Friday, 21 November 2008

The Rock Hall Backlog Part 6: "Popular" artists with consistent previous votes from the Nominating Committee but no ballot appearances

The next three parts of assessing the Rock Hall backlog will involve artists who have never reached the ballot but have been consistently on the agenda of the Nominating Committee.

The first section will focus on artists whose reputation is based chiefly on hit singles and/or albums but excluding those artists who belong to distinct genres that have no or exceptionally few representatives in the current Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Artists from genres without or nearly without representatives in the present Hall will be dealt with in the eighth part of this series.

One note: be careful with artists who have been eligible only since 2003/2004. I do suspect that none of the non-rap artists eligible since then who have not got to the ballot are likely to be inducted. As I see it, the Nominating Committee firmly feels it possesses too large a backlog. It thus does not wish to waste time discussing artists whose induction is so much as uncertain.

Artists discussed here are listed by date of eligibility from earliest to latest.

The Five Satins: Eligible since the foundation of the Hall, they were a major hitmaker in the late 1950s, which could well be valuable when it comes to the present Committee containing "doo wop fanatic" Seymour Stein. With no other "untried" doo-wop act on the backlog, it might be their turn in the next three ballots.

Neil Sedaka: One of the few artists among the most successful on Billboard's Singles charts in this backlog, Sedaka has never been considered to be a likely candidate by any prognostication. Even should that Nominating Committee believe most artists they have tried are doomed to fail the voters, it is not easy to see him being one of the first to gain attention.

Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns: This must rank as one of the most surprising artists to have ever been discussed by the Committee. They are never noticed by any critic or historian of rock, and did not have a Top 50 hit on the charts: it would be baffling to see them reach the ballot, but maybe those who see them as important I have never read.

The Crystals: Eligible since 1988/1989, they were the most successful girl group to the 1960s with hits like "He's A Rebel", "Then He Kissed Me" and "Da Doo Ron Ron". Widely viewed as unfairly overlooked, if the Nominating Committee feels it has failed with already-nominated vocal groups the Crystals may well get a shot soon.

Neil Diamond: Among the most unfairly overlooked artists in the eyes of long-time Rock Hall observers, evidence for bias against Neil Diamond from the Nominating Committee has not been as forthcoming as for some progressive rock or heavy metal groups. Still, mega-selling 1960s artists played on "beautiful music" radio have tended to be very much overshadowed by the large number of innovators during the late 1960s and early 1970s who did manage to sell at least modest numbers of records.

The Hollies: Adored by Steven van Zandt and eligible since 1989/1990, the Hollies were predicted to be on the 2008/2009 ballot by Future Rock Hall. There have often been claims of bias against them, but if van Zandt continues to have influence they would rank as one of the most likely artists on this list to get a chance on the next three ballots. One would be uncertain they would be voted in if they reached the ballot, however.

The Spencer Davis Group: As with solo Steve Winwood, one would be very doubtful of the Spencer Davis Group's chances after Traffic's induction. Very unlikely.

Herman's Hermits and The Turtles: Eligible since 1990/1991 and both groups whose discussion has surprised many Rock Hall observers, if Neil Diamond and the Crystals do not get considered, it would be hard to see either Herman's Hermits or the Turtles being on the ballot. With their famous song "Happy Together", the Turtles would be the better prospect if either make it.

Boz Scaggs: eligible since 1990/1991 but most famous for his middle-of-the-road hits of the middle 1970s like "What Can I Say" and albums like Silk Degrees, the discussion of Boz Scaggs does not fit perfectly with the failure to discuss other 1970s megasellers like Hall and Oates or Foreigner. It may be that the megasellers of the 1970s are not hated as those of the 1980s, but still Boz Scaggs does not seem as likely presence on a ballot yet.

Sonny & Cher: Eligible since 1990/1991, their iconic song "I Got You Babe", later covered by inductee Chrissie Hynde, may be responsible for their presence in the backlog, but they had a number of other hits that I recall being criticised on Triple M with the phrase "while they're playing these two, we're playing U2". Given that Cher as a solo act has never been discussed, one wonders if they really have a chance at all.

Junior Walker: Eligible since 1990/1991, Junior Walker was a rhythm and blues singer/saxophonist with a number of hits in the 1960s, but probably best known to people my age for his solo on Foreigner's anthemic "Urgent". With so many sixties and seventies black artists discussed, it would be hard to rule Junior Walker out of consideration if War and Bobby Womack get in - or even if they don't, for the Nominating Committee is quite likely to rotate its backlog until they hit a "jackpot" artist.

Tommy James and the Shondells: Eligible since 1991/1992, they were major hitmakers with such songs as "Mony Mony" (covered by Billy Idol) and "Crimson and Clover" (Joan Jett's other hit apart from the awful "I Love Rock'n'Roll"). Their reputation may not be very good today but I would be far from surprised if they get a chance soon.

Jimmy Cliff: Another well-known 1960s and early 1970s hitmaker, his reputation for making reggae popular may give him some chance at being inducted. On the debit side, however, there is the question of whether he might be perceived as "reggae-lite" like UB40.

The Steve Miller Band: Eligible since 1993/1994 and not popular with most critics, but tremendously so with every generation of audiences, the Steve Miller Band have always been seen as a gross omission from the Hall and indicative of its Nominating Committee's bias. The fact that similar artists like Seger, Springsteen, Petty and now Mellencamp are in augers well for Steve Miller getting a place on one of the following three ballots. I never really expected Mellencamp would get in, so Steve Miller should have a real shot at a ballot place.

Joe Cocker: Eligible since 1994/1995 and an artist I personally always hated despite much acclaim for his early works, Joe Cocker's early 1970s notoriety gave way to a reputation as a bland MOR singer in the 1980s and 1990s (when his "Unchain My Heart" was used in ads for the Green Services Tax). People might debate my claim he belongs in the same boat as Michael Bolton (he really sounds similar as a singer) but I would not see him as very likely even being more objective.

Poco: Eligible since 1994/1995, Poco are a particularly surprising group to have been discussed. Formed from Buffalo Springfield by future Eagle Randy Meisner, their commercial success was uneven and in recent times they have been seen as part of the presently discredited so-called "Mellow Mafia" of the West Coast. Recent trends away from commercial music of this period may hurt their chances of a ballot appearance.

Three Dog Night: Eligible since 1994/1995 and one of the biggest hitmakers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, they popularised the songs of such cult artists as Randy Newman (they made a #1 hit out of his "Mama Told Me Not to Come" when the parent album of Newman's version did not dent the Top 200). Though not generally seen as a major artist by the critics, their continuing airplay on classic rock radio could well mean Three Dog Night are better than a longshot for a ballot appearance and possible induction.

Dr. Hook: A major hitmaker up to their 1980s smash "Better Love Next Time", Dr. Hook do not have a great reputation even among the musically conservative followers of the Rock Hall: I have never seen Dr. Hook listed amongst the unjustly overlooked. It does not seem likely Dr. Hook will be amongst those given a chance in the next few ballots.

The Doobie Brothers: Eligible since 1996/1997, the Doobies certainly are one band generally regarded as unfairly dismissed. Though they have always been viewed far too commercial to gain critical favouritism, the Doobie Brothers continue to maintain a loyal following thirty years after they were one of the major players in the Billboard charts. It would by no means be surprising to see them on a ballot soon, though I would not rate them the same chance as the Steve Miller Band.

Electric Light Orchestra: Eligible since 1996/1997 and fronted by Beatle fanatic Jeff Lynne, Electric Light Orchestra started slowly but in the late 1970s they were one of the biggest bands in the world (to illustrate, A New World Record was ranked as the second-biggest album of the 1970s in Melbourne behind Neil Diamond's Hot August Night. They have generally been seen as both too pompous (with their strings) and too slickly commercial by critics, but in recent years their reputation has if anything improved a little (e.g. in The MOJO Collection) so ELO are probably a better bet than the Doobies.

The Average White Band: Eligible since 1998/1999, the Average White Band were the most commercially successful white soul group of the 1970s after Hall and Oates. The fact that Hall and Oates have never been considered by the Nominating Committee is one factor that makes them quite questionable as serious candidates.

The E Street Band: It is hard to see why they were not inducted with Bruce Springsteen in 1998/1999 and it would be equally hard to see them inducted separately when they have done nothing or almost nothing outside of Springsteen's own albums.

The Marshall Tucker Band: One of the mainstays of the "southern rock" movement, they never achieved the respect of inductees the Allman Brothers Band or Lynyrd Skynyrd. They did have considerable commercial success on both singles and album charts during the 1970s and were not detested enough by the critics to hamper their chances. Still, though "Heard It in a Love Song" might be the recognisable song they need to improve their chances, it is difficult for me (the Marshall Tucker Band are little-known in Australia) to see them on the ballot.

Barry White and The Commodores: Eligible since 1999/2000, one is inclined to think they both possess a major chance because of the frequent favouritism toward black artists. Both were major figures on the commercial scene with one very easily recognised song ("Easy" for the Commodores and "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" for Barry White) that greatly enhances their chances. The Commodores are probably the better bet because of their longer career (they had a big post-Lionel Richie hit in 1985 with the Marvin Gaye tribute "Nightshift"), but Barry White is still a good prospect should neither War nor Bobby Womack get in on the 2008/2009 ballot.

The Gap Band: A major 1980s funk band who had relatively limited success on the pop charts, the Gap Band were a major figure in black music when rap was emerging and their role in keeping funk alive during the disco era may have them seen as a serious candidate. However, from what I read there is nothing in their reputation that would suggest they are outstanding enough to deserve a place on the ballot - nor do any Hall observers seem to think they do. One of the less likely black artists on the backlog.

Chaka Khan: Discussed only in 2007/2008 though eligible since 2003/2004, Chaka Khan is revered by some for keeping fairly traditional soul music alive during the disco era. Her iconic song "I'm Every Woman" being covered by Whitney Houston on the Bodyguard soundtrack may increase her visibility, and the fact that Chaka is regarded as "one of the best singers of her generation" may also have been a factor in her recent discussion. Her pre-1978 work with Rufus Khan is often seen by musicians and critics as equal in importance and this may - as with P-Funk - improve her chances as the committee seeks the few candidates from the late 1970s and 1980s with commercial viability and no critical hatred.

Eurythmics: Eligible since 2006/2007, I guessed before the 2008/2009 nominees were announced that Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart would be on the ballot and quite likely elected. The present critical disrespect for all mainstream 1980s white music is the factor that makes me doubt the induction of Eurythmics, but Rolling Stone still listed several of their albums in their Top 500 so that a berth on one of the next three ballots for Annie and Dave is by no means unlikely.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Why don't they take durability seriously?

After meeting me and accepting my mother's failure to find the receipt that would at least have allowed me to get a replacement for my Sunbeam cappuccino machine, I had a few tantrums but in general behaved better than I usually do when really angered at something like that not going as I want.

My mum suggested I do without a cappuccino machine if it is going to anger me as soon as it fails, and I simply said buy the most expensive one as it will be cheapest in the long run through lasting longer!

My mum and brother both doubted this - and they have reason to assume that a high price means more features rather than decent workmanship - and the on Choice magazine my brother had a look at the available cappuccino machines. You know what: the Sunbeam one I bought was still listed as #1, but there was no discussion of its durability or assembly quality. I imagine that if anyone has had a similar experience to mine then the Sunbeam would go straight from first to last unless other brands often have the same fault as my machine. If that be the case, then my fear that tolerably good workmanship is rapidly becoming more and more unaffordable for the average cappuccino lover must be completely correct. If it is becoming that unaffordable, then the only solution would be a consumer boycott or developing a new brand with decent workmanship at sub-$1000 prices!

If either of those is not possible, then at least we should force consumer magazines like Choice to consider durability and workmanship as at least equal in importance for their recommended buys to any other aspect of the cappuccino machines they review!

How a problem turns back the clock

Late in September, after excellent service for a decade from a Sunbeam cappucino machine, my mother bought me a new version of much the same model when we had a problem with the froth.

To my horror, this morning the machine broke down so that the water that was put into the container flowed out whenever I switched it on. I tried to fix it up, but it is clear that the machine is ruined because the problem could only be caused by an electrical fault causing what should wire to the heating element to burn the pipe that normally holds water in the container.

When I noticed the fault, my immediate response was to recall the radical socialist site Wallace's Corner, who claim that under socialism with no profit motive every consumer good produced would be of exceptional quality and would never break down.

In my past experience I have always dreamed of things being warranted for fifty years
and the writings of Wallace's Corner make me feel as though if capitalism were demolished such high quality could become normal. Despite having become more suspicious of radical socialism's ability to solve such problems, the fact that the Mises institute at the other end of the political spectrum has written an article "In Praise of Shoddy Products", which is surprising given they do focus on maximising quality in many of their writings.

Whilst I feel very much that going back to becoming a socialist is a retrograde step, I still feel cheated. If Sunbeam's products really are declining in quality as rapidly as my experience suggests, then one really will have to pay very large prices for decent quality cappucino machines. This morning I told my mother that paying for an $1500 machine that lasts decades rather than a few weeks will be expensive initially but - as I have known before - very cheap in the long term. So, maybe the socialists point that capitalism cheats the poor who cannot afford the best is right even should their remedy be impractical.