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I’m ready. Why wait? I realize this post is coming early this year, but I’m comfortable with my predictions, and don’t foresee changing them.

Somewhere in New York City, a group of about two dozen men and women will come together and put together the ballot from which the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 will be chosen. Some of these will be longtime record industry executives. Others will be musicians, critics and other music writers, academics, and even the odd former MTV VeeJay. This post will try and guess who they will choose, based on previous ballots, news stories, and plain old intuition.

The committee deciding this ballot will have been under a certain degree of public pressure. Some progressive and feminist voices have urged the Rock Hall to work harder to induct worthy female acts, most notably the Inspirer series Induct These Women. This isn’t unwarranted; out of the last four years’ 23 performer acts inducted, only three were women. Only four out of nineteen acts nominated last year were women or included women in their lineup. On top of that, the Nominating Committee has to face a hard reality. Baby boomers continue to dominate the ranks of voters, and nearly every 70s classic rock favorite that gets on the ballot will be inducted, usually at the expense of a more significant act that didn’t have the hits (Kraftwerk) or a more deserving act from the 80s or 90s (Nine Inch Nails, Janet Jackson.) On the other hand, there is the faustian bargain with HBO to consider as well. Bigger acts with mass appeal net bigger audiences for the pay-per-view special, a consideration that may have encouraged Chicago, KISS, and Journey’s nominations after years of being snubbed.

My best guess is that the Nom Com will eschew the Seventies Classic Rock feel of the last few years. Part of this is because there aren’t too many no-brainer acts left from that era. We’d all like the Moody Blues or The Cars to get in one day, but other than that, Bad Company, Styx, and EL&P don’t have quite the same urgency as Deep Purple or Yes once did. Frankly, for all the criticism thrown their way, the Rock Hall has chipped away at inducting the most egregious snubs from that era with remarkable efficiency in the last five or six years.

One factor guiding my choices was a trend that I noticed, which may or may not be significant in the end. Unless the Rock Hall is really pushing an artist (think Chic or NWA), most repeat nominees have shown up two out of the last three years. A striking number meet that criteria: The Spinners, Chaka Khan, Nine Inch Nails, The Smiths, The Cars, Yes, Kraftwerk. I will try to guess partly with this trend in mind. Think of it like the three-field rotation system used in fiefdoms across Medieval Europe. Any given piece of land will lay fallow one-third of the time to let the soil rest and replenish its nutrients. Similarly, snubbing an act can generate as much hype (hey! why isn’t so-and-so on the ballot this year?) as nominating them. All this is to say- if an artist has been nominated the last two years in a row, I’m probably giving them a pass this time.

Also complicating this process is that we just don’t know how many acts will be nominated. In the last four years, we’ve had 15 (Class of 2016), 16 (Class of 2014), and even 19 (Class of 2017) artists on the ballot. So, here’s what I’ll do. I’ll list 15 acts that are definitely on my list. #16 will be contingent on their being 16 nominees, #17 if there are 17 nominees, and so on.

Radiohead: This year has been marked for some time as “the one where Radiohead gets in.”  For years, the Rolling Stone Industrial Complex has been drilling OK Computer‘s greatness into our heads. The last time that Rolling Stone’s experts gathered to name the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, Radiohead placed #73. When VH1, where many other Nom Com members have roots, did the same, Radiohead did even better (#29). All signs suggest that they will be nominated on their first possible ballot; Radiohead’s presence is about as safe a bet as I can imagine.

Janet Jackson: And now, my exception to the three-field rotation theory. I think Janet is one of those acts that the Rock Hall really wants in, and people like Questlove are on hand to make sure that happens. Janet is one of the most significant artists of post-1980 R&B, a pioneer of visual style and production, who also happens to have one of the biggest caches of Top Ten hits of any modern Top 40 artist. The fact that she’s not in is a veritable justice malfunction. Worthy on her own merits, her induction would also alleviate criticisms that the Rock Hall hasn’t been fair to artists of color, women, and post-baby boom acts. Besides, you need a showstopper for the HBO special, and Janet is perhaps the best all-around entertainer on this list.

L.L. Cool J: The Northumbrian Countdown also projects L.L. Cool J to return to the ballot for the first time since the Class of 2014. Since that year, the Hall has not run two hip-hop/rap artists on the same ballot in order to clear the table for NWA, and then 2pac. This leaves L.L. Cool J. remaining as probably the most historically significant rap artist currently eligible. His recent Kennedy Center honors only adds to his renown. As an added bonus, enough time has passed to make people forget about the god-awful “Accidental Racist,” whose only virtue was giving me an example of false equivalency to use in my history classes.

Nine Inch Nails: If the two-thirds theory holds, we can welcome Trent Reznor back on the ballot after a surprising absence last year. Since the ceremony will be held in Cleveland this time around, the Rock Hall will surely not want to miss out on the fantastic optics of nominating this eminent industrial act on its home turf.

Soundgarden: The tragic suicide of Chris Cornell earlier this year is likely to resonate with the Nominating Committee. Both Tom Morello and Dave Grohl knew him well; Grohl through the early grunge scene in Seattle, and Morello through their collaborations in Audioslave. Soundgarden was a solid contender for “the next alternative/grunge act on the docket” even before this sad occurrence. It’s very likely that Morello and Grohl will use their political capital to try and honor their departed friend.

The Zombies: So, this year, one of the only British Invasion bands still touring went out and performed Odessey and Oracle (one of Rolling Stone‘s Top 100 albums of all time, btw) in its entirety, often to packed houses and rave reviews. On top of this, The Zombies got their very own mini-exhibit in the Rock Hall this July (alas, it opened just a week after my own visit!) Given their influence on indie music and mods like The Jam, the Zombies had an outsized significance that belied their short heyday and limited oeuvre.  The Hall wants them in, and so do I.

The Smiths: This is another returning nominee. It seems like the Nom Com has agreed that this band is the 80s alternative choice they will focus on, perhaps at the expense of The Cure and The Replacements. While Grohl’s addition to the Nom Com got most of the attention, I’ll bet you didn’t notice that MTV and VH1’s Sandy Alouete is also aboard now. When she worked at Reprise Records one of her clients was…wait for it…Morrissey. Between this and The Smiths’ appearance on the ballot for 2015 and 2016, I think it’s fair to think they might show up again. Unless Morrissey wore out his welcome with Alouete (and since it is Morrissey we are talking about, that’s entirely possible).

Nina Simone: This is a risky prediction. She isn’t listed on Future Rock Legends’ master list of previously considered artists. Her connection to rock and roll isn’t obvious and requires a bit of historical context and critical thinking. But look at Joan Baez, someone who admitted in her own induction speech that she wasn’t entirely a rock-and-roller. She got in easily the first time she made a ballot, and her influence on Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and every Lilith Fair artist made her selection fairly uncontroversial. Now that Baez is in, I think the Nom Com might pick another woman with outspoken politics, this time a jazz and blues piano player who aligned with Black Pride and stared down the Jim Crow system. Of course, her suitability is enhanced by the vast number of R&B stars who look up to Simone, not the least of which is Beyonce, who put in some Nina ‘easter eggs’ in her Lemonade videos. Just last month, the Turning the Tables project listed her I Put A Spell On You album as the third greatest album by a woman.

War: This may be indicative of nothing, but this multi-racial funk band has been nominated regularly in three-year intervals: 2009, 2012, 2015…and 2018? The Nom Com loves 70s soul; Questlove and many others think highly of them. This is a band that’s easy to nominate, but perhaps hard to induct.

Link Wray: His nomination for the Class of 2014 was greeted with acclaim by rock historians and record collectors, even if he didn’t get in. This 1950s power chord innovator may get another chance, thanks to the impending release of the film Rumble, exploring Native American contributions to popular music. The film boasts involvement from two Nom Com members, Robbie Robertson (who is himself of Mohawk heritage) and Steve Van Zandt.

Warren Zevon: One of the highlights of last year’s ceremony was David Letterman’s speech for Pearl Jam, arranged at the last minute when Neil Young was too ill to do the honors himself. Letterman’s funny, moving panegyric to the famous grunge band ended with a wish that his friend and frequent Late Show guest, Warren Zevon, would be inducted. Letterman might get his wish sooner than he expects. The Hall loves nominating elliptical, but darkly poignant, singer-songwriters: Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, Tom Waits: all of them were not only got nominated, but inducted with minimal fuss. Happily, Letterman’s maestro, Paul Shaffer, is on the committee and usually serves as music director for the ceremony. He’s in a good position to facilitate werewolves in Cleveland this year.

Roxy Music: There is nothing in the news that suggests this will happen, but geez…it’s got to be one of these years, right?

J. Geils Band. It seems unlikely that the Hall would nominate so many deceased artists, but J. Geils got a nomination last year, so it is unlikely they would be denied after the death of their namesake member. At any rate, the Rock Hall is pretty fond of the blues, so they’d be under consideration even without a visitation from the “death fairy.” The Nom Com often takes a “wait your turn” approach, and it seems J. Geils is somehow ahead of Johnny Winter and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in the “white boys playing the blues” queue.

Eurythmics: The need for more women in the Rock Hall could redound to the benefit of Annie Lennox. I considered solo Stevie Nicks for this spot as well, but the Hall loves soul, and few people did more to infuse the sometimes sterile feel of new wave with soulful vocals. Lennox has been fairly visible the last few years, between appearances at the Grammys and an acclaimed album of standards. From their history-making videos, to the overt girl power of “Sisters are Doing It For Themselves,” the Eurythmics tick all the boxes we might associate with likely Rock Hall nominees.

Rage Against the Machine: And I’m bookending my original 15 picks with another act eligible for the first time this year. Here’s what I think will go down: Tom Morello’s philosophy is such that he’ll probably say something like, “it’s bullshit that I get to be on the nominating committee that might put my band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s also bullshit that Rage Against the Machine could get in before MC5, before Judas Priest, maybe before Nine Inch Nails, and other bands that influenced us. Please- don’t nominate us this year.” I’m willing to bet, though, that someone on the committee makes a case like this: “right now, the machine is in full force. A bloodthirsty form of capitalism is running amok. Bigotry is going unchallenged. Law enforcement is killing unarmed black men in the name. We need Rage Against the Machine now, more than ever.” And I’m willing to bet that Morello relents.

So those are my predictions if there are fifteen nominees, the historical norm for the last decade or so. But if there are sixteen, add The Shangri-Las. While fellow-girl group The Marvelettes have been nominated before, The Shangri-Las probably have more contemporary relevance, and at any rate, Marvelettes supporters were likely the sort of committee members who got axed in the Great Purge of 2015. The Shangri-Las had a darker, more serious edge to them, influencing Amy Winehouse, Blondie, and countless others.

If there’s seventeen, add Moody Blues. It’s astonishing that they haven’t been nominated before. While there’s little to suggest any real movement in their favor this year, the Rock Hall’s trend of nominating popular hitmakers from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s is undeniable. I am really loathe to predict this band- not because I don’t like them, but because their presence would almost certainly block a Zombies induction.

Eighteen nominees? Make it The Spinners. Cliff Burnstein, a known advocate of theirs, remains on the committee, and are enjoyed by Questlove as well. My two-thirds guideline would also predict a return nomination by The Spinners.

And if last year’s total of nineteen nominees is repeated, my final prediction would be PJ Harvey.  It’s a stretch- she also seems to have not been considered before by the committee, but then, she only became eligible last year. One possible advocate to look for would be Lenny Kaye. Kaye was a member of the Patti Smith Group, and Harvey is one of the more important heirs to Smith’s legacy. Critics such as those on the committee have usually held PJ Harvey in great esteem, and when Rolling Stone met to determine the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, an eyebrow-raising three of them were hers. (To emphasize how impressive that is, consider that Elvis, Madonna, The Clash, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson also had three albums on the list.)

So those are my best guesses for the ballot this year. Remember, these are merely who I ~think~ will be nominated, not my picks for the most deserving of the honor. All told, I think this would be a strong ballot if it happened, although some would decry its lack of pure classic rock.  Even with 19 picks at my disposal, though, there were many other artists I wish I could have included. I don’t have any country, or heavy metal, or true punk artists on the list. I’m also worried that there are too many deceased artists among my projections.  Simone, Wray, Zevon, Chris Cornell, J. Geils, and all but one classic-era Spinner are gone. And it pained me to leave off Devo (which shares NIN’s Ohio origins), Depeche Mode, Foreigner, Carole King, Kraftwerk, Joe Cocker, Judas Priest, A Tribe Called Quest, and lots of others.

What do you think of my predictions? If this were actually the ballot, I’d probably vote for Nina Simone, The Zombies, The Spinners, Janet Jackson, and Eurythmics. But the six artists who would get inducted would probably be Radiohead, Janet, Nina, Moody Blues, Nine Inch Nails, and LL Cool J.

In the weeks ahead, keep your eyes peeled for other predictions- most of the other Rock Hall watchers are listed on my blogroll, and their writings are definitely worth a look. When the ballot is finally announced sometime in October, I hope you’ll revisit the Countdown as we pick it apart and try to guess who will be inducted.

 

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While we wait for the Nominating Committee to have their annual meeting, I thought I might revise the list of 100 Rock Hall Prospects that I sketched out in January of last year. Since then, four acts on the list have been inducted (Joan Baez, Journey, Electric Light Orchestra, and Yes), lots of new acts became eligible, and my own tastes and judgment have changed (hopefully evolved).

So, here is the new list. Please bear in mind that these are all artists who have been passed over at least once, so Class of 2018 eligibles like Radiohead or Rage Against the Machine will not appear on the list.

  1. Kraftwerk
  2. Janet Jackson
  3. The Moody Blues
  4. Nina Simone
  5. Judas Priest
  6. The Smiths
  7. Carole King
  8. The Spinners
  9. Dire Straits
  10. The Cure
  11. The Cars
  12. Eurythmics
  13. L. L. Cool J.
  14. Kate Bush
  15. Mariah Carey
  16. Nine Inch Nails
  17. The Zombies
  18. T. Rex
  19. Tina Turner
  20. Sonic Youth
  21. Willie Nelson
  22. Dick Dale
  23. Brian Eno
  24. Jethro Tull
  25. Whitney Houston
  26. Depeche Mode
  27. Smashing Pumpkins
  28. Iron Maiden
  29. Weird Al Yankovic
  30. Pixies
  31. Dead Kennedys
  32. Pat Benatar
  33. Emmylou Harris
  34. Motorhead
  35. Big Mama Thornton
  36. War
  37. The Guess Who
  38. Roxy Music
  39. A Tribe Called Quest
  40. Jane’s Addiction
  41. Devo
  42. Salt N Pepa
  43. Phil Collins
  44. Sting
  45. The Monkees
  46. PJ Harvey
  47. Duran Duran
  48. Black Flag
  49. Warren Zevon
  50. Peter Tosh
  51. The Replacements
  52. The Commodores
  53. Johnny Burnette & the Rock ‘N Roll Trio
  54. The B-52s
  55. Eric B. & Rakim
  56. Indigo Girls
  57. Big Star
  58. Three Dog Night
  59. Ozzy Osbourne
  60. Johnny Winter
  61. Link Wray
  62. The Doobie Brothers
  63. MC5
  64. Alice in Chains
  65. Phish
  66. Chic
  67. Billy Ward & His Dominoes
  68. Fugazi/Minor Threat
  69. Dionne Warwick
  70. Bjork
  71. The Flaming Lips
  72. Peter, Paul & Mary
  73. Rufus/Chaka Khan
  74. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
  75. The Clovers
  76. De La Soul
  77. Blur
  78. Jimmy Buffett
  79. The Shadows
  80. Bad Brains
  81. Ben E. King
  82. Lucinda Williams
  83. Gram Parsons
  84. Soundgarden
  85. Moby
  86. Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  87. The Pogues
  88. The Jam
  89. Bon Jovi
  90. Megadeth
  91. Tori Amos
  92. Mary Wells
  93. Chuck Willis
  94. Kris Kristofferson
  95. Teddy Pendergrass/Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
  96. Toots and the Maytals
  97. The Shangri-Las
  98. New York Dolls
  99. Os Mutantes
  100. Fela Kuti

At this point, I might add that some artists on my original list were phased out. DC Talk, Husker Du, Dan Fogelberg, Slayer, Can, and Procol Harum. Afrika Bambaataa got removed in the light of pederasty charges. Los Lobos got kicked out because they didn’t do “La Bamba” when I saw them perform last year.

A couple similar artists switched places: Emmylou Harris, I think, should get the nod over Gram Parsons. I recently read Kill Your Idols, a collection of essays taking the piss out of allegedly classic albums, and their demolition of Grevious Angel won me over. I also switched A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, with ATCQ now being ranked higher.

Some artists trended downward since last time: Chic (due to Nile Rogers’s Excellence Award), Peter Paul & Mary (Baez’s induction accomplished the same point- acknowledging folk’s role in politicizing rock music), Iron Maiden (#11 was way, way too high) Duran Duran, and Ben E. King. Artists who moved up include Nina Simone (who breaks into the Top Ten), and Nine Inch Nails, among others. Kraftwerk has wrested the #1 spot from Moody Blues after some careful deliberation.

The sharp-eyed may notice several new additions: The Jam, Toots & the Maytals, Tori Amos, Lucinda Williams, Os Mutantes, The Shangri-Las, Kris Kristofferson, Bad Brains, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Blur, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and PJ Harvey have all debuted.

So, this is where things stand for the summer of 2017. As always, your commentary and your critiques are valued.

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If it seems as though we just got through inducting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2017, that’s because we did. With the ceremony in Brooklyn less than two months in the rear view mirror, we’re not even close to the Nominating Committee’s late summer meeting, let alone the announcement of the nominees. In general, the other Rock Hall watchers and I will be making our official predictions for the Class of 2018 nominees around Labor Day. So please understand the tentative and exploratory nature of this post.

The last few years of Rock Hall inductees have certainly been interesting ones. Game-changing first-ballot inductees have gotten in, and the list of classic rock snubs is continually whittled down. In the last four years alone, Yes, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, Cheap Trick, Hall & Oates, Peter Gabriel, ELO, and Journey have all gotten in. But as a recent interview with Boston’s Tom Scholz has demonstrated, it’s never enough for some people. Get those acts in, and those same voices will clamor for Def Leppard, Judas Priest, The Cars, Dire Straits, and so on. And while a case can be made for any of these (well, maybe not Def Leppard…), the backlog continues to grow for 80s alternative, soul, country-rock, and other genres.

There will be a few wrinkles that will complicate this year’s predictions. One of them is the fluctuating number of nominees, ranging from a low of 15 to a peak of 19. Another is the unusually high number of quality acts that are eligible for the first time this year. Yet another is how the Rock Hall will respond to public pressure– in particular, a strong online movement has made known its displeasure of the lack of female inductees, voters, and committee members. So I’m going to simply list 25 acts that I’m considering for my predictions, acts that I believe have a strong chance of being nominees, in no particular order.

  1. Janet Jackson: I feel comfortable enough to say this: now that Nile Rogers is in, I think we’re through with Chic nominations. We can debate whether or not this was the correct move until we’re blue in the face, but realistically, I don’t think we’ll see Chic on the ballot again. I believe that Janet Jackson will take their place as the act that gets nominated every year until induction. Questlove supports her, she’d guarantee a large audience for the HBO viewing, and she’d correct the recent drought of black and female artists. Embarrassingly, a living black woman has not been inducted into the Hall since Claudette Robinson back in 2012.
  2. War: War seems to get nominated every three years, and it seems to coincide with when the ceremony is held in Cleveland. War is neither fair nor foul, and seems to have few hardcore advocates or vocal opponents, making this pick a difficult one to gauge.
  3. Radiohead: For the last 20 years, Rolling Stone has drilled through our heads that it thinks OK Computer is the best album since Nevermind. An almost guaranteed choice for their first year eligible.
  4. Rage Against the Machine: Conflicts of interest abound. Bassist Tom Morello is on the committee, and given his antiestablishment attitudes, he might very well recuse himself or ask that his band not be inducted until its main influences, such as MC5, are in. But I suspect the rest of the committee will overrule him.
  5. Nine Inch Nails: Almost everyone expected this band to be nominated last year, and we were surprised when they were not. I think they’ll be back, partly because of Trent Reznor’s connections to the Cleveland area.
  6. Devo: Speaking of Cleveland connections, this electronic act, presaging humanity’s decline into stupidity, violence, and chaos, turned out to be remarkably prescient.
  7. Moody Blues: At this point, they’re the most notable absence among the 60s and 70s classic rock crowd. Most ballots have a populist choice, and it might well be these guys.
  8. L.L. Cool J.:  After a few years, the tumult over “The Accidental Racist” is over. (I still, though, continue to use it in my classes as a textbook example of false equivalency.) L.L. Cool J., who was once rumored to be the top vote-getter among the Nom Com, is poised to return to the ballot. Especially now that 2pac broke the “solo rapper” barrier.
  9. Eurythmics: Journey’s nomination and induction shows that 80s nostalgia runs high. It’s hard to think of many 80s moments more iconic than a gender-bending Annie Lennox with a pointer and a globe in the “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” video. Lennox has been feted with award show appearances and a successful standards album as of late, and she and David Stewart are probably game for a brief reunion.
  10. Joe Cocker: His name has been batted around for a while, most notably by Billy Joel and Maureen Van Zandt, as a Rock Hall snub. Admittedly, he ticks a lot of marks we usually see: Baby Boomer nostalgia, bluesy styles, and a knockout performance at Woodstock.
  11. Soundgarden: The tragic death of Chris Cornell has made 90s guys recognize how great Soundgarden was. They were a band that was often overshadowed by other 90s alternative acts, even though they presaged many of them. I’d be surprised if Tom Morello and Dave Grohl didn’t use their leverage to nominate this act.
  12. The Spinners: Questlove and Cliff Bernstein are still on the committee. That means there’s always a chance we’ll see the iconic 70s soul group return.
  13. The Cure: Although this spot may well go to The Smiths, or The Replacements, or even Sonic Youth, we might also see The Cure return after several years’ absence. The growing importance of the HBO special makes it imperative that the band in question actually show up intact and willing to perform. And The Cure just completed a highly successful tour last year.
  14. Warren Zevon: After David Letterman gave the best speech of the night this year, how can the Nom Com deny him his wish to see his old friend and favorite guest Warren Zevon in the Hall?
  15. Roxy Music: It’s got to happen one of these years, right?
  16. Nina Simone: I’ve predicted her for the last couple years, and I know I’ve got to be right eventually. The Rock Hall tends to like acts that challenged the war machine and/or the Jim Crow system– look at the Baez and MC5 nominations last year. Simone took on both- and her record’s cameo in Lemonade underscored how influential she has been in R&B’s development.
  17. Willie Nelson: Some have said that he’s a better fit for Musical Excellence, and maybe they are right. But it seems silly to honor Nelson that way when he’d probably breeze through the regular ballot. Willie Nelson may be primarily a country act, but his career had significant crossover with- and influence over- the development of rock and roll.
  18. Patsy Cline: Or they might go in this direction. If you want more women in the Rock Hall, you might as well pick someone who would almost certainly get in, right? Like Nelson, there may be other ways of getting her in the Hall- maybe Early Influence, given that her connections to rock and roll in life were much more tenuous than Nelson’s?
  19. The Zombies: They’ve been cruising across the U.S., performing Odessey and Oracle in its entirety and getting rave reviews. Everyone who frequents the Countdown knows I’m a huge advocate of The Zombies. Let’s get them in while Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone are still out there performing. This will be their year. Took a long time to come.
  20. Link Wray: Rock historians and top-shelf 60s guitarists can’t say enough good things about him. He made the ballot once, for the Class of 2014, so there is always the chance he will resurface. But every passing year makes it less likely we’ll see 50s artists show up.
  21. J. Geils Band: I honestly don’t see the appeal, although their backers say they were one of the best live acts ever. Given that they are already in the Nom Com’s favor, the recent death of the titular Mr. Geils makes me think that the Nom Com will honor him with another- possibly final- nomination.
  22. Foreigner: Jann Werner loves them, to the point of allegedly shoehorning “I Want To Know What Love Is” onto Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest songs. While I wouldn’t vote for them, I’d appreciate their induction; as a loyal Rochestafarian, I know well that Lou Gramm has deep roots in my adopted hometown. Anyway, with lots of hits and plenty of nostalgia, this is the kind of act that HBO is hoping gets inducted, especially if they can pull off an elusive reunion.
  23. Chaka Khan: On the other hand, maybe Chaka Khan is the new Chic. She’s been nominated two years in a row, and acts are rarely nominated for three (one reason why The Cars and Kraftwerk didn’t make it on my list this year). But given that the Nom Com loves funky disco stuff, it would be foolish to write her off.
  24. Carole King: So, last year she performed Tapestry in its entirety in front of tens of thousands of people in Hyde Park. There is a musical out on her life. And a documentary. I have an unprovable theory that there was a Baez vs. King logjam that finally broke last year. Now that Baez is in, let’s do the right thing and induct Carole King as a performer, and not just for her Brill Building songwriting.
  25. Toots & the Maytals: Every year there’s a WTF nomination along the lines of Bad Brains or Los Lobos- not unjustifiable, per se, but certainly a big surprise. I think it’s going to be these guys this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Lane selected:

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

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

Future Rock Legends released its annual list:

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

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

Philip at Rock Hall Monitors:

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

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

Eric at E-Rockracy chose:

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

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

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

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

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

And finally to recap my list:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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