Monday, November 12, 2018

Merits Of The 2019 Nominees

After having had time to digest the nominees, and time to binge-listen to all of them, it is time now to try and come to some sort of pecking order for the 2019 nominees.  This is something we do, because when the list comes out, we look for three things off the bat: how many did we correctly predict, who are we really excited to see on the ballot, and who does not deserve to be nominated.  That, in a way, also describes the three ways we like to rank our nominees: predicting to make them, liking them, and deserving to be there.  The personal taste one is the easiest to make; and for the past three years, predictions have been fairly easy to make.  But ranking the nominees by merits is often the trickiest.  At least for me.

Part of that may simply be because I make this list first.  Once I've got the first one made, it stands to reason that the others will be easier.  A second reason is because the candidates are all over the map.  The past few ballots were rife with classic rock staples, and once you put those acts in order, it's a matter of working the rest in the mix somewhere.  Or in my case, using the rankings from previous entries as a template.  If six of the nine return nominees weren't from last year's ballot, that would be a lot harder.  But stylistically, it's a different ball of wax, so making a coherent order out of things will be a difficult deck to shuffle properly.  Another big reason is because this list requires the effort to be as free from bias as possible.  Ranking by personal taste is by definition based on bias, and making predictions requires interpreting other people's biases.  But this requires an attempted objective ranking based on merits.  The merits themselves, though, can be subjective, but overall, I try to make my list of criteria as universally acceptable as possible, in terms of what does in fact matter, whether we like to admit it or not.

And those criteria, for me, boil down to the five things, which I've given names all beginning with I.  Four of them are case builders, and the fifth is the negative aspect.  Where and when did they break new ground?  Who followed in their footsteps?  How big were they or is their name recognition factor?  What other aspects are there to consider?  Why are some opposed to their nomination?  These are the big questions that surround every nominee for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and my method tries to address and assess with the categories of Innovation, Influence, Impact, Intangibles, and Issues.  And since revealing my Songs Of Proof project, and the fact that I add my favorite songs with the personal tastes ranking, I figured I'd start adding the potential Song Of Proof for the nominees with the merit rankings.  Since binge-listening to these artists though, I'm tempted to change some of them.  Maybe you'd care to weigh in using the Comments section below.  So with that in mind, let's get pissed off at my calling certain acts worthier than others!

Influence: Hip-hop music grew out of block parties and was largely borne of DJ culture.  LL Cool J is a seminal figure for what made it an emcee’s game.
Impact: The man’s had a steady stream of hit singles in both the R&B and pop scenes.  A respectable album chart showing, too.  Plus, with his acting career, he also has a substantial name recognition factor.  One of the most commercially successful R&B acts on the ballot.
Innovation: His innovation and influence pretty much complement each other to the point of blurring the lines.  In addition to virtually obsolescing the DJ from rap music, he helped make it a solo braggadocio show, replacing rap outfits.  Additionally, he’s recognized for both making rap more accessible in smaller bites (shorter songs, meaning more likely radio play) and for creating the bridge of R&B stylings that we still see today in non-rap R&B music.
Intangibles: LL Cool J didn't just make it an emcee's game, his image is also what helped make rap the game for the ladies' man.
Issues: Between his acting career eating up more of his time later in his career, and the embarrassment of "Accidental Racist," which he contributed to, his most recent flavor is sour.  Additionally, his reign of influence has since seemingly come to an end, despite the incredible "Time For War" track.
Song Of Proof:  "Mama Said Knock You Out" is the perfect song to show how he changed the world of hip-hop.

Innovation: They may not have been inventors of new wave per se, but they’ve been around since its genesis, and its exodus to the U.S. airwaves. They’re a band whose sound is unique.
Influence: A unique sound but one that others still attempt to duplicate.  Their influence expands even beyond the new wave genre, to all facets and subgenres of the non-mainstream music scene.  You might say they’re the Leviticus AND the Deuteronomy of indie-label rock.  The numbers don’t lie, and it shouldn’t come as much of a revelation.  Ok, enough Bible puns, before I get the Acts… er, ax. 
Impact: They’re a name you know no matter what you listen to.  And for being indie gods (no pun intended I swear), they actually had a respectable run of mainstream success.
Intangibles: Ever since Robert Smith took down Mecha-Streisand on South Park, the coolness perception of the Cure has only gone up, and really hasn’t come back down…and that’s considering it was already pretty high up to begin with.  Also, they stand for a segment of the rock world that seems to be in pretty sore need of recognition.
Issues:  The artistic value of emo, a genre the Cure helped influence, is not terribly high, so it's a matter of blaming the original genius for the knockoffs that followed.
Song Of Proof: "Friday I'm In Love" has some of that emotional detachment in Robert Smith's tone and a bit of the melodic beauty of some of their later work.

Innovation: As a group, they pioneered what is now known as electronica.
Influence: Again, electronica artists that have come since all tip their hat to Kraftwerk, particularly those from the European scene.
Impact: How big they were in Europe has not been fully measured yet.  In North America, their heyday was strongest in the disco/dance music scene, as odd as that may seem, given what the artists of that scene during that time were putting out.  Overall, they have two songs that are quasi-known by the general public: "Autobahn" and "Trans-Europe Express."
Intangibles: Only in the recent years has electronica music been getting taken seriously as an art form, at least in terms of coverage from the trade publications, and most point to Kraftwerk as a major point of genesis.
Issues: Rock and roll is generally defined as a blending of traditions from the blues and from country music.  Even with the teutonic, danceable beats, the connection from those traditions to Kraftwerk isn't exactly a straight line, and some might argue non-existent.
Song Of Proof: "Autobahn" is a stellar example of pioneering sounds and the primordial beats of what would become EDM.

Impact: The biggest singles artist on the ballot in terms of pop, R&B, and dance music, and one of the biggest of the whole rock era.  Ranked as the second biggest artist in the realm of dance music, behind Madonna.
Influence: One of the most influential female singers of the past 30 years, paving the way for a lot of starlets of R&B and dance music.
Innovation: While some give more credit to her producers in this regard, her New Jack Swing sound became something of a template for 80's and early 90's dance-R&B.
Intangibles: It really does say something to her talent, ethic, and overall credit that in a family of nine kids, all of whom vied for success as solo artists, she's only one of two that can rightfully claim the label of "superstar."  Additionally, had a bigger hand in the creation of her music than she is often remembered for.
Issues: Let's get this out the way: "Nipplegate" is a bullshit excuse.  Some will still try to point to it as a reason, but it's stupid at best, hypocritical at worst.  I've called the roster of inductees a "rogues' gallery" to the point of self-parody, but it's still true: when one considers the crimes, taboos, other iniquities that other inductees have committed, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame doesn't even have enough moral high ground at this point to blackball Afrika Bambaataa, let alone Janet Jackson.  So if you want to put that in the Comments, don't bother.  I'm just gonna tell you to STFU.  No, any realistic objection is going to stem from the fact that the light and airy timbre and tone color of her voice often caused it to get buried underneath the arrangements and production values, thus inviting floccinaucinihilipilification of her vocal and all-around musical talents.  Also, she's been widely panned as simply riding her family's coattails to fame, all the way through until now.
Song Of Proof: "Nasty" is an iconic song that captures New Jack Swing while remaining fierce in the attitude that is lauded in rock and roll.

Innovation: With Brian Eno at the helm in their early work, they are among the biggest pioneers of art-rock, both growing it and differentiating it from prog-rock.
Influence: Tremendous, particularly in the art-rock world, a sub-genre in the rock and roll world that still has a strong heartbeat, though it's not always noticed.
Impact: Commercial success was pretty decent in the albums category.  Only a few hit singles, but a few others that are considered classics despite not having charted.  Their name recognition factor is pretty high overall.
Intangibles: As the springboard for the production and solo careers of Brian Eno, plus the subsequent solo career of Bryan Ferry, they are regarded as being rife with collective talent, along with flawless production.
Issues: With limited commercial success, some might argue that Roxy Music is better known for giving the world Brian Eno than for their actual music and influence.  Also, they did a song about a sex doll.  There's art, and then there's bad art.
Song Of Proof: "Love Is The Drug" is the choice, and while it may be cliche, it's also a fun song with a great rock beat and exemplary production.

Innovation: Since this isn't my strongest area, I'll defer to the expertise of others, but my research shows incredible combinations of elements of metal, rap, punk, and even reggae.  Apparently they're considered among the pioneers of Nu Metal, or at least brought it as close to mainstream as can be while not being called sellouts.
Influence: Because they resonated with underground circles, this is harder to measure, but there are a lot of rock bands that took their lead from them.  Though, even now, some mainstream acts are once again starting to get political.
Impact: A few hits on the pop and rock charts, with charting albums.
Intangibles: A very politically charged outfit, they brought their message strong and hard.
Issues: It's sometimes hard to grasp their message because you can't always discern what Zach De La Rocha is saying.  Additionally, they received a blow to their ego and perhaps their credibility when former vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan called them his favorite band of all time.  Lastly, a short lifespan leaves question about what could have been.
Song Of Proof: "Bulls On Parade" is an easy example of their politics, and the rage that drove them to push against the machine.

Influence: Among the chief torch-bearers of the ethereal rock sound, their influence is still felt when listening to non-mainstream rock.
Innovation: While they didn't invent the ethereal rock sound, what they did with it is unique and easily identifiable to them.
Impact: About as big with the general public as a band can be without being lowest common denominator.  A respectable number of hit songs and albums.
Intangibles: With songs like "Creep," "No Surprises," "Idioteque," and "Knives Out;" Radiohead is no slouch when it comes to versatility, and even though "versatile" is an adjective that applies to several nominees this year, it's still meaningful when it applies.
Issues: Thom Yorke's voice does not sit well with everyone; additionally, their love/hate relationship with their own fame has caused a few hiatuses that make them occasionally inconsistent.  Also, not everyone is that fond or respectful of their most recent works.
Song Of Proof: "Paranoid Android" is a perfect segue between the original fame of "Creep" and the esteem that OK Computer brought them, being musically between the two.

Innovation: As a man who's done a lot of work in the control booth, he's been able to forge new sonic sounds and make them his own.  One of the most experimental artists on this ballot.
Influence: As a singer/songwriter with versatile style, he's been able to influence a lot of musicians.
Impact: His work has met with quite a bit of critical acclaim, and has enjoyed a decent amount of commercial success, both in terms of singles and albums.  Additionally, because of his work as a producer and musician, his name recognition factor is quite high.
Intangibles: He's one of the most versatile musicians on this ballot, not sticking to one style only.  He can change the way he sings to accommodate a song.  He's also a pioneer of music exhibition media, changing not only what we listen to, but how we listen to it.
Issues: The idea of possibly inducting him as a Performer is supposed to be about the songs where he's the artist, and not necessarily the producer, so separating that production legacy might leave him wanting in the minds of some voters.
Song Of Proof: "Bang The Drum All Day" is still just an incredibly fun record that shows that even rock and roll doesn't always take itself so seriously, and even Todd Rundgren let his sense of humor show through at times.

Innovation:  They were them.  As a band that began in the late '70's, they were at the forefront of post-punk, and really tested unfamiliar sonic waters.
Influence: As one of those bands that are really only "got" by other bands (compared to the general public), they proved to be a lot more influential to post-punk than they get credit for.
Impact: One major, iconic song, but several hits across the major trade publications, and even  a few multi-song chart entries on the Dance Music charts.  Several charted albums as well.
Intangibles: They have the iconic outfits that stick out in people's minds, but they also have a reputation for their commitment to high art and trying to capture highbrow concepts in new and inventive ways.
Issues: Still considered a one-trick pony to way too many people.
Song Of Proof: "Whip It" is the all-too-obvious pick, but the back-and-forth keyboard fills during the chorus almost crack the door open to let people get a glimpse of their full quirkiness and unapologetic forging ahead.

Impact: The biggest albums act on the ballot, and one that had a very strong run of hits throughout the '80's and early '90's.
Influence: From an American perspective, this is harder to measure, as it took a year or two for them to cross over to this side, where hair metal was much bigger.  Still, one of the earlier bands of that style, they helped pave the way for a lot of hair metal bands.
Innovation: Again, because they started out of England, rather than being in America, people tend to forget that they were near the beginning of that era of rock and roll and helped shape it, but there they were.
Intangibles: A lot of people like to point to the fact that they have a one-armed drummer, but that's really more of an answer in Trivial Pursuit than a legacy. When it comes to hair metal ballads and rockers, they were pretty well-balanced between the two and even knew how to harmonize on occasion.
Issues: Their music has not aged well.  Of all the acts on this ballot, they're the only one that really has this problem, or at least as noticeably as they do.  And when you combine the hard and fast twenty-five year rule with the concept of "unquestionable musical excellence" as the Polaris by which the Hall tries to navigate, music that has aged badly seems like exactly the kind of thing the Hall is charged with prohibiting the entry of.
Song Of Proof: "Photograph" is still a hair metal classic, and is a mix of their best qualities.

11. THE MC5
Innovation: Possibly the first to intentionally and regularly use distortion as a key component of their sound, they are also credited as one of the pioneers of punk rock.
Influence: Tremendously so, again, especially in the worlds of punk and hard rock.
Impact: One hit single, two charted albums, both of which at one point were on Rolling Stone's list of most important albums of all time.
Intangibles: They're a strong example of attitude that some say is more important than the actual music when defining "rock and roll."  On top of that, given the breadth of artists, including Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees that have come out of the Great Lake State, simply the fact that they came from Michigan, especially from Detroit, almost kind of adds an extra layer of credibility to them, much as being British in the '60s might also be considered a bonus.
Issues: Between a limited commercial run, and often incomprehensible lyrics due to the use of distortion, they might not pass a few people's bars for "Unquestionable musical excellence."
Song Of Proof:  "Kick Out The Jams" has the brevity of punk, the raucousness of punk, and a message that really targets the youth of that day.  It's a solid and obvious choice.

Impact: In its own right Rufus struck big a few times with great and funky R&B songs like “Ain’t Nobody”, “Once You Get Started”, and of course, “Tell Me Something Good.”  
Innovation:  The sounds they made with their rhythm section were seldom, if ever, heard before, and their insistence on vocal harmonies with funk in a way that even Sly And The Family Stone didn’t do as consistently makes their sound something somewhat new and creative.
Influence:  Really helped bring funk to the disco scene, which was later carried on by the GAP Band and Chic.
Intangibles: They've done funk, roots, disco, and ballads.  They were really a versatile group.
Issues: Because their best-known hits were big hits in the discotheques, they are often pigenoholed as a disco band, rather than the eclectic outfit they were.
Song Of Proof: "Ain't Nobody" is a fantastic and funky song, that hints at the popularity they enjoyed in the disco circles, while also showcasing some tight harmonies.

Impact: Despite only having seven hits on the pop charts (including the Bubbling Under), their big three are really well remembered, and so powerfully symbolic of the ‘60s that it overshadows the short-lived life of the group.  Also, with an album in Rolling Stone’s upper fifth of Top 500 albums of all-time, it’s a critical respect thing, too.
Innovation: When you first hear them, it’s almost indescribable.  It’s moody and haunting, but not really blues, or even jazz, though there may be elements of those styles in there.  But it’s unique, and infectious.
Influence: Somewhat limited, perhaps due to their short-lived first run as a group, but every now and then, some hint of their style creeps up, the most well-known of which might be the Guess Who’s “Undun.”
Intangibles: Their periodic reunions and resurgences all still maintain a high level of quality throughout the years.
Issues: They were very short-lived, before breaking up the first time and are as much being derided as a pet pick of Little Steven as they are being hailed as a Hall-worthy act from the '60's.
Song Of Proof: "Time Of The Season" contains both their trademark keyboards and the mood of psychedelia that is of their time.

Influence: His songs have been covered fairly widely, so his original recordings have gained some traction.
Innovation: He effortlessly combined his folk beginnings with other styles in a way that was uniquely his.
Impact: Absolutely no hit singles, and no non-charted classics (as recognized by Record Research, Inc.), but a couple handfuls of charted albums.
Intangibles: His cache with industry insiders is extremely high, including a lot of critical respect.  He's arguably the most artistic musician on this ballot.  Furthermore, the crowd he was taken under the wing of, the "Outlaws of Country Music," are a highly respected group of musicians, so that association helps him.
Issues: He may have been taken under the wing of the Outlaws, but it seems like he never really emerged out from under that wing, at least not in terms of the public consciousness.  Easily the most obscure artist on this ballot, and with the possible exception of Bad Brains, maybe that the Hall has ever nominated, he doesn't have any songs that are instantly associated with him, or at least not his recordings of.
Song Of Proof: "Bear Creek Blues" is from one of his later albums, but it's about as basic as original rock and roll gets: folksy lyrics with a country-flavored arrangement that utilizes the classic A-A'-B blues structure.

Impact: As a solo artist, she's had several charted singles and several charted albums, never near the top in either column among these nominees, but never that close to the bottom either.  Also, with "After The Glitter Fades," she's the only nominee this year that charted on the Country And Western charts.  Not even outlaw country's foster child John Prine can claim that.
Influence: As a solo artist, her brand of femininity arguably had an influence on upcoming female artists that her image as part of Fleetwood Mac didn't fully flesh out, thus influencing attitude.
Innovation: Next.
Intangibles: With the duets she's done, plus her cache as a member of Fleetwood Mac, she has strong ties to the industry.
Issues: The question keeps coming up, did she really do anything that distinguishes her from Fleetwood Mac?  Her solo stuff is synthier, but is that a good thing?  It really is hilarious to me to see everyone who hated the idea of inducting Ringo Starr solo defending her as being at least semi-worthy of nomination.  Also, some of her best-known songs are duets, which hurts the perception of her standing on her own.
Song Of Proof: "Stand Back" is probably the best example of what displays her solo efforts as a strong female typifying strong womanhood.

And with that, we have our pecking order complete, in terms of merit.  Admittedly, my list is but one of a myriad.  I've seen at least one list that puts LL Cool J dead last.  We all have our own lists based on our own criteria.  As a matter of perspective, remember that coming in near the bottom here still beats out literally thousands of eligible artists that didn't make the ballot, most that never will.  Overall, I'd say there's only one that is undeserving of nomination.  In the past, I've been accused of giving Impact a too much say in the ranks.  I think it's safe to say I did not do that this time, though maybe some will still see it that way.  Let me know what you think in the Comments below.  But no "Nipplegate" arguments, it just makes you Les Moonves's unwitting puppet.

Monday, October 15, 2018

First thoughts on the 2019 ballot

It's been almost a week now since the nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's Class Of 2019 were announced, and there's has been a lot for people to say.  That's nothing new, though, as the ballots always seem to generate some level of controversy, and certainly a modicum of discussion.  What does appear somewhat new though, is the lengths to which the Nominating Committee has gone to appeal to the younger crowd.  It almost appears that in addition to greater egalitarianism toward the public voice, the Hall is especially courting the younger demographic.  Due to the 25-year rule, it seems like that will always be a bit of a paradox to do so, and yet, it may work.  When I was in high school, my dial was fixed to the Oldies station, not the Top 40 station, and certainly not the country station.  Maybe today's youth are interested in the music of the '80's and '90's more than the current Top 40. 

Years ago, I remember another hobbyist saying there would be a turning point where the independent label and underground bands would be the only acts worth paying attention to and enshrining.  I don't think that day is quite coming anytime soon, but perhaps.  If nothing else though, that may speak a word or two as to the appearance of Devo on the ballot for the first time.  I'm proud to say that I knew more song by Devo than just "Whip It."  And yes, I did mean "song" in the singular.  Admittedly not very versed with their catalog at the time of nomination, the other song I'd heard before was "Are You Ready" from the soundtrack of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers movie from the 1990's.  The movie is a big steaming pile, but the soundtrack is actually one worth collecting.  In addition to Devo, you've got the version of "Higher Ground" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, a curious little rap gem called "Trouble" by Shampoo, and my all-time favorite song by They Might Be Giants, available on none of their albums that I know of, "Sensurround."  Back to Devo though, I did know the existence of the song "Jocko Homo," but hadn't actually heard it.  Since the announcement, I've been listening to the nominees, and have become a bit more familiar with their general oeuvre. 

And while Devo is arguably the pinnacle of curious credibility of an act with less-than-powerful pop presence, they're not the only act for whom that can be said.  Art-rock paragons Roxy Music also appear on the ballot.  The general public might only know them from "Love Is The Drug," but they're a name that music critics and historians like to mention when talking about great art found in the world of rock and roll, and the devoted fans like to constantly extol without hesitation or reservations.  If nothing else, they're a name you've heard of, even if you can't name a song by them.  In fact, former Music Geek from the TV show "Beat The Geeks," Andy Zax, once wrote a list of ten things one must have in order to call yourself a music geek, and on that list was "Eno."  He emphasized the importance of extensively collecting Roxy Music's discography, as well as as much of the side production work Brian did that one could find, as well as a deck of "Oblique Strategies" cards.  Zax is a member of the voting bloc too, last I knew, so I strongly suspect he'll be taking to Twitter to push for Roxy Music, if he hasn't already.

It's wrong to lump Roxy Music and Devo into the same bag, but in a way, I feel they're pretty similar.  And the same applies to the Cure, though I think of the Cure as more melody-driven than the other two.  The Cure are back for their second nomination, much to the delight of Joe Kwaczala, host of the "Who Cares About The Rock Hall" podcast.  I'm kind of stunned overall by the return, but not disappointed.  I'm really not sure what else to say at this point about them, but as someone not as thoroughly immersed in their style, I'm tempted to lump these three acts together as being in the same camp and thereby direct competition for each other for votes.  I also think that to some degree that return nominee Kraftwerk could steal votes away from these acts too.  I know, I know, not even close to the same, but yet there's a sense of commonality that I feel unites these acts together.  Maybe it's what they bring to the table that makes them seem similar.  It's a weird bent to look at it, but that's how I'm kind of seeing them right now.

In all fairness though, it might be more fitting to categorize Kraftwerk with Janet Jackson, both of which have huge legacies in the dance music community, though in very different ways.  The case with Janet Jackson is proving to be a positively fascinating and baffling one.  She seems to be a nominee with as much baggage as credentials.  And yet, when one considers the rogues' gallery that the Hall tends to be, does she really deserve that much flak?  Add to that the shame that has been revisited upon the name and legacy of Les Moonves, and you have to wonder if the pendulum of justice will benefit the youngest of nine children from Gary, Indiana. 

Also in the dance music category is Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, though as a band, they were a lot more diverse than just funky music you could dance to.  Last year, the first year I binge-listened to each nominee using Spotify, this was the act that I probably had the most fun discovering the depths of their talent and their sound.  With the whole issue of the band versus the soloist seemingly weighing them down, though, it's hard to ever predict them as making it.  Still, curious things happen, and there could be a shock awaiting us all.  And I'd welcome it.

The past three names were all ones I predicted (well, I figured Chaka solo, so... two and a half?), but they weren't the only ones.  I also predicted the returns of the MC5, the Zombies, Radiohead, and Rage Against The Machine.  Nothing much to say there.  They were all pretty widely expected by most of us.  It'll be most interesting to see how the MC5 and the Zombies fare, though.  Not only are they the most prominent examples of '60's rock on the ballot, but they're also two names that have been on the past two ballots and are now on their third consecutive nomination.  In the past, three in a row used to be a pretty strong indicator (other than Chic, that is) that induction was happening that time.  But with two of them at the same time?  Not so certain anymore.  With the Rock Hall, it seems that as soon as something appears to be becoming a trend, the winds shift and they go a different direction.  Perfect example: everyone was expecting another classic rock saturated ballot.  Not what we got this time.

However, the classic rock format is still seated at the table, primarily in the form of Def Leppard, whom I also predicted to be nominated.  They're already a polarizing figure.  I remember previous discussions where someone would put Def Leppard on the same plateau with Van Halen, in terms of longevity and innovation.  I'm not hearing people say that so much now, instead likening them more to Bon Jovi in terms of location, near the base of the cooper's creation.  Still, they're leading the fan vote as I type this, though that may not last forever.  Another classic rock name is Todd Rundgren, though calling him classic rock would be to adorn him with the accompanying connotations that really don't befit him.  I don't reserve any "backup nominations" when I make my ballot predictions, so you'll have to take my word (or not) that Rundgren was a tough cut to make to whittle my list down to nineteen names.  His status as a Swiss army knife of the music business precedes him, and it'll be curious to see how much the extraneous credits will bolster him to induction in the Performer category.  I have to admit though, I don't really see him being shoehorned in the Hall via the backdoor, as a recipient of either the Ahmet Ertegun Award or the Award For Musical Excellence.

Those kinds of speculation aren't unique to Todd Rundgren though, not even to this year.  Some have also been saying it about fellow nominee John Prine, easily the most obscure name on the ballot.  To say I've heard of John Prine before his nomination is only half-true.  I'd read his name before, in music discussion, but I've never heard it spoken aloud until he was discussed on the "Who Cares About The Rock Hall" podcast.  Seriously, I wasn't sure how his last name was pronounced.  It could have been "preen" or "prigh-nee" or something else.  Nope.  It's like the "pine" tree, but with a blend of "pr" at the front.  And like Rundgren, people who want to prevent the backlog from getting that much worse are clamoring for a potential Ahmet Ertegun Award induction for his status as a songwriter.  But like Laura Nyro and Tom Waits, he kept a lot of his compositions for himself and belongs potentially in the Performer category.  However, his minimal level of name recognition with John Q. Public is a concern for his chances.  So, it'll be interesting to see if he'll be more like Tom Waits, who got in on his first nomination, or more like Laura Nyro, who needed the three consecutive nominations to bust through.

My rap prediction for this year, OutKast, failed to make the cut.  There was some wondering about which newly eligible acts would get in, and in fact, none of them did, not even Beck.  But where there is no OutKast, there is LL Cool J.  Like Def Leppard, this is a name that as recently as a few years ago was being hailed a solid selection.  Now people are turning on him, putting him near the bottom of the pile.  Either the ballot is just that strong this year, or people are just more excited about the new names being nominated.  Either way, he was another tough cut, simply because I didn't expect there to be two rap nominees.  I was right about that much, just picked the wrong door.  Ah well, congrats to those who did predict his return.

Lastly, the nominee that us hobbyists almost dreaded.  Stevie Nicks is nominated as a solo artist, and that has caused a lot of discussion.  The general consensus among the hobbyist community has been that most folks don't realize she's already in with Fleetwood Mac.  I've already had a lot to say, so I'll stow any further thoughts for this entry.  But going back to what I said earlier, the Hall definitely seems to be trying to lure more visitors to the museum by making the public opinion a bigger part of the proceedings.  How will that unfold in the future?  We'll see.  A lot of it will depend on how Stevie Nicks and Def Leppard (the top two finishers at the museum's poll) fare on this ballot.

And that wraps up the initial impressions regarding the ballot.  Already, I'm immersing myself into the larger discographies of the nominees, learning more about their works, their style, their contributions.  Hopefully in the next two or three weeks, I'll be ready to rank them by merits, according to my Five I's.  This will be a little more difficult than other years, so hang on folks.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Predictions on the 2019 ballot

Several others of the hobbyist community, those who follow the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, have already laid in their predictions.  Their predictions for who will be nominated and placed on the ballot, that is.  People generally are thinking along the same lines, predicting a lot of similar names, and now, I'm going to level a prediction.

After a season's abstinence from predicting the ballot, I'm back and formulating my thoughts.  Harboring no illusions of any great changes coming from that peculiar institution, the names to appear here will be pretty safe, standard picks.  I don't even have a left-field nominee this year, though there were a couple names I was considering for that purpose.  And after having spent this year revealing and explaining the selections of my passion project, the energy level is a bit low, so with any luck, this will be a shorter predictions post that what other hobbyist bloggers have written.  They mostly break down into segments.

First off are the young guns.  Normally, we'd be calling this the evaluation of newly eligible artists, but after last year, it needs to be a little more encompassing.  Sure, I still think we'll have two newly eligible artists on the ballot.  For starters, Beck has got to be a bit of a darling with the powers-that-be.  His music, his image, his quirks... they all scream "prime candidate for immediate induction," or at least they did as recently as ten years ago.  His induction no longer seems as sure, but his nomination should still be happening.  In the same boat, at least in my opinion, we find OutKast, the hip-hop duo whose pop sensibilities were just so infectious, so catchy, and crossed over so effortlessly, that getting them on the ballot also seems like a relative no-brainer.  However, I think we'll also see the return of our two acts that were newly eligible last year.  First off, the seemingly sure shot Radiohead should return after somehow missing out last year.  It's a tradition that includes Aerosmith and Queen, so Radiohead should be back for another pass, hopefully with less controversy involved.  Likewise, expect Rage Against The Machine, with guitarist Tom Morello on the Nominating Committee to be given a second shot at their induction.  Those four should be the primary representatives for the youngest generation of eligible artists.

However, it wouldn't be a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ballot these days without it being mathematically possible for there to be an entire induction class of classic rock staples.  To that end, I think we'll see Judas Priest return for the second time in a row.  The Hall may even wish to forgo nominating another prog-rock act to focus on representing metal a little more.  As the preferred classic rock act that missed out last year, they're a strong bet to return.  But there will also be some new names appearing on the ballot to maintain the classic rock funnel.  The big story to break this past year in our circle has been the revelation of how Irving Azoff has managed to work from an unofficial nomination seat and get his clients inducted.  Most are currently eyeing to see if the Doobie Brothers make the ballot.  Maybe now that we know about it, the spell will be broken, but it'd be foolhardy to bet against it at this point, so I'm going to predict them to be on the ballot as well.  Another classic rock name that should appear will be Bad Company, after a recent tweet with a picture of Paul Rodgers and Little Steven, it appears very likely that this will be the act that the bandanna man will fight for in the room.  And with classic rock rolling strongly right now, it's more a matter of "when" than "if."  Two more names that have been coming up quite a bit throughout the past year, though not from anybody close to the Foundation, have been Foreigner and Def Leppard.  It seems a little unlikely that there'd be two metal acts on the same ballot, but then again, ask any hardcore metal fan, particularly that of Judas Priest, and they'll tell you that Def Leppard and all of hair metal isn't really heavy metal at all.  We'll see if any of the people in the room agree with that sentiment, but either way, it's a possibility, as names from the Previously Considered column continue to end up with nominations, and even some with inductions.  As for Foreigner, we know the connection to the late Ahmet Ertegun, and also that Jann S. Wenner is in their corner, so it's wise to keep them in mind too.  Lastly, because they're clearly a priority right now, let's throw in the J. Geils Band to be nominated again, too.

The J. Geils Band also fit into the next category that isn't so much about their chances of being nominated, but more of names to be wary of, should they reappear.  What do the MC5, the Zombies, and Depeche Mode all have in common?  They've all been on the ballot for both of the past two years.  Lately, the trend has been that if an act has been nominated three consecutive years, the Hall is very serious about them, and wants them in, no matter what.  Chic notwithstanding, it's a list that includes Laura Nyro, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, and the Cars.  So, I'm predicting them all in a manner of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.  Keep an eye on those names and see who comes back for the third consecutive nomination.

With the introduction of the Singles category this year, it seems unlikely that we'll see nominations for Chubby Checker, Procol Harum, Steppenwolf, the Kingsmen, or for Link Wray.  But where they're slamming the door on Link Wray, it could be the opening of the door for Dick Dale, another guitar legend with a group behind him that should be included in the nomination, but likely won't be.  Soul hasn't been fairing so well lately, but that doesn't stop the Hall from trying, so hopefully we'll have another nomination for the Spinners.  Post-punk has had a hard time getting in, but not too much trouble getting nominated.  Just a blind pick, let's predict Pixies to get a nod.  OutKast represent hip-hop ably, so I think LL Cool J will be getting a bye this go-around.  However, we could look at an electronic act that has been sampled in hip-hop and rap.  Kraftwerk has been playing a steady game of every other year lately. so I think this is their year to return.

Which brings us to the ladies.  Despite Steve Miller's plea and admonition, the Hall doesn't really work toward nominating more women.  They seem relatively impervious to social influence, thinking they did their part when the museum unveiled their "Women Who Rock" exhibit a few years ago.  But there will still be a few women on the ballot.  After missing out on being nominated last year, I think they'll give Janet Jackson another chance.  And they've been nominating Chaka Khan in some capacity the past few years.  I don't include her in the "three consecutive" paragraph above though, because it's been split between her solo career and her work with Rufus.  I'd like to see both of them get in, but I think it'll be the solo efforts that will be recognized this time.  And speaking of solo efforts, the final prediction to be nominated will be the solo career of Stevie Nicks.  She's already in with Fleetwood Mac.  I'm basing this prediction based on the public poll feature at the museum.  It's absolutely no guarantee, of course, but consider the fan ballot as a parallel.  When the top vote-recipient of the fan ballot gets inducted every year since the fan ballot was introduced, it's that correlation that begins to look like causation.  But now let's suppose the Hall is considering upping the game.  No longer do the fans have just a combined ballot, but what if they also have a combined nomination?  What if the top two vote-getters in the Hall end up being the "fans' submissions" in the boardroom, prior to the Feast Of The Giant Sandwich?  It just might be that this tool will be used to give the fans a say on the Nominating Committee.  Naturally, there's a world of difference between those who are able to make the trek out to the museum in Cleveland and being able to just vote online, which is where the parallel proves inexact, but could this be a further part of the hook to drive up the museum's attendance and bottom line?  I don't think that's entirely outside the realm of possibility.  It's a very tenuous prediction, but it's an alpha test both for the Foundation and for us hobbyists.  Maybe it will have no effect whatsoever, but let's predict her to make it and see if she actually does get nominated.

And by my math, that makes nineteen names, which is how big the ballot has been recently.  As I said, full of safe picks.  Nothing unexpected, and I don't think there's a name that isn't or won't be on someone else's predictions list.  But I'm okay with that.  As a disclaimer and reminder, these aren't necessarily the nineteen names I want most to see on the ballot (though now that I'm predicting them, the more I get right, the better I feel about my skills); these are just the ones that I feel will be nominated.  So, recapping, because I do that a lot these days:

Bad Company
Dick Dale
Depeche Mode
the Doobie Brothers
the J. Geils Band
Janet Jackson
Judas Priest
Chaka Khan
the MC5
Stevie Nicks
Rage Against The Machine
the Spinners
the Zombies

Monday, September 3, 2018

Songs Of Proof: Previously Considered

If you read this blog with any regularity, then you probably also frequent the Future Rock Legends web page, an invaluable site for information pertaining to this little hobby of ours.  When I first starting hanging out there, one of the more interesting things I found was they not only had a list of every act that had been nominated in the past, but also artists that had been "considered."  Now, to be completely clear, what it means to be "considered" in terms of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is still a little foggy.  For the longest time, I've assumed that it essentially meant that an artist was formally submitted to be put on the ballot, but never actually made it to the final ballot.  While I'm still fairly certain that this is indeed what is meant, an episode of "Who Cares About The Rock Hall" where they had a former member of the Nominating Committee as a guest, mentioned that no less than Ahmet Ertegun himself tried to make a pitch for Foreigner.  As I type this out, Foreigner is still not listed on Future Rock Legends' page of "Previously Considered" artists.  Maybe Ahmet mentioned Foreigner in a tangent while submitting another artist, or maybe I've been operating under a wrong assumption.  Either way, Foreigner is not on this list.

And it's quite an extensive list.  Even when weeding out the names that have been officially nominated before, there are still over a hundred names on this list!  That's a lot of names over the years.  And reading this list, there are names that make you say, "Yes! Absolutely!" and names that make you say, "Huh, I guess it really is all about who you know."  And as with the songs for Past Nominees, I've found it a useful habit to keep songs for all these artists too.  A lot of the nominees over the years have come from this list, and it has been an interesting spectacle to see names like Rush go from not even being on this list, to being on it, to being nominated, and then becoming inductees.  It's not always newer artists on this list either.  I remember when names like Brook Benton and Freddy Cannon were not on this lesser roll call.  And now they are.  And they have songs to honor just being submitted in the room shortly before the Feast Of The Giant Hoagie.

Which brings us to the songs.  All 113 of them, if my count is accurate.  Even 113 sentences would be a little tedious to both write and read.  So, this time, I'm just going to list the artists and their songs, and let that be that.  If you have any questions about why I chose a song for an artist, please feel free to ask me in the Comments below, and I'll explain as well as I can.  Since this is the Previously Considered list, though, I will also say that if a Song Of Proof is going to be changed, this is the stage it's most likely to happen in.  I've changed several in the past at this stage, and it could happen again.  Except for Todd Rundgren.  That one will never change, because who doesn't love a good rock and roll song that you can polka dance to?  And as always, any Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Songs Of Proof will still be mentioned.  The two that used to be on this list, but got inducted in the Award For Musical Excellence category, those two being the E Street Band and Ringo Starr, have been removed from this part of the playlist.  Also, since the Dominoes have been nominated, I'm not including a second song for "Billy Ward And The Dominoes;" it's the same group, for the most part.  So try not to let your eyes glaze over too much.  Time to honor our Previously Considered, but never actually nominated, artists for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Lee Andrews And The Hearts: "Teardrops"
Paul Anka: "You Are My Destiny"
Ashford And Simpson: "Solid"
the Average White Band: "Pick Up The Pieces"
Bad Company: "Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy"
Brook Benton: "Kiddio"
the B-52's: "Love Shack"
the Big Bopper: "Chantilly Lace"
Big Brother And The Holding Company: "Piece Of My Heart"
Black Flag: "Rise Above"
Blind Faith: "Can't Find My Way Home"
Blood, Sweat, And Tears: "You've Made Me So Very Happy"
Blues Incorporated: "Keep Your Hands Off"
the Blues Project: "No Time Like The Right Time"
Boogie Down Productions: "Love's Gonna Get Cha (Material Love)"
Pat Boone: "Why Baby Why"
Bobby Brown: "Humpin' Around"
Chuck Brown: "Bustin' Loose"
Johnny Burnette And The Rock 'N' Roll Trio: "The Train Kept A-Rollin'"
Canned Heat: "Let's Work Together"
Freddy Cannon: "Abigail Beecher"
Captain Beefheart: "Diddy Wah Diddy"
Chubby Checker: "The Twist"
Patsy Cline: "Crazy"
Joe Cocker: "The Letter"
Judy Collins: "Song For Judith (Open The Door)"
the Commodores: "Brick House"  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Easy")
Ry Cooder: "Feelin' Bad Blues"
Country Joe And The Fish: "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine"
Crazy Horse: "Southern Pacific"
the Crystals: "Then He Kissed Me" (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Home)")
Dick Dale: "Misirlou"
the Spencer Davis Group: "I'm A Man"
Def Leppard: "Photograph"
Delaney And Bonnie: "Only You Know And I Know"
De La Soul: "Me, Myself, And I"
Devo: "Whip It"
Dr. Hook: "Walk Right In"
the Doobie Brothers: "Jesus Is Just Alright"
Lee Dorsey: "Ya Ya"
Nick Drake: "Pink Moon"
Emerson, Lake, And Palmer: "Lucky Man"
Fishbone: "Sunless Saturday"
the Five Keys: "Ling Ting Tong" (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Close Your Eyes")
the Five Satins: "In The Still Of The Night" (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "To The Aisle")
the Flying Burrito Brothers: "Christine's Tune"
the GAP Band: "You Dropped A Bomb On Me"
Lesley Gore: "That's The Way Boys Are"
Johnny Hallyday: "Gabrielle"
Tim Hardin: "Simple Song Of Freedom"
Slim Harpo: "Baby, Scratch My Back"
the Harptones: "Why Should I Love You"
Donny Hathaway: "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know"
Herman's Hermits: "No Milk Today"
Hot Tuna: "Winin' Boy Blues"
Whitney Houston: "I Wanna Dance With Somebody Who Loves Me"
Ivory Joe Hunter: "Since I Met You Baby"
Iron Butterfly: "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"
Iron Maiden: "Run To The Hills"
Mick Jagger: "Just Another Night"
the Jam: "Town Called Malice"
Tommy James And The Shondells: "Mony Mony"
the Jayhawks: "Waiting For The Sun"
Jethro Tull: "Bungle In The Jungle"
George Jones: "He Stopped Loving Her Today"
Grace Jones: "I'm Not Perfect (But I'm Perfect For You)"
Fela Kuti: "Zombie"
the Last Poets: "E Pluribus Unum"
Living Colour: "Cult Of Personality"
Love: "Alone Again Or"
Manfred Mann: "Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)"
the Marshall Tucker Band: "Heard It In A Love Song"
the Monkees: "The Girl That I Knew Somewhere" (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Valleri")
Motorhead: "Ace Of Spades"
the Neville Brothers: "Spirits Of The World"
Sinead O'Connor: "The Emperor's New Clothes"
Junior Parker: "Next Time You See Me"
Teddy Pendergrass: "Close The Door"
Pixies: "Here Comes Your Man"
Poco: "Crazy Love"
Billy Preston: "Will It Go Round In Circles"
Cliff Richard And The Shadows: "Summer Holiday"
Keith Richards: "Take It So Hard"
Roxy Music: "Love Is The Drug"
Todd Rundgren: "Bang The Drum All Day"
Otis Rush: "I Can't Quit You Baby"
Mitch Ryder: "Sock-It To Me Baby"
Sade: "Paradise"
Doug Sahm: "(Is Anybody Going To) San Antone"
Boz Scaggs: "Lido Shuffle"
Jack Scott: "Goodbye Baby"
Gil Scott-Heron: "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"
Neil Sedaka: "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do"
the Shangri-La's: "Leader Of The Pack" (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Long Live Our Love")
Simple Minds: "Sanctify Yourself"
Huey "Piano" Smith And The Clowns: "Don't You Just Know It"
Sonic Youth: "Teen Age Riot"
Sonny And Cher: "The Beat Goes On"
the Sugarhill Gang: "Rapper's Delight"
Ten Years After: "I'd Love To Change The World"
Rufus Thomas: "Walking The Dog"
Three Dog Night: "Joy To The World" (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Celebrate")
Peter Tosh: "Legalize It"
the Treacherous Three: "The Body Rock"
T. Rex: "Bang A Gong (Get It On)"
Tina Turner: "Better Be Good To Me"
the Turtles: "It Ain't Me Babe"
Junior Walker And The All-Stars: "Shotgun"
Junior Wells: "Little By Little"
Barry White: "Never Never Gonna Give You Up"
Lucinda Williams: "Get Right With God"
Johnny Winter: "Jumpin' Jack Flash"
X: "Los Angeles"

And with that long list, we are not only done with our look at the Previously Considered, but also our entire run of the Great Playlist.  The end of the Songs Of Proof.  I hope you've enjoyed reading this series as much as I've enjoyed compiling it and writing about it.  I do have other songs squirreled away on my computer too, of artists that have never been considered, but might conceivably be considered or nominated someday.  I'm choosing to not even get into that list because everybody's going to be quick to mention one artist that I should have stored away, but don't at present.  And really, we can debate who might be and who should be all day long.  That's part of the allure of this hobby of ours.  This entire project, though, is simply a reflection upon who is and who has been, the names that we definitely know of.  And that's where the line is being drawn.  I want to thank everyone who has read this series, everyone who's weighed in, either in the Comments sections, or on social media or other forums.  And once more, feel free to add your thoughts or questions about this or any previous entry in the series in the Comments section below.  And even those who haven't weighed in, but just read.  I hope I've prodded your brains to think about similar undertakings in our celebration of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Hopefully, I gave at least one person the curiosity to check out an artist, or at least a song.  Soon to come,  my predictions for the nominees for the upcoming ballot for the Class Of 2019.  I don't guarantee that it'll follow the weekly deadline that I set for myself on this project, but it'll be soon.

Once again, thank you for your readership.  It's been fun sharing and celebrating this passion project that has continued even as my career in commercial radio appears to be entirely in the past.  It's clearly evolved beyond that now, and it's fun to see where it will take me in the future.  So, that's where we'll continue to look.  Thank you for taking this journey with me through The Great Playlist: The Songs Of Proof Celebrating The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Songs Of Proof: Past Nominees

Whenever someone loses out on an award, like an Oscar or an Emmy, they try to be gracious about it by saying something like, "It's an honor just to be nominated."  Sadly, though, they are seldom remembered by the next year's awards season.  This, of course, is because awards like those are about that specific year's accomplishments, unless it's a Lifetime Achievement award.

However, awards like induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame are by very definition, lifetime achievement awards of a sort.  Missing out one year does not mean an inductee has to continue to perform at a stellar level to be considered for nomination the next year.  That's good too, because with the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, many nominations and inductions are posthumous.  And when one considers the bottleneck of artists that have never even been nominated--and if you haven't noticed that before, just do a cursory search for it: you'll be inundated--it is indeed substantially meaningful to be nominated for the Rock Hall, even if you believe the Foundation is corrupt and cronyistic through and through.

Which brings us to this song list.  Because being nominated is such an honor in and of itself, all the past nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame have also been awarded songs for the great playlist.  And at one time, I was indeed updating the list by burning new CDs as new artists were added to it, and other ones got off the list by being inducted.  I may take that up again; however, as the digital age renders the CD-R less profitable a product, there may come a time when I have to reserve all my stock just for continuing classes.  As of right now, the songs for past nominees comprise two discs, and since they were last burned in 2012, they include some artists that have since been inducted.  This list, though, will be current and focus on those that have not been inducted as of 2018.  This is useful to me for two reasons: one, as a hobbyist, it's a great way to help remember all of the past nominees; two, if and when they are inducted, they already have a song selected for them for when they are inducted.  The Songs Of Proof seldom change, after all.

And it is with that, that I announce we will indeed look at all of the Past Nominees.  However, since I don't wish to write over forty lengthy paragraphs as I have done for the inductees, and I'm sure you don't want to read that many either, the format will be much simpler.  Artist, song, short sentence or two about why that particular song was chosen.  Less challenging for us all that way.  So now, let's honor those who've only received the lesser honor of just being nominated.

Johnny Ace: "Pledging My Love"  In addition to being his signature song, it's a powerful crossover R&B ballad that a lot of other enduring R&B ballads took a cue from.

Bad Brains: "I Against I"  A fast, punk-like driving number with rap-like lyrical delivery, it captures a lot of the features that made them influential.

Afrika Bambaataa: "Planet Rock"  Also a signature song that showcases pioneering hip-hop turntable wizardry, showing the block party roots that hip-hop emerged from.

Kate Bush: "Love And Anger"  It showcases her bohemian lyricizing, and frames it within a song structure close enough to the more conventional definitions of rock and roll music.

The Chantels: "Maybe"  This song was a milestone for girl group records, and has a rhythmic structure that isn't too unlike later songs by the Shirelles, Crystals, or Angels.  (Vocal Group Hall OF Fame Song Of Proof: "Look In My Eyes")

Chic: "Good Times"  Even before I chose "Le Freak" for Nile Rodgers, I was using this song because this is a landmark record for hip-hop, dance, and R&B music.  Its importance is monumental.

The Cure: "Friday I'm In Love"  Post-punk is unusually melodic, and the beauty of how hooky this song is, combined with Robert Smith's vocals that are somewhat abstract, and yet very attainable to workaday people, sums up a good chunk of their influence.

Depeche Mode: "Just Can't Get Enough"  Sorry liquidmuse, even in the Past Nominees list, there are still some songs that are used because they are my favorite by the artist.

The Dominoes: "Sixty Minute Man"  Not only infectiously catchy, but overtly sexual, and massively successful, crossing over to the pop charts... back in 1951!  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Have Mercy Baby")

Eric B. And Rakim: "Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em"  This is a serious jam, where Rakim showed his full potential as an emcee, and Eric B.'s work was immaculate.

Eurythmics:  "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)"  Annie Lennox is described as having an androgynous beauty to her, and songs like this one definitely heighten that feeling of robotic androgyny.

The '5' Royales: "Baby, Don't Do It"  As the '5' Royales were inducted in the Early Influence category, this song carried over for them, as it was the song chosen for them when they were languishing in this column. This song will be removed from the "Past Nominees" song list next time I burn CDs for this group.

The J. Geils Band: "Love Stinks"  It may not be their most bluesy song, but it's a staunch rocker that you can tell just from listening to the studio version that it's an awful lot of fun to perform live.

Janet Jackson: "Nasty"  It's a quintessential song of new jack swing and is also surprisingly empowering.  One of her biggest hits too, it shows Janet at her best.

Wanda Jackson: "Let's Have A Party"  This song has since been removed from the Past Nominees list, but it was her song throughout the whole project and remains so for her now.

Elmore James:  "Dust My Broom"  Elmore was inducted before I even knew the Hall existed.  For some reason, he was nominated once for a Performer, then later inducted as an Early Influence.  But it's the same song chosen either way.

Jane's Addiction: "Been Caught Stealing"  One of their best-known songs and biggest hits, and given they have such a relatively small catalog, it's safe to say this one really does capture their general spirit as a band.

The J.B.'s: "Doing It To Death"  Though credited to "Fred Wesley And The J.B.'s," it doesn't violate the sole credit rule, as Wesley was a member and not an outside artist, and this is just how they were billed for this masterfully funky song that showcases their talent and why James Brown wanted them behind him.

Judas Priest: "You've Got Another Thing Coming"  It might piss off metalheads to use the hit song over the preferred album cuts, but this song is still a good one and does them justice, and is a good song to introduce newcomers to Judas Priest and original stylings of heavy metal in general.

Chaka Khan: "I'm Every Woman"  A feminist anthem, this song lets her cut loose and sing with great power, allowing her to stand out.

Ben E. King: "Stand By Me"  It's sad that some people think it's the song and not the singer, and though King didn't play an instrument creating this immortal rhythm line, his lyrics are just as legendary for the way it peals out, giving it an earnest feel, lauding the mutualism that could be found in standing by him.

Carole King was inducted as part of a songwriting duo, though there is much clamoring for her to be nominated again as a Performer.  If she is, I will swap out "I Feel The Earth Move" and make it her Performer Song Of Proof, and make "It Might As Well Rain Until September" her Non-Performer Song Of Proof, as that song captures that Brill Building quality to a tee.  However, I intentionally am waiting to make that swap until she's nominated again due to the number of "Small Hall" thinkers who think that induction wraps up her solo career too.

Freddie King: "I'm Tore Down"  This song serves brilliantly to honor his blues chops.  It would've been an even better selection had he been correctly inducted as a Performer, and since his Early Influence induction was an intentional sidestep, I see no reason to swap it out for an earlier song.

King Curtis right now has no Song Of Proof for his Performer nominations, as he was inducted before I created this list.  He was nominated the first six years, disappeared, and suddenly reappeared to receive a Sideman induction.  It'd be nice to seem him given another shot as a Performer nominee, this time including his Noble Knights, and if that happens, I have "Memphis Soul Stew" on standby for that very purpose.

Kraftwerk: "Autobahn"  This twenty-two minute gem clearly and wonderfully demonstrates their importance to modern music, particularly in Europe, both in terms of sonic architecture, and in the image that musicians often choose to project.

LL Cool J: "Mama Said Knock You Out"  The man really helped make rap an emcee's game, and hard-landing lyrics from him packed the full punch to do just that.

Los Lobos: "Will The Wolf Survive"  Since "La Bamba" is already used for Ritchie Valens, and since this song epitomizes their influences and their style much more perfunctorily, this is definitely a solid choice to use for this band of musicians' musicians.

The Marvelettes: "Please Mr. Postman"  Make no mistake: the Marvelettes are so much more than this song, but the song is also of such historical importance that it couldn't be ignored.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Beechwood-45789")

The MC5: "Kick Out The Jams"  Again, another group that is much more than the one big song, but this song captures a lot of punk's youthful and rebellious spirit, while also still being incredibly fun.  Perfect song to use.

The Meters: "Cissy Strut"  This song showcases more of their funky side than their New Orleans roots, but there are still sightings of the Big Easy's musical DNA.  Plus, just has a nasty groove to it that will not be denied.

The New York Dolls: "Personality Crisis"  Considered a classic proto-punk song, I just love the antic lunacy that this jam just seems to embrace.  I've never looked for one, but I hope there's a music video for this song that predates MTV.

Nine Inch Nails: "Into The Void"  I'm admittedly not as knowledgeable about industrial music, but when I binge-listen to Nine Inch Nails, this song seems to most adequately represent the overall feel and mood of the catalog of this act.

Gram Parsons: "In My Hour Of Darkness"  Such a sweet, sweet piece of music, this song not only is a shining example of the beginnings of alternative-country, I think it also epitomizes what I mean when I say "country gospel," though Parsons was definitely not in that box either.

Esther Phillips: "Release Me"  This one was tricky.  Much of her fame came as the chanteuse for Johnny Otis's ensemble, but this take on a country classic really reaches out to show what she was capable of, too.

Procol Harum: "Whiter Shade Of Pale"  Since I have no plans to honor the Singles category at this time, there's no reason to swap out this important song that lays the foundation for progressive rock.

Radiohead: "Paranoid Android"  Radiohead is not of band of "eras," but continually evolves; nevertheless, showcasing the transition from "Creep" to OK Computer seems to cover the most important bases for a lot of casual listeners, and even some of the fans.  I think this song does that.

Rage Against The Machine: "Bulls On Parade"  Hatred for Republicans and their platform, nearly screamed lyrics, guitar playing that enhances that anger... this song has it all for them.

The Replacements: "I'll Be You"  I'll be honest, I'm not too familiar with their discography, but I love this song so much, I don't think I'd swap it out even it proved to be wholly aberrant of their general work.

Rufus with Chaka Khan: "Ain't Nobody"  An amazingly funky jam with solid backup vocals, it really captures the bulk of the commercially successful music and even hints and some of what wasn't or wouldn't be.

The Sir Douglas Quintet: "Mendocino"  I hate "She's About A Mover," and this song is a better example of Tex-Mex music anyway.  It was between this one and "Dynamite Woman."

The Smiths: "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now"  The almost hypnotic combination of Marr's guitar and Morrissey's voice, plus all the melancholy that Morrissey is known for.  Perfect fit, more perfect than a hand in glove.

The Spinners: "I'll Be Around"  Proof that Philly soul could be funky as well.  Great vocals, great harmony, great beat, great arrangement.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "It's A Shame")

Steppenwolf: "Born To Be Wild"  This is still an iconic song that young people even today have heard of, and it's a good example of the kind of rock and roll that would eventually evolve into heavy metal.

Sting: "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free"  Not only is it his biggest hit as a soloist, but it also captures that ethereal feel that much of his solo efforts strove for.

Joe Tex: "Show Me"  It's a rollicking soul song that exemplifies that proto-rap vocal delivery that Tex is often credited for, and also features the message for both men and women, something he did with several of his songs.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: "Strange Things Happening Every Day"  While it's unlikely for a person to be inducted in two different categories, it's even more unlikely that those two categories would be Performer and Early Influence, especially under their own name, and not part of another effort.  So, there's no impetus to include her in the updated Past Nominees set list in the future.

Conway Twitty: "It's Only Make Believe"  Since rock and roll's definition was even more nebulous at the time that Conway Twitty first broke through than it is now, I guess it makes sense that he was considered a teen idol rocker at one point.  This song is the biggest example of that time before he went on to country superstardom, and even foreshadows his future career, I would say.

War: "Low Rider"  War may be the epitome of what constitutes "cool funk," and no other song captures that spirit better than this one.  So funky, and still popular with the rockist crowd.

Mary Wells: "My Guy"  As with the Marvelettes, this woman is so much more than the big #1 hit, but the landmark accomplishment, as well as the enduring popularity of this song makes it the obvious selection.

Chuck Willis: "Betty And Dupree"  Since Ma Rainey is honored with "See See Rider Blues," that disqualified it being used for this man.  Fortunately, my selection is almost a carbon copy and exemplifies his work as the Stroll King.

Steve Winwood: "Roll With It"  Even though this song is incredibly bright and upbeat, it still manages to capture that easygoing and optimistic feeling that pervades some of this man's other solo hits.

Link Wray: "Rumble"  Once again, it's a monumental record that sadly has overshadowed the entire artist's achievements, but is still a great song and a benchmark of rock and roll.  So let's go with that.

The Zombies: "Time Of The Season"  So, yeah, I went with the obvious choice again, though I could have easily have gone with "Tell Her No" or "She's Not There" as they both contain that moody, jazzy, baroque feeling that this band was known for.  Add a pinch of psychedelia, and you have the reason they should be inducted.

And with that, we have completed our look at those that have been nominated for the Performer category, but did not make it.  Since each entry is short and formatted, no need for a recap.  What I will say though is that we are STILL not done with our look at representative songs for acts.  Stay tuned for the next installment!  And as always, feel free to comment below with your take on any of these.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 2018

You've been on a trip through the past.  A past that began in 1986.  You are now hurtling forward in time.  There's the signpost up ahead.  There went the signpost up ahead.  No worries, that wasn't the correct destination anyway.  Welcome back to present day.  It is 2018 once again, and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has returned to normal... You are travelling back in time, back to when the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame made more sense....

Just kidding.  We've finally made it to the most recent class, and it seems the trajectory of classic rock domination has held strong.  Four of the six inductees are bands that have at least one song still in fairly regular rotation on classic rock stations.  The other two inductees are the only people in this class who aren't White men.  They're both Black women... and they're both dead.  And yet in spite of it all, come time for the ceremony, that proves the least of the travesties.  I don't know who was on staff for the ceremonies of classes past that was let go before this one, but hire them back, NOW!  Or whoever was hired in time for this one, can them immediately.  Fortunately, the songs for my playlist have nothing to do with how the ceremony went.  The video clip package for Van Halen helped me pick their song for them in 2007, but for the most part, no, no bearing whatsoever.  So let's try to ignore the ugliness and just celebrate the music.

Bon Jovi:  And of course, we try to ignore the ugliness by starting with the most infantile act at the ceremony this past year.  The inductees were the youngest, they acted the most immature, and so did their presenter.  But there's no denying the impact that their music has had over the years.  They were one of the biggest of the hair metal acts of the '80's, they managed to survive and remain popular after grunge and other forms of alternative rock broke big and became more popular.  Their use of hooks, whether in their songwriting or instrumental breaks, made them a band you couldn't ignore.  You were going to know who they were one way or another.  Even as a child, I knew several of their songs, perhaps primarily because I have older siblings.  Growing up, one of my older siblings tried to turn me into a metalhead and made me mix tapes of '80's metal.  Songs that I liked.  Hair metal comprised the vast majority of those mix tapes.  Guns N' Roses, Van Halen, and of course, Bon Jovi appeared frequently.  "Born To Be My Baby" and "Bad Medicine" were my two favorite songs.  However, neither of those songs were the choice here.  That honor, of course, goes to "Livin' On A Prayer," because despite the musical diversity that the '80's brought, that song has been named the song that epitomized the decade of the 1980's.  That's a pretty significant achievement, and it makes it the obvious choice to represent Bon Jovi here.

The Cars:  As many people have noted, this is the band that just befuddles everyone how they missed their first two times.  Critics loved them, and fans loved them.  Maybe they just didn't have enough pull with their fellow musicians the first two times.  Whatever it was that held them back the first two times, the third time was the charm.  It was a little sad that they didn't quite sound as good at their induction as they did on their records, but it was great to see them on stage again, as complete as they could be, giving it to the people one more time.  Their infectious new-wave stylings, the diversity afforded by having two lead singers, the guitars, the driving drums, the keyboard fills, the occasional background vocals that could tastefully fill a record.. there's a lot to like about the Cars.  And I say that as someone who absolutely hates "Drive."  It really seemed germane to say that because that seems to be the song everyone loves.  I really enjoy the Cars, even if I despise that particular song.  So I didn't use it.  I wanted to go with something a bit more upbeat, that really utilizes their unique synthesizer sound and really captures the way they made new-wave a bit more rocking.  And what could be more true to rock and roll than an open invitation to celebrate life with judgment-free dancing?  If rock and roll is more of an attitude than a style of music, then the apotheosis of that attitude, reflected in the music, is the call to self-expression, particularly through dancing without fear of judgment.  In the case of the Cars, they wanted you on the floor, even if all you could do was "Shake It Up."

Dire Straits:  We've just gotten over the one low point of the ceremony, and we've come now to the other.  Whatever amazing accomplishments Dire Straits achieved, they had to be inferred, because there was no presenter to rattle off the statistical and the emotional highlights that the music of Dire Straits meant for him, her, or them.  All we know is what being in Dire Straits meant to the members of the band who didn't have the surname "Knopfler."  However, the music of Dire Straits opened up the doors for members of the band, particularly Mark Knopfler, to become firmly established and build strong bridges to other members of the industry.  At least, that's my theory on how they got in, particularly since fellow musicians comprise a decent chunk of the voting bloc.  As legendary as "Money For Nothing" is, I didn't use that one.  It has everything and nothing to do with the particular word that once referred to a bundle of wood and is now considered offensive.  It's not an aversion to the word itself, but to use the rest of the lyrics that surround that word or not to use those lyrics, you now have to decide which version you want to use.  Rather than choose between the edited and unedited versions, I just chose a different song.  My personal favorite is "Walk Of Life," but it's just too joyful with its vivacious keyboard riffs that it's just too atypical of the band's general style.  With that, I've determined that the low-key, moody "Sultans Of Swing," with its licks in between the cracks, best fits the bill to represent Dire Straits in the great playlist project.

The Moody Blues:  At long last, we come to Kristen Studard's favorite band.  Or not.  It's fun to bring up though.  The importance of the Moody Blues, though, is monumental.  Arguably the first prog-rock band, the Moody Blues also managed to continue to incorporate driving rhythm while infusing classical themes.  It's a balance that not every prog-band managed to maintain, and it makes the Moody Blues a bit more enjoyable for me.  There's intellectual stimulation, and then there's drug-addled mumbo-jumbo.  The Moody Blues did a bit of both with their songwriting, but even when they strayed into the nonsensical, they at least managed to keep it melodically interesting.  The song I've chosen to salute this band with is "I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)."  The choice is partially due to the proclivity of choosing songs that are about rock and roll, but it's more than that.  Its symphonic arrangement plays off the drums and guitar playing in a way that is both frenetic and controlled.  It's far from archetypal of progressive rock, and yet it captures its potential for linking itself firmly within the traditional parameters of what many consider rock and roll.  It gently, yet noticeably pushes the envelope.  They were more than just singers, they were a tremendous rock and roll band, and long overdue for their induction.  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Ride My See-Saw")

Nina Simone:  When Future Rock Legends predicted her as a nominee a few years ago, I thought it was a left-field prediction with no chance of fruition.  Moral of the story: keep learning.  My first encounter with her magic and music was "For A While" written by Bob Gaudio of the Four Seasons.  The second encounter was a commercial that used "Color Is A Beautiful Thing."  I don't remember what the product was that was being advertised, but I do remember the song's simple beauty, and that it made me happy to listen to it.  That's some amazing power, to make people feel good about a message of change, and of civil rights.  And that was far from the only time Nina could do it.  "The Other Woman" is a song of such heartbreaking beauty, and she makes the homewrecker a person to sympathize with.  She had compassion for people, but had fire, too.  Between her condemnation of Mississippi and "(You'll) Go To Hell," she showed compassion without embracing a message of "I'm okay, you too!"  Since she only cracked the Top 40 once, I didn't feel quite as bound to use a hit song for her.  And as a jazz artist who never considered what she did to be rock and roll, we are once again faced with the need to use a song that connects her enough to the diaspora to justify her Performer induction.  In the case of Nina Simone, the problem wasn't finding a song, it was narrowing it down to a single song.  Having covered Screamin' Jay Hawkins and the Animals, there are plenty of choices.  I actually narrowed it down to two songs.  I especially love "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free."  Nina's tickling the ivories on it, but it reminds me of Booker T. Jones' work on "White Christmas" from his group's Christmas album.  And the song's overall feel would fit right in with the rest of Otis Redding's catalog.  When I hear this song, I like to sing along and try to sing it like Otis Redding: "I wish I could give/All I'm longin' To give/I wish I could live/Like I'm LOOONNGGIN' to live ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-I wish I could do..."  You get the idea.  But I didn't use that song.  The song I did use is a bit more plodding of a song, but could still pass for a soul song, just not an Otis Redding song.  Instead, the song I chose sounds like it could have been performed by a soul vocal group, like the Chi-Lites, the Stylistics, or especially the Dells.  Still a great song whether you call it jazz or soul, it's "To Be Young, Gifted And Black."

Sister Rosetta Tharpe:  For the hobbyist community, or just for music lovers in general, the omission of Sister Rosetta Tharpe was probably the greatest oversight of all by the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  Some have even gone so far as to credit her as the primary inventor of rock and roll.  An axe-slinger with a powerful gospel message and singing voice.  I wouldn't go so far as to say she invented rock and roll, but boy did she have a hand in its creation, both in her work with Lucky Millinder and songs of her own credit afterwards.  Speaking of Lucky Millinder, I was absolutely floored by the record, "Shout, Sister, Shout" and wanted to use that to represent Sister Rosetta Tharpe here, but then I learned that that song was in fact credited to Lucky Millinder, and not her.  Shucks.  Fortunately, she has enough solid material to pick an alternate song.  The record that ended up being chosen for her is "Strange Things Happening Every Day."  It's definitely one of her bigger hits, and one of the most cited tunes of hers as being important.  She was such an obvious choice for the Early Influence category, it really does make one ponder again, what was she doing on the main Performer ballot in the first place?  Whatever the reason was, they inducted her correctly... I guess strange things really are happening every day.

The rest of the inductees from this class are actual songs.  The Singles category.  The truth is, I really haven't decided on including those six songs.  We don't know what's going on with this category, and there are so many questions and concerns surrounding it, that until the ill-ease surrounding the category itself is resolved, our celebration of the Class Of 2018 will remain at just six songs, and not twelve.  Which means this review is wrapped up.  For those who include my seeding Sister Rosetta Tharpe to make the Early Influence category, it could be argued I went 4/6 in my predictions this last go round.  And we may be done with our celebration of the inductees, but we are not done with the great playlist yet!  Start thinking about those past nominees that haven't quite made it yet.  We'll be honoring them next week!  Meanwhile, recapping:

Bon Jovi: "Livin' On A Prayer"
the Cars: "Shake It Up"
Dire Straits: "Sultans Of Swing"
the Moody Blues: "I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)"
Nina Simone: "To Be Young, Gifted And Black"
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: "Strange Things Happening Every Day"