Criteria: 2018 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: 2017-10-10
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
2018 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees
This could've been the year to bring the Hall Of Fame into the present. After years of seeing the nominating committee - whose average age is in their mid-60's, meaning their interest in music when current ended around 1975! - pulling out dusty third tier names from the late 60's and early 70's to stick on the ballot at the expense of the recently eligible late 80's and early 90's acts they collectively disdain, all while claiming that era was lacking clear-cut nominees, this was the year they'd no longer be able to credibly make such a ludicrous statement.
For now we're entering into the golden age of the 90's rock scene when hip-hop, alternative and vocal harmony styles all moved firmly into the mainstream while retaining their artistic credibility. Artists who debuted in 1992 became eligible for the Class Of 2018 and with the ballot's recent expansion of artists (nineteen this year) they could've easily stocked it with practically all first time eligible candidates - Dr. Dre, Radiohead, Arrested Development, Stone Temple Pilots, Beck, Common, TLC, R. Kelly, Rage Against The Machine (although with Tom Morello on the nominating committee would this be ethical?), Tool, Sublime, The Verve, Suede, No Doubt. That's fourteen names right there, all worthy of a nomination and at least half of which are deserving of an induction!
Now simply fill out the rest of the ballot with recently eligible artists who've either yet to be inducted, or in some cases yet to even be nominated, such as Janet Jackson (by far the most deserving name not yet in and one whose failure to make it last year caused the most outrage), De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Soundgarden, Eric B. & Rakim, LL Cool J and Jane's Addiction. Viola, a perfect ballot for the 21st century. No aging white dinosaur bands from the 70's, no Summer Of Love refugees, no artists who died long before most of us were around!
Now to be fair, there are still some from way back who ARE deserving of induction but their absence from The Hall is due to the institution's own homogeneous voting body through the years and so even if you included the likes of Kool & The Gang, Toots & The Maytals, Rufus, The Chi-Lites, Johnny Ace, Iron Maiden, Chuck Willis, The Monkees, or The Pointer Sisters on the ballot it's doubtful any of them would get the needed support from voters to correct those injustices.
So this would have been the perfect year to force those voters into facing the fact that music did in fact progress past the Carter administration, let alone the Reagan and first Bush administration, and by giving them a ballot with only names who starred in the years 1986-2000 or so, offering no Classic Rock radio retreads to give them an easy out to take, then maybe, just maybe, the Hall Of Fame would start to see the tide start to change. The younger inductees it'd result in would further shift the voting body (which is largely made up of inducted artists) towards the present as older members die off. It's a natural progression that should be expected and welcomed by everyone.
But no, this is the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame we're talking about. An institution designed to validate the tastes of those whose first girlfriend is now somebody's great-grandmother. So of course we're stuck once again looking back.
THE MAIN PERFORMER NOMINEES
One of the "newer" acts on the ballot and they debuted in 1986 which tells you how slow to embrace modernity the nominating committee has been. Bon Jovi certainly are deserving of both a nomination and, depending on the competition and number of entries in a given year, an induction at some point. Their chart success was stellar, easily the most successful act on this year's ballot, they defined an entire style of music for an extended period of time and even after their commercial peak they remained a solid touring draw for years. Their candidacy does come with some inherent problems, namely the fact that hair metal is seen by many as a disposable, less than serious style lacking in critical respect. One of the Hall's biggest credibility problems over the years has been its disregard for entire subgenres of rock that the Hall's inner circle and voting body looks down upon so whether they can overcome that with the current constituency remains to be seen.
The first indication of a decidedly Eurocentric tilt to this year's ballot, Bush has had years of success with both singles and albums in the UK since the late 1970's while remaining far more obscure in America. She's very well respected for her songwriting diversity and taking on ambitious projects and has been consistently popular in England with every album hitting the Top Ten, but typically British artists have had to make much more headway outside that realm to have a legitimate shot for induction. Considering the number of more qualified acts waiting for their name to be called, even confining it to British artists, and obviously with no lack of representation from her most dominant commercial era to make up for, it's a bit odd that she gets her first nomination now. While females certainly deserve far more attention from the Hall Of Fame overall nobody can suggest Bush has even half the qualifications of Janet Jackson without having their sanity questioned and there are dozens of other more recently eligible names with much better credentials still waiting for a nod.
Because The Hall lagged behind even nominating all but the most obvious candidates from the mid-70's on when they first became eligible, choosing instead to linger in the late 60's and early 70's to satisfy their own personal tastes, new wave stars The Cars, who seemed an obvious selection had to wait for thirteen years before getting nominated. Now they're making up for lost time by naming them to the ballot each of the past three years because despite well-rounded credentials that had made them among the most popular and trend-setting acts of their style and the era itself they've been bypassed each time out. Obviously they have the objective requirements to make it, they don't seem to be suffering from any backlash against their kind of music (unlike their contemporaries Chic), and the group remains fairly identifiable today. It's probably not a matter of IF they get in, but when.
Another opportunity to acknowledge synth-based rock from an institution that seems to decry the practice of non-organic music. Their longevity and success with multiple fan-bases over the years gives them a deeper résumé in this area than some more influential early proponents of synthesizers, but the resistance to the concept of electronic music itself, and their comparative lack of big name members to draw casual interest, remain something of a hindrance to building a groundswell of support among those with ballots. More pressing might be the fact that while this year's ballot has few top tier names the credentials of the majority of nominees are fairly interchangeable, so who emerges from the middle of the pack probably has to do more with who's sending in ballots than anything else.
Surprising that it took until now for Dire Straits to get a nomination for while they aren't an overwhelming favorite by any means and their qualifications are merely adequate for consideration they do have lingering name recognition and more importantly in guitarist Mark Knopfler they have one of the more respected musicians of that era in their midst. Those are the types of hole cards - along with the boost of being a first time nominee who seems on the surface to be overdue for an appearance on the ballot - which could easily vault them into the Hall. It wouldn't be completely undeserving, they had a number of hits, one defining album and an identifiable sound, but when stacked up against the majority of the ballot they hardly distinguish themselves as a unquestioned selection.
Another somewhat bewildering choice for a nomination, not that they aren't reasonably qualified to at least make a ballot - though aren't up to the objective requirements of getting in - but rather that they don't stand out in terms of credentials compared to concurrent acts such as The Bangles or Bananarama (one of whom was married to Eurythmics founder David Stewart), as both of those groups have better commercial impact in a similar niche. When looking at the landscape of the mid-1980's the Eurythmics are hardly the name that jumps out at you for being wrongly overlooked. It'd be hard to conceive of an argument that would suggest they have among the top five or six cases to be made for induction, but stranger things have happened.
J. GEILS BAND
A long-time favorite of certain key members of the never-changing nominating committee means that eventually they might get in due to attrition alone. Frontman Peter Wolf has spent decades cultivating friendships among bigger name stars which certainly doesn't hurt their chances when many of those artists have ballots. But while the group certainly has the requisite hits to be considered they were a decidedly unimposing presence on the scene for a decade, never innovators (frequently re-doing songs from the past), never defining a particular style, and even at their commercial peak they were never approaching the level of superstar status for so much as a moment, let alone establishing a long-term legacy. It's easy to find plenty of artists from all eras of rock history with similar images and credentials who've never been nominated and who have no one clamoring for them, so the ongoing push for them has all the earmarks of personal favoritism amongst the committee.
An unlikely, but welcome, first time nominee, not because they're close to being among the nineteen most qualified eligible names, but rather because metal has consistently fought to be taken seriously by The Hall, with only a handful of pure metal groups inducted to date. Part of the problem, aside from the negative image of the style amongst the taste-makers, is that metal is an album oriented subgenre, not singles based which tends to at least lead to more casual exposure. Album artists even with consistently large sales never penetrate the broader market and so their résumés are barely known by the majority. But Priest were among the first to introduce the now dominant images - both in looks and playing style - of metal following the early Black Sabbath-led blues-sludge approach. While they don't have the objective credentials to compare to many of the nominees, their importance to one specific long-lived style may make up for it.
LL COOL J
One quick look at this year's ballot should tell you all you need to know about the archaic committee's preferences. Thirteen of the nineteen names were recording in the 1970s or earlier, despite that era having been eligible for over two decades, while those who began in the 80's or beyond make up less than a third of the ballot. Worse still, there's just ONE representative of hip-hop which is by far the most dominant style of rock in the last quarter century. These two facts are interchangeable and is just one reason why the committee has to be replaced en masse, as they're systematically trying to exile huge swaths of rock history from existence. As for LL Cool J himself, his credentials tower over everyone else on the ballot. A pillar of rap since he was a teenager in the mid-80's he did as much over the years to define the style's evolution as anybody and is long overdue for induction.
Twenty years ago the candidacy of the MC5 would've been much more appreciated on these pages. It's not that their credentials have taken a hit in the ensuing years but the context for their candidacy has changed and a vote for them today has the unfortunate added impact of diminishing the overall importance of more recent eras and styles all so aging voters can reaffirm their allegiance to their preferred late 60's/early 70's youth. Though innovative and a solid contributor to punk's evolution they weren't an egregious oversight in the Hall over the years that demanded more consideration once their time passed, and so their appearance on another ballot (their third overall) when so many more deserving 80's and 90's candidates are still waiting to be nominated for a first time is unconscionable. That's not their fault but it's yet another example of the interests of a few negating the objective honoring of the entirety of rock's still ongoing history.
Speaking of late 60's/early 70's acts making reappearances The Meters similarly see their prospective candidacy hampered by the Hall's refusal to move on to more recent acts. The difference between The Meters and MC5 however comes down to two factors, one of course is The Meters have better qualifications, a deeper catalog both on their own and as the studio band for a wide array of hitmakers over two decades, but also the unfortunate aspect of how the Hall's racial biases for white acts probably has as much to do with their earlier denial of induction as anything. When seeing so many less notable artists from their era breeze in, The Meters lack of respect from voters has been hard to justify and The Hall's demographic shortcomings over the years are too obvious to ignore.
THE MOODY BLUES
And now the third consecutive example of remaining stuck in an era that's already been beaten to death. A long-lasting group with one big hit in three different decades, yet they hardly defined any of those periods, being seen as an incidental part of the original British Invasion in the 1960's and stuck halfway between antiquated presence and nostalgic throwback on the 80's scene. Their early 70's art-rock peak was their most notable, commercially and creatively, but as stated that era is already overloaded in The Hall and they aren't even close to the most qualified of the few remaining acts left out from that time. But of course since that's the period the committee members lived through that's who they turn to at the expense of far better more recent artists.
Finally a newly eligible name and one all but assured of going in right away. Sadly the Hall seems to view adding one or two such acts as evidence that they aren't neglecting the present, even though the 90's era that's now eligible makes up a scant ten percent of the ballot whereas the 1970's still make up more than 50%... even after two decades of the most deserving names from that period having already been inducted. But Radiohead's credentials are impeccable, they were creatively cutting edge, consistently popular and widely respected... and they also allow the Hall to placate what might otherwise be a disgusted younger demographic if the other inductees were all retired before that audience was even born. Certainly well deserving of induction but they should not be the only recently modern act on stage, yet because of the ballot's skewing older and older they very well could be the only ones who can stay up late enough to accept the honor.
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
The other 90's era nominee may have the requisite credentials to be seriously considered but their presence on the ballot as first time eligibles - something increasingly rarer in recent decades - raises serious questions about the Hall's appalling conflict of interest with the group's guitarist Tom Morello sitting on the nominating committee. This is inexcusable. For starters NO one should be on the committee for more than one term, whether that's a single year or at most three years, which would guarantee new views being aired, but under no circumstances should anyone eligible to be nominated be allowed to sit on the committee that actually NOMINATES them. Even if Morello recused himself from the vote on RATM his fellow members are not going to tell him when he came back in the room that they shot the group down because they weren't deserving. On top of that it's not as if RATM were the most qualified of the first time eligibles after Radiohead anyway. Dr. Dre is twice as important and Common, Beck and Arrested Development all are equally worthy while other recently eligible names yet to be considered dwarf their accomplishments.
RUFUS featuring CHAKA KHAN
Finally the committee gets something right, although this too comes years too late for it to be timely, as after multiple failed attempts at getting Khan in as a solo artist (for which she IS entirely deserving), they take a step back and try and get Rufus, the group she fronted, in as a unit while still acknowledging Khan for those voters not quite sure of the pedigree (which should disqualify them from voting, but...). In any event, Rufus was one of the premier rock groups of the mid-70's to early 80's and in Khan they had arguably the single greatest female vocalist of that era in any field. That it took the Hall too long to nominate them originally is unfortunate, but this is the designation under which they should always be considered and once inducted then you can later turn the attention to Khan's solo career if need be. But they are one of the three mandatory names that should get in this year.
One of the ongoing issues the Hall has is their abysmal record when it comes to properly recognizing black rock music… after all rock was invented by black artists and they've remained at least fifty percent of its roster ever since even though many try and expel it by claiming the subgenre titles (soul, funk, reggae, disco, hip-hop) are in fact entirely different major genres, all while white styles like prog, metal and grunge are housed under rock 'n' roll. The Hall did a fair job through the mid 60's candidates but since then have been atrocious and sensitive to the criticism but unwilling to take organizational steps to rectify it they've looked outside of rock to have token candidates from blues and jazz to give the surface appearance of equality. Simone is the latest in a long line of this thinking. A fantastic artist from an unconnected field (not rock subgenre like soul or funk) her overall stature and recognizability could be more than enough to get her in and in the process allow the Hall to sidestep the fact that they saw fit to only nominate ONE rap artist even though rap has been the most dominant single subgenre of rock possibly ever.
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE
Again, like with Simone, a compromise candidate addressing many of the same problems, along with another lingering one, namely the Hall's ignorance regarding the Early Influence category, which has recently been manipulated to get in failed main performer nominees. Tharpe was a gospel legend and a pioneer on electric guitar and whose singing style was hugely influential on rock's evolution and she should've been one of the first Early Influence inductees back in the 1980's, not dragged out of mothballs in the Main Performer category now. Chances are if she fails to get the required votes they'll still put her in as an Early Influence which begs the question as to why they'd waste a spot on the ballot that could've been better used for Janet Jackson or Erik B. & Rakim.
Qualifications: 9 (as early influence)
Aside from pre-rock Tharpe and non-rock Simone the artist whose career dates back the farthest is groundbreaking guitar king Link Wray whose power chord wielding influence has always made him a favorite of later acts. He's certainly got credentials in that regard and should've been in long ago, especially when compared to some of the weaker candidates who've beaten him out in his earlier appearances on the ballot. But while era-based diversity amongst the nominees is admirable, Wray's not offering up enough of a different look in other areas to make him the best selection possible if one wants to go back to the 1950's for a possible entrant. The guitar's presence in the Hall is already more than representative for its role in the music's history while saxophonists and piano pounders have taken an undeserved back seat. Big Jay McNeely and Larry Williams would've better filled those needs while still allowing for a 50's name to be considered, which shows again why the committee's historical myopia in terms of styles and eras is in such drastic need of overhaul.
And we end with the Hall's annual love letter to the late 1960's. Though running out of the types of bands they've long adored they've been (or Steven Van Zandt has been) bound and determined to get the Zombies in the Hall while he's still above ground to genuflect over them on stage. Though never in danger of being completely forgotten by history thanks to one critically acclaimed album, their overall legacy is well below the standard that one should set for immortality. But it's proven near impossible to separate the teenage hero worship of groups like The Zombies from an objective analytical assessment of their credentials for induction, and so as long as the same people sit on the committee and are intent on seeing their childhood tastes validated then you're going to see more of the same with nominations like this one.
Nothing ever changes within the Hall, so nothing ever changes in the advice given here. No Hall Of Fame, particularly one honoring something as provincial as music, can afford to have the same small, demographically homogenous group making the most important decisions on whom to nominate, which then leads to the same types of artist getting in. Breaking down the year by year ballots and inductees only shows how much more historically one-sided this process has become and since more recent names become eligible each year the committee and voting body needs to reflect this by purging the rolls to include those who actually came of age and were most invested in the current era being considered. Instead they keep the same dinosaurs who naturally prefer the music of their own era, one which has already been thoroughly exhausted by previous decades of inductees from the same period. On top of that the overwhelming racial and gender based advantages for white male tastes has completely distorted, even re-written, rock's diverse history.
The solutions to all of these problems remain almost too simple not to enact. Start by having constant turnover in the nominating committee, allowing each person only one year to sit on the board so that different voices are heard. Make sure their demographics are reflective of rock as a whole meaning at least 50% black, 33% female and an average age of 40-45 ensuring the most recently eligible era has those who actually were fans of music at that time debating which artists are deserving. Finally change the rules to ensure The Hall keeps moving forward by allowing just ten years of eligibility for Main Performers, then following a three to five year hiatus from consideration have the older acts be considered for separate Veteran Committee votes that are limited to specific eras every few years with stylistic oversight to ensure neglected fields of rock are included on those side ballots rather than the areas that have dominated the proceedings for so long.
The expansion to a larger ballot in recent years has been welcome, but when the same people are making the same taste-based choices and seem oblivious to their own collective prejudices the added names don't wind up making much difference in the final results. The Rock ‘n' Roll Hall Of Fame doesn't need to remain the joke it's widely viewed as being if they simply introduced some oversight mechanisms to address the issues that have plagued it for decades, but until they feel the need to do so they're unlikely to ever consider anything that would remove from power those who've gotten to re-write rock history to suit their own views for far too long.