The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just announced their nominees for 2014 induction. You can vote here. We’re allowed to vote for five candidates, and as usual, I’m really really torn. Honestly, it wouldn’t break my heart if they all made it. But two bands in particular seem controversial. KISS is finally nominated. And the other band is Yes.
There is, and always has been, a close connection between the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone Magazine and Columbia records. This makes sense, because the most important founders of the RRHOF were Ahmet Ertugen and Jann Wenner. And HOF voters have always despised progressive rock. Jethro Tull is not in the HOF. Nor is Emerson, Lake and Palmer, nor is Gentle Giant, nor King Crimson, nor the Moody Blues. Pink Floyd made it, but they were only tangentially prog.
The reality is that the Rock and Roll of Fame voters are largely comprised of rock historians, many of them from Rolling Stone Magazine, who think prog rock sucks. They think it’s pretentious, they think it’s not really rock and roll. They think it’s the very definition of terrible music. And as a lifelong prog rock fan, as a person for whom, in high school, Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull and Yes were the sound track to my life, that’s a highly offensive attitude. So last year, when Rush made it on the ballot (and was voted into the Hall by fans), it felt very much like the prog rock camel’s nose slipping under the tent flap. This year, let’s bring in the rest of the camel.
Which is another way of saying, yes! to the fact that Yes made it on the ballot. And so did Peter Gabriel.
But this year, I’m going to do something else. I’m going to compare the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees to Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. I mean, the first is clearly modeled on the second, including the name ‘Hall of Fame.’ Plus I think this might be kind of fun.
Here are the candidates, with my comments on each:The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: NO.
They were up last year, and I think will be on the ballot every year until they get in. Someone at the Rolling Stone really really likes this band. Let me say, first, that blues-based mid-sixties rock bands are not exactly in short supply in the Hall. They had two great albums, basically. They played at Woodstock. I just don’t see their accomplishments as sufficiently substantial to warrant inclusion. Baseball equivalent: Pistol Pete Reiser. (Reiser was a great young player, very short career due to frequent injuries).
Important disco band. I love the guitar lick on “Le Freak.” But disco is already well represented in the Hall. I vote no. Baseball equivalent: Omar Moreno. (Slick fielder, very fast and fun-to-watch baserunner, couldn’t hit, didn’t stick.)
Deep Purple: NO.
I love Deep Purple. The opening guitar lick for “Smoke on the Water” is iconic. Great keyboard work from Jon Lord, great guitarist in Ritchie Blackmore. Very tough call, but the band didn’t last quite long enough for me to vote for them this time around. Baseball equivalent: Dave Parker. (Old Pirates outfielder; genuinely great player, not quite HOF material).
Peter Gabriel: YES
One of the great innovators in rock history, a restless explorer trangressing musical boundaries. Also a guy who reinvented the rock video, turned the four minute mini-movie into an avant-garde art form. Enthusiastic yes: he’s gotta be in. Baseball equivalent: Dennis Eckersley (Brilliant starting pitcher, even better relief pitcher; versatile and superb).
Hall and Oates: Blarg. NO.Just too top 40 for my taste. To make the HOF, you have to do more than craft hit after hit. I get why they’re nominated, but they’re the bottom of the pile this year. Baseball equivalent: Steve Garvey. (Dodger first baseman, big star, massively overrated).
But a tough call. I’m voting no, frankly, because I just don’t like their music very much. And everything about their approach seems cynical to me. “You wanna like some music your parents will HATE? Right?” But they were influential and popular. (Speak of cynical, though: I don’t think it’s an accident that KISS got nominated the same year Yes was. The HOF loathes both bands, but recognizes they have very large and vocal fan bases. And while we can all vote five times, only the top vote-getter automatically makes it in). Baseball equivalent: Jose Canseco. (No one liked his antics, but grudgingly had to admit his gifts).
LL Cool J: NO
One of the great rappers, I think he’ll make it in eventually. But I like the idea of promoting diversity–having inductees representing a variety of sub-genres. And N.W.A. is more important, historically. Baseball equivalent: Bernie Williams. (Great player on those great 90’s Yankees teams, not quite enough resume to be in).
The Meters: NO.
Fantastic New Orleans funk band, though. Really like ’em. But they had kind of a short career, then became a sessions band, recording with a huge variety of other artists. A lot of great bands up for induction this year–sadly, for me, they don’t quite make the cut. Baseball equivalent: Luis Tiant. (Red Sox pitcher, fun to watch, contorted his body oddly before each pitch).
The easy choice this year. Obvious yes. Incredibly important band, historically and artistically and culturally. Baseball equivalent: Pedro Martinez: (incredibly good, but sadly short career, not in the HOF yet, but will be soon).
N. W. A.: YES.
We’re just moving into the rap era. Because of the Hall’s eligibility requirements–they can’t be nominated until 25 years has passed since they released their first record–Tupac, Biggie Smalls, that generation is just starting to be nominated. N.W.A. is one of the most influential bands in history, a band that showed the radical political power of rap. Easy call. Baseball equivalent: Rickie Henderson (greatest lead-off hitter in history, but not really recognized as great until the Bill James revolution changed how we look at the game).
The Replacements: NO
But I hate myself for not voting for them. I know they influenced everyone from Nirvana to Green Day to Fall Out Boy. And every few days or so, I get in the mood for some DIY post-punk indie and go to my Replacements Pandora station. But I’m not sure they were ever quite . . . substantial enough for this company. Baseball equivalent: Fernando Valenzuela: (Remember Fernandomania? So immensely charismatic and fun, and then it all went away).
Linda Ronstadt: NO
A very reluctant no. I love her music, owned several albums, plus had a huge crush on her based solely on her Hasten Down the Wind album cover. I don’t like Hall and Oates and I do like Linda Ronstadt, but I won’t vote for either this year for much the same reason: they had a lot of hits, but weren’t important historically. Baseball equivalent: Don Mattingly. (Yankee first baseman; not quite as good as we thought at the time).
Cat Stevens: YES
I love Cat Stevens’ music. I listen to it all the time, and I think there was a time, about 1974 or so, when his music kind of saved me. I found hope in his music when I was feeling kind of hopeless; he’s honestly one of the reasons I went on a mission. And I admire his courage; converting to Islam because of the peace he found in it. I love this guy–he has to make it in. Baseball equivalent: Barry Bonds. (Controversial choices, but my gosh was he great).
Link Wray: NO
I get his historical importance. But does the Hall really need another late-50’s guitar player? Not given the strength of the other contenders. Baseball equivalent: Bruce Sutter. (Cubs pitcher, invented the split-fingered fastball. But was he that great on his own merits?)
A thousand times yes. Of course Yes belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To say otherwise is just pure snobbery and prejudice. One of the greatest bands in history, a band as important to the seventies as the Rolling Stones or Who were to earlier generations. Baseball Equivalent: Tom Seaver: (yes, Tommy Terrific. That good).
The Zombies: NO
But not a bad choice. Again, though, it’s not like the RRHOF has a shortage of British Invasion sixties bands. I’m not kidding–Herman’s Hermits will make it some day. Baseball equivalent: Dave Kingman: (at the end of the day, just another slugging first baseman).
Anyway, I put the link above. Vote! The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame needs your input. And remember: Yes is, in fact, on the ballot this year. Just a reminder.. . .