Now that the nominees have been announced, we’re all buzzing about who’s on the ballot, who’s not, who should get in, who will, and anything in between. Now that I’ve got some time to actually lay down my thoughts in full, here are some reactions on my part.
-No Whitney?! Whoa!
-Can’t believe Deep Purple and Rush got on.
-Boy they’re sure going back for previous one-and-done nominees.
-I suck at this prognosticating bit.
-No Clyde McPhatter Club potentials here.
-No love for soul this year either.
Expanding further on some of those thoughts… so yeah, no potential to join the Clyde McPhatter Club this year, though as has been pointed out, Dr. Dre could very easily do it if N.W.A. makes it this year, and then Dre solo down the line.
Well, it was no surprise that Donna Summer, N.W.A., Chic, and Public Enemy all made the ballot this year. What was surprising was that Whitney Houston didn’t get nominated. Really a huge surprise. Her death was a much higher profile deal than Donna Summer’s. But then again, George Harrison died in late 2001, and he wasn’t nominated for the class of 2003 (the ballot for 2002 was already out when he died), so maybe that’s what will happen here as well. Besides, with four previous nominations, it’s pretty evident that the Hall wants Donna in first, and doesn’t want another dead diva dividing the decisions against her. So, if Donna does finally get inducted, look for Whitney to join Nirvana as first time nominees for the 2014 ballot. Still, since disco has tended to divide against itself as well, it seems odd that Chic is back on the same ballot, having shared a ballot with Summer twice before. While we all know of Nile Rodgers’ current conflict with cancer, it still stands as a possibility that they’ll divide against each other again. Which may also happen with Public Enemy and N.W.A. Last year was the first year that one rap act got in when there were two nominated, so it’s interesting that they’re taking this gamble again. Public Enemy and N.W.A. are both extremely high profile hip-hop outfits, and if there’s any chance for two rap acts to get in the same year, this is the year for it to happen. And these four were the only four I correctly predicted, which forces the confession of how bad I’ve gotten at picking ‘em.
As I said, soul doesn’t seem to have much love on this year’s ballot. The closest approximations are also our two nominees filed under “M”: the Marvelettes are on the ballot, making them the first major Motown act to be on the ballot since some form of Michael Jackson’s musical career, and are also the second most commercially successful act on this ballot, in terms of the singles’ charts (second to Donna Summer); meanwhile, former one-and-done R&B nominee the Meters are back for their second bid. Given that only recently the Neville Brothers were added to the Previously Considered list, and Art was an original member of the Meters (and if I’m not mistaken, Cyril was a later member), it seems like maybe the Meters’ stalling out in the past is also keeping the Neville Brothers from even getting to the ballot. For those who participated in the Revisited and Projected projects on the Future Rock Legends site, the Meters were placed in the Sideman category, while the Marvelettes were one of those groups that I was proud of us for recognizing when the actual Rock Hall hadn’t. But now that they’re on, I haven’t decided how I feel this will go.
Eerie echoes from last year’s ballot have already abounded, as Albert King appears on the ballot for the first time. A bluesman who was around from the early sixties and had a pretty respectable career, and whose last name is also King. A lot of murmurs indeed comparing Albert to last year’s nomination of Freddie King, and the eventual induction of Freddie as an Early Influence, despite not having a release until 1959. People have good reason to worry and believe that the same thing will happen to Albert King this year. If I actually thought the powers-that-be paid attention to what I said, I would strongly warn them that in addition to Freddie’s EI induction being a horrible call, there are two more reasons not to go that way this time: one, Albert King isn’t even necessarily the earliest debuting artist on this ballot like Freddie King was last year, that honor arguably goes to the aforementioned Marvelettes; two, Albert isn’t the only blues act on the ballot this time, like Freddie was last year. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is also on the ballot, another former one-and-done getting a second look, and they debuted on the scene a short four years after Albert King. There’s been speculation regarding what’s pre-rock and what’s not going back to the earliest classes, but with these two additional factors in place, it’s just not wise to backdoor Albert King as an Early Influence.
Rounding out the mysterious reappearances are European electronica pioneers Kraftwerk and singer/songwriter Randy Newman, nominated in 2003 and 2005 respectively. Kraftwerk will be relying on their cache in the European theater, outside the limited recognition from Joe Q. U.S.A. Randy Newman will be relying on his status as a bohemian singer/songwriter, which the Hall absolutely eats up, and his connections to other inductees like Billy Joel and John Cougar Mellencamp. Along with the Meters and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, these four reappearances are probably more shocking than the omission of Whitney Houston.
As predicted, the ‘60s British Invasion does indeed have presence once again. Not as predicted though, was the act itself. I had predicted the Spencer Davis Group, and some worried that Little Steven’s influence would culminate in a Herman’s Hermits nomination. Both counts proved wrong as Procol Harum, another previously considered name, emerged as the front-runner among British acts this year. It’s somewhat a surprise as prog is generally reviled, and they were pretty much proto-prog. Parenthetically, to those who are glad that Little Steven didn’t get his way this time, let me ask… you don’t think the Marvelettes are an act that would be up his alley? I can’t say for certain that they were one of his three, but I’m fairly sure he’d back this nomination heartily and vocally.
Back on track, another huge surprise, though much more pleasant, was the announcement of Deep Purple and Rush. While this isn’t the runaway ballot of guitar gods that rock’n’rmetal purists pine and whine for every year, these are incredibly surprising and very good calls. However, I’m going to say it right now: don’t get your hopes up. We’re all too familiar with the critics’ distaste for these two acts. And while there’s almost always a solid guitar-rock band or soloist in every class, don’t be surprised if both these bands miss out and your guitar rock band representative turns out to be either Heart or Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, two carryovers from last year that I passed over in favor of predicting the Spinners and War. Critics still compose a good chunk of the voting bloc, and it’s very possible that our guitar god inductees this year will turn out to be guitar goddesses. And if you try to argue that it’s not the same, or that neither one is anywhere near as deserving as Deep Purple or Rush, you’ll be labeled a sexist, even if you’re a woman yourself.
So those are our nominees. I’m embarrassed to have only correctly predicted four, especially when a couple of the people who beat me read like enraged fanboys in their predictions (“OMFG! How LONG are they gonna ignore this absolutely LANDMARK group?!?!”) Maybe I’ll try it myself next year. The push for the Tokens goes into overdrive in about 48 weeks.