Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Alright already: the 2016 ballot

The 2016 ballot has been announced, and everyone's weighing in with their thoughts about it, so it's kind of expected that I do the same.

Except, everyone's already said everything I've wanted to say.  Or if they haven't, I've kind of already said most of my initial reactions on Future Rock Legends.  So, forgive me if I'm parroting a bit too much here.  Hopefully, there will be some original content too.

First off, I went 6 for 15 again.  I predicted I would.  I suppose this is what's muting the enthusiasm for me, somewhat: that I stink so badly at predicting the ballot.  While I wasn't the only one who got only six, I don't think anyone correctly guessed fewer than that.  Also, I suppose I'm kind of bummed that there are really only one or two acts that I absolutely love.  There are many on here that I like, but not love.  So that's something, I guess.

Second, a lot of people, including me, were correct in our prediction that the Nominating Committee downsizing would all but eliminate any acknowledgment of the '60's.  Some of the acts were recording in the '60's, but none of them peaked any sooner than the '70's.  That said, a lot of folks got their hopes up that the 80's would dominate this time around.  Nope.  Guess again.

As far as the actual artists themselves go, the first thing I thought was, "What the hell are the J.B.'s doing on the ballot?  They're just going to be inducted in the Award For Musical Excellence category anyway!"  Now, no one's saying the J.B.'s aren't an interesting and worthy call; however, I believe literally everybody who knows the rudimentary aspects of the Hall, and has any knowledge of its side door shenanigans has already predicted that they will be inducted in the Award For Musical Excellence category.  It used to be known as the Sideman category, and it's widely considered the more appropriate place to put them, acknowledging all reality, including that their name comes from the fact that they were the backing band for one famous singer with the initials "JB."  It's just too on the nose to think they'll be inducted in any other capacity.  That said, fans of the Godfather Of Soul can rest easy seeing their name on the ballot, knowing that they'll most likely be inducted next year.

I suppose the next artist I should comment on is Los Lobos, mainly to say this is a band I need to get more familiar with before I say too much more about.  What I will say for now, is that the general impression I get is they're a niche band.  As far as niche bands go, the top of that list appears to be Big Star, who appear to have a bigger fan base, just not in the powerful positions.  Los Lobos, on the other hand has a smaller fan base, which in a weird way, makes them even more niche.  So, I'll just let you all wrap your minds around that one.

No real thoughts on the returns of Nine Inch Nails, N.W.A. or Chic, other than to say, "Yup."

As for the return of the Spinners, I'm pretty happy.  The Spinners had some awesome jams and I love smooth Philly soul.  I do worry about their chances though.  They don't appear to be a major priority for any one voter who isn't a NomCom member, but they could sneak through.

As for the Smiths, I too was taken aback by the fact that the NomCom hadn't given up on them as they did the Cure and the Replacements in previous years.  Glad they're back, though.  Thoroughly enjoy their music too.

As for Chaka Khan, my first thought is, "Thanks for the tip ?uestlove!"  If he hadn't posted that, I probably would have predicted Janet Jackson, not knowing I'd be right either way.  I'd love to see both inducted, but I doubt that'll happen.  Janet's got the bigger name power, and the bigger potential to dominate.  Still, I feel pretty awesome that I was the only person I can think of offhand who predicted JUST Chaka Khan, and not Rufus as a whole.

So the running motif of my predictions was "pick the act you hate."  That paid off exactly once: Yes has returned to the ballot.  I'm not a prog fan, but if this is the act they want to put in now, then it's better to get that over with, too.  While I did predict Deep Purple, I don't hate them, though I'm not a big fan either.

But those eleven acts are not the reason people are so abuzz or happy, though the last two are a big hint as to the reason.  The nominations for the Cars, Cheap Trick, Chicago, and Steve Miller are what really have people stoked.  All four have been previously considered, and all four are considered longtime snubs by the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  First off, Chicago are juggernauts of the populist scene.  They are the biggest albums act on the ballot, and the second biggest singles act (second to Janet Jackson).  With a lengthy career that still has a thready pulse to this day, they're an act the Hall had long tried to ignore but could no longer.  The Cars on the surface don't seem like a huge snub, or at least, not uncharacteristic of the Hall: the Hall has long dragged their feet on 80's acts with at least as much underground cred as mainstream, acts that feature some heavy synth elements, and new wave in general.  Still, they are an act that is popular with the general populace, respected by critics, and influential to fellow artists.  So, overall, it does seem a bit odd that it's only now they're being nominated.  Conversely, the nomination of Cheap Trick really is more of a surprise that it happened, than it is that it's taken so long.  They really don't seem to be any more special or deserving than acts like Journey, Styx, Foreigner, etc.  So why them?  Well, why not?  If you're going to clear out the backlog of classic rock acts, and Cheap Trick is part of the backlog, then logically at some point, they'll have to be cleared out too.  Doesn't really matter when.  As for Steve Miller, the waters surrounding his nomination are already getting murky, mainly because the members of the Band behind him have been excluded.  There's also been some tittering about how while he's produced some amazing music, he's also created some of the most atrocious.  It's ultimately a matter of not knowing what to think.

However, put those four acts together, and you quickly understand the excitement.  With these four, and Deep Purple and Yes as well, you've got a real chance to turn this into the Classic Rock Hall Of Fame.  At least this year.  Which sets the stage for it to happen again.  And again.  I said it casually, and I'll say it again here: when the Hall finally inducts Chic against the voting bloc's will, they could very possibly be the last non-rap R&B act inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  After that, guitars, guitars, guitars.  I really hope that doesn't happen, and to that end, even though I like all four of those newly nominated classic rock acts, I hope they don't all get through this time.  I'd like to see at least three of the R&B acts get in, just so I can have some reason to maintain some semblance of hope in the Hall.  (Then again, I'd also like to see a class of nine or ten Performer inductees, but we know that ain't happening either.)

So there are my early impressions of this ballot.  A lot of people are particularly stoked this time around.  As for me, "stoked" really only applies to the Hall of the early days.  I doubt I'll ever see a ballot of fifteen names that are both quite deserving and also in my collection because I love them.  This ballot, however, ain't too shabby, and that's good enough for me.


  1. For Los Lobos, their most critically acclaimed and most polished album is 1992's Kiko, with its luscious folk psychedelic title track and a bunch of strong songwriting that has led to copious cover versions of their songbook; however I actually prefer 1996's Colossal Head for its wider variety and its bigger energy. "Mas Y Mas", a spanish language rager of a rock song, from that album is an example of just the type of merging of cultures that lead to the greatest American music including Rock and Roll.

    David Hidalgo is respected enough as a guitarist that there was serious talk in 1995, when Jerry Garcia died, that the band might continue and hire him to replace their iconic leader.

    The band is "niche" largely because the genre ghettos of commercial radio left few airwave venues that they fit in to for much of their career. They got much of their following on the relatively small niche radio format, "AAA - Adult Album Alternative", or via opening concert spots for lots of bigger name rock acts that love the band.

  2. What separates Cheap Trick from most of the other late '70s arena rock bands is that they had respect from both middle-of-the-road fans and critics, respect from both the mainstream and the alternative, and respect from both the punk and the metal community. In their early years, they were fast enough to keep up to the punks and remained fast enough at least for a few years in the early '80s to keep up with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Def Leppard, etc...) Their goofiness and irony, much like Van Halen or KISS, made all three of those bands to some degree alternative guilty pleasures (all four major grunge bands cited KISS, perhaps surprisingly, and Nirvana cited Cheap Trick quite a few times), while Boston, Journey, Foreigner, etc... were sincere in their bombast and never really joked around so the punks and alternative people never really went for them. Looking at this from a current perspective, a lot of this sort of criticism does seem really dumb (and I am really getting tired of things only being respected if they are 'ironic' enough), but it does matter because they were one of the few bands that managed to bridge the gap between mainstream and alternative when that gap really mattered (and the Cars were another such band), even though they did end up just sounding like Journey ripoffs by the time of "The Flame". Also note: Robert Christgau, one of the most influental rock critics, who loved punk and hated metal (only ever gave Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith A grades in the metal genre if I'm not mistaken, and both were A-) gave more respect to Cheap Trick than any of the other late '70s bands, and although he is no longer on the Nominating Committee, I think much of it is in line with his tastes. It should be no surprise Cheap Trick made it considering all that. When you further consider that they are usually cited as 'power pop', not 'arena rock', they might be the premier group in the power pop genre (they certainly endured more than Badfinger or the Raspberries, and I think they will endure more than Weezer, who went from two great early albums to becoming Nickelback-for-nerds ever since). The premier group in arena rock I would think is Queen, inducted long ago, certainly not Boston, Journey, or Foreigner.

  3. The classic rock act that shocked me was Miller, not Cheap Trick. When you think in terms of genres, you can make a solid argument that the other five bands are all in the top five in their principal genres (Cars - new wave, Cheap Trick - power pop, Chicago - jazz rock, Deep Purple - metal, Yes - prog rock). Perhaps none of those are the *best* in their respective genres, but I also think you could make that case for any of them and it would not be laughable. For Miller, no. Top five in psychedelic rock? No. Blues rock? No. '70s pop rock, no. Anywhere close to being the premier in those (Pink Floyd/Cream/Fleetwood Mac), probably not. Miller sticks out like a sore thumb among those others. While you write "he's produced some amazing music, he's also created some of the most atrocious", and I admit I'm ignorant about his psychedelic rock albums apart from Livin' in the USA (which I don't see as a masterpiece) judging from his radio hits he was a consistently slightly above average songwriter and atrocious lyricist. People make fun of "Abracadabra" and I get it but it's still just as catchy as his other stuff and it's no stupider than the 'pompatous of love' in "The Joker" or rhyming taxes with 'facts is' in "Take the Money and Run". I would say he's more like consistently mediocre than alternating between great and crap. He would be the more comparable act to Journey or Foreigner. Which is not saying Miller doesn't have a place. I've been mainly lurking on FRL since the very early days in '07-'08, read all of you and shawn's posts talking about how being a consistent presence and radio mainstay certainly can be a valid credential in favor of acts like Miller and the Doobie Brothers, but he does seem to be probably the least important of the six. That was my initial reaction, and when I went on, which places significantly acclaimed releases (admittedly by fan voting, but the voters on there do tend to be much more knowledgeable than on a lot of other sites) in bold typeface, all the other five had major/significantly acclaimed albums and/or singles and Miller didn't. Even Los Lobos had two significantly acclaimed albums by fans but Miller didn't. He is the least important of the six classic rock acts and I hope he misses this time, but he still deserves it eventually I think, even if he is almost as poor a lyricist as Gavin Rossdale.

    I think inconsistency from a rock hall perspective is a good thing, as it means you have albums/singles acknowledged as great even while others are acknowledged as not. Boston or Weezer would be my go-to examples for inconsistency, as they had great debuts (or in Weezer's case two great albums) followed by increasingly stupid copies of their great debuts, but the legend their good albums hold will make them always a possibility, but Miller doesn't have that. Beach Boys get in despite "Kokomo". Aerosmith gets in despite "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing". Genesis gets in despite Phil Collins schlock and "Calling All Stations". You had a point on FRL that sometimes cheesy songs like "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" and "You're the Inspiration" can keep someone out, but I disagree. Neil Diamond and Chicago were always more popular with fans than critics, and THAT is what kept them out. Although I think Chicago probably WILL get it this time, even though most of the classic rock acts were better than them.

    1. Admittedly Miller's longevity MAY make him more important than acts who had one or two landmarks followed by nothing (Boston, Weezer, Liz Phair, Alanis Morissette, whoever...) There IS something to be said for consistent competence.