Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Proposition For Propositions

It's 2019, and you wouldn't know it from the amount of politics that has already been in the news that this is not an election year.  In all fariness, some lower level municipal, county, and maybe even state elections happen on the odd-numbered years specifically so that they aren't drowned out by the national stage theatrics.  But even if it's not for an office that will be elected this year, campaigns for those offices are already happening, and not just in the Democratic Party candidates' races.  I know, because I work for the post office and have been delivering a bit of political mail already.

What does this have to do with the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?  Superficially, not much, but as it is now early August, we are getting to that point where very soon, the names in our little community will be posting their official, engraven predictions for who will be on the ballot, in preparation for the Nominating Committee's meeting in New York City, and eventual press release of the ballot.  As notorious as I am at being one of the later predictions and commentaries to be up with each passing year, wouldn't it be a fun twist if I got the early jump and beat almost everybody to the punch?  Well, you'd be jumping the gun in assuming that.  That's not what this post is about.  Neener neener.

Nor is this going to be about transparency, which the Hall has a notorious lack of, but this post is going to be about the ballots.  When it comes to elections in America, many voters who don't just vote straight-ticket often only vote for the big enchilada races, primarily presidential, maybe gubernatorial, and maybe enough people care enough about the national congressional races.  But they'll ignore positions such as county drain commissioners, or university boards of trustees, and the like.  Even more than that, if someone votes for all the races, there's another side to it they might ignore, particularly if they vote straight-ticket.  A political ballot is usually comprised of more than just names of people for a position; there are also propositions.

Obvious, right?  I'm pretty sure every election cycle, there's a "Proposition 2."  It wouldn't be a political season without ads telling us to vote "No on Prop 2."  But because the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is nowhere near as democratic as our national and state infrastructures, there's never been a call for there to be propositions on the annual ballots.  Well, I'm going to suggest that it happen.  Like everything else in life, there's potential for abuse, but my idea regarding propositions for this ballot are to correct the instances of "abuse of power" that have already occurred with the inductions of the Hall.

By which, of course, I mean the "back door inductions."  Depending on your narrative, you might call the first "back door induction" to be that of Carole King, with her songwriting parter Gerry Goffin, after a singular attempt to induct her as a Performer.  But despite my not having included her in my reranking of Past Nominees, the songwriting team of Goffin-King is a notable and distinct effort and enterprise from Carole King's career as a singer.  So, not counting her, the most acceptable first instance of a back door induction would probably be that of Elmore James as an Early Influence in 1992, after failing to receive enough votes for the Class Of 1991.  At that time, the Hall didn't have quite the public presence that it does now, and most probably thought little about it.  Most probably also didn't give too much thought about King Curtis being inducted as a Sideman in 2000, after being on the first six ballots for the Performer category, with a nine year absence following that.  The back door inductions really began to catch notice in 2008, when the Hall announced Wanda Jackson as an Early Influence inductee for 2009.  That caught people's attention, especially because she had been a nominee for the Performer category on the ballot for that very class!  Those who monitor the Hall's doings were definitely abuzz following that, right on through the induction ceremony.  But the buzz died down.  Until 2011, when they did it again, this time with Freddie King, who, like Wanda Jackson, had been on the ballot for potential induction as a Performer for the Class Of 2012.  And then, as if seemingly like clockwork, the Hall kind of did it again, with the Class Of 2015, twice-ish, this time with the "5" Royales, who hadn't been on the ballot for several years but were now being ushered in as an Early Influence, and Ringo Starr, for Award For Musical Excellence, for reasons that are too stupid to fathom, regardless about how you feel about his solo career.  Nile Rodgers wasn't so much a "back door induction" as he was a "cherrypicking" instance, but some would consider him an example too.  Lastly, we have the issue of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who despite being the most widely demanded omission from the Early Influence category, was nominated for the Performer category... only to end up inducted as an Early Influence in 2018.

So those are the propsective "back door inductions" that we are dealing with.  I'd argue for not including the cherrypicking of Nile Rodgers, since Chic was more than Nile Rodgers, and Nile's career included a lot more than just Chic, as Joe Kwaczala and Kristen Studard pointed out when they relegated their tale of seeing Chic in concert together.  I would probably also want to leave out King Curtis, since his session work was very worthy of induction, and since a Performer induction of King Curtis should also include His Noble Knights.  But I would definitely hammer on the Early Influence inductions of those previously nominated, since it's kind of squirrely, albeit not entirely implausible, to be both an Early Influence and a Performer inductee, given the parameters of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame for defining those two categories.

So the first key step in overcoming the transgression of the back door inductions is to simply never do it again.  Just stop it.  But there are a few horses that are already out of the barn, and we need to find a way to get them back in, if indeed they belong back in.  My proposal is to put propositions on the ballot.  One for each such inductee to deal with.  I'll give you a sample of one such proposition to be placed on an official Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Ballot.  Since Wanda Jackson would be the third such occurrence (if we used King Curtis as well), we'll make her Prop 3.

"Proposition 3.

To change the designation of 2009 inductee Wanda Jackson from "Early Influence" to "Performer."  Adoption of Proposition 3 will result in Wanda Jackson being listed as a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 2009 inductee in the Performer category.  Rejection of Proposition 3 will result in Wanda Jackson continuing to be listed as a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame 2009 inductee in the Early Influence category.

Should Proposition 3 be adopted?

Yes _____        No_____  "

And there would be a tentative proposition for Elmore James, Freddie King, the "5" Royales, Ringo Starr, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  Possibly King Curtis too, but any proposition for Carole King would have to change the designation of "Goffin-King" to Performer. Same with Nile Rodgers.  Don't induct Chic this way.  It would only be for Nile Rodgers.

So why do it like this?  The Rock Hall could easily do it quietly by a decision in the boardroom.  After all, that's how they quietly inducted Kenny Laguna as a member of the Blackhearts, and Billy Davis as a member of the Midnighters.  This is just a little different though.  When a voter votes for a Performer inductee, they are essentially voting for the entire legacy of that artist, regardless of which members the Hall chooses to honor.  In the case of the Midnighters, it was the entire legacy that was involved with the election of Hank Ballard for the Class Of 1990, and the legacy that was supplemented with the induction of the Midnighters in 2012.  A vote for Hank Ballard was essentially a vote for Hank Ballard And The Midnighters.  Including members serves to more fully round an inductee's legacy (while conversely, removing members, perhaps an entire backing group, severely diminishes the legacy).  But we're now talking about acts that have already been inducted.  These are acts that the Hall has already enshrined in another capacity because they seemingly couldn't (or believedly wouldn't) get the votes to be inducted in the Performer category.  These were acts chosen by special committees, which are subsets of the Nominating Committee to do it this way for those acts, and it requires a correction.  Since the election of Performer inductees is through the voting bloc, it therefore makes sense to put it to the voting bloc whether or not the designations ought to be changed.

To use propositions on the ballot would also negate the possibility of their re-designation being a "consolation prize" induction, as I've referred to them in the past.  The reason I oppose the idea of a Veterans' Committee is that it's a special subcommittee exerting their will over the voting bloc, creating a second tier of Performer inductees (not to be confused with the stratification of inductees that hobbyists and critics alike enjoy creating, i.e. the pyramid).  Well, the Hall has already done that by taking these (mostly) past Performer nominees and putting them in the Hall by whatever means they felt they could get away with.  Putting these propositions on the ballot would correct that, because they would voted on by the voting bloc.  The decision to change their designation to Performer inductees would still have to come from a majority of the votes received from the voting bloc.  It still would be up to them to have these acts enshrined as Performers, or not.  And if it's a vote from the bloc, it's legitimate, or as legitimate as can be, given the Hall's lack of transparency.

The other upside to changing the designations of certain inductees would be to reestablish a relative sense of continuity with the timeline.  By which, I'm referring to the Early Influence category.  While rock and roll has been  evolving since the early '50's, and perhaps earlier, most still like to use 1955 as the magical fulcrum, since that's when "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock" hit #1.  That said, most are generally agreed that Wanda Jackson should not have been an Early Influence inductee, as her early career was primarily rockabilly.  And if Wanda Jackson shouldn't have been an Early Influence, then Freddie King definitely should not have been, either, as his career didn't really begin until the late '50's.  There's some debate about whether Elmore James or the "5" Royales should have been inducted as Performers or Early Influences, but it would be an interesting litmus test to see where the voting bloc falls on these two acts.  But more importantly, the chance to put at least some of the "back door" Early Influence inductees in the Performer category where they might more properly belong is a good way to preemptively tell the NomComm's Early Influence subcommittee that it is wrong to move the timeline of rock and roll; this statement would hopefully prevent acts that are clearly rock and roll, such as the MC5, from being inducted as "Early Influences" because they were influential to more modern acts that came later.

It is also wrong to attempt to use this tool later on down the road.  For example, let's not go about inducting acts via the back door in the future, figuring we can just use a proposition later on to reassign them as Performers.  As stated earlier, first we need to resolve to stop back door inductions altogether.  Continuing to do back door inductions for the sake of correcting them later with propositions flies directly in the face of the spirit and intent of having these propositions.  It would further cheapen the proposition process because they'd be recklessly, improperly inducting artists in other categories with the full intent to rectify it later.  It would turn the propositional corrections into consolation prizes themselves, and the point of doing this on the ballots is so that it is from the voting bloc, and thus not a consolation prize.

We also cannot be doing this as a means to expel artists.  Sorry folks.  Percy Sledge is an inductee to stay.  And Laura Nyro.  And KISS.  And 2Pac.  Let's not turn this into a quasi-political mire as we replace NomComm members and voting bloc voters by essentially saying, "Well, the old guard may have felt they were worthy, but it's our say now, and that's going to change!"  Not how this is going to work, folks.  I also wouldn't use this to correct the Singles category debacle either.  First off, we're talking about entire legacies, not one record; second, with "Twist And Shout" on that list, unless you're going to try and induct the Top Notes this way, you've got another mess made; third, the Foundation members appear to be squabbling amongst themselves about what to make of this category, so let's wait until they've figured it out for themselves first; and fourth, using propositions for those artists would only be encouraging Little Steven to keep doing this.  No no no no no!  Take that "category" out to the Everglades, toss it over the edge of the boat somewhere, where no one will be able to find it, and never speak of it again.  And nominate those artists to the ballot properly, for another time, in some cases.

We could probably let the fans have a say on this one too, with the fan ballot being a single vote on each proposition, but given that this is about correcting actions done behind closed doors, I'd be okay with the fans not getting a say in these, especially since almost all of these are lesser known names (to the general public) who weren't "classic rockers."

So, that's my proposition for propositions.  For what it's worth, if the Hall decided to try this out and do this with all those artists, here's how my votes would go, if I got a ballot, or how I'd vote in the fan poll if they let us in on it.

Elmore James:  It'd be a coin flip.  I'd be okay either way.  His guitar style was innovative, but the overall feel of his records isn't quite what I'd call rock and roll.  However, between Howlin' Wolf being an Early Influence, and John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters being Performers, that roughly 1954 debut of Elmore James can be a little tricky, and I wouldn't blame the voters either way.

King Curtis:  No.  His work as a session man is unimpeachable, and while he's pretty far down on the list of those I'd like to induct a second time, I'd really rather induct King Curtis And His Noble Knights as a Performer than erase the props for his session work, while falsely reasoning he can only be inducted once.

Wanda Jackson: Duh, Performer

Freddie King: Definitely a Performer.  Doesn't meet the "Early" part of "Early Influence," in my book.

The "5" Royales:  Another one that's a coin toss.  Where does jive music end and R&B begin?  I've blogged about this induction before, so I won't elaborate further.  It's a tough call either way, but I'd probably vote to move them to Performer.

Ringo Starr:  YES to the Performer category.  Most readers would probably want the proposition to be about removing his second induction outright, since the Award for Musical Excellence induction was nonsensical, and they don't want him in as a Performer.  As I said, this ain't going to be about removing names, just slotting them more properly.  List him as a Performer!

Sister Rosetta Tharpe:  To echo what was said then, why was she even on the ballot in the first place?  She always should have been considered for Early Influence and never for the Performer category.  This one was not a consolation prize, it was the subcommittee fixing the NomComm's mistake.  A big no on this one.

And of course, we need to get Carole King as a soloist and Chic on the ballot again.  Carole and Nile both deserve double induction, but the proposition process is not the way to do it.  Efforts have to be renewed to get those names on the ballot.

So there it is, another longshot idea for how to fix things with the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Maybe it seems ridiculous, but as Eric and Mary say on the Hall Watchers podcast, we need to be about trying to find solutions rather than just sitting in our armchairs, griping and moaning.  Let's make it happen.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Past nominees ranking: 2019 edition.

It's been seven years since I last ranked all of the past nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  In that time, eleven names have come off (including one inducted as an Early Influence), and twenty-one names have been added.  It's been a net gain of ten names over seven years.  That probably says a lot about the resolve of the Nominating Committee to continue on the offensive to push for their favorite artists.  It also says a lot about the repeat names that often continue to be bridesmaids while many first-time nominees head straight in.  But there has been enough change in the list to where it's worth taking another look at how one would rank these artists.

And if I thought thirty-five was difficult, forty-five is even harder.  It's hard to rank the nominees just on the yearly ballot, and that's never more than twenty anymore.  This list has a lot of diversity on it, ranging from acts at the dawn of rock and roll (or earlier, depending on your definition) to acts that are barely eligible for induction.  To be completely honest, I still don't like this order, but I like it better than any other modification to it.  Modifications that I have made though include changing comparative positions between acts that were on the 2012 list and/or comparative positions between acts on previous ballots' merits' ranks.  So with all that and a little help from my previous list and my co-writers, Cut and Paste, let's count down from forty-five back to one.

45. Conway Twitty (1):  He was a teen idol in his early days and a country superstar later on, neither of which tend to bode that well with getting an act inducted.  Additionally, not much influence.

44. Sting (1):  Sting's going solo reminds me of Phil Collins' solo career: lead singer of a major group that was a trio at the time of the solo career, with a distant-sounding vocal style.  Except Phil Collins is somehow more exciting to listen to.

43. Procol Harum (1):  I'm not convinced they broke any ground that the Moody Blues weren't breaking at about the same time, but they do have a few enduring songs.

42. Steve Winwood (1):  As a reminder, we’re only talking about his solo career, which has some cool breeze kinds of songs, but didn’t really break any new ground. 

41. Esther Phillips (2):  Her pre-‘60s (and arguably pre-rock era) hits were almost exclusively as the chanteuse for whatever name Johnny Otis’s band went by on any given record, and so inducting her as a soloist based on those is not entirely fitting.  Her ‘60s-and-later hits were sporadic and primarily covers, which doesn’t garner much accolades.

40. John Prine (1):  Almost the natural successor in the queue after Randy Newman.  A highbrow artist with well-crafted lyrics, without much recognition with the general public, but very strong ties to the industry, which makes him kinda-sorta influential.

39. Los Lobos (1):  Like John Prine, this band is an industry-insider's pick.  Artistry, maximum; any other metric, minimum.

38. Johnny Ace (2):  A promising career cut short by folly.  Still, he had some good accomplishments as an R&B singer leading up to that.

37. The J.B.'s (1):  It's important to remember that I'm actively separating their credited works from the works they recorded as hired hands behind James Brown.  Once you have that distinction recognized, their ranking at this point in the list makes a little bit more sense.

36. The Sir Douglas Quintet (1):  They were innovative and influential in helping to create a new sub-genre; however, Tex-Mex is still a pretty niche style of music, and not all that pertinent to represent in the Hall Of Fame.

35. Gram Parsons (3):  Another powerful one-two combo of innovation and influence; however, alt-country pioneering really merits induction into the Country Music Hall Of Fame, not the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, however strongly alt-country and its pioneers are linked to the folk-rock and the ever-changing music scenes of the late-‘60’s. 

34. The Chantels (2):  Broke out at the same time as the Shirelles, but never reached the same heights.  Still, “Maybe” and “Look In My Eyes” are excellent records and foundational to the girl group sound.  And shunting "Maybe" into the Singles category should not be license to give up on them.

33. The J. Geils Band (5):  Solid blues-influenced rock ‘n’ roll band with a solid run of hits and classics, but not regarded as being all that influential or innovative, and some even claim cronyism for their five nominations to date.

32. The Replacements (1):  This is a hard one to accurately peg.  While they have the rebel spirit, as proven by the fights with their label, they're also a reminder that the music industry is still a business, and you have to be professional.  Their own greatest strength in establishing their legacy also was the greatest hindrance to their legacy's growth.

31. The Meters (4):  Moderately influential in the realms of funk and soul, but not a lot of name recognition, and the songs are only somewhat well known.

30. Rufus with Chaka Khan (3):  They had a solid string of R&B hits, dispersed intermittently with Chaka’s solo career, but as a group, the Pop crossover was not so immense, and they ended up standing in the shadows of bigger acts of the time.

29. Bad Brains (1):  A very influential band that if nothing else, occasionally combined or alternated hardcore punk with reggae stylings.  Very limited commercial success though.

28. Devo (1):  Art-rock that was sometimes hard to take seriously, and yet, they expanded our minds.

27. Steppenwolf (1):  Have one song that's anthemic, you can possibly write it off to good luck.  Do it twice, that's no coincidence.  Do it twice and have a solid run of blues-rock records, it's a Hall-worthy act.

26. Chaka Kkan (2):  Rufus had more originality.  Chaka as a soloist had greater commercial success, and I'd give the advantage to solo Khan in terms of influence, as a strong female solo presence.

25. Mary Wells (2):  Despite an enviable run of both R&B and Pop chart success, her chief accomplishment was really done by the Marvelettes first, even if it was on “Tamla” rather than the titular mother company “Motown.”  However, she also did help bring a Latin flavor to the R&B scene, which is something in itself, as many danceable rap songs nowadays are danceable because they’re infused with danceable Latin rhythmic schemes. 

24. Chuck Willis (6):  Another career cut way too short, his legacy as the “Stroll King” or “Sheik Of The Blues” culminates nicely to get him six nominations so far.  The man who helped bring dancing to rock ‘n’ roll music, he’d be undisputed royalty if he’d lived and recorded through the ‘50s.

23. Link Wray (2):  In my glossary, "merit" is not quite synonymous with "snub."  Link Wray is a huge snub, but that's more of an issue of the ridiculous amount of time it took to even get him nominated for the first time, compounded by the slap in the face of honoring just "Rumble" when unable to get him inducted.  That said, his innovation and influence are immense.

22. Kate Bush (1):  You gotta respect an artist whose only limits are the ones she imposes upon herself.  That said, said self-imposed limits understandably keep her from ranking any higher on this list.

21. Afrika Bambaataa (1):  Recognized as one of the founding fathers of hip-hop, but having never gotten big beyond the New York scene, and without the Soul Sonic Force as part of his nomination, he doesn’t merit any higher on the list.

20. Joe Tex (5):  An impressive string of R&B and Pop chart hits, and considered by some to help influence rap’s style of vocal delivery, but he wasn’t the only one doing that (see also: Johnnie Taylor), and a lot of his songs are variations on the same theme.

19. The New York Dolls (1):  Surprisingly influential in both the worlds of punk and of glam.  No real chart success, and arrived a few years after a couple of the other proto-punk acts.

18. The MC5 (1):  The proto-punk act that pioneered distortion as a musical gimmick, and helped influence a lot of bands, plus the title alone of their only hit, “Kick Out The Jams” seems to sum up the movement they helped create..

17. Jane's Addiction (1):  They might be a little better known for who was in the band rather than for their music, but for what they accomplished in their relatively short time, they weren't a bad nomination either.

16. War (3):  Funky Latin rock music.  They crossed a lot of barriers with memorable songs, despite not being very innovative.

15. Chic (11):  “Good Times” is an extremely important record, plus their musical proficiency and production wizardry.  Sadly, the cherry-picking induction of Nile Rodgers pretty much snuffed the last, smoldering hopes of getting them inducted.

14. Eric B. And Rakim (1):  Extremely well-crafted and flawlessly executed hip-hop music that took it to new levels, bridging two ages of hip-hop.

13. Ben E. King (3):  Another solo artist that had some trouble distinguishing himself from his former group, this man had more commercial success than some others who have been inducted, like Lou Reed, plus two songs that are absolute milestones of 60’s R&B, one of which contains the arguably most important and famous bass line in all of rock ‘n’ roll.

12. Eurythmics (1):  The two of them broke some serious ground together, and recorded some amazing songs, and that's not even considering Annie Lennox as an icon.  But no, I don't support jointly nominating and inducting her solo career with the duo.

11. Todd Rundgren (1):  He is as musically versatile and artistic as he is industrially versatile and innovative.

10. The Spinners (3):  Among the groups that facilitated the transition from smooth soul to disco and beyond, they were one of the best.  A long string of R&B and Pop hits make them an amazing choice that sadly has seen their chances dwindle over the past few years.

9. The Dominoes (1):  A full dozen Top 10 R&B hits in the formative days of rock ‘n’ roll, they managed to cross over twice to the mainstream audience (despite the for-the-time raunchy nature of “Sixty-Minute Man”) and helped knock down the racial barriers, proving to be a seminal group of the pre-Elvis rock ‘n’ roll years.

8. Depeche Mode (2):  They're basically one of those "something for everybody" outfits that really make you wonder why they're on the outside even after back-to-back nominations.

7. Judas Priest (1):  As Eric and Mary said on the Hall Watchers podcast, probably the second most important act in the genesis of heavy metal after Black Sabbath.  Extremely significant.

6. Rage Against The Machine (2):  If nothing else, they are truth in advertising.  They took the ethos of '60's and '70's protest songs, and put it on steroids.  Combining seemingly disparate musical styles, they broke new ground and influenced plenty.

5. The Marvelettes (2):  Probably the most important thing about the Motown legacy is that it was a marvelous marriage of Black culture and youth culture.  I can't help but believe the hit-the-ground-running success of the Marvelettes, success that continued well after "Please Mister Postman," helped set the empire on its enduring path.

4. Nine Inch Nails (2):  Something of a pioneer and a definite tour-de-force.  Some initial trouble being celebrated in a mainstream sense, but even then, time has been kind.

3. The Smiths (2):  Probably the most important band of the post-punk scene that didn't have any charted singles on the Billboard Hot 100.  Massively important.

2. LL Cool J (5):  One of rap’s first solo superstars, not only did he help rap transition from an outfit form to a solo MC’s game, he also helped segue R&B into its smoother form during the mid-‘90s.  Much of mainstream pop music today is still built somewhat upon plans he helped lay.

1. Kraftwerk (5):  It was a hard decision to switch LL Cool J and Kraftwerk around.  A Krautrock act that evolved greatly and is basically responsible for electronica music becoming what it is today.  But what tips the scales for Kraftwerk that I wasn't aware of before, is how important and influential they were to the immediate pop scene that followed in their wake, and the way their innovations have affected the industry as a whole, including the world of hip-hop that LL Cool J remodeled.

So there we are.  It was a tough hierarchy to make and one I still question heavily even as I continue to look over it.  I mostly tried to keep the merits of each nominee in line with my I-5 system, but with this many different acts, it's hard to completely fairly evaluate disparate sets of data.  Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts and care to weigh in in the Comments section below.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Something light-hearted: fun with a serious topic.

One of the things that elated so many people with this latest class of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was the second induction of Stevie Nicks.  Adding onto that was the induction of Janet Jackson, making this the first time in quite awhile that there were two living female acts inducted in the Performer category.  In their acceptance speeches, both Stevie Nicks and Janet Jackson made the plea for the Hall to induct more women.  Around the same time as the induction ceremony, an excellent piece on the pervasive atmosphere of misogyny surrounding the Hall was published, with the subheading insisting that the Class Of 2020 be absent of the Y-Chromosome.  Since then, there have been a lot of comments and speculations about what it could take to get an all-female class, and what it might look like.  I'm not big on jumping on bandwagons.  I'm not keen to make a list of greatest snubs, nor have I taken to ranking songs by inductees in terms of significance.  But this one I like.  People have enjoyed making lists of all-female acts or female-led groups that they'd like to see make the ballot.  So I thought I'd do this too.  What kind of ballot would I like to see if it was comprised of only female acts?  Well, those who know me know this list will skew very heavily toward the early years, but really, there are deserving women in every period.  This is just a list that reflects my personal bent.  I'd love to see your list in the Comments section.  Keeping civil tongues and having fun with this, in my opinion, is the best way to show just how easy it is to do this and how hard it would be to go wrong--even with the knowledge that a ballot of fifteen to nineteen nominees will yield a class of at most seven inductees.  So if I were the entire Nominating Committee, dedicated to the cause, this might be the ballot.

The Marvelettes:  While I've never made any attempt to make a ranked list of snubs, I can say that if I made such a list, the Marvelettes would be in the top three, definitely behind Chubby Checker, and level-peggy against Kraftwerk (the Germans have the edge in my "I-5", but the number of years the Marvlettes have been snubbed whittle that advantage down to a coin flip).  An absolute must for the Hall at some point.

The Go-Go's and The Bangles:  While I would love to give each entry their own paragraph, my reasons for both of these are the same, so I'm lumping them together.  Michelle Bourg of the Iconic Rock Talk Show pointed it out wonderfully: since inductees automatically become members of the voting bloc, to help give women a larger say, the most obvious way would be to induct more living women to become members of the Hall and said voting bloc.  These two groups would do that, and their musical accomplishments more than make them deserving candidates.

The Crystals:  The disparity of inducted men to inducted women is staggering, and no one act can make up the difference, but if they'd induct all the members of all three eras that were credited as "the Crystals," it'd probably be the single biggest move the Hall could make to close that gap.  If they're REALLY generous and want to include every woman who was a member of the Blossoms, whether or not they were on any records subsequently credited to "the Crystals," you could theoretically have a group of eighteen women inducted in one fell swoop, one of them a dual inductee.  Insisting that they have been on a Crystals' record, it'd maximally be about ten women, but that's still probably the biggest gain a single inductee could make.

The Chantels and The Shangri-Las:  Both of these girl groups got the ultimate shaft by having records of theirs "honored" in the Singles category this year.  Let's rectify that slight and simultaneously obsolesce that odious side project in the process by pushing for these two groups to get into the Hall.

Carole King, Tina Turner, and Diana Ross:  Admittedly, I'm not as enthusiastic about inducting Diana Ross solo as the other two, but with Stevie Nicks blazing the trail this past year, these three would all be fantastic candidates to stampede through in Nicks' wake.  It'd be awesome to have happen.

Cher and Chaka Khan:  Another two women I would enthusiastically cheer for being inducted twice.  Admittedly, inducting them as soloists would probably inhibit the efforts to induct their ensemble incarnations, whereas inducting the ensembles first would hopefully springboard the solo efforts to follow.  Still, two more powerhouse names that you wouldn't be wrong to put on the ballot.

Whitney Houston:  How is this woman not in already?  Even the most narrow-minded "rockist" lists of Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame snubs concede that Whitney Houston should be in.  I can't make it any plainer than that.

Pat Benatar:  I initially balked at including Pat Benatar on my list, simply for the fact that her candidacy caters to that aforementioned narrow-minded "rockist" crowd that can't see beyond a post-British Invasion definition of "rock."  However, her resume is too strong to ignore.

Salt-N-Pepa:  Let's not let the crusade to induct more women obscure the importance of recognizing hip-hop and rap as part of the rock and roll family.  This outfit were a formidable force of rap and strong femininity, and it'd be great to acknowledge that.

Patsy Cline:  Country artists have a tough time being seen as important to the rockscape, but Patsy Cline is one of the easier sells on this front.

Lesley Gore:  Despite arriving after Wanda Jackson and Brenda Lee, Lesley Gore is seen as the original "Teen Queen" for her powerful pop catalog that spoke so strongly to the teen market during the '60's.  So many great, catchy songs, so many hits.  It's just wrong to keep her out.

Connie Francis:  Like Brenda Lee, her career as a rock and roller is usually met with skepticism because it was also rife with softer ballads, not to mention she later went in a decidedly different direction by the early-to-mid '60's.  But it shouldn't negate those records or her importance.

Carly Simon:  Another act of prominence from the '70's with a solid catalog to warrant serious consideration.

Yoko Ono:  I can hear the hissing and obscenities flying right now.  But really stop and think about it: is there any performer you can think of who would more succinctly address multiple fronts of marginalization going on with the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and within the music industry at large?  I don't think I can.  Vilified for breaking up the Beatles, despite every testimony by the Liverpool lads themselves to the contrary; her aural avant-garde art reviled because it was misunderstood; her music denounced because she isn't the greatest singer by Western conventional standards of music; albums that spoke for abused women everywhere; a political force with her art as well as her music; re-recordings and remixes of early material for the EDM scene (a musical scene heavily underrepresented in the Hall)--re-recordings and remixes that not only strongly aligned her with the (and I apologize if I'm forgetting initials) LGBTQ+ community, but further sought to politically charge the music of EDM from a passive subculture to an active counterculture--there are very few acts that both pushed the rock and roll envelope the way she has, and suffered so undeserved and unwelcome a reputation for doing so, especially to the extent that she has.  She might be the ultimate choice to represent the movement to have an all-female ballot, possibly part of the reason the musically and masculinely fragile loathe her.

That's just nineteen names thrown out, and I didn't even get to Mariah Carey, Bikini Kill, or reviving attempts to induct Mary Wells or Esther Phillips, and the last name to not make the cut was LaBelle.  Whichever five to seven Performer inductees you got from this hypothetical ballot, the inducted class should also include an inductee in the other three major categories:

Estelle Axton:  She really should have been inducted with Jim Stewart in 2002.  Let's rectify that oversight and induct her in the Non-Performer category (Ahmet Ertegun Award, if you prefer, but that's another can of worms).

Ella Fitzgerald:  There's some debate as to whether Big Mama Thornton should be inducted as a Performer or as an Early Influence.  While you're trying to make up your mind about that, let's induct this jazz icon in the Early Influence category.

Carol Kaye:  There are so many great session musicians from so many great house bands not inducted, that they really should pick up that crusade again.  And what better musician to resume that effort with than this ubiquitous bassist?

As I said, there are so many names that I didn't include, simply because nineteen's the largest ballot we've seen in recent years, including names that are probably on your lists.  So have fun and weigh in.  It most likely won't happen, but every name added just shows how important it is for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame to heed the plea of Stevie Nicks and Janet Jackson and induct more women.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 2019

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2019 was an upswing from the past few classes.  The most notable aberration was that there were seven inductees in the Performer category.  This was something that had not happened since 2004.  It's a very welcome change, and one that we hope continues going forward.  This is also the most British class we've had, possibly ever.  Five bands from the United Kingdom, and the least American class we've had since 2010, when the Stooges were the only Performer representation from the United States.  The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame still skews highly American, as noted in the nominees that were on the ballot.  The generational shift is notable, as classic rock is not quite so heavily represented.  We may never get away from classic rock completely, not as long as there's a fan ballot, it seems, but classic rock wasn't half the Performer inductees this time around, which is a big change from the past few years.  This is also the first time that we've had two female acts inducted in the Performer category in some time.  In fact, the biggest buzz surrounding this class was the breakthrough of the first woman to be inducted a second time into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  It's the biggest news of the class, and it was led with quite heavily in the public relations narrative set forth by the Hall.

The one thing that seems to have stayed the same though, is the limited racial diversity.  On paper, it looks like we should be looking at the scoreboard and saying all these positive changes versus one sad stagnation.  We have one African-American inductee and the rest are White.  It's not perfect, but regardless, we got a stellar class.  Unfortunately, there are no inductees in the other categories, and so, no songs that I haven't already mentioned, but hopefully a little more in-depth dissection and discussion of each of the seven songs chosen from these seven acts.

The Cure:  There's no denying that the Cure are one of the most quintessential bands of the entire 1980's despite being formed in the 1970's.  This band is one of the most influential bands of the alternative music scene, and yet, they had a surprisingly steady run of hits.  The voice of Robert Smith delivers some of the most profound lyrics of love, but his voice sounds like the emotionally detached British synth-pop bands.  But then again, the band has the guitar sound at times that is consistent with the post-punk scene.  And sometimes theirs was the music of inner crying of the soul.  It was this willingness to go all over the map and just do what they wanted to do that made them so influential.  The song chosen for them is "Friday I'm In Love," which kind of betrays their overall range of influence, partially because it's a later song, but having influenced the alternative scene in so many directions, that'd be a hard thing to capture using just one song.  This song has the sound and feel of music directed at the college crowd during this decade of history, but was still a sizable hit at the time and remains an enduring classic that one can use to introduce future generations to the music of the Cure.

Def Leppard:  As I said in the opening paragraph, as long as there's a fan ballot, there will probably always be some representation of the "classic rock" format in every induction class, unless the Nominating Committee makes a decision to have none of that on the ballot.  That said, it's not like Def Leppard's entirely undeserving either.  There will always be conflict and argument about the role of popularity and mainstream success in deciding an artist's merit, but it can't be denied that those are factors.  For Def Leppard, their brand of hard rock was good fun, and wasn't ever meant to not be.  There's something to be said about that.  With obvious exceptions, there's really nothing wrong with being good at what you want to do.  The structure of their songs was also something slightly different from what we were used to, as it kept building up and building up before getting to the main chorus.  The ability to lay catchy hooks is something that not every band is good at.  Arguably the most perfect example of this in the case of Def Leppard is "Photograph" and is one of their most enduring and beloved songs to boot.  Hence, it is the song of choice for this band.

Janet Jackson:  The lone representative of R&B music and off the African-American community in this class.  Janet is one of the all-time titans of the rock-era popular music scene.  If any act should have represented populism, it should have been Janet Jackson.  Unfortunately, given the primary demographic for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and especially that of the broadcasts, it was Def Leppard.  Still, Janet Jackson's numbers don't lie.  Her legacy in pioneering New Jack Swing is an oft underplayed aspect of her legacy, but it's often so because her music is so much more than that.  The narrative surrounding her candidacy has been about getting out of the shadows of other members of her family, taking the reins of her professional and personal life, doing what she wanted, how she wanted, and when she wanted.  That's an amazing tale in and of itself to distinguish her from her family, but it ultimately means nothing if the music itself doesn't present a really strong case.  With Janet, it does this and more, as her own music's evolution is a narrative in and of itself.  So many catchy songs, but I ultimately dipped back to the legendary "Nasty" that was among the first to show her own strength of character and strength as a performer.  And it is a blueprint for New Jack Swing to boot.  It's far from my favorite song by her, but it is a succinct and prime example to use to show why her spot in this class is well-deserved.

Stevie Nicks:  And we reach the selling point for this year's induction class.  The most talked about of all the nominees and inductees, even by me.  What makes the induction of Stevie Nicks important isn't just the fact that she's the first woman to be inducted twice into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, though again, the press coverage would tell you otherwise.  However "unquestionable musical excellence" is defined, I think it can be accurately said that there has to be an element of honesty to it.  I think that's something most music-focused people, and especially people who follow the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, would agree is an ingredient of "unquestionable musical excellence."  It's why some only want acts that do pretty much everything with their music: write, play (no guest musicians ever), produce, promote, release, choreograph their shows, direct their own music videos, handle their own publicity and promotions, and even do their own stage makeup for their shows.  It's why some are okay with cover artists, as long as the interpretations have something different to them, an interpretation that is true to who the artist is.  It's why some want artists inducted who partied as much offstage as they did onstage.  It's why some object to those who sing about devil worship but are secretly Orthodox Jews.  With Stevie Nicks's solo career, it's about her no longer hiding her creativity, but baring it boldly in songs that she felt on some level.  It also a recognition of the validity of the simultaneous solo career, which we don't have a ton of in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  And when Stevie broke solo, everyone had to "Stand Back" as she did her own thing, while staying with her band.  It's probably my favorite solo Stevie song, and I think it shows her own strength, despite ripping off "Little Red Corvette."  And I think it's a lot better than "Edge Of Seventeen," so I'm definitely going with that song instead.

Radiohead:  When this band missed out on induction last year, there was a lot of head-scratching, and even some murmurs about conspiracies centered on their relative apathy for the accolades.  The one thing everyone can agree on is that this band is extremely deserving of the honor, even if the band members themselves don't understand why it's considered an honor.  An artist is generally considered worthy of induction if it can be pointed to how they contributed to the evolution of rock and roll.  It becomes an easier sell when the evolution of the band itself is highly recognizable as being from one album to the next, or even from every other album to every other album.  Maybe it takes two albums to fully mine a particular vein, while also beginning to reveal the next vein you'll be excavating.  I feel that's how Radiohead tends to work; however, as someone who hasn't followed Radiohead since the beginning, this is speculation on my part.  Someone else could easily take me to school if I'm way off-base on that.  Anyway, that's the train of thought I was going for when I chose "Paranoid Android."  As the first single from OK Computer, it still has lingering hints of what the band accomplished from the days of Pablo Honey and The Bends, but it also contained a lot of elements that piqued the listeners' collective curiosity, making them ask (some maybe even aloud), "Where are they going with this?"  If nothing else, following the evolution of Radiohead's music is less like a trajectory that's easily calculable, and more like riding Space Mountain where you can't always see whether you're about to go left or right, up or down.  "Paranoid Android" is far from my favorite Radiohead song, but I figured either this one or "Fake Plastic Trees" would be the best example.  As a personal aside, I really only started listening to Radiohead when they were nominated last year, and I have to admit, I'm a little resentful of how much I relate to their music, because it's seldom for the better.  Despite the fact I prefer the music of the first two decades of rock and roll, I really don't feel any shame in being a millennial, so it doesn't so much bother me so much that my enjoyment of them is a reminder of what a millennial I am.  It's more a matter of what songs I relate to and why that makes me hate myself and love-hate their music by extension.

Roxy Music:  Despite not being such a huge band here in the United States, Roxy Music is a band you know of because your favorite bands of the '80's and '90's were fans of them.  You didn't even have to know more than "Love Is The Drug" to find them worthy of induction, because your favorite bands knew their songs.  Or maybe you just know what a musical dynamo Brian Eno is and that he's a Roxy Music alum.  Whatever the reason, you just know they're worthy of induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame before you even hear a second song from them.  And as Joe Kwaczala said, once you hear their music, you hear it in all those other bands.  That's influence, and there's no escaping it.  For their own catalog, the unconventional nature of their songs is the essential motif.  Despite songs like "Avalon" and "More Than This,"  they really had a way of being unconventional, whether it was subject matter, the way they created sounds, odd juxtapositions, or maybe all of the above.  "Love Is The Drug" certainly isn't so unconventional in the subject matter, and even the idea of being addicted to love isn't entirely new.  And yet, Roxy Music managed to write about it in a manner that almost makes it sound like an anthropological study.  And the sonic landscape that they fashioned around those words was definitely different, odd, and catchy.  True, while they languished in the "Previously Considered" category for years, I chose this song mainly as something recognizable to use, but the more I listen to them, this song really is the happy medium that kind of makes their body of a work a coherent collage, so we're going to catch that buzz after all.

The Zombies:  If the musical evolution of Radiohead's career is difficult to follow, try telling the story of the Zombies to someone unfamiliar with them.  Their biggest hit was after they broke up, their landmark album only grows in popularity and stature each year, there was an impostor group trying to capitalize on their newfound success at the time while the keyboardist was off doing his own thing with his new band... not to mention they started out as a British band covering American R&B, but became a keyboard driven, moody, quasi-jazzy, and almost Baroque-sounding band.  Oh, and the real band reunited a few times, and has put out some high quality, but more conventional, songs.  I'd make a comparison to Avengers: Endgame here, but that movie's still in theaters as I type this, and I really don't want to spoil anything for anyone.  Anyway, the music is still more fascinating than the story, which is what really matters.  I actually really like the pre-Odyssey And Oracle stuff and the new songs too.  It's not just about that one album for me.  Give me "I Love You" and "New York" as well as "Imagine The Swan."  And while I didn't want to be so obvious with every inductee this year, the song used for the Zombies is indeed "Time Of The Season," and that's still okay, because it's such an iconic song for not just the 1960's, but for rock and roll itself.  It needed to be that song.

And with that, we've kept the Songs Of Proof catalog current.  It's a further look at the songs that I mentioned back on the merits evaluation entry about six or seven months ago.  But like every other post like this one, feel free to weigh in using the Comments section below.  And of course, the recap:

the Cure: "Friday I'm In Love"
Def Leppard: "Photograph"
Janet Jackson: "Nasty"
Stevie Nicks: "Stand Back"
Radiohead: "Paranoid Android"
Roxy Music: "Love Is The Drug"
the Zombies: "Time Of The Season"

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

2019 Induction Ceremony, From The Comfy Chair

It's kind of hard to put together some thoughts in a coherent form for a blog entry on this year's Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony.  Part of that is because I'm watching it for the fourth time as I type this.  "Shake Dog Shake" is being performed right now.  But this is the fourth viewing for me, so obviously I have had time to assemble a few thoughts.  I was originally going to to dissect it by segments: video packages, acceptance speeches, presentation speeches, performances.  Changing directions, I'm going by program flow.

Stevie Nicks:  I've had a lot of negative things to say about Stevie Nicks's solo nomination and induction. I still maintain the validity of my complaint that the push at the museum was borne out of the ignorance of John Q. Public; however, I've since come to realize how silly it's been of me to be upset that it's her first and not Carole or Tina.  Que sera, sera.  And this is the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, after all, and as Gregg Geller said on the "Who Cares About The Rock Hall?" podcast, they are consistently inconsistent.  Speaking of the podcast, I want to thank Joe Kwaczala for his comparison of Stevie Nicks's solo induction to that of Jeff Beck's.  I really did not think of it in that light.  Ultimately, I still prefer comparing Stevie Nicks's solo career with Ringo Starr's.  And I believe that if the museum poll had been around in 2014, Ringo would have been inducted as a Performer in 2015 instead of his consolation prize Award For Musical Excellence induction (which still counts as a second induction).  Anyway, having said a lot of negative things about her solo nomination and induction, it's time to give her credit.  Her performance was one of the best of all for the entire night.  She knocked it out of the park.  I actually dislike "Leather And Lace," and I knew what was going to happen from reading livestream tweets, and I still cheered when Don Henley walked out on stage.  Great performance.  Her acceptance speech was the best of everyone's too.  She laid it out, in more than one way, explaining her debut outing as a soloist really was supposed to be an outlet, almost like a creative catharsis for things that just couldn't properly coalesce in the Fleetwood Mac canon, similar to the solo projects by all four members of the Who, while maintaining an active band.  She also addressed the way the music industry worked back then, with the gentle strength of a velvet brick, against the backdrop of the current social climate, letting the audience infer and decide for themselves what should and should not have been acceptable, even back then.  Lastly, I applaud her promise to use her legacy and clout to illuminate the twists, turns, and pitfalls for others to follow to pursue their dreams.  Fantastic.  Her video package was notable too, in that it featured her narrating it, telling the story from her perspective.  Previously, video packages were semi-chronological video clips of performances, interviews, and other amusing one-off moments.  But having this voiceover narration caught my attention because of something that Joe K. and Kristen Studard pointed out on the "Who Cares About The Rock Hall?" podcast.  A lot of the acceptance speeches include the inductee giving their recollection of what happened.  By having this narration in the packages, they're getting that out of the way, and helping keep the speeches shorter.  It's a practice that wasn't in all of the video packages for the night, but one I hope becomes more common in the future.  I even enjoyed Harry Styles' speech, mostly, though I think he could have stopped before he got to how the name Stevie Nicks is both a verb and an adjective.  By that point it was dragging, but overall still entertaining.  I had previously joked that Stevie Nicks would probably be inducted first to get Harry home by his bedtime.  And sure enough, Stevie went first, and we don't see Harry any other time in the broadcast.

The induction of Stevie Nicks also might prove a useful barometer for rap acts in the future.  Much of the criticism against her solo career (by people other than me), is that about half her memorable songs are duets.  And the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, as a collective body, decided that didn't matter.  We're getting to rap artists of the '90's and later and approaching a sub-culture that deems it necessary to give label credit in the form of "and," "featuring," "with," or "introducing" to every person whose voice or instrument is heard on the song.  We kind of have that with 2Pac already, but it will get even more prominent as time goes on to the point where its inescapable.  Maybe as with Stevie Nicks and 2Pac, we'd all better get used to shrugging our shoulders and saying "Cool beans."

The Cure:  Though they were inducted later in the evening than shown here, I suspect the Cure were shown second on the broadcast because of Robert Smith's joke before launching into "Boys Don't Cry."  It was obvious he was joking about cursing Stevie Nicks, but he still walked it back with an "I'm joking" that can somehow best be described as "coquettish."  That, and after they finished, he said, "Enjoy the rest of the night," implying it was still early on, which it wasn't by the time they got to the Cure during the actual evening of the ceremony.  Their video package also had that seemingly narrative voiceover compiled from previous interviews that told the history of the band.  I have to admit to giggling when I saw the video excerpt from "Love Cats."  Kind of disappointed that we didn't see a clip of Stan Marsh and Kyle Brovlofski thanking Robert Smith for his help and saying Disintegration is the greatest album ever.   Trent Reznor gave one of the best speeches of the night.   I pointed out on Twitter that it seemed like Trent Reznor was rebutting Howard Stern's speech for Bon Jovi last year.  Stern spent a lot of his speech equivocating quantity with quality, with regards to Bon Jovi's 150,000,000 records sold, and Trent Reznor seemed to be responding to that when he said that the Cure sold the greater part of "who-gives-a-shit-how-many million records."  Nicely done.  Don't know how many picked up on that, but I loved it.  The Cure gave the best performance of the night, though I did notice that Robert Smith could seemingly only sing in a higher register, even on "Lovesong" and "Just Like Heaven."  That may just be part of getting older, along with looking like a cross between Courtney Love and Bette Midler's character in Hocus Pocus.

The Cure was also the first group (during the broadcast, that is) to have one person speaking for the group.  I have to admit to having some mixed feelings about that.  It's true that it keeps things tighter, and it prevents that odd moment when some lesser-known band member decides to kick off his stand-up comedy career that night.  But at the same time, the Cure is more than just Robert Smith (which didn't help that he was the only person Trent Reznor mentioned by name), Roxy Music is more than just Bryan Ferry, and Def Leppard is more than Joe Elliott (and Rick Allen).  This is probably the one chance that some of the other band members are gonna have to really be heard in their own words, where people who aren't die-hard fans of the band want to listen to these other members, and it's a shame to step on their opinions for the sake of keeping it short for HBO's convenience, for a tail that shakes shakes shakes shakes shakes shakes shakes shakes shakes the dog, shakes it, I tell ya!  (Sorry, not sorry.)

Janet Jackson:  Another great video package with a biographical narrative overlaid atop the action in the clips.  It really works well. Again, I chuckled when I saw her performing "The Beat Goes On" at a very young age.  Janelle Monae had the best presentation speech of the night, in my opinion, highlighting Janet's music as well the emotional impact, just as well as Trent Reznor did for the Cure.  But Janelle gave it just a little more oomph, talking about her credentials at large, as well as her social impact.  I also caught what seemed to be another rebuttal to Howard Stern's speech last year, as Janelle casually dropped the number 180,000,000, beating Bon Jovi's 150,000,000, but didn't dwell on it, opting to move on instead.  I admit, I cringed a little at the tortured pun of "womanifesto," but I somehow suspect that will not be the last time I hear that word.  Better get used to it.  Janet's speech was very touching as well, as she was humble and quick to acknowledge the people who had a big part in guiding her career.  And as did Stevie Nicks, the impassioned plea to induct more women.  No argument there.  Just too bad there was no performance.

Roxy Music:  This segment was right in the middle, and for me, it was one of my less favorite inductions of the night.  There was nothing wrong with it, though.  I still enjoyed it.  Like when the lowest grade on a test was a 93%.  That's still really good.  The video package went back to the usual interview clips that aren't quite chronological, and don't have that narrative guidance atop it all.  In this case, though, we did get to see interview clips with multiple members of the group, and I really appreciated that, especially when Bryan Ferry turned out to be the only one to speak for the band.  Simon Le Bon and John Taylor did a wonderful job presenting them, too.  Simon touched on the virtuosity of each player via their instruments, though he didn't name them all.  John's personal anecdote was amusing and pointed in how the influence was primarily in the United Kingdom.  That's particularly important, given the accusations of the Hall having an Americentric bias.  Bryan Ferry did a great job speaking for the band, and the songs that were broadcast were really well done, with a lot of help from the borrowed personnel, especially the lady singing the soprano solo on "Avalon."

Radiohead:  Far and away, Radiohead's video package was the best.  Stevie Nicks promised to show the way in her future interviews.  This video package sort of did that.  It wasn't a thorough step-by-step, but I loved how pragmatic yet philosophical the interview clips were, talking about the roller coaster of fame, the stages of finding a sound together, learning how to make an album, to deal with fame, to grow, to evolve, and to endure.  Just a fabulous package.  David Byrne's speech was short, and as someone who influenced them, rather than as someone who was influenced by them, it sadly didn't have as much personal connection to the music as it otherwise would have.  However, their innovation was a big part of why they deserve to be in, and David nailed that terrifically.  Ed and Phil gave great acceptance speeches, and they probably said all that Thom, Johnny, and Colin could have added.  No performance, sadly.  Since David was really converted, as he said, by Kid A, maybe they should have had him sing "Idioteque," backed up by Ed and Phil, as well as a few other musicians on hand.  Oh well.  that's the way it goes.

The In Memoriam segment was lovely.  The first time I saw an induction ceremony in its entirety, and saw the In Memoriam segment, it just blew me away about all the people they included: producers, engineers, agents, label founders, as well as musicians.  I was touched by its depth, and that continued through this year's segment.  I was floored that they even included the girl who inspired the Buddy Holly classic "Peggy Sue," and the "Ticket Queen."  I doff my hat to the Hall's thoroughness in this regard.  But there should have been a tribute performance to Aretha Franklin.

The Singles segment featuring Little Steven got scrapped entirely from the broadcast.  Having lowered the boom on this category in my previous blog entry, some of you may be wondering what my thoughts are on the choice to omit that segment, and that would be a fair question for you to ask.

The Zombies:  Despite not being quite narrative, the video package definitely had a biographical chronology feel to it, similar to the packages for Stevie Nicks and the Cure.  It was great to hear about the evolution of a band that felt moody and jazzy, to find out they started in R&B.  Kudos to Susanna Hoffs giving a great speech about her personal connection to the music of the Zombies.  A lot of fuss has been made about Susanna being 60 and still looking like she does.  I really have no take on that.  I've been taught that it's rude to say someone looks amazing "for their age," and not knowing Susanna personally, it wouldn't even be appropriate for me to say she looked good, period.  It's clear she takes great care of her health, but her age shouldn't be too surprising, given it's been almost thirty years since the height of the Bangles' success.  Either way, it's beside the point.  Her speech was great not just for the personal touch, but also how she focused on more than just one member.  I rolled my eyes slightly when she went for the low-hanging fruit to say, "This will be your year; it took a long time to come," but I have to admit, I probably would have done the same darn thing.  Each member taking a turn to speak was actually quite appreciated.  It was edited well, and I hope it wasn't too long a deal at the actual event.  I saw some on Twitter saying that the Zombies were the weak link, performance-wise.  I disagree.  While binge-listening to their music to properly assess them in my merits and personal enjoyment ranks, I came to appreciate the latter day material, and they sounded just as good that night as on those later-era songs.  I also noticed that during "She's Not There," they sneaked in the keyboard and rhythm section riffs from "Gimme Some Lovin'," possibly to suggest their advocacy for the Spencer Davis Group.  Maybe not, but possibly.

The Zombies' induction is a bittersweet moment for me as well, though.  Last year, when I revealed my Songs Of Proof playlist, I mentioned that in 2004, I created a list of one hundred entities that I wanted to see inducted, and why.  Every year, starting with 2005, at least one name has come off the list.  This year it was the Zombies.  However, this class also shows a decided turn by both the Nominating Committee and the voting bloc to start moving to more modern acts.  The list was created in 2004, and skewed very populist, though it didn't include the plethora of classic rock acts you might suspect.  But as the Hall tries to face forward, I'm having to face the reality that the Zombies will be the last name to be crossed off my list.  It was a good run though.

Def Leppard:  As much as I loved Def Leppard growing up, this induction was a bit underwhelming.  Still the video package was good, explaining the ethos of the band, and even a little chronology, starting with the T. Rex influences.  Brian May's speech, though, didn't do it for me.  I enjoy a good story told well, but I wasn't feeling this one.  And I felt like he really didn't talk about the music nearly as much as he should have, though I did like his sharing the further advice on remaining successful that he received back from Joe Elliott.  The speech from Joe Elliott was terrific too, for the most part.  I especially like how he said, "the '90's had no fucking chance."  Although, I almost wish that Joe Elliott hadn't mentioned Rick Allen's loss of his arm.  It happened, and it definitely speaks to the band's credit that he adapted and persevered, but at the same time, I don't think of Def Leppard as the band with the one-armed drummer.  I think of them as the band that rocked my childhood with HysteriaPyromania, and even Adrenalize.  And ultimately, I think the music is what they'd like to be remembered for foremost, and not for being "the band with the one-armed drummer."  Again, not downplaying the commitment and fraternity of the the band's members, and it served as a set up for the punchline about the '90's, but that particular bit got just a little more time than it should have, in my opinion.  As they performed, Joe Elliott seemed to be struggling a little bit with the high notes, but he was still rocking the house, as was the rest of the band.  Overall, a very solid performance from the winners of the fan ballot.

Very little in the way of low points for me personally, but I wasn't thrilled with the final jam on "All The Young Dudes."  It was great to see a nice cross-section of the ceremony onstage together, but I really wasn't thrilled with the way the all-star jam was used to stump for Mott The Hoople.  No, I'm not kidding or deluding myself.  Using the ceremony as the opportunity to push for other artists is practically a formulaic constant.  We saw it this year in the package for Def Leppard, when T. Rex was cited as an influence.  We saw it in the presentation speech by David Byrne, when he mentioned Can as an influence on Radiohead.  Maybe it was just an observation, but it could be construed as a plea to represent krautrock.  It often happens in the acceptance speeches, such as U2 in 2005, Metallica in 2009, and Daryl Hall And John Oates in 2014.  This year, we didn't get that so much, except when both Stevie Nicks and Janet Jackson asked the Hall to induct more women, though neither mentioned any specific women they'd like to see inducted.  We've even seen it in attire, noticeably Jeff Ament's shirt when he was inducted with the rest of Pearl Jam in 2017.  We've also seen it in the performances, like when Madonna asked the Stooges to perform in her place in 2008, and this year, when the Zombies were jamming towards the end of "She's Not There,"where they sneaked in the bit from "Gimme Some Lovin'." But the all-star jam?  It's supposed to be a jam with those who are in, and possibly their presenters.  I really didn't care for using the closing scene, the final call for fraternity, to push for another act.  Should Mott The Hoople be inducted?  Maybe, but that should be for a different time and place.  That said, "All The Young Dudes" is still a great rock 'n' roll torch song to bring the house down, so at least we got that out of it.

So that wraps up my fourth viewing (now fifth, as I've restructured this entry while watching the entire ceremony again) and my observations on this year's induction ceremony.  Great production job, good editing, great speeches and performances... great television in other words.  I really loved it.  I'm still not thinking about 2020 yet, but I'm about ready to put a cap on this year's class.  Think of it as putting the bookmark on the last page of this chapter, but not yet turning the page to the next one.  What were your thoughts about the ceremony?  How many times did/will you watch it?  To close out, while there was really not much to dislike, I'm still gonna rank what I saw and how much I liked them, even though I genuinely enjoyed each segment, even the all-star jam.

Video packages:
1. Radiohead
2. Janet Jackson
3. The Cure
4. In Memoriam
5. The Zombies
6. Stevie Nicks
7. Roxy Music
8. Def Leppard

Presentation speeches:
1. Janelle Monae
2. Trent Reznor
3. Simon Le Bon And John Taylor
4. Susanna Hoffs
5. David Byrne
6. Brian May
7. Harry Styles

Acceptance speeches:
1. Stevie Nicks
2. Janet Jackson
3. The Zombies
4. The Cure
5. Radiohead
6. Def Leppard
7. Roxy Music

1. The Cure
2. Stevie Nicks
3. The Zombies
4. Def Leppard
5. Roxy Music
6. All-star jam

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Singled Out (Consolation Prizes)

Last year at the induction ceremony, Little Steven announced the new category for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, the Singles category.  It included six inductees: "Rocket '88'" by Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats, "Rumble" by Link Wray, "The Twist" by Chubby Checker, "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen, "Whiter Shade Of Pale" by Procol Harum, and "Born To Be Wild" by Steppenwolf.  At the time, Little Steven said this was for acts that have not yet been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but they weren't being given up on.  Last month, when the seven Performer inductees were announced for the Class Of 2019, CEO Joel Peresman said there were going to be Singles category inductions as well, but they were not being revealed at that time.

When the category was announced last year, a lot of critics, commentators, and hobbyists jumped to weigh in on it.  I did not.  And for most of the past year since the ceremony, I've kept those cards pretty close to the vest.  A time or two, I've hinted at my feelings on the subject matter, but have never actually stated my stance.  Part of that was because at the time of the ceremony, I was already several posts into my series of Songs Of Proof.  Knowing how much I had wanted to say at the time, I knew it was going to be a long post, even by my standards.  There is a lot to say, and taking the time to write that post would have derailed the project I was doing, and I really wanted to keep that running smoothly, so I held off.  But now it's time.  For those who want the "TL;DR" version, here's the point: I hate the whole category in its entirety.

Conceptually, it makes a lot of sense though, right?  There are certain songs that are absolutely pivotal.  "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock," "Hound Dog," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," Rapper's Delight," "Smells Like Teen Spirit," just to name a handful, are all considered massively important songs in the history of rock and roll.  Honoring songs makes a lot of sense, on the surface.  And even some of the big names at the Hall have talked about doing something like this for a long time.  So, in theory, it would seem a sound idea.  But even the most sound theories can go awry in their application.

And there is just so much that is absolutely wrong with this.  Starting with the least irritating thing about it, the semantics.  It's not singles being inducted, it's songs.  These singles all had B-sides.  "Haunted Castle" was not inducted by virtue of being the B-side to "Louie Louie," nor were "Toot" or "Twistin' U.S.A." with "The Twist."  It's just the A-side hit songs.  It's a petty thing to be irked about, but given everything else that's wrong with this category, let's add that to the list, too.

Next is the way it just suddenly happened.  The tweet from Little Steven in the days leading up to the inductions suggested he had something special for the ceremony, and then he revealed it at the ceremony.  The whole implementation of it has had almost no accountability whatsoever.  That's actually nothing new for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, as the lack of transparency, the handling of everything completely in-house, and the way things have had to be handled when misspeaks were uttered, have all been pissing off fans, musicians, and hobbyists for years now.  But this... this had the veneer of even less accountability than normal.  The Nominating Committee is a group of thirty or so people.  They put together a ballot, and if someone tries to sneak in a name that wasn't agreed on, someone is going to speak up about it.  We don't know how many people counted the votes or how many times they were counted for accuracy's sake, but given the difficulty of particular pet projects not being able to get in over the years, I've always been willing to accept the vote totals as being relatively honest.  If Chic can fail eleven times despite Nile Rodgers being one of the initial founders of the Foundation itself, the classes themselves can't be completely arbitrary, no matter what the conspiracy theories about Jann S. Wenner say.  But this newest category, from all we've been able to find out, appears to be nothing more than Little Steven throwing a well-dressed hissyfit, because the names he keeps suggesting aren't getting in, and Peresman acquiescing to placate him.  Did anybody else have ANY say on which singles would be inducted?  I rather doubt it.

The sudden revelation of the category also was very disrespectful.  This was out of the blue with no respects paid to any of the artists who recorded these iconic songs.  As long as Chubby Checker has been waiting for his honors to be paid to him, this was sudden, seemingly designed to keep him from attending the ceremony, and if not for everything else that is slipshod about the category, I could actually believe that.  Link Wray's family has been taking to social media to get him in, and they weren't at the ceremony.  Same for the Kingsmen and the members of Steppenwolf and Procol Harum, or any surviving members of the Delta Cats or family members.  If you wanna pin it on the tail wagging the dog, to keep the ceremony from going longer, fine, but to not even give them any prior notice is extremely disrespectful.

Moving on from there is the fact that this is only for artists that have not yet been inducted.  That's explicitly what Little Steven said.  So, we're going to ignore landmark songs by acts who were inducted because they recorded those landmark songs?  Inductees usually have deeper catalogs, but to really have a proper songs category, there needs to be inclusion of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love," "Blue Suede Shoes," and "Summertime Blues."  The other side of that is the fact that of these six charter entrants, three of them had never even been nominated before.   It's one thing, but also still wrong, to cherry-pick Nile Rodgers when Chic fails eleven times, but to give up before it could even be tried?  Maybe there was some hemming and hawing about whether Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats should have been an Early Influence or a Performer inductee, but the fact is, they were ushered in without having been on the ballot ever.  We honestly don't know how Chubby Checker or the Kingsmen would fare on the ballot.  They were never nominated!  And they gave up on Steppenwolf after one try?  Procol Harum and Link Wray with fewer than five nominations apiece?  What does that really say about the process when quitting becomes that easy, especially when other inductees have needed seven, eight, or ten nominations to get in?  This only further plays into the "hissyfit" component mentioned earlier.

And make no mistake, this is giving up and quitting.  Little Steven may have said, "But we're not giving up," but look for exactly that to happen.  Has Chic been nominated since Nile Rodgers got inducted?  Then don't expect proto-prog-rockers Procol Harum to show up again anytime soon, or ever.  I really, REALLY hope I'm wrong about this, but this is giving up, pure and simple.  It's a further slap in the face to the artists, realizing that this is as good as it's ever going to get for their Rock Hall hopes.

Further twisting the knife is the idea that these songs apparently say all that ever needs to be said about the artists.  I mean, I'll admit that "Louie Louie" is the best song by the Kingsmen, at least that I've heard, but they were more than that one song.  Steppenwolf had at least one other landmark song, "Magic Carpet Ride," along with a solid string of blues-rock jams.  To lay it all on the legacy of "Born To Be Wild" grossly misses the entire breadth of their catalog.  And don't even get me started on the lengthy string of hit singles by Chubby Checker.  Even if most of them were songs about doing specific dances, he was still a lot more than just "The Twist," and doing variations on a theme is not the same as being derivative.   He was more than one song.  "But wait," someone might say, "Isn't that what you essentially did with your whole 'Songs Of Proof' project?  Boil down the entirety of an inductee to a single song?"  No, that's not what I did.  My project celebrates the institution itself, by selecting a song for each inductee.  My project was never about claiming any inductee had only one song that ever mattered.  Furthermore, the project was inspired by a radio program that saluted as many inductees as possible in a four-hour time span by giving each inductee only one song.  I was using templates already in place when I created the project.

It's a slippery slope that gives license to remain ignorant, to not delve deeper into an artist's catalog.  Maybe you can accuse my project of the same thing, but my project was created after either having already been or making myself more familiar with the catalogs of most of the inductees, certainly familiar enough to never claim that "Jim Dandy" was the only song by LaVern Baker that mattered.  I even hinted as much when celebrating the Class Of 2016.  Stop and ask yourself: how would you have reacted if Deep Purple hadn't been inducted, but "Smoke On The Water" was inducted as a "Single"?  Really stop and think about it.  What if the Hall was saying that "Hush," "Highway Star," or any other song was insignificant?  Because that's what Dave Marsh said about Deep Purple for the longest time, blocking their nomination for several years.  But you know what?  He later actually took it upon himself to research their music further and had the guts to admit he was wrong and say that they do belong in.  Now apply that to other inductees.  It would not go over well to induct only "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and not Nirvana, or "Jeremy" and not Pearl Jam, or "Iron Man" and not Black Sabbath, or "Creep" and not Radiohead.  You get the idea.  As the saying goes, "It's the singer, not the song."  Or the guitarist, and not the instrumental.

Admittedly, it's an easy trap to fall into.  I've debated in the past about whether "Wipe Out" was big enough to warrant an induction for the Surfaris.  One of the most important drum solos in rock and roll history, charted more than once, covered multiple times, and added a term to our lexicon that has transcended its surfing origins.  In the past, I've stuck to my guns that no, it's not enough.  Maybe it's time for me to revisit that thinking, and it wouldn't hurt to spend time binge-listening to the Surfaris, for that matter.  Either way, I would not dare suggest to induct "Wipe Out" and call it good, and ask that we move on from there.  Nor would I do that with any other artist, unless they literally only ever recorded one song.  And even then I still might not advocate such an action.

And that has been one of the most appalling and frustrating things about this Singles category fiasco: the way most others of the hobbyist community have been okay, or even supportive of it, and have been suggesting other prospects.  Shortly after Little Steven inducted the six songs, came the comment about how this is what they should have done with Percy Sledge.  I'm not going to revisit the induction of Percy Sledge as a topic; I'm merely illustrating the reception to the new category.  People are running with this and posting lists of songs that they want to see shoehorned into this category, and move along, especially from folks who want to close the door on the first two decades of rock and roll, the 1950's and the 1960's.  It's particularly insulting when the claim of "Only one song that mattered" is the result of a mindset that is, perhaps unwittingly, rooted in a combination of industry-wide prejudice at the time, social norms in America at the time, the marketing models of radio formats that deal in nostalgia, and the allegedly revisionist bents of historians and critics.  Apparently, it's okay to look past the fact that the Velvet Underground didn't have any hit singles, but we can't be bothered to look contextually at the history of the Marvelettes.  We can just accuse them of never moving goalposts a second time (arguably not true), ask to induct "Please Mr. Postman," and go about pushing for other artists we're more adamant about.  And that's ultimately what all the enthusiasm from our hobbyist community about the Singles category is essentially saying: "We don't care about inducting other artists properly; just get to the ones that we prefer."  Well, it cuts both ways.  Just remember, the Hall can turn around and induct "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and shuck Blue Oyster Cult, or "Rise Above" and raise the white flag on ever inducting Black Flag, or enshrine "Trans-Europe Express" and give up on Kraftwerk.  Are you okay with doing any of those things?  Then don't write off the Five Satins because "To The Aisle" couldn't properly duplicate the success of "In The Still Of The Night."  The Hall has inducted several artists that modern Oldies radio formatting generally revises the legacies of and calls them one-hit wonders; so if "I Fought The Law" was important enough, then dammit, just induct the Bobby Fuller Four.  Shame on us for applauding this atrocious practice.

The Hall could still theoretically salvage this category if they started inducting songs from Performer inductees, but given the origins and how it was executed this first go-round, I seriously doubt that will happen anytime soon.  I could be wrong, but even if I am, it will still reek of its bungled beginnings.

Ultimately, I loathe the Singles category because at its very core, it's a consolation prize.  It is the same reason we all hate these "back door" inductions that include Wanda Jackson, Nile Rodgers, and Ringo Starr; it's the same reason I oppose the idea of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ever having a Veterans Committee (Legends Committee, whatever you would call it).  And it's also the reason I am dismayed when Joel Peresman said that the possibility existed that the timeline for the Early Influence category could be moved to formally include early rock and roll artists that were influential to '80's and '90's artists.  Call a spade a spade: the Singles category is a consolation prize that also recommends self-fornication to the artists who recorded those songs.  It's why the Award For Musical Excellence induction of Nile Rodgers was unsatisfying.  It was a consolation prize, and will always be until Chic is inducted as a Performer, and Nile Rodgers is inducted a second time.  If the Hall had introduced this category back in the earlier years, as Seymour Stein, Andy Paley, and Bob Merlis said was strongly considered, and if they included songs from inductees and non-inductees alike, it might be different.  And I might possibly feel the same about a Veterans Committee, if they had done it sooner, though I doubt my feelings would have changed.  An induction into ANY hall of fame--whether it's rock and roll, baseball, television, or Michigan high school athletic coaches--is by its very nature a lifetime achievement award, even when said institution has a separate category called "Lifetime Achievement."  A "hall of fame" establishment should never engage in consolation prizes.  Never.

And for that reason, when I resume burning CDs for my "Songs Of Proof" project, I will not, repeat NOT, be including any Singles category inductees.  Induct the artists.  Do it right the first time, and you won't have to do it again.  My project salutes the people enshrined in an institution.  This category is poorly originated, has been poorly handled behind the scenes, was sloppily executed at this past ceremony, and cheapens the point of an induction into a hall of fame of any kind.  Dump it.  Now.  Induct the six artists insulted by this consolation prize, and speak not of reviving the concept in its current form ever again.

I still stand firm in my belief that making induction classes bigger is the simple answer to this.  When we don't unreasonably shorten the number of inductees a class can have, when more room is possible, when more inductions happen, things will happen more smoothly, more diverse classes can occur, and we can free ourselves from the notion that what matters most is having a marketable three-hour television broadcast.

And it starts with a conscious decision to do away with these consolation prize inductions.

Friday, December 21, 2018

"This Rock Hall class is too big!"--literally no one

I thought about snappier titles for this entry, but you know what?  If casual observers (or especially any powers-that-be in the Foundation) see nothing else, I want them to see that.  Just over a week ago, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame announced their Class Of 2019.  And it's a glorious class for a few reasons.  I'll spare the recap, and just try to weave the names of the inductees into the commentary.

As everyone else has pointed out, this is the first time we've had this many Performer inductees since 2004 (not including the six groups that were included by the decision of a special committee in 2012).  That's the first reason this is so awesome.  A lot of people have had this or that to say about the inductees, whether each inductee is deserving of the honors or not, who missed out that deserves induction, what does it mean, and so forth.  But if you look up at the title of this post, that is the most common thing to take away.  Everyone is shocked that there are seven Performer inductees, but everyone is also happy about it.  Everyone is posting hopeful thoughts that this will start a trend to bigger classes, and hopefully facilitate changes in the voting process... maybe allow voters to vote for more than five?  That'd be cool to see.  Make the classes bigger and you can avoid a lot of controversial practices and decisions.  People are happy that it's this big and want the practice to continue.  The only people who might complain are the folks at HBO or the people at the Barclays Center not affiliated with the Hall who worry about the event running long.  But if they're good at their jobs, they can work with it.

The second reason this is so awesome is because of negligence being corrected.  The first big one I'll mention is The Cure getting inducted.  This is momentous because ever since the Cure's first nomination for the Class Of 2012, the Nominating Committee has been making the effort to represent alternative from the 1980's.  It actually goes back a little further than that, with U2 and R.E.M. getting in as newly eligible acts, but both of those had a tremendous amount of commercial success, mainstream airplay, and reliably semi-continuous chart presence for years.  The Cure are a slight step down from those two bands in that regard.  They had a strong string of charted singles, a couple of which still get airplay occasionally, but their numbers aren't quite in the same stratus as R.E.M., and certainly not U2.  The segment of rock and roll history that the Cure represent has been struggling to get proper accolades from the Hall, but now that this has finally happened, there's renewed hope for the Smiths and the Replacements, not to mention hope for Pixies, Joy Division, and Sonic Youth, just to name a few.  Next, the negligence of Radiohead getting passed over has been corrected.  The Hall always tries to recognize monumental acts in their first year of eligibility, and the fact that Radiohead had to miss once is a shame.  It also raises a little concern since Outkast and Beck, just to name a couple, had to miss out on nomination just to get Radiohead in this time.  It's still unknown what happened last year, but it's also moot at this point.  Another ignored segment is art-rock.  There hasn't been a whole lot of representation of this, outside of Talking Heads.  The commitment to it was doubly noted with the additional nomination of Devo, but the nomination of Roxy Music and their forthcoming induction next year really shines a light on it.  When people talk about the origins of art-rock, this is usually the first group that gets mentioned, and their induction will add a huge amount of credibility to the Hall's statement of recognizing the evolution of rock and roll.  The last segment that has been suffering neglect, but getting some love this year, is '80's R&B.  To be fair, there's been a little bit of it: primarily rap.  But even in stylings that aren't rap, we have Prince and Michael Jackson (and Daryl Hall And John Oates if you consider them R&B--I don't).  But it's Michael's sister, Janet Jackson, that is being honored and represented this time around.  And make no mistake, she is a major force of R&B.  The first success or two you can possibly pin on her family name.  But look at the whole of that family: Tito never had a solo hit on any chart, having to do that vicariously through his children, the members of 3T;  Rebbie, Jackie, Marlon, Randy, and LaToya all only had a hit or three each to their own names across the various Billboard charts (primarily the R&B charts); Jermaine actually had a sizable amount of hit singles, and though "Let's Get Serious" is still an awesome jam, even his career pales in comparison to Janet's.  The brotherly quintet didn't even have the same longevity and hit-making power that Janet did.  In fact, when people think and speak of the Jackson Five, it seldom gets beyond 1971.  It's mostly about "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save," "I'll Be There," and maybe "Mama's Pearl," or their takes on a few Christmas staples during the holiday season.  The rest of their catalog tends to be forgotten.    Point being, the family name may have gotten her into the room, but it didn't keep her there.  And good production teams can help, but like bad source material, lack of talent can't be continually dressed up and remain successful for that long.  I know that opens up a can of worms regarding other forms of entertainment, but let's do our best to avoid that.  Janet's legit, she's getting her proper respects, and she brings some sorely needed recognition to the world of '80's R&B.

Switching gears, the parade of awesome comes through in the generations being represented.  Others have taken note of Radiohead, the Cure, and Roxy Music getting inducted in the same class when the immediate lines of influence are right there together in the same class.  Beyond that, you have a band that's only in its second year of eligibility getting in, and there's also some love and recognition for the old guard.  At long last, the Zombies are being inducted.  People are torn about how many acts from the '60's and '50's are still worthy of induction.  My number of acts from that period is significantly higher than most other hobbyists.  In fact, it's probably one of the highest among people who haven't served on the NomComm at some point.  But whatever the number a person may say, the Zombies have been a name that most have agreed probably should be inducted.  How pressing the need to induct them varies, but they're a name that few see and say, "Oh no, they should not go in ever."  The Zombies plant a foot firmly back in the '60's, and I'll be honest, I'm nowhere near ready to close that door.  I'm really hoping more that the Zombies open the door to get more recognition for this generation of artists.  But in terms of painting a picture or making a collage of rock and roll, the inclusion of the Zombies add an extra layer of depth that make the general feeling of this class feel less hollow and more sweet.

I'll add as an afterthought that I'm not nearly as chuffed as some other hobbyists at how many British acts are getting inducted in this class.  Part of me is excited that the recognition is happening, but it's a little weighed down as well.  First, Kraftwerk missed out.  Kraftwerk is the most deserving of the nominees that could have really steered the conversation away from an Americentric viewpoint.  Hopefully, the five British bands will help grease the axles to get Kraftwerk in soon.  The other component is the gender and racial imbalance in the Hall that has been a continually favorite criticism.  I'm unaware of any Black British inductees, and aside from Dusty Springfield and Christine McVie, I'm unaware of any British women who've been enshrined.  And this class doesn't add any more either.  So, in light of the pressure to get away from inducting more White men, that's exactly what's happened here.  So, it's great that we'll have more international points of view voting, but it doesn't quite signal the paradigm shift some have been looking for.

Fellow hobbyist Michelle Bourg commented with special ecstasy on the inclusion of Stevie Nicks as well, not so much for her actual solo career, though she also has no qualms about that so far as I'm aware.  What makes this class wonderful for her, and for me as well, is that there will be an induction of two female acts.  Not an act with at least two women in it, like Salt-N-Pepa or a girl group from the '60's, but two acts that included women.  This will be the first time since 2007 that two all-female acts are inducted in the Performer category, when the Ronettes and Patti Smith both broke through.  2010 saw two women from ABBA inducted, plus two songwriters from two husband-and-wife teams.  2012 saw Claudette Rogers Robinson get in via special committee to join Laura Nyro as a Performer inductee.  2013 saw the Wilson sisters inducted with male members of their band, as well as Donna Summer.  2018 had a second female nominee inducted, but in the Early Influence category.  It is with cautious optimism that I celebrate the induction of two female acts in the same class.  True, I would've preferred Chaka Khan to have been the other female inclusion, with her band Rufus instead of Nicks, but this is still great regardless.  I know I'd been a harsh critic of Stevie Nicks' nomination as a soloist, even dedicating an entire entry on women I'd rather see inducted twice than Stevie.  Hopefully, though, the explanations I gave for my opposition are understandable, even forgivable.  I'll address the one of my reasons a bit more fully momentarily, but as far as who should be or should've been the first, it's a moot point.  I'll just have to find a way to be okay with it, because it'll happen whether I do or not.  In the long run, it's okay.  I still don't know what makes her solo career worthy of induction and not Ringo Starr's.  I mention that again because people who vehemently opposed the idea to induct Ringo as a Performer for his solo efforts were strangely acquiescent about the thought about Stevie being enshrined a second time.  One argument has been that as a solo artist, she's a feminist icon.  I don't know that I believe that, but as a man, I also recognize that it isn't exactly my bailiwick, much less my purview, to say who's a feminist icon or not.  Either way, I don't think that's a good argument for induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but also either way, it's still good because it breaks down a decade-plus-long barrier and hopefully ends any manifest or latent mindset with the voting bloc that they can or should only vote for one female act.

One of the things that makes this class so awesome, though, is actually a little bittersweet, at least for me.  The induction of Def Leppard continues the ongoing trend of the top finisher in the fan vote getting ushered in.  And I have no problem with the band being inducted.  I do love their music.  But Stevie Nicks and Def Leppard were not only the two highest finishers in the fan vote, but also the two highest vote recipients in the museum's poll for who should be nominated.  The Hall is definitely increasing their efforts to include the general public in the process.  That's actually really cool.  The Hall has been frequently criticized in the past for intentional obliviousness to the desires of the public, eliciting such pejoratives as "private club."  It's great that the common man's demands are coming to fruition and that the barriers are crumbling down in relatively quick succession.  But take a step back and really consider it.  How far do we really want to take this?  Great, we've got Rush, Chicago, and KISS inducted because of public demand, but don't forget how narrow the general public's definition of "rock and roll" has been.  The fan vote is a constant reminder that the British Invasion's interpretation of what constitutes rock and roll is the prevailing opinion, if not the only definition worth enshrining, according to John Q. Public.  Not to mention that the reasons some people want certain acts inducted are due to personal memories.  Or just plain ignorance.  On the "Who Cares About The Rock Hall" podcast, Joe Kwaczala and Kristen Studard discussed Stevie Nicks' ascent to top spot in the poll at the museum, and how after voting for Nicks, museum patrons were afterwards heard to comment, "Oh, I didn't realize she was already in with Fleetwood Mac!"  That kind of ignorance to how the Hall operates and to the distinctions between Fleetwood Mac and Nicks' solo efforts only lends further credence to the saying, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."  It's why, at least on the surface, it makes sense to leave the nominations and voting to people who actually are highly knowledgeable: people who make their living out of knowing and learning these things, or are actively involved in the creation of the music.  Granted, vested interests have become a tremendous problem, but ideally, the diversity of knowledgeable people should work to correct that.  Theoretically, anyway.  The point is, though, the sway of public opinion should only go so far.  Interviews since the nominations announcement tell that nobody flinched at the mention of Def Leppard, and that the women of the committee banded together to push for Stevie Nicks over other female acts; however, we were never told who specifically nominated each of those acts.  Were they nominations officially submitted by the museum vote, or are they names that members of the Nominating Committee saw suggested and thought they were worth officially nominating?  I do dread the notion that finishing first and second at the museum automatically ensure slots on the ballot.  I like the idea of the top two finishers being the official fan submissions at the meeting itself, but there shouldn't be an automatic for the people at the Feast Of The Giant Hoagie.

Finally, I want to address something that was said when the inductees were announced.  When discussing rock and roll as a concept, Joel Peresman did kind of a verbal shuffle, not refuting claims that rap and R&B aren't part of rock and roll, but rather that rock and roll is more of an attitude or image.  No.  No it's not.  Rock and roll is a form of music.  And that should be especially paramount for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  The Hall spent a lot of time, energy, and money to properly establish rock and roll as a musical diaspora, drawing from several sources, incorporating other genres, and birthing a multitude of sub-genres.  Peresman's comment is tantamount to backpedaling on all of that.  It's about the music, not the image (also why I don't accept Stevie Nicks' "feminist icon" status as sufficient justification).  Joan Jett's induction with the Blackhearts was initially celebrated for her "riot grrl" image that she brought to the table.  But now, when critics and commentators look back, her induction is regarded among the iffier selections by the institution.  And besides which, images change over time.  Coolio's iconic hairdo has succumbed to male pattern baldness, but the significance of "Gangsta's Paradise" hasn't budged an inch.  Madonna has undergone multiple image changes, but her music endures.  Bono no longer has the Irish mullet, nor does he dress up as his Mirrorball Man or Mr. McPhisto personae from the ZooTV tour, but the catalog of Boy through Achtung Baby still holds up and is still venerated.  And you know why?  Because it's ultimately the music that matters.  Not the image.  Celebrate that.  Keep it about the music.  Or as Chrissie Hynde said when she was inducted in 2005, "Boom boom.  Boom boom.  Never change.  Keep moving forward, but never change."

So, there's a lot to love about this class, and maybe a thing or two to be cautious of.  I'm a little saddened that no other categories are getting inductees, but there's still much to celebrate.  And speaking of celebrating, Merry Christmas to you and yours, and Happy New Year.  Celebrate responsibly.

As a bonus, here's a list of years and entrants where multiple female entities have been inducted.  Bold print shows a class where more than one female-containing act were inducted in the Performer category; normal print is for those years where the other categories had to be included. Italicized print indicates special committee involvement for the Performer category.  Let me know if I missed any, and I'll edit.

1990: Zola Taylor (of the Platters), Ma Rainey, Carole King (of Carole King And Gerry Goffin)
1991: LaVern Baker and Tina Turner (of Ike And Tina Turner)
1993: Ruth Brown, Etta James, Cynthia Robinson and Rosie Stone (of Sly And The Family Stone), Dinah Washington
1995: Janis Joplin, all inducted members of Martha And The Vandellas
1996: Gladys Knight (of Gladys Knight And The Pips), Grace Slick (of Jefferson Airplane), all inducted members of the Shirelles, Maureen Tucker (of the Velvet Underground)
1997: Mahalia Jackson, Joni Mitchell
1998: Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks (of Fleetwood Mac), Cass Elliott and Michelle Phillips (of The Mamas And The Papas)
1999: Dusty Springfield; Cleotha, Mavis, and Yvonne Staples (of the Staple Singers)
2000: Billie Holiday, Bonnie Raitt
2002: Brenda Lee, Tina Weymouth (of Talking Heads)
2007: all members of the Ronettes, Patti Smith
2010: Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (of ABBA), Ellie Greenwich (of Ellie Greenwich And Jeff Barry), and Cynthia Weil (of Barry Mann And Cynthia Weil)
2012: Laura Nyro, Claudette Rogers Robinson (of the Miracles)
2013: Ann and Nancy Wilson (of Heart), Donna Summer
2014: Patti Scialfa (of the E Street Band), Linda Ronstadt
2018: Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta Tharpe
2019: Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks