Friday, October 23, 2015

Rock the vote! Don't tip the vote over!

When the Rock Hall Revisited project started on the Future Rock Legends site, I began a push for Bernie Lowe to be inducted as a Non-Performer as soon as possible.  For those who haven't heard me from that particular soapbox, Bernie Lowe was the primary founder (along with co-founder Kal Mann) of the Cameo and Parkway record labels, the sister labels that made stars out of Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons, the Dovells, and the Tymes.  They were also early (American) homes for the Kinks, Bob Seger, and where key members of Grand Funk Railroad first started out as members of Terry Knight And The Pack; additionally, their national distribution muscle helped propel R&B acts such as the Five Stairsteps and the Delfonics.  Cameo and Parkway records were really among the first record labels that embraced rock and roll as the medium for youth culture, supplying a lot of the dance records for American Bandstand during the early 1960's, perhaps to the point of saturation and even self-parody (Don Covay's "Popeye Waddle" e.g.).  To date, Bernie Lowe has not been recognized by the actual Hall for his contribution to the evolution and perpetuation of rock and roll. So, when it began, I was adamant about getting him recognized by our unofficial revisited project.  On our fifth class, the Revisited Class Of 1990, Bernie Lowe managed to get recognized as one of our two Non-Performer inductees, and I was thrilled.  That thrill was short-lived, however, as it was soon revealed that one of the members of the project had been posting multiple votes under multiple user names and had indeed been largely responsible for the push that got Bernie Lowe through.  I was mostly upset because I was worried that in a truly fair vote, Bernie Lowe, and the legacy of the Cameo-Parkway family upon rock and roll would be ultimately dismissed, even among fellow hobbyists who actually gave consideration to my opinion and how I highlighted the importance of Lowe.  When we adopted the blind ballot twist on the procedures that involved emailing our votes anonymously, Bernie Lowe was part of the "Class Of 1995," so at least there's a happy ending for me there, but it still stung for awhile to consider that what I wanted couldn't happen honestly.

Well, if you've paid any attention to what's been happening the past two weeks since the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame announced the latest round of nominees, you know exactly where this is heading: the alleged tampering of the fan ballot on the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's website that has given a runaway top five of Chicago, the Cars, Yes, Steve Miller, and Deep Purple.  In sixth place is Janet Jackson, roughly sixteen million votes behind the current fifth place holder, Deep Purple.  So disparate is this gap that people have cried foul, claiming that the ballot was hacked by "bots" that voted nonstop, around the clock until the IT people for the Rock Hall's website temporarily took down the ballot, and implemented a fifteen-vote-per-day limit per IP address.

But the damage has been done, and now people want the ballot thrown out and the whole fan ballot be started anew, blank slate.  The Hall has not done this as of yet, and is unlikely to do so.  For starters, it's not exactly like electoral honesty is the Hall Of Fame's most prominent feature.  From the noted lack of transparency (third-party affiliation, accountability, whatever you wish to call it); to the side door inductions of Performer nominees who don't get enough votes--oh and let's not forget the 2006 controversy involving Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five and the Dave Clark Five--; if the Hall threw out the fan ballot as it is now on grounds of corruption, the "smack" of hypocrisy would be more of an "assault and battery."  But let's not ignore a general reality of businesses: they want their sites to get as many hits as possible.  To admit that traffic to their site was artificially inflated by bots is likely pretty embarrassing.  Every hit helps, but this concentrated flurry for an express purpose must cause some degree of embarrassment.  But I'm no authority, as this blog is the closest thing I've got to having a website.  (If the administrator of Future Rock Legends would care to weigh in on this in the comments section below, I'd be most grateful for the input.)  What must more certainly be embarrassing for a company, though, is for their process to essentially be hacked, period, nevermind the purpose of skewing public opinion to say what one person wants it to say.  Now, obviously not actually hacked, but for their IT integrity to be so lax that this possibility was allowed to occur would certainly egg the Foundation's collective face, especially given how they vaunted the number of votes at the beginning of this year's process.  So the Hall would likely rather pretend that every hit and vote was genuine, and not automated, and that no tampering occurred.  Additionally, as often goes with our ephemeral cyber-culture, the ballot is probably old news to most people who even cared in the first place, and they're probably done voting and have moved on to the newest thing that has captured their fascination.  So, if the Hall started all over, they probably couldn't get those numbers back anywhere close to where they were.

That's not even taking into consideration the fans that would be steamed at any resetting, and by fans, I mean "Chicago fans," because I'm not hearing one peep of denial of fraud from people who think Deep Purple is the biggest snub, or those who are overjoyed to see the Cars finally nominated, or those sighing breaths of relief that Yes has returned after being absent from last year's ballot.  Nope, it's the Chicago fans who are doing all the talking, primarily because Chicago is the clear front runner right now, and they have not been the least bit shy of claiming legitimacy to each and every single one of those votes, now totaling over thirty-seven million.  Well, I'm now going to take a few moments to address the Chicago fans and say, "You're wrong."  And before you take to the comments to berate me, please read everything after this sentence, because at the end, there is good news for you devoted fans of this band.

But first, let's address what we have in front of us.  The main problem with the Chicago fans who are in denial is their myopia has created a false sense of victimization.  The most important thing that must be said to those people is this: no one is claiming fraud simply because Chicago took over the lead.  For crying out loud, last year's fan ballot showed Stevie Ray Vaughn And Double Trouble surpassing Nine Inch Nails late in the game.  No one cried foul because the lead changed hands.  It requires the ability to see beyond merely who's in first place to truly understand what's going on.

Now, I'm going say that I live on the West Coast, and observe Pacific Time.  When I went to bed on October 8th, the first day of voting, the leader was Janet Jackson, with more than one million votes more than second place Chicago.  This was around 10 or 11 at night.  Having a sub-par night of sleep, I was up by around 6 or 7 the next morning, October 9th.  I went to the site to cast more votes for my acts of preference.  Literally overnight, Janet Jackson dropped from first to sixth.  That means not only had Chicago caught up and passed her by, so had four others.  I even joked about it on Twitter, saying Eddie Trunk had finally awoken his minions and got them to go out and do his bidding.  Now, being on the West Coast, and part of the last time zone of the contiguous 48 to arrive at dawn, I originally figured that maybe the Eastern and Central time zones were finally getting more active, but the disparity between fifth and sixth place at that time already seemed fishy, and it wasn't because of my proximity to the ocean.

And the gap only grew from there.  In leaps and bounds.  That day, and over the next several days.  Until we got where we are now.  I spent much of my voting time noticing how those top five acts' votes all went up in comparison to others.  Acts like the Spinners, Janet Jackson, N.W.A. and Cheap Trick all saw their votes increase in folds of fifty to one hundred, in between each click of mine to vote, which was somewhere between three to seven seconds.  Chicago, the Cars, Steve Miller, Deep Purple, and Yes all saw theirs go up over a thousand every three to seven seconds.

Now, is it possible for those acts to have that many fans devotedly casting ballots until they all get carpal tunnel syndrome?  Theoretically, and from the number of Chicago fans who have come forth to swear to the veracity of their voting, it might even be plausible, if not for certain other factors.  Going back to what I said earlier, Janet Jackson went from first to sixth, literally overnight.  My friends and even my fiance like to razz me for being a mild grammarian, so when I emphatically say, "literally," I literally mean "literally."  This means that five acts all overtook Janet Jackson in the course of seven hours, nine tops, during the time when the moon rules the sky over the United States for most of that time.  Most people are presumably sleeping, working graveyard shifts, or gaming.  That means in all likelihood, the vast majority of those votes in that time window would either have to come from the Eastern hemisphere (or relatively close to it), or from automated bots.  Now, one particularly tenacious fan has argued that Chicago has millions of fans from all over the world and would gladly jump on board to vote for them in the fan ballot.  Well, for a statement like that to be completely disproved would require more pollsters working more man-hours than could happen before the voting deadline.  However, we really don't need to do all that.  Extrapolating from the comments seen on the Future Rock Legends site from European and Canadian contributors, it would appear that a large number of non-Americans think of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as an American institution, and nothing more, and not just because it was founded, has a museum, and is largely run in the United States.  Just ask about any British person who they'd consider no-brainers, and it'd be shocking if Cliff Richard And The Shadows or Status Quo isn't mentioned.  But neither of them are in the Hall.  Canadians, in true stereotypical fashion, have suggested a minimum of one Canadian candidate per ballot, but that request goes unheeded.  When the Dave Clark Five were inducted in 2008, Dave Clark himself called it an honor to be inducted into the "American Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame."  The point is, the Rock Hall is largely considered an American institution, and there are a large number of people in Europe who simply won't partake in the fan vote because they consider the Hall to be an American institution, and thus don't care.

But even if they did care enough, would Chicago overwhelmingly receive the international votes (especially with an Ameri-centric name like "Chicago")?  Possibly, but stereotypes exist for a reason, and in Europe, that means EDM.  It's hard to imagine that given the ballot selection, European music lovers wouldn't vote for music that had more bearing or influence on the music that is ubiquitous to their part of the world.  I can't reasonably imagine a scenario where artists relevant to dance music such as Chic, Chaka Khan, and especially Janet Jackson don't benefit from the European vote.  That's not even getting into Africa, where Afrobeat music has a lot of similarities to the kind of funk that the J.B.s gave us; or Asia, Australia, New Zealand, or even Latin America, where it'd almost certainly cause an upswing for Los Lobos.  Even if the rest of the world were behind Chicago, it'd be ludicrous to state that Janet Jackson wouldn't also benefit from an international voting cattle drive.

Which brings us to the next, and perhaps most important part of the argument, and the biggest problem with the argument presented by Chicago supporters: this is not about JUST Chicago!  If it were just Chicago, no one would be saying anything, I promise you.  If it were even just a matter of Chicago versus Janet Jackson, it would be called an interesting fight to watch.  But it's not.  This gets lost in the melee for two reasons: one, Chicago is now in the lead, so it's assumed they'd suffer the worst if there were any credence to the accusations; two, Chicago fans in their own defense have continued to erect that strawman to the point of giving themselves a persecution complex.  But this is not about just Chicago or even Chicago and Janet Jackson.  You MUST include the other four benefactors of the automated attack for the discussion to make any sense.  It's perfectly reasonable to believe that Chicago would overcome the million vote deficit to take the lead.  But if Janet Jackson was ahead of Chicago by over a million votes that first night, how many more was Janet ahead of the likes of Deep Purple, Steve Miller, and Yes that night?  Is it really reasonable to think that ALL five would overcome their deficits of two million or more in that one night?  Have you really considered what that would take?  Especially when the votes for other acts like the Smiths, N.W.A., and Nine Inch Nails have remained at steadily low levels?  That means that an overwhelming majority of the votes for Chicago ALSO had to be cast for the Cars, Steve Miller, Deep Purple, and Yes.  Now let me ask this of the staunch Chicago supporters: every time you have cast your ballot, has it been always been, every time, for Chicago, Deep Purple, Yes, Steve Miller, and the Cars?  I don't doubt that there have been some voters who have voted thus each and every time they click to vote, but every Chicago fan?

In addition to the statistical near-impossibility of that happening, there's another solid reason that this is extremely unlikely: in two words, Cheap Trick.  When the ballot was first announced, fellow Monitors commented that this was a classic rock enthusiast's wet dream, with six acts that all get airplay on classic rock radio.  Those are the five poll leaders and Cheap Trick.  But Cheap Trick has not benefit from this, as they are still in seventh place, behind Janet Jackson.  Is it really reasonable to argue that no fan of Chicago also voted for Cheap Trick?  Wouldn't Cheap Trick be a more reasonable vote recipient than the Cars, whose new wave keyboard sound doesn't fall in line with "classic rock" as neatly as Cheap Trick's?  Now, in the past, every fan ballot has skewed heavily rockist, meaning the acts that are most played on classic rock radio, or likely to be played on classic rock radio in ten to twenty years, should the format and radio industry survive that long.  In fact, that's why some of us initially took no notice when Janet dropped from first to sixth, but the truth is, it just doesn't add up.  Is it really believable that the fans who have voted would be content to let Cheap Trick lag roughly seven million votes behind Janet Jackson?  Or to let the Smiths and Nine Inch Nails languish in thirteenth and fourteenth place?  Are you telling me that no fan of Chicago is also a fan of Janet Jackson?  Or the Spinners?  While I'm certain that Chicago fans jumped on the bandwagon after those five jumped well out ahead, deviating only to put Chicago back on top after the Cars temporarily took the lead, it simply could not have happened organically.  Not when five acts jump up over one thousand votes every three to seven seconds and the others a hundred or less in that same time period.  That's the third reason we're calling fraud.  That those five acts could go up in such large increments every three to seven seconds, and the others, not so much.  And so evenly, too.  With the lone exception of the Cars briefly taking the lead, positions among the five leaders never changed.  The intervals have remained relatively constant, too, as have the rate of votes throughout the days.  For that to happen would require either a collusion of 4chan proportions, or an automated program, a bot if you will, doing the voting rapidly and incessantly.  No amount of "vote early, vote often" can rationally explain it.  People have to work (even if around the home), eat, sleep, shower (hopefully), and tend to other obligations; not to mention the fact that people also like to watch TV, go to the movies, attend worship, go out with friends, spend time with their families, etc.  The math that allows for a truly honest result as such requires the elimination of pretty much all of those things, plus the ability to sit in front of a computer screen and stay focused on one web page for a concentrated period of time.  It's just not plausible.  As I've written this entry, I've risen to stretch, eat, shower, do laundry, and halfheartedly watch a rerun of Murder, She Wrote (don't judge me!).  I imagine that due to the length of this post, some of you have paused to visit another tab, possibly Facebook or check email (and if you haven't, thank you!).

Of course, without a confession, or a sudden revelation by the IT people working for the Hall, the bot voting cannot be completely proven, and for that, some Chicago fans are still in denial.  To which, I must quote my father who often said to all of us children as we were growing up, "Use your God-given gift of common sense!"  I have a friend who refused to believe that famous wrestler Chris Benoit killed his wife and kid, and then killed himself, because it couldn't be proven one hundred percent beyond any shadow of a doubt.  Chicago fans denying the automated voting bot are just like my friend, who love Chicago so much, they cannot accept the possibility that anything involving their band could be negative.  Well, even in the justice system, prosecutors don't have to prove beyond all doubt; they only have to prove beyond reasonable doubt, and it's just unreasonable to believe that there has been an uncoordinated, happenstance surge for those five, and only those five artists.  Even if the Chicago voters all wanted an all-classic rock class, Cheap Trick would have divided the ballot between the other four classic rock acts to where it'd be impossible for all four of them--the Cars, Yes, Steve Miller, and Deep Purple--to each have over twenty-five million votes.  That's not even considering that the Smiths and Nine Inch Nails would likely have eaten into those shares somewhat as well.  It's unreasonable to think this could have just happened, and as no Chicago fan is confessing to collusion, a bot is the only logical conclusion.  The vote was hacked, tipped over, capsized.

Nevertheless, I promised good news for the Chicago faithful: you won.  Chicago never needed the bot.  As I type this, Chicago has over thirty-seven million votes.  Second through fifth places all have between twenty-five and twenty-six million votes.  Chicago has over ten million votes MORE than the next closest candidate, which is more than the less than ten million that Janet Jackson, in sixth place has.  Even if every vote for fifth place was bot generated, that means Chicago has at least ten million votes that were not from the bot.  Ten million honest votes.  It wouldn't be a runaway, but they would still be in the lead.  You should be proud of that.  And if the bot hadn't deflated the hopes of the fans of Janet, and Cheap Trick, and all the others, I'm convinced that you wouldn't, and probably still won't, give up your tenacity in voting for Chicago to ensure that lead.

But wouldn't you rather win honestly?  Sure it's only vote out of eight hundred or so in the end, but don't you still want it honestly cast?  If your answer is "Who cares?" or "Whatever." or anything other than "Yes.", you have no grounds to question the integrity or the credibility of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, because you have no more than you accuse them of having.  For the sake of integrity, I hope the IT people at the Foundation are able to determine (possibly by IP traces) just how many votes came from the bot and are thrown out.  Barring that, and given the voting patterns with the rest of the ballot results, I think once the polls are closed, they should start by automatically subtracting twenty-two million votes from each of the top five (I suspect the actual number is closer to twenty-three and a half million, but I'll compromise) and determine the top five from there.  Chicago will still be in the lead, but we'll undoubtedly have a true reflection of how actual people are voting.

Let us now paraphrase the words of wisdom from the Hues Corportation.  Rock on with your bad self.  Rock the vote, baby.  But don't tip the vote over.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Alright already: the 2016 ballot

The 2016 ballot has been announced, and everyone's weighing in with their thoughts about it, so it's kind of expected that I do the same.

Except, everyone's already said everything I've wanted to say.  Or if they haven't, I've kind of already said most of my initial reactions on Future Rock Legends.  So, forgive me if I'm parroting a bit too much here.  Hopefully, there will be some original content too.

First off, I went 6 for 15 again.  I predicted I would.  I suppose this is what's muting the enthusiasm for me, somewhat: that I stink so badly at predicting the ballot.  While I wasn't the only one who got only six, I don't think anyone correctly guessed fewer than that.  Also, I suppose I'm kind of bummed that there are really only one or two acts that I absolutely love.  There are many on here that I like, but not love.  So that's something, I guess.

Second, a lot of people, including me, were correct in our prediction that the Nominating Committee downsizing would all but eliminate any acknowledgment of the '60's.  Some of the acts were recording in the '60's, but none of them peaked any sooner than the '70's.  That said, a lot of folks got their hopes up that the 80's would dominate this time around.  Nope.  Guess again.

As far as the actual artists themselves go, the first thing I thought was, "What the hell are the J.B.'s doing on the ballot?  They're just going to be inducted in the Award For Musical Excellence category anyway!"  Now, no one's saying the J.B.'s aren't an interesting and worthy call; however, I believe literally everybody who knows the rudimentary aspects of the Hall, and has any knowledge of its side door shenanigans has already predicted that they will be inducted in the Award For Musical Excellence category.  It used to be known as the Sideman category, and it's widely considered the more appropriate place to put them, acknowledging all reality, including that their name comes from the fact that they were the backing band for one famous singer with the initials "JB."  It's just too on the nose to think they'll be inducted in any other capacity.  That said, fans of the Godfather Of Soul can rest easy seeing their name on the ballot, knowing that they'll most likely be inducted next year.

I suppose the next artist I should comment on is Los Lobos, mainly to say this is a band I need to get more familiar with before I say too much more about.  What I will say for now, is that the general impression I get is they're a niche band.  As far as niche bands go, the top of that list appears to be Big Star, who appear to have a bigger fan base, just not in the powerful positions.  Los Lobos, on the other hand has a smaller fan base, which in a weird way, makes them even more niche.  So, I'll just let you all wrap your minds around that one.

No real thoughts on the returns of Nine Inch Nails, N.W.A. or Chic, other than to say, "Yup."

As for the return of the Spinners, I'm pretty happy.  The Spinners had some awesome jams and I love smooth Philly soul.  I do worry about their chances though.  They don't appear to be a major priority for any one voter who isn't a NomCom member, but they could sneak through.

As for the Smiths, I too was taken aback by the fact that the NomCom hadn't given up on them as they did the Cure and the Replacements in previous years.  Glad they're back, though.  Thoroughly enjoy their music too.

As for Chaka Khan, my first thought is, "Thanks for the tip ?uestlove!"  If he hadn't posted that, I probably would have predicted Janet Jackson, not knowing I'd be right either way.  I'd love to see both inducted, but I doubt that'll happen.  Janet's got the bigger name power, and the bigger potential to dominate.  Still, I feel pretty awesome that I was the only person I can think of offhand who predicted JUST Chaka Khan, and not Rufus as a whole.

So the running motif of my predictions was "pick the act you hate."  That paid off exactly once: Yes has returned to the ballot.  I'm not a prog fan, but if this is the act they want to put in now, then it's better to get that over with, too.  While I did predict Deep Purple, I don't hate them, though I'm not a big fan either.

But those eleven acts are not the reason people are so abuzz or happy, though the last two are a big hint as to the reason.  The nominations for the Cars, Cheap Trick, Chicago, and Steve Miller are what really have people stoked.  All four have been previously considered, and all four are considered longtime snubs by the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  First off, Chicago are juggernauts of the populist scene.  They are the biggest albums act on the ballot, and the second biggest singles act (second to Janet Jackson).  With a lengthy career that still has a thready pulse to this day, they're an act the Hall had long tried to ignore but could no longer.  The Cars on the surface don't seem like a huge snub, or at least, not uncharacteristic of the Hall: the Hall has long dragged their feet on 80's acts with at least as much underground cred as mainstream, acts that feature some heavy synth elements, and new wave in general.  Still, they are an act that is popular with the general populace, respected by critics, and influential to fellow artists.  So, overall, it does seem a bit odd that it's only now they're being nominated.  Conversely, the nomination of Cheap Trick really is more of a surprise that it happened, than it is that it's taken so long.  They really don't seem to be any more special or deserving than acts like Journey, Styx, Foreigner, etc.  So why them?  Well, why not?  If you're going to clear out the backlog of classic rock acts, and Cheap Trick is part of the backlog, then logically at some point, they'll have to be cleared out too.  Doesn't really matter when.  As for Steve Miller, the waters surrounding his nomination are already getting murky, mainly because the members of the Band behind him have been excluded.  There's also been some tittering about how while he's produced some amazing music, he's also created some of the most atrocious.  It's ultimately a matter of not knowing what to think.

However, put those four acts together, and you quickly understand the excitement.  With these four, and Deep Purple and Yes as well, you've got a real chance to turn this into the Classic Rock Hall Of Fame.  At least this year.  Which sets the stage for it to happen again.  And again.  I said it casually, and I'll say it again here: when the Hall finally inducts Chic against the voting bloc's will, they could very possibly be the last non-rap R&B act inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  After that, guitars, guitars, guitars.  I really hope that doesn't happen, and to that end, even though I like all four of those newly nominated classic rock acts, I hope they don't all get through this time.  I'd like to see at least three of the R&B acts get in, just so I can have some reason to maintain some semblance of hope in the Hall.  (Then again, I'd also like to see a class of nine or ten Performer inductees, but we know that ain't happening either.)

So there are my early impressions of this ballot.  A lot of people are particularly stoked this time around.  As for me, "stoked" really only applies to the Hall of the early days.  I doubt I'll ever see a ballot of fifteen names that are both quite deserving and also in my collection because I love them.  This ballot, however, ain't too shabby, and that's good enough for me.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Official Nominee Prediction: 2016

September.... when kids go back to school and there's that nip in the air, that the Nominating Committee is soon to meet and decide what the ballot for next year's Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame class will be.  And for some reason, we enjoy trying to predict which names will be on the ballot.  I don't entirely get it either, but I enjoy it.  Maybe it's because it's harder to predict  the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's nominees than it is to predict Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, or Tony nominees.  Maybe it has to do with the downsizing of the number of members on the NomCom.  That certainly will make things much harder to figure out, because the patterns that we look for may no longer be all that trustworthy.  Whatever it is, here we go again.

As I read the predictions of other people, I feel like a lot of the left field picks and seeming fillers are mainly driven by hope against hope.  I'm actually going to try to go in the other direction as much as possible.  In recent years, there haven't been too many acts on the ballot that I absolutely love.  Sure, last year we got Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble and the Spinners, but the point is, the majority of the ballot is comprised of artists I'm lukewarm to or just don't like.  Not that I'm complaining too loudly, though--most of my favorite acts have already been inducted.  Still, I feel like where there are gaps to fill, I need to make sure I'm filling them with acts I can either take or leave or would actually prefer not to see at all.  With that happy thought to help us fly off to Neverland, it's time to predict the nominees for the Class of 2016.

First off, the no-brainers.  Chic will be back, because the higher-ups at the Foundation will not be ignored in their love for Nile Rodgers.  I've said this before, but at some point, they're just going to decide that it doesn't matter where Chic finished in the votes, and induct them anyway, even if they also have to induct every act that got more votes than Chic, which means, we could be looking at a class with 15 Performer inductees.  I'm also speculating that Nile Rodgers will finally retire when Chic is inducted and he no longer has to keep the name recognition up.

Next, another act that was guaranteed to reappear even without any new mojo working for them, N.W.A. will certainly return.  Between the biopic Straight Outta Compton, the new work from Dr. Dre coming out, and the tidal wave of big name rappers becoming eligible starting next year, the pressure will be overpowering to get these guys inducted.

But rap isn't the only part of the rock 'n' roll spectrum with that tidal wave about to crash.  Next year, Pearl Jam becomes eligible, which means all the acts that were influenced by Nirvana, Green Day, and Pearl Jam will subsequently follow in the coming years.  So, with that in mind, it's probably a safe bet that Nine Inch Nails will come back for a second nomination.

The past two years, there has been a clear enough favorite among the newly eligible artists to predict which would be nominated.  This year, not so easy.  It is however, pretty widely held that only one of two will make the ballot.  One is Alice In Chains, with a strong fanbase and solid music to back it up.  The other is Smashing Pumpkins, which with the bolded name, means that I'm predicting them.  Their music is accessible enough to the older members of the NomCom, and Billy Corgan is that kind of cantankerous enigma that is often attributed to genius.  Not the Kurt Cobain tier of genius though... more like Axl Rose.

Next up we come to what is horrifyingly yet accurately described as the Death Fairy pick.  A major star dies since the last nominations were announced and now the push to induct that person posthumously is on.  And the Grim Reaper has been busy this year.  A lot of people think that along with the NomCom's habit of bringing back seemingly forgotten past nominees, the token early '60's salute, and the nod to soul, Ben E. King is fated to be nominated again.  But I don't think so.  I would be thrilled to the moon if they picked Lesley Gore, but I'm not putting her name in bold either.  Re-reading what I wrote near the top, time to go dystopian.  When in doubt, pick the act you hate.  So, and with the hype kicked up by people like Billy Joel, I'm betting Joe Cocker will be put on the ballot this year.  I really don't want to predict him, but it's probably going to happen.  And hey, now that Linda Ronstadt and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts are in, we need another cover artist on the ballot, and Cocker just fits the bill. And let's make it a two-fer.  A key member of Yes passed away this year, and I don't like prog all that much.  Plus they were nominated two years ago, so they're due to return.

Speaking of due to return, the classic rockists will be thrilled to see Deep Purple return to the ballot.  As far as I know, Tom Morello is still on the NomCom, and if he was so impassioned to push for KISS, I can't see him turning a blind eye to Deep Purple, who will likely be the runaway favorite on the fan ballot if they are nominated.  Another recent addition to the NomCom is ?uestlove.  Up until now, I was skeptical, but optimistic that the Induct Janet campaign would finally succeed in getting Janet Jackson on the ballot.  But with the recent tweet from ?uestlove, I now no longer hold that belief.  While they could both be nominated, I really doubt they'll want to divide the ballot between Janet Jackson and Chaka Khan.  Two R&B divas on the same ballot just won't happen, I don't think.  So while Janet's more deserving in my opinion, ?uestlove has shown his cards and will be pushing for the former Rufus frontlady.  And no, I don't believe it'll be another nomination for Rufus with Chaka Khan.  And I hope they don't.  That mess was bad enough with the (Small) Faces, but then again, the Hall seems to thrive on controversy these days, so who knows?

As for '80s alternative, a name has found its way onto the ballot each year, not gotten in, and didn't return the next year.  So, out with the Smiths, and in with Pixies, whose names were to be found on the updated list of "Previously Considered" artists on the Future Rock Legends site.  My initial gut reaction says to go with Sonic Youth, and the new memoir from Kim Gordon seems to insist on that push,  But if being part of "Hervana" wasn't enough last year, will a memoir be enough this year?  Possibly.  Maybe they just wanted to focus on Joan Jett And The Blackhearts last year and so had to nix Sonic Youth.  But I'm going back to my rule of picking the act I don't like, and I like Sonic Youth more than Pixies, so it means Pixies are more likely to be nominated.  However, since I'm making this up as I type it, I may also add Sonic Youth if I find myself at fourteen names, and don't feel like going to left field.

Circling back to Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, let's pick another name recently associated with her.  Despite the recent purge of the NomCom, there actually might still be a '60's act on there.  And as Jett, and Green Day, and others have shown in past years, the Hall loves those that love the Hall.  A token sign of respect may prove sufficient to get Tommy James And The Shondells on the ballot..  As a side note, I would find the juxtaposition of Tommy James And The Shondells and Joe Cocker on the same ballot to be hilarious: an act that was extremely well-known at the time that turned down the chance to perform at Woodstock because their manager dissuaded them, and a singer that the world only knows and cares about because he appeared at Woodstock.  Anyway, at first, I wasn't sold on James and company, and still am not entirely, especially with the purge of NomCom members this past year.  Still, it fits the ass-kissing motif that threads its way through this annual event.  So would the nomination of the J. Geils Band, who is a known favorite of Master In This Hall, Jann S. Wenner,  The combination of Peter Wolf inducting the Paul Butterfield Blues Band this year, the fact that the Paul Butterfield Blues Band were also another big favorite of Jann S. Wenner, and the general trend to acknowledge the blues as part of rock 'n' roll, it just seems too likely to ignore Jerome and the gang.

Along with the blues, there's usually an effort to acknowledge soul and singer/songwriters.  Last year, the Hall killed two birds with one stone by nominating Bill Withers.  I actually have a sneaky suspicion, they'll try to do this again.  Happenings at the museum should not always be ignored either, and this year saw the unveiling of the exhibit highlighting the clash of the worlds of rock 'n' roll and politics.  The Hall has always loved politically charged acts, so between soul, singer/songwriters, and sticking it to the man, there's a gnawing suspicion that the name of Gil Scott-Heron could stun a few people.  Granted, Scott-Heron is known most for his slammin' poetry, and when I went looking for his albums, I found them in the jazz section of the music shop, but he did a lot of singing, and there're a lot of elements of soul and funk in his songs.  So, I'm betting the NomCom will throw his name on the ballot and call it good enough when representing soul music.  Also, like Pixies, Gil Scott-Heron is one of the twenty-five new names added to the Previously Considered list.

My next pick may seem a bit askew, but it's not too far out to be left field... maybe deep at third.  For starters, I'm not totally convinced anymore that Kraftwerk will return.  Second, the NomCom purge could mean more '80's acts making the ballot and into the Hall.  Third, there will probably be some representation, besides Chic for danceable pop music.  Lastly, I turn to an old bit by fellow monitor Lax, who for a couple years used to drive others crazy with his assertions whom he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt would be inducted this year.  The thing is, his dream class wasn't a bad class, just the unfounded confidence that it would happen.  That ire has since been re-appropriated towards another member who does much the same thing, but I digress.  Of Lax's dream class, three have been inducted: Peter Gabriel, Donna Summer, and Cat Stevens.  I can't remember who the fifth was, and may have been an arbitrary fifth member, but all things put together, it wouldn't be a huge stretch to predict the Eurythmics.  So I will.  Two slots left, and I'm tapped.  Let's hedge our bets a little.  As promised, I'll predict Sonic Youth after all, and we'll also throw in War, a good nominee any year, but always struggles to rise to the top of the conversation.

There you go, my fifteen selections.  To recap, in alphabetical order:

-Joe Cocker
-Deep Purple
-the Eurythmics
-the J. Geils Band
-Tommy James And The Shondells
-Chaka Khan
-Nine Inch Nails
-Gil Scott-Heron
-Smashing Pumpkins
-Sonic Youth

Compared to the mid-season report, my opinion has shifted on the greater half of my choices, which is actually pretty significant.  In the past, I've been lucky if I got six nominees correct, and that'll probably be the case again.  Let's wait and see.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mid-season 2015

Falling behind more and more, but this is just a quick little mid-season check.

Honestly, I think they should just take the remnants of this ballot, and call it a nine-act ballot, and let's induct at least another six.  You'd get a solid class out of that, even if Sting was one of those six.  I don't like Kraftwerk, or Nine Inch Nails, and not a huge fan of N.W.A., but they all deserve induction.  Chic is a dead weight that we need to jettison, and induction's the only way that's gonna happen.  And I both like and believe in the merits of the Marvelettes, the Spinners, the Smiths, and War,  Any six of those nine, and you've got another decent class.

Regardless, that doesn't mean any of them are going to make the ballot later this year.  It's a pretty good guess that both N.W.A. and Chic will be back.  I'm gonna stretch a hair and say that both Kraftwerk and the Marvelettes will return as well.

The upcoming crop of newly eligible acts has some people clamoring, but I really don't know if any of them will appear.  Everyone is calling Alice In Chains and Smashing Pumpkins locks to be nominated.  I'm not sold on either one.  And if Janet and Whitney are still not in, then Mariah Carey's not gonna be nominated anytime soon either.  So all that, in my opinion, gives Nine Inch Nails another nod, and I doubt they miss twice.

The Death Fairy's been busy recently, and while Joe Cocker is a favorite among fellow Monitors and some members of the powers-that-be, I think he'll get passed by.  Lesley Gore is certainly high profile, but my faith in her ever getting the induction she deserves has diminished.  Still, I think a recent, high profile death will yield a nominee, and at present, it looks to be Ben E. King.  The Hall enjoys adding members to the Clyde McPhatter Club, and Ben E. would be a great addition, even if he hasn't been nominated in almost 30 years.

Six names picked and they're all repeats.  Any new names?  Yes, I think the NomCom will repeat the habit of scrapping an '80s alternative act when they fail to get in and replacing it with another one.  This time around, instead of the Smiths, we'll probably get Sonic Youth.  Also, Despite not being on the ballot last year, I'm still going by ?uestlove Gomez's shirts and say at some point we will see the Average White Band nominated.  And on the rap front, we may see Toure sneak a second act on the ballot, possibly De La Soul.  With Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble inducted at last, and with the queue cleared by getting the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in, the blues and blues-rock field is wide open.  Pretty good chances that Johnny Winter is next in line there.  With David Letterman retiring soon, he made his plea, particularly to bandleader Paul Shaffer, to try and get Warren Zevon into the Hall at last, so maybe his request will be honored.  There is certainly no shortage of people who agree with David on that one.  And while the Marvelettes and also Chic represent the female gender, perhaps they'll try to add another member of the feminine persuasion to the ballot.  Perhaps with Joan Jett in, it's time for Pat Benatar to get her due.

Let's throw three more repeats in to top it off.  Deep Purple, Yes, and the J. Geils Band to all return, to placate the classic rock crowd.

Off the top, off the cuff.  Something to do while waiting for the ceremonies to air.

Monday, April 20, 2015

I hate these blurred lines.

There are several reasons why I'm slow to start a new post: busy work schedule, difficult to get started, jumbled thoughts that I'm having trouble organizing, general laziness.  In this case, all of the above, with two new stitches: desktop computer gone kaput, and medical issues.  All that to say, sorry I didn't get this one up sooner.

In the previous entry, I lamented the pigeonholing of Ringo Starr in the Award For Musical Excellence category.  You may have also missed that I similarly lamented the induction of the "5" Royales in the Early Influence category.  However, the "5" Royales are only the most recent, and not even the most blatantly wrong example, of an act that should have been inducted in the Performer category, only to get the side door induction of the Early Influence category.  Other fairly recent and more unpopular inductees in this category have been Wanda Jackson (in 2009) and Freddie King (in 2012).

In all fairness, while also perhaps most damning, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has always had a little bit of a problem with the line between the Performer and Early Influence categories.  On the Rock Hall website, before they changed the layout, the timeline for 1986 Early Influence inductee Jimmie Rodgers included the charting of songs "Honeycomb" and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine."  Not good.  And the next year, the induction of Big Joe Turner was in the Performer category, but the Top Pop Singles books from Joel Whitburn always include a special notation of "Blues pioneer" next to his induction as a Performer.  Next, look at the 1990 class on the Rock Hall's website right now.  Click on the link for Charlie Christian.  A guitarist for the Benny Goodman orchestra until his death in 1942, he's listed on the Rock Hall's website as a "Performer" inductee, which is just plain factually inaccurate.  However, as bad as those examples are, and as bad as the side door inductees of Wanda Jackson and Freddie King were, perhaps no class decries the lack of clarity more so than the Class Of 1991.  Indeed, fellow monitors, as I have also done, have scratched their heads wondering how John Lee Hooker, a blues musician whose career began in the '40s, who recorded most of his discography in the '40s, including his most innovative and influential recordings, gets inducted as a Performer; while Howlin' Wolf, a bluesman whose first recordings were in the early '50s, whose signature songs were in the mid-to-late '50s, gets inducted as an Early Influence.  To add further confusion to that mound, nominated for that same class as a Performer, but didn't make it, was blues guitarist Elmore James, whom you might recognize as an inductee in 1992, in the Early Influence category!  Why Performer one year and Early Influence the next is a baffling question that only came to a head when people started asking why Wanda Jackson was nominated as a Performer but inducted as an Early Influence.  Add to that Pete Seeger's illustrious solo career, despite beginning in 1954, meriting Early Influence status, though there it's much more obvious that this is simply the worst, yet-to-be-corrected case of Front Man Fever.

So the Hall has a clear and established record of fudging with this category.  Why only in the past ten years have people started calling attention to it?  I suspect a good deal has to do with the Internet making things easier to track and discuss, but part of it also may be the confusion in drawing lines of distinction in what's rock and roll and what isn't, and that it wasn't until the induction of Wanda Jackson as an Early Influence in a class where she'd been nominated as a Performer that people perked up and noticed those very circumstances and started to cry foul.  It certainly has been no help that the Hall had been mired in murmurs in previous years: Miles Davis inducted as a Performer in 2006, even though the man himself denied being anything other than jazz--not even jazz fusion (and that his career as a billed artist began in the '40s); the accusations of ballot tampering in 2007 leading to Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five getting in instead of the Dave Clark Five (or both together); and the coincidental induction of the Dave Clark Five the next year.

But what I suspect made Wanda's situation different was that not only was she unquestionably rockabilly in the beginning, only to go full country later on, but that she was initially under the wing of none other than Elvis Presley himself.  Practically being the protege of the King should most likely result in disqualification from being called "Early Influence."  Take that however you wish, it's really intended more as a timeline than anything else.  Needless to say this only made things more confusing with Freddie King's induction in 2012, especially given that Freddie's first release wasn't until the late '50s, and that fellow bluesman Buddy Guy was a Performer in 2005, while another fellow bluesman Albert King was inducted as a Performer a year after Freddie got the side door treatment.  While Freddie was more blues than blues rock, he was no less rock than Buddy or Albert, and it still seemed bad form to shoehorn him in as an Early Influence when he also had been on the ballot for Performer.

Which brings us to the "5" Royales.  What to do?  In all fairness, there's a solid argument to be made for Early Influence.  Steady releases beginning in 1952, which most music historians call "pre-rock", certainly helps; however, perhaps most favorable for the Hall is the fact that if you listen to their records, their sound is much more primitive or "proto" as an R&B styling than it is the well-known version we got from Performer inductees like the Flamingos, the Moonglows, the Platters, and even the first incarnation of the Drifters.   It's a fair evaluation to say their sound was rawer than the sounds that really reached out across racial barriers, from acts less likely to be inducted such as the Five Satins, the Harptones, and even the Five Keys.

However, there is also sufficient cause to say they should have been a Performer inductee, namely that they were nominated twice for that honor in the past.  As with Elmore James, we are left asking why they were Performer then and an Early Influence now.  Even worse, vocal R&B, aka doo-wop, is that territory that most music historians would also recognize as rock and roll at its most basic and earliest.  So now you're breaking up a stone that is critical to the foundation of rock and roll.  Is it really smart to go down that road?  How will they handle this in the future?  It's all but certain that if the Clovers are ever inducted, it will also be as an Early Influence.  But what about acts like the aforementioned Five Keys, Five Satins, and Harptones?  Some would argue that I'm putting the cart way before the horse, as it is unlikely those acts will ever be nominated, let alone inducted; however, not only have all three been Previously Considered, it's an important question to ask because the slope is already getting a little slippery to keep credibility intact (and even then some would say that ship has sailed).  They've already hammered at other stones, like rockabilly with Wanda Jackson.  What if they decide they owe something to lesser-known-but-still-important '50s guitar hero and rock outfit Buddy Knox And The Rhythm Orchids?  What if they want to induct Chubby Checker as an Early Influence because he was an early precursor to EDM?  Or Lesley Gore for being an original standout figure that paved the way for "riot grrls" like Joan Jett?

This is why I oppose fellow monitors who suggest the "movable timeline," that Early Influence is best applied to those who predate, but helped laid the groundwork for major patches of musical mini-epochs.  By that logic, the MC5 are a prime candidate for Early Influence induction for predating, but heavily influencing punk.  It's ridiculous: rock 'n' roll music is constantly evolving, and everything that is current is potentially significant in its pre-dating of something to come.  That doesn't make what we have now, "not rock."  And that's the latent effect you're ultimately having when you call a musician or group "Early Influence" instead of "Performer."  You are decidedly declaring it as "not rock 'n' roll."  I've already dealt with people in real life who think that REAL rock 'n' roll didn't exist until the Beatles came along or until Bob Dylan plugged in, or think that if it ain't hard or metal, it ain't rock.  And every once in awhile some chucklehead will spew ignorance stating that soul, reggae, and rap have nothing to do with rock 'n' roll.

This is why I can only be marginally happy for the "5" Royales when they get inducted as an Early Influence, instead of Performer.  Or Wanda Jackson.  Or Freddie King.  (Or Ringo Starr as AME, but that was last entry.)  When you get an award, it's supposed to mean something.  But when you play the game the way the Hall is doing it now, it becomes less meaningful.  Its integrity is compromised.  It's why I'm infuriated when the inductees or surviving family members (and fellow non-affiliated fans and even fellow Monitors) are so gracious about induction.  It pains me to know that they're not getting their full or proper due.  I'm told I should just be thankful that they ARE getting official recognition in some capacity.  But I'm not.  I can't be.  Earning the award you're given within its proper parameters is rewarding.  This is a pity induction, and it shouldn't happen this way.  Do it right, or don't do it at all.

I won't go so far as to say the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Foundation owes it to us to get it right.  No, but they DO owe it to the inductees, the inductees' surviving families and loved ones, history itself, and even to themselves, for their own credibility's sake.  Having rabid fans howl about their favorite acts getting snubbed is one matter.  They're like the fans at a football stadium cheering their favorite teams.  By claiming to have guidelines and categorizations for inductees, the Foundation sets themselves up as refs, so to speak.  And I won't even go into the mess you get when, by that analogy, Jann S. Wenner is posturing himself as rock 'n' roll's Roger Goodell.  Nope, not gonna go there.  I'll let Tom Lane do that.  The point is, we as fans hate bad calls, and that the Foundation owes it to the players (of instruments, including voice) to make the correct calls, for the good of the game (music history).  When they can't do that right, the whole league suffers, especially when a quick peek at Future Rock Legends' Revisited & Projected project shows a plethora of worthy candidates for Early Influences still not inducted into the actual Hall, including but not limited to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Ella Fitzgerald, the Mills Brothers, the Carter Family, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and the Four Freshmen.

So let's make a point to be more consistent, shall we?  Maybe a rule that says once they've been nominated for Performer, they can never be inducted as an Early Influence?  That sounds like a pretty reasonable idea to me.  As is, the Rock Hall loses esteem for every year they continue to make the distinctions even blurrier.

And to quote Robin Thicke, I hate these blurred lines.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Anything worth doing is worth doing ri--oh, nevermind

After a hectic holiday season, I now finally have time to sit down and post more fully my thoughts on our Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Class Of 2015.  I fleshed out a few comments on the Future Rock Legends site, and I will be quoting my entries there.  Also, while I’m not prone to ranting, it is accurate to say that this is one dissatisfied customer.

First, the Performer inductees.  Let’s face it, everyone knew and predicted Green Day to make it.  Hardly the most deserving, but hardly the least either.  So, we can just shrug our shoulders and say, “No surprises there.”  Pretty much the same deal with Lou Reed, whose death cemented his spot in the Hall for the second time.  Things are bit happier with Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble both in the fact that Stevie’s FINALLY getting his just due, and that they are indeed including his band with him.  I’m thrilled about this one.  This band has been the biggest omission from the Hall, in my opinion, ever since they became eligible.  Bill Withers is a name that kind of sneaked up on me.  When his name was first bandied about, I was rather surprised.  I don’t dislike his music, but I’m not a huge fan either.  That’s still my feeling on his music.  However, ever since his name first appeared on the nominees list, there was a murmuring within that he would make the cut.  So I predicted him, as well.  Four for six on my predictions.  Originally, I was planning on predicting Joan Jett And The Blackhearts due to Jett’s appearance in last year’s ceremonies, but thought Sting would be much more likely.  She and her band are pretty low in my opinion (and several others’ as well) as far as deserving the honors, but I love “School Days”, “You Drive Me Wild”, “Fake Friends”, “Androgynous”, and of course, “I Love Rock N’ Roll” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You”.  But I have to point out, how deserving is someone if they do a cover of “Love Is All Around”?  And just to clarify, I don’t mean the proto-monster ballad from the Troggs, I mean the theme song from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  That’s right.  Well, Joan, you’re going to make it after all… into the Hall.  Congratulations.  Lastly, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, a band we knew was going to keep being nominated until they made it, had Jann S. Wenner’s support, but no one thought was anywhere near the most deserving, and few listed them among their favorites.  Well, there’s often one of those.  Not always, but often enough to the point where it’s fruitless to be sour about it.

But it’s not the Performers that made everyone sit up and take notice.  It was the other two inductees in this year’s class.  The less discussed of the two is the selection of The “5” Royales as Early Influence inductees.  Fellow Monitor Tom Lane posted his enthusiasm and willingly accepts this inductee.  But I must resoundingly disagree.  For reasons I hope to get into in another entry, I’m going to call this one a bad call.

But the bulk of the ire centers on the induction of Ringo Starr in the “Award For Musical Excellence” category.  The question everyone is asking, but for different reasons, is “Why?”  For some, it’s “Why even bother?”, for others, it’s “Why in this category and not nominated as a Performer down the road?”  This is the camp I fall squarely in.  I still feel very strongly that Ringo Starr is (note the present tense) worthy of induction as a Performer.  Another commenter on the FRL site, fellow Monitor Dezmond, essentially said that if Ringo were never in the Beatles, no one would be clamoring for his induction.  It’s an interesting hypothetical to postulate; however, it’s still one that I must disagree with.  Partially because I also still support the induction for artists like Gary U.S. Bonds, Freddy Cannon, Bobby Rydell, Tommy James And The Shondells, and the Turtles, to name a few.  But also because Ringo’s music just makes the grade.  At this point, I’d like to copy and paste two posts of mine from FRL that further expound my feelings about Ringo’s music.

“I do think Ringo deserves solo induction as a Performer. His 70's output were some of the most joyful, ebullient, rocking, rollicking, fun, and human records from that entire decade. Did it always push the envelope? No, but sometimes I think that doing so is overrated. He is just plain good rock'n'roll, and that should be honored for what it is. And with Joan Jett getting in this year, the ‘fun but safe’ slot would have been wide open for him. But hey, congrats on him being the first person inducted in two different categories. Maybe this will lead to a solo Carole King induction now.”


“Ringo Starr's solo career is still very much worthy. I stand by everything I said about his music in my previous post. In fact, the only detriment to the argument is that more artists haven't followed his lead. His solo music is generally the kind of joyful and life-affirming that the music world is dying of thirst for, amidst a salt-water ocean of lyrics of angst and abstract, and angry distortion pedals and intentional cacophony. We get that fresh water in small doses of fun like "Party Hard," "Girlfriend," and even the lesser "This Afternoon."

Ringo's music is real to me. More real than Green Day, supposedly the voice of my generation. The medicinal effect of music as expressed through ‘Oh My My’ and ‘A Dose Of Rock And Roll’, the yearning for a stranger in ‘Devil Woman’, the fatigue expressed in ‘You And Me’, the empathy regarding bad days in ‘Hopeless,’ the eagerness for Christmas day in ‘Come On Christmas,’ etc. In fact, one of the greatest quotes about the futility of regret, imo, comes from the Ringo Starr song, ‘Weight Of The World’: It all comes down to who you crucify/You either kiss the future or the past goodbye. It's a kind of realism that is excellent because it is common love and common sense and reaches everyone.

Ringo's music as a solo artist is very deserving.”

Regarding the last sentence of the previous full paragraph, I would also remind the reader of what I said in my merits’ rankings of the nominees, in favor of Bill Withers under Intangibles:

“Idealists will describe rock and roll music as a musical genre that at its finest, breaks down borders, shatters barriers, bridges the widest chasms, and unifies people on a fundamental level that is indisputably and universally human.  If ‘Lean On Me’ doesn’t fit the bill here, what song does?  In this regard, ‘Lean On Me’ belongs in the same discussion as ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ and ‘All You Need Is Love.’  More than any nominee on this ballot, Bill Withers reached this ideal with at least one of his songs.”

While no single song by Ringo Starr as a soloist attained this goal quite the way “Lean On Me” does, this is the very essence of what Ringo Starr’s solo music is about: singing about the places where we’ve all been.  The late Dick Clark listed this as one of the things that made Ray Charles such a genius.  It’s part of why we venerate Smokey Robinson as a songwriter, and it’s why Ringo’s music is unquestionably excellent.  And quite honestly, we could use a few more artists whose credentials are simply that, fuck the holy twins of innovation of influence.

But hey, the category is called “Award For Musical Excellence”, right?  Shouldn’t I be jubilant about it then?  And the answer is still no.  It’s still no because we still haven’t gotten any real good explanation about this category.  There are still those who imagine this category as a simple renaming of the Sideman category, much as the Non-Performer category was re-dubbed the “Ahmet  Ertegun Award”.  Well, Ringo did do some session work in the ‘70s, mainly for his friends, but honestly, a sideman?  No.  Just no.  Besides which, what about the three engineers from 2012, or the E Street Band who weren’t studio musicians for hire, but a coherent unit that worked and traveled together with Bruce Springsteen?  It’s a haze that is very uncomfortable on its own, but with Ringo Starr this year, it’s even more so. 

How about a renaming of “Lifetime Achievement”?  Okay…but again, really?  “Lifetime Achievement” inductees, pre-2004 at least, were used to mark a higher esteem for those inductees than would normally befit an inductee for that category, which in this case was entirely Non-Performers.  Does the E Street Band deserve higher esteem than the Boss?  And as much as I love Ringo’s work as a soloist, he isn’t as deserving as Lennon, McCartney, or Harrison as soloists, or the Beatles as a whole, though still more deserving than maybe a third of the names we had on this year’s ballot.  So that answer doesn’t satisfy either.

The galling alternative conclusion is that the “Award For Musical Excellence” category is (becoming) the “Because we fucking say so, that’s why, dammit!” category.  And if that’s the case, then why have categories, or even a ballot at all?  It is also not a good answer, but it’s much more probable than the other two.  And in hindsight, it may even appear that Sting was the guinea pig this year.  If they couldn’t get Sting in this year as a Performer, then the outcome wouldn’t have been good for Ringo Starr either.

Back in 2011, when the Small Faces/Faces joint nomination got everyone tittering, I emailed one of the NomCom members for some explanation as to why they were nominated jointly and not separately.  This member replied saying two things about it.  The second thing said was this: “I always think of the Faces as two bands with a continuous history somehow--that is, I always think of the Faces as Mac, Ronnie, and Kenney working with...whomever they work with.”  A reply, no doubt to send into a tizzy those who feel Steve Marriott was the end-all be-all of British music.  But even more telling was what this member said first about it: “What do you figure the odds are that, having chosen one group or the other, we would succeed in getting both in within the lifetime of the currently living band members. I know my estimation of that likelihood.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take my honors while living over posthumously any day, but when I read that then, I wanted to immediately reply, “Let me ask you in return, which is important: inducting them while they are still alive, or inducting them correctly?”  Keep in mind, that at that time, I still believed that the joint nomination was justifiable.  (To some degree, I still do, but not the way the Hall went about doing it and justifying it.)  Clearly, the NomCom knew which they felt was more important, and still seems to believe, apparently. 

And unfortunately, this is the angle people by and large will take anyway.  In his Twitter feed, Ringo Starr himself has said nothing negative about his being inducted in this manner, only that he’s grateful it happened.  The kin of the members the “5” Royales don’t care that the Foundation is playing fast and loose with historical benchmarks and definitions.  They’re just glad their loved ones’ legacies are honored in some capacity.  Ringo and the loved ones of the "5" Royales are happy, so in the eyes of all the higher-ups at the Foundation, people like me who are not directly affected by this but are still upset are in the same league as comic book devotees who throw a tantrum over having a black Nick Fury in Marvel’s The Avengers, minus the accusations of racism.

To which, I say, “Up yours.”  In the various jobs I’ve had over the years, I’ve repeatedly encountered corporate buzz talk designed to motivate workers to follow procedures to the letter, no matter how ridiculous.  Among those, one currently stands out as a sentiment I wish to impress upon the people at the Foundation—if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you find time to do it over/again?  The seeming string of inconsistencies may be partly due to the change in memberships in power positions, but the duty to be consistent is mandatory, no matter the entity.  Change can, will, and should happen, but core concepts should remain immutable. 

In my opinion, this class has eight outstanding Performer inductees, and no inductees in any other category (side note: shame on you for passing on Bob Crewe again).  But that’s not gonna change anything.  All I can say is, if getting them in while alive if possible is of that paramount importance, why are the classes so small?  This is the first year in a long time that we actually have fewer past nominees still not inducted—but ONLY because they chose to call the “5” Royales “Early Influences”.  Otherwise, we’d still have the same number, and most years, that list keeps growing, but not as rapidly as the list of worthy candidates that haven’t even been nominated.  I’m not a politician, and we’re not talking about education here.  Bigger class sizes are a good thing; they will go a long way in solving these problems.  Don’t worry about the television special when you’re in that room setting confines.  You can cross that bridge when you get to it.  For now, just focus on doing it right.  This is not doing it right. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Official Predictions For 2015

After much procrastinating, it is now time to post predictions, seed the nominees, and prepare to be drastically wrong.  Without further ado, my predictions for the Class Of 2015.

1. Green Day
Pop-punk band largely popular in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Newly eligible.
Why they might make it: They were one of the three major names that helped alternative break through the glass ceiling, all while also enjoying a run of commercial success.  Additionally, they are well-connected with the powers-that-be at the Foundation, and pretty much everyone agrees they are going to get in.
Why they might not: Despite the general consensus that they’re going to get in, there isn’t nearly the same consensus that they’re among the most deserving acts on the ballot.  If this feeling is widespread to enough members of the voting bloc, they might not make it.  Also, detractors of their music feel they can sum up Green Day’s entire ethos with the opening line from “Basket Case”: “Do you have the time to listen to me whine?”  For naysayers, Green Day is the music of spoiled, privileged millenials who don’t know what real hardships are.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Pearl Jam is on deck next year, and they’re just as assured of getting in as Green Day seems to be at first glance. 
Biggest threats: Nine Inch Nails is a huge threat to their chances, as is guitar driven blues outfit Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, with the Smiths in the mix as well.
In the end: Trust the connections.  Green Day has been there for the Hall a time or two, now the Hall’s going to be there for them.  Induction chances: 80%

2. Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble
Blues-rock outfit from the 80’s.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it: Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble has been one of the biggest names touted as criminal omissions from the Hall ever since they became eligible for the Class Of 2008.  Music lovers have been chomping at the bit to see these guys nominated.  At present, they rule the roost on the fan ballot, and as fellow monitor Donnie and others (including myself) have noted, ever since the implementation of the fan ballot, whoever tops the fan ballot has gotten inducted.  Not necessarily causation, but it really is eyebrow-raising correlation at present.
Why they might not: Initially, it was just Vaughan nominated, and Double Trouble was added later.  There might still be some confusion on this matter, and that could hurt.  Also, a hefty part of their catalog consisted of covers.
Whom they’d pave the way for: There are still a few blues-rock pioneers and blues greats still waiting in the wings.  Anyone ranging from Johnny Winter to Junior Wells could pass through the gate that Vaughan and company could open up.
Biggest threats: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band are the most direct competition, but modern guitar acts like Green Day and Nine Inch Nails might also be a factor.
In the end: As Chuck D reminded us, the blues gave birth to rock and roll, but rock and roll, and especially acts like Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble is why the world gave a damn about the blues again.  This should prove impossible to ignore.  Induction chances: 75%

3. N.W.A.
Pioneer gangsta rap group.  Third time nominee, seeded #5 for 2013 and #9 for 2014.
Why they might make it:  They’re pioneers. Straight Outta Compton is a landmark rap album, and their subsequent albums, though few, were also hugely successful.  They were pioneers of gangsta rap, which almost completely obsolesced the older style hip-hop of the original hip-hop pioneers, as gangsta became synonymous with rap for a good portion of the ‘90s.  Also, as the launching point for the solo careers of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and even MC Ren, and Yella, they could be considered rap’s first supergroup, or at the very least, the rap equivalent of the Yardbirds.
Why they might not:  Quick, ask someone who hates rap (or at least did in the ‘90s) why they hate(d) rap.  That laundry list that is their answer?  Most of that traces clearly back to N.W.A.  Even if they didn’t pioneer some of those aspects themselves, they did combine it all into a blend that is the main exhibit for hatred of rap: self-gratifying, gratuitous and prolific profanity; incredibly subversive lyrics that went beyond mere wake-up calls of socially conscious folk and rock, eschewing civil disobedience, opting instead for and glorifying bloody violence; self-aggrandizement that made “cockiness” look like “self-confidence”; plus the usual stock answers of how rap isn’t even music since what they’re doing doesn’t constitute singing.  And you don’t even have to be a stereotypical stuffy, White, conservative Christian to find that combination disturbing, or at the very least, inartistic.
Whom they’d pave the way for: The big ones are 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G., the martyrs and symbols of rap-gang warfare, but also rappers like Ice-T and Snoop Doggy Dogg, plus the solo careers of most of the members of N.W.A. themselves.
Biggest threats: There’s no other rap group on the ballot this time, so no direct threats, but the funk of War might take away from them.
In the end:  N.W.A. has been flying under the radar of most of the discussion this year.  Part of that has been due to omissions from the ballot, some of that has been arguing about ballot divisions.  But a lot of that has been people figuring without another rap act on the ballot, their chances are pretty good.  I’m inclined to agree.  Induction chances: 70%

4. Bill Withers
Soul singer/songwriter.  First-time nominee.
Why he might make it: The Hall loves singer/songwriters, and Withers fits the bill.  He’s clearly the pick of Nominating Committee member ?uestlove, and new members tend to get names in during their first couple years.  Lastly, Withers’ songs “Lean On Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” are two songs that have the stood the test of time the best out of possibly the collective catalog of the entire ballot (save, possibly, for the heavily sampled “Good Times” by Chic).
Why he might not: As mentioned in the initial reaction to the ballot, Withers isn't the kind of performer one immediately thinks of when the term "singer/songwriter" is bandied about.  Coupled with the fact that the Rock Hall has been rocky in its history of inducting soul music over the past decade, this adds an additional hurdle for Withers to clear.  To top it all off, Withers himself hasn't appeared to be all that excited about the prospect being inducted, and the Rock Hall generally prefers to induct those who want to be inducted.
Whom he’d pave the way for: Four-time flop Joe Tex may get another reconsideration if Withers can get in.  It may also help other soul greats like Billy Preston, Barry White, or Johnnie Taylor finally get recognized as well.
Biggest threats: War is every bit as funky as Withers and more beloved by the classic rock crowd.  Chic is the R&B pet project for the NomCom, and for soul, the Spinners are another, more commercially successful contender.
In the end: Admittedly, I was not on board with the bandwagon that thought Withers would get nominated.  Bill Withers hasn’t always gotten my vote on the fan ballot, but he may be able to quietly sneak through.  Induction chances: 60%

5. Lou Reed
Singer/songwriter, former lead singer of the Velvet Underground.  Third nomination, previously unseeded.
Why he might make it: Lou Reed is a figure that is widely respected as an artist and innovator.  His songs have been covered in a variety of venues, he’s been called the “godfather of punk,” the reverence for the Velvet Underground could be a factor, and the fact he died this past year could all serve to finally push him through.
Why he might not: How many solo Lou Reed songs can you name, not including his work with the Velvet Underground or live solo performances of same?  His legacy rather outshines his actual solo discography, and that’s a problem for an institution about unquestionable musical excellence.
Whom he’d pave the way for: This one’s almost a complete zilch, as Lou Reed was such a singular performer, that there’re few who could be called his ilk, and of those who’ve not yet been inducted, Warren Zevon may be the most likely candidate.
Biggest threats: Sting is his biggest threat, as he would also be a double inductee, and there might not be two of those.  For singer/songwriters, Bill Withers is the biggest obstacle.
In the end: The death fairy can indeed be kind to those whom the Hall loves.  In this case, I think the love will be there for Lou’s posthumous solo inclusion.  Induction chances: 55%

6. Sting
80’s solo artist, former leader of the Police.  First time nominee.
Why he might make it: Some of the power players at the Foundation are almost more interested in landing the big names to draw visitors to the museum in Cleveland than they are about the music, and Sting’s the biggest single name on this ballot.  His commercial success track record is pretty solid to boot.
Why he might not: There’s a pretty wide consensus among those who follow the Hall that Sting is nowhere near the most deserving…. In fact, he ranks dead last with a few people, including me.  Additionally, he may have had a lot of hits, but his biggest success has been in the Adult Contemporary charts, which is borderline anathema to the Hall.
Whom he’d pave the way for: A former band member with strong name recognition to be inducted for a solo career that many don’t feel is worthy?  As much as I feel he’s worthy, Ringo Starr seems to be the obvious punchline for that one. 
Biggest threats: Lou Reed is a strong threat for the doubly-inducted honor this year.  Green Day is the other candidate that lists very strongly for both hit singles and albums.
In the end: I originally wrote him off, and I really still want to, but in my previous blog about trends, Sting rated highly in the three currently prominent trends of being latter day, commercially successful, and serious name recognition.  That makes it very likely that he can overcome his weaknesses of being a solo soft rocker.  Well, maybe not so much “very likely” as “equally likely.”  Induction chances: 50%

7. Chic
R&B/disco group fronted by a crackerjack production team.  This is their ninth appearance on the ballot, not seeded their first two times, seeded dead last (#9) in 2007, #7 in 2008, #5 in 2010, #10 in 2011, #12 in 2013, and #2 in 2014.
Why they might make it: After last year’s disappointment, Nile Rodgers has been working hard to press the flesh and work the social media to get his case for his group more widely known.  Musically, their records were sampled far and wide back in the early days of hip-hop, so the influence factor is definitely in their favor.  From a musical standpoint, their bass and guitar lines are considered very tough to imitate or duplicate. The men in the group were all production geniuses.  Also, Nile Rodgers was on the Nominating Committee back when the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was first founded, so politically, this an attempt to repay the favor to him. .
Why they might not: As Chandler Bing might say, could the stars have aligned any harder for Chic than they did last year?  Last year was the most golden opportunity, the highest tide for Chic’s hopes for induction.  Daft Punk cleaned up at the Grammys thanks to Nile Rodgers handiwork on “Get Lucky.”  Additionally, there’s still the Chic Syndrome: solid instrumentation soured by laughable lyrics. Lastly, as has been the case in the past, disco isn’t popular with the voting bloc, or so it seems.
Whom they’d pave the way for: The love for Nile Rodgers won’t readily translate to love for disco.  The biggest likelihood is that the next two artists in the queue for those with most nominations but not in will probably be revisited, which means Joe Tex, and maybe even Chuck Willis.
Biggest threats: Chic has unexpectedly high competition on the ballot this year.  The Spinners as an R&B group have more popularity, as do fellow funksters War and Bill Withers.
In the end: The NomCom wants Nile in, and will get them in at some point.   Their direct competition is the stiffest that it’s been in awhile.  But with so many nominations, it’s a matter of time, making them this year’s upset special.  Induction chances: 49%

8. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts
Harder-rock-but-not-quite-metal band from the ‘80s.  Third-time nominee, seeded #13 in 2012 and dead last (#15) in 2013.
Why they might make it:  The biggest reason is probably Jett’s leading the tribute to Nirvana at this past year’s ceremonies (“Hervana”, as Krist Novoselic called it), singing lead on “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  Plus, they’re good time, fun rock and roll, and who doesn’t appreciate that?  And when an artist has an anthemic rock and roll song, the artist has a tendency to get recognized, and if they have a few hits aside of that, so much the better. 
Why they might not:  They made very little waves besides their one major hit, “I Love Rock ‘N Roll”, and what they did have was largely covers (including said major hit).  The Hall Of Fame usually prefers to honor originality.  Also, if you didn’t see Hervana live, but saw it on YouTube or HBO, Jett’s performance looked and sounded awful, even worse than her tribute to the Dave Clark Five in 2008.
Whom they’d pave the way for:  As well as the obvious Pat Benatar, they might also clear the path for more classic rock acts with just a few, but well-remembered songs.  Maybe Thin Lizzy or Blue Oyster Cult?  And it’s way too soon, but Jett may quite be the precedent for a future induction of P!nk.  Or even Jett’s previous band, the Runaways.
Their biggest threats: Green Day, Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, and Nine Inch Nails are all powerful rock acts that could split the ballot against Jett & Co.
In the end:  When, like last year, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame fails to induct a Black artist, accusations of institutional racism fly.  This year, we’re gonna hear all about the misogyny.  Induction chances: 45%

9. Nine Inch Nails
One-man, industrial rock group.  Newly eligible.
Why he/they might make it: Nine Inch Nails is the act that really helped bring industrial music to a wider audience, which means a lot with the Hall.  In fact, the act made Rolling Stone magazine’s list of Immortals, which practically guarantees eventual induction. 
Why he/they might not:  Industrial may have been brought to the mainstream, but it has never been fully embraced, not to the degree that grunge, rap, and alternative have been.  Its intentional cacophony makes it a difficult style to want to honor and enshrine.  This may be a problem.
Whom he/they would pave the way for: I’m not very knowledgeable of my industrial, so I have no clue.  If the members of Filter aren’t included with Trent Reznor, maybe the doors would be opened for them.
Biggest threats: Fellow newly eligible Green Day is their biggest roadblock, while Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts are also threats against Nine Inch Nails.
In the end: People are watching curiously to see if they pull off the upset and keep Green Day out, but I’m just not seeing it.  They’ll have to wait until 2017, because the Hall will be too busy inducting Pearl Jam for 2016.  Induction chances: 40%

10. The Spinners
Superstar Philly-soul vocal group from Detroit, Michigan.  Second-time nominee, seeded #3 in 2012.
Why they might make it: The Hall has been strongly populist in the past couple years, and the Spinners are the biggest singles act on this ballot.
Why they might not: Soul music, soul groups especially, have been very sporadic in their induction in the past decade.  It’s a disturbing trend that will hopefully be reversed soon, but for now, it’s bad news.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Classic soul is getting thinner and thinner, so maybe they’ll go for the few-hit, but highly-respected soul outfit Harold Melvin And The Bluenotes, or just lead singer Teddy Pendergrass.  Lou Rawls is another possibility.  Or they may go back to New Orleans and go for the Neville Brothers..  Though still a couple years away, a Spinners induction could point to the possibility of Boyz II Men getting in eventually, as well.  And let’s add Billy Preston.
Biggest threats: Bill Withers is favored for soul, Chic is a wild card among ‘70s groups, War is another ‘70s group that may hamper things, and for classic vocal groups, the Marvlettes may also detract from the Spinners.
In the end:  I refused to get my hopes up on their nomination, but they made it onto the ballot.  This time, however, my refusal to hope is pretty well founded, I think.  Induction chances: 35%

11. The Marvlettes
R&B girl group that gave the Motown empire its first number one hit single on the Hot 100.  Second-time nominee, seeded #6 in 2013.
Why they might make it: Anything Motown has a serious shot.  The Hall loves Motown, and really helping make Motown a household name is strong credibility.  Plus, in the history of the Hall, only two years were without a strong presence of the ‘60s.  The Marvelettes would be the best candidate for this slot.
Why they might not: The Hall loves Motown, but they sure can take their sweet time showing it: Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and the Four Tops all needed two nominations to get in, the Supremes and Martha And The Vandellas both needed three, the Jackson Five came up four times before getting in, Gladys Knight And The Pips took five, the Miracles needed a special subcommittee to convene and break precedent to get them in, not to mention twice nominated but still not inducted Mary Wells!  Only the Temptations and Stevie Wonder got in on their first nominations, both in 1989.  (Also the Isley Brothers and solo Michael Jackson, but both of whom are much better known for their post-Motown work)  Plus girl groups also generally need a few nominations to get in, 2005 inductees the Ronettes the lone exception.  Lastly, despite having a solid string of hits in the Top 40, they tend to be summed up with their major hit, “Please Mr. Postman”.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Getting the Marvelettes in might get the NomCom looking at Motown again, where we have Junior Walker And The All-Stars and Mary Wells as the last two major ‘60s acts for the family, plus a peek into the ‘70s shows the Commodores, solo Lionel Richie, and possibly even solo Diana Ross.  They also might lead the way for other girl groups like the Chantels, Crystals, Shangri-Las, even the Chiffons to get some consideration.
Biggest threats: The Spinners are the biggest direct threat, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band are a fellow ‘60s act that stand in the way.
In the end: I’d love a class with Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, the Spinners, and the Marvelettes in it, but it’s too lofty a goal to ever happen.  We’ll be lucky if we get one of those three, and the Marvlettes are the least likely of the three.  Induction chances: 33.3%

12. War
Latin-funk band from the ‘70s.  Third-time nominee, seeded #7 in 2009 and #12 in 2012.
Why they might make it: Cool funk. Memorable classics like "Low Rider," "The Cisco Kid," and "Why Can't We Be Friends" are all pleasers that make them likely candidates.  Also, Eric Burdon would be a multiple inductee, and the Hall loves to have multiple inductees.
Why they might not: Santana's already in. Can another Latin group make it? Also, innovation and influence are considered somewhat questionable. Plus, in comparison to other artists, and the politics of the Hall, they may just get lost in the shuffle.
Whom they’d pave the way for:  The only Latin act that might garner some attention following the induction of War would be Gloria Estefan/the Miami Sound Machine, who are now eligible as well.  Classic rock acts with that indescribable, yet identifiable intangible quality of coolness might benefit as well, and I’m thinking mainly Steppenwolf.
Biggest threats: Chic and Bill Withers are the most direct threats, and the Spinners are a possible problem for War as well.
In the end: War is a band that a lot of people would love to see get in, but it seems like for now, there’ll always be five or six names that people will feel are more deserving or just prefer more, with War getting lost in the shuffle.  Seems like it’ll be the case again this year.  We’ll see them on the ballot in three years again.  Induction chances: 30%

13. Kraftwerk
European progressive act that pioneered electronica. Third time nominee, unseeded their first time, seeded #9 in 2013.
Why they might make it: A truly innovative group, they are partially responsible for a lot of electronica music today.  Especially in the European club scene.
Why they might not: While the Hall Of Fame doesn’t discriminate against acts from countries other than the US and UK, they do strongly favor acts that were very popular in the U.S.A., which Kraftwerk was not.  If a voting member isn’t too familiar with their stuff, and sees five other names they like, they won’t bother researching Kraftwerk further.
Whom they’d pave the way for: There’re a couple avenues to go here.  Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk, and many more famous electronica acts are still a few years off.  The Art Of Noise are a left-field possibility, though possibly too much of a novelty act to get in.  But Kraftwerk’s induction may help more acts who were huge, just not in the States, get some recognition, such as Cliff Richard And The Shadows, Status Quo, Johnny Hallyday, or Fela.  Both paths are a bit of a stretch, but if the road really dead-ended with Kraftwerk, they probably wouldn’t be worth inducting anyway.
Biggest threats: As far as experimental goes, Lou Reed is a bigger draw.  For dance music, it’s Chic. 
In the end: Kraftwerk will probably need seven or eight nominations before getting their proper recognition, much like the Stooges or Black Sabbath.  This is only number three for them.  Induction chances: 25%

14. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Blues-rock band from the mid-‘60s.  Fourth-time nominee, Unseeded the first time, seeded #14 each of the past two years.
Why they might make it: They’re a formative blues-rock act.  Their sound is considered to be a pioneer sound.  A few of its past members have some amount of fame to their own names.  Also, they were name dropped by none other than Jann S. Wenner as an act he’d like to see get in.  If you don’t think that means something, you don’t know the Hall. 
Why they might not: They’re arguably the most obscure name on this ballot, having no hit singles and no album making the top quarter of the Billboard 200.
Whom they’d pave the way for:  Like Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, this group could pave the way for blues acts to get in, like Junior Wells, Slim Harpo, or even Albert Collins, if you want to go left field.
Biggest threats: Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble are the obvious threat, and the Marvelettes are a more likely choice from the ‘60s.
In the end: As much clout as Jann S. Wenner has, I think he’ll have to continue to call this group an act he still wants to see in, because it ain’t happening this time.  Induction chances: 20%

15. The Smiths
‘80s alternative rock group.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it: The Smiths (and lead singer Morissey) are a highly recognized and influential name in alternative music, ‘80s music, and ‘80s alternative music.  Additionally, as a soloist, Morrissey has a certain cache in a rather niche market of Southwestern U.S. Latino teens. 
Why they might not: ‘80s alternative just can’t catch a break.  The Cure couldn’t get in, the Replacements couldn’t get in; despite Kim Gordon taking part in Hervana, Sonic Youth couldn’t get on the ballot this time around. 
Whom they’d pave the way for: Maybe Sonic Youth will show up next year, maybe it’ll be the Pixies, or maybe they’ll retry the Cure or the Replacements.  Plus, Morrissey as a soloist has a shot in the future.
Biggest threats: Green Day is the more likely alternative rock act, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts are another ‘80s rock act that could draw away votes, as well.
In the end: Until proven wrong, I’m just going to keep assuming ‘80s alternative has little to no chance of getting in.  I don’t know what would have to change to turn that around, but I’m not holding my breath this time either.  Induction chances: 10%

A bit later this year, but there you have it—my official predictions for this year.  It took a bit of time to solidify them, but I think this is a solid guess.  Not my ideal class, of course, but what I feel is most likely.  Hopefully we’ll know in less than a month.