September.... when kids go back to school and there's that nip in the air, that the Nominating Committee is soon to meet and decide what the ballot for next year's Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame class will be. And for some reason, we enjoy trying to predict which names will be on the ballot. I don't entirely get it either, but I enjoy it. Maybe it's because it's harder to predict the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's nominees than it is to predict Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, or Tony nominees. Maybe it has to do with the downsizing of the number of members on the NomCom. That certainly will make things much harder to figure out, because the patterns that we look for may no longer be all that trustworthy. Whatever it is, here we go again.
As I read the predictions of other people, I feel like a lot of the left field picks and seeming fillers are mainly driven by hope against hope. I'm actually going to try to go in the other direction as much as possible. In recent years, there haven't been too many acts on the ballot that I absolutely love. Sure, last year we got Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble and the Spinners, but the point is, the majority of the ballot is comprised of artists I'm lukewarm to or just don't like. Not that I'm complaining too loudly, though--most of my favorite acts have already been inducted. Still, I feel like where there are gaps to fill, I need to make sure I'm filling them with acts I can either take or leave or would actually prefer not to see at all. With that happy thought to help us fly off to Neverland, it's time to predict the nominees for the Class of 2016.
First off, the no-brainers. Chic will be back, because the higher-ups at the Foundation will not be ignored in their love for Nile Rodgers. I've said this before, but at some point, they're just going to decide that it doesn't matter where Chic finished in the votes, and induct them anyway, even if they also have to induct every act that got more votes than Chic, which means, we could be looking at a class with 15 Performer inductees. I'm also speculating that Nile Rodgers will finally retire when Chic is inducted and he no longer has to keep the name recognition up.
Next, another act that was guaranteed to reappear even without any new mojo working for them, N.W.A. will certainly return. Between the biopic Straight Outta Compton, the new work from Dr. Dre coming out, and the tidal wave of big name rappers becoming eligible starting next year, the pressure will be overpowering to get these guys inducted.
But rap isn't the only part of the rock 'n' roll spectrum with that tidal wave about to crash. Next year, Pearl Jam becomes eligible, which means all the acts that were influenced by Nirvana, Green Day, and Pearl Jam will subsequently follow in the coming years. So, with that in mind, it's probably a safe bet that Nine Inch Nails will come back for a second nomination.
The past two years, there has been a clear enough favorite among the newly eligible artists to predict which would be nominated. This year, not so easy. It is however, pretty widely held that only one of two will make the ballot. One is Alice In Chains, with a strong fanbase and solid music to back it up. The other is Smashing Pumpkins, which with the bolded name, means that I'm predicting them. Their music is accessible enough to the older members of the NomCom, and Billy Corgan is that kind of cantankerous enigma that is often attributed to genius. Not the Kurt Cobain tier of genius though... more like Axl Rose.
Next up we come to what is horrifyingly yet accurately described as the Death Fairy pick. A major star dies since the last nominations were announced and now the push to induct that person posthumously is on. And the Grim Reaper has been busy this year. A lot of people think that along with the NomCom's habit of bringing back seemingly forgotten past nominees, the token early '60's salute, and the nod to soul, Ben E. King is fated to be nominated again. But I don't think so. I would be thrilled to the moon if they picked Lesley Gore, but I'm not putting her name in bold either. Re-reading what I wrote near the top, time to go dystopian. When in doubt, pick the act you hate. So, and with the hype kicked up by people like Billy Joel, I'm betting Joe Cocker will be put on the ballot this year. I really don't want to predict him, but it's probably going to happen. And hey, now that Linda Ronstadt and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts are in, we need another cover artist on the ballot, and Cocker just fits the bill. And let's make it a two-fer. A key member of Yes passed away this year, and I don't like prog all that much. Plus they were nominated two years ago, so they're due to return.
Speaking of due to return, the classic rockists will be thrilled to see Deep Purple return to the ballot. As far as I know, Tom Morello is still on the NomCom, and if he was so impassioned to push for KISS, I can't see him turning a blind eye to Deep Purple, who will likely be the runaway favorite on the fan ballot if they are nominated. Another recent addition to the NomCom is ?uestlove. Up until now, I was skeptical, but optimistic that the Induct Janet campaign would finally succeed in getting Janet Jackson on the ballot. But with the recent tweet from ?uestlove, I now no longer hold that belief. While they could both be nominated, I really doubt they'll want to divide the ballot between Janet Jackson and Chaka Khan. Two R&B divas on the same ballot just won't happen, I don't think. So while Janet's more deserving in my opinion, ?uestlove has shown his cards and will be pushing for the former Rufus frontlady. And no, I don't believe it'll be another nomination for Rufus with Chaka Khan. And I hope they don't. That mess was bad enough with the (Small) Faces, but then again, the Hall seems to thrive on controversy these days, so who knows?
As for '80s alternative, a name has found its way onto the ballot each year, not gotten in, and didn't return the next year. So, out with the Smiths, and in with Pixies, whose names were to be found on the updated list of "Previously Considered" artists on the Future Rock Legends site. My initial gut reaction says to go with Sonic Youth, and the new memoir from Kim Gordon seems to insist on that push, But if being part of "Hervana" wasn't enough last year, will a memoir be enough this year? Possibly. Maybe they just wanted to focus on Joan Jett And The Blackhearts last year and so had to nix Sonic Youth. But I'm going back to my rule of picking the act I don't like, and I like Sonic Youth more than Pixies, so it means Pixies are more likely to be nominated. However, since I'm making this up as I type it, I may also add Sonic Youth if I find myself at fourteen names, and don't feel like going to left field.
Circling back to Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, let's pick another name recently associated with her. Despite the recent purge of the NomCom, there actually might still be a '60's act on there. And as Jett, and Green Day, and others have shown in past years, the Hall loves those that love the Hall. A token sign of respect may prove sufficient to get Tommy James And The Shondells on the ballot.. As a side note, I would find the juxtaposition of Tommy James And The Shondells and Joe Cocker on the same ballot to be hilarious: an act that was extremely well-known at the time that turned down the chance to perform at Woodstock because their manager dissuaded them, and a singer that the world only knows and cares about because he appeared at Woodstock. Anyway, at first, I wasn't sold on James and company, and still am not entirely, especially with the purge of NomCom members this past year. Still, it fits the ass-kissing motif that threads its way through this annual event. So would the nomination of the J. Geils Band, who is a known favorite of Master In This Hall, Jann S. Wenner, The combination of Peter Wolf inducting the Paul Butterfield Blues Band this year, the fact that the Paul Butterfield Blues Band were also another big favorite of Jann S. Wenner, and the general trend to acknowledge the blues as part of rock 'n' roll, it just seems too likely to ignore Jerome and the gang.
Along with the blues, there's usually an effort to acknowledge soul and singer/songwriters. Last year, the Hall killed two birds with one stone by nominating Bill Withers. I actually have a sneaky suspicion, they'll try to do this again. Happenings at the museum should not always be ignored either, and this year saw the unveiling of the exhibit highlighting the clash of the worlds of rock 'n' roll and politics. The Hall has always loved politically charged acts, so between soul, singer/songwriters, and sticking it to the man, there's a gnawing suspicion that the name of Gil Scott-Heron could stun a few people. Granted, Scott-Heron is known most for his slammin' poetry, and when I went looking for his albums, I found them in the jazz section of the music shop, but he did a lot of singing, and there're a lot of elements of soul and funk in his songs. So, I'm betting the NomCom will throw his name on the ballot and call it good enough when representing soul music. Also, like Pixies, Gil Scott-Heron is one of the twenty-five new names added to the Previously Considered list.
My next pick may seem a bit askew, but it's not too far out to be left field... maybe deep at third. For starters, I'm not totally convinced anymore that Kraftwerk will return. Second, the NomCom purge could mean more '80's acts making the ballot and into the Hall. Third, there will probably be some representation, besides Chic for danceable pop music. Lastly, I turn to an old bit by fellow monitor Lax, who for a couple years used to drive others crazy with his assertions whom he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt would be inducted this year. The thing is, his dream class wasn't a bad class, just the unfounded confidence that it would happen. That ire has since been re-appropriated towards another member who does much the same thing, but I digress. Of Lax's dream class, three have been inducted: Peter Gabriel, Donna Summer, and Cat Stevens. I can't remember who the fifth was, and may have been an arbitrary fifth member, but all things put together, it wouldn't be a huge stretch to predict the Eurythmics. So I will. Two slots left, and I'm tapped. Let's hedge our bets a little. As promised, I'll predict Sonic Youth after all, and we'll also throw in War, a good nominee any year, but always struggles to rise to the top of the conversation.
There you go, my fifteen selections. To recap, in alphabetical order:
-the J. Geils Band
-Tommy James And The Shondells
-Nine Inch Nails
Compared to the mid-season report, my opinion has shifted on the greater half of my choices, which is actually pretty significant. In the past, I've been lucky if I got six nominees correct, and that'll probably be the case again. Let's wait and see.