right by getting in the last band from that era whose place is the Hall is beyond reasonable dispute: the Zombies.  These Hempstead boys learned all the requisite tricks from The Beatles and The Animals but added their own distinctive flavor that made them stand out by a head among most of their other rivals.  Namely, the electric piano of Rod Argent and their tendency to write songs in darker, more melancholic minor keys, which showed a sophistication utterly foreign to, say, Gerry & the Pacemakers or Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas.  While their early hits like “She’s Not There” showed a great deal of promise, their pinnacle turned out to be their swansong.  Odessey and Oracle was one of the very finest albums to come out of the 1960s.  You probably know its evocative psychedelic hit “Time of the Season” but if you aren’t already familiar with them, give the celebratory post-incarceration “Care of Cell 44” a listen.  Or else the music-hall flavored “This Will Be Our Year” or the achingly beautiful “Changes.”  Recorded at virtually the same time as Sgt. Pepper, it showed how rock and roll could be ethereal, symphonic, and transcendent in ways that had not been charted before.  Like the fictional monsters from which they derived their name, The Zombies don’t seem to die; they were on tour last year and their influence on low-key, moody indie artists stand out as one of their chief legacies.

nine inch nails24.  Nine Inch Nails: Like Eno at #33, Nine Inch Nails have challenged the sonic landscape of rock and roll.  The late David Bowie said this about them: “Trent [Reznor]’s music, built as it is on the history of industrial and mechanical sound experiments, contains a beauty that attracts and repels in equal measure: Nietzsche’s “God is dead” to a nightclubbing beat.  And always lifted, at the most needy moment, by a tantalizing melody.”  As some have pointed out to me before, Nine Inch Nails didn’t invent industrial–artists like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire have that distinction. But Nine Inch Nails took the genre further, made it more popular without losing anything that made it great.  Annie Zalesky wrote that “more than any band, NIN is determined to haul rock ‘n’ roll into the modern age,” with impeccable theming and atmosphere buttressing often dark and nihilistic lyrics.  NIN passes the “excellence” test, and convincingly used industrial pioneers’ sound with elements of metal, soul, alternative, and funk that resulted in “Hurt” and “Closer.”  Few took more time than Reznor in giving his music the right “atmosphere,” a process that some have called “sound collages” that set the mood even better than his pain-wracked lyrics.  Resting comfortably within Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Immortals, it’s clear that the right people like Nine Inch Nails.  So far, they’ve been eligible for two years, and have been nominated in each of those two years.  And since not just critics but also some rockers favor their candidacy (including Eddie Trunk), it’s quite likely that the voters will honor them more decisively in the near future.  Assuming that the ceremony is in Cleveland next year, Reznor might be in for quite the homecoming in 2017.

jethro tull23.  Jethro Tull:  Classic rock is already well represented in the Hall, which makes me feel fine about not including every single act in the genre on my list.  Most of its big names are already in.  But Jethro Tull’s omission continues to puzzle.  They have not one, but two of the all-time great albums from rock and roll’s most competitive era in the early 70s: Aqualung and Thick as a Brick.  You have a concept album about a lecher that doubles as a reflection on the nature of religion and God, as the confessional and the gutter are never far apart.  The other is a self-aware parody of the ostentatious concept album, purporting to be about a literary wunderkind.  Ian Anderson and crew brought the naturalism of English folk and the ambitious scope of prog on a collision course.  Sometimes the results were uneven, but they were always distinctive.  There was that flute.  There were lots of classic rock bands I considered for this list but ultimately rejected because they didn’t have a signature style, nor a particular calling card that made them stand out from their contemporaries.  With Jethro Tull, that was never the issue: there were acoustic guitars that gave way to electric as the song caught fire, long suites without breaks except to turn the record over, and Anderson’s flute as almost a recurring character in their music.  If anything, Tull’s longevity killed their chances.  They endured when, say, Parsons or the frontman of #22 died out.  And instead they just kept running on that Locomotive Breath, creating astonishingly decent new music and winning Grammy Awards they probably shouldn’t have.  In other words, it’s remained easy for some rock critics (are you reading as well, Mr. Marsh?) to maintain grudges.  Hopefully, that, too, will change.

t. rex band22.  T. Rex:  The fact that T. Rex hasn’t even been nominated for the Rock Hall seems like a Euclidian proof that the institution views rock and roll from a deeply American set of lenses.  What is quickly forgotten in this light is the sensation that this group created as glam music hit its apex, alongside such contemporaries as David Bowie and early Queen.  This hysteria was called “T. Rextasy” and enveloped the United Kingdom with glittering UK Top 5 songs: “Telegram Sam,” “Metal Guru,” “Children of the Revolution.”  There was nothing like Marc Bolan and this troupe.  They were sensual (how easy we forget lines like “you’ve got the teeth of the hydra upon you” in “Bang a Gong.”)  They made rock and roll more visually engaging.  And Bolan was able to cast a wide net with his audience.  Bob Stanley writes: “He should have taken America by storm: he wrote melodic riff-born rock songs that could charm bikers and birds.”  For a handful of years, he was Great Britain’s biggest rock star, bar none.  But eventually, Bolan sputtered.  He put on weight, succumbed to drugs and died in a car crash at age 29, and we subsequently misremember that his contemporary and rival Bowie was the only person doing arty space-rock in those years.  That’s a shame, because in the same way #21 won her long war against Whitney Houston, Bowie won the long war against T. Rex, though they were surely worthy adversaries, even in defeat.  If T Rex ever gets in, their induction speech is likely to be short; the only living member from its primary lineup is drummer Bill Legend.

mariah carey21.  Mariah Carey:  I can hear the comments now: “too high!  too high!”  Is she?  The only thing that’s too high is Mariah’s 5-octave range.  As I’ve said before, chart success is a factor, but not a totalizing factor.  Still, it’s hard to find fault with 27 top ten hits (that’s the fifth highest total ever, by the way.)  Or the 18 Billboard #1 hits (second only to The Beatles, incidentally.)  In fact, even if she existed primarily as a songwriter and never sang a note, she would have written more #1 hits than any songwriter of the rock and roll era not named Lennon or McCartney.  But the story is so much more than the statistics.  Just like Idina Menzel was doing on Broadway at roughly the same time, Carey moved the female voice in popular music into the direction of belting, going for power, force, and vibrato without losing its control or emotional range.  She successfully navigated her MOR origins in order to push R&B into a more energetic, thoughtful, and in some ways, biographical mode as her work became more self-revelatory as she found her voice as a writer.  And Carey was the only artist I can think of who could thrive on BET and still have her music played in an orthodontist’s office.  She easily collaborated with rappers, and fostered the “hip-pop” trend of the 90s.  I could go on with accomplishments like this for a while: she sang virtually the only Christmas staple to come out of the 90s, and two of the three longest-tenured #1 hits are hers: “One Sweet Day” and “We Belong Together.”  As an artist, Carey was about as versatile as it got, capable of dance remixes, urban R&B, and legendary ballads, often all on the same album.  Trini Trent puts it this way: “with her incredible sense of pitch, she draws on the precision timing of Ella Fitzgerald, the styling of Sarah Vaughan, the range of Minnie Ripperton, and the grit of Aretha Franklin.”  Indeed.  What should have been a no-brainer first-year-eligible nomination last October is likely to be a long wait until Janet and Whitney get in first.

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.

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