By request from a fan. Plus, I love this stuff.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its candidates for 2016 induction, and unlike most years, there really aren’t a lot of hard calls here. I suspect that my choices won’t all win, but they should. ‘Cause I said so, that’s why. As always, I’m following the RRHOF’s lead by listing the bands alphabetically. And I’d love your feedback.
The Cars: Six pretty good albums, in a long career. Then, when they broke up, Ric Ocasek became an important producer. Nirvana and Weezer both cite them as influences. I’d put it this way: the Cars were a very good band that never quite managed to be great. Considering, this year, their competition, they’ve got to be a no.
Chic: Their tenth (10th!) nomination, which puts them in Susan Lucci territory. I think they have a pretty good shot at finally getting in, someday. And my no vote isn’t anti-disco prejudice; I think their career is a little short, and their impact a little too slight for me to vote for them. Essentially, they mark a bridge between the last days of disco and the beginnings of rap. That’s not insignificant, but sorry, Susan; no this time too.
Chicago: Rock critics have massively disrespected them over the years, and this is their first nomination, despite being Hall-eligible since 1994. But they’re far more musically sophisticated than anyone realizes, and their greatest hits resume is amply loaded. I’m more a fan of the early Terry Kath Chicago than its mid-80s Peter Cetera soft rock incarnation; I think maybe their longevity hurts them. And, yes, I know, your high school prom theme was Color My World. Get over it. Chicago is an easy yes for the HOF.
Cheap Trick: Just a good, consistent, hard playin’ rock and roll band. They were punk influenced without ever quite being a pure punk band, and a metal band that was just that tiny bit too idiosyncratic to quite count as metal. Plus, I don’t know about you guys, but to me they’re a lot like the Ramones; great sound, but is it possible that they’re . . . kidding? Unserious? But that lack of pretension is part of their appeal. Love their music, but no.
Deep Purple: Most people know Deep Purple for one song: Smoke on the Water. They’re way more important than that. Incredibly important hard rock band, featuring guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, and their brilliant keyboardist Jon Lord. The one possible knock on DP is longevity; they kept changing their lineup, and the sound changed with each incarnation. My Lady from Tokyo is one of the great rock songs, too, and I love this band, but they’re up against powerhouse competition this year. So: no.
Janet Jackson: She has certainly sold a great number of records over the years. She’s a household name, and she did manage to fight her way clear of her older brother’s shadow. She’s a big star. I’m not going to vote for her, but she’s a lock for the Hall this time around.
The J.B.’s: James Brown’s back-up band. And yes, they were important figures in the development of funk. They’re still just an important guy’s back-up band. No.
Chaka Khan: She’s just an extraordinary singer, mostly doing R&B, but with roots in jazz, and a constant willingness to experiment and innovate. I think her problem is that she gets lost in the shuffle a bit, because she’s an R&B singer well past the golden age of R&B. I’m not going to vote for her, but I would be delighted if she somehow made it in.
Los Lobos: “Oh, yeah, those guys who played La Bamba in that one movie that one time.” Well, no. Incredibly important band, fusing various Hispanic musical forms with good old-fashioned American rock and roll. I wish I could say yes to them, but there are other bands that to my mind are even more significant.
Steve Miller: It’s incredible to me that Steve Miller, and of course, the Steve Miller band has yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It seems to me that every time I get in my car and tune it to a classic rock station, I’m hearing The Joker, or Fly Like an Eagle, or Abracadabra. And, pretty much inevitably, I start singing along. But no, he still isn’t in. And I’m okay with him staying out one more year. And I’ll keep singing along.
Nine Inch Nails: Brooding, nihilistic, transgressive, alienating; Trent Reznor’s music, to be honest, isn’t quite my cup of tea. But it’s brilliant music, and nobody’s been more influential. One of the greatest covers of all time is Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt. Reznor’s also David Fincher’s go-to composer. Easiest yes on the ballot.
N.W.A.: The rise of hip-hop as a major cultural force began with N. W. A. It’s unconscionable to me that they still haven’t made the HOF. I hope the new hit movie about them, Straight Outa Compton might make a difference. In any event, they’re an easy call. Yes.
The Smiths: In the past, I have argued against their inclusion. But I have had cause to reassess my views. I’ll admit, straight up, that their music just doesn’t speak to me. But they’re the voice of youthful alienation, depression, longing, exclusion. People who love their music love it with a heart-felt passion that has to be respected. And they’re incredibly influential. It’s time. Yes, to the Smiths.
The Spinners: Because it’s essential that absolutely every R&B vocal group on Atlantic Records ever be represented in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I mean, seriously, every single one. Not on my dime.
Yes: I can’t believe it. Yes has been nominated by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The quintessence of progressive rock, a band that committed all sorts of aesthetic sins (musical complexity, with a classical and jazz/fusion sensibility! Concept albums! Obscure and possibly even (gasp!) pretentious lyrics!). Meanwhile, they made magnificent music for forty years. Chris Squire was, full stop, one of the greatest bass players in the history of recorded music. Steve Howe an extraordinary guitarist. Rick Wakeman, a miraculously inventive keyboardist. Bill Bruford a jazz drummer of amazing range and sensitivity. All topped by Jon Anderson’s soaring tenor. Yes, yes, a thousand times Yes! In fact, I’m going to play you off with Roundabout. (A song they got kinda tired of, to be honest, but still). And tell me that’s not a great rock and roll song!