The first thing you may have noticed is that the goal of my plea over the summer was not met. Indeed, it was by some metrics a spectacular failure, though I do not view it that way. While I'm a little heartbroken, I can't say I'm too surprised. As I said before, getting Nominating Committee members to even read it was a longshot. Overall, I don't feel too bad though. I did what I could to persuade one facet of our society to be a more vocal proponent for the good of overall society, and as they say, virtue is its own reward.
Good thing, too, because this ballot honestly doesn't hold much personal reward for me. As I've said on Twitter and Facebook, there aren't many nominees that I'm actually a big fan of. A casual fan, yes, but except for one, none of these nominees are acts that I've ever bought any of their music for any reason other than Rock Hall research. I'm not deeply chagrined, however, since most of my favorite acts have already been enshrined, many of them long ago. The takeaway from this paragraph is don't be too upset when you see my ranking of the nominees based on my own personal tastes in music; there will be some razor-thin margins deciding between numbers three through number sixteen. And don't even hold me to those numbers. I haven't even begun to think about it yet.
The thoughts I am having include begrudgingly agreeing with fellow monitor DarinRG, in that an English-centric ballot is probably much needed for the Hall. Much like the classic rock deluge of the past couple years, the "big in Britain" bloc has been bursting at the seams for some time now, too. While I'm glad that the mother country is finally getting some more looks, it's also sad because I love soul music. England may swing like a pendulum do, but when Small Faces are considered among the premium soul acts from your country, just don't brag about it too much, m'kay? I chalk this up to another backlog created by the "Small Hall" mentality that dominated the institution for so many years, and still has a tight grip around the throat of rock and roll accolades. Of course, there is probably no act on this year's ballot more British than Kate Bush, in that she's huge in England, but while not totally obscure in the States, the comparison of celebrity is not even close.
While there are, I believe, a majority of acts on this ballot coming from across the pond, that's actually not so much what I'm noticing as I am the extreme potential for ballot divisions this year. For example, Depeche Mode and Eurythmics may just divide the ballot between each other in terms of synth-rock representation, and both could fail to get in for that. Between the newly eligible favorites, we could see a division between Radiohead and Rage Against The Machine in that they're alternative-scene rock bands that are newly eligible this year. While that may be where the similarities end, when you've got five or even six votes on a ballot of nineteen names, superficial similarities could be enough to found a schism upon. Such could also be used to compare '60s acts with few hits and a seemingly short run, but long-remembered, i.e. the Zombies and the MC5, and Link Wray too, if you include the '50s. Don't overlook having two metal bands on the ballot either: Judas Priest and Bon Jovi. Metal fans are probably raging at the comparison between early metal and '80s hair metal, but if you remember anything about the '80s, even the faint echoes that I have, having been born during the Reagan years myself, it wasn't entirely uncommon for Bon Jovi and Judas Priest to have overlap in their fan bases. For rural America back then, metal was metal, and you took in any and all of it with equal initial enthusiasm.
Another potential ballot division lies between Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Nina Simone, two African-American ladies that have a had a lot of the musical community clamoring for their induction while also speculating that maybe the delay of their respective recognition has been due to not knowing how to enshrine them. Already, the watching community is suffering the early onset of rage-confusion induced aneurysms at Tharpe's nomination in the Performer category, and not announced induction as an Early Influence. Indeed, it is a bit puzzling, as Tharpe's prime was during the '40s, before the generally-accepted genesis of rock and roll, and yet, there is merit to the argument. As a Cracked.com article once postulated (see entry #3), she invented rock and roll. Not Ike Turner or Jackie Brenston, not Louis Jordan, not Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bill Haley, or Elvis Presley. Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The link in that article is broken, so here's the video they originally linked to.
Of course, that's a live performance, and not the records, which allows the performer a little more liberty to cut loose, and it's only a select sample of her catalog, but the point is, there's an argument to be made. As for Nina Simone, she doesn't predate rock and roll so much, but her style is more accurately described as "jazz." While rock and roll comes from a variety of influences and embraces many different styles in a diasporic or umbrella-like manner, even rock and roll has its borders and boundaries toward what can be included in the nomenclature. Nina Simone arguably lies primarily outside that limit. Her case could be interesting too. They inducted jazz legend Miles Davis as a Performer, but they also kind of sidestepped the "Early" in "Early Influence" when they inducted Wanda Jackson and Freddie King. So, they could go either way with Nina Simone here. Either way however, they severely damaged the legitimacy of inductions as Early Influences of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Nina Simone just by nominating them for the Performer category this time around.
The representation of rock-era R&B is paltry this year, possibly to prevent ballot division. Rufus featuring Chaka Khan return, showing a devotion to Chaka by the Hall. All I can say is I hope she is eventually inducted twice, once for the group and once as a soloist. Also returning are the Meters who keep popping up, but seem to struggle with support, at least in the fan vote. Like Rufus, they are funky, but they aren't really associated with the disco scene as Rufus was. Rap is represented as well, with LL Cool J returning to the ballot. Monitor DarinRG commented on FRL about the Hall trying to clear the way by giving LL Cool J little to no direct competition. This may be true, but LL Cool J has failed when he's been the only rap act on the ballot before too. In my humble opinion, when it comes to R&B, the only way to "clear the way" for acts like LL Cool J is to inundate the ballot with R&B so that it's mathematically impossible to NOT have R&B inducted, and make sure that the pet act, LL Cool J in this case, is the strongest name. But I could be wrong.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ballot these days if the chance for classic rock to dominate wasn't possible. Bon Jovi and Judas Priest have already been mentioned, and both get airplay on classic rock radio stations, but they're not the only examples. Two more are making a repeat appearance after last year's ballot. Both the Cars and the J. Geils Band are back. With the death of Jerome Geils this year, they prove to be the death fairy pick and that could propel them into the Hall this time around. The Cars are back, trying to not be the next Black Sabbath or Stooges. Dire Straits is an act that not many saw coming, but is pretty widely accepted as a good call. Other than our newly eligibles and the two women who could arguably be inducted as Early Influences, Dire Straits is the only act on this year's ballot that has never been nominated or even been on the Previously Considered list before. Could be an act to keep our eyes on. Of course, probably the biggest news is that the Moody Blues have finally been nominated, though sadly, Denny Laine is going to be shafted again. With no induction of Wings, and not on the list of members included in this nomination, poor Denny Laine will again be on the outside looking in. The Moody Blues are among the longest-grieved snubs by the Rock And Roll community, with many naming them as the most pressing omission. Now, it's already been stated that predicting the fan ballot will be difficult, but when you look at the number one finisher in the fan vote, the history reads as follows: Rush, KISS, Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble, Chicago, and Journey. Classic rock acts that have been long outcried as egregious snubs. Bon Jovi and Dire Straits haven't had near the outcry for them. So it's really between Judas Priest and the Moody Blues, in my opinion. Metal is something of an untested variable for the fan ballot, but all the same, the overwhelming support of the Moody Blues tells me this is the act that will finish on top in the fan vote, possibly by a wide margin.
So there are the preliminary thoughts on this ballot. Soon to come, a ranking by merits, by preference, and by odds of induction. Hopefully in that order.