Criteria: 2014 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees. Names are in alphabetical order.
(Note: DDD is not affiliated with the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame)
Written By: Sampson
Last Updated: 2013-12-21
QUALIFICATIONS (on a scale of 1-10)
10 - The Immortals
9 - Deserves To Be A First Ballot Lock
8 - Should Be Guaranteed An Induction
7 - An Eventual Induction Is Likely
6 - Should Be Nominated At Some Point
5 - Worthy Of At Least A Debate For A Nomination
4 - Not Insignificant, But Shouldn't Be Nominated
3 - No Business Being Debated By Committee
2 - No Business Being Even Mentioned
1 - No Business Visiting The Hall Of Fame Without a Ticket
2014 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees
You have to hand it to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame Nominating Committee, a justifiably maligned elitist club of musical insiders responsible for crafting the yearly ballots and generally igniting the controversy that follows, for when they sense rising acrimony among those who find their apparent lifetime positions as the arbiters of history repellant, the committee reacts in ways designed to maintain their stranglehold on the process while attempting to diffuse criticism. On the surface this year's ballot appears to be a fairly well balanced collection of names, which is what they hope will be the storyline. There are representatives from a variety of rock styles over the years, from the obvious headliners, Nirvana, who became the symbol of the grunge rock movement that reigned in the early 90's, back to the original hard-rock guitar god, Link Wray whose muscular sounds were a startling jolt to the late 50's landscape. In between we have the returning presence of eminently deserving candidates from rap (gangsta and otherwise) and disco, funk and 70's hard rock. They are joined by first time candidates from areas the Hall have been lax in addressing, namely prog, and there's hitmakers and underground icons alike rounding out the proceedings. It's easy to envision the committee patting themselves on the back for judiciously crafting a ballot that will dodge the most stinging criticism while still allowing them to have unchallenged influence over the entire induction process.
But a closer look easily reveals the committee's ongoing neglect of huge swaths of rock 'n' roll and their ongoing infatuation with an era the members are most closely aligned with from their own upbringing. With such a narrow demographic being represented in the committee and with little or no turnover year to year, the ballots have become little more than roll calls for this homogenous group's personal tastes with scant regard to accurately chronicling rock's much more diverse history. The evidence for this is damning, provided you know their history and what telltale signs to look for.
Artists become eligible for the first time twenty-five years after their debut release. Naturally the most deserving candidates from all eras will be more likely to be enshrined early on in their eligibility, usually within the first two or three years they're allowed on the ballot. Yet we're now through the entire decade of the 1980's, with this year those who made their debut in 1989 eligible for induction, yet artists who debuted during that ten year stretch, dating back to the Class of 2004, have accounted for only eight members of the Hall. By contrast the nineteen-sixties, the earliest years of which have been eligible since the very first induction ceremony (in 1986) had thirty-seven artists make the Hall in the first ten years artists debuting in that decade was eligible. Because that was the first ten years of the Hall's existence overall, it also meant that the all of 1940's and 1950's rock acts were competing for space with them that entire time, and the first two years of the 1970's were eligible by the tail end of that run. In other words, that naturally would be the most competitive stretch simply because so many years were first being considered simultaneously, yet the sixties had no shortage of inductees, despite the tough competition for spots. Since that time the Hall has not let up on their focus of the 60's one bit. The next ten year stretch saw 27 acts who got their start in the 60's be inducted and since 2004 the sixties have had more than TWICE the inductees as those representing the eighties have had in that same period. In other words, when you have a nominating committee who by in large grew up in the 60's it's not hard to see who they're going to favor. This year's ballot continues that unfortunate trend. Seven of the 16 nominees debuted in the 1960's, again almost double that of the 1980's. That means the Hall has taken the very public stance that the fifth and sixth level of acts from that decade are far more vital to rock's history than the first and second level who emerged from the 1980's, a time when most of those on the committee had apparently stopped listening to wide swaths of rock music altogether.
This type of taste-based personal favoritism has gone on with the committee for far too long. While it's true that there still are some leftovers from past decades that are deserving of enshrinement, once newer generations become eligible their names should naturally start commanding a greater share of the ballot, just based on sheer common sense alone since the elite level of performers from recent times have not been able to be previously considered. The Hall itself has gone on record as bemoaning the lack of big name candidates in recent years, even reportedly considering tweaking their own requirements to offset that belief, yet it's their own short-sighted view of rock that feels anything outside the 1964-1979 period is unworthy of praise and recognition. The number of deserving recent candidates continues to swell with so few of them being taken off the ranks through induction as the committee chooses instead to advance their own causes.
That shortcoming, along with other recurring issues, such as the huge disparity in race – just four black artists – remain the unavoidable headlines for this year's ballot. That said, there are enough qualified candidates included to make for a reasonable induction class, but the odds that the most qualified in strictly objective terms will be the ones elected are probably slim. Most of these problems could be easily remedied by simply preventing any one from being on the nominating committee more than once and bringing in newer, younger, blood, along with a few knowledgeable historians to round out the ballot with truly overlooked candidates and eras from the past. The Hall's recent move to expand the ballot from a low of 9 names a year from 2007-2009 to the current sixteen should be applauded, however as long as the names nominating those artists remains stagnant the end results will probably continue to fall short.
PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND
The committee's fan-boy tendencies get an early showcase with the third appearance on the ballot for the blues-rock crew that energized that burgeoning movement among suburban white teens in the mid-60's. Butterfield and company managed to both elicit interest for electric blues in a wider market and gained begrudging acceptance from the older blues performers they idolized in the process which made them a unique presence on the scene. Their later work became more avant garde, mixing jazzy experimentalism into the blend, and they were a breeding ground for highly admired instrumentalists, most notably guitarist Michael Bloomfield. But therein lies the primary reason they keep receiving undeserved nominations, the Hall's desire to placate or reward their own heroes, in this case Bob Dylan, who worked with Bloomfield and would perhaps even induct them, or so the Hall hopes. The praise for them musically is valid and Bloomfield was every bit as good as his reputation (and would be entirely justified as a Sideman entrant to the Hall), but the group's achievements, the objective measures for which they'd supposedly be deserving for induction, are lacking. They had no hits and had little influence. They took a dominant major genre of music that had been around for decades and due to their skin tone and ages were able to give it a slightly new veneer and briefly interest a different audience in it before they faded into memory themselves. Their presence on the 60's rock scene was a welcome one, and their first two albums in particular should be sought out by all those interested in both rock and blues music, but they never came close to attaining the heights required for immortality.
Another nominee with multiple opportunities on the ballot, this one more justified than most. For while the committee generally sees to it that their own preferred styles of rock get the most chances, here's a case where they are at least attempting to bring proper recognition to a style that is much maligned by critics and non-fans alike. Few artists in any field of rock were as dominant in terms of hits and influence and shaping the sound, look and feel of their era as Chic were. Boasting perhaps the greatest musical trio to emerge in the 70's, guitarist Nile Rodgers, bassist Bernard Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson, Chic defined disco's glitz and razor sharp musicianship. Additionally Rodgers and Edwards were among the most successful independent writers/producers of the late 70's and 80's, having a hand in monster hits from everyone from Madonna and Diana Ross to David Bowie and Duran Duran. But disco's image, especially among critics, was never in line with its popularity, and when that popularity began to decline due to the excess of the era and the perceived negative associations it became saddled with in the press, the achievements of the style and its biggest stars were downplayed or ignored for years. Recently however Nile Rodgers has recaptured the spotlight collaborating with Daft Punk on one of this year's biggest hits and the disco sounds he spearheaded have made their return to popular music in various ways, giving them probably a better chance for induction than they'd enjoyed in any of their previous seven appearances on the ballot.
Their second consecutive year on the ballot after years of neglect, the reasons for which never were entirely clear. Maybe it was their confusing lineage, as they've gone through numerous incarnations from their beginnings in the last vestiges of the psychedelic era to their most influential period as early 70's hard-rock icons. The group's revolving door membership makes their overall career a little unwieldy but at their peak they were among the most important acts to bring a harder edge to rock music, taking cues from metal but smoothing it out for a more mainstream appeal. Along the way they consistently featured highly skilled musicians from longtime mainstays in guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and pianist Jon Lord, and a run of very well regarded singers, most notably Ian Gillan. Since metal itself had such an uphill climb to recognition from the Hall – taking a decade for the induction of standard bearers Black Sabbath – then Deep Purple's delay is put into better perspective. Their breakthrough into the Hall's ranks seems imminent though judging by the electorate's past tendency to reward groups from that time frame and their achievements, taken as a whole, would justify that. Among the candidates not guaranteed for induction, Deep Purple is probably the nominee with the most fervent public groundswell of support for enshrinement, if that means anything.
For years the Hall ignored progressive rock, a controversial style that combined elaborate musicianship with oftentimes intellectual lyrical content that seemed the polar opposite of what rock began as – a rhythmic style relating to black audiences. As prog had little in the way of familiar radio hits, yet a large and very loyal album-buying constituency, its fan base were up in arms about the lack of representation in the Hall Of Fame, but they rarely had the support of the broader music community to rally against its exclusion. That changed when Genesis was elected a few years back as the perfect compromise candidate. Their later incarnation, where drummer Phil Collins assumed primary songwriting and singing chores, had short radio-friendly hits that were a world removed from their elaborate progressive beginnings under the stewardship of writer/singer Peter Gabriel. By inducting them the Hall was able to credit both styles simultaneously, thereby breaking the prog-barrier with a group that had just as much recognition for another more mainstream style entirely. Since Collins himself had a stellar hit-filled solo career there was much speculation that he'd soon receive a second nod for his work outside the group, but instead it was Gabriel, who following his departure from Genesis in the mid-70's embarked on an often experimental solo career that featured acclaimed albums in what came to be seen as "world music" styles and the occasional hit single to keep his stature high among the casual listener. The bar for multiple inductions for the same artist in the Hall is a fairly high one though and Gabriel doesn't quite meet the standard set by Michael Jackson, Neil Young, Curtis Mayfield or Paul McCartney. That doesn't mean an eventual induction wouldn't be warranted, but this seems a curious candidate coming so close on the heels of Genesis's enshrinement, especially when there are so many more deserving choices to represent other styles of rock with even less overall representation.
HALL & OATES
In 1989 the Hall Of Fame chose Daryl Hall and John Oates, among the biggest hitmakers on the charts for the preceding 15 years, to induct The Temptations, who had been among the duo's most obvious inspirations. At the time Hall & Oates had just scored their last of 16 Top Ten hits and though while even at their peak they were never considered hip tastes, they had the résumé and familiarity to justify that honor. It probably seemed to them that it'd only be a matter of time before they'd be standing on that same stage themselves accepting their own induction into the Hall soon after they became eligible. Well, that time came and went without so much as a glimmer of recognition from the nominating committee, as Hall & Oates popularity came crashing to an end soon after. They had their final Top 40 hit in 1991 and because their style owed much to the black soul of groups like the Temptations, they had no influence to speak of that would keep their reputation afloat. By the time they became eligible for induction in 1997 they were afterthoughts in rock history, simply former stars whose time and had come and gone. Worse still, their image hadn't aged well and their fan base was too middle-of-the-road to be taken seriously for any Hall of Fame campaign. For an institution as obsessed with maintaining their own status as the Hall seems to be that was a death blow for their chances. What a difference fifteen years and television exposure will do. With the appearance of Hall's well-received TV show Live From Darryl's House, wherein an eclectic array of performers venture to Hall's home studio for a filmed jam session, the duo's career got some belated attention. What those looking at them anew found were two very solid craftsmen who wrote hook-filled, well sung and played songs that couldn't help but be hits, the sheer number of which made them the all-time most successful duo on the singles charts and have now made them a rarity for the Hall – dark horse candidates with widespread popularity.
To a casual observer it'd seem as though Kiss were shoo-ins for induction. They combined the requisite hits (more than two dozen), over an impressive fifteen year peak, with an immediately identifiable image that is known the world over. Their stage shows were widely acclaimed for their showmanship and they became among the most marketed entities in rock history. But that latter point worked to their detriment in the evaluation of their legacy, for if it's one thing the Hall of Fame coterie of critics detest its crass commercialization in a style they'd prefer to recognize as "art". With leader Gene Simmons badmouthing the institution for ignoring them for so long and generally acting as the most shameless self-promoter since Barnum & Bailey, it's no wonder why Kiss received just one nomination prior to this year. In truth their candidacy isn't quite as strong as it may look from certain angles. Their vaunted theatrics were simply updated from Screamin' Jay Hawkins, where the primary influence for that must be credited, and their biggest hits were all but over by the end of the seventies, making their next decade largely unknown to all but their most fervent fans. They still did enough to make it though, so now the only question is whether the voters are willing to admit them and unleash an entire new wave of Kiss-related memorabilia to the unwitting public at large. If their cartoonish image and grab for every merchandising dollar does them in they'll have only themselves to blame.
LL COOL J
After securing two immediate nominations upon becoming eligible in 2010 the most accomplished solo rapper of the previous millennium somehow failed to get the nod in either election, one of the voting body's more shameful and inexplicable recent oversights. That was followed by two years in which he wasn't nominated at all and it began to appear as if the notoriously rap-averse electorate had essentially snuffed out another deserving candidate. But as with his own recording career it's never wise to count LL Cool J out. He's made more (don't call it a...) comebacks than Lazareth it seems. If the voters care about objective achievements few can match his credentials. He was one of the major players in the transition of rap from underground movement to mainstream popularity, he helped usher in an era of more personal introspective lyrics while still maintaining the harsh beat to keep the core fan base satisfied. He was rap's first sex symbol, in the process opening up hip-hop to female audiences more and later in helping to establish rappers as multi-media stars, as his long career as an actor and endorser would testify. When he hosted the Grammy Awards in 2013 it was a moment of public validation in the mainstream that few in rap would've imagined possible when the style first appeared and was maligned and ridiculed by the media. For a career that began when he was in his teens and shows absolutely no sign of letting up nearly thirty years later, the final honor due him is enshrinement to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame.
Boasting one of the more interesting careers in rock has gotten the Meters a few looks from the Hall, the first two coming 16 years apart. Just a year after that second nomination comes a third, giving rise to the possibility that there might be growing support for their induction. The group's accomplishments though are not easy to put into neat little boxes for the electorate's consumption. They began as an unnamed backing group in the studio working for legendary producer Allen Toussaint in 1960's New Orleans backing the likes of Lee Dorsey and others on countless hits. Then by the end of the decade they began putting out instrumental recordings of their own and immediately scored big with their brand of swampy funk. Their musicianship throughout was stellar, led by organist Art Neville, guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter and quirky groove-oriented drummer extraordinaire Zigaboo Modeliste, they became very much in-demand by rock acts outside the bayou, such as Paul McCartney and LaBelle (backing them in the studio) and the Rolling Stones (as an opening touring act). They themselves shifted away from doing strictly instrumentals on record and following an acclaimed album with Mardi Gras Indian George Landry under the title The Wild Tchoupitoulas, the group disintegrated with Art Neville joining his brother Cyril (who'd joined the Meters earlier as a vocalist when they branched into that realm) and angelic-voiced brother Aaron as The Neville Brothers, who went onto acclaim of their own. The other Meters remained active as studio musicians, eventually reuniting for a spell, and their reputation among other artists remains elite. Their influence on the New Orleans thread of funk can not be understated, as they brought that sound to countless records, both their own and others. The Hall has been mostly negligent in recognizing studio-based aggregations and here's one with enough success on their own to warrant enshrinement.
The headlining act the Hall has been waiting for and as sure a bet for induction as could hope to be found. They'll have had some of their thunder stolen from last year's reformation with guest vocalist Paul McCartney on stage in Seattle and again on Saturday Night Live, but the attention that garnered only shows how much interest remains in a band that had a tragically short-lived peak twenty years ago. Though not the first alternative band, more than anyone they brought grunge to the mainstream, firmly establishing its musical, fashion and world view, bursting onto the scene with the acclaimed album Nevermind and an accompanying hit single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit", that made Nirvana the sometimes unwilling poster-band of Generation X. A whirlwind of media attention followed, as they were presented as a way of off-setting the other dominant form of rock, the even more controversial gangsta rap, but the intense focus would in part prove to be the band's undoing. Following an equally popular follow-up album, as well as a live acoustic album and and concert on MTV, lead singer/songwriter Kurt Cobain's 1994 suicide proved to be one of rock's most sensationalistic endings, thus ensuring their legend even as it brought their shooting star career to a tragic close. The music's legacy is every bit as deserving of that ongoing acclaim, as they tapped into the angst and confusion of a period of time as well as any in history had done and they'll probably be as close to a unanimous selection as virtually anyone could be.
The other deserving headliners, N.W.A makes their second ballot appearance, showing that even years later the musical establishment remains uneasy with gangsta rap's presence. That they should've been first ballot locks is unquestioned, but their résumé stacks up very nicely to Nirvana. Both were criminally short-lived, N.W.A's end coming through acrimony and infighting brought about by an unscrupulous manager. Both had tragic conclusions to their stories, with N.W.A founder Eazy-E's death from AIDS coming in 1995 in the prime of his career, preventing any induction night full reunion. Both groups saw members go on to highly successful post-breakup careers, with Ice Cube becoming one of the biggest solo rappers on the planet immediately following his departure from the group, and Dr. Dre's emergence as the pre-eminent producer over the last two and a half decades. As for the accomplishments of the group as a whole, their full length debut Straight Outta Compton ushered in an entirely new sound and attitude to hip-hop, in terms of vocal delivery, lyrical content and production, which would utterly dominate rock over the next decade, bringing gangsta rap into public view, musically as well as culturally, and giving rise to the harsh, uncompromising style of rap that would garner its biggest and most controversial headlines. Their follow-up became the first hardcore rap album to top the charts, which cemented hip-hop, even the most scrutinized style of rap, as not only commercially viable, but commercially desirable, where it has remained ever since. Though they weren't around long their presence in rock's story, even today, remains vital and they're a mandatory induction if the Hall is to maintain its credibility.
Maybe the most interesting case study on the ballot, the Replacements have few things going for them outside of influence, as only a lone single made it nearly half-way up the Top 100 (though they topped other, more narrowly defined, charts along the way). As such their mainstream success, and even recognition, is extremely limited, usually a death knell for artists hoping for a chance at immortality. However, they were among the first of the alternative movement that swept the underground rock scene in the 80's which helped to create an environment hospitable enough to nurture groups like Nirvana, who will surely lead this year's induction class. So if the Replacements join them in that honor it will be an early indicator that the Hall is going to lavish praise on most alt-rock groups of note in the coming decade and if that induction comes at the expense of one, or both, the hip-hop representatives on this year's ballot, each of whom have credentials that dwarf the Replacements during the same basic timeframe, it will be an even more ominous note as to the Hall's troubling racial and stylistic biases. But none of that is The Replacements fault, the larger issue for their candidacy is how much influence can possibly be credited to lift them over the ranks of those with much deeper all-around credentials. As a young group unsure of their direction, they dabbled in punk before toning that down and helping to bring together the various stylistic threads that gelled into alternative rock. Two highly acclaimed, but poor selling, independent records followed that best captured that sound before they moved to a major label and shifted styles once again, getting their biggest hits due to their growing reputation and increased marketing, but losing much of what had led them there to begin with. The band began to fall apart, even as their critical appeal remained high, and by the time alt-rock exploded they were washed up. The classic example of artists with a reputation that overwhelms their output, though that has gotten others (Traffic for one) in the Hall in the past. It shouldn't have done so with them, nor it should it with the Replacements, though their legacy shouldn't be forgotten either.
The eternal question for the Hall Of Fame has always been what to make of the artists with huge mainstream success and familiarity, and thus lasting recognition and appeal, who have not only skirted the boundaries of non-rock styles, but have essentially chosen to move headlong into middle-of-the-road adult contemporary pop. Ronstadt's rock DNA is mongrel at best. She began as a country-rock lite singer, albeit with a strong song in "Different Drum" courtesy of Mike Nesmith (wonder what the Hall will have to say if two acts with Nesmith songs – the other being by Butterfield – make the Hall, while the Monkees remain on the outside looking in due to perceived unhipness?). Then Ronstadt helped change the course of music with the formation of the Eagles, who began as her backing band. She nearly rivaled them in popularity after they went their own way, as she also explored for a time that California country-rock hybrid that made them all stars in the early to mid-70's before she settled into a full-fledged pop star with good looks, an unthreatening persona and a string of watered down (albeit massive selling) remakes of some of rock's best songs from a decade earlier. Much like Johnny Rivers in the 60's, or dare we say Pat Boone in the 50's, Ronstadt acted as kind of a surrogate singer for songs that may have been slightly outside the familiarity of the late 70's white bread audience she courted. Most of her biggest hits had been hits themselves for better artists in better versions years before so she simply brought a new smiling face to the stage to sing them and while it earned her a lot of fans, sales and ultimately a nomination to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame, it shouldn't earn an induction. If the Hall was looking for a similar female act who straddled the rock/pop fence, why wouldn't they nominate the far more talented, original, popular and influential Whitney Houston instead? It's not surprising that Ronstadt was nominated, but the reasons (including understandable sympathy for her recent announcement of Parkinson's disease) might be more disheartening. She was America's sweetheart for a long while though, so her chances are even better than her credentials as a rock artist.
Somehow this troubadour has gotten another foot in the Hall's door, following his somewhat inexplicable 2006 nomination that fell short of induction. He hasn't gotten more deserving in the years since and yet, given the Hall's inclination for that era in particular, and that style more recently (IE. singer-songwriters with few hits such as Leonard Cohen, Laura Nyro and Randy Newman), it might not be wise to bet against a similarly unjust induction for Stevens this time around. He actually had more success than any of them, with some huge selling albums and notched four Top Ten hits and just missed a fifth along the way, but the biggest of which were more adult contemporary offerings than rock. He was a very good songwriter but one whose appeal was largely peripheral to rock 'n' roll, or at the very most a folk-rock artist at a time after the initial electric folk-rock boom of the mid-60's had largely subsided. He actually wound up becoming more known for his then-alternative lifestyle, vegetarianism and a well-publicized conversion to Islam, in fact changing his name to Yusef Islam and abandoning music altogether for decades. The more deserving Muslim convert to induct would be Joe Tex who had far more success and influence as a songwriter and performer, but then again, the list of Stevens' contemporaries who sport better credentials is an extremely long one, some of whom, like Barry White or Steve Miller, haven't ever been nominated at all yet. Whatever the case made for Stevens he falls short of theirs and many, many others. This appears to be another case of someone on the committee using their personal affinity for him, and the Hall's overall infatuation with that era, to justify a shaky candidate. Of course, that probably makes him a lock.
Already we have one nominee whose influence is their greatest claim to fame, but here's one who dwarfs The Replacements and has more success to back that influence up. Link Wray invented hard rock in 1958, popularizing power chords with his hit instrumental "Rumble" and in the process altered the sonic possibilities of the electric guitar forever more. Despite the lack of lyrics the song was deemed threatening enough to be banned from the air in some places, or as future Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cippolina said, "Link Wray convinced me you could swear without using words". His music was tough, harsh, aggressive, and yet his playing style was versatile, as evidenced by his next hit "Raw-Hide", which, while still edgy and abrasive, had a far more melodic root to it. Constant changing of record labels, who apparently didn't know what to do with him, hurt his commercial appeal, but along with the already inducted Duane Eddy it was Wray who brought the guitar instrumental to rock's forefront in the late 50's. His last instrumental hit, 1963's "Jack The Ripper", was more diverse yet, incorporating both the fierce power chording that he'd made his name with and nimble single string runs that had gained favor in the years since he arrived. The pull of the harder style he'd tapped into with "Rumble" though proved to be his destiny, as he further explored those sounds, even adding his snarling vocals to the mix at times. He's been credited as an original punk-rocker as well for that attitude, but every hard rock act to strap on a guitar took their cue from Wray, one of the most influential artists ever as a result.
Since artists of the style first became eligible in 1994, progressive rock was all but ignored by the Hall of Fame for more than a decade. Only artists on the outskirts of prog but with far wider appeal had gotten a look and then usually with their progressive attributes downplayed. Then Genesis pushed that door open sixteen years later in 2010 and were followed in by Rush last year. Now the Hall has deemed one of prog's longest lasting and most storied groups fit for consideration as well, much to the delight of the style's devoted fan base. Yes shares some of the traits that helped get Genesis in, namely they had pure prog-rock beginnings with strong album success, then increased that mainstream popularity by moving into a more accessible singles oriented style in the 80's. They weren't quite as popular at that stage, though it gave them their biggest hit in "Owner Of A Lonely Heart", a somewhat maligned ballad that didn't help their credibility within the Hall apparently. But surely while that hit and a few others might make them more recognizable to non-fans, it's their prog years that will determine whether or not they get the nod. As with all prog bands, their complex musicianship was their calling card and with them it did result in one classic hit, "Roundabout", as well as a string of huge albums, with their early 70's peak being among the style's most important releases. How the voting body at large feels about progressive rock as a whole though will be the ultimate test. Yes are one of prog's stronger candidates so if they fail to make it that doesn't bode well for the rest of the style, though fans should at least feel good about the nomination breakthrough.
To close things out here's another example to show where the nominating committee's heart truly lies and the resulting problem with maintaining that same core group of aging music insiders to act as the Hall's doormen for enshrinement. The late 60's holds a fascination bordering on a sickness for the participants of that closed society and any chance to nominate yet another group from that time, particularly the white British acts, will be pounced upon it seems. They're not altogether undeserving of a quick look, that's not in question, for a handful of strong rather off-beat poppish singles and a highly regarded album, albeit not a very successful one. But for a British act they had surprisingly little success in their home country, nor were they able to maintain any momentum from their early breakthroughs coming on the heels of Beatlemania, when frankly ANY act with British origins were all but assured of a hit. The fact remains that at a time when most HOF worthy acts had drawers full of top flight material the Zombies fell well short in that regard, with barely enough high quality output to sustain their careers for long, making their nomination extremely questionable. So why are they taking up room on a ballot that still has yet to induct a half dozen of highly qualified candidates from rock's earliest days, or the bulk of the huge Philly soul sound of the 70's, or the growing backlog of recently eligible candidates who should be near automatic selections, such as Janet Jackson, Salt-n-Pepa and Eric B. & Rakim? The answer unfortunately lies at the heart of the Hall's shortcomings, that they've allowed a select few to determine what they personally want to have celebrated by the rest of society and history itself, and candidates representing the late 1960's have become entrenched on the ballot as a result, much to the detriment of the Hall's credibility.
With three candidates that should be on everyone's ballot and another five to seven deserving acts to choose from, the Hall at least has the opportunity to come up with a fairly strong class of 2014. However they also have the opportunity, and more sadly the tendency, to come away with a class of mostly undeserving inductees somehow. Since the power to determine the quality of the prospective class is almost entirely in the hands of the nominating committee, they need to stop offering up a handful of unqualified names year after year to ensure more solid classes. That is where the focus should be when it comes to reforming the process, overhauling the committee entirely each year to allow for different perspectives, backgrounds and viewpoints to be explored. Anything less than that reeks of elitism and cronyism and a lot of other isms not fit to print. The respect the Hall craves hangs in the balance.
If they want to get a leg up on earning that respect let them take advantage of the shamefully under-utilized Early Influence category to induct the likes of Roy Brown, Wynonie Harris, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Ravens and Big Jay McNeely to show where rock really began. Let them pluck a few more sidemen from the vast pool of deserving candidates there such as Sam "The Man" Taylor, Mickey "Guitar" Baker, Lee Allen, Jimmy Nolen, Billy Preston and Tackhead, to give credit to the largely uncredited. And instead of naming yet another fat-cat label owner in the Non-Performer category, let them recognize the songwriters and producers who shaped the sounds the made rock what it was, starting with Willie Mitchell, Thom Bell and Linda Creed, Norman Whitfield and Lee "Scratch" Perry, as well as the often faceless voices of the night who spread the gospel of rock 'n' roll over the airwaves – Wolfman Jack and John R. None of these categories need to go through the historically challenged nominating committee, nor do they require the often clueless voting body to have any comprehension of their existence. All they need is somebody, somewhere in the Hall to know about and want to reward their vital presence in rock history. That'd be a start in the right direction, but is that too much to ask and even more to expect?