The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just announced its slate of fifteen nominees for possible 2013 induction. And for the first time, we get to vote! Yay!
I love Halls of Fame. Some years ago, our family took a trip to upstate New York, to see my brother in Ithaca. While we were there, my sons and I decided to take a little trip down the road to Cooperstown, and had a great time. The plaques, the displays, the gift shop. Best of all, we went to lunch in a local Pizza Hut, and at the next table was Dave Winfield and his family. A great day.
Obviously the Baseball Hall of Fame has made some silly selections over the years (Travis Jackson, yes, Alan Trammell no? Seriously?) and is about to become even more irrelevant, when Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens become eligible and are turned away. But at least in baseball, there are objective criteria that can be evaluated. Yeah, it’s kind of subjective, who is ‘great’ and who is ‘less great,’ but baseball does have a database of statistics that can be consulted. But for Rock and Roll, it’s all subjective. Who is great, who is influential, who changed the world? Selections tend to reflect the prejudices of the electors, and the Hall of Fame was the brainchild primarily of two men: Jann Wenner, and Ahmet Ertugun. The editor and founder of Rolling Stone Magazine, and the founder of Atlantic Records. So for many years, artists who Rolling Stone liked, and who recorded with Atlantic had a huge leg up. Hence the induction of Bobby Darin.
And also, the reason why such prog rock legends as Yes, Jethro Tull, The Moody Blues, Emerson Lake and Palmer and King Crimson have not been inducted. The lack of prog rock inductees, by the way, is a question about which the Hall of Fame gets very very defensive. Testy, even. Let me just say that the complete exclusion of prog rockers from the R & R HOF seriously calls into question the Museum’s historical judgment and expertise, and basically turns what could be an important research institution into a sad sad joke, especially when their defense of that decision basically boils down to ‘come on, prog rock sucks and everyone knows it.’
Anyway, this year we get to vote, and I’m going to, and you should too (the link’s right up there at the top of this blog), and here are your choices, with commentary intended to influence your choices. And . . . go.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Tough call. Born in Chicago is a great song. They basically had two wonderful albums, played at Monterey Pops in ’67, and, famously, at Woodstock. To me, that’s too thin a resume. Pass.
Chic. Here’s their biggest hit. That’s a great guitar riff, some nifty bass playing. Otherwise, it’s pedestrian. Atlantic records is seriously overrepresented in the HOF, as is disco. Pass.
Deep Purple. Way way way more than just “Smoke on the Waters,” a great song in its own right. Give Woman From Tokyo a listen and tell me that’s not a great rock and roll band. A wildly enthusiastic vote: yes.
Heart. Feminist pioneers, Ann and Nancy Wilson wrote ballads and hard rocking anthems and everything in between, sang their hearts out on everything, and are still doing it. Their first hit, “Crazy on You” was in ’76, their latest album, Red Velvet Car, was released two years ago, and is as good as anything they’ve ever done. For proving that even older women can rock, an enthusiastic yes to Heart. About frickin’ time.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I’m torn. Crimson and Clover is a great record. It’s also a cover. Most of her greatest hits were. And were the Blackhearts even her best band? Weren’t The Runaways more important, more influential? Joan Jett, on her own, is a maybe. For now, I’m voting no.
Albert King. Another great blues guitarist. Another Atlantic Records nominee. I’m a bit on the fence, but this recording of “Born on the Bad Side” pushes me towards yes.
Kraftwerk. Yay! Lots of synthesizers! Pass. (But . . . they influenced Depeche Mode!) Pass. (They were historically significant) Pass. No, no, and no.
The Marvelettes. Another Motown girl band; like those aren’t overrepresented in the HOF. There’s a reason they were overshadowed by the Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas. They weren’t as good. Pass.
The Meters. I’d heard of these guys; knew they were an R&B band that influenced guys like Sly and the Family Stone. Thought I’d give their music a listen. And they’re not bad. But I’m not sold, and funk is seriously over-represented in the HOF. So no.
Randy Newman. I’m seriously torn here, not because I don’t adore Randy Newman, (how can you not?), but because I’m not sure what he does really is rock, per se. He’s a brilliant satirist and stylist, and he’s also been honored many times over, like six Grammies, two Oscars, three Emmys. On the other hand, there’s this. Pass, but it hurts.
NWA. I’m not sure where ‘rock and roll’ ends and ‘rap’ begins, but NWA is incredibly important: see this. Easy call: Ice Cube and Dr. Dre should be in the HOF somewhere, so why not in Cleveland. Yes.
Procol Harum. A Whiter Shade of Pale is a genuinely great song. Not sure there’s enough beyond that to merit inclusion. No.
Public Enemy. See everything I wrote about NWA above. “Fight the Power” argues for yes. And I’m sort of astonished they’re not in yet. I’m voting no, however, for a purely idiosyncratic reason: the subsequent public career of Flava Flav. Come on, doing stupid reality shows has to carry some cost, right? I’m comfortable letting them wait a year. No.
Rush. Seriously, watch this. “Today’s Tom Sawyer, he gets high on you, and the space he invades, he gets by on you.” Whisper it quietly: Rush is prog. Don’t let the R&R HOF hear you when you say it, though. Absolutely, 100%, Rush should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Rush and Heart are the easiest votes on this list. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!! (Hint, by the way. Uh, Close to the Edge? Fragile, Relayer?)
Donna Summer. Seriously, Donna Summer’s not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Of course, she should be. No question about it. On the other hand, she did record this. So as a ‘recorded MacArthur Park’ penalty, I’m comfortable if she waits a year.
So there’s my list: Rush, Heart, NWA, Albert King and Deep Purple. Oh, and Rush. Also: Rush. We’re allowed five votes: those are mine. So go vote! Early and often! Help put these five great artist/bands into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
Did I mention that one of the choices is Rush?