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Posts Tagged ‘#RockHall’

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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After a bit of deliberation, I am comfortable enough to post my predictions for the 2016 ballot for the 2017 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We probably won’t see the ballot until October, and most of my fellow Rock Hall watchers won’t post their predictions until around Labor Day. But I have a lot of free time now that I won’t have in September, when I’ll need to devote myself to teaching my classes and copy-editing my upcoming book on George McGovern and Progressive Christianity.

I posted my preliminary picks a couple months ago, and I’ve largely kept them, making this something of a repost. I swapped out MC5 and Eurythmics for a couple choices that struck me as more plausible. My original post was aggressively un-classic rock, due to the lack of diversity from the Class of 2016. Instead, I think the Rock Hall will surely veer away from- but not totally eschew- 1970s classic rock favorites, and we’ll see a ballot that resembles the Class of 2015 much more. In fact, that’s probably the biggest change with this slate of predictions: I added two artists that more comfortably fit into a strict definition of “classic rock.” Nevertheless, if my prediction holds, this will be a slate of nominees designed to show the breadth and depth of rock and roll, which will push boundaries and hopefully challenge people who don’t think rap, country, R&B, or electronica count.

Having said all this, I predict 2 first-time eligible artists, 8 previous nominees, and 5 longtime snubs.

1. Pearl Jam: This is as close to a sure thing as I can imagine. Pearl Jam- an artist that ranks among Rolling Stone’s New Immortals and VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists- is widely regarded as the most important rock band of the 1990s after Nirvana. On the eve of their 25th anniversary, they continue to tour, rail against Ticketmaster, and dominate by virtue of their longevity. This is their year.

2. 2Pac: With NWA out of the way, 2Pac is the prohibitive favorite as the next rap act to get in. This is also his first year eligible, and while this is a posthumous nomination, there would be no shortage of rappers willing to pay homage to 2Pac in Brooklyn. In his short life, Tupac was earnest, poetic, soulful, violent, and above all, complicated. While NWA was the “id” of late 1980s inner-city consciousness, Tupac is remembered as more of a Bob Marley style “folk saint” for the Nineties; his biography matters less than the semiotics. Regardless of the history or the memory, his albums are still among rap’s finest of the 1990s. Nom Com member Alan Light wrote a book on him several years ago, so we can safely assume that his name will at least be brought up in committee.

3. Nine Inch Nails: It’s clear that the Rolling Stone Industrial Complex likes Trent Reznor’s dark sonic landscapes and nihilistic textures. He was nominated during his first two years eligible, and I don’t see any reason for that trend to stop now. Like other “love them or hate them” artists like Sex Pistols or Patti Smith or Donna Summer, this one is going to take a few nominations to get in.

4. Chic: Hindu mythos is prefaced upon the samsara, the interminable cycle of life, death, and rebirth, from which the soul longs to break free. Every year, Chic is nominated and fails to get in, only to be renominated again. Can Chic escape this cosmic turning of the wheel this year? I hope so. Modern dance music owes them a considerable debt of gratitude. Along with Kraftwerk and James Brown, they constitute a kind of holy trinity of rap sampling.

5. Kraftwerk: Have you noticed that every year since 2013, either Yes or Kraftwerk has been nominated- but never on the same ballot? Although they exist in different genres, both bands have a reputation for being cerebral, prodigiously skilled, and impossible to dance to. Last year was Yes’s turn, and to my dismay, they didn’t get in. Kraftwerk, the #2 band on my Rock Hall Prospects list, should be up next if the trend holds.

6. The Cure: Since 2012, there has been a “early alternative band for angsty misfits” slot on the ballot. It’s gone to The Cure, The Replacements, and for the last two years, The Smiths. After watching the personnel squabbles with the Class of 2016, the Nom Com may want to focus on a band that doesn’t have an epic Morrissey vs. Johnny Marr feud at its heart. The Cure have been touring across the U.S. recently, doing insanely long and prolific concerts and generating great buzz.

7. Carole King: One of my favorite moments from the past year in the music world was watching Carole King being honored at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Seriously, watch this: she can’t handle her life when Aretha Franklin comes out and performs “A Natural Woman” on piano. This is indicative of the massive amount of respect Carole King has, and her importance has been underscored by the recent jukebox musical about her career. Almost every female singer-songwriter of the past 50 years owes Carole King big time. She should be honored- and her induction as a non-performer doesn’t begin to cover her significance. Her choice to leave the Brill Building, get behind a piano, and sing about her own life set the mold. To recap- in the last three years, she was honored at the Kennedy Center, performed at the Grammys, and had a musical come out. Is a Rock Hall nomination- her first since the institution’s early years- also in the cards?

8. The Meters: The JBs got the “funk backing band slot” on the ballot last year. But The Meters have gotten two nods in the last five years. This New Orleans outfit couldn’t have more support from industry experts and are widely respected in the same way that the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was.

9. The Cars: They were a surprise nominee last year, and got lots of positive buzz. Any other year, they probably would have sailed right in, but they were up against a hyper competitive ballot of other classic rock greats. The Cars have a little something for everybody: commercial success but also critical acclaim. They defied easy boundaries, incorporating new wave, power pop, and elements of punk and rockabilly. They were innovative, but not inaccessible. I think if they surface on the ballot again, they’d be a strong favorite.

10. The Zombies: There is some real momentum  behind The Monkees this year, with a great new album out and a tentative peace with its three surviving members. While we’ve seen some longstanding Rock Hall grudges like KISS, Rush, and Chicago dissolve in the last few years, I’m thinking the Monkees might still be a tough sell for the Nom Com. Instead, why not The Zombies? They are also touring, it’s original lineup has 4 of 5 members still alive, all of whom appear to be on good terms. Their album Odessey and Oracle is widely regarded as one of the best of the 60s, and a precursor to indie.  Just last year, they appeared at a panel commemorating the career of the Who with Stevie Van Zandt and Holly Robinson: both on the Nominating Committee. Indeed, they were nominated for the Class of 2014, but faced an extremely competitive ballot. The Zombies also have a good relationship with the Hall, which may redound to their benefit; they may be chosen over the Prefab Four not only because of their critical acclaim, but by simply wanting induction more.

11. Judas Priest: On the grounds of an unconvincing technicality, Rage Against the Machine is eligible this year. They released some demos in 1991, which makes them eligible, I guess, to be nominated in 2016 and inducted in 2017. Here’s what I think will happen: Tom Morello, who sits on the committee, will not recuse himself. I believe his character is such that he will say something like, “Oh geez…we don’t deserve it yet. It’s ridiculous to nominate us when many of the people who influenced us aren’t in yet.” And then he will make the case for the next metal band in the queue now that Deep Purple’s in: Judas Priest. Morello has spoken highly of them in the past, and even performed and collaborated with some of its members, and is in a good place to advocate on their behalf. Now, don’t get me wrong: Rage Against the Machine deserves to be in the Hall. But it should be 25 years after a *real* release.

12. Nina Simone: Simone is hot right now. A lovingly made documentary about her life dropped on Netflix last year. A biopic about her 1980s tailspin was just released. The most important album of 2016 will almost certainly be remembered as Beyonce’s Lemonade. Did you notice the Nina Simone LP conspicuously placed in some of the videos? Lauryn Hill, Feist, Muse, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Rhiannon Giddens have all recently covered her songs.And each of these mediums made the case for Simone’s influence and importance: she was a defiant black woman who demanded justice- and not always non-violently. She was also a troubled soul who had an abusive husband and struggled with substance abuse and addiction. As I argued in my Rock Hall Prospects, she covered rock and roll and rock and roll covered her jazzy nightclub act, and this kind of wide respect and collaboration made everybody stronger. She belongs in the Rock Hall.

13. A Tribe Called Quest: Since he earned a berth on the Nom Com three years ago, Questlove has had a great deal of success getting his favorite acts nominated. He’s championed NWA, Kiss, Hall & Oates, Bill Withers, the Spinners, Chaka Khan, and others. Since the first four are already in, it’s easy to imagine Questlove channeling his energies into two other acts that were deeply influential to his own career: De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Quest effused that ATCQ were “stylish, jazzy, funny, soulful, smart, and everything else.  They were socially conscious without being too self-conscious about it.”  Q-Tip’s recent collaboration with the Chemical Brothers and the unfortunate passing of Phife Dawg have kept them in the news.

14. Willie Nelson: Right before my flight to Singapore last August, a rumor circulated around the internet that Willie Nelson had passed on, and I had to wait 24 hours until I landed and got settled in my hotel to learn whether or not it was true. This vignette is a reminder that Nelson needs to be commemorated while he’s still among the living. He fostered countless collaborations between the worlds of country and rock, and he made those boundaries more porous. Of course, the Red-Haired Stranger still tours, and shows up on venues as diverse as the John Lennon tribute concert and Steven Colbert’s Christmas special. Maybe Gram Parsons or Patsy Cline will get the nod instead, but I have a feeling somebody from country will show up this year.

15. The Shangri-Las: And now, my annual “Hail Mary” pass. For decades, the Shangri-Las have been like a secret handshake among rock experts: an easily overlooked girl group that had an influence that belied its limited body of work. While most girl groups projected a wholesome image, the Shangri-Las wore go-go boots and seriously looked like you shouldn’t mess with them. “Leader of the Pack” and “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” changed the sonic landscape of Top 40 and made more atmospheric and evocative records possible. They’ve influenced artists as diverse as Amy Winehouse, the New York Dolls, and Blondie. Arguably, they’ve had a greater influence on 21st century pop than any other girl group from their era. It’s not hard to see some rogue voice on the committee- maybe someone like Dave Marsh- make an unexpected case for them and persuading everyone else to go along.

So, those are my picks. Most artists are alive, and most bands are at relative peace with one another. Those who have passed away (2pac, Simone, some of the Shangri-Las) could command incredible tribute performances.  2 first-time eligible artists, 5 artists who were passed over for nomination, and 8 previously nominated artists. Is this list realistic? My instinct is that the actual list may have more R&B artists, but I couldn’t figure out which of them it would be! War? The Spinners? But there are four artists with at least one inductable female member (King, The Shangri-Las, Simone, the singers from Chic). Given that this ballot will be released a few weeks before the U.S. potentially elects a female president, this stronger (but not quite equal) girl power on the ballot will have deeper resonance.

No offense is intended if your favorite artists didn’t show up–it’s not that I don’t think they are worthy, it’s that I don’t think the Nom Com will go in their direction this year. So apologies to fans of this blog who support Janet, or the Monkees, or Dennis Wilson, or Link Wray, or whoever else. Janet was a painful omission; she deserves to be in. But she will also be giving birth around the time as a ceremony as a first-time mother at the age of 50. It might be better for all concerned if they deferred a second Janet nomination until she could show up at full strength and in good health to perform in person.

Other tough cuts included J. Geils Band, Johnny Winter, Chaka Khan, Warren Zevon, Sting, and The Commodores.

I also suspect, for whatever it’s worth, that we’ll see maybe Sister Rosetta Tharpe as an Early Influence and The Revolution get a Musical Excellence Award.

What do you think? Feel free to comment with some of your own ideas for who might appear on the ballot in October.

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Do you think it’s too early to ruminate on the next class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artists? Think again. By the end of the summer, the Nominating Committee will meet and hammer out the presumably 15 or so candidates for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Historically, the list is released around October. I will probably make my final predictions around Labor Day, but I also wanted to get out some preliminary predictions, perhaps in the vain hope that somebody on the committee reads them.

Before I list my initial predictions, I need to discuss my sense of the overall feel or theme of the ballot. When I look back at #RockHall2016, it’s clear that several things went wrong, and I’d imagine the Committee will be eager to correct them. First of all, the kerfuffle with Steve Miller shows that they need to treat inductees better, explain to them what the Hall of Fame is about, solicit their input, and make them feel like honored guests rather than cash cows. Secondly, attempts at big reunions failed to materialize. Although estranged drummer Danny Seraphine showed up for Chicago’s induction, Peter Cetera pouted when the band wouldn’t play “25 or 6 to 4” in his key and stayed home. Neither could multiple Deep Purple alumni overcome years of hostility. NWA managed a reunion, but the Rock Hall still screwed it up by not reaching an agreement to perform (which probably involved NWA wanting to do more controversial material.) Only Cheap Trick managed to get their act together, and thus the fourth most important inductee ended up closing the show! Thirdly, #RockHall2016 was roasted for its lack of diversity. Only one African-American artist, a caricature of gangsta rap like NWA, made it in. The other four were white classic rockers from the late 1960s and 1970s. Not only were there no female artists inducted, but there were no female presenters. All the white, male acts were inducted by white males. The black, male act was inducted by a black male. The 1950s, most of the 1960s, most of the 1980s, and most of the 1990s were unrepresented by the five artists’ heydays.

All this is to say: the ceremony taught me almost nothing about rock and roll. I had to watch the ceremonies in earlier years to understand why Paul Butterfield mattered despite a lack of hits, or why Jett was more than a good cover artist, she established what it meant to be a woman in rock like few others have. Aside from one instance of NWA defending it’s place in the rock pantheon in defiance of Gene Simmons’s more…um…apartheidish views, there wasn’t a single great moment. In contrast, think of all the cool moments from the previous two ceremonies: Joan Jett, Tommy James, and Miley Cyrus rocking out over “Crimson and Clover”- three distinct generations united. Bill Withers watching with visible emotion as Stevie Wonder sang his songs. Hervana. A reunion of the two surviving Beatles. One of Cat Stevens’s only stateside appearances since the Ford administration. You can get a good ceremony and a good class in the modern Rock Hall era, where inductions are arena spectacles filmed for HBO. But you have to work at it and ask yourself what rock and roll is really all about.

For this reason, I think the Rock Hall is going to veer away from 1970s classic rock favorites, and we’ll see a ballot that resembles the Class of 2015 much more. This will be a slate of nominees designed to show the breadth and depth of rock and roll, which will push boundaries and hopefully challenge people who don’t think rap, country, R&B, or electronica count.  So, after this long preamble, here are my initial predictions:

 

1. Pearl Jam: This is as close to a sure thing as I can imagine. Pearl Jam- an artist that ranks among Rolling Stone’s New Immortals and VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists- is widely regarded as the most important rock band of the 1990s after Nirvana. On the eve of their 25th anniversary, they continue to tour, rail against Ticketmaster, and dominate by virtue of their longevity. This is their year.

2. Tupac: With NWA out of the way, Tupac is the prohibitive favorite as the next rap act to get in. This is also his first year eligible, and while this is a posthumous nomination, there would be no shortage of rappers willing to pay homage to Tupac in (presumably) Cleveland. In his short life, Tupac was earnest, poetic, soulful, violent, and above all, complicated. While NWA was the “id” of late 1980s inner-city consciousness, Tupac is remembered as more of a Bob Marley style “folk saint” for the Nineties; his biography matters less than the semiotics. Regardless of the history or the memory, his albums are still among rap’s finest of the 1990s. Nom Com member Alan Light wrote a book on him several years ago, so we can safely assume that his name will at least be brought up in committee.

3. Nine Inch Nails: It’s clear that the Rolling Stone Industrial Complex likes Trent Reznor’s dark sonic landscapes and nihilistic textures. He was nominated during his first two years eligible, and I don’t see any reason for that trend to stop now. Like other “love them or hate them” artists like Sex Pistols or Patti Smith or Donna Summer, this one is going to take a few nominations to get in.

4. Chic: Hindu mythos is prefaced upon the samsara, the interminable cycle of life, death, and rebirth, from which the soul longs to break free. Every year, Chic is nominated and fails to get in, only to be renominated again. Can Chic escape this cosmic turning of the wheel this year?

5. Kraftwerk: Have you noticed that every year since 2013, either Yes or Kraftwerk has been nominated? Although they exist in different genres, both bands have a reputation for being cerebral, prodigiously skilled, and impossible to dance to. Last year was Yes’s turn, and to my dismay, they didn’t get in. Kraftwerk, the #2 band on my Rock Hall Prospects list, should be up next if the trend holds.

6. The Cure: Since 2012, there has been a “early alternative band for angsty misfits” slot on the ballot. It’s gone to The Cure, The Replacements, and for the last two years, The Smiths. After watching the personnel squabbles with the Class of 2016, the Nom Com may want to focus on a band that doesn’t have an epic Morrissey vs. Johnny Marr feud at its heart. The Cure have been touring across the U.S. recently, doing insanely long and prolific concerts and generating great buzz.

7. Carole King: One of my favorite moments from the past year in the music world was watching Carole King being honored at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Seriously, watch this: she can’t handle her life when Aretha Franklin comes out and performs “A Natural Woman” on piano. This is indicative of the massive amount of respect Carole King has, and her importance has been underscored by the recent jukebox musical about her career. Almost every female singer-songwriter of the past 50 years owes Carole King big time. She should be honored- and her induction as a non-performer doesn’t begin to cover her significance. Her choice to leave the Brill Building, get behind a piano, and sing about her own life set the mold. To recap- in the last three years, she was honored at the Kennedy Center, performed at the Grammys, and had a musical come out. Is a Rock Hall nomination- her first since the institution’s early years- also in the cards?

8. The Meters: The JBs got the “funk slot” on the ballot last year. But The Meters have gotten two nods in the last five years. This New Orleans outfit couldn’t have more support from industry experts and are widely respected in the same way that the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was.

9. MC5: On the grounds of an unconvincing technicality, Rage Against the Machine is eligible this year. They released some demos in 1991, which makes them eligible, I guess, to be nominated in 2016 and inducted in 2017. Here’s what I think will happen: Tom Morello, who sits on the committee, will not recuse himself. I believe his character is such that he will say something like, “Oh geez…we don’t deserve it yet. It’s ridiculous to nominate us when many of the people who influenced us aren’t in yet.” And then he will make the case for his favorite pet project: revolutionary, iconoclastic MC5. Now, don’t get me wrong: Rage Against the Machine deserves to be in the Hall. But it should be 25 years after a *real* release.

10. The Zombies: There is some real buzz about The Monkees this year, with a great new album out and a tentative peace with its three surviving members. While we’ve seen some longstanding Rock Hall grudges like KISS, Rush, and Chicago dissolve in the last few years, I’m thinking the Monkees might still be a tough sell for the Nom Com. Instead, why not The Zombies? They are also touring, it’s original lineup has 4 of 5 members still alive, all of whom appear to be on good terms. And The Zombies, as I wrote in a blog post back in May, have influenced a vast number of artists and are well loved by rock writers, historians, and journalists. Just last year, they appeared at a panel commemorating the career of the Who with Stevie Van Zandt and Holly Robinson: both on the Nominating Committee. Indeed, they were nominated for the Class of 2014, but faced an extremely competitive ballot. This will be their year. Took a long time to come.

11. Eurythmics: The nomination of The Cars last year shows that the Nom Com is at least thinking in a New Wave direction. So why not Eurythmics? David Stewart and Annie Lennox have been known to reunite from time to time. They played a great role in infusing the technical and electronic possibilities of new wave with real soul, courtesy of Lennox’s deep, resonant alto voice. And the “Sweet Dreams” video was one of the most iconic during the infancy of MTV. Given Lennox’s well-received Grammys performance a couple years ago and her great album of Tin Pan Alley standards, this would be a strong nod to the 1980s.

12. Nina Simone: Simone is hot right now. A lovingly made documentary about her life dropped on Netflix last year. A biopic about her 1980s tailspin is coming out very soon. The most important album of 2016 will almost certainly be remembered as Beyonce’s Lemonade. Did you notice the Nina Simone LP conspicuously placed in some of the videos? And each of these mediums made the case for Simone’s influence and importance: she was a defiant black woman who demanded justice- and not always non-violently. She was also a troubled soul who had an abusive husband and struggled with substance abuse and addiction. As I argued in my Rock Hall Prospects, she covered rock and roll and rock and roll covered her jazzy nightclub act, and this kind of wide respect and collaboration made everybody stronger. She belongs in the Rock Hall.

13. A Tribe Called Quest: Since he earned a berth on the Nom Com three years ago, Questlove has had a great deal of success getting his favorite acts nominated. He’s championed NWA, Kiss, Hall & Oates, Bill Withers, the Spinners, Chaka Khan, and others. Since the first four are already in, it’s easy to imagine Questlove channeling his energies into two other acts that were deeply influential to his own career: De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Quest effused that ATCQ were “stylish, jazzy, funny, soulful, smart, and everything else.  They were socially conscious without being too self-conscious about it.”  Q-Tip’s recent collaboration with the Chemical Brothers and the unfortunate passing of Phife Dawg have kept them in the news.

14. Willie Nelson: Right before my flight to Singapore last August, a rumor circulated around the internet that Willie Nelson had passed on, and I had to wait 24 hours until I landed and got settled in my hotel to learn whether or not it was true. This vignette is a reminder that Nelson needs to be commemorated while he’s still among the living. He fostered countless collaborations between the worlds of country and rock, and he made those boundaries more porous. Of course, the Red-Haired Stranger still tours, and shows up on venues as diverse as the John Lennon tribute concert and Steven Colbert’s Christmas special. Maybe Gram Parsons or Patsy Cline will get the nod instead, but I have a feeling somebody from country will show up this year.

15. The Shangri-Las: And now, my annual “Hail Mary” pass. For decades, the Shangri-Las have been like a secret handshake among rock experts: an easily overlooked girl group that had an influence that belied its limited body of work. While most girl groups projected a wholesome image, the Shangri-Las wore go-go boots and seriously looked like you shouldn’t mess with them. “Leader of the Pack” and “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” changed the sonic landscape of Top 40 and made more atmospheric and evocative records possible. They’ve influenced artists as diverse as Amy Winehouse, the New York Dolls, and Blondie. It’s not hard to see some rogue voice on the committee- maybe someone like Dave Marsh- make an unexpected case for them and persuading everyone else to go along.

So, those are my picks. Most artists are alive, and most bands are at relative peace with one another. Those who have passed away (Tupac, Simone, some of the Shangri-Las) could command incredible tribute performances.  2 first-time eligible artists, 5 artists who were passed over for nomination, and 8 previously nominated artists. Is this list realistic? My instinct is that the actual list may have more R&B artists, but I couldn’t figure out which of them it would be! War? The Spinners? But there are five artists with at least one inductable female member (King, The Shangri-Las, Simone, the singers from Chic, and Annie Lennox). Given that this ballot will be released a few weeks before the U.S. potentially elects a female president, this stronger (but not quite equal) girl power on the ballot will have deeper resonance.  You might notice that there are no classic rock bands from the 1970s. Rockists will lose their minds if a ballot like this one actually happened, typing vitriol on the internet so urgently that their red “Make America Great Again” hats will be irreparably sweat-stained.

No offense is intended if your favorite artists didn’t show up–it’s not that I don’t think they are worthy, it’s that I don’t think the Nom Com will go in their direction this year. So apologies to fans of this blog who support Janet, or the Monkees, or Dennis Wilson, or Link Wray, or whoever else. Janet was a painful omission; she deserves to be in. But she will also be giving birth around the time as a ceremony as a first-time mother at the age of 50. It might be better for all concerned if they deferred a second Janet nomination until she could show up at full strength and in good health to perform in person.

Other tough cuts included J. Geils Band, Johnny Winter, Chaka Khan, Warren Zevon, Sting, and The Commodores.

What do you think? Feel free to comment with some of your own ideas for who might appear on the ballot in October.

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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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Now that we know who will be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016, this might be a good time to turn our attention to the acts that remain on the outside looking in.  This project will explore 100 acts that I believe to be most deserving for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I write this knowing full well that the Rock Hall is something of a powder keg and any attempt to discuss it online often degenerates into acrimony and bedlam.  The internet is littered with people expressing their opinions, some more well thought out than others, about bad choices the Hall made: both marginal artists that it let in and deserving visionaries who were left out.  Everyone has their own beliefs and their own internal logic regarding who should be next.  Here’s mine.

You may notice that I have called this list “Rock Hall Prospects” rather than “Rock Hall Snubs.”  “Snub” is a loaded word, is it not?  It implies that there is a bias, or a petty, arbitrary reason for the group’s omission from the Hall of Fame.  The recent inductions of Rush, KISS, and Chicago suggest that there really isn’t a blackballing of certain artists, and commonly, solid acts are missing from the Rock Hall because of limited room (only 200 or so artists are in, a smaller number than it sounds), or the lack of a true advocate on the Nominating Committee.  A group like T. Rex is widely liked by many critics, musicians, and experts, but doesn’t seem to have any diehard supporters where it counts.  Compare that to Hall & Oates, who had Questlove in their corner, a man worked the room like a presidential candidate at the Iowa State Fair and through dogged persistence, got them on the ballot after 16 years of eligibility.  Most of these acts have not been intentionally slighted because Jann Werner has been maliciously plotting against them.  Rather, they end up patiently waiting their turn among dozens of genres and more than forty years’ worth of eligible acts.  For example, there’s a bit of a disco pecking order: The Bee Gees and Donna Summer were logical first inductees in that genre, leaving Chic and Rufus/Chaka Khan waiting eagerly in the wings, and Kool & the Gang and Barry White twiddling their thumbs in the vestibule.

A few words, though, on my biases and my methods.  My criteria include…

I.  Originality and Innovation: Did the artist approach rock and roll in  some new way?  Did they refine or improve new techniques, or fuse heretofore different genres?  Please don’t confuse “originality” with songwriting.  There are lots of great artists who did not write their own material, but whose interpretations were just as trailblazing.  There had to be something striking or unique about the artist that made them unmistakably different from their contemporaries.  Ultimately, this standard cost groups like Bad Company, Badfinger, Foreigner, and Grand Funk Railroad.  I mean, suppose you’re the poor sap who had to gave a speech inducting Badfinger.  What would you even say?  “This band existed, and for a brief time, was popular?”  No; each artist on this list has to have a calling card, a claim to fame.

II. Musical Excellence: It’s one thing to be innovative; it’s another to be good.  Did the artist have chops–vocally or instrumentally?  Was their body of work well-crafted, the product of practice and skill?  Did they work hard and pay their dues to produce good music, or were they just in it for fame, groupies, and a quick buck?

III.  Creating a Substantive and Successful Body of Work: You’ll notice that I didn’t quite say “commercial success.” The public can be fooled into buying bad music (Bay City Rollers, Olivia Newton-John, etc.) but the converse side of this argument is that rock critics and rock literati are not the only gauge of who matters.  Like it or not, rock and roll is not just an artistic enterprise, it is a commercial one as well, and acts that resonate with the masses over the long-term despite being toxic to the experts should be granted due consideration.  Having a big hit and then building on it with more hits is much, much harder than it looks.  More often, it comes down to strong musical instincts and talent, rather than solid promotion and good fortune.  So for this list, I am prioritizing acts that had a good, long run making worthwhile music.  If an artist was a quick flash in the pan, I’ll still consider them, but they’d better be really significant in some other way.  Rock and roll is a marathon, not a sprint.  Longevity matters.

IV. Zeitgeist: If an artist was undeniably evocative of a particular time and place, that redounds to their favor.  The Zombies might fall a bit short on Criterium #3, but they excel at #4.  They only had a few big songs, but if you hear any of them on the radio, they are unmistakably evocative of the mid and late-1960s.  Being able to embody a genre’s best qualities, or personifying a political and social movement are intangible qualities that have to be taken into account.

So that’s what I’m looking for.  I do need, though, to add some things I am not taking into consideration, or arguments for or against certain artists that I find fallacious.

Fallacy #1: That’s not Rock Enough: I grow weary of self-professed music experts complaining that Madonna or Public Enemy have made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before Blue Oyster Cult or Boston.  How, they ask, can these acts be considered rock?  Madonna is pop, and Public Enemy is rap, so the case must be closed to them.  “This is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, not the Music Hall of Fame,” they sneer, as they blare their Aerosmith and gaze admiringly at their “George Wallace for President, ’68” poster.  Just in the list week, I’ve read depressing comments about #RockHall2016 saying “Is this the politically correct Hall of Fame?” or “Get rap it’s own hall of fame!!!”

These people are called “rockists,” known for their somewhat narrow view of rock and roll as the province of guitar-based, almost always white and male, musicians who write their own songs.  Go listen to Eddie Trunk’s brigade to get a taste of this jaundiced worldview.  Many of these people are quite smart, in their way.  Many of these people have impressive talents.  But a broad knowledge of music history that extends beyond their 10 favorite bands is not one of them.  Read basically any online article on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ever written, and in the comments section, you’ll see them come out of the woodwork.  They are very indignant about this slight against the Doobie Brothers’ honor and tend to write half the words of any given sentence in all caps and use descriptors like “SHAM” and “TRAVESTY!!1!!”  For an example of this line of reasoning, look at this list of 40 snubs from UltimateClassicRock.  It’s filled with deserving acts to be sure, but the jackwagons who compiled it didn’t think that it was problematic that none of the 40 acts included any black guys or women, and any genre beyond classic rock and proto-alternative is left out.

Rock and roll’s legacy is bigger and broader than these voices would have it.  In fact, very little true “rock and roll” was made after 1959 with a few exceptions.  Almost all music made afterwards, beyond that first generation of rock and roll that was inaugurated by Elvis, Jerry Lee, Fats, Chuck, Little Richard and crew, is a descendant of rock and roll, rather than rock and roll itself.  This goes for British invasion bands, metal, prog, Motown, disco, soul, alternative, synth-pop, Krautrock, shoegazing, art rock, you name it.  None of these genres are illegitimate; quite the contrary, they can each trace their origins to those early 50s records, some taking after more of the rock side, some favoring the roll.  So, think of that first generation of rock and roll as Abraham, sometimes called the founder of monotheism.  Catholicism, Methodism, Baptists, Hassidic Jews, Reformed Jews, Shia Muslims, Sufis, and others trace their spiritual lineage back to Abraham- some more directly than others- but all of these faiths can claim to be “Abrahamic.”  In the same way, rap, industrial, funk, and all those genres I just listed earlier can claim to be rock and roll: they have a lineage, direct or circuitous, to those 1950s pioneers who combined the twang of country, the rhythm and sensuality of the jump blues, and unbridled joy of gospel.  The point is, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has to be shared between different sub-genres, and there should be room for everyone who produced quality music in this medium.

Fallacy #2: Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc:  If your Latin is a bit rusty, this simply means, “Because A happened before B, A is a direct cause of B.”  I am skeptical of arguments along the lines of “How can Husker Du be in before Green Day?  Without Husker Du, Green Day would never have even existed!”  Maybe you’re right on that point, but Green Day achieved greater success, was more culturally relevant, and released a couple of albums that are indispensable toward understanding popular music in the mid-1990s through the early 2000s.  Perhaps they were too commercial for your liking, but they were, by any fair measure, more impactful even if they stood on Husker Du’s shoulders.  Lonnie Donegan and The Shadows and Chet Atkins all inspired The Beatles, but that doesn’t mean they should have been in before the Fab Four.  For this reason, I’m a bit less inclined toward 50s and early 60s artists than some other Rock Hall watchers I admire very much, especially Philip (at Rock Hall Monitors) and Charles Crossley.  The Rock Hall can and should educate the public on rock and roll’s historical foundation, including those R&B-oriented artists who don’t get included in Dick Clarks’ 20-CD retrospectives, but we also can’t deny that a lot of great artists thrived in the 1980s and 1990s.

I tried to be fair in my ranking, but I’m only human.  A few of my personal favorites who were sitting on the edge made it in, although a couple artists I really like didn’t (America, Edgar Winter Group.)  And I’m only human; a couple longtime vendettas may have influenced my picks.  This hindered Ted Nugent (his case was dubious anyway, but he’s spent the last several years threatening the president and questioning the patriotism of left-leaning people like myself, so I’m certainly not going to include him), and Todd Rundgren (no personal animus, but the Buffalo classic rock station overplayed “Hello It’s Me” so often that I just can’t get into his music) among others.  So my list is totally objective.  Except when it isn’t.

So sit back, because in the next several weeks, we’re going to explore 100 top-notch artists who deserve enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  We’ll look at neglected artists of historical significance from the 1950s, a few remaining holdouts from the 1960s, overlooked artists from the embarrassment of riches that was the 1970s music scene, as well as important standouts from the 1980s and 1990s, several of which remain significant to this day.  You’ll see plenty of classic rock and oldies favorites, but you’ll also read cases for Philly soul artists, rappers, indie, folk, alternative, and punk.

A couple clarifying points before I wrap up:  by eligible artists, I mean those who could have conceivably been inducted in 2016, or whose first record was issued in 1991 or earlier.  So, no Pearl Jam, Tupac, Radiohead, or Lady Gaga.

As always, a big thank-you goes out to Future Rock Legends and Not In The Hall of Fame, great journalists like Troy Smith and Chris Molanphy, and fellow Rock Hall watchers like Tom Lane, Philip at Rock Hall Monitors, and Donnie Durham.  I learned a great deal from all of you, and each of you influenced my countdown in some way.

Last 15 cuts from my list?  It was tough, but in the end, I had to let go of: Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Boston; Junior Walker & the All-Stars; The Stylistics; Mahavishnu Orchestra; Tommy James and the Shondells; Cyndi Lauper; Joe Cocker; Carly Simon; Patti LaBelle; Supertramp; Lenny Kravitz; Fairport Convention; Jim Croce; and Sade.  Sorry, guys.

Okay, I think I covered everything.  In a few days, I’ll post the first ten reveals for the Top 100 Rock Hall prospects.

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