Monday, January 15, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 1987

Happy Martin Luther King, Junior Day everyone!  We come now to the second class of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, the Class Of 1987.  This is notably the largest class to date, and quite possibly the largest there ever will be.  And wow, are there a lot of legends.  Many of whom could just as easily have been considered important enough to have been inducted in the charter class, the year before.  This is also the year where we get our first female inductee, our first group of more than two members (and with it, the first run-in with snubbed members), as well as the biggest and most egregious case of Front Man Fever that hopefully we will ever see.

But still, a class with a size that we would like to see more of.  It's fairly diverse, about as diverse as it can be given how many rock and roll acts were actually eligible at that time, and plenty of name recognition to go around.  So many artists with so many good songs, it's hard to choose just one song for each inductee.  Fortunately, it's also hard to go wrong with any of them.  So, what's the playlist for this class?

Leonard Chess: The man behind Chess Records (one of the two, anyway), and considered the driving force.  Hoping that Phil gets his due someday, too.  Meanwhile, as it was Chess Records that introduced the world to Chuck Berry, among other artists, it seemed only right to use "Maybelline," Chuck's introductory record to honor this Non-Performer.

The Coasters:  The first group with more than two members inducted, and a terrific, albeit unlikely selection.  The Clown Princes Of Rock And Roll used humor, particularly urban humor of that era, to reach the youth of America.  The coming together of African-American culture and youth culture is probably what best defines rock'n'roll, particularly early rock'n'roll.  So, I chose the song of theirs that I thought was funniest, and that every teen can relate to: "Yakety Yak."  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Poison Ivy")

Eddie Cochran:  A great star that we lost too soon, who wrote and first recorded the song about three stars that we lost too soon, pun intended.  On "American Gold," Dick Bartley avoided using the obvious "Summertime Blues" and chose a different song.  I did that too.  A great, underrated jam from Cochran, in my opinion, is "Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie" that just captures youthful exuberance.

Bo Diddley:  Of all the inductees from this class, there are three that I felt were important enough at the dawn of rock and roll to deserve enshrinement in the first class: Bill Haley, Clyde McPhatter, and this man.  Originally, I was using "You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover," but let's be honest, the song, the man, and the beat are all inextricably tied to each other, "Bo Diddley."

Ahmet Ertegun:  Again, while no man is an island, this man was the main force that helped Atlantic Records become so prominent.  Whatever you may feel about the cronyism surrounding the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Foundation, the importance of Atlantic Records to rock and roll cannot be denied.  Among the legendary artists he brought to the world are the Drifters, so I've chosen to salute him with a classic from the original lineup.  "Fools Fall In Love" is a fantastic song and wonderfully salutes the man, in my opinion.

Aretha Franklin:  If ever I have to explain the difference between liking and respecting something, Aretha Franklin's music is a fine example for me to use.  As much as I respect her impact and accomplishments, I'm not a fan of her music, at least not her voice.  Just don't like it.  So much so, that the opening bars of her cover of "Respect" have me reaching for the dial.  That said, every inductee gets a song.  Her stature for the empowerment of women is intertwined with her musical legacy, and I believe that "Think" fits the bill quite adequately.

Marvin Gaye:  Gonna say it right out front, this is one I'm actually thinking of changing at some point.  I'm not a huge fan of Marvin Gaye, and my favorite song by him is "It Takes Two," his duet with Kim Weston.  Since that violates the guidelines, I had to look elsewhere.  Now,  the obvious answer is to go to his work from the early '70's, right?  Yeah, I didn't do that.  Marvin's gospel influence and the way it could be heard and felt in his early years created some pretty decent toe-tappers as well.  In all honesty, if I'm gonna change it, it'll probably be to "That's The Way Love Is," but for right now, the song I'm using for him is "Can I Get A Witness."

Bill Haley:  And sometimes you have to go for the patently obvious.  The man and his band made a lot of great music together, but ultimately, the legacy he leaves the deepest is for "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock."

Louis Jordan:  Front man fever in the Early Influence category.  If the Tympany Five ever get tacked on and enshrined at some point, I'll give them "Five Guys Named Moe."  Meanwhile, the man's wit and sensibilities, as well as much of the DNA of rock and roll, is pretty evident in a great song like "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie."

B.B. King:  One of the greatest bluesmen of all time.  Some might consider it a little too commercial, but no one can deny that "The Thrill Is Gone" follows a solid blues format, is soulfully delivered, and has the great guitar work that he was known for.

Jerry Leiber:  As I said, Non-Performer teams are broken up in this set.  The songwriting duo wrote a lot of songs that Elvis is known for, but the Coasters were also another act that recorded a lot of songs they wrote.  As a bonus, on "That Is Rock And Roll," the song I've chosen for this half, it's Jerry Leiber himself who sings during the bridge, since the group member who was supposed to sing it was having trouble nailing it down, so Jerry sang it himself.  This wasn't a chart hit, but it is regarded as one of the group's non-charted classics, so I think this is a fine song to use to remember Jerry Leiber.

Clyde McPhatter:  A talented musician that I have tremendous respect for, and hope he is inducted a third time someday.  There was no one that sounded like him, and still really haven't been any who do.  Even as a soloist, he gave us some immortal songs.  I chose "Lover Please" because it's got a great beat to it and showcases his ability to work a lyric so that it suits him impeccably.

Ricky Nelson:  The legend among other teen idols.  Got into the business to impress a girl, and made a very respectable career out of it.  A lot of his songs had a country or rockabilly tinge to it, and to that end, I've chosen "Believe What You Say" to exemplify him as a rock and roller.

Roy Orbison:  Another artist that it's really hard to go wrong with, no matter what you select, to such a degree that picking a song for him is rather difficult.  Originally, I went with his version of "Mean Woman Blues," but I ended up changing it to something a little closer to his overall general style, that song being "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)."

Carl Perkins:  He's had a lot of great songs, to be sure, but in the end, I had to go with the obvious.  The one that really impacted rock and roll.  Yup, "Blue Suede Shoes."

Smokey Robinson:  So, this is one that I intentionally went with a solo record of his, even though this original induction clearly was about all of it: his solo work, his work with the Miracles, and his work as a songwriter.  If the Award For Musical Excellence category had existed then, he would have been inducted there, most likely.  Anyway, when I first created the project, I held out hope for an induction of the Miracles at some point, and I felt Smokey's solo career really deserved recognition too, so "Being With You" fills this slot.

Mike Stoller:  The other half, the surviving half of this duo, and one of three inductees in this class still alive as of this writing (Aretha and Smokey being the other two).  For this one, I simply went right down to the bone and went with Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog."  If Big Mama Thornton ever gets her due as an Early Influence, I'll happily use another song for her, since I'm sure she'd like to be remembered for more than just doing the original version of this song.

Big Joe Turner:  Another one of those interesting cases.  Here, he's considered a Performer inductee, but as a blues pioneer, so... kinda Early Influence?  It's clear the Rock Hall was really still figuring out what was what at this point.  Either way, the original "Shake, Rattle, And Roll" represents the man's contributions wonderfully.

T-Bone Walker:  A highly influential blues performer, one of his most enduring songs, one that John Mayer sang a piece of during his induction speech for Albert King, no less, is "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday's Just As Bad)," and I use that one here.

Muddy Waters:  Another artist that it's so hard to go wrong with, that there's no one right song either.  That said, I think "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man" is a song that will always be tied most strongly to him, no matter how many covers there have been or will be.

Jerry Wexler:  One of the first professional producers, at least as we understand the concept today.  This is a Song Of Proof that I chose based on a piece of lore.  It's an urban legend, sure, but I love the story of the tuna fish sandwich.  The story goes that the first time he heard "There Goes My Baby" by the Drifters, he threw his tuna fish sandwich up against the wall in disgust.  He was wrong about that song, as it became a big hit for the new incarnation of the Drifters; so, fishmongers everywhere, rejoice, I chose that song for Mr. Wexler.

Hank Williams:  Given how early the man recorded, his discography is surprisingly well-preserved.  A lot of good songs that still get covered to this day, and still good to listen to.  He was inducted without his Drifting Cowboys, so if they get their due for backing him, I'll give them "Move It On Over."  Meanwhile, for the man who has been inducted, I've decided to honor him with "Hey, Good Lookin'."

Jackie Wilson:  The man was nicknamed "Mr. Excitement," which is kind of odd, too, because he did a lot of ballads, a few of which include adaptations of classical melodies.  That said, whether his music was low and lovely or jumping, he was an intense R&B performer.  So, with that intensity in mind, I've gone and saluted him with "Baby Workout."

The biggest task is now complete.  Hope you haven't strained your brain too much.  Don't forget to share your list in the Comments below.  And now for the skimmers, the recap:

Leonard Chess: "Maybelline" by Chuck Berry
the Coasters: "Yakety Yak"
Eddie Cochran: "Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie"
Bo Diddley: "Bo Diddley"
Ahemt Ertegun: "Fools Fall In Love" by the Drifters
Aretha Franklin: "Think"
Marvin Gaye: "Can I Get A Witness"
Bill Haley: "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock"
Louis Jordan: "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie"
B. B. King: "The Thrill Is Gone"
Jerry Leiber: "That Is Rock And Roll" by the Coasters
Clyde McPhatter: "Lover Please"
Ricky Nelson: "Believe What You Say"
Roy Orbison: "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)"
Carl Perkins: "Blue Suede Shoes"
Smokey Robinson: "Being With You"
Mike Stoller: "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley
Big Joe Turner: "Shake, Rattle, And Roll"
T-Bone Walker: "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday's Just As Bad)"
Muddy Waters: "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man"
Jerry Wexler: "There Goes My Baby" by the Drifters
Hank Williams: "Hey, Good Lookin'"
Jackie Wilson: "Baby Workout"


Monday, January 8, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 1986

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Foundation began in 1983, and the first round of inductees were in 1986.  So, logically, I should wait three weeks from when I announced the project.  But we won't do that.  We're going to leap right into this.  Just as reminder, this is show and tell, not a voting matter.  The reasons for choosing songs vary between inductees, Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Songs Of Proof will appear in parentheses, and have fun.

We begin with the inaugural class, the one inducted in 1986.  Pretty obvious list of people inducted, and yet, still not without controversy.  A couple glaring cases of Front Man Fever to begin with, and right out of the gate, a seemingly ambiguous category whose specifications are not altogether clear.  Nevertheless, a tremendous case to begin with.  So, what songs would I use to represent these inductees?  What songs have you chosen?

Chuck Berry:  So, these are in alphabetical order, and this man comes first in the first class, because I go by last name, not first names.  We've gotta start strong.  Luckily, you can't get too much stronger than Chuck Berry.  To honor the great Chuck Berry, we're going with the semi-autobiographical classic.  Arguably his signature song, and the one that went aboard Voyager 2 to demonstrate the sounds of Earth.  "Johnny B. Goode" gets this project underway.

James Brown:  I will probably hear no end of it from fellow monitor Bill G., but I did in fact choose "I Got You (I Feel Good)"  I realize this is a song that credits the Famous Flames, but they're nowhere to be heard on this one, so as far as I'm concerned, it's a solo James Brown song.  Anyway, a great R&B classic with lyrical structure that borders on actual verses.  Maybe it's better to go with this song, as Brown as a soloist wasn't technically eligible either.  So, this only serves to perpetuate that problem further.

Ray Charles:  This is the first of many, many instances of deviating from the incredibly obvious.  The choice of "Unchain My Heart" is only semi-obvious.  A hit on the Pop charts, but a #1 hit on the R&B charts.  This is a great song with a solid beat behind it, but sadly one that isn't remembered as well as it should be.

Sam Cooke:  There are several good choices here, and I honestly question my choice for this one.  Rather than using "You Send Me" or even "A Change Is Gonna Come," I chose to show how intrinsic soul is a part of rock and roll, and used "Twistin' The Night Away," a fantastic song with a solid beat that was part of the dance craze during the early '60's. 

Fats Domino:  While this choice also keeps up with the trend of rollicking R&B, rather than the songs the artist is best known for, the truth is my selecting "I'm Ready" is really more because this is my favorite song from the Fat Man. 

The Everly Brothers:  The fact that they were pretty young when they broke big allowed them to plug right in to youth culture, which made them a part of the rock and roll discussion, rather than being remembered primarily as a country and western duo, (though they've been inducted into that Hall Of Fame too!)  So, my choice for them was a fairly countrified selection with subject matter that comically spoke to youth culture while also framing it as a victimhood of circumstance.  "Poor Jenny" is a song you need to give a listen if you can't easily recall it.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "When Will I Be Loved")

Alan Freed:  Our first inductee outside of the category people care most about.  A great legacy with a tragic end.  A White deejay who made a specific point to feature Black records.  Sadly, it's not entirely without blemish in that nobility either.  Still, the fact he helped bring R&B to the forefront should overshadow his weaseling songwriting credit for songs like "Sincerely" by the Moonglows, and I've chosen to honor the man with this fantastic song.

John Hammond:  So, what makes this man a "Lifetime Achievement" inductee, and not another "Non-Performer" inductee?  It's all speculation, but my hypothesis is that much of what he achieved was accomplished before the conventionally accepted beginning of the "Rock" era.  He helped jumpstart the careers of many music legends before rock and roll became part of our vernacular, and worked toward desegregating the music industry prior to rock and roll going mainstream.  So, since he was more a "Pre-Rock Non-Performer," they may have originally felt uneasy calling him a regular "Non-Performer" inductee.  That's just speculation.  Similarly though, he did a lot for rock and roll, including bringing Bob Dylan to Columbia Records, so I've chosen to use the lead-off track from the classic Blonde On Blonde album.  That would be "Rainy Day Women #12 And 35."

Buddy Holly:  Unlike James Brown, I was a bit more meticulous with my selection here, in that I made sure the song I chose was in fact credited to only Buddy Holly, and not to the Crickets.  And he did have plenty of hits, too, but the nice thing about Buddy Holly's legacy is that there aren't too many songs of his that are considered obscure.  Therefore, I'm pretty happy with my selection of "Rave On," which barely scratched the Top 40, but is a widely loved cut from the man.

Robert Johnson:  Another inductee that it's hard to go wrong with.  I still can't understand all the words to "Terraplane Blues," but I enjoy trying to sing along with it, and it's considered a pretty important record; ergo, I'm calling this one good.

Jerry Lee Lewis:  The man really was a lot more than just two songs, but even the most thorough of Oldies radio stations will have maybe only four songs by the Killer.  And in order to make this into a radio show, as I originally wanted to, this one would almost absolutely have to be "Great Balls Of Fire," which still isn't a bad call, in the end.

Little Richard:  The wild man!  The man who changed our language, giving new, nonsensical interjections and the whoop that is unmistakably his.  Is it any wonder that I'd go with "Tutti Frutti"?

Sam Phillips:  And once again, we choose to bait and switch here.  Widely remembered for bringing the world Elvis Presley, and yet, when I think of him, I think more of the overall legacy of Sun Records.  When I think of the sound of Sun Records, I really think more of Jerry Lee Lewis than of Elvis Presley.  So, Jerry Lee Lewis is used twice in the same year, and I really don't have a problem with that.  "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" for Sam's sake.  Besides, Elvis is used many times throughout this series.

Elvis Presley:  A lot of people hate Elvis Presley, or what they think he stood for, what he symbolizes to them.  As someone who wasn't born until after his death, I don't have nearly quite that level of attachment to that debate.  Objectively, though, you cannot discuss the history of rock and roll and omit the man and his contributions.  His sex appeal spoke to the girls who wanted him and the guys who wanted to be him.  Heck, even Ricky Nelson got into the music business because his girlfriend at the time was so big into Elvis.  He knocked down doors and had such a prodigious output that he kept rock and roll thriving during the early years.  And if you think of rock and roll in terms of albums and not singles, well, you have Elvis to thank as much as the Beatles.  Billboard made the album charts, the Top 200, a regular feature in their weekly publication originally to keep track of Elvis's success.  He's the King Of Rock And Roll, not just in the '50's, or '60's, but also in the '70's too.  So, it is with sincerity, not mocking, that I chose to honor Elvis with his version of "Burning Love."  (Sidebar: the Jordanaires have yet to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but they have been inducted into the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame, and their Song Of Proof there is "(There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)".)

Jimmie Rodgers:  Sometimes you strike gold on the first try.  The first song from him I found on filesharing services was "Blue Yodel," which is also known as "T For Texas."  It was a good copy, and it's a country song with the classic blues A-A'-B format.  If that isn't the proteins and amino acids coalescing in the primordial soup to help make rock and roll, then I don't know what is.

Jimmy Yancey:  Originally, I was using "Cuttin' The Boogie" because it was the only song I could find on firesharing servers!  Thank goodness for iTunes, as using "State Street Special" is much more fitting, and considered much more important of a song.

That's the first year right there.  Sixteen inductees, sixteen songs.  I'll recap below for anyone who simply chose to skim.  Meanwhile, think about what songs you'd use for these inductees, and share them below.  And start to think really long and hard about the next class, the biggest one the Rock Hall has had to date.  Look forward to your sharing your choices in the Comments section below!

Recap:

Chuck Berry: "Johnny B. Goode"
James Brown: "I Got You (I Feel Good)"
Ray Charles: "Unchain My Heart"
Sam Cooke: "Twistin' The Night Away"
Fats Domino: "I'm Ready"
the Everly Brothers: "Poor Jenny"
Alan Freed: "Sincerely" by the Moonglows
John Hammond: "Rainy Day Women #12 And 35" by Bob Dylan
Buddy Holly: "Rave On"
Robert Johnson: "Terraplane Blues"
Jerry Lee Lewis: "Great Balls Of Fire"
Little Richard: "Tutti Frutti"
Sam Phillips: "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" by Jerry Lee Lewis
Elvis Presley: "Burning Love"
Jimmie Rodgers: "Blue Yodel"
Jimmy Yancey:  "State Street Special"

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Say it with a song: The Great Playlist

It was Christmas vacation, 1998/1999.  It might have been the first Saturday of the new year, or one of the last ones of the old year.  Either way, I was listening to the syndicated radio program, "American Gold," hosted by Dick Bartley.  His programming format typically revolved around a highlighted artist that he would play two or three times per hour, or focus on the Billboard charts for that week from a specific year, and highlight that a couple times per hour.  Not this particular week.  This week, he spent the entire four hours playing, in alphabetical order, as many inductees into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame that could fit the oldies format ("American Gold" was an oldies program) and could fit in the four hours running time.  From the Animals to the Yardbirds.  He played almost exclusively Performer inductees, with one or two Non-Performers as well.  No Early Influences, though they could have played "Hello, Dolly!" or "What A Wonderful World" from Louis Armstrong.  The Sideman category was still non-existent.  He ended the program by announcing some of the inductees for the next class, which included Del Shannon, Dusty Springfield, and Bruce Springsteen (though he didn't play any songs from any of them).  That was the weekend I found out that the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame existed (I was still in high school, so cut me a little slack).

When I was in college at Michigan State University, I listened to the oldies station out there, and occasionally, for holiday weekends or other occasions, a particular air talent named John "Jukebox Johnny" Robinson would spend most of the day on Saturday playing songs or artists in a particular theme.  For Independence Day, he'd play songs from American artists, with the songs in alphabetical order.  One Thanksgiving weekend, he played what he called "turkeys," which in this case were either songs that charted in the top ten, but probably should not have, or songs that didn't make the top ten, but absolutely should have, in his opinion.  Again, songs in alphabetical order.  Every year, around the weekend that "I Want To Hold Your Hand" began its seven-week run on the top of the charts, he would play the Beatles' songs in alphabetical order.  From "Across The Universe" to "Your Mother Should Know."  He also included the Top 40 (but not all the Hot 100) hits, as well as several non-charted classics from the solo careers of the Fab Four, whether it was Ringo's "Only You," George's "All Things Must Pass," John's "Woman" or Paul's "Girls' School."  Yes, it included "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love" too.  Later, I interned for Jukebox Johnny, and pitched him the idea of doing a special program to highlight the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Unfortunately, John never cared much for the idea.  Partially because the Program Director of the station wouldn't allow us to break format to include inductees like U2 or AC/DC, and partly because John still doesn't have a lot of respect for the Hall because of certain acts he strongly believes should be in but still aren't, such as Jan And Dean, the Monkees, and Tommy James And The Shondells.  But even despite that, I continued to create a playlist to salute every inductee because I was hoping one day I'd find a way to make it happen.

That never happened, but I adapted the dream to another medium in the meanwhile.  I decided to put together my own homemade CD set.  But that required acquiring all the songs that I wanted.  I started really compiling this playlist in 2005.  For those who remember a little bit about that time period, file sharing services were huge at the time.  Napster had already been taken down, but Limewire and Kazaa were still running.  It was hard to find decent copies via those methods, but coupled with my CD collection that I already had, I finally had a complete, homemade CD set by 2007.  A year and a half later, I discovered the Future Rock Legends community.  I found a community to share this hobby with, as well as a treasure trove of new information, including a list of all past nominees, and even names that have been brought up at the meetings of the Nominating Committee, but never made it to the final ballot.  But I've never been really keen on sharing this playlist on burned CD's that I've created and listened to several times over.  But that changes this year.

This year, I'm gonna invite you all to do what I have gone and done.  You don't have to actually burn CD's for yourself, or even create a Spotify playlist, but each week, I'll be sharing my playlist for every year of inductions for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  And I'd like all my readers and visitors to share their thoughts and songs they'd use too.

When I created the CD's, I called them "Songs Of Proof."  Basically, if you have to pick one song to espouse, encapsulate, or otherwise demonstrate why that artist deserved enshrinement, what song would it be?  And here on Rock Hall Monitors, this year, you'll also have the chance to say why you chose that song.

First off, I want to state very clearly what this is not.  This is not an election or argument.  This isn't like the Revisited, Projected, Song, or Album projects.  We don't nominate or vote for songs, and the most popular choice isn't going to be the "official" song of proof for that inductee.  The CD's have already been burnt, and I'm not going to change my playlist and burn new CD's, certainly not for people on the internet I'll probably never meet or have a chance to share those CD's with in person.  What this will be is more like show and tell.  Share and respect.  Respectfully correct factual errors, but even so, respect others' choices.

That said, even a project like this has ground rules.  Actually, they're not so much "rules," as they are "guidelines," as even I've violated most of them at one point or another.  Still, I stuck to these pretty steadfastly for the most part, and I hope you'll try to at least as much as I did:

1. Every inducted act gets a song.  No omitting ones you disagree with.  Sorry, you have to give Percy Sledge and Laura Nyro a song too.

2. Every inducted act gets ONE song.  Again, I originally wanted to make a radio special program out of this.  Now, in my playlist, one inductee has a two-song medley that most people think of as being a single song nowadays anyway, and one inductee does have two songs, for reasons that I will explain when we get to that class.  But generally, no five-song-medley jam for James Brown.  No entirety of Dark Side Of The Moon for Pink Floyd.

3. Performers and Early Influence inductees' songs should be ones where they are the only artist of credit on the song, unless impossible.  This may be a tricky rule to enforce in the future with rap artists, as trying to find a rap song nowadays that doesn't have some kind of "with," "featuring," "introducing," or "and" credit is a bit difficult.  Nevertheless, I try to make sure the inductee is the only artist of credit on their song of proof.  So, no using "When Love Comes To Town" for B.B. King or U2.  No using "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" for either the Supremes or the Temptations.  Uncredited guest appearances are okay, ("Mellow Yellow" by Donovan, e.g.), but not credited duets.

4. If a Non-Performer, Sideman, Lifetime Achievement, or Award For Musical Excellence inductee did record songs as a recording artist, you certainly may use a song they recorded for them, but it's not necessary.  Don't feel too bound to do so.  I originally tried to at first, since as a radio program, having to take an on-air break to explain a song for a Non-Performer or Sideman could just use up so much airtime.

5. If an artist was a big enough hitmaker, the Song Of Proof should have been a hit back in the day.  It doesn't have to be the most popular, biggest hit for an artist, but if they had strong presence on the singles' chart, using an obscure album cut is a little disingenuous.  Try to avoid using "Sleeping With The Television On" for Billy Joel, or the Platters' cover of "My Way" for them.

6. No using the same song for multiple inductees.  You can use "Baby, I Love You," for either the Ronettes or for Sideman Hal Blaine, but not for both.

7. No using the same composition more than once.  If you use "Runaway" for Del Shannon, no using Bonnie Raitt's cover for her Song Of Proof.

8. Christmas songs are not allowed.  Use a little brainpower for Darlene Love, Charles Brown, and Brenda Lee.

9. Non-Performer teams are broken up into individuals, each getting their own song.  I call this the Mort Shuman rule.  When I first completed my compilation, Mort Shuman had not yet been inducted, but I broke up songwriting teams because I'd held out hope for him to be inducted one day as well.  So Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller each have their own, as do Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland.  Same for Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.  However, I don't do five Beach Boys' songs with one for Brian, one for Al, one for Mike, one for Carl, and one for Dennis.  The six groups that were selected for induction by special committee for 2012 do get their own songs separate from the inducted front men across previous years.  Just wanted to clear that up.  However, I will be understanding and lenient if you choose not to break up Non-Performer teams in your versions.

10. Above all else, have fun.

No seriously, have fun with this.  Choose your songs wisely, but then once you've chosen them, don't second-guess them too much.  It's not necessary that the song you choose have all of the inducted members from a band on it, or as many as humanly possible.  You don't have to apply the same logic or methodology every time.  Sometimes I chose a song for an inductee because it was the "most rocking" song by the artist.  Sometimes I chose it because I felt that song best depicts what an inductee brought to the table.  Sometimes I even chose a song because it's my favorite song by that artist.  Sometimes, a Non-Performer's Song Of Proof is tied to a particular piece of lore or legend.  Sometimes an Early Influence's song was chosen because it was the only one I could find on Limewire or Kazaa that was clear enough to use.  And yes, sometimes I went for the obvious choice.  But don't always do that, either.  On the broadcast of "American Gold" that I listened to, when Dick Bartley got to Eddie Cochran, rather than using the ubiquitous "Summertime Blues," he switched it up and went with "C'mon Everybody," and it kept things interesting and exciting.

Two other little bits of housekeeping.  First, as some of you know, I also followed the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame until it became defunct.  I made a similar set for that Hall Of Fame too.  If a Rock Hall inductee is also a Vocal Group Hall inductee, I'll include their Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof in parentheses.  The no-reusing rules crossed over to this set too.  So, for example, I refuse to use "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" as both the Rock Hall and the Vocal Group Hall Song for Journey.  It may be used for one or the other, but not both.  Second, I said that I compiled this list with a lot of help from filesharing services.  Well, those copies weren't always the best quality, so right from the start, it was a goal of mine to get legitimate copies of songs, either from iTunes, CD's from the local library, or just purchasing CD's for myself.  I'm sure the statute of limitations has run out for those infractions, but just to be clear, my game's legit now.  Took some doing, but both my pet project and I are better off for doing it right.

It can be intellectually stimulating, it can be imaginative, and hopefully it is.  Start thinking about your Songs Of Proof for the Class Of 1986.  We'll start sharing our lists next week!

Monday, January 1, 2018

And there you have it, folks.

And the inductees were announced.  And the people were disappointed.  Mostly at the fact there were only five Performer inductees, some about how predictable it was, overall.  And some were upset that other acts didn't make the grade.  In other words, par for the course for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame when they announced the 2018 inductees.

The old saying goes, "One for them, one for you."  And in a way, that's kind of what we've got here.  First off, one for the highbrows and the critics.  Nina Simone is going in.  Now, sure, she did have a lot of love from fellow musicians, and no doubt that absolutely did help her get in, but overall, Nina is the pick for those who value the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as an institution for enshrining culture and art, and heralding the unification of diversity that rock and roll music is supposed to stand for.  And even if she was primarily jazz, her impact on rock and roll musicians, not to mention that some of her songs could quite comfortably fit into the soul songbook (seriously, had they lived, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding could have done some great homage covers of "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free"), Nina is indeed a welcome inductee.

Then of course, you have one for the great unwashed.  The masses.  Bon Jovi is the candidate for the people at large.  Out of all the names on this ballot, Bon Jovi is the one that most young and old have at least heard of and probably even know a song by, whereas the older generation might not even really know the name of Rage Against The Machine, and the younger haven't heard of Link Wray, the MC5, the Meters, or the J. Geils Band.  But Bon Jovi is a big enough name that parents make sure their children know.  And they're going in the Hall this year.

Thirdly, you have one that is primarily the musicians' choice.  That would be Dire Straits, a band that may have had some initial critical respect, and many people know a couple songs by, but ultimately, I would have to believe that it was the fellow musicians' respect for this band, and primarily for Mark Knopfler that pushed this band over the final hurdles.  When I measured the nominees by merits, I absolutely did not give full credit to that aspect of the band.  The respect among peers for Mark Knopfler and his extraneous work beyond Dire Straits should have been more of a factor than I allowed, though to be honest, it would have probably fallen under "Intangibles" and still wouldn't have gotten them a notch higher.  That said, I still came very close to predicting them.  And again, I don't think they're a bad call overall, though maybe the least desirable of the nineteen names for me, but there's room for them in the Hall.  And there'd better be, because they're heading that way.

Which brings us to the other two Performer inductees.  These are acts that I would deem each to be a happy medium for everybody.  Though prog rock is not well-loved by the critics, the musicians and the people certainly have love enough for the Moody Blues, and even some of the critics have admitted that despite their reluctance to vote for them, they should be in.  So, this is an act that had solid support from two of the three camps, and begrudging acknowledgment from the third.  Lastly, the Cars get the nod after two previous failed attempts.  As I've said repeatedly, this is the band that had something for everybody, even if they aren't the biggest name.  While I still believe that Bon Jovi will be the headliner and closing act for the ceremony in 2018, I wouldn't mind it if the Cars ended up being the finale. That is doubtful, though, since they apparently have never excelled at stage presence.

So those are the Performers.  We also have Sister Rosetta Tharpe going in as an Early Influence, to which we all say, "Finally!"  AlexVoltaire of the Northumbrian Countdown posited a hypothetical hypothesis as to how she even ended up on the main ballot to begin with, but she is being inducted in the correct category.  What might have been called the biggest Rock Hall injustice will be corrected, and we can just put it behind us.  About time she got in.

Of course, the story is as much about who didn't get in as who did.  While almost nobody felt Kate Bush had a chance, it was the choicest of chances to make a statement about rock and roll beyond an Americentric scope.  The Eurythmics and Depeche Mode both could have spoken for a sound of the '80s that the Hall is still dragging its feet to enshrine.  Judas Priest misses out for the metal fans, though I suspect they just got lost in the shuffle this time, and will be inducted within the next five years.  It seems Mark Knopfler fills the guitar god slot instead of Link Wray.  The Moody Blues are as close to representing the 1960s as we'll have this year, instead of the Zombies, the MC5, or the aforementioned Wray.  Actual, unquestionable R&B just flat-out got shafted, as the Meters, LL Cool J, and Rufus featuring Chaka Khan all fell short.  It's particularly disheartening to see LL Cool J miss, but not surprising. This is not the first time he has missed while being the only rapper on the ballot, and may not be the last time, either.

For me, it's the other three that didn't make it that are the most interesting stories for me.  First off, while few actually predicted Rage Against The Machine to make it, it's still noteworthy that they didn't make it as it both speaks in favor of the Rock Hall's integrity that they didn't use their lack of transparency to fast-track a NomComm member's induction, and also raises eyebrows at the establishment, regarding conflicts of interest in the first place.  While I am not certain if Nile Rodgers was ever on the committee for any of the eleven times that Chic was nominated, this may be something to keep in mind over the next few years, when both the Roots and the Foo Fighters become eligible.

Secondly, the failure of the J. Geils Band to make it piques my interest because this is a band that is a favorite with some of the highest higher-ups within the Foundation, most notably Jann S. Wenner himself, and also because the death of the namesake member failed to vault them over the bar this time.  I wouldn't say they should give up trying to get this group in yet; however, given the voting trends of the past three classes, if they are ever one of only three or fewer classic rock acts on the ballot, and they still cannot get enough votes to make the top five or six recipients, then it is pretty safe to say it's time to concede defeat and move on to other names.

But if course, it's the one nominee from this ballot not yet mentioned that has caused the most shock and turning of heads.  How the hell did Radiohead miss?  This would still be a valid question to ask even if the story about their Argentinian gig the night of the induction ceremony had never materialized.  Radiohead was the act that nearly everyone had predicted to make it.  They've been heralded as the last important rock act, they were the last "sure thing" as far as newly eligible artists going in immediately, the critics loved them, it seemed the people loved them.... so double you tee eff, eh?  Well, Troy L. Smith published a fascinating read as to why that might have been.  However, there's one possibility he didn't consider that I'd also inject into the discussion: everyone figured everyone else would vote for them.  It's a hypothesis I've conjectured before.  If enough voters figured that Radiohead was a certainty, without the help of their individual votes, and thus decide to select another name that they figure needed the help to get inducted, it could very possibly add up (or not add up, so to speak) to Radiohead not coming close enough to the other five to be worth inducting a sixth act, as Joel Peresman claimed.  It's a suggestion that's almost impossible to prove or disprove, without hearing from actual voters as to why they didn't vote for Radiohead, and that would come way too close to the kind of transparency that the Rock Hall eschews.  Nevertheless, it's another log in the discussion's fire.

So where does that leave us, and where does that leave us heading?  Well, while I refuse to discuss predictions of any kind for 2019, it is important to look at the implications for the future at large.  Once again, Troy L. Smith states it beautifully and succinctly.  This is the fourth year in a row that acts in the "classic rock" radio format ("dad-rock" as Smith puts it) has comprised at least half the Performer inductees.  With the Rock Hall, trends don't last much longer than that, but this time it may be different.  Why?  NomComm member Alan Light gets it: it's becoming a pyramid scheme of sorts that benefits classic rockers.  Now, it won't expand the number of classic rock acts that will be inducted each year; the Hall has proven pretty inflexible on that.  It may or may not cause the number of classic rock nominees to balloon further with each coming year, but again, the people in charge try to keep that number under twenty.  No, the pyramid is the number of votes that classic rock acts will receive in the coming years.  Of all the classic rock band members being inducted this year, only Benjamin Orr is deceased.  The sad truth of our society that life expectancy of Whites is currently longer than that of Blacks, coupled with the fact that most of these are bands that have had several members inducted with the band, means the number of White men who become voting members keeps growing every year.  And as Alan Light noticed too (as paraphrased by Tom Lane), the voting pool is expanding with Classic Rockers who are voting for their peers over younger nominees.  As long as there are enough classic rock bands nominated for it to be mathematically possible to literally have an all-classic-rock-bands induction class, inducted classic rock members who've become Rock Hall voters will vote for the acts who are their friends and with whom they toured--even if they're nowhere near the most worthy nominees on the ballot.  The number of votes for classic rockers will keep growing every year, in a fashion reminiscent of Pascal's triangle.

So, if there is to be any hope for diversity, any hope for quality acts that weren't classic rock to be inducted before fourth-rate, one-hit-wonder classic rock acts, the NomComm needs to determine ahead of time where they stop scraping the bottom of that barrel.  Personally, and I know this will be unpopular, I'm fine if the Hall never inducts (or even nominates) acts such as Foreigner, Kansas, Free, Fairport Convention, Red Rider, Rainbow, Golden Earring, the Ozark Mountain Devils, or even Styx.  Boston probably isn't that deserving either, but I like them enough to where I wouldn't complain if they got in.  Supertramp, I'm on the fence about.  So, there are still classic rock acts I think should probably be inducted, but I think the whole format is chafing from getting so much action over the past few years.  Here's hoping that we go a different route next go-around.

On that note, and as I've said above, I am not, repeat NOT going to engage in any discussion regarding the ballot or class for 2019.  For crying out loud, it's been less than a month since this year's inductees were announced.  Play with and cherish the toys you got this Christmas before you start nagging Santa with your wishlists for next December.  Frankly, it's a little sickening already.  So much so, that I am announcing right now that any reply in the Comments section about 2019 is going to get 86-ed.  It's not abusing my power; it's maintaining my sanity.  Not until we're halfway through July at least, m'kay?

Instead, I'm going to ask you to think about this year's inductees, and last year's, and every inductee already enshrined.  All of them.  In every category.  This year, we're going on journey together.  Stay tuned for details...  Oh, and Happy New Year's, everyone.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Predictions for 2018: Bet (mostly) on White

After evaluating the nominees by merits and ranking them by personal preference, it is now finally time to list my predictions for the Class Of 2018 for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  The predictions are based on seeding them, ranking them by likelihood of induction, as determined by me.  In the past few years, the classic rock format has dominated the classes.  Bands whose heights of popularity were during the 1970s and 1980s, and were comprised almost entirely of White men have comprised at least half of each class's Performer inductees for the past few years.  I'm expecting that to continue, hence the subtitle for this entry.  Time to rank them in order of likeliness as I see them.  I could be wrong; I have been before.


1. NINA SIMONE
Jazz-influenced singer.  First-time nominee.
Why she might make it:  People from every walk of music praise her musical abilities, and acknowledge the huge impact she has had.
Why she might not:  She's generally considered more of a jazz singer, having little to do with any sub-genre of rock and roll music, however it may be defined.
Whom she'd pave the way for:  There aren't too many like her, so guessing that could prove tricky.  However, for the sake of discussion, maybe she'd pave the way for Odetta or someone more obscure but more in line with traditional conventions of rock and roll, like Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings.
Biggest threats: Her most direct competition is probably Sister Rosetta Tharpe, but could include the Meters and Rufus featuring Chaka Khan.
In the end:  When you're one of the few Black people, as well as one of the few women, on Jeff Ament's shirt, and when Dave Davies of the Kinks takes to Twitter to practically demand your induction, it's a pretty safe bet many other voters agree.  Odds of induction: 90%


2. BON JOVI
Pop-metal band most popular during the 1980s.  Second time nominated, seeded #8 in 2011
Why they might make it:  They dominated the fan vote, and so far, the top finisher in the fan vote to date has always gotten inducted.  They were also probably the most popular of all the nominees, and the Hall is getting more populist.
Why they might not:  They have almost nothing in the way of critical support.  Additionally, the band's transition towards more country-tinged music slowly erodes their rock credibility.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  Def Leppard is another band of similar style that has been considered before, but not yet nominated.  The trend toward populism could cause some heads to turn that way.
Biggest threats:  Rage Against The Machine had a harder edge on their guitars, Judas Priest is another metal band with more credibility.
In the end:  Jon's come a long way since "R2-D2, We Wish You A Merry Christmas."  And I'm sure he'll be grateful if no one mentions it when he's inducted.  He was probably hoping nobody would even mention it this Rock Hall season, but his luck was not to hold out.  Anyway, the band won the fan vote.  Until the trend is broken, it's folly to bet against it.  Odds of induction: 85%


3. RADIOHEAD
Alternative rock act from England.  Newly eligible, first-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  They're quasi-nicknamed "the last important rock band," and have been widely celebrated in pretty much all of their output.
Why they might not:  They're a polarizing act.  It seems you either love them or hate them, regardless of how much you respect their art.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  The world of indie rock that is still known to the mainstream world somewhat could conceivably include Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire.
Biggest threats:  Rage Against The Machine is also newly eligible and could steal votes from them, Kate Bush and the Moody Blues are also known for being experimental.
In the end:  I think they're a little too well-loved by insiders to miss out.  Banking on this one.  Odds of induction: 80%


4. THE MOODY BLUES
Early prog-rock band.  First-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  This is a group that people have been clamoring for years to get inducted  They are ranked somewhere near the top of most people's list of snubs.
Why they might not:  They've been snubbed because people with deep roots and long reach within the institution had been actively trying to make sure this band stays out.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  After the Moody Blues, the prog community is probably most staunch about King Crimson getting in, with Jethro Tull probably somewhere relatively close behind.
Biggest threats: The Zombies are something of a threat, being a fellow British act from the '60s.  I'd also put Radiohead as an act that could detract from their votes, albeit the effect might be slight.
In the end:  I overestimated John Q. Public's love for this band, though they finished in second place in the fan vote.  Still, I think the fellow musicians in the voting body are squarely behind this act.  Odds of induction:  70%


5. JUDAS PRIEST
Heavy metal band from the 1970s and 1980s.  First-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  They are early heroes of heavy metal, highly influential.
Why they might not:  They didn't have a lot of songs that are in the public consciousness, due to how they were promoted and marketed, and might be written off as a one-trick pony.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  Motorhead is most likely next in line behind Judas Priest, and UFO and Uriah Heep probably would follow.
Biggest threats:  Bon Jovi is also considered a hard rock/metal band of sorts, and could divide the ballot against them.  Link Wray is also a heavily influential guitarist and could snag a few votes away, too.  Don't overlook the MC5 either, in this regard.
In the end:  Heavy metal is tricky to predict because it doesn't get nominated too often.  Metallica got in on their first try, Black Sabbath needed eight nominations, and Deep Purple needed a few as well.  Early metal tends to need multiple nominations, and I was originally going to seed them eighth or ninth.  But last minute, I'm placing them to make it this year.  Odds of induction:  55%


6. THE J. GEILS BAND
Blues-based rock group.  Fifth-time nominee, unseeded the first two times, seeded #3 in 2011, and #5 in 2017.
Why they might make it:  They've got Jann S. Wenner and Little Steven in their corner, which is big.  Little Steven has a pretty good track record of getting his nominees in, and every couple years or so, a pet act of Wenner's gets in, such as the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 2015.  Additionally, they're a great live act with an electrifying frontman who has been on hand for the Hall's ceremonies a time or two.  Lastly, the death of the eponymous member this past year, Jerome Geils, makes them the Death Fairy pick.
Why they might not:  Despite all the people in their corner, they're a tough sell.  On paper, they just don't stack up as being very worthy.  They're an act that is easy to forget in the shuffle of everything, and that could hurt.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  Since they were originally rooted in the blues, maybe getting them in will get the Hall to look at blues artists again and go for Johnny Winter, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, or Albert Collins.  It could even open a door for Southside Johnny And The Asbury Jukes. 
Biggest threats:  The Cars are a '70s and '80s act that had a bit of commercial success, too, as is Dire Straits, so they are the most direct competition.  Bon Jovi and Judas Priest are classic rock acts that could steal votes too.
In the end:  Lately, the Rock Hall's classes are pretty sparse on repeat nominees getting inducted.  We're due for a purge at some point, but with Bon Jovi topping the fan vote, it'll need to be a six-inductee class for this group to make it.  But I think they will this time.  Odds of induction:  50%


(6.5 SISTER ROSETTA THARPE)
(Gospel singer from the '30s and '40s)
(Why she might make it:  Widely considered a long-overdue candidate for the Early Influence category, it's encouraging to see her finally getting some attention.)
(Why she might not:  By nominating her in the Performer category, there is a chance that they are placing all their chips on inducting her as a Performer and won't hold discussion about her as an Early Influence.)
(Whom she'd pave the way for:  Gospel outfits like the Golden Gate Quartet, Swan Silvertones, and Five Blind Boys Of Mississippi could be considered as well.)
(Biggest threats:  Again, her nomination as a Performer could block this path.)
(In the end:  Everyone knows she belongs in this category.  She's heavily deserving, but will they do it?  Coin toss here.  Odds of induction as an Early Influence:  50%)


7. DIRE STRAITS
Rock band from England, prominent during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.  First-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  "Money For Nothing" is considered a monumental record, and was the first video that aired on the British version of MTV.  Add "Walk Of Life" and "Sultans Of Swing," and you've got a case really starting to build.
Why they might not:  Arguably, their unquestionable musical excellence doesn't go much deeper than those three songs, and some argue that they couldn't continue to build and get better after their first album.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  Tough call, but this is the act most likely opening the door further for Boston and Foreigner, and maybe reignite the flame for a solo Sting induction. 
Biggest threats: The J. Geils Band, the Moody Blues, and the Cars are all the most direct competition, while Bon Jovi and Judas Priest might nab a few check marks that would otherwise go to these guys.
In the end:  If Jerome Geils hadn't passed away this year, this band would be seeded sixth.  That was literally the difference on this one, and they could still somehow sneak through.  Odds of induction: 49%


8. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
Politically charged nu metal band.  Newly eligible, first-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  Tom Morello is on the Nominating Committee, which is going to carry weight with the voters.  Additionally, in the current political atmosphere, inducting a band that hates everything the current administration stands for would be considered the Hall's way of "sticking it to the man."
Why they might not:  The Hall has a gift for controversy, and this nomination reeks of "conflict of interest" and could even serve to make the band the new Chic.  Plus, nu metal may not be popular enough to get votes.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  It's hard to guess, but perhaps other acts like Slayer and Anthrax could get some attention in the wake of this band's induction.
Biggest threats:  Radiohead is the other newly eligible and most direct threat.  The MC5, whom Morello acknowledges their influence, could be more appealing to voters who think the Hall needs to be more chronologically correct with their inductions.
In the end:  They have a serious chance, but classic rock has been on a roll in the past few years, and Radiohead is the much safer bet between the two newly eligible acts.  So, much like Jane's Addiction, I'm not betting on this one.  But it's a tough cut.  Odds of induction: 45%


9. LINK WRAY
Early rock ‘n’ roll guitarist.  Second-time nominee, seeded #7 in 2014.
Why he might make it: Pioneered surf rock and hot rod rock.  Known as the inventor of the power chord, and he has scores of guitarists that have cited him as a tremendous influence.
Why he might not: Link Wray would rank right up there with Percy Sledge as a one-trick pony.  “Rumble” is the song that pretty much sums up his entire career.  He recorded a lot of records, and had a couple other lesser hits, but it all comes back to “Rumble”.  Voters might go for acts with a bit more substantive catalog of well-known songs.
Whom he’d pave the way for: Dick Dale would be a huge name to go after once Link gets in.  As far as ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll early guitar heroes, Buddy Knox is also still not in, so he could get a nod after Wray.  Otherwise, other rock guitar heroes, possibly Johnny Winter, would be on deck.
Biggest threats:  The Zombies are another classic oldies act that some would like to see in.  The MC5 and Judas Priest are also influential guitar-based outfits.
In the end:  He'd be a great addition, but it'll always be a tough go for him.  Odds of induction: 40%


10. THE CARS
New-wave rock band.  Third-time nominee, seeded #5 in 2016, and #8 last year.
Why they might make it: There aren't too many bands that can be innovative, widely acclaimed by critics, and popular with the listening public.  The Cars pulled it off and made it look effortless.
Why they might not: New-wave and synth-rock are pretty minimally represented in the Hall, and it's not a widely loved style by the powers-that-be therein.
Whom they'd pave the way for: An induction for the Cars probably won't bode too well for acts whose popularity was not in America, so don't expect a door to open for Gary Numan or Tubeway Army, but the strong synth lines could help connect the dots towards Duran Duran somewhere down the line.
Biggest threats:  The J. Geils Band are another classic rock band that enhance any good-time party.  Bon Jovi also fits that bill and could detract from this band, as could Dire Straits.
In the end:  On paper, they should have gotten in two years ago.  I guess, like War, they're having a hard time not being lost in the shuffle, which I think will happen again.  Odds of induction:  37.5%


11. EURYTHMICS
English synth-pop duo.  First-time nominee.
Why they might make it:  Their sound is infectious and one of those that might contend for epitomizing the entire decade of the 1980s.  Additionally, Annie Lennox as both a musician and a public figure for femininity and feminism, makes them a formidable contender.
Why they might not: From Kraftwerk to fellow nominee Depeche Mode, the synth-driven sound of rock and roll has had a hard time getting recognized.  Really, the 1980s in general have trouble getting respect.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  I'd expect Annie to break down the door for more women.  Maybe we could finally push through Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Gloria Estefan And The Miami Sound Machine, as well as more synth-driven acts like Duran Duran.
Biggest threats:  Depeche Mode is the most obvious threat in their way.  I actually see Rufus featuring Chaka Khan as a bit of a threat for them too.
In the end:  The question keeps coming up from fellow watchers, "Who doesn't love Annie Lennox?"  Well, I don't.  I don't hate her, but I'm not a huge fan either.  All that aside, I see the classic rock steamroller continuing through and flattening their hopes.  Odds of induction: 35%


12. DEPECHE MODE
Synth-rock outfit from England.  Second-time nominee, seeded #11 last year.
Why they might make it:  Depeche Mode represent something pretty innovative and signature of the '80s, and despite never really grabbing the brass ring at any one time, they're recognized as one of the biggest names in their field for the entirety of their career and catalog.
Why they might not:  Their style is ultimately not that well-loved, especially by critics in the voting bloc.  Plus, with the Smiths, the Replacements, and the Cure all failing to get inducted in the past, it just seems like so much of the '80s is going to be kept out for awhile. 
Whom they'd pave the way for:  Simple Minds have been considered before, and an induction of Depeche Mode might give them a shot, as well as the Thompson Twins and Tears For Fears, and maybe even Dead Or Alive.
Biggest threats:  Eurythmics is the clearest direct competition.  Bon Jovi is the go-to act for the '80s.
In the end:  In a weird way, Depeche Mode can be described as a "big fish in a small pond," particularly when discussing their subgenre's representation in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  That's not saying they're small potatoes, just that what they bring to the Hall's table isn't getting asked to be passed around all that much.  And with a ballot this large and a small class likely, they'll drop through the cracks.  A lot of people like them, but can't find room for them this time around.  Odds of induction: 33.3%


13. LL COOL J
One of hip-hop’s very first solo superstars.  This is his fourth nomination, seeded #8 both in 2010 and 2011, and #4 in 2014.
Why he might make it: Hip-hop was dominated in the early days by groups: the Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., etc.  LL Cool J was one of the first solo superstars, especially in terms of crossing over to the pop charts and a wider audience.  Now, hip-hop is dominated by solo artists, because of rappers like him.  He also helped create the bridge that changed R&B into the more sultry style that it became in the ‘90s and still exists to this day.
Why he might not: He’s been the only hip-hop artist on a smaller ballot in the past, and he couldn’t get in then.  Also, his duet with Brad Paisley from years ago, "Accidental Racist” was eaten alive by critics, so the most recent flavor from him has been bitter to people’s ears.
Who he’d pave the way for: Other rap solo artists loom on the horizon: Ice-T is already eligible, and soon enough we’ll see Jay-Z, Ja Rule, and Snoop Dogg getting looks.
Biggest threats: No other rap acts on the ballot, unless you count Rage Against The Machine, but Rufus featuring Chaka Khan could draw a lot of the R&B votes away from him.
In the end:  Classic rock is dominating the conversation right now.  The comments about last year's ceremony--how the time spent inducting 2Pac was when a lot of people chose to use the bathroom--yields a bleak picture.  I think Nina Simone is going to be the sole, token "diversity" inductee this year.  Truth hurts.  Odds of induction:  30%


14. THE MC5
Hard-rockin' proto-punk band.  Third time nominated, Unseeded the first time, seeded #12 last year.
Why they might make it:  They're heavily respected for their innovation and influence.  Plus, who wouldn't want to see an MC5 tribute performance fronted by Fred "Sonic" Smith's wife Patti?  That could only be awesome.
Why they might not:  They were short-lived and didn't have much presence, and still don't have much name recognition with the general music-listening public.  Also, distortion as an effect is novel and artistic, but overall is a gimmick that doesn't break down walls for them.
Whom they'd pave the way for:  They could help pave the way for acts like Television and the also-once-nominated New York Dolls.
Biggest threats:  Strangely enough, the biggest competition is Rage Against The Machine, a band influenced in part by the MC5.  The Zombies are also a threat in their own right.
In the end:  It's nice to see them nominated again, looking forward to seeing their name appear again because this won't be their year.  Odds of induction: 25%


15. THE ZOMBIES
‘60s British Invasion rock group that prominently featured keyboards.  Third time they've been nominated, seeded #8 in 2014, and #14 last year.
Why they might make it:  Not only does the Rock Hall love the British Invasion, but so does the general public.  This is an inductee they’d celebrate together.  Also, one of the more distinct of the British acts.  Their sound was very unique and hard to confuse for anyone else.  
Why they might not: They were pretty short-lived, and have only a handful of songs that people remember, even though they love them dearly. It might just not be enough.
Whom they’d pave the way for: With Procol Harum missing out this year, an induction for the Zombies might rejuvenate that charge.  It could also lead to future nominations for Manfred Mann, Herman’s Hermits, the Spencer Davis Group, and maybe a left-field pick like the Troggs.
Biggest threats:  Those nostalgic for oldies also have Link Wray, the Moody Blues, and the MC5 to consider.
In the end:  One can never count the '60s out entirely, but with the Moody Blues on the ballot, a much more clear favorite, this is one not to bank on.  Odds of induction: 20%


16. RUFUS FEATURING CHAKA KHAN
Funk group from the '70s and early '80s. Second nomination, seeded dead last (#15) for 2012.
Why they might make it: They had an amazing run with styles that included roots music, funk, disco, and ballads. Plus, Chaka Khan is a well-known singer, so her name power could help.
Why they might not: R&B, particularly anything related to disco, has a difficult time getting recognized. Plus, some still worry that this would prevent a future induction for Chaka Khan as a solo artist.
Whom they'd pave the way for: Their varied history could be good news for acts like Delaney And Bonnie, as well as bands like Sade, but in reality, would probably only help other funk outfits, like the GAP Band, or the Average White Band.
Biggest threats: The Meters are the most direct threat, and LL Cool J could snare votes away.
In the end: If they could be nominated as just "Rufus," it would quell ambiguity and rumors of a joint induction.  But even without ambiguity, they still are a longshot.  Odds of induction: 16.67%


17. KATE BUSH
British songstress, known for experimental sonic styles. First-time nominee.
Why she might make it: Her work is highly acclaimed for its artistry and inventiveness. Additionally, she is quite influential to female musicians even to this day.
Why she might not: Her music is inventive to the point of being difficult for the masses to listen to. She didn't rely much on sales and did not tour much, so she's not a name people think of enshrining.
Whom she'd pave the way for: Artistic female musicians, like Tori Amos could come through the door Kate would open.
Biggest threats: For artistic women, Eurythmics are the most direct competition, arguably followed by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan.
In the end: I honestly doubt she'll see a second nomination any year soon, let alone getting in this year. Odds of induction: 15%


18. THE METERS
Funk band that did much session work, rooted firmly in New Orleans.  Fourth-time nominee, Unseeded the first time, seeded #13 in 2013, and dead last (#16) for 2014.
Why they might make it: The Hall loves the sound of New Orleans.  In 2011, they inducted Dr. John, and in 2012, they inducted Cosimo Matassa, an engineer who helped record and shape the New Orleans sound.  Additionally, the Neville Brothers have been starting to get some consideration as well, and two of those brothers were one-time members of the Meters.  This group might be able to ride those waves into the Hall this year.
Why they might not:  They’re one of the more obscure names on this ballot, never really breaking through, commercially speaking.  No real signature tune that they’re instantly linked to by John Q. Public. 
Whom they’d pave the way for: The sound of New Orleans could be carried on in the future with the Neville Brothers, Buckwheat Zydeco, and even Virginian Gary "U.S." Bonds, whose sound drew big from the New Orleans style.  Beyond New Orleans, the Bar-Kays would be another great instrumental group that also did session work.
Biggest threats: Rufus featuring Chaka Khan is the most direct threat, and LL Cool J is also a threat in the R&B arena.
In the end: This is one of those bands that will need the push from critics, historians, and industry insiders who aren't band members to get in. The voting bloc has increased about to where it was before they reduced it drastically, so there is a chance, but it is doubtful. Odds of induction: 12.5%


19. SISTER ROSETTA THARPE
Gospel singer from the '30s and '40s. First-time nominee.
Why she might make it: She commands a lot of respect in the music industry, and to some, basically invented rock and roll.
Why she might not: By now, everyone and their Aunt Ruthie has pointed out that she shouldn't even be a Performer nominee. Many suspect she will be an Early Influence inductee if she doesn't get the votes here, so why waste a vote?
Whom she'd pave the way for: She is such a singular figure, that after much thought, the only person thought of to follow is Big Mama Thornton.
Biggest threats: The biggest threat is the possibility of induction as an Early Influence. As far as other artists, possibly Nina Simone.
In the end: What is she even doing on the ballot as a Performer nominee, anyway? Odds of induction: 10%


20. CHIC
I know, they weren't even nominated, but it just doesn't feel like a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ballot without them. But with Nile inducted last year... Odds of induction: 0%

So there you have it. I'm predicting six inductees as Performers, the top six seeds, and probably one Early Influence inductee. Hope you enjoyed my breakdown of this year's nominees, and we'll know very shortly how our predictions play out.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

With help from Spotify, personal preferences 2018.

Now that the objective measurements of merits are complete, it's time to be real about whether or not I like the artists nominated for next year's class.  As I've said in the past, I do this because the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame lists "unquestionable musical excellence" as the primary criterion (beyond the 25-year eligibility rule), but how is that even defined?  It probably means a mite more than simply liking an act, although not caring for an act seems to have been grounds enough for exclusion for years, though that is now changing.  This year, the personal taste factor has been something of a conundrum.  From the outset, I said I wasn't really enthused about this year's ballot because there really weren't any acts I loved all that much on it.  And while that is still mostly true, the fact is I wasn't very familiar with too many of them, either.  Well, that changed this year.

About a month and a half ago, I finally decided to start upgrading my tech, and I finally got a smartphone.  I downloaded Spotify and proceeded to spend a day at work listening to each of the nominees.  My work day usually involves about four or five hours of office time and four hours of time out in the streets.  So, I spent about four or five hours just binge listening to each of the nominees.  And I gotta say, I really don't hate any of the nominees after all.  This list is going to rank them one to nineteen, but even though someone's got to finish last, there's really not a bum in the lot.  I know that sounds platitudinal, but I've never been shy about admitting I flat out don't like a nominee: in the past, I've expressed disdain for Sting, Yes, and Cat Stevens, so when I say I actually found binge-listening to the nominees while working to be both quite pleasant and very rewarding, know its sincerity.

I should point out, though, that listening to the nominees while working is not always the best way to get a feel for their music.  For example, Kate Bush is not the kind of artist you should listen to while doing blue collar work.  Surprisingly, neither is Depeche Mode, though Eurythmics works well.  Link Wray and the Meters, both having recorded a lot of instrumentals, are not the best call for the workplace either, if you have to keep checking your phone for song titles, since there are few lyrics to infer titles from.  But the benefits are undeniable. When you listen to an artist for four or five hours straight, you get a feel for the artist's overall style and their catalog, especially when it's on Shuffle Play.  It wasn't perfect: almost all the Zombies' playlist came from either their 2013 live album, or their 2015 reunion album Still Got That Hunger.  And if you search for just "Rufus," you will get the nominee, but also the Australian electronica group also called Rufus Du Sol, as well as a duet by Rufus And Carla, plus the "Naked Mole Rap" from the Kim Possible soundtrack.  Do not ever listen to that last song.  You will regret it.  Overall though, four or five hours covered a lot of ground, though not every song.  But I don't feel you have to listen every note of every song to know whether or not you like an artist.  I think the amount of time I spent for each nominee is sufficient.  However, I did supplement my Spotify with YouTube, going back over the charted hits on the various Billboard charts, and even the Cashbox and Record World charts to give a listen to any significant songs Spotify may have skipped over.  So between Spotify and Youtube, I believe I've gotten a serious handle on the general oeuvre of each nominee.  So with that in mind, time to incorporate my feelings on each nominee, where I'll include my favorite song by each, and average it out with their merits.  Interestingly enough, relative positions and favorite songs have changed from where they've been in the past.  That's why one is supposed to never stop doing their research.  Here we go!


1. Nina Simone
Such a varied and wonderful singer.  I won't say I liked every song of hers that I heard, but pretty darn close.  Whether she took four and a half minutes with "Four Women" or just over a minute with "Color Is A Beautiful Thing," she always said it well.
Favorite song: "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free"
Merit rank: 2
Average of ranks: 1.5

2. The Moody Blues
This one actually surprises me a bit.  I really don't care for prog as a general rule, but they made a point not to eschew catchiness, combined with their nearly immaculate vocal harmonies, which I'm a always a sucker for.
Favorite song: "Your Wildest Dreams"
Merit rank: 4
Average of ranks: 3

3. The Cars
In our current social climate, I think some of the lyrics in some of their songs really would not go over well.  That said, they're still wonderful listening.
Favorite song: "Tonight She Comes"
Merit rank: 7
Average of ranks: 5

4. The J. Geils Band
It's actually a downside for me that the live recordings are so much more electric than the studio, as I stuck pretty much to judging them by their studio recordings.
Favorite song: "Just Can't Wait"
Merit rank: 18
Average of ranks: 11

5. Bon Jovi
Initially, I thought this would be number one.  I grew up in the Midwest, and Midwesterners love hair metal.  Regardless of race, creed, and whatnot, Midwesterners are mostly united by a shared love of hair metal.  And if you don't like it, we'll just tell you, "Have A Nice Day!"
Favorite song: "Born To Be My Baby"
Merit rank: 15
Average of ranks: 10

6. The Zombies
If I hadn't been so irked that most of what I was listening to on their binge session was from 2013 or later, I would really have enjoyed their latest album more.  It was still good, and the classics still hold up.  By the way, in my initial reactions to the ballot, I commented that of all the nominees, there was only one whose music I had previously purchased for personal pleasure, rather than furthering my Rock Hall research.  That would be these guys.
Favorite song: "Tell Her No"
Merit rank: 16
Average of ranks: 11

7. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
I love a good gospel song.  Though I have to admit, due to the way historians compile anthologies, the lines blur a little.  My favorite song was initially going to be "Shout Sister Shout" until I discovered that was technically a Lucky Millinder And His Orchestra record.
Favorite song: "Strange Things Happening Every Day"
Merit rank: 1
Average of ranks: 4

8. Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
It's something of a shame that a lot of the personnel on Seal In Red were not only not part of the nomination, but also not listed among the snubbed members, as that album is a big part of getting them ranked this high. Chaka's voice is awesome, but so is this album without her.  It's amazing.  Listen to it.
Favorite song: "Take It To The Top"
Merit rank: 14
Average of ranks: 11

9. Eurythmics
This is the biggest shocker of all.  I figured the vast majority of their stuff sounded like "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" and "Here Comes The Rain Again," both of which I despise.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much more they were than just the moody synth sounds.  I still don't love Annie Lennox nearly as much as fellow monitors Tom Lane and AlexVoltaire, but I don't hate their music as much as I thought I would.
Favorite song: "When Tomorrow Comes"
Merit rank: 10
Average of ranks: 9.5

10. The Meters
The sound of New Orleans is hit-and-miss for me.  I love Fats Domino, don't care much for Dr. John, love some of the Neville Brothers but not other songs.  So, the Meters had some songs I really enjoyed, and they also had "Fire On The Bayou."
Favorite song: "They All Ask'd For You"
Merit rank: 17
Average of ranks: 13.5

11. Link Wray
His instrumentals are wonderful; however, he's no singer.  That said, even when he sang he was saying some important stuff.  Still worth listening to, though I'd skip the Robert Gordon collaborations.
Favorite song: "Copenhagen Boogie"
Merit rank: 11
Average of ranks: 11

12. LL Cool J
It really is quite amazing how his music, even within the same era, combined such masculinity and fragility, and even some sophomoric takes on life too.  Oh yeah, and mad respect for sampling the Moonglows.
Favorite song: "The Do Wop"
Merit rank: 3
Average of ranks: 7.5

13. Judas Priest
I didn't think I'd be able to put up with them for four hours, but their brand of metal is actually pretty melodic, and even when it isn't, most of it is still pretty awesome.
Favorite song: "United"
Merit rank: 8
Average of ranks: 10.5

14. Depeche Mode
I was actually surprised to realize I don't like this act as much as I thought I did.  The early stuff, with the higher-pitched synth lines and their attempts at harmonies have a certain allure for me.  Even though the production values are far superior on their later stuff, I like catchy.  What can I say?  I'm an egalitarian music snob.
Favorite song: "Just Can't Get Enough"
Merit rank: 9
Average of ranks: 11.5

15. Radiohead
Another surprise that I liked them more than I thought I did.  I loved "Idioteque" in college, but really never caught on to them.  Almost ranked them above Depeche Mode because the good is better than Depeche Mode's good, but the ones I didn't care for pull their overall average just a notch lower.
Favorite song: "No Surprises"
Merit rank: 6
Average of ranks: 10.5

16. Dire Straits
Sorry AlexVoltaire!  Only marginally better than they did in merits!  This was the biggest disappointment for me.  I was really expecting their body of work to be more like the biggest hits.  In reality, they're more akin to Gary Lewis And The Playboys: the hits they're remembered for are fantastic, and so are some of the B-sides; however, the rest of it is pretty weak.  With a few exceptions, outside the big three, they strike me as a troubadour outfit, a slow jams band for White boys who can't dance, and a poor man's E Street Band rolled into one.  But the hits still hold up quite well.
Favorite song: "Walk Of Life"
Merit rank: 19
Average of ranks: 17.5

17. The MC5
I'm not a huge fan of their cacophony, but mining their stuff deeper really has given me a greater appreciation for them.
Favorite song: "The American Ruse"
Merit rank: 13
Average of ranks: 15

18. Kate Bush
Admittedly difficult to binge-listen to at work; however, this has more to do with the fact that a lot of her work is the kind of aural art you'd expect to find in the auditory wing of a sort of museum for high art for all your senses, as opposed to conventional definitions of "songs," especially from an artist you'd expect to see enshrined in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  That said, it would be a wonderful conceptual coup if she got inducted and one of the pieces she performed was "50 Words For Snow."
Favorite song: "Eat The Music"
Merit rank: 12
Average of ranks: 15

19. Rage Against The Machine
Again, I don't hate any of the nominees.  I'm not big into nu metal, but it's great music to work along too, and when I could make out the lyrics, it was worth absorbing.  This is how I discovered just how innovative their sound is too, so don't think I'm being patronizing here.  As I said at the top, someone has to be in nineteenth place, but I still enjoyed it.
Favorite song: "People Of The Sun"
Merit rank: 5
Average of ranks: 12

So when you consider the averages of all the ranks, the logical course of voting for me should theoretically be Nina Simone, the Moody Blues, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Cars, and LL Cool J.  In actuality, I have been voting for Nina Simone, LL Cool J, the Meters, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, and Kate Bush.  This has been part of me sticking to my guns, per my socially conscious open letter to Nominating Committee (though Rufus is interracial).  That said, if the five highest averages got enshrined (let's make it seven, with Sister Rosetta Tharpe going in as an Early Influence and the six other highest averages, which here includes Eurythmics and Bon Jovi), I would be pretty elated with that class.  Is that what I'm predicting?  Stick around, that's coming really soon.