Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hall Pass (or "Let's Debate Something Fun like Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame candidates")


The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame announced its list of 2017 Nominees earlier this week.




I'm a Hall of Fame junkie, specifically sports Halls of Fame. I'm fascinated by who is elected, who is considered, and how each Hall of Fame has their own criteria and selection process. None of the Halls of Fame get everything exactly right; if they did there'd be nothing to debate. Baseball comes the closest, its eligibility requirements and voting process are the simplest and most transparent. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the most confusing to me - which is why I seek a better understanding of the criteria.

I've been to both halls, having visited Cooperstown in 1991 and 1999 and Cleveland in 2004. I have three issues with the Rock and Roll Hall, though two are minor cosmetic things.

When I visited the Baseball Hall I was allowed to take pictures of anything and everything - and when my aunt died last year, one of the things I asked my mother to find was our pictures from Cooperstown.

When I visited the Rock and Roll Hall in 2004, I took a lot of pictures outside - and none inside. Photography was not allowed, as a "courtesy to the artists". I can take a picture of Babe Ruth's bat but not Michael Jackson's jacket? Not cool, rock stars. I assumed that this ban was most likely lifted when the iPhone was invented - because you can't stop people from using their phones - but maybe we just ran into the wrong exhibits:
Can I take pictures and videos?
Yes! Just turn off your flash and don't grab a photo in the Foster Theater (where photos unfortunately aren't allowed) or near any exhibit with a "No Photography" sign.

Still, I don't remember seeing any such signs anywhere in Cooperstown:
Photography and Video
Flash photography and video recording is encouraged throughout the Museum.

Which leads me to my second issue... the Baseball Hall of Fame is in the village of Cooperstown, New York. This is not close to the city. This is not close to any city. And yet, every year the induction ceremony is held in this quaint little village. The living legends of baseball all come to Cooperstown to welcome the newest members of the hallowed Hall. Induction ceremonies often attract tens of thousands of fans - more than the population of Cooperstown.

The Rock Hall is in Cleveland, Ohio - a major American city with an airport and everything. There are three pro sports teams in Cleveland - including the NBA Champion Cavaliers. Yet the Rock Hall induction ceremonies take place in... Brooklyn, New York.

This makes zero sense to me. Brooklyn is an eight hour drive from Cleveland (I know because we drove to Cleveland in '04.) Is there a reason why the induction ceremony has to be held there? If Quicken Loans arena (aka the "Q") is good enough for LeBron James and the Republican National Convention, it ought to be good enough for Hall and Oates.



The third issue I have with the Rock Hall is their (s)election process. The easiest part to understand is thus: an artist becomes eligible for consideration 25 years after their first recording. From there it gets a little tricky - there seems to be no limit to how many times an artist can appear on the Hall of Fame Ballot, or why some artists appear on the ballot one year and not the next - and, in some cases, re-appear some years later.

In baseball, if a player fails to reach minimum vote totals (5% of the vote by the Baseball Writers association) that player does not appear on any subsequent ballots. There are over a dozen players that the Baseball Writers have legitimately missed (you can read my post about this on my sports card blog) but - as in the game itself - once you're out, you can't come back in.  

There is one thing that the Rock and Roll Hall does that no sports hall has attempted (to my knowledge anyway.) On the Rock Hall website you can vote for up to five artists that you want to see inducted into the RRHOF. The top five vote-getters will appear on a "fan's ballot" which will be submitted along with the ballots from official voters:
Ballots are then sent to more than 600 historians, members of the music industry and artists—including every living Rock Hall inductee—and the five performers receiving the most votes become that year's induction class. Beginning in 2012, fans were given the chance to vote for the nominees they'd like to see inducted into the Rock Hall. The top five vote-getters in the public poll form one ballot, which is weighted the same as the rest of the submitted ballots.

That's right, music fan - you have a say in who gets elected to the Hall of Fame. How cool is that?

With that in mind I thought I'd review each nominated artist and share my thoughts - and my ballot. Here are the 2017 Rock Hall nominees:

  • Bad Brains 
  • The Cars
  • Chaka Khan 
  • Chic 
  • Depeche Mode
  • Electric Light Orchestra 
  • J. Geils Band 
  • Jane's Addiction 
  • Janet Jackson
  • Joan Baez 
  • Joe Tex 
  • Journey
  • Kraftwerk
  • MC5 
  • Pearl Jam
  • Steppenwolf 
  • Tupac Shakur
  • Yes 
  • The Zombies 

I'm going to be honest with you - I have no idea who some of these artists are. Perhaps that means they are not significant enough to be elected to the Hall of Fame... or perhaps it means that my music knowledge is much more limited than my sports knowledge. Either way, it took me about ten seconds to cut the list in half. 

Bad Brains and MC5 were the first two cuts - never heard of 'em. I'm vaguely familiar with Chaka Khan (Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan) and the only Joe Tex song I know is "I Gotcha", which was featured in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. J. Geils Band, Steppenwolf, and Yes had their share of hits but I don't think it's an oversight to exclude them from the Hall. 



There are four acts that have been eligible for a very long time, much longer than the Baseball Hall of Fame would allow. At some point you have to ask yourself: if Chic and ELO and Joan Baez and The Zombies have been passed over more than a dozen times, why should the committee members change their minds now? When a (retired) baseball player sees his Hall of Fame vote totals increase he often wonders why. I don't have any more hits now than I had before. 

Maybe there are some new voters who aren't very familiar with these artists (like me) but you've got to draw the line somewhere. That said, Chic's Nile Rogers should be inducted for something. Same for Perry Farrell, whose contributions to music as founder of Lollapalooza are as significant as anything he recorded with Jane's Addiction - though neither seems worthy of induction on its own.


That leaves me with seven quality candidates:
  • The Cars
  • Depeche Mode
  • Janet Jackson
  • Journey
  • Kraftwerk
  • Pearl Jam
  • Tupac Shakur

Two artists jump out at me immediately: Pearl Jam and Janet Jackson should be slam-dunk selections (not sure why Janet isn't in already). Hip-hop fans revere Tupac Shakur the way rock fans revere Kurt Cobain - and Nirvana was a first-ballot selection. That tells me Tupac will be as well.

You probably know that I'm a huge Depeche Mode fan. This is the first time they have appeared on the Rock Hall ballot, and I'm absolutely voting for them. I'm not terribly optimistic that they'll be selected, though. I keep reading about an anti-80's bias amongst the committee; U2 and R.E.M. are in but many popular New Wave and Modern Rock acts such as The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, and Duran Duran are rarely nominated and often overlooked. The committee is more likely to go with The Cars

Journey is a tricky one. They have the name recognition, the longevity, and the iconic hit songs. I could see them getting in eventually, just as Chicago did last year. They may have to wait a while longer as the committee often selects at least one backlogged artist from the 60's and 70's - ELO perhaps?

Kraftwerk has been overlooked for a different reason. Everyone knows "Don't Stop Believin" but can you name even one Kraftwerk song? The Man-Machines weren't exactly radio-friendly hit makers (at least not in the US) though they are far more influential than most of the other nominees as pioneers of electronic digital music.

I've been a Kraftwerk fan for many years and I'm voting for them. They invented a genre, which has got to be worth something to voters. But are they more essential to the HOF than Journey, The Cars, or Depeche Mode? I can't say for sure. My gut tells me that they won't be selected this year... but don't be surprised if they're inducted in the next year or two.


To summarize, I think these five artists should be elected:

Depeche Mode, Janet Jackson, Kraftwerk, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur


However, I think these five artists will be elected:

The Cars, ELO, Janet Jackson, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur


Which artists would you consider worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame? Do you agree with my analysis? Am I overlooking an artist you would vote for? Let me know in comments! 


~



14 comments:

  1. If it were up to me I'd have The Cars, Janet Jackson, Pearl Jam, Tupac, Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk inducted. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without Depeche Mode and The Cure is severely lacking in my opinion. Honestly when reading this article I was shocked that both aren't already in.

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    1. Here here! I'd co-sign that ballot in a second. You're right, The Cure is(are?) a huge omission...they should at least be on the ballot and I'm not sure they have been, ever.

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  2. I think everyone on both your "should" list and your "will" list isvdeserving. Joe Tex really ought to get in, too.

    I agree with you about Nile Rogers: put him in as a producer/songwriter.

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    1. In that case, I guess I'll have to listen to some (more) Joe Tex.

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  3. I'm shocked that Joan Baez isn't already a Hall of Famer. Shocked! Shocked, I tell you. In a fantasy, I would vote for Jane's Addiction because I enjoy my addiction, even though I don't think I know their music. In reality, I'd vote for Joan Baez, The Zombies, and Pearl Jam.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Jane's Addiction were okay, not my fave...their biggest hits were "Been Caught Stealing", "Stop", and "Jane Says" but the two tracks I liked were "Mountain Song" and "Just Because". "Classic Girl" was good too, but it reminds me of my ex :/

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  4. I listen mostly to Classical Music but it's hard to believe Joan Baez isn't listed.

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    1. You (and Janie) are probably right. It does seem like an oversight.

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  5. I've heard that same comment about Bad Brains a lot: "Never heard of them." That's too bad. They are legendary -- the first real speed punk band, but formed initially to be a reggae/funk band in Washington, DC. Their speed punk influenced everyone from early Metallica to Anthrax to 311 to Sublime to The Beastie Boys, Faith No More, and Rage Against the Machine.

    It isn't everyone's cup of tea, mind you, but based on that alone they are worthy of inclusion over Journey IMO. As I said to a friend on Twitter, "Journey had big hits. Bad Brains were big influencers."

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    1. You seem to know a lot more music than I do, and I knew there had to be a reason why Bad Brains was on the list-I just wasn't personally aware of them fwiw.

      I'm curious to know who else you'd vote for?

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  6. Replies
    1. Pearl Jam is a slam-dunk HOF band. Pearl Jam has a decent shot as well. As for Pearl Jam... never heard of them. Are they good? ;D

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  7. English bands definitely rule for whatever reason.

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    1. They're so much better at music than the USA. We're too pop-centric in the States.

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