Posts Tagged ‘Rock Hall’

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

100.  fela-kutiFela Kuti:  For all we complain about certain “snubs” from the Rock Hall, there are some genres, and indeed, some geographical regions that are left out in the cold entirely.  No artist who spent their career working from Africa, to give one less obvious example, has been inducted.  If the Hall ever looks in that direction, they could do no better than Fela Kuti.  Like Bob Marley before him, Kuti worked outside the Anglo-American axis, and pioneered a bold new synthesis while standing up to political oppression.  And also like Marley, he is regarded as much as a prophet as a musician.  Kuti’s contribution is Afrobeat, a dynamic synthesis of funk and traditional Nigerian rhythms, and a key progenitor to world music.  Redbull Music Guide calls him “A complex man who was equal parts shaman, showman, and trickster,” a crafty thorn in the side of the violent regimes that Nigerians endured during his lifetime.  If it weren’t for the horrific migrations out of Africa in the 1600s and 1700s, rock and roll could have never happened, so it is incumbent on us to recognize a figure who, more than anyone else, brought it all back home.  If this seems like a far-fetched choice, remember that Kuti has plenty of admirers in high places, ranging from Jay-Z to his onetime collaborator, Ginger Baker.

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

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

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

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

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

94.  chuck willisChuck Willis: The Rock Hall has, traditionally, been very mindful of 50s R&B legends- people who didn’t have tons of hits that are played on Oldies radio today, but were indispensable to the foundations of rock and roll.  But a few of them never quite made it past the hurdles of induction.  Joe Tex is one of them.  Esther Phillips is another.  But arguably the turban-wearing Chuck Willis is the most influential of the figures in this category.  He was nominated on each of the Hall’s first five ballots, and once again in 2011, without success.  As the voting body becomes younger and perhaps less historically astute, Willis’s window is probably gone unless he gets a backdoor “early influence” nod.  It’s a shame, because he deserves induction without any asterisks.  He wrote his own material in a genre where that rarely happened, popularized “C. C. Rider” and The Stroll, one of Rock’s first dance crazes, and toggled easily between sincere ballads and riveting rockers.  His blend of crooning and wailing established the template for every number of R&B vocalists to come.  Unfortunately, he was felled by peritonitis in his prime, and died at the age of 30, one of rock and roll’s first big casualties, even predeceasing Buddy, Richie, and the Bopper.

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

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

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

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When we talk about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there are lots of controversial artists who have made it in, but the Rock Hall is much more notorious for who is left out.  The word “snub” has been used with some regularity: both for bands who have never been nominated (“Snubbed by the nominating committee”) and bands who are routinely nominated but never seem to get in (Kraftwerk, NWA, War, and especially Chic, who are “Snubbed by the voters”).  The difficulty, though, is that rock and roll aficionados cannot agree on which artists are the most conspicuous snubs.  While we all agree lots of great musicians are on the outside of the great glass pyramid looking in, there’s little unanimity as to which artists those are.  It is a good example of why music is so subjective to taste: there’s a reason why earning a Grammy award does almost nothing for an artist’s credibility. To show you what I mean, here are the top twenty snubs listed by five different outlets: Consequence of Sound:

  1. Whitney Houston
  2. Joy Division
  3. The Smiths
  4. Kate Bush
  5. Nick Cave
  6. New Order
  7. Devo
  8. Bjork
  9. Sonic Youth
  10. Roxy Music
  11. Iron Maiden
  12. Depeche Mode
  13. Pixies
  14. Television
  15. Slayer
  16. Black Flag
  17. Motorhead
  18. Nick Drake
  19. Journey
  20. Phish

Not in the Hall of Fame:

  1. Deep Purple
  2. Kraftwerk
  3. Roxy Music
  4. Jethro Tull
  5. The Smiths
  6. MC5
  7. New Order
  8. Willie Nelson
  9. Gram Parsons
  10. Johnny Coltrane
  11. NWA
  12. Chicago
  13. Judas Priest
  14. The Cure
  15. Dick Dale
  16. Yes
  17. Big Star
  18. T. Rex
  19. Iron Maiden
  20. Pixies

Future Rock Legends: (they recently ranked hall-worthy artists, and I simply teased out the twenty highest placing artists who are eligible for the hall, but haven’t gotten in yet)

  1. Kraftwerk
  2. The Cure
  3. Deep Purple
  4. The Smiths
  5. Nine Inch Nails
  6. Joy Division
  7. The Moody Blues
  8. Iron Maiden
  9. Roxy Music
  10. Pixies
  11. Depeche Mode
  12. Janet Jackson
  13. NWA
  14. Judas Priest
  15. Yes
  16. King Crimson
  17. T. Rex
  18. Electric Light Orchestra
  19. Chicago
  20. Sonic Youth

Rolling Stone magazine:

  1. Joan Baez
  2. The Shangri-Las
  3. Harry Nilsson
  4. Dolly Parton
  5. Deep Purple
  6. Yes
  7. Warren Zevon
  8. Kraftwerk
  9. Afrika Bambaataa
  10. LL Cool J
  11. Joan Jett (voted in this year, after article was published)
  12. Kate Bush
  13. The Cure
  14. Iron Maiden
  15. Depeche Mode
  16. Slayer
  17. Bon Jovi
  18. The Smiths
  19. Whitney Houston
  20. NWA

And, finally, my list:

  1. Chicago
  2. Kraftwerk
  3. Janet Jackson
  4. Carole King
  5. The Cure
  6. Chic
  7. The Moody Blues
  8. Peter, Paul & Mary
  9. Deep Purple
  10. Judas Priest
  11. Kate Bush
  12. NWA (although I’m really troubled by their misogyny, which is through the roof, even for a gangsta rap group)
  13. Afrika Bambaataa
  14. The Zombies
  15. Dire Straits
  16. Pixies
  17. Weird Al Yankovic
  18. The Spinners
  19. Steve Miller Band
  20. Indigo Girls

See how difficult it is to come to a consensus?  Biases abound– Consequence of Sound has no rap or hip hop, Not in the Hall of Fame has zero female artists in their top 20, and my own difficulties tuning in to post-punk are just three examples.  There isn’t a single name that appears on all five lists.  But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t any popular artists who most of us recognized.  These were near-unanimous:

  • The Smiths (4…every one but me. It’s not my fault I’m the only one who recognizes how mopey they are)
  • NWA (4)
  • Iron Maiden (4)
  • Deep Purple (4)
  • Kraftwerk (4)
  • Judas Priest (4)
  • Pixies (4)
  • The Cure (4)
  • Chicago (3)
  • Kate Bush (3)
  • Depeche Mode (3)
  • Yes (3)
  • Roxy Music (3)
  • Joy Division/New Order (3) (I’ll be generous and lump them together)

So, there is something ~like~ consensus emerging; I think 8 acts appearing on four of our five lists is actually rather astonishingly high.  And the Nominating Committee seems to agree; five of those seven have been nominated at some point in the last three or four years.  Rock Hall Watchers just can’t agree on which acts should fill out our list of snubs.  35 acts appear on one and only one of our lists: Peter, Paul & Mary, Weird Al Yankovic, Indigo Girls, The Steve Miller Band, Chic, Dire Straits, The Zombies, The Spinners, Carole King, Nick Cave, Devo, Bjork, LL Cool J, Warren Zevon, Harry Nilsson, Bon Jovi, Dolly Parton, Gram Parsons, The Shangri-Las, Joan Baez, Jethro Tull, Electric Light Orchestra, Nine Inch Nails, Willie Nelson, Johnny Coltrane, Television,  Motorhead, Nick Drake, Black Flag, Journey, Phish, Big Star, King Crimson, MC5, and Dick Dale. And altogether, 56 different artists appear on our lists of 20: enough for about nine years’ worth of inductees.  If Rock Hall experts like Tom Lane or Philip from Rock Hall Monitors made their own master list of snubs (something I would love to see them to do), I guarantee they would have come up with some unique names themselves. If that isn’t enough, consider the acts the Nom Com has nominated before and clearly thinks are worthy, but aren’t on any of our lists: Link Wray, the J. Geils Band, Sting, War, The Marvelettes, The Meters, and so on.  And then you have to keep in mind that we are also  ignoring other exceptional acts who will meet the eligibility requirement soon: Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Oasis, Beck, Mariah Carey, Rage Against the Machine, Tupac, and Biggie.  Each of them will almost certainly be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame within a decades’ time.  It’s enough to make one’s head spin. So, what can we draw from all this?  It is probably very likely that there’s so much disagreement about the current “snubs” because most of the true no-brainers have long since been inducted.  If you read the comments section at a classic rock online forum of your choice, when the subject of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame comes up, people write things like “It is a TRAVESTY that Jethro Tull isn’t in,” or “It is a SHAM that they keep ignoring the Doobie Brothers.”  No.  A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without, say, Led Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix or Aerosmith would have been a travesty.  A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without King Crimson or Depeche Mode is merely an interesting debate. The main point to take away, however, is that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is never, ever going to please everyone.  Tastes and opinion and critical judgment will diverge, even among ecumenical listeners of broad tastes and good will.  The Rock Hall has made plenty of mistakes (Laura Nyro, Percy Sledge, Gene Pitney, inducting only five artists for multiple years, etc.) that contributed to the backlog, and their entire process often seems shrouded in secrecy and cronyism.  But lots of rock and roll fans take the Hall at its worst without recognizing the enormity, and in some respects, the impossibility in their task of enshrining the most important acts in rock and roll’s family tree. Assuming seven artists as the upper limit for a modern, one-night, HBO-televised ceremony with speeches, performances, and awards for Early Influences, Non-Performers, etc., the Rock Hall has years and years before digging out of the logjam of important but snubbed artists.  Even if they do everything right from here on in.

Update (May 3, 2015):

Tom Lane recently posted his own list of top 20 snubs, which included:

  1. Chic
  2. The Spinners
  3. Electric Light Orchestra
  4. Gram Parsons/Flying Burrito Brothers
  5. Neville Brothers/The Meters
  6. Chicago
  7. Yes
  8. Whitney Houston
  9. Joe Cocker
  10. Roxy Music
  11. War
  12. Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes/Teddy Pendergrass
  13. Moody Blues
  14. The Monkees
  15. Rufus with Chaka Khan
  16. Smiths
  17. LL Cool J
  18. Warren Zevon
  19. Deep Purple
  20. Janet Jackson

This is very much in keeping with my observations– he shares a lot of snubs with others on this list (6 with me), but there are also several unique to his list of 20, most noticeably Rufus/Chaka Khan, The Monkees, The Meters, Joe Cocker, and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.  Nobody agrees on the most egregious snubs.  Nobody.

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About two weeks ago, without anybody noticing, the Nominating Committee met in New York City to determine who will be on the ballot of nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony in 2015.  If the past is any indication, there will be 15-16 nominees, of whom 5-7 will get in, and it is likely that we will know who made it onto the ballot sometime around the middle of October.  For us Rock Hall followers, this is kind of like our Advent, a time of great anticipation and preparation.  It is also a time where no small amount of worrying takes place- will the Nom Com lay an egg again, putting up the J. Geils Band and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, or some other critics’ pet over long-overdue artists?  What will the ballot- which hundreds of voters, including previous inductees will receive, look like?

We can’t know just now.  The Nom Com meeting has a level of secrecy that would not be out of place in a papal conclave.  Members are strongly encouraged to keep the proceedings under wraps.  In much the same way that cardinals take pride in their access to the highest church echelons and don’t always care for what the laity want, the Nom Com is also an insular bunch.  It includes many record producers, record executives, record critics, and of course, recording artists whose practical knowledge is no doubt great, but whose insider mentality and isolation from the grass roots and the average listeners’ experience leads to eclectic choices, repeat nominations for artists who don’t deserve it, and puzzling omissions.  Worse, a certain level of incest takes place here- there are plenty of artists who have recorded for record labels with execs on the Nom Com, and artists with personal friends or enemies on the Nom Com.  Everyone, in other words, knows each other- and two institutions, Atlantic Records and Rolling Stone magazine, have exerted undue influence.  At the same time, after the very bad classes from 2008-2012, when puzzlers like Laura Nyro, Tom Waits, The Faces, Bobby Womack, and Little Anthony and the Imperials got in- not bad acts, any of them, but figuring out how they got in before some other acts causes the brow to furrow.  Still, the Rock Hall has done some very good repair work in the last two years, by nominating and sometimes successfully inducting, long-time “I can’t believe they aren’t in yet” acts, most notably Rush and KISS, with their singularly dedicated fan bases.  We still don’t have Chicago, The Moody Blues, Janet Jackson, The Monkees, Iron Maiden, and other acts with long careers and motivated fan bases, but it’s a start.  Lots of people bash the Rock Hall relentless, but I try to give credit where credit is due, and single out improvement.  Last year’s class was great- I hate KISS, but their selection shows, at least, the Rock Hall is thinking in a more public-friendly direction, and the other picks last year- Linda Ronstadt, Nirvana, Hall and Oates, Peter Gabriel, and Cat Stevens, were all very solid.

In the meantime, a few Rock Hall hobbyists have compiled their own predictions for the ballot of inductees for the 2015 ceremony.  I’ve included, alongside myself, four slates of predictions from people who did not just list their selections, but took the time to explain their reasoning behind them.  Each of us assumed that there would be sixteen artists nominated, as was the case last year.

Rock and roll blogger Tom Lane picked:

  1. Green Day
  2. Stevie Ray Vaughan
  3. Yes
  4. Roxy Music
  5. Chic
  6. The Smiths
  7. Bill Withers
  8. The Monkees
  9. Nine Inch Nails
  10. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
  11. Link Wray
  12. NWA
  13. Kraftwerk
  14. Chicago
  15. Deep Purple
  16. The Replacements

Rock Hall Monitors listed as their choices:

  1. NWA
  2. Yes
  3. Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  4. Link Wray
  5. Chubby Checker
  6. Nine Inch Nails
  7. Green Day
  8. the Meters
  9. Johnny Winter
  10. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
  11. Deep Purple
  12. Lou Reed
  13. Sonic Youth
  14. Janet Jackson
  15. Average White Band
  16. Weird Al Yankovic

The very capable FRL poster Donnie reasoned out on the message boards that it might be:

  1. Chic
  2. LL Cool J
  3. Dick Dale
  4. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
  5. Paul Revere & the Raiders
  6. Green Day
  7. Nine Inch Nails
  8. Mary Wells
  9. Depeche Mode
  10. Sonic Youth
  11. Stevie Ray Vaughan
  12. NWA
  13. Yes
  14. Deep Purple
  15. Lou Reed
  16. Janet Jackson

The Future Rock Legends site itself put forth:

  1. Kraftwerk
  2. Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  3. LL Cool J
  4. Chic
  5. Roxy Music
  6. MC5
  7. Sonic Youth
  8. Link Wray
  9. Green Day
  10. Nine Inch Nails
  11. Yes
  12. Deep Purple
  13. NWA
  14. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
  15. Stevie Ray Vaughan
  16. Bill Withers

And, as a recap, my own predictions were:

  1. NWA
  2. Link Wray
  3. Janet Jackson
  4. Dire Straits
  5. Bill Withers
  6. Lou Reed
  7. Carole King
  8. Chicago
  9. De La Soul
  10. The Zombies
  11. Yes
  12. Deep Purple
  13. Green Day
  14. Nine Inch Nails
  15. Sonic Youth
  16. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Looking at these lists collectively, a couple things stand out.  Either the Rock Hall is getting more predictable, we are all Rock Hall polymaths, or some major groupthink is taking hold.  Six artists appear on all five lists: NWA, Yes, Deep Purple, Joan Jett, and two who are eligible for the first time this year, Green Day and Nine Inch Nails.  There are even more similarities one on one: I share nine predictions apiece with Tom Lane, FRL, and Donnie, and ten with Rock Hall Monitors.  Link Wray and Sonic Youth showed up on four of the five slates, while Janet Jackson, Lou Reed, Bill Withers, eight-time nominee Chic, and Stevie Ray Vaughan appeared on three of our five lists.

How did this happen?  In each of our cases, we looked at artists who have been nominated before, paid attention to artists who are admired by members of the Nominating Committee, followed patterns of what kinds of artists have been nominated before, and took a few blind shots in the dark (as in my prediction of Dire Straits, Donnie’s projection of Paul Revere & the Raiders, and the Rock Hall Monitors’ timely pick of Weird Al, who just enjoyed his first #1 album this year.)

Many of us made predictions based on the idea that the Rock Hall has an informal, and highly flexible, rule about nominating artists from particular genres each year.  I’ve listed some of the common genres or categories here, with some recent examples of artists who have been nominated:

  1. Singer-songwriter (Cat Stevens, Donovan, Laura Nyro, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen)
  2. Rock and Roll Pioneer (Link Wray, The Chantels, Chuck Willis)
  3. Disco (Chic, Donna Summer, Rufus and Chaka Khan)
  4. Blues (Freddie King, Albert King, Paul Butterfield Blues Band)
  5. Popular Favorite/Longtime Snub (Neil Diamond, Bon Jovi, Kiss, Rush, Hall & Oates)
  6. Rap and Hip-Hop (NWA, Public Enemy, Erik B. and Rakim, LL Cool J)
  7. British Invasion (Procol Harum, The Zombies, The Faces, arguably Donovan, The Hollies)
  8. Early Alternative (Replacements, The Cure, Nirvana)
  9. 60s and 70s R&B (The Marvelettes, War, The Spinners)
  10. Prog (Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Yes, Rush, arguably Kraftwerk in a roundabout way)
  11. Classic Rock (strangely, the most neglected genre of all in recent years, but Heart and Deep Purple have recently been nominated)

You can see how this informed our thinking, right?  For instance, every one of us had a rock and roll pioneer on our list- in four of our cases, it was Link Wray, who was arguably the first to use distortion and power chords in rock music.  Donnie was the only one who didn’t include Wray, but he replaced him at the rock pioneer slot with another pioneer, Dick Dale, a pivotal figure in the development of surf music.  Every one of us had one or two (or, in my case, three) singer-songwriters, be it Lou Reed (admittedly, on the art-rock side of singer-songwriter), or Carole King or Bill Withers.  Looking this over, I made a big mistake in my own prediction by forgetting a blues-related choice.  I think it’s almost certain that at least one of the following will be nominated: Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray, or Paul Butterfield- and none of them made my list.

Many of us have also paid attention to the news to get a sense of momentum.  NWA is involved in a “Straight Outta Compton” film.  The untimely deaths of Johnny Winter and Lou Reed may result in a nomination, and last year’s Rock Hall induction ceremony included appearances by Joan Jett and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon also bear fruit.  It also helps to pay attention to name-dropping from known committee members.  Tom Morello, lately of Rage Against the Machine, is known to be a fan of the similarly anti-establishment MC5, while Questlove has singled out Withers, De La Soul, NWA, Sonic Youth, and others for praise.

Part of the problem, however, is the immense backlog that the Hall created by years of questionable choices and low numbers of artists inducted (many years, it is five or six, and I think seven is the ideal number, given how many great acts are on the outside looking in)  And the backlog grows with every passing year, as artists who first record in the 1990s become eligible.  In the next few years, A Tribe Called Quest, Pearl Jam, Alanis, Tupac, Beck, Radiohead, TLC, Rage Against the Machine, and many others, will qualify, only adding to the wait.  For this reason, some categories may be retired or de-emphasized.  We might very well be nearing the end of British Invasion acts (with the Zombies, for example, I was the only one who included an act that neatly fit in that category) and in a couple years, we might see the early rock pioneers category put away; there are now members of the Nom Com who are too young to remember the Sixties, after all.

All of this, ultimately, is a crapshoot.  The Nom Com may surprise us and bring back Bon Jovi after their 2011 nomination as their concession to popular opinion.  The Cure may beat out Sonic Youth as the proto-alternative act.  Perhaps some truly unexpected choices might get thrown at us.  Mary Wells has been batted around for years- is this the appointed hour for the Queen of Motown?  The Commodores?  Devo?  The 2015 ceremony is in Cleveland- maybe that bodes well for hometown heroes like The Raspberries.  Maybe they’ll take up Daryl Hall’s dare to induct more Philadelphia acts and go with vintage 70s soul acts like The Stylistics or Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.  No one can say for the next couple of weeks.  Until then, we rock on, boats against the current.

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