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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

And Yes I Said Yes I Will Yes.

The nominees for next year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame election are out, and the arguments about them are more entertaining even than the ones about the Baseball Hall of Fame. I mean, baseball has statistics. Music is completely subjective.

How else can we explain that Journey is nominated, but not the Moody Blues? That Nine Inch Nails was on the ballot for a few years, but not this year, and suddenly Joan Baez, who has been eligible since the Hall was founded, suddenly is on? Baseball's hall at least has transparency--we know who is being voted on, how many votes they get, and they only drop off the ballot when getting below a certain threshold (or run out of years). The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is much murkier. Did Nine Inch Nails get so little support last year they fell off the ballot?

There are 19 nominees this year, and the two most obvious to get enshrined are the first-year eligibles Pearl Jam and Tupac Shakur. Of course, Shakur was not a rock musician, anymore than Joan Baez was. But that's a stale argument. There are plenty of hip-hop artists already in, and many folkies. Rock is an extremely large tent according to the Hall (my definition is that there has to be an electric guitar involved). You see comments every year that such as such "never rocked, never rolled" but that's barking at the moon.

The arguments to be made are about the capriciousness of it all. There has been a decided reluctance against progressive rock--Yes is on the ballot this year, but has been ignored repeatedly. I know Yes has their haters, but really, if Journey--a corporate rock band that sounds like their songs were written by computer--gets in ahead of Yes, my head will spin. One writer on these two bands, both of which he hates, is that their lead singers are terrible. I guess he doesn't like high-pitched male voices.

Others that have a reasonable shot of getting in are The Cars, MC5, and Kraftwerk, who basically created a genre of music. I don't personally enjoy Kraftwerk, but one can't ignore their place in rock history. The same goes for MC5, a pre-punk band from Detroit that gave us "Kick Out the Jams," one of the seminal recordings in punk history. Other bands, like The Zombies and Steppenwolf, had minimal output. Should Steppenwolf get in for "Born to be Wild" and "Magic Carpet Ride" alone? The Zombies only made two albums, but one of them, Oddesey and Oracle, is a masterpiece. Is that enough?

My personal favorite this year is Electric Light Orchestra, although I don't think they'll get in. ELO was one of those great post-Beatle bands of the '70s, like Queen, that used sophisticated studio work. Jeff Lynne is one of the great arrangers of all time, and the use of orchestral music in rock has always gotten my juices flowing. They had a lot of great hits but I fear won't be taken seriously for the final vote.

I have heard of all nineteen nominees, but a few of them barely, like Bad Brains and Joe Tex. Some commenters like to say "Who?"which only highlights their ignorance rather than makes any kind of cogent point. On the other hand, there are some very famous artists here who may or may not get in--Janet Jackson comes to mind. I'm not a fan of hers, but she was a major part of '90s music, but so was Mariah Carey, who has not been nominated. And speaking of the '90s, what about Smashing Pumpkins?

The Susan Lucci of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is Chic, who are up for nomination for the eleventh straight year. Clearly they have their supporters, but not the enthusiasm of the entire voting body. Chic is associated with disco, which is definitely not rock and roll. But if any disco band should get in, it's them.

We'll know the inductees in January, just about the time that baseball announces theirs.

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