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.