THOUGHTS ON THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME NOMINEES FOR 2017…

Here’s the list of nominees, for those who haven’t seen it yet:

  • Bon Jovi
  • Kate Bush
  • The Cars
  • Depeche Mode
  • Dire Straits
  • Eurythmics
  • J. Geils Band
  • Judas Priest
  • LL Cool J
  • MC5
  • The Meters
  • Moody Blues
  • Radiohead
  • Rage Against the Machine
  • Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
  • Nina Simone
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe
  • Link Wray (Pictured above)
  • The Zombies
I’ll get to my picks in a bit, but first a few notes: Nina Simone, like Joan Baez, Miles Davis and a few others from previous years, would be a fine pick for the Contemporary Influence category I keep suggesting. These could be handled by the Hall itself and need not deprive actual rock and rollers from a place on the ballot.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe should have been inducted years ago as an Early Influence–which is how she should still be inducted. Again, why is someone who could easily and deservedly be put in the Hall by extra-ballot means,
taking a spot from somebody who can only be put in as a performer?
Having said that….

I try to approach this announcement a little differently each year. I’ll reiterate that I think having a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a good and worthy idea, and remains so no matter how bizarrely or even corruptly it is run. My three visits there were all memorable and reinforced my belief that, as Rock and Roll fades from the cultural landscape, it is better to have a flawed institution dedicated to its memory than no institution at all.

The great problem facing the Hall now, though–a problem that increases year by year–is whether and when to shift the emphasis from the years when Rock and Roll was the center of the culture (roughly the mid-fifties through the mid-eighties), to a later time period where rock was a diminished presence (roughly the mid-eighties to the turn of the millennium), or a ghostly one (the turn of the millennium to now).

It’s a testimony to just how much more Rock’s peak years matter that the shift hasn’t yet occurred. Crit-faves Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine are the only acts (of nineteen) on this year’s ballot who started their careers after rock’s fall, and twelve of the nineteen acts began in the seventies or earlier. If the late eighties/early nineties had been rife with Hall worthy acts, you can bet they would be dominating the proceedings by now.

We’ll see how it all plays out in the future, but, for now, I want to play a little game.

Let’s just focus on the sixties.

There are three nominees who made their first big impact in that decade: Simone, the Moody Blues, MC5 and the Zombies. (Note: The Meters began in the sixties but had their biggest impact in the early seventies, so I’ll exclude them.)

I like all three acts fine, especially the Zombies. But seeing them listed together made me start idly wondering just how many sixties-era acts I would pick over any of them.

I assumed there would be ten.

Boy was I wrong. Here’s who I thought of off the top of my head, in the order I wrote them down. (Which says nothing about who should go in first–the Small Hall vs Big Hall debate is long ended. It’s a Big Hall and they are all worthy.) Most have never been nominated. I’ve paired as many as are reasonable with a near equivalent act of similar weight (or sometimes less) who is already in:

Dionne Warwick (Dusty Springfield)
The Marvelettes (The Ronettes)
Mary Wells (Ruth Brown)
Junior Walker (Darlene Love…who also made great records on her own and was just as great helping out others.)
Joe Tex (Solomon Burke)
The Shangri-Las (There are no equivalents to the Shangri-Las, which should be its own statement.)
Paul Revere and the Raiders (The Animals)
Tommy James (Randy Newman…who, except for “Short People,” wasn’t as popular, and, except for “Sail Away” wasn’t as good or as weird either. Or, if you prefer, Tom Waits, who didn’t have a “Sail Away” or a “Sweet Cherry Wine” in him.)
The 5th Dimension (The Mamas and the Papas)
The Turtles (The Hollies)
Glen Campbell (Brenda Lee, whose crossover legacy he extended by a decade)
Manfred Mann (Traffic…they were tonier, but not better…or as popular)
Jan and Dean (The Coasters)
Sonny and Cher (Shirley and Lee….Wait, they aren’t in? What’s wrong with these people?)
Three Dog Night (Neal Diamond)
The Move (The Small Faces)
Lesley Gore (Wanda Jackson)
Johnny Rivers (Gene Pitney)
Jackie DeShannon (Cat Stevens….No, wait. That’s not fair. Bonnie Raitt? Still not fair. Laura Nyro? Leonard Cohen? Are you kidding?)
John Mayall (Paul Butterfield)
Dick Dale (The Ventures)
Peter, Paul and Mary (Joan Baez)
Timi Yuro (Gene Pitney…he had more hits but he didn’t make better records. Not too many people did.)
Nancy Sinatra (LaVern Baker. Among other things, Nancy was a better blues singer)
Petula Clark (Ritchie Valens…What, you think “Downtown” wasn’t as great a record as “La Bamba?” Or as “rock and roll?” You should listen again.)
Mitch Ryder (The Yardbirds. What Jeff Beck did for guitar chords, Mitch did for vocal chords.)
Fairport Convention (The Jefferson Airplane, who sold more records but weren’t as good. One could almost say the same about the Band but I don’t want to start making people mad.)
Jerry Butler (solo) (Percy Sledge)
The Monkees (The Beatles….just kidding. But I’ll take them over the DC5, not to mention the Zombies.)

Of course, similar lists could be put together for the fifties and seventies. Just something for you, me and the Hall to think about.

As for my five picks:

The Cars, J. Geils Band, The Meters, Rufus, Link Wray.

Those who wish to participate in the fan voting (which can have a small impact if there’s a close vote for the final spot) you can go here…I’ll save any further thoughts for the inductees, which will be announced in December.

Til then…Mr. Wray on the night he invented Heavy Metal.

 

 

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