The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its fifteen nominees for 2015 induction, and invited the public to vote on our favorites. Here’s the link, in case you want to.
If you love rock music–and I do–and you care about it, past, present and future, then, like me, you’ve wasted an inordinate amount of time on Facebook and Reddit and at parties arguing about stuff like this; what bands are great, which ones suck and why, and why people with different tastes than yours are so grievously wrong-headed. Eared. Whatever. Halls of fame are generally built on such (let’s face it) artificial controversies. Heck, I spent most of high school litigating the case of Zep v. Who, and which Beatles album was the greatest ever, and how could anyone ever, ever listen to Bread.
Did the same thing with baseball. To this day, I think Alan Trammell deserves HOF induction, and I think I can make a case for Lou Whitaker. Jack Morris, though? Borderline, but no.
At the same time, let’s admit this too: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s continuing, bizarre, and incomprehensible hostility to progressive rock fundamentally taints all their selections. A ‘Rock and Roll’ Hall of Fame that can’t find space for Jethro Tull is an institution unworthy anyone’s support, and grudgingly letting Yes and Rush in the last couple of years doesn’t make up for it.
Having said that, I do follow the R&R HOF, and will watch HBO’s coverage of the induction ceremonies. And there are some interesting nominees this year, and for me, some tough calls. Here’s how I voted:
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The resume’s just too thin. “Born in Chicago’s a great song, and they put out two great albums in the mid-sixties. And they were at Woodstock. Not enough. NO.
Chic. Not uninteresting disco pioneers. The R&R HOF keeps putting ’em on the ballot, and they did record “Le Freak.” But they’re from an era that’s hardly under-represented. NO.
Green Day. Just because a band sells 75 million records, or was beloved in every dorm room in America fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily suggest greatness, much as I love the album Dookie. But American Idiot, the album and rock opera, seal the deal for me. YES.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Very tough call for me. I pretty much love everything about Joan Jett, from her riot grrl snarl, punk attitude, badass feminism, and underrated song writing. I just think her earlier band, the Runaways, was more significant historically. And Cherie Currie was that band’s lead singer. (Lita Ford was also a Runaway. Feminist punk pioneers: What a band!) So with great reluctance: NO.
Kraftwerk: I know, I know, they’re historically really important, not just to the worlds of electronic dance music, but even to early rap. I just don’t like their music. My vote, my rules. NO.
The Marvelettes: The world of Motown girl groups is perhaps the single most overrepresented in the entire R&R HOF. “Please Mr. Postman” is not enough to get anyone my vote. NO.
Nine Inch Nails: Tremendously important and influential band. Trent Reznor is an amazing musician, not just as the principal song-writer for a band as important as NIN, but now as David Fincher’s favorite movie composer. YES.
N.W.A.: The Beatles of hip-hop. Historically essential. Savage, powerful, socially essential grandfathers of gangsta rap. I still can’t believe they didn’t make it in last year. Easiest YES on the list.
Lou Reed: He’s already in, as the co-founder of The Velvet Underground. This nomination is for his post-TVU solo work, and while I admire his uncompromising I-don’t-care-if-you-like-me aggressiveness, I’m pretty much on the fence. The HOF’s bio page mentions his ‘daring, experimental’ projects. Too often, that’s code for ‘albums that sucked.’ A reluctant and admiring NO.
The Smiths: Thin resume, with just four albums. Influenced everyone from Radiohead to Oasis. While I can admire their music, I never much liked it, and finally voted NO.
The Spinners: ’70s R&B vocal groups are seriously over-represented in the HOF. NO.
Sting: He’s also already in, along with the rest of the Police. This is for his later solo career, which can be criticized as being almost more about social activism than music. But the same restless energy that has led to his crusades with Amnesty International has also led him to the worlds of reggae, African music and jazz. I finally voted YES.
Stevie Ray Vaughan: His was a short career, due to his untimely demise in 1990. I saw him in concert in 1981, and it was tremendous. My son found his blues guitar playing overly technical and redundant. I don’t agree. I think it’s time to put SRV in. YES.
War: Good West Coast R&B band, but never special, never great. NO.
Bill Withers: “Ain’t No Sunshine” is one of the great recordings, one of the great vocals ever. The rest of the resume’s too thin. NO.
I’d love to hear how you voted! And repeat after me: Jethro Tull! King Crimson! Emerson Lake & Palmer! 2016 is the year for prog!