Thursday, December 19, 2013

2014 Through The Lens Of Trends

If you're one of those who emphasize the "fame" part of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame name, then this was about as good a year as you could hope for.  All six of the Performer inductees, the Award For Musical Excellence inductee, and even one of the two Ahmet Ertegun Award inductees are all instantly recognizable names for anyone with even a cursory interest in music that was made before 1995.  So, overall, this is class that should bring in the attention (and hopefully therefore dollars) to the Foundation.  Kind of surprising considering how hard it was to predict this year's class.

The best of us only picked four of six (I correctly guessed three).  One of the reasons this was so difficult was because we had too many trends colliding.  Too many to make them all happen.  Almost a scenario where the irresistible force met the immovable object.  This time, forces gave.  For starters, the "automatic eight" has been fully disproved now.  We all know Solomon Burke needed ten nominations, but he'd been that rare instance, and considering the names that got in on number eight afterwards, it seemed like maybe it was something put in place to ensure ten never happened again.  Apparently not so.  Everyone thought Chic was getting in this year, and it turns out eight isn't automatic for them.  Chic will head into that territory where only one has gone before.  Another trend that gave out this year was a prog act on their first ballot.  Now, some may argue that Peter Gabriel was prog-like, but that was more of his Genesis days, for which he's already been enshrined.  It's pretty clear we're talking Yes here.  They were a fan favorite, and they missed out, much to the dismay of their legion of fans.  This is also the first time a rap act fails on the third nomination.  Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five and the Beastie Boys seemed to be setting that bar for "no more than three for rap" and LL Cool J misses out, also missing out on the hometown-hero-inducted-in-his-own-stomping-grounds trend we saw for Randy Newman and Bobby Womack.  N.W.A. was only on their second, so they don't count.  The trend of guitar gods only came partially true... we got Cobain with Nirvana and to a lesser extent KISS fills that hole, but we missed out with Link Wray, as he is not in on his first ballot. 

That said, some trends still held up: the newly eligible shoo-in (like U2, Madonna, Guns N' Roses, Public Enemy)?  Nirvana, check.  The big-name draw that you wonder how they missed out on their first nomination (Aerosmith, AC/DC, Queen, the Red Hot Chili Peppers)?  KISS, check (although N.W.A. out so...?).  A singer/songwriter staple (Randy Newman, Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen)?  Not a guarantee every year, but Cat Stevens, check.  The line-cutter for their second induction (Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Sammy Strain, Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart)?  Peter Gabriel, check.  The versatile performer that covered a lot of styles and genres (Paul Simon)? Linda Ronstadt, check. About the only anomaly really is Daryl Hall And John Oates, who being blue-eyed soul and a pop-hit machine, seemed to buck trends a little bit and get in on their first nomination.  Underground scene act failure to get in?  Replacements out,  check.

And of course there are trends that are hit and miss.  Those nominated before, but seemingly forgotten?  That's hit and miss, mainly because they've done so many of them lately.  Last year, they put four on the ballot, and only Randy Newman squeezed through.  The Meters and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band both were back, and both missed again.  The British Invasion?  Hard one to nail down... seemed there was a pattern emerging of multiple, first, multiple, first: Dave Clark Five needed three, Hollies on one, Donovan on two, (Small) Faces on one.  Procol Harum.... technically not a multiple because they haven't been back for number two yet, so the trend doesn't quite continue for the Zombies to be in on one.  Now both will become multiples the next time they make the ballot.  Metal?  Again, KISS in,  Deep Purple not.  But Metallica on one,  Black Sabbath on eight, so make of that what you will.

All this trend-spotting may seem a bit like ridiculous over-analysis, but it's also a large part of what we based our predictions on.  And we look for them to point to the future (again, I predicted Cat Stevens to get nominated in late September/early October when few others had).  And it's the future that we look to, to see what future trends might emerge out of what we've got now.  Does the induction of Daryl Hall And John Oates point to a renewal of hitmakers getting in on the first nomination?  That could spell good news for the likes of artists ranging from Huey Lewis And The News to Tommy James And The Shondells to maybe even Paul Anka.  Does Cat Stevens getting in mean there's still hope for Carly Simon, Jim Croce, Don McLean, Todd Rundgren, Warren Zevon?  Does the fact that the Replacements missed (and the Cure before them) mean a longer wait for the Smiths, Sonic Youth, the Pixies?  Will Linda Ronstadt pave the way for other acts that are better known for their covers of others' smash hits rather than their own material, or for those who attempt to have a diverse repertoire?  Some possible trends that may be looming on the horizon:

-Ensemble inductions to come.  The E Street Band are a curious case of Front Man Fever.  While many would point to them as a glaring example, the fact is they seldom received label credit with Springsteen.  So will we see the Funk Brothers get in for their work at Motown, or will the fact that already two members have been inducted as Sidemen mean they won't go for it?  And does it mean anything for the future of acts like Crazy Horse who were on-again, off-again label credited along with Neil Young?  What about the Jordanaires?  Or the Blossoms?  Will the Meters end up as an Award For Musical Excellence inductee now that ensembles are getting inducted in this category?

-Managers.  For a long time now, managers have been neglected as contributors to rock 'n' roll's evolution.  It's understandable to a degree, as they seemingly have little to do with the creative process.  At best, one can argue that in helping to shape their image, it will help shape their sound.  When there's a strong disconnect between a band's presence and their sound, it can be detrimental.  That's why it's appropriate for Lady Gaga to wear the flashy costumes, and not, for example And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead.  The music video also has a lot to do with this, as it helps give the first chance to connect image with sound in creating an identity, a brand.  And maybe that's what's so fitting about inducting Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham (the only relatively unknown name in this year's class) in the same year we induct KISS, a band that's been bashed by many for being more brand than band.  It might be cool to add the likes of Paul McGuinness to the Hall, but the induction of managers is a slippery slope for two reasons: one, many of them are power-that-be, even on the NomCom itself (such as Jon Landau and Cliff Burnstein) and may result in it becoming a glad-handing of their fellow committee members; two, almost no one wants to see Col. Tom Parker get inducted, and he may even have been the reason why managers couldn't get inducted before. He was detrimental to Elvis's image and sound, and may have even been blackmailing the King.  So what will the induction of these two managers mean for the future?

-Move to modernity. When Donovan was announced as a '12 inductee, Digital Dream Door said the odds of him getting in were almost 100% because the Rock Hall almost always inducts a '60s act.  Last year, Albert King was the only semi-solid connection to that decade, and this time around, it's Non-Perfomers Epstein and Oldham who tie in strongest to that decade, with Ronstadt's days as a Stone Poney being the strongest connection among the musicians.  Ronstadt and Stevens both have weak ties to the '60s but are more strongly affiliated with the '70s. KISS's presence is split fairly evenly between the '70s and '80s, Peter Gabriel and Daryl Hall And John Oates both started out in the '70s but are more strongly linked to the '80s, and Nirvana is clear '90s in terms of name recognition.  Are we slowly closing the door on the '60s after all?  This is the fondest wish of the indie/undie crowd who feel that the antiquity of the NomCom members, and their nostalgia for that decade have been the biggest deadweight towards inducting worthy (read: alternative-scene) acts.  I wouldn't pop the cork on the champagne just yet for those folks, since this newly announced induction class is clearly about the mainstream appeal.  Nevertheless, the shift in time seems to be slowly pulling in those pre-'70s acts who've yet to be enshrined, seemingly dooming them to never being inducted.  Bad news for fellow monitors Zach and Bill G., who respectively have asked to bring back the past so they can enjoy the present, and have been crusading tirelessly to fix the omissions of several key R&B and soul acts from the '60s and '70s.

-The Race Card.  I'm hesitant to bring this up, but I will.  Several have already noted that E Street Band member Clarence Clemons is the only African-American inductee, and aside from the Hispanic Linda Ronstadt, it's a Caucasian class.  One reason I didn't want to bring it up is because last year half the inductees were Black, so that really should've shut them all up.  But it won't, and nothing ever will.  Another reason is because rap's place is certain in the Hall.  N.W.A. and LL Cool J are each an eventual inevitability.  So are 2Pac, the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Puff Daddy (whatever name they induct him under).  Nevertheless I bring it up because when the current inductees vote, they vote for the acts that they like best and influenced them.  Metallica put out a list of metal and prog acts that they champion for induction.  One member of Rush disclosed his vote of pretty much all the "classic rock" acts on the ballot.  And KISS frontman Gene Simmons once dissed the Hall in favor of a myopic, cult-of-the-guitar definition of rock 'n' roll.  These inductees are going to continue to vote for fellow hard-rock acts, which means more votes for "rock", and fewer votes for R&B acts.  The Hall may indeed get Whiter as we go, through no sinister Klan-like motives, but simply the free market forces of personal preference kicking in.  It's nobody's fault, except maybe the NomCom, who puts out the list to choose from each year. 

With that in mind, it's not a bad class overall.  I'll mostly look forward to the induction ceremonies and be ready for all this again in ten months.  In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Seeds and predictions for 2014

Let’s face it: we got spoiled last year.  Last year’s class was relatively easy to predict.  Most people had at least 3 of the 6.  I had 4.  Fellow Monitor Tom Lane nailed all six a good two months ahead of time.  This year, we’re not so spoiled.  Some major names were easy to sniff out and pick right away last year.  This year we’ve got one, maybe two.   Trying to pick the five or six we believe will be inducted has not been easy.  Oh, some people post predictions confidently, but everyone has had to think about it and turn some things over in their minds.  We know whom we want to see get inducted, but it’s hard to say who will be.  Trying to guess this year is a little tougher than last year, but this is what we do.  I for one will feel lucky if I get three correct.

1. Nirvana
Landmark grunge group.  First year eligible.
Why they might make it: They pretty much kicked off the entire grunge movement.  They may not have been the first, but they brought it to the forefront in a big way.  The alternative rock scene is more prominent than ever, thanks in large part to Nirvana.  With an iconic frontman and legendary burnout, this is the story in rock ‘n’ roll they love to tell.  This is one hugely anticipated nominee.
Why they might not:
Whom they’d pave the way for: Pearl Jam and Green Day are the obvious two.  Look for other possibilities that may not have even sounded like Nirvana to go through the door Nirvana’s opening, including the Foo Fighters, the Offspring, Jane’s Addiction, Stone Roses, Oasis…really the list goes on and on.
Biggest threats: It’s hard to see anyone as being a threat, but the guitar crowd loves Kiss and Deep Purple too, as well as Yes, the Replacements, and Peter Gabriel.  Of course, those five names along with Nirvana would be their ultimate induction wet dream.
In the end: Not to sound like a commercial for Total cereal, but you’d need the innovation of Link Wray and Deep Purple, the influence of KISS, the haunting beauty of the Zombies, and the underground cred of the Replacements to get all the Hall Of Fame merit you get from one, count it ONE, induction of Nirvana.  Induction chances: 100%

2. Chic
R&B/disco group fronted by a crackerjack production team.  This is their eighth appearance on the ballot, not seeded their first two times, seeded dead last (#9) in 2007, #7 in 2008, #5 in 2010, #10 in 2011, and #12 in 2013.
Why they might make it: Their records were sampled far and wide back in the early days of hip-hop, so the influence factor is definitely in their favor.  From a musical standpoint, their bass and guitar lines are considered very tough to imitate or duplicate. The men in the group were all production geniuses.  Add to that the high profile year Nile Rodgers has been having, and the mystery and mythos of the supposedly “automatic eight” nominations.  Also, Nile Rodgers was on the Nominating Committee back when the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was first founded, so politically, this an attempt to repay the favor to him. .
Why they might not: We Rock Hall Monitors have a term we call “Chic Syndrome,” which is used to describe a musically proficient act that many are turned off from by the cerebrally detoured lyrics, which you see in Chic songs, though they are hardly the worst offenders.  It’s simply called “Chic Syndrome” because aside from the near alliteration, Chic’s the group that’s been repeatedly nominated and denied.  “Le Freak,” “I Want Your Love,” and “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah)” wouldn’t make any list of “Best Lyrics”, even if that list went to one million.  And as has been the case in the past, disco isn’t popular with the voting bloc.
Whom they’d pave the way for: The love for Nile Rodgers won’t readily translate to love for disco.  The biggest likelihood is that the next two artists in the queue for those with most nominations but not in will probably be revisited, which means Joe Tex, and maybe even Chuck Willis.
Biggest threats: Not a lot.  The Meters are probably the closest direct threat, though the late 70’s success of Daryl Hall And John Oates make them a threat too.
In the end: The NomCom wants Nile in, and will most likely induct Chic this year.  If they finished dead last in the vote, they’d still get in.  Induction chances: 80%

3. Peter Gabriel
Former leader of Genesis, experimental rock musician.  First-time nominee.
Why he might make it: He’s easily one of the most bohemian artists on this list of nominees, which the voting bloc absolutely loves.  While he’s not the stereotypical singer/songwriter, he would fill that position quite nicely.  He was also one of the pioneers in the music video medium, helping fuel the wildly expansive MTV empire early on. 
Why he might not:  When he was inducted with Genesis in 2010, he skipped the induction ceremony.  His reason was that he was rehearsing the orchestra for his upcoming tour, but couldn’t that have been put off for the occasion?  That kind of snub might not sit well.  Also, inconsistency of output is one of those things that could go either way.
Whom he’ll pave the way for:  Hard to say.  Perhaps he’d pave the way for other multiple inductees.  Some other Steve Winwood act or Steve himself for another nomination.  Solo Sting on the horizon?
Biggest threats: The experimentation aspect of Yes makes them a threat.  Cat Stevens is another singer/songwriter that could threaten his chances.  Lastly, Daryl Hall And John Oates are the big ‘80s name on this ballot, commercially speaking.
In the end: He’s been inducted once before, as a member of Genesis, and voters don’t usually wait too long to make a Clyde McPhatter clubber out of worthy returning faces.  Could get lost in the shuffle, but doubtful.  Induction chances: 60%

4. LL Cool J
One of hip-hop’s very first solo superstars.  This is his third nomination, seeded #8 both in 2010 and 2011
Why he might make it: Hip-hop was dominated in the early days by groups: the Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., etc.  LL Cool J was one of the first solo superstars, especially in terms of crossing over to the pop charts and a wider audience.  Now, hip-hop is dominated by solo artists, because of rappers like him.  He also helped create the bridge that changed R&B into the more sultry style that it became in the ‘90s and still exists to this day.
Why he might not: He’s been the only hip-hop artist on a smaller ballot in the past, and he couldn’t get in then.  Also, his duet with Brad Paisley from earlier this year, “Accidental Racist” was eaten alive by critics, so the most recent flavor from him has been bitter to people’s ears.
Who he’d pave the way for: Other rap solo artists loom on the horizon: Ice-T is already eligible, and soon enough we’ll see Jay-Z, Ja Rule, and Snoop Dogg getting looks.
Biggest threat: N.W.A. is a dangerous threat to his chances, and some think I’m crazy seeding this guy ahead of them
In the end: Ultimately, there are two reasons I’m predicting him to make it this year: one, this is his third nomination, and no rap act has needed more than three nominations to get in; two, when the ceremonies were held in Cleveland and Los Angeles for the first times, native sons Bobby Womack and Randy Newman were inducted in the hometowns, and this is supposedly the last time the ceremonies will be in New York for the foreseeable future.  I can’t see them passing up the chance to have a native New Yorker as one of the inductees for the occasion.  Induction chances: 55%

5. Linda Ronstadt
Female musician who branched out across several styles of music.  First time nominee.
Why she might make it: She’s a powerfully versatile singer, covering a variety of styles, and while the Hall can sometimes drag their feet in nominating such acts, they do generally get inducted.  Additionally, she was key in the formation of Hall Of Fame band, the Eagles, and those friends of hers have not forgotten.  She’s also recently announced her struggles with Parkinson’s disease, which may get her some sympathy votes, and while the Linda Legion will be more than glad to inform you that she doesn’t need sympathy to get in (whether you ask them or not), it also doesn’t hurt.
Why she might not: While the Hall does embrace versatility, they are a little reluctant to recognize the more country side of rock, which over the course of her career, has tended to be where her strongest presence has been.  Additionally, her best-known work has largely comprised of cover versions of other quite well known songs.  The Ronstadt Rabid will again be very happy to inform you that she’s done original work, including songwriting, but these are simply not the songs she is best known for.  The Hall generally prefers originality, and that is not her bailiwick.  Lastly, and on the petty side, when asked about her exclusion from the Hall to date, she has said, “I don’t care.”  This is not the biggest knock against the Hall by a musician, even by acts on this ballot; however, voters tend to vote more often for those who express desire for induction.  Reverse psychology doesn’t fare too well here.
Whom she’d pave the way for: Other female rockers such as Pat Benatar, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, the Runaways, and maybe even the Go-Go’s could soon follow.  Additionally, maybe they’ll revisit country-rock stars like Conway Twitty or Gram Parsons, maybe even giving acts like Poco or the Flying Burrito Brothers a long-awaited nod.  Or maybe she could pave the way for other acts with established careers of covering others, like Johnny Rivers or Pat Boone.
Biggest threats: Aside from the ladies who sang for Chic, Linda’s the only female presence on the ballot, but those who’ve already decided Chic’s going to get in this year, come hell or high water, will claim that Chic is enough female presence for this class anyway.  Beyond that, Daryl Hall And John Oates is another hugely commercially successful act from the ‘70s on this ballot.  They could divide the ballot against her as well.
In the end: I normally had her seeded a few spots lower, but I figure I needed to officially predict an act that had much more commercial success than critical acclaim, and even though Linda’s not hated by critics, her commercial success far outshines that.  So I’ll put her on for official.  Induction chances: 51%

6. Yes
Long-lasting progressive rock band with numerous personnel changes.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it: As a trend, prog-rock acts tend to get in on their first nomination, so that’s heavily in their favor.  Plus, they’re a very influential band, and the Hall has started to induct more populist choices, wherein Yes ranks highly.
Why they might not:  Critics still compose a significant chunk of the voting bloc, and critics have never been big on prog.  Plus, despite an impressive showing as an albums band, their singles recognition factor is fairly low.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Prog has a fairly long queue that rockists want to see inducted: King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and Emerson, Lake, And Palmer to name but three.
Biggest threats: Despite Yes’s innovation and artfulness, Nirvana is held as more innovative in terms of propelling musical movements (and more influential) and Peter Gabriel is arguably more bohemian.  Plus, KISS and Deep Purple could possibly steal votes away from those voters who aren’t voting strictly “classic rock + Nirvana”.
In the end: Prog-rock has so far had an easy time getting in once nominated, but that’s not going to last forever.  Yes could be the first one to need more than one vote.  And it’ll depend on whether they induct six again this year or only five.  Which makes their induction a coin toss.  If six, count them in.  If five, just miss.  Induction chances: 50%

7. Link Wray
Early rock ‘n’ roll guitarist.  First time nominee.
Why he might make it: Pioneered surf rock and hot rod rock.  Known as the inventor of the power chord, and he has scores of guitarists that have cited him as a tremendous influence.
Why he might not: Link Wray would rank right up there with Percy Sledge as a one-trick pony.  “Rumble” is the song that pretty much sums up his entire career.  He recorded a lot of records, and had a couple other lesser hits, but it all comes back to “Rumble”.  Voters might go for acts with a bit more substantive catalog of well-known songs.
Whom he’d pave the way for: As far as ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll early guitar heroes, Buddy Knox is still not in, so he could get a nod after Wray.  Otherwise, other rock guitar heroes, possibly Johnny Winter, would be on deck.
Biggest threats: Nirvana, KISS, and Deep Purple are all bigger name guitar acts who could stand in the way.  For the oldies crowd, the Zombies are a pretty big name draw as well.
In the end: Keep an eye out.  Wray could very possibly get the side door Early Influence treatment, especially if the powers-that-be don’t want to wait to get him in.  It’s something they’ve done before.  Induction chances: 50%.  Induction chances in the Performer category: 49%

8. The Zombies
‘60s British Invasion rock group that prominently featured keyboards.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it:  Not only does the Rock Hall love the British Invasion, but so does the general public.  This is an inductee they’d celebrate together.  Also, one of the more distinct of the British acts.  Their sound was very unique and hard to confuse for anyone else.  Lastly, Rod Argent’s trip to the museum and the subsequent love letter he wrote to the foundation afterward has his band in their good graces.  It’s the kind of flattery that could get them anywhere, even inducted.  Bizarrely, some even call the recent popularity of zombie movies, TV shows, literature, and even apocalyptic planning, as a reason, since all things zombie are kitschy right now.  I don’t buy into that reasoning, but some do.
Why they might not: They were pretty short lived, and have only a handful of songs that people remember, even though they love them dearly.  It might just not be enough.
Whom they’d pave the way for: With Procol Harum missing out this year, an induction for the Zombies might rejuvenate that charge.  It could also lead to future nominations for Manfred Mann, Herman’s Hermits, the Spencer Davis Group, and maybe a left field pick like the Troggs.
Biggest threats: Link Wray as an oldies pick, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band as a ‘60s rock act; Peter Gabriel, Deep Purple, and Yes as British rockers.  Nothing too direct, but with only five or six getting in out of sixteen, the threats don’t need to be direct.
In the end: I originally had them seeded number three, but they’ve been rising and falling rapidly.  Nirvana and Chic plus three or four of the six seeds that come after would be a prediction that I’d call realistic as the induction chance percentages hopefully show.  I’d almost predict a class of eight just so I didn’t have to pick, but that’s not happening, and so might not the Zombies getting in this year.  Induction chances: 48%

9. N.W.A.
Pioneer gangsta rap group.  Second time nominee, seeded #5 last year.
Why they might make it:  They’re pioneers. Straight Outta Compton is a landmark rap album, and their subsequent albums, though few, were also hugely successful.  They were pioneers of gangsta rap, which almost completely obsolesced the older style hip-hop of the original hip-hop pioneers, as gangsta became synonymous with rap for a good portion of the ‘90s.  Also, as the launching point for the solo careers of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and even MC Ren, and Yella, they could be considered rap’s first supergroup, or at the very least, the rap equivalent of the Yardbirds.
Why they might not:  Quick, ask someone who hates rap (or at least did in the ‘90s) why they hate(d) rap.  That laundry list that is their answer?  Most of that traces clearly back to N.W.A.  Even if they didn’t pioneer some of those aspects themselves, they did combine it all into a blend that is the main exhibit for hatred of rap: self-gratifying, gratuitous and prolific profanity; incredibly subversive lyrics that went beyond mere wake-up calls of socially conscious folk and rock, eschewing civil disobedience, opting instead for and glorifying bloody violence; self-aggrandizement that made “cockiness” look like “self-confidence”; plus the usual stock answers of how rap isn’t even music since what they’re doing doesn’t constitute singing.  And you don’t even have to be a stereotypical stuffy, White, conservative Christian to find that combination disturbing, or at the very least, inartistic.
Whom they’d pave the way for: The big ones are 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G., the martyrs and symbols of rap-gang warfare, but also rappers like Ice-T and Snoop Doggy Dogg, plus the solo careers of most of the members of N.W.A. themselves.
Biggest threats: LL Cool J isn’t being taken seriously as competition for N.W.A., but he absolutely is.  Plus the heavily-sampled-by-rap acts of Chic and the Meters might make a mess of things too.
In the end:  If N.W.A. couldn’t get in alongside Public Enemy last year, then we’re a few years away from where two rap acts get in on the same year, and I’m still sticking with home field advantage going to LL Cool J this time.  Induction chances: 45%

10. Deep Purple
Highly influential hard rock band.  Second time nominee, seeded #8 last year.
Why they might make it: This is a band that has been heavily demanded to get inducted, right up there with KISS and Rush, and nowhere more heavily than on Eddie Trunk’s “That Metal Show”, but even without Trunk, they’re a band that has been loudly touted as among the biggest omissions because of their huge range of influence.
Why they might not: The reason they’ve been omitted for so long is simply because the powers-that-be don’t hold them in very high esteem, and those people have sway with the voting bloc.  Whether it’s because they just don’t care for their style, or think of them as a one-trick pony for “Smoke On The Water”, getting them recognized this much has been a major struggle.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Other hard and classic rock acts like Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, and Ted Nugent could all benefit from Deep Purple finally getting in.
Biggest threats: Nirvana and KISS are the two big ones, and Yes could steal a few votes away from them as well.
In the end: Interesting stat about my record of predictions: keep an eye on the #10 seed.  Three of the four years I’ve done this where there’ve been more than nine nominees, the #10 seed has gotten in (Jimmy Cliff, Donovan, Heart).  The year it didn’t, the #11 seed got in (Darlene Love).  So maybe #10 should be called the Upset Special.  Still, at this point, it seems like Deep Purple will be like Black Sabbath or Lynyrd Skynyrd needing nominations in the high single digits before finally getting approval.  Either way, this won’t be their year.  Induction chances: 40%

11. Daryl Hall And John Oates
Pop duo from the ‘70s and ‘80s.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it: They were a powerhouse of commercial success, and really, one of the first ten acts most would mention as being “quintessentially ‘80s.”  Considered the most successful duo of all time.  Though a bit late, they’ve had a mini-resurgence of popularity thanks to movies and TV shows.
Why they might not: “Most successful duo of all time” is one of those honors that is little more than a curio, only having meaning to those who like them and want to emphasize or even exaggerate their importance.  Critically not too well loved, they’re an act some people love to hate.  Lastly, Hall is another one of those who’ve badmouthed the foundation because he wasn’t inducted, calling the people in charge “a bunch of dinosaurs”, because there’s absolutely no way that could possibly work toward keeping him out.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Not too many close imitators, their door-opening could be for other pop-rock groups with slight overtones of soul in their music.  Maybe Huey Lewis And The News.
Biggest threats: Linda Ronstadt is another commercially successful powerhouse that could barrel right past them.  Chic is another act from the ‘70s and early ‘80s that could stop them cold, as is Peter Gabriel.
In the end: Blue-eyed soul almost never gets in on the first ballot (think the Four Seasons, the Rascals, Laura Nyro), Hall’s comments against the powers-that-be are no help, and an act that as many people say sound “dated” as there are who call them “timeless”.  Not enough unity to get them in.  Induction chances: 35%

12. KISS
Hard-rock guitar band.  Second nomination, seeded #1 in 2010.  Oops.
Why they might make it:  They are one of the most influential bands not in yet, quite possibly the most so on this ballot. Whether you love or hate them, they're a band that has a huge following, and is responsible for a LOT of young boys picking up the guitar.  They’re regarded as one of the most overdue inductions.  Overall, KISS is a solid guitar-band with serious name recognition.  Also, the most commercially successful albums act on this ballot.
Why they might not:  Opponents of KISS have a neat little saying that sums up their feelings: “brand, not band.”  And there’s some truth to that.  Even Gene Simmons has said in the past that KISS has been more dedicated to their marketing and merchandising than their music.  Also, they’re not a very innovative band, musically speaking. From a technical perspective, they do not rank among the most stand out.  Lastly, Simmons has also been one of those who in interviews has dissed the Hall, saying they’ve lost sight of rock ‘n’ roll, offering instead a very myopic definition of rock ‘n’ roll that makes him sound ignorant.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Bon Jovi could get a second nomination after KISS, or maybe Motley Crue or Def Leppard could finally garner one for themselves as well. 
Biggest threats: Deep Purple is the most direct competition, and Nirvana is a shoo-in as a popular, influential guitar band
In the end: It took Black Sabbath eight nominations to get in, and this is only KISS's second.  The journey of a thousand miles, as it were.  Induction chances: 30%

13. Cat Stevens
’70’s singer/songwriter.  Second-time nominee, previously unseeded.
Why he might make it: The Hall loves singer/songwriters, especially from the ‘70s, and Cat’s definitely one of them.
Why he might not: He’s not the best-known or most revered singer/songwriter, nor a real rocker.  Others point to his conversion to Islam, stating that voters might hold an anti-Islam bias, but I call baloney on that.  However, his conversion DID lead to a self-imposed departure from the music scene that lasted for a long time, and limits his overall output and chances.
Whom he’d pave the way for: Similar singer/songwriters could include Jim Croce, Don McLean, Gordon Lightfoot, Carly Simon, or current fan favorites like Todd Rundgren, Warren Zevon, or maybe even a second induction for Carole King.
Biggest threats: Peter Gabriel isn’t really considered a singer/songwriter because he doesn’t fit the iconic style that most ’70 singer/songwriters are known for.  Nonetheless, he is a bona fide, denotative singer/songwriter that stands directly in Stevens’ way.
In the end:  As much as the Hall loves singer/songwriters, and right on the tail of Randy Newman would make him a strong choice, it just seems he’ll get lost in the shuffle more than anything.  Induction chances: 25%

14. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Blues-rock band from the mid-‘60s.  Third-time nominee, Unseeded the first time, seeded #14 last year..
Why they might make it: They’re a formative blues-rock act.  Their sound is considered to be a pioneer sound.  A few of its past members have some amount of fame to their own names.  Also, they were name dropped by none other than Jann S. Wenner as an act he’d like to see get in.  If you don’t think that means something, you don’t know the Hall. 
Why they might not: They’re arguably the most obscure name on this ballot, having no hit singles and no album making the top quarter of the Billboard 200.
Whom they’d pave the way for:  I’m operating on the assumption that they want to get as many important blues and blues-rock names inducted before they go after the big draws of Stevie Ray Vaughn And Double Trouble, and possibly even George Thorogood And The Destroyers.  The best bet for next in line in this vein would be Johnny Winter.
Biggest threats: The Zombies and the Meters are more prominent ‘60s acts, and Link Wray is a pioneering name to compete with against this outfit.
In the end: As much clout as Jann S. Wenner has, I think he’ll have to continue to call this group an act he still wants to see in, because it ain’t happening this time.  Induction chances: 20%

15. The Replacements
Independent/underground band from the ‘80s and early ‘90s.  First time nominee.
Why they might make it: They’re a band of sizeable influence with some longevity.  Plus, Paul Westerberg’s solo career makes them a name to consider.  Additionally, the movement is growing to get more non-mainstream scene acts recognized and inducted.
Why they might not: The movement is growing, but it’s not getting much in the way of results.  The Cure failed to get in a couple years ago, the Stooges needed eight tries, and many others still haven’t even been nominated.  It’s a big climb uphill.
Whom they’d pave the way for: Other alternative scene bands could see nominations, like the Smiths, the Pixies, Sonic Youth, XTC, maybe even another nomination for the Cure.
Biggest threats: Nirvana also has alternative-scene credibility, maybe even more than the Replacements.  Deep Purple and Yes have some as well.
In the end: If the Cure couldn’t do it for the Class Of 2012, the Replacements probably won’t be able to for 2014.  Induction chances: 15%

16. The Meters
Funk band that did much session work, rooted firmly in New Orleans.  Third-time nominee, Unseeded the first time, seeded #13 last year.
Why they might make it: The Hall loves the sound of New Orleans.  In 2011, they inducted Dr. John, and in 2012, they inducted Cosimo Matassa, an engineer who helped record and shape the New Orleans sound.  Additionally, the Neville Brothers have been starting to get some consideration as well, and two of those brothers were one-time members of the Meters.  This group might be able to ride those waves into the Hall this year.
Why they might not:  They’re one of the more obscure names on this ballot, never really breaking through the glass ceiling, commercially speaking.  No real signature tune that they’re instantly linked to by John Q. Public. 
Whom they’d pave the way for: The sound of New Orleans could be carried on in the future with the Neville Brothers, Buckwheat Zydeco, and even Virginian Gary U.S. Bonds, whose sound drew big from the New Orleans style.  Beyond New Orleans, the Bar-Kays would be another great instrumental group that also did session work.
Biggest threats: Chic is the biggest threat, and the rap acts could detract from other forms of R&B
In the end: It’s a surprise they’re back again this year, so someone wants them in, but once Chic is in, this will be an act that will also need several nominations to get inducted.  Not this time around.  Induction chances: 10%

So there’s this year’s ballot.  I’ve ranked them by merits, by taste, and now by likelihood of induction.  To recap: predicting Nirvana, Chic, Peter Gabriel, LL Cool J, Linda Ronstadt, maybe Yes, and possibly Link Wray as an Early Influence.  Time to wait and see what happens.

Monday, November 11, 2013

How I like 'em, 2014 edition

After trying to carefully measure the merits of the nominees in the previous entry, time for me to subjectively and recklessly inject my own likes and dislikes into the conversation.  This will hurt only slightly less than the first time I gave blood.  Once again, the fiancé is having her say, and averages of mine versus hers versus ours will all be taken into account to see how I might vote in the fan vote, how well her averages compare to how she actually voted, and how it might look if we submitted a joint, compromise ballot.  Like last year’s ballot, there aren’t really many acts nominated this year that I’m a big fan of.   Some I like, but nothing I’m personally giddy about as a fan.  So with that lack of enthusiasm…

1. The Replacements: And everyone who knows me and my music just fell on their asses.  Or maybe not: I did rank the Cure as fifth favorite two years ago.  Still, listening to the Replacements reminds me of when I first heard “I Wanna Be Sedated” by Ramones: it’s just straightforward, relatively basic, good rock ‘n’ roll.  I don’t think of it as alternative (or punk for the analogy) or anything.  Just good.  Fiance likes them ninth.
Average of merits: 14.5
Average of tastes: 5
My average: 7
Her average: 12.5
All scales average: 9.75

2. the Zombies: This is a bit more what everyone was probably expecting from me for taste.  Probably the group whose stuff I know best, too.  In a better world, “I Love You” would have been their fourth best-known song.  Fiance also ranks them second.
Average of merits: 10
Average of taste: 2
My average: 7
Her average: 5
All scales average: 6

3. Link Wray: As a fan of Duane Eddy and the Ventures, it should really be no surprise that I’d like Link Wray too.  Again, still wish the Ray Men were nominated along with him.  Seventh place from you-know-who.
Average of merits: 9.5
Average of taste: 5
My average: 6.5
Her average: 8
All scales average: 7.25

4. KISS: When I ranked Guns N’ Roses first two years ago, I proudly stated I was a child of the ‘80s and I love hair metal.  They can get a hair tedious, mainly because they’re not the most technically proficient or amazing, but it’s still fun to unwind to.  She puts them at numero ocho.

Average of merits: 4
Average of taste: 6
My average: 3
Her average: 7
All scales average: 5

5.  Nirvana: No surprise I’m not a grunge fan, but their music is surprisingly catchy nonetheless.  And you gotta respect the unplugged version of “All Apologies.”  She likes them best of all.
Average of merits: 1
Average of taste: 3
My average: 3
Her average: 1
All scales average: 2

6. Peter Gabriel: I’m actually kind of surprised that I ranked him this high too, but honestly, “Sledgehammer”, “Solsbury Hill”, “In Your Eyes”… all really good songs, and while I’m not big on “Big Time” or “Shock The Monkey”, they do have their moments that I enjoy.  The fiancé rounds out her top five with him.
Average of merits: 5.5
Average of taste: 5.5
My average: 7
Her average: 4
All scales average: 5.5

7. Deep Purple: Maybe this ballot’s a little better this year than last, since I had these guys ranked fourth in taste last year, which is where my special woman ranks them this time.  Or maybe my opinion has changed.  Whichever, still fun stuff.
Average of merits: 4
Average of taste: 5.5
My average: 5.5
Her average: 4
All scales average: 4.75

8. the Meters: Yeah, they were sixth in taste last year.  The good ol’ sound of New Orleans is good for these guys and me.  Not for the little lady though, as she puts them eleventh.
Average of merits: 13
Average of taste: 9.5
My average: 11
Her average: 11.5
All scales average: 11.25

9. Linda Ronstadt: This is a conflict for me.  Her stuff sounds good, but when I hear her, I can’t help but be distracted by thinking about how much I like the originals so much better: “Blue Bayou”, “Heat Wave”, “That’ll Be The Day”, “When Will I Be Loved”, etc.  The only version of hers I like about as much if not more than the original is “You’re No Good”, which has more of a fire inside from the dumper, whereas Betty Everett’s version is a brooding, icy feeling about breaking up.  My fiancé like’s Linda third best, by the way.
Average of merits: 10.5
Average of taste: 6
My average: 8
Her average: 8.5
All scales average: 8.25

10. Chic: Meanwhile, this group hasn’t budged a spot either way from where I said I liked them last year.  All right, but nothing worth celebrating, in my opinion, even less so in my fiance’s as she ranks them at 13.
Average of merits: 10
Average of taste: 11.5
My average: 9.5
Her average: 12
All scales average: 10.75

11. the Paul Butterfield Blues Band: Aside from the occasional way the harmonica sounds like it’s honking, there’s nothing I dislike about their overall sound.  It’s a solid blues-rock feel, but I prefer a blues-rock that’s a little less raw.  She puts them twelfth.
Average of merits: 15
Average of taste: 11.5
My average: 13
Her average: 13.5
All scales average: 13.25

12. N.W.A.: Let me first state that I actually like them a lot more than I did last year.  Since last year, I’ve done more listening, and it’s not as tedious as I thought.  Nonetheless, they don’t move any higher.  Still twelve from me, and fifteen from her.
Average of merit: 3.5
Average of taste: 13.5
My average: 8,5
Her average: 8.5
All scales average: 8.5

13. LL Cool J: Kinda dig the early stuff, kinda bored with the later stuff.  Not hatin’ it, but not big on the love either.  Nor is she, putting him 14.
Average of merit: 4
Average of taste: 13.5
My average: 8
Her average: 10.5
All scales average: 9.25

14. Daryl Hall And John Oates: On the FRL Revisited/Projected project, I summed up why I never voted for these guys along these lines: “they didn’t just kill blue-eyed soul, they raped it and left it for dead in a ditch.”  Still feel the same way, although you-know-who is a little more forgiving, putting them tenth.
Average of merit: 12
Average of taste: 12
My average: 12.5
Her average: 11.5
All scales average: 12

15. Yes: I think I’ve made it clear that while I respect prog-rock and the artistic accomplishments it has brought forth to rock ‘n’ roll, it’s just not something I’m really a fan of listening to.  “Roundabout” just bores me, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” just irritates me, “Your Move (I’ve Seen All Good People)” leaves me kind of lukewarm.  I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point, though the later '80s stuff is more listenable.  My fiancé hates them more than I do, according to our ranks.
Average of merits: 8
Average of taste: 15.5
My average: 10.5
Her average: 13
All scales average: 11.75

16. Cat Stevens: Ugh, where do I begin?  “Wild World” is weird and a little creepy, “Peace Train” should be about a minute and a half shorter than it is and doesn’t have that good of production values, “Morning Has Broken” makes me want to hit the snooze button, his cover of “Another Saturday Night” is a worse injustice to the original than any of Linda Ronstadt’s covers…”If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” is actually okay.  But my favorite Cat Stevens song is “Here Comes My Baby”…the Tremeloes’ version, not his.  In the past, I’ve called him a third-tier singer/songwriter, and I still stand by it.  But the little woman seems to like him, putting him sixth (then again, she loves all cats).
Average of merits: 10.5
Average of taste: 11
My average: 16
Her average: 5.5
All scales average: 10.75

And with all the numbers crunched, time to spit out what potential votes might look like.  If I were running on just my averages, four of my five votes would be cast for Nirvana, KISS, Link Wray, and Deep Purple for certain; with an ensuing scrum for the fifth spot between the Zombies, the Replacements, and Peter Gabriel. 

If my fiancé voted according to her averages, her ballot would cleanly go Nirvana, the Zombies, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, and Cat Stevens. 

If we voted together on just our merits, it’d go Nirvana, KISS, Deep Purple, N.W.A., and LL Cool J, which are ironically the Top Five merited acts as I ranked them.

However, if we just voted jointly out of who we liked, the Zombies would be our first pick, followed by Nirvana, Link Wray, and the Replacements, while Deep Purple and Peter Gabriel fought over the last slot.

If we combined all scores to vote together, it’s once again be led by Nirvana, followed by Deep Purple, KISS, Peter Gabriel, and the Zombies.

So Nirvana lands firmly on all five iterations, Deep Purple is on four and a half (the half because he’d be in a tie for the fifth spot on the fifth iteration); Peter Gabriel landing twice firmly and messily twice; the Zombies show up three and a half times; KISS, cleanly thrice.  That’s about the top five overall, as Link Wray makes the cut only twice, the Replacements get one and a half rounds, while Cat Stevens, LL Cool J, and N.W.A. all finish in the Top Five only once.

So maybe when I vote in the fan poll, maybe I should go Nirvana, Deep Purple, KISS, the Zombies, Peter Gabriel, but I’d feel guilty about it too, probably, since that’d make me look like a flat-out rockist (despite the negative on Yes).  The same guilt struck my fiancé too, as she did vote her top five averages, except she cast a vote for N.W.A. instead of Cat Stevens.  Then again, she’s already voted, maybe I should go with just my averages and go for Nirvana, KISS, Deep Purple, and Link Wray, and throw in LL Cool J (the highest merit not already assured of vote) instead of one of the three tied for fifth to keep it from being flat-out rockist.  Then again, the fan vote is already heavily rockist, so what’s the difference?  Not much, because ultimately, my averages don’t contribute a whole lot to whom I think will actually be inducted.  Those predictions will be coming soon.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Evaluations of the 2014 nominees, sans personal taste

This year’s ballot is pretty tough, no doubt.  Even rockists who are flooding both the FRL vote and the official Rock Hall Fan Ballot with Nirvana, KISS, Deep Purple, and Yes, are pretty torn on a fifth.  Everyone has their favorites, and everyone has their own scales of merit.  So, time to stuff mine down your throats.  Here’s looking at our sixteen nominees, ranked by attempted objective merits.  I’ll once again be including my fiance’s ranks of the merits because I enjoy a perspective that’s vastly different from mine, as she focused mainly, if not solely on influence and creativity.  I’ll be using the four I’s as we evaluate the candidates: Innovation, Influence, Impact, and Intangibles.  I’d explain each one, but really, demonstration is the best explanation, so without further ado, to quote Olivia Lee from “Battle Of The Bods” (yeah, I’m ashamed of myself, too), let’s get ranking!

Influence: This band is almost single-handedly the entire reason why rock music is the way it is today: angry/frustrated sounding chords, surreal to dystopian lyrics, and why joyful rock songs like “Party Hard,” “Girlfriend,” and “This Afternoon” are not only few and far between, but often most subject to ridicule.  Nirvana is how and why alternative scene music has broken through the walls that held it back in the ‘80s, and is more widely considered the better brand of rock music.
Innovation: The Experience Music Project in Seattle’s City Center definitely acknowledges Nirvana’s influences as progenitors of grunge music, but Nirvana is ultimately the band to find the right chemistry for it.
Impact: Just because they were alternative scene doesn’t mean they didn’t have plenty of impact on the pop charts, let alone the album and modern rock charts.  And when your song is considered the quintessential song of a decade, despite not even making the top five on the Hot 100, that’s incredibly huge.
Intangibles: Because of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, Nirvana burned out quickly rather than slowly faded.  Because we never saw Cobain mellow out in his later years or adopt a new approach to life, his image is forever set in stone, and thereby Nirvana’s.  And it’s the image that the music world eats up.
The fiance’s rank: Solidly #1 here too.

Influence: Before Nirvana, this was arguably the most influential band at the time.  Hair metal was in all its glory and multitudes of youngsters were picking up guitars to learn to play like KISS.
Impact: In addition to being the biggest album-selling nominee on this year’s ballot, they have a huge run of hit singles.  Additionally, they’re household names.  When you say “KISS army”, no one thinks you mean stopping wars with the powers of love and affection.
Innovation:  Probably the weakest leg of their table.  Not a hugely innovative band, except for maybe stage shows.  They probably also get some credit as pioneers of glam metal.
Intangibles: Theirs has been a marketing prowess that is among rare company.  As I said in a previous blog entry, KISS hasn’t just transcended their genre, which they have absolutely done, they’ve transcended their industry. 
The fiance’s rank: 6, because they’re not the most creative outfit out there.

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 crossover success only possibly rivaled on this ballot by Daryl Hall And John Oates.  A respectable album chart showing, too.  Plus, with his acting career, he also has a substantial name recognition factor.
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 bragadocchio 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: “Accidental Racist” has become a liability for him, but has it slowed down his momentum? 
The fiance’s rank: 7

Influence: Extremely influential.  One of the most influential groups in heavy metal and hard-rock bands to come after.  I’ve also heard them referred to as being influential to prog, but I’m not sure how true that is.
Impact: Not hugely successful in terms of singles, but they were a part of the rock scene that focused on albums as single entities.  On the albums front, the chart entries are so-so at best, but five gold, three platinum, and one double platinum perhaps speaks to their standing the test of time where the chart numbers don’t seem to match.
Innovation: Can’t speak to it much, but there’s probably some of it in there.
Intangibles: The other projects that members of Deep Purple have been involved with speak to the further and more direct influence of the band.  Blackmore’s name is one of the most revered among rock guitarists, and the riff from “Smoke On The Water” is considered to be one of the rites of passage for guitar playing.
The fiancé’s rank: 4.

5. N.W.A.
Influence: Gangsta rap is what it is because of these guys.  In fact much of the stereotype of what being a rapper means, or at least what it supposedly meant when Tupac and Biggie got shot, is based on the image projected by N.W.A.
Innovation: I’m loathe to put lyrical innovation on the same plateau with rhythmic and instrumental innovation, but this is one of the few times when it’s deserved.  Ice-T may be the O.G., but Ice Cube and company really put it on the map.
Impact: Minimal on the singles charts.  For albums, three platinum (one doubly so) studio albums (one that hit #1 on the Billboard 200), and one gold greatest hits compilation.  But that’s also about all they had.  No cache of lesser known/celebrated material behind that.
Intangibles: With notable and big solo careers of some of their members, they might be called the first rap supergroup.
The fiancé’s rank: 2 from her, not surprising, since she ranked N.W.A. ahead of Public Enemy last year too.

6. YES
Influence: One of the most respected names in the entire sub-genre of prog-rock.  A lot of prog bands took cues from this group.
Innovation: Among the first to really successfully and continuously infuse classical elements into the world of rock music.
Impact: One of the very few prog bands to also have a #1 hit on the Hot 100.  They’re much bigger in the album charts than the singles, but even their singles chart history is pretty respectable, especially compared to many other names on this ballot.
Intangibles: Semi-noteworthy solo careers of some of its members give them some additional credibility as it allows for closer inspection of the individual pieces of their machine, and the sense of synergy as a whole. 
The fiance’s rank: 10

Impact: Huge name recognition.  From a commercial success standpoint, probably the best well-rounded candidate on the ballot, placing second in both hit singles and hit albums.  Somewhat notable crossover success in the country world, too, though from a Rock Hall perspective, that’s almost a liability.
Influence: I’m loathe to differentiate between genders in terms of influence: I think influence is influence, and a man can be influenced by female musicians as much as a woman can, and a woman can be influenced by male musicians as much as a man can.  But this is still far from a perfect world, and gender divisions do occur in terms of choosing role models.  And for that, Linda Ronstadt is among the stellar in terms of female rocker influences.
Innovation: Her weakest leg by far, this is probably what’s kept her off the ballot for so many years.  Nevertheless, it is an asset that although a latecomer to country-rock, she did make it bolder and more brazen, giving even the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd a run for their money in this regard.
Intangibles: Of all the singers on the ballot, Ronstadt might very well me the best vocalist.  In terms of pitch range, dynamic range, and stylistic range, she is a top flight talent, and that does demand respect.  Versatility is something that the Hall respects though it sometimes takes time to show it.  Lastly, she’s highly recognized by her peers, most noteworthy Don Henley of the Eagles.  Peer respect does mean a lot.
The fiance’s rank: 14.  She really thinks less of Linda for all the covers.

Influence: His brand of influence really is best described as a lingering incorporation one may not be initially aware of, but will recognize and acknowledge later on.  His ethereal brand has carried over to many rockers.
Impact: Like U2 or “Weird Al” Yankovic, Gabriel’s output isn’t rushed, but is done in his own time as he feels ready.  That said, a decent run of hit albums and a modest but notable string of hit singles, as well as other non-charted classics, make Gabriel’s name lasting.
Innovation: His most innovative work was as the frontman of Genesis, but it’s a creativity that he carried into his own solo work, and is distinctive.
Intangibles: Of the sixteen nominees, Peter Gabriel’s music is arguably the most bohemian, and that matters because the Hall Of Fame is about honoring not only those who helped perpetuate and evolve rock ‘n’ roll as a driving cultural force, but also those who elevate it as an art form.
The fiance’s rank: She ranks him number 3, especially for his creativity

Impact: The impact of “Good Times” upon hip-hop is huge.  Also, respectable runs of hits in the disco, R&B, and pop charts, plus a good run of charted albums.
Influence: Again, on the world of hip-hop, having a heavily sampled record does say a lot.  Plus, the influence on funk and dance music is sizeable.
Innovation: Not entirely devoid here, as the technique of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards have proven different and difficult to duplicate.
Intangibles: By now, Chic may just be wearing down resistance of the voters.  An eighth nomination?  The Nominating Committee must be seeing something that not everyone is.
The fiancé’s rank: 11

Influence: Pretty much the entire reason this man is on the ballot.  Though many would write him off as a one-trick pony, that one trick of “Rumble” is a major move.  His style of playing on that record and the subsequent ones has influenced myriads of guitarists.
Innovation: Not the premiere rock and roll guitarist, but his style did help shape the sub-genre of surf rock, which is significant.
Impact: “Rumble” is about on par with Les Paul’s “Nola” among cornerstones of guitar music.  From the charts, not much of a showing: one album and four singles.
Intangibles: In 2012, the Hall inducted six groups that they had previously only inducted the frontman.  In the event of a Link Wray induction, the Ray Men really should be included, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks it’s a major oversight either.
The fiance’s rank: 9, surprisingly, she ranked him higher than I did.

Impact: The biggest singles artist on this ballot from a pop perspective, and a strong crossover factor between the pop and R&B scenes possibly topped only by LL Cool J.  Again from a pop perspective, the biggest non-solo act from the ‘80s, and regarded as the biggest duo of the entire rock era. 
Influence: Presumably some.  Hard to be that big without having some influence, but hard to gauge, since they’re a polarizing act--one of those acts that it’s just as cool to hate as it is to love.
Innovation: Not really.
Intangibles: Hall has the studio musician cred having been a member of the studio group the Electric Indian, which had the bizarre instrumental hit from 1969, “Keem-O-Sabe”.  Oates has the iconic mustache that represents the ‘80s.
The fiance’s rank: 13

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 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: Being a 60’s British Invasion group always means something, not just because of the way the British Invasion collectively shook up the musical landscape, but also because of the music itself of each outfit.  The Zombies have a high general populace approval overall.
The fiance’s rank: 8, and if my personal taste were included in the merits here, I’d probably rank them at least that high, too.

Influence: One of the earliest American alternative music bands, their style pushed ahead to many in the alternative scene.
Innovation: Not the very cutting edge at most of what they did, but always early enough that they helped give a significant push to whatever style they were behind.
Impact: Fairly small, although they do have a total of seven hit tracks on the Modern Rock charts.
Intangibles: Paul Westerberg has had a striking solo career that still continues on college radio, and Chris Mars also had a brief peak as a solo performer as well.  Also and apropos of nothing, I find it amusing that their first hit on the Modern Rock charts is a cover of the Disney classic “Cruella De Ville”
The fiance's rank: 16, and that's after researching them a bit.

Influence: They helped carry on the New Orleans sound, and bring it into the ‘70s and beyond.
Impact: A couple handfuls of hits in the singles charts, and they had a few hit albums too.
Innovation: A little bit, alongside Sly And The Family Stone and the JB’s, helping shape and update the sound of funk.
Intangibles: Two of the members of the Meters were named Neville… as in the Neville Brothers, who have also been looked at as potential candidates.  Perhaps the Hall wants this group in first, then have two more members of the Clyde McPhatter Club.
The fiance’s rank: 12

Influence: Brought straight-out blues music to a new audience, and helped pave the way for future blues players.
Impact: A good handful or so of hit albums that are well-respected, no hit singles, but they have tracks that are still considered absolutely classic.
Innovation: Perhaps added a new dynamic to the blues-style, but beyond that, I don’t think there’s much.
Intangibles: The band behind Butterfield has a few recognizable names that perhaps add to their credibility.
The fiance’s rank:  15, that’s a match.

Impact: A short but fairly bright run of hits singles and albums through the ‘70s.
Influence: I think the singer/songwriters of the ‘70s all fed and fed off of each other.  Also, his songs have been somewhat widely covered.
Innovation: Nope.
Intangibles: Others’ renditions of his compositions are fairly complimentary of his lyrical skills.  And while I don’t hold his conversion to Islam against him as a person, it did deal a negative blow to his career as a musician, similar to Little Richard’s hiatus from rock ‘n’ roll in the early ‘60s to pursue ministry after making a bargain with God in a time of crisis.
The fiance’s rank: 5.  Clearly she thinks he’s more creative than he really is, or she just really likes “The First Cut Is The Deepest.”

So there’s my impression of the merits of the nominees.  Looking at the rankings from other Monitors on the FRL site, I see some stark differences.  Nonetheless, I always look forward to critique and comments below.  Next time, purely about musical taste, for both me and my gal.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Looking at 2014's ballot

This past week, the ballot of the Performer category nominees for the 2014 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame class were announced with sixteen nominees listed.  When announced, my initial thoughts:

7 nominees predicted.  Either I'm getting better or they're getting easier to predict.  I suspect the latter since many people did as well or better than me.

R&B and soul really got buried this year.  No real representation here.

"Populism" is the word that keeps popping up every time I look at the names here.  About 3/4ths of the names here are names that I've seen a lot of fan outcry for on blogs, op-ed pieces, and the Future Rock Legends site.

Thinking of who will actually be inducted, the only two that are locks, in my opinion are Nirvana and Chic.  The former is far and away the leader in innovation and influence of all the names on the ballot and is pretty much the one act on here everyone agrees on.  The latter is on nomination number eight, which has all but once proven the magic number.  Plus Nile Rodgers has been having too monstrous a year to not get in.  It's happening.

The only two that I've ruled out as having much of any chance are the Replacements and the Meters.  The Replacements are a solid pick, but even among the '80s alt crowd, they're not at the top of the wish list.  The Meters are a dome-scratcher altogether.  They could have been omitted from the ballot, and not much would be missing in terms of variety that isn't already missing.

That leaves ten names and three or four slots remaining open for induction.  And it's my opinion that all ten are serious contenders.  This is a strong field, and here's a quick run down on why none of these can be dismissed out of hand:

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: John Q. Public has given this outfit as much support as they have the Meters, but they've been name-dropped by none other than Jann S. Wenner himself and that is huge.

Deep Purple: Populism here.  A major guitar act that many have wanted to see inducted for several years now.

Peter Gabriel: The only nominee on the ballot who would be a Clyde McPhatter Club member (inducted more than once), and that's something that's always a bit of a draw.

Daryl Hall And John Oates: This seems to be an act you either love or hate, but their hit-making status, as well as major appeal with the R&B scene (as noted by their R&B chart crossover history) gives them a certain cache pretty much no other White act on the ballot has.

KISS: In terms of influence, they were probably the template band until Nirvana came along.

LL Cool J: Rap is here to stay, and while I don't believe in numerology, no rap act (or girl group, but there's none here) has needed more than three nominations to get in, so far.  This is #3 for him.

N.W.A.: The supergroup of rap.  The more popular of the two rap choices, especially since "Accidental Racist."

Linda Ronstadt: Strong female (and aside from Chic's singers, the ONLY female) presence.  Plus, the Parkinson's announcement will get her a lot of sympathy swing.

Cat Stevens: '70s singer/songwriters almost always fare well.

Link Wray: Innovative guitarists, especially early ones, always seem to find a way in.  Do wish they'd included the Ray Men as part of the nomination though.

Yes: Prog takes awhile to get on the ballot, but it always moves into the Hall once nominated pretty expeditiously.

the Zombies: Lotsa love for the 60's British Invasion from both the powers-that-be, and the general public.

That's the immediate impression.  More analysis to come.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Official prediction for the Ballot of 2014

It’s now September, and the Nominating Committee is expected to convene and decide the ballot for the Class Of 2014 by the end of this month, hopefully announcing it before October, but not entirely expected either.  Nonetheless, almost everyone has their predictions up as to whose names will appear on the ballot.  Now it’s time for mine.  Back in March, the mid-season report had not only a precursor as to whom I believe will be nominated, but even a leap of faith guess as to six inductees.  How much has changed?  A bit, actually.  Although sixty percent of my predicted ballot is the same as March’s mid-season report, the forty percent that is new reflect a few recent occurrences, as well as just a few plain changes of the mind.  Here I’ll look at the ones I have chosen, the ones I removed, and even a few that others suggested that I’m not quite feeling.

The first name that remains absolutely unchanged is Nirvana.  Still a no-brainer to everyone.  Future Rock Legends pointed out that their first single makes them eligible this year, but if the NomCom goes by their albums, it’d be next year.  The NomCom may do some crazy things, but if the Beastie Boys were nominated on their first year of eligibility when that first release was an all-but-discontinued-by-the-industry EP, then a commercial single should definitely be proof enough for Nirvana’s eligibility.

Second, I’m still not abandoning my belief of Whitney Houston, who many believed was a lock for nomination and induction last year.  With Donna Summer now in, the ballot won’t be as divided against Whitney getting in.  Detractors have pointed out that with a new exhibit for Whitney’s cousin, Dionne Warwick, it may be the psychic spokeslady getting a nod instead.  Still, I’m sticking to my guns and saying they’ll go with the tragic death rather than the tragic endorsements this year.  If Whitney gets in, it’ll strengthen the odds for Dionne next year.  If Houston is not nominated this time, then we can safely assume she’ll be forgotten for several more years to come, and Warwick’s chances will remain the same.  Besides, the Hall has put up exhibits for the Association, the Guess Who, Debbie Gibson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, etc. all of whom remain not inducted, so an exhibit is not exactly the clincher either, unfortunately for Dionne.

Also remaining a sure bet in my opinion is the reappearance of Chic.  This will be number eight, and all the pieces that have to be in place for them to get in are pretty much in place now.  Nile’s work with Daft Punk, the supposed “automatic eight”, even hand-pumping Bono to try to curry favor with some influential folk.

Speaking of pieces falling into place, I still remain fairly certain that Joan Jett And The Blackhearts will receive a third consecutive nomination.  They’ve also taken a page from the familiar playbook of putting out a new album to refresh everyone’s memory, like Heart did last year, and three consecutive years worked for Laura Nyro, so it looks pretty strong for Jett and co. if they make it back.

Of the six that I indicated as strong contenders for the Class Of 2014, five of them are in this official ballot prediction, the fifth being the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.  It’s no secret this one is next in Jann S. Wenner’s queue, and while he’s not on the NomCom, he’s got leverage, so don’t count them out yet.

Continuing on with other names that I predicted back in March, it seems similarly certain that there’ll be a second nomination for Procol Harum, and since March, we learned that Procol Harum is Little Steven’s current pet project.  Little Steven usually gets his pet projects on the ballot, plus the Hall loves the British Invasion of the 60’s.  These guys will be back.

With the induction of Randy Newman, the singer/songwriter slot is newly open, and over the past few years, the NomCom has been bringing back previous one-and-done nominees.  Look for two birds to be killed with one stone and for Cat Stevens to resurface.  Another name to possibly pop back up on radars should be that of Joe Tex, who seems to have no discernable pattern for getting nominated, but hasn’t been around for a few years.  These two past nominees are looking prime for reconsideration right now, and both represent a typical niche corner of the ballot, as Tex would fill the soul pocket.  Sadly, I don’t think the Spinners will be back this year, but quite possibly next.  I think the pressure for Chic is too great, and any possible name to divide against Chic, like a fellow ‘70s R&B group, isn’t safe to try.

The last name that was around back in March that returns now is De La Soul.  I had a hunch about them when I learned they were eligible this year, and finding out Toure’s fandom of them clinches it.  But, like Future Rock Legends, I feel they’ll be longshots if nominated. 

Those are the nine I predicted in March that I still think have a strong chance of being on the ballot.  So six have changed, but how?   The most notable is the name of my suspected sixth for the Class Of 2014.  I thought LL Cool J had a strong chance.  What happened?  Two words: “Accidental Racist.”  The atrocity of that duet with Brad Paisley is the faulty gyroscope that causes this plane to sink beneath radar.  LL Cool J’s out, and bring back N.W.A.  They’re arguably rap’s first supergroup, hugely influential, and would have been a shoo-in last year but for Public Enemy.

At the very end of the mid-season report, I predicted there’d be another blues guitarist.  While John Mayer was name-dropping Stevie Ray Vaughan, I just can’t hold out hope.  I think that it’ll be another pre-SRV blues guitarist, but not Albert Collins as first thought.  Instead, they may just choose another name from their list of previously considered, which could net a first-time nomination for Ry Cooder.  In the past, I’ve mentioned about the possibility of inducting him as a Sideman, and though he’d still be a good inductee in that category, he could appear on the ballot once, and then get back door inducted.

Just as I doubt that an exhibit featuring Dionne Warwick will secure her nomination (at least this year), so too I’ve come to doubt that a blog entry featuring Patsy Cline will gain her a nomination either, as I had thought in March.  But people who dread a misogynistic ballot, fear not.  The name-dropping by Don Henley, plus the current revelation of her struggles with Parkinson’s disease, is making me lean a bit toward maybe Linda Ronstadt getting some love at last.  The Hall has considered her before, but the serious support for her has been lacking a little bit.  Still, this time might be different.

With Little Steven campaigning for Procol Harum, I don’t see Yes making the ballot as a lot of people are hoping.  There’s been a big drive for Yes, and they’ve supposedly been gaining traction with the prog/metal subcommittee.  But Procol Harum is considered a proto-prog rock band of sorts, so I don’t think they’ll even put the two together.  However, we know from 2012, they have no problem putting two ‘60s British Invasion acts on the ballot together.  With the recent visit by Rod Argent to the Museum in Cleveland and the love letter he wrote afterwards to the Foundation, there could just be reciprocity of the love and we’ll see the Zombies getting a nomination.  Despite being short-lived, and having only a few hits, public support for the Zombies is actually pretty high.  Seems like a winning combo for the Hall.  Surprised it hasn’t happened yet.

Trying to fill in the remaining spots in a list of fifteen always leads to either putting favorite bands on, or picking from possible returning nominees.  To that end, in March, I suggested the possible returns of War, Bon Jovi, and KISS, also seeing suggestions for the return of Kraftwerk.  However, the NomCom has been making a habit recently of picking past nominees that were one-and-done.  We’ve already got Cat Stevens on the list, but there’ll probably be at least one more.  There are a few good ones to choose from, and I’m going to pick the Dominoes, the last one-and-done nominee from the ‘90s.  Bring them into the new millennium. 

I could easily pick another former one-and-done nominee, and there are plenty who want to see the MC5 or New York Dolls get another shot. And you can never really write off Steve Winwood either.  Still, I’m choosing to again go left field for the fifteenth slot.  I think they’ll go a bit more modern with this one too.  While people are clamoring for acts like Foreigner and Duran Duran, I’ll go even more modern and pick Soundgarden.  The NomCom does crazy things sometimes, like pitting another modern underground scene band against Nirvana.  Like De La Soul, they’d be longshots if nominated, but this might be a band they nominate to see just how many votes they garner.  It’s a bit tilted of an idea, but stranger things have happened.

So there are my fifteen names.  Some I feel strongly about; other, not so much.  But we’re all equal on this playing field.  I’ve submitted my picks, now to just wait another month or hopefully less.