Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Initial thoughts on the 2012 ballot

Today, the nominees were announced for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  I guessed five of the nominees correctly, and a couple I saw as upset possibilities, but decided against just because I had to cut the list down, and I guessed.  So the nominees have been announced, and while I’m familiar with all the names, I feel I’ve got to brush up on a couple before I start passing any judgments of any kind.  So for now, I’m just going to give a face-value initial reaction to the news.

And the biggest reaction is: maybe they’re actually listening to us.  Don’t get me wrong: the smart money still says they don’t care about what we think and may not even know who we are, though I did get a travel brochure for Cleveland from the Hall Of Fame Museum.  But looking at the list, aside from the six repeat nominees, it’s easy to get a big head and think they’re listening.  Start with the Cure, easily one of the biggest names of those who would represent the alternative scene adequately.  While there might be some gripes about the Cure being too commercial and how Sonic Youth or someone else might be a better fit, there aren’t too many that want more alternative-scene acts getting recognized who would object to the Cure.  I’m sure Matt and Trey from South Park are ecstatic about their selection, if they’re paying attention.

Equally noteworthy, the Spinners are finally on the ballot.  Ever since the O’Jays finally got their due in 2005, the Spinners have been the primary target for the 70’s soul crowd, and there’s been some major outcry for their induction.  In fact, when I ranked the Spinners near the top of my list of overlooked artists on the Future Rock Legends Revisited/Projected  project, I called our inclusion of the Spinners “beating the real Rock Hall at its own game.”

This year’s ballot also includes two acts that have had major activity on the FRL site: Heart and Small/Faces.  While there’s been some commotion and disagreement on whether the Small Faces and Faces should be nominated together, or whether their different styles associated with each name merit separate recognition, it’s really a lead singer’s difference between the two, and therefore, pretty much a good call to combine them, in my opinion.  It's like a band deciding to go a completely different direction when they got a new lead singer.  Still the same band, even if they're no longer Small.  But that's just my opinion.  They, by the way, represent the only possibility for any new members of the Clyde McPhatter Club, for people inducted more than once.  Meanwhile, Heart has never been a major discussion at any single point in time, but there has always been a steady stream of activity on the thread/page for them, and always an act with plenty of supporters.

From the list of newly eligible artists, Guns N’ Roses and Eric B. And Rakim are the two acts that have always stood out the strongest among them, and there’s been a lot of hoping aloud that each would be nominated as soon as they became eligible, and lo and behold, it has happened.

And while there hasn’t been near the amount of outcry for them as others on here, the nominations of Joan Jett And The Blackhearts and Rufus With Chaka Khan do represent the possibility of the powers-that-be listening to others, maybe even us.  Recently, I called attention to the phenomenon of “Front Man Fever”, where the lead of a group gets inducted while the rest of the group gets left behind.  With additional beefing about the Miracles, Comets, and Midnighters (among others) getting left out of the induction picture, the trend of Front Man Fever has been getting a lot of backlash.  The possibility is increased when you consider that both Joan Jett and Chaka Khan have been “Previously Considered” without the Blackhearts and Rufus.  Now, they’re nominated with their groups.

Even among the repeats, there’s been voiced support for the returns of Donovan, the Beastie Boys, Donna Summer, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, War, and even some for Laura Nyro.  The only name on the ballot that shocks anyone is that of first-time nominee Freddie King.  Feel free to spell his name with a “y”, by the way.  The singles said “Freddy”, the albums said “Freddie.”  Again, this is neither a comment on his merits for nomination, nor one of personal preference.  His nomination is merely a surprise to all.  There’s been more support for Albert King, Ben E. King, and even Carole King to be inducted as a Performer.

Other than the possibility of getting the NomCom’s attention, another major note is the stronger female presence on the ballot.  A solid third of the ballot is women or women-fronted acts: Heart, Laura Nyro, Donna Summer, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, and Rufus With Chaka Khan.  While it isn’t a majority, a lot of predictions, shamefully not including mine, factored the museum’s “Women Who Rock” exhibit this past year as reason to predict a lot of women on the ballot.  I personally thought there was always a bit of a disconnect between the goings-on at the museum and the decisions of the powers-that-be of the Foundation, particularly the NomCom.  It seems that may not have been the case this year.

Looking at the list, there’s also a huge potential for canceling out, subgenres being divided against themselves by multiple representation.  Donna Summer and Rufus With Chaka Khan both represent disco, though Rufus was a bit more funky than Summer, compounded by War’s funk and the Spinners’ danceable kind of soul.  The Beastie Boys and Eric B. And Rakim both represent rap, and for the third time, the Beastie Boys are one of two rap acts on the ballot.  Both Heart and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts stand for hard-rocking females, both from the 80’s scene.  Donovan and Small/Faces are both 60’s British Invasion acts that went into the 70’s.  Though stylistically different, Guns N’ Roses and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were both very influential and somewhat flashy guitar rock bands of the more modern era of rock, which could also describe the Cure, sans the flashy part.  Laura Nyro and the Spinners are both soul acts, though one is blue-eyed and the other Philly.  This again puts Freddie King as something of a dark horse, which may work in his favor as well as against it.

So there’s an initial reaction to this year’s ballot: a lot of expected names, some pleasant surprises, and even a total surprise or two.  It’s all up to the voting body now.  Would that I were one of them.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Picking the ballot

Even though there's a thread about this on the FRL website, I couldn't call it a blog about the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame if I didn't write something about this.  So here it is:

According to Future Rock Legends, the Nominating Committee for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Foundation (referred to with the catchy abbreviation of “the NomCom”) will be meeting on September 12, 2011 to draw up the ballot for the Class of 2012.  And of course, it’s always fun to try and guess who will be on the ballot.  Last year, I had the most correct nominees, by guessing six out of fifteen.  So as the current Silver Button holder (don’t ask), I’m taking the occasion to start guessing who will be on the ballot for this coming year.  I must state right away though, that this is not necessarily who I’d most like to see get inducted, or who I think is the most deserving, this is merely those who I think are going to be there.  It’s hard to pinpoint these things down, mainly because in the past few years, the number of nominees on the ballot has ballooned up from what used to be the standard nine, to twelve and fifteen.  I’m allowing for up to sixteen.
The main thing that most people make when predicting the ballot is that they lean too heavily on returning nominees.  They do so with good reason: a lot of favorites do keep reappearing on the ballot; however, since the turn of the millennium, the slight majority of ballots tend to have a slight majority of first-time nominees.  Since this past year’s ballot was sixty percent return candidates, the pattern dictates that the newly nominated will be the glut of this ballot.  So pick your repeats carefully, since it’s unlikely to have so many of them this year.
Of those who might return, the clear favorite is undoubtedly Chic.  They’ve been nominated six times, and are clearly favorites with the NomCom.  Also, in the past year, it has been revealed that Chic lead-man Nile Rodgers has cancer.  There has been no news regarding Rodgers’ progress in the fight against this heinous affliction, but given how much the powers that be in the Hall Of Fame Foundation love and admire him, it seems unlikely that they’ll do anything other than keep nominating them every year until inducted, hopefully soon in case Rodgers does not survive the battle, though everyone, NomCom or no, hopes he is victorious.  In short, Chic will be back.
With three singer/songwriters as well as the avowedly admiring members of Alice Cooper inducted this past year, there may be enough sway to tilt the scales toward a Laura Nyro induction this time around.  She’s been nominated the past two years, so it appears they may be serious about getting her in eventually.  So I’ll guess that her name appears again.  Also nominated the past two ballots have been LL Cool J and Donna Summer, the former of which represents the NomCom’s continued efforts to include more rap in the Hall, while the latter represents both immense commercial success and the main face of R&B music in the late ‘70s, disco.  The NomCom may not try to put all three of these names on the ballot, but throw your darts blindfolded, and you’ll probably see two of the three stuck to the ballot.
Now comes the tricky part: trying to figure out who the first time nominees will be, and there’s usually a sizeable crop of them each ballot.  Beginning with newly eligibles.  Among this group, only two names stick out.  And of those two, Toure’s continued support of LL Cool J may keep Eric B. & Rakim off.  So, in all likelihood, the only newly eligible act to appear on this year’s ballot will be Guns N’ Roses.  The only liability that might keep them off is whether or not they want Bon Jovi on for a second time.
Next we come to the Little Steven pick.  Love his choices or hate them, he usually gets at least one of his picks onto the ballot each year: the Dave Clark Five, Wanda Jackson, the Hollies, Darlene Love, etc.  He’s got a good track record.  While hard to tell who’s next in his queue, he has in the past hinted at two acts that he seems to want to get in.  Of the two, the more likely choice would appear to be Johnny Burnette And The Rock And Roll Trio, a highly influential guitar band from near the dawn of rock and roll.
Most folks seem to think that it was the influence of new NomCom member Roy Trakin that finally got Neil Diamond on the ballot and in the Hall this past year, so can lightning strike again for him?  If so, there are once again two strong possibilities.  Of the two, the sounder bet is arguably Roxy Music.
 Recently, the website for “Rolling Stone” magazine has had a poll running for the best prog band.  And it seems that hard rock and prog take turns getting on the ballot.  Alice Cooper having been on and inducted last year, Genesis the year before that, and Metallica before that; it does indeed seem to be prog’s turn.  However, no matter what the results of the poll say, don’t expect the people’s choice to necessarily make the ballot.  The nomination of Genesis showed the proclivity to nominate acts that only loosely fall under the umbrella of “prog rock” as opposed to those who’d be considered textbook examples.  So, in lieu of Jethro Tull, Yes, or King Crimson, the safe money for a prog representative is on Electric Light Orchestra, a band whose orchestral style is more of a cousin to prog, as opposed to actual prog.  Nonetheless, their odds a`re the best.
There have always been at least nine names on the ballot, and so far we don’t have much representation of soul music.  While Joe Tex is a repeat favorite, his four nominations have come over the course of fourteen years, and having been on last year’s ballot, he might not be back this time around.  Meanwhile, fans of soul music have been pounding on the door for the Spinners to get inducted.  The NomCom isn’t known for listening to the outcry from John Q. Public, but it’s hard to imagine that they’ll stay on the outside forever.
With the likelihood of Guns ‘N’ Roses making the ballot, it weakens the probability of Stevie Ray Vaughan making it on, whose name should include And Double Trouble.  However, with innovation and influence, and politics as well since John Hammond produced his (their) first album, he (they) could appear on the ballot any year now.  Similarly, if Laura Nyro makes it on again, any other singer/songwriter making it on is all the more unlikely, much less that of fellow White, female Judy Collins; however, her tribute performance to Jac Holzman at this past year’s ceremony has reminded us all how beautiful her voice is, and while her biggest hits were not her own compositions, she does fit into the singer/songwriter category quite nicely.  So if they feel that segment is underrepresented, she may get a nod.
The ballot for the Class of 2000 was the last ballot where all the nominees had at least one Billboard Hot 100 hit.  Since then, there’s been at least one act that never charted on the Hot 100.  Though the Rock And Roll Trio and Double Trouble never made the pop charts, solo Johnny Burnette and the Vaughan Brothers did.  Meanwhile, the NomCom has only recently started warming up to the 80’s alternative scene.  The time may be right for a well-known name associated strongly with that era and scene.  So I’ll look for the possibility of Sonic Youth showing up, but it isn’t a strong possibility, imho.
This past year’s ballot had no candidates for the Clyde McPhatter Club, referring to people who’ve been inducted more than once.  In a previous blog entry, I listed Steve Winwood as the most likely next member.  However, solo Winwood isn’t likely for another appearance just yet.  So, I’ll put the Spencer Davis Group as a possible contender.  Chuck Willis tied with Chic for current holder of most nominations without getting inducted, and may possibly have been nominated again last year to keep Chic from being alone at the top.  So we may just get another appearance from the Sheik Of The Blues this year.  This may also be the year for another appearance from the Red Hot Chili Peppers as well.  And lastly, in case they bump it up to sixteen this year, as they did for 2006, let’s throw in a left field candidate, a complete shot in the dark.  This year, my left field candidate will be the Grass Roots.  With the death of lead singer Rob Grill earlier this year, they may get a nod for nostalgia’s sake.
So there’s my list.  It’s mostly in the order of likeliness of seeing them on the ballot.  Again, this is no reflection on my personal musical tastes, or even professional evaluation of any artist, only those whom I think will be nominated.  And of course, it’s just my opinion, and a lot of it is guessing.  Here’s hoping I get to hang on to my Silver Button though.