Let’s talk about something more fun.
2017 has been, in my humble opinion, a complete armpit of a year, what with the toxic politics and mass shootings and ill health and family tragedies (the last two are idiosyncratically mine). Let’s look forward to 2018. And, as it happens, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced the latest candidates for induction. So let’s argue about something meaningless, for a change. As always, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s choices are quite illogical, and at times, completely insane. And we’ll also never agree. That said, here are my choices.
Bon Jovi: Isn’t Bon Jovi kind of the perfect rock band? For one thing, they’re from New Jersey, did the whole high school friends/garage band thing. They have a cool-sounding band name, and yet all they did was pick the last name of their lead singer, Jon Bon Jovi. If they’d gone with the name of their lead guitarist, they’d still have a cool-sounding name: I’d listen to a band called Sambora. Old school rock and roll, with a big enough sound to fill arenas, plus they do stuff like build houses for poor people. Are they actually, you know, good? Good enough, I’d say. I’m a yes for Bon Jovi.
Kate Bush: A lot of people have declared Kate Bush a token pick, an attempt to address the R&R HOF’s ‘women problem.’ As in, there aren’t a lot of women in the Hall. It would be a shame to dismiss an artist as innovative and imaginative and unusual as a token pick, though. She’s as much a performance artist as she is a singer, and I love that about her; love how uncompromising her commitment is to her own vision. I’m voting for her, despite not actually liking her music all that much.
The Cars: I was ‘no’ on the Cars last year, and I’m voting ‘no’ again this year. I just don’t think they’re all that good. They’re not particularly innovative, not particularly influential, and their career was relatively short. They just had a few hits. No.
Depeche Mode: I don’t like Depeche Mode. I find their sound uncongenial. i do have to admit that Martin Gore is a terrific songwriter, and I love some of their songs, mostly when covered by other people. They’re certainly influential; unfortunately influential, to my mind. So I cling stubbornly to my ‘no’ vote. They’re probably getting in, though.
Dire Straits: This is the first year Dire Straits have been nominated, and it’s about time, in my opinion. Mark Knopfler is one of the great guitarists, and an outstanding songwriter. Just listen to the throw-away riffs in ‘Sultan’s of Swing,” or the urgent passion of that final solo at the end of “Brothers in Arms.” Just sublime. A heart-felt ‘yes’ to Dire Straits.
Eurythmics: Annie Lennox has one of the great voices in the history of popular music, let alone rock and roll. And with a multi-instrumentalist/producer/songwriter like Dave Stewart, she found her perfect collaborator. Their collaboration was relatively short-lived, but there was some amazing music over the years. An easy ‘yes.’
The J Geils Band: Sorry, but no. Look at their hits. “Freeze Frame.” “Love Stinks.” “Centerfold.” Essentially two novelty songs and a song built off one catchy riff. I know, they did more than that, but that’s what I know them for, and it’s just not good enough. A hard ‘no.’
Judas Priest: Rob Halford is an excellent rock and roll singer, and their guitarists, Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing are both first rate. They’re very good heavy metal musicians. There are lots of bands like that, and I don’t know that Judas Priest really distinguishes themselves from everyone else. So: No.
L L Cool J: Certainly an important and influential rap artist. I don’t know his work very well, and therefore it’s easy for me to say ‘no.’
MC 5: Or rather, the Motor City 5. If punk music is meant to be political, these guys are proto-punk pioneers. But their career was very very short, and I wouldn’t include them among the most important bands in the early history of punk. Just not important enough, and didn’t last very long. No.
The Meters: A tough call. Certainly, they were funk pioneers. In a way, it’s absurd to say that Sly and the Family Stone and James Brown and Funkadelic belong in the R&R HOF, but the Meters don’t. But much of their career was spent as back-up musicians for people like Paul McCartney. Their music is great fun, but, for this year at least, I’m voting ‘no.’
The Moody Blues: See, this is what happens when you let Yes in the R&R HOF; the riff-raff start showing up. I shouldn’t call them riff-raff. I have lots of friends who loved them. I just don’t think they’re the prog musicians that should go in first. Let ELP and Jethro Tull and King Crimson and Gentle Giant in the Hall. Then we can talk about the Moody Blues. No.
Radiohead: This is their first year of eligibility, and yes, they absolutely have to go in. It’s like the baseball HOF; we spend a lot of time arguing about guys like Tommy John, but when Derek Jeter becomes eligible, the vote’s pretty much unanimous. Radiohead is an easy call. Great band. Yes.
Rage Against the Machine: Punk and metal and politics. They’re ferocious partisans of a whole bunch of political causes that I, sort of, support. But purity of motive doesn’t necessarily lead to great music. No.
Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan: Again, if you like funk (and I do), they’re important. I just think Chaka Khan should go in by herself, as a solo artist, before Rufus gets in. So, a reluctant no.
Nina Simone: certainly she was a great jazz singer. And she was a magnificent singer period. But her soul music was only a small part of her career, and I’m just not sure she was ever particularly rock and roll. So: no.
Sister Rosetta Tharp: First of all, yes, she should be in the HOF. She recorded a song called ‘Rock Me’ back in 1938. A gutsy black woman singing gospel music, accompanying herself on an electric guitar; she was a rock and roll pioneer. I just think she should be inducted by the HOF equivalent to the Veteran’s Committee. No, in this format.
Link Wray: certainly an important influence on future musicians. He really should have been inducted 30 years ago. Again, pass him on to the Veteran’s Committee.
The Zombies: Immensely important early rock and roll band, one of the most important British Invasion bands of the late 1960s. But they only put out two albums. A reluctant no.
So, those are my choices. Really, I think Link Wray and Sister Rosetta should be inducted too. This fan vote is largely a popularity contest. Love to hear your feedback! And here’s a link to the website, and your chance to vote.