Criteria: 2017 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: 2016-10-22
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
2017 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees
Could this be the year the much maligned Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame, an institution that has been interminably stuck in the 1960's and 70's thanks to their aging nominating committee and voting body - seemingly bypassing the entire decade of the eighties once it became eligible - FINALLY gets things right and starts treating more recent eras with the respect they deserve?
If ever they had a prime opportunity to do so this was the year, as two of the biggest names in 90's rock, Tupac Shakur and Pearl Jam, become eligible for induction twenty-five years after debuting. Surely those two will be headlining the ballot, thereby dominating the coverage and steering the discussion into the era the Hall should rightfully be focused on. Then, considering the backlog of recently eligible deserving names, such as De La Soul, Janet Jackson, Eric B. & Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest, Nine Inch Nails, Big Daddy Kane, En Vogue, Smashing Pumpkins, LL Cool J, The Pixies, Jane's Addiction, Moby, Salt-n-Pepa, Sonic Youth and Ice Cube, who made it last year as part of N.W.A but is more than qualified to get in a second time as a solo act, there's plenty of artists to choose from. Finally if they want to toss in a few (translation, two) older names to offer voters a chance to right past oversights and finally get Chic, The Meters, Joe Tex, Mary Wells or Chuck Willis in, by all means do so. That'd be a ballot that we could endorse.
But you don't think we'd place MONEY on such a worthy list of candidates dominating the proceedings? Not from a committee that has for years viewed anything that came along after the mid-70's as being beneath contempt, entirely undeserving of entering their sacred Hall.
So just where would the shortcomings be found this year? How many of the most deserving recent names would be left off? Would they again have a ceiling on rap artists, even though rap is unquestionably the most popular and influential rock style of the last 40 years and now is hip-deep with prime candidates awaiting induction? Which archaic fifth rate white 70's band would get championed at the expense of a first or second tier act from other demographic backgrounds? Which committee member's personal favorites would be the most glaring and indefensible inclusion on this year's ballot?
Ahh, the possibilities are endless!
The actual RESULTS though... are as predictable as ever.
How It Shaped Up, Shook Out And Fell Apart
Any serious discussion on the Hall Of Fame's shortcomings has to start with the nominating committee, which holds the power over who even has a chance to be elected. On one hand theirs isn't an easy job, simply because you can't please everyone, especially when most criticizing them only care about seeing their own tastes validated. Yet on the other hand it SHOULD be an easy job provided they set out to objectively determine who the most qualified remaining eligible performers are, personal tastes aside, and nominate those artists. Candidates could still be debated, with reasonable differences in how their objective achievements (popularity, influence, impact) are assessed, but in the end the choices need to be the MOST deserving among those eligible names. If there are 19 nominees this year then by definition they should be the 19 artists who have better qualifications than the other possibilities.
Yet this is never the case. Like the common fan they have always thrown their own highly personal taste-based preferences into the mix, demanding representation for the styles and eras they like best, which usually correspond with when they came of age, and in the process the objectivity is cast aside and left behind completely.
To be fair, even though this is the wrong approach for a serious organization to take it could at least be tolerated if the Hall simply used different people to make up the committee each year. That way even though it'd still be largely taste and perception based, the tastes and perceptions would CHANGE each year, so the ballots would cover a far broader range of styles and eras from year to year. But the average length of time on the committee per member this past year was 20 years, which means twenty years of totally unchanging views, tastes and opinions. Because of that, the average age of the committee continues to rise, they're now in the early 60's, meaning what was relevant to them as teenagers is still what they related to and want to see honored.
This is painfully evident in the selections. For the 2017 class artists who began recording in 1992 are eligible, yet we still see THIRTEEN of the nineteen names coming from the 60's and 70's, despite the fact that the most qualified artists from those eras have been eligible, and therefore inducted, regularly for the past quarter century! Meanwhile the more recent eras, who by contrast still have virtually all of their best artists available for induction, get only cursory attention, which is hardly surprising when there are more committee members in their seventies than in their forties!
If taste rather than objective achievement is going to play such a large factor in the results, fairness be damned, then it is at least in the Hall's best interest to constantly overhaul the committee to keep the age of its membership appropriate for the era which is coming into play, especially since each previous era will have had the same treatment afforded it and thus granted no special privileges or added consideration.
But when the Hall's own governing body is from that same era, who have a shared interest in seeing their tastes validated, then what you see is what you get - an archaic committee trying to cram in as many of their generation as possible while they're still around to do it. Considering they came of age in a time where most people smoked five packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day, snorted piles of coke for breakfast and were passing around venereal diseases like they were tic-tacs in an era of free love and low grooming standards you would think that all of that would have to catch up to them eventually and they'd be dying off left and right by now.
Ahh, but we have no such luck and so until the grim reaper gets off his lazy ass we're stuck dealing with the lowering standards of a fading past they foist upon us.
It shouldn't be this way. When who is making the nominations matters more than the qualifications of the artists they're choosing then the Hall Of Fame looses its objectivity and thus its relevancy. It's been going on so long though that it's no longer surprising, only sad.
THE MAIN PERFORMER NOMINEES
Okay, you wanted a left-field candidate, the Hall seems to be saying, how's this? A band that was so far off the radar in the mainstream that allmusic.com's system probably crashed when the ballot was announced as millions of people simultaneously raced to look them up to find out just who in the hell they were. Well, for the record they were the definition of underground sensations in a style - punk, or rather post-punk - that itself was largely a mysterious commodity in the early 80's. Suffice it to say, these guys are being named strictly for influence that sprang up in their wake. They had a small hardcore fan-base for their music that combined such disparate influences as punk, reggae and metal, making them one of the more cutting edge acts of the era, even if it wasn't a commercial sound, which is of course the other side of the coin when it comes to qualifications. They arguably have the lowest amount of verifiable popularity of any artist ever nominated which means it falls entirely on their influence to get them in. But as a subgenre (hardcore punk) of a subgenre (punk), that influence, as considerable as it is in that specific realm, doesn't spread wide enough beyond that to get them over the top. It's the big fish in a little pond theory, and while Bad Brains might be the equivalent of a shark in a goldfish bowl to hardcore punk audiences, to justify getting in they'd almost have needed to somehow elevate the style from the fringes to the mainstream along the way, as other influence-oriented inductees have done. Without that their chances fall short.
You'd be forgiven if you did a bit of a double take at seeing this name pop up quite unexpectedly after never being nominated before. But it shouldn't come as too much of a shock, this is the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame after all, an organization that has never gone long without trying in some way to remind everyone of their allegiance to certain 60's icons, and here they see a chance to use Baez to celebrate one of their all-time idols, Bob Dylan. Make no mistake about it, that's why she's really here, for despite her own prodigious output in folk music, her peerless crystal clear voice, and how she used the power of her music to champion the oppressed while also being a tireless front-line activist for social change, all of which they'll mention should she get in, the underlying focus will still be on her brief romance with Dylan which elevated his stature considerably in the process when she was still the bigger name. When Dylan went into rock in search of more fame, money and glory, Baez remained steadfastly committed to folk, even as its commercial appeal waned by comparison to its heyday, making her ill-fitting for consideration in a Rock Hall simply because that's not the road she traveled. This is typical of the Hall's underhanded shenanigans, celebrating someone widely, and rightly, beloved, in order to shine a light on someone they can't induct a second time.
Ten or twelve years ago a nomination of The Cars would've been a welcome sight, and as one of the defining acts of the New-Wave scene they seemed like a sure bet for quick induction had they been nominated. But the Hall always drags its feet in terms of embracing newly eligible styles, particularly those they deem frivolous, and largely bypassed New Wave at the time, even as The Cars featured strong songwriting and production that resulted in lots of hits. Now we're forced to reconsider them the last two years and while their credentials remain strong enough to get in overall, the focus of voters should be shifting to another generation and the inductions should be centered around the hip-hop and alternative acts that dominated the scene of the most recently eligible era, just as when the late 70's was first eligible it was groups like The Cars who should've been spotlighted rather than the 60's leftovers. Of the older candidates (pre-1985) they are among the top five names on the ballot for sure, but the three most qualified overall are all from more recent times, so if - for the first time ever - the most deserving candidates all make it that leaves just two spots at best for them to try and slip in. Of course the Hall never elects the most deserving candidates, especially when they're recent names, so The Cars chances improve considerably.
The other late 70's candidate with excellent credentials who should've been elected years ago - even more deserving than The Cars - but who, thanks to the 800 member voting body at large who apparently have 1,600 left feet and thus don't dance, they have continually been snubbed, as the disco backlash still thrives four decades later. Despite justified ripping of the committee for so many flaws, they've been admirably stubborn regarding Chic's worthiness in the face of the hostile resentment to the style, as this is their record tying eleventh nomination. Yet even with the surge in popularity for EDM a few years back - a style largely influenced by Chic - it didn't do them much good when it came to convincing voters. Which is why it's hard to believe this isn't a purely taste-based bias, as the scope of their work, collectively and individually, is overwhelming. They were the best self-contained band of their era featuring three phenomenal musicians, and with Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards among them they had the top writer-producers of that era as well, with tons of influence stylistically to this day. Though the number of hits isn't enormous at first glance (12 in all, four Top Ten), consider this: There have been 54 artists elected over them in head to head match ups and Chic has more hits than 31 of them, so nobody can claim they weren't successful enough, especially since two of their songs remain among the most identifiable of all-time. If they would just put them in where they belong voters won't have to think about them again and we could all move on.
For years one of the reasons given for the Hall's reluctance to treat the 80's with any respect was the decade's reliance on inorganic sound textures, largely synthesizers. That was clearly a taste-based bias within the committee which unjustly tried to erase that history by treating the period as if it wasn't credible. Now Depeche Mode, whose entire band was made up of synths, has finally gotten nominated, breaking through that glass ceiling which is a positive start to reassessing the era. Yet their selection raises some interesting cultural issues about how the Hall is looking to credit that previously dismissed sound of synthesizers. Notably it wasn't Depeche Mode who brought that sonic texture to the forefront of popular music, black dance-rock did and considering the number of artists from that realm with the requisite credentials still waiting to be nominated the reasons for selecting Depeche Mode first become somewhat suspect. Even just in the realm of synth-pop, a smaller subgenre of the larger fields that relied on synths as their musical base, others such as Duran Duran, Devo and New Order can claim more credit for that style's emergence. Depeche Mode aren't undeserving of strong consideration, they were very good for a long time and their eventual commercial breakthrough in the late 80's and early 90's means they should probably get in at some point, but once again demographics seem to have an undue influence on who is likely to get focused on. Not the group's fault of course, but interesting all the same when assessing their candidacy and consequently a tough case to definitively settle on if casting a vote, if that sort of thing matters to you.
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA
Each year The Hall inducts five artists and over the past twenty-some odd years those who had their most vital output come from the 70's have been well-represented. Last year, despite the entire decade of the 80's and the first years of the 90's being eligible, four of the five inductees were 70's acts. You'd think they'd have run out of them by now, especially since they all but ignore black artists from that decade. Think again. Now here's ELO to keep the focus on the Me Generation while slighting the decades that followed which have far more qualified names than ELO sitting on the sidelines. To be fair the group itself wasn't bad at all, they had good success, made records with very high production standards, but they were never superstars, never among the most important acts of even a single year, let alone an entire era. Jeff Lynne's later work as a writer/producer for other big-name contemporaries elevated his stature and since many of those have already been inducted themselves it's likely they'll be casting their votes for his group, which makes them a better bet than their credentials alone would warrant. The reasonable standard for a Hall Of Fame is determining which artists defined their eras and shaped the sounds that followed, or at the very least were a dominant presence on the landscape of popular music for a long time. In the midst of their peaks it should be relatively obvious to everyone, fan or not, which acts are headed towards such an honor, yet in this case it's highly doubtful than anyone would've placed them on such a pedestal. Being good, but not great, doesn't quite cut it.
J. GEILS BAND
The third appearance on the ballot for this bar-band made good who had a decent measure of popularity over the years, even notching a chart-topping single along the way. But the fact is J. Geils Band were the consummate journeymen act, steeped in the traditions of the (mostly black) artists they admired as kids, refitted for Caucasian audiences a decade later and smoothed out to a sheen until the soulfulness was largely gone. They did it well enough to connect with a segment of a generation who were hesitant, if not downright horrified, to align themselves with what was more cutting edge at the time, be it hard-rock, funk, punk or disco, yet were too proud to stoop to the blander lite-rock pop offerings of Chicago and Linda Ronstadt, and so for them there was J. Geils Band, who comfortably rode the middle ground - a group that was proudly rock through and through, but decidedly unambitious about it. Their work is generally solid, their dedication admirable, even their career achievements are fairly notable, but nothing about them really stands out. They spearheaded no stylistic movement, left no influence in their wake, had no huge impact on the sounds that defined the times, they just kind of were there, reliably comfortable. Though their career is deserving of some respect, there's a big difference between mild appreciation for what they accomplished and immortality and they come nowhere near deserving the latter.
Last year there were two names which stood head and shoulders above the rest of the ballot, yet only one (N.W.A) managed to be voted in. This year the other one is back for her second appearance in a year in which she's joined by two other mandatory inductees, which of course means her chances at getting in are probably even worse than last time. But voting ignorance and stylistic bias aside, Jackson's credentials are iron-clad. By far the most popular artist among this year's names, in fact one of the Top Ten most popular artists in rock history on both the album and singles charts, she also happens to be the one who popularized New Jack Swing, a style which became so ubiquitous in the years since that it's lost its nomenclature altogether and is now just acknowledged as the dominant form of most of popular music, thereby giving her a ton of influence as well. That she's been eligible a decade and only recently even got considered shows how out of step the Hall has been, and there is no defense for her not being inducted immediately. No artist with equal credentials in the past quarter century of Hall elections has had to wait beyond their first appearance on the ballot to make it until Janet. When voters are presented with somebody who has overwhelming credentials and yet don't elect the candidate in question the failure to do so demands an explanation by those responsible. They've been given a second chance this year and can't blow it again.
Finally a newer act, but considering those with ballots could run out of votes if they simply go down the list of names alphabetically and are too indiscriminate with their checkmarks, this might not bode well for a candidate who faces the double-whammy of being "too modern" for voters whose preferences is for artists who released records on eight track, as well as being a group that has no towering cultural figurehead or a universally known release to draw cursory attention to. That said, their Ritual de lo Habitual very well may have been the best album release of 1990 by any artist, and their subsequent impact on the growing alternative scene was considerable, not only stylistically but also in leader Perry Ferrell's founding of the multi-act Lollapalooza tours that were 90's staples across America each summer. Yet just as the style was peaking, they broke up, in fact the first Lollapalooza tour was their farewell. They would subsequently reunite various times, but the creative momentum was gone, depriving them of a more consistent body of work. Essentially their legacy on record is reduced to just two albums, which while not a reason to dismiss them makes their candidacy less of a sure thing. Nice to see them on the ballot however, even if they have to wait awhile before breaking through.
The Hall Of Fame has an image problem. Not how just how others view it, but rather how they themselves struggle with what image to champion in the artists they choose to honor. We've seen them in the past be somewhat reluctant to credit prog-rock, heavy metal, funk, new wave, disco and rap beyond a handful of major acts, and we've heard stories of their recoiling in horror at the possibility artists like Kiss (who eventually made it without the world imploding) or The Monkees (who haven't gotten nominated despite massive credentials) would be enshrined, forever bring shame to their museum. For a long time hipness was considered an almost mandatory requirement, yet recently the Hall has shown an increasing willingness to offer up as many mild, middle of the road artists as they can corral, which has historically been the antithesis of the cutting edge rebellion they'd always highlighted. In case you're slow to catch on, Journey has now been added to that list of popular yet fairly uninspiring artists who threaten to make The Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame the MOR HOF. Oh, they've had talented members in their midst for sure, albeit amidst plenty of turnover, lots of hits and a surprising amount of enduring popularity, but when looking for artists who shaped rock 'n' roll, who took it in new and adventurous directions, influenced a huge swath of what was to follow, who truly defined the era in which they recorded, and who left behind a legacy beyond reproach, you'd settle on a lot of other artists before Journey, wouldn't you?
Of all of the vocalists who are on the ballot this year none can compare to Chaka Khan in terms of sheer talent. Her musical impact - the esteem that she's held in by other artists - is unquestioned as well. On the surface that'd make her a wholly deserving candidate... yet the nature of her career serves us up a dilemma rather than an easily settled upon consensus. This her third time on the ballot, her second straight year as a solo act, but the first time she was up for consideration was with Rufus, the band she fronted so spectacularly throughout the 70's and early 80's. They very well might have been the most underrated great act of the decade, each album a diverse mélange of styles played to perfection by the tight band with Khan's perfectly judged vocals on top. Yet the group went through maddening changes simply in how they were credited - from Rufus, to Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, to Rufus & Chaka, until you scarcely knew what was what anymore. Then Khan also launched a successful solo career in the midst of her hit-making run with the group! So what's a voter to do? She demands to be honored in some way, yet to induct her without Rufus would mean they'd never be reassessed in the future, wrongly leaving them on the outside looking in. But to keep denying Khan isn't fair either, for she should make it for her solo stuff as well as her work within the context of the group. Unfortunately career decisions at the time never take into account the impact of those decisions on future classification in the Hall, so here's one time where a deserving candidate has the requisite qualifications to make it yet they should wait in order for the Hall to get its act together and credit the group the next time around so the candidacy can be supported fully.
Here's the second act to make the ballot almost entirely due to their influence, yet unlike Bad Brains, whose existence itself probably remains only a rumor to many casual rock fans, the same can't be said of Kraftwerk, despite the fact that their musical familiarity centers largely on just one track. Yet they've been held aloft by other artists, the music press and historians for so long as groundbreaking innovators in the role of popularizing emotionless robotic music (Kraut Rock) which led to similar experimentations with synthesizers in the mainstream over the next decade that their name recognition remains very high decades later, even if comparatively few have enjoyed the full scope of their music. Interesting that they're nominated in the same year as Depeche Mode, who came later and eventually had more success with synthesizers in terms of sales and hits. So the question to many would be which matters more? Influence, which is clearly in Kraftwerk's favor, or popularity? Obviously the precise combination of the two is what should matter, but an artist's candidacy isn't just about their own credentials in a vacuum, but rather their qualifications compared to the other names on that year's ballot, and here they come up short, not just overall, but even in terms of their own era. Of course, knowing the voters tendency to never use strict qualification-based evaluation when making their choices that probably means they'll waltz right in. Eventually they should, but not when more acts vying for this year's votes are more deserving.
As one of the first true punk bands the MC5 helped shape the style's aggressive musical and political approach in the late 60's and defined the attitude that punk would forever embody, famously flaunting societal mores of the time with their use of "Motherfuckers" on the intro to their most famous song in its original, unedited version. They first cracked the ballot in 2003, soon after becoming eligible, yet since then haven't gotten another look until now, which brings us to the problem of endless eligibility. All artists really deserve to be analyzed by voters within the context of their eras. As the recent elections have shown though, when an aging voting body is uncomfortable with newer styles and artists and are given the opportunity by the nominating committee to vote for less qualified, but more familiar names from their own era they generally will, much to the detriment of the standards for induction as well as the fairness that all eras and styles should be afforded. If the Hall adopted - like Major League Baseball - a ten year rule for eligibility then only the elite would make it before being sent to a veteran's committee which would hold a separate, smaller election for overlooked candidates every few years. That's where the MC5 deserved to be considered once their time as recent eligibles passed more than a decade ago.
The surest thing coming out of the closed door nominating committee pow-wow was that Pearl Jam would be on the ballot. Not that they're the most qualified candidate, not even amongst the newly eligible names, but they were the one act the Hall was building their entire year around - an enduringly popular, critically acclaimed act that seemed to stand for everything that was worth celebrating in rock 'n' roll... and who were still together and as vibrant as ever. For years the Hall has been stymied by the lack of willing participation of too many big name groups, beset by internal feuds or merely apathy for the entire celebration itself, so to have a group that was all living and on good terms with each other and the Hall was their dream come true. Pearl Jam's qualifications hardly need explaining. Rising with the grunge and alternative movement in the early 90's where they vied with Nirvana as the genre's defining act, then outlasting all of their contemporaries with consistently strong output, decades of legendary live performances and no backstage controversies to derail their careers, they've long since taken their place among the immortals without the need for any honor bestowed upon them by a Hall Of Fame. They'll get that as well this year. If you ever wanted a sure bet, this is it, but you'd never find anyone to bet against, as everyone knows they're mortal locks for induction.
More than anyone else this year Steppenwolf embodies all that is wrong with the nominating committee's insistence on using their own hazy memories of their youth as reason for nominating artists they fondly remember from when they were 14, begging the question of when Alzheimer's is finally going to kick in among them and spare us any more unworthy 60's relics on the ballots. It's not that Steppenwolf doesn't deserve to be remembered. Two songs which remain indelible artefacts of the late 60's, one of which pioneered the term "heavy metal" in its lyrics (although the song itself only skirted the sound which took that name), means they did enough to be more than just a minor footnote in rock's evolution. But to be considered for enshrinement to the Hall Of Fame as one of the music's most immortal acts over its now 69 year reign is just absurd, especially when there's so many more recent artists who are now eligible whose body of work and influence put these guys to shame. The scope of a candidate's credentials has to go beyond just an immortal song, otherwise the Hall Of Fame becomes nothing more than a jukebox of one-hit wonders. As long as that song exists they're not in any danger of being forgotten, and to someone using that tune as an entryway to explore their catalog deeper might very well be happy at what else they uncover, but their overall impact is minimal, and when even cursory consideration for the more recent past is being neglected because someone on the nominating committee wants to relieve their teen years one more time before they get carted off to the nursing home or cemetery then something isn't right. With nineteen names on a ballot it shouldn't be too much to expect that they are the most qualified 19 artists eligible, and Steppenwolf is not even remotely close to that, “Born To Be Wild” or not.
Admit it, while waiting for the nominations to drop there was at least a twinge of concern that - somehow, someway, as indefensible as it would be - there was the smallest chance that Tupac Shakur's name would not be among the nominees. Such is the legacy of a Hall Of Fame that has been shamefully neglectful in its treatment of black artists in general, and hip-hop in particular. But in the end Tupac Shakur was simply too big a name, too revered and too important in rock's evolution to be left off the ballot. Not even a committee that downplays and dismisses the impact and influence of so many of his predecessors and contemporaries would've risked the scorn and outrage that would've met his denial of a spot on the ballot. But even so those same concerns will linger until the voters, who are even more narrow-minded in their choices historically, cast their ballots and the inductees are named. But there can be no denying that among this year's candidates 2Pac towers above them all. The most dynamic solo artist of rap's first two decades, a masterful writer who introduced topics previously untouched into the fray, a charismatic performer and, lest we forget this is rock 'n' roll where controversy is every bit a part of the allure as the music itself, a tragic consequence of the escalating on-record beefs that resulted in a wave of real-life violence that took his life along with too many others in the 90's. This is the artist who should garner all of the bold print headlines from now until the induction and even in his absence should be, like Kurt Cobain with Nirvana a few years back, the figure for whom the entire ceremony revolves around, the headlining act everyone celebrates. Since his death there's arguably been no artist who has approached his overall impact and his induction is mandatory.
The curious case of Joe Tex. Like so many others on this year's ballot he's out of his time here, a name who has had four previous opportunities for induction dating from as far back as 1998, and most recently in 2011, yet who's being given another chance at the expense of a roll call of post-1987 acts whose honors shouldn't be forced to wait until every long shadow from the past is dredged up. Yet Tex was one of those who himself was forced to wait while others from his own era unjustly benefitted from demographic advantages that he himself didn't enjoy. While seemingly every white act from the 60's offered up got in, no matter how minor or irrelevant on the scene at the time, Tex, who had a far greater presence for a much longer run than almost all of them, got passed over. When singer-songwriters like Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Randy Newman all got rewarded for their writing skills which supposedly belied their anemic chart showings as performers, Tex, who was a far more prolific, and successful, songwriter than any of them was afforded no such respect for that skill himself by the voters. Then as his rivals on the 60's soul scene like Solomon Burke, Percy Sledge and Bobby Womack all made it in thanks in part to their greater modern familiarity, Joe Tex, who unquestionably was more responsible for the style's popularity as a whole during its heyday, got left behind again. So if anyone on this year's ballot deserves to get in just to correct past injustices it's Joe Tex. But when virtually all of his contemporaries have passed on, taking their votes with them, the odds of that grow slimmer every year.
For years fans and critics decried the Hall's lack of respect for progressive rock. They seemed to consider its arty intellectualism approach as the musical equivalent of the high school chess club compared to the popular jock contingent that made up rock 'n' roll's Hall worthy recipients. With its creative focus on weighty full-length album statements rather than succinct three minute singles aimed at the airwaves prog was devoid of the casually familiar radio hits that make for easy reference points for drumming up support for a candidacy. Yet finally, when the types of styles the Hall liked best from the early 70's ran thin of potential nominees, they began to turn to prog to avoid having to deal with black artists from that time, let alone the music of the 80's and 90's which the aging demographic in the nominating committee clearly viewed as the downfall of western civilization. So after the induction of a few others from the field we have Yes offered up for the third time in the last four years. The results of those elections would tell you that while the voting body generally prefers the era they come from they still remain somewhat lukewarm on the style itself. Among the prog-rock groups still waiting Yes is the most qualified and should get in eventually, among all candidates on this year's ballot however they don't quite make the top five, but since three or four who do are from the 80's and 90's there's always a chance that the fondness for the era itself will overcome that and slip them in as well.
An interesting group, but subpar candidates for reasons that are fairly obvious upon closer inspection. Credentials mostly begin with two areas of equal importance, popularity and influence. In the Zombies case it's usually their influence that is given as their strongest case so we start there. Though they're deemed by many to be influential for their usage of major/minor chord changes in their writing they took that largely from Del Shannon who already got in the Hall for popularizing it first. They were also among those who moved towards a more orchestrated sound that found an audience in later years, but they didn't pioneer that either and if they're sharing credit with dozens of other more popular bands who spread it wider they can't be given too much credit for that either, some certainly, but not even the majority of it. So we turn to commercial measures and here they also fall short. In spite of enormous built-in demographic advantages they had at the time - a British band with a unique accessible sound - which almost guaranteed massive success in the mid-60's, the fact that they weren't able to sustain any popularity beyond that initial mania that met ALL groups from England in 1964 speaks volumes about their impact, or lack thereof. For while it's one thing to be commercially spotty because you are far ahead of your time, or facing restrictions in airplay due to controversial content or negative perceptions of your image, The Zombies had EVERY conceivable advantage going for them and yet still couldn't connect. Even their most acclaimed album came out at time when the focus in rock had shifted to artistic album experiments and it was largely ignored. So while they're hardly insignificant in rock history, they have no aspect of their career to elevate them to the standard the Hall should require, which means their nomination, and potential induction, would be due to simply the personal tastes of a handful of select people who've gotten votes, hardly the most objective and impartial methods for granting immortality.
A large ballot, albeit one that is still indefensibly dominated by the 60's and 70's, and white artists in particular, each seeing a two-thirds majority in the candidates, while females do even worse (and no, "Jane" and "Pearl" don't count as women!), so despite some strong candidates among them, this year is no cause for optimism. The most telling and alarming trend though continues to be the Hall's ongoing neglect of hip-hop. Despite what angry rhythm-deprived critics would have you believe, rap is rock music's most vital subgenre and has been for thirty years. Not only has it been commercially dominant for a far longer time than ANY previous rock style, but it's one that has nobly carried on the banner of so many of their predecessors, from the anti-authority attitudes of punk and the stripped down musical template of funk, to the production innovations of Motown and the use of subject matter to demand social change in the spirit of the best protest-rock since the dawn of rock 'n' roll itself. Yet despite being eligible since 2005 only nine hip-hop acts have been nominated including 2Pac this year.
The real story of every ballot is really about the ones who compile it and any reasoned evaluation of the nominating committee paint a far more damning picture, as they keep offering up artists from the era they personally identify with. That eight artists from the 1960's and early to-mid 70's are nominated this year alone, despite having well over a hundred of that era's best acts already long enshrined, all while the last decade of eligibility spanning the 80's and early 90's barely gets looked at even though its most deserving candidates are still waiting to make a ballot, the argument that it's based strictly on merit becomes impossible to defend.
Music fans don't like listening to broken records but this is one broken record that demands replaying, however scratchy, harsh and ear-piercing it may sound... The solution to the Hall's problems are so simple it defies logic. Have a complete turnover in the nominating committee each and every year to ensure that there will be new voices and perspectives offered up, not the same old ones recycled ad nauseum. Make sure that people who actually came of age during the era becoming eligible, now the early 1990's, dominate the committee's membership so that the ballot has relevancy for the time it supposed to be covering. Diversify the voting body at large with qualified people, not those who simply have connections to someone involved. Emphasize well-defined and objective qualification-based standards when casting votes rather than leaving it to subjective taste. Change eligibility rules to enact a ten year limit any artist can make a ballot and then institute a rotating veteran's committee for the consideration of artists whose eligibility has been expired for at least five years. In terms of reviving the Hall's decrepit image, have press releases for the nominations and inductions that don't highlight only a few at the expense of others, but rather treat them all with equal respect. Court the participation of outlets who've been made to feel excluded from the Rock Hall to better stir interest in those neglected demographics. None of this is hard to do, nor would it be costly.
But sadly none of those changes are likely to ever be enacted, nor even remotely considered, for the first obstacle in ensuring change will never be overcome and that's getting those involved with the Hall Of Fame itself to even admit there is a problem to begin with. As long as those in power keep clinging desperately to that power, getting what they want, satisfying their own tastes and agendas in the process, creating their own legacy within the Hall and re-writing history to suit their worldview, then the problems won't get better, they will only get worse.