Friday, 17 October 2008

The Rock Hall Backlog Part 4: Artists with one previous ballot appearance

This next post about the backlog of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will look at artists who have had one and only one previous ballot appearance.

It is noteworthy that no artist with only one previous ballot appearance had that single appearance so long ago that one can seriously rule that artist out. The longest space between successive ballot appearances is eleven years for Brenda Lee between 1989/1990 and 2000/2001.

Artists in this post are arranged by date of their sole ballot appearance. Artists who appeared on the same ballot are arranged alphabetically.

1) War: a product of the Rock Hall's "affirmative action" bias. They had a major hit still played on classic rock radio in "Spill the Wine", plus "Low Rider", covered in the 1990s by Korn. They did have one album in Rolling Stone's deservedly criticised Top 500 Albums, but have been neglected by other modern magazines and books like The MOJO Collection.

It is very possible the Hall will turn to other funk bands like the Meters since War were not elected in 2008/2009, but I have a grave feeling War will get in before 2012/2013.

2) Afrika Bambaataa: a pioneering hip-hop group whose major hit was "Planet Rock" before the rap revolution really began, Afrika Bambaataa were one of only two artists first eligible in 2005/2006 to be discussed by the Nominating Committee - a low that beat the three considered artists eligible in 2000/2001. They reached the ballot in 2007/2008 but missed out last year.

Despite the fact that rap is the only music since the "punk revolution" both respected by critics and commercially successful, there is still some doubt from both observers and voters about inducting rap artists, especially one who does not rank among the best-known.

3) the Beastie Boys: eligible and on the ballot in 2007/2008, despite missing out this year the Beasties, whose 1982 release was an EP out of sync with their most famous album Licensed to Ill, are probably the most certain of all backlog inductees in the long term. Many think they will get in on the 2011/2012 ballot. Since no other artist from 2007/2008's newly eligible crop apart from (inducted) Madonna and Metallica has been considered, one cannot imagine much discussion of newly eligible non-rap artists in the next few years.

4) Donna Summer: from a year that stands as the first since well over 25 years before the Hall began in 1985/1986 to have produced no inductee, Donna Summer was always regarded as the "Queen of Disco" and in her early days - though less so today - she gained considerable respect from critics as well. She made the ballot in 2007/2008 but missed this year.

This respect from earlier critics may lead the Nominating Committee to push Summer if the feel they cannot get Chic inducted. That would give her a real chance.

5) the Paul Butterfield Blues Band: eligible since 1988/1989 and controversial for the 2500 copy limit on a reissue, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band never had any record in the Billboard Top 50 but their influence on acid rock and jam bands was vital: they were the first to within a rock context develop jamming to create songs longer than the standard pop song.

They reached the ballot in 2005/2006, and with Steven van Zandt describing the eighties as a cultural wasteland, they may have a chance among the backlog artists though there is always the possibility that people on the Nominating Committee feel they know not enough people could vote for them because of their poor commercial record.

6) the Sir Douglas Quintet: a Tex-Mex group who were one of the originators of country-rock, the Sir Douglas Quintet had three Top 40 hit singles but disbanded in 1972 just as their influence became felt. They were eligible in 1990/1991 but nominated only in 2005/2006, the last year (for good, I am utterly sure) with more than the current nine nominees on the ballot.

Though I have never heard of them in the past, their influence on the rootsy music so popular with the Nominating Committee could well get them another nomination, though the same proviso of possible Nominating Committee rejection is applicable.

7) Cat Stevens: his notoriety for converting to Islam and supporting the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie may have actually increased his chances because his supporters feel they have more to defend.

Eligible since 1990/1991, Cat Stevens reached the ballot in 2005/2006 but with the reduction in numbers it will be tough for him to make it again and it is easier to see the Nominating Committee trying someone else than to try to have him elected again.

8) Randy Newman: a singer/songwriter who was initially a complete commercial failure but became an unlikely hero for the "punk revolution" and was, with the novelty single "Short People" in 1977/1978, denied a #1 hit only by Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life".

Newman has remained a revered critical figure ever since, but has turned his attention to film music since the 1980s. Eligible since 1990/1991, he was undoubtedly under the radar of the Hall for a long time before reaching the ballot in 2004/2005. If the Stooges get in, Newman, rather than the MC5, New York Dolls or Captain Beefheart, may be the next among the late 1960s cult artists in line for the ballot. With the competition so poor, his induction by 2011/2012 is certainly very possible.

9) Conway Twitty: eligible since the Hall was founded, Twitty reached his only ballot in 2004/2005. He had a seven Billboard Top 40 hits in the late 1950s inspired by Elvis Presley, but later became a country artist unsuccessful on the pop charts.

Unlike Randy Newman, Twitty is not the type of artist the Committee might return to after failure to be elected. The lack of popular support makes his induction as I see it still less likely.

10) ABBA: Eligible since 1998/1999, ABBA reached the ballot in 2002/2003. Their reputation as popsmiths is not so bad that they could be ruled out like, say Michael Bolton or Air Supply or Asia, but their relatively limited success in the US (versus having two of the top three singles of the 1970s in Australia) has made them much less of a chance than might be thought globally.

11) Kraftwerk: famous for their influence on electronica and 1980s synth-pop, Kraftwerk were eligible in 1996/1997 and made the ballot in 2002/2003. They have often been predicted for another appearance but it has not materialised, which suggests that increasingly people are rejecting the view that their influence is enough to get them inducted.

12) the MC5: after the Velvets and Stooges, the most important proto-punk band. Their Back in the USA album was #59 in Joe S. Harrington's Top 100 Albums and also listed as one of the Best Albums Ever...Honest by Englishman David Keenan in 2003.

Eligible since 1991/1992, the MC5 reached the ballot in 2002/2003 but, with the failure to induct the Stooges, they have been off the radar since. If the Stooges do get in, we can expect to see pressure for the MC5 from the Nominating Committee. It may be a wee bit easier to get the MC5 voted in because Kick Out the Jams actually made the Top 40 on Billboard due to controversy over explicit lyrics.

13) solo Steve Winwood: this is one that can probably be ruled out. Although "Steve Winwood" was only released in 1977, he was deemed eligible in 1996/1997 on account of other releases and made the ballot in 2002/2003.

Apparently there was a conflict among the Nominating Committee over whether to nominate him as a solo artist or instead nominate Traffic or the Spencer Davis Group - Winwood was the lead singer of both.

With Traffic getting in unexpectedly in 2003/2004, the question of inducting Winwood seems settled.

14) the Chantels: eligible since the Hall was founded but nominated only in 2001/2002, the Chantels were the premier 1950s black female singing group and have continued to perform to this day.

Although their ballot appearance may seem remote now, if Little Anthony and the Imperials fail, it would not be hard to imagine the Nominating Committee giving the Chantels another chance. The Chantels might not have to wait until 2013/2014 for another chance with the present Nominating Committee.

15) the New York Dolls: along with the Velvets, Stooges and MC5, regarded as the prototypes of the "punk revolution". Their self-titled debut was #90 on Joe S. Harrington's Top 100 Albums.

If and only if the Stooges are elected, the Dolls should soon re-appear on the ballot after failing in 2000/2001. It might take a long time for them to be elected, though.

16) Darlene Love: eligible since 1988/1989, she is best known for her Christmas albums and made the ballot in 1998/1999. It is hard to see her having another chance against other backlog artists with more credentials.

17) the Meters: eligible since 1994/1995 and on the ballot in 1996/1997, it would break a record for the Meters to reach another ballot. It may have been considered that P-Funk alone was the key influence on the development of 1970s funk. The Meters did have one undoubted legacy, however, in session bassist George Porter Junior.

However, Bobby Womack's election and War’s elevation to the ballot in 2008/2009 points in exactly the direction of the Meters reaching the ballot. It will be interesting to see.

18) Billy Ward and the Dominoes: pioneering early 1950s r'n'b group who began the career of Jackie Wilson, they reached the ballot in 1996/1997 and seem off the radar at present. Perhaps they are too old to be well-known to most of the Nominating Committee and too new for induction as an Early Influence. A longshot, but people say strange things do happen even in the Rock Hall.

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