Thursday, 30 August 2012

The 2012/2013 Rock Hall ballot: a new dawning?

Over the past three years, I have done predictions for the 2011/2012, 2010/2011 and 2009/2010 ballots for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I will admit I have never been remotely correct with a very few exceptions, but I still enjoy the work, especially as Future Rock Legends have been as slow as I have looking at the issue.

When I first looked at the future of the Rock Hall around the time of the 2005/2006 ballot, I always thought that the 2012/2013 ballot would be something of a turning point because I felt that it would mark the date at which underground political hip hop entered the mainstream consciousness of Blue America with the rise of Public Enemy and N.W.A., who were as central to the Bush Senior Era as bands like the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix were to the 1960s. There was also key grunge artist Soundgarden, whose eligibility has been put forward without results since they did have a recording out on a 1986 compilation.

Some critics, however, doubt that an aging Nominating Committee will actually take advantage of the creativity of the Bush Senior Era and will focus on a few commercially successful artists that at least had critical respectability, along with a backlog that fails to shrink in size as it gets more and more remote into the past.

I am not sure that the Nominating Committee is opposed to rap, even though it has been slower that I would have guessed half a decade ago at inducting those rap artists one would have expected to see on Rock Hall ballots.

I predict that the following eleven artists will be on the 2012/2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot:
  • The Shangri-Las: A group oddly overlooked for many years that both epitomised the girl-group sound with such songs as “Leader of the Pack” and later covered by such heavy rock groups as Aerosmith, the Shangri-Las would on the face of it be expected to have been at least seriously considered much earlier: they have after all been eligible since 1990/1991. Perhaps confusion over what side of “women in rock” they really represent has hindered them, but now it seems the Shangri-Las should ahve a real chance.
  • Captain Beefheart: Now deceased but still unique, Beefheart has been part of the backlog for two decades without a nomination. The fact that the MC5 and New York Dolls have not recently been nominated suggests some may think a new name will need to be tried, and Beefheart is one who might draw attention if he were nominated. Many people know the name but not his music, though Trout Mask Replica remains an icon.
  • Yes: A much-respected band in a maligned genre, Yes is one group I have been expecting on a ballot soon after the induction of Genesis. In some ways, they were a more respected group even though they did go the way of their contemporaries after the “punk revolution” and tightening of the belts by record companies. Their reputation is good enough that a place on the ballot does not seem improbable.
  • War: The rap revolution ought in theory to revive interest in 1960s and 1970s funk that was the precursor to rap. Although War, largely arising out of the Animals’ Eric Burdon, are not a classic “funk” band in that sense, they do stand as one of the most important “soul” artists of the 1970s. Having been nominated twice makes one think War must have a good shot at getting on the ballot again, especially with a sampling compilation album Rap Declares War at the height of the Bush Senior Era.
  • KISS: If you are looking for a metal group for this year's ballot, it is tough since key underground metal artists like Slayer, Sepultura and Pantera stand so far from the Nominating Committee. KISS, however, have already been nominated once and seem the most likely metal group to balance out this year’s ballot. Their commercial success and over the years, improved critical reputation stand KISS in quite good stead to eventually get in.
  • Donna Summer: As the queen of disco and often cited as a snub, Summer has been on the ballot often enough to suggest she will get another chance even at a period much more difficult for established candidates than was the period from 2002/2003 to 2011/2012.
  • The Cure: Having reached the 2011/2012 ballot twenty-five years after they grew to prominence in the United States, but before their number two hit “Love Song” is telling in their favour. As the first band to popularise the “goth” image the Cure are of considerable cultural significance, and they had a definite if not crucial role in the culture of the period.
  • Sonic Youth: Although it took time before they were discussed, they were a band who captured attention by their remarkable guitar tunings and pop hooks that allowed a band generally viewed as “noise rock” to sign with a major label and in 1994, even dent the Billboard Top 40. Their influence, both in terms of women-in-music and in new guitar sounds, is such that it woudl be hard to see Sonic Youth missing out as the Bush Senior generation emerges.
  • LL Cool J: The first of the major rappers to emerge commercially, LL Cool J has already been nominated twice and it seems like it will only take a couple more nominations before he is elected as the rap section of the backlog disappears. Many see LL Cool J as the first “new school” rap artist - preceding the political and gangsta rappers by two years with Radio - and such acclaim furthers his chances.
  • Public Enemy: Not only the most political and most influential of all the hip hop artists of the Bush Senior Era, but also successful commercially with four Top 20 albums in the early 1990s. Chuck D and Flavor Flav were icons of the generation coming of age during the Bush Senior Era, rivalled only by Metallica. Rolling Stone, too, lavished praise on Public Enemy’s late 1980s and early 1990s albums, which only confirms them as the premier chance for the class of 2012/2013.
  • N.W.A.: Because they burned out badly after one famous album in Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A. never achieved the fame or infamy of Public Enemy, but they were equally important to the rap revolution of the Bush Senior Era. Where Public Enemy focused on politics, N.W.A. combined this with the gangster lifestyle of so many blacks to create the controversial genre of “gangsta rap”, which led to calls for censorship in the 1990s.

If the eleven artists listed above do not make the 2012/2013 ballot, then it will probably because some of these make the list:
  • The Spinners: A popular funk group of the 1970s long ignored by thsoe in authority, the Spinners’ commercial success has seen their fame not appreciated by the Nominating Committee until recently, when they were nominated without success in 2011/2012. The more competitive atmosphere of 2012/2013 may not favour them, but they should not be ruled out.
  • Dick Dale: As the original “guitar god”, Dale has attracted much attention even though he never had any commercial success. His influence on more famous stars such as Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, however, is a very good reason for Dale’s being enshrined, and his consideration after a long period (he has been eligible since 1988/1989) and the Nominating Committee may be keen on recognising the first so-called “guitar god”.
  • Joe Tex: Previously though of as a certain induction soon after several nominations, Tex may well be drifting away from the radar of the Nominating Committee with the rap revolution to be accounted for - this even though some have though Tex’s style of singing to influence rap and that he was a rival to first-time inductee James Brown.
  • The Monkees: Apparently vetoed by some in the Nominating Committee, but the Monkees have long been viewed as a severe snub even though some regard them as a joke. They were the best-known “teen pop” group during the 1960s, and their members later had success as solo artists in the 1970s. Given that some in the Nominating Committee have long voted for the Monkees, it would not be impossible to see 2012/2013 as a year for them.
  • The Sir Douglas Quintet: Their “Tex Mex” sound won them and leader Doug Sahm critical acclaim and a longtime cult following, which clearly has had them viewed as a crucially important band in the development of country rock during the 1970s. They reached the ballot in 2005/2006, so one should certainly look at them.
  • T. Rex: One artist whom I have expected to see on the ballot soon with their critical reputation and status as the moniker for the glam movement, T. Rex are only doubtful because of their “one hit wonder” status for “Get It On” in the United States. However, the status of their album Electric Warrior with Rolling Stone as number 160 on their (disparaged) Top 500 ought to dismiss such claims - even its cover art has been ranked as some of the best ever.
  • Chic: Six places on the ballot without an induction is questionable: being cited as an influence my most commercially successful bands of the 1980s makes them of importance to that era, which may lessen their chances in 2012/2013 and later. Voters could neglect Chic forever, but its hard to see how one of the most respected groups in a movement that shaped the late 1970s just as much as acclaimed punk could be out of the running.
  • Black Flag: If they get in Black Flag would - even including the Velvets - be the least commercially successful group to ever do so, but their influence on music is of great importance. Their sheer aggression was a total stripping down and hardening of rock, yet when combined with elements of progressive rock it shaped the sound of such bands as Metallica and Megadeth, and also such post-rockers as Slint.
  • Afrika Bambaataa: As the rap era gets into full swing with the 2012/2013 newly eligibles, Afrika Bambaataa - already on the ballot in 2007/2008 - would have a very good chance of being enshrined as one of the first pioneers in rap with “Planet Rock”. Their relative lack of commercial success may not be an issue with so many critics choosing to ignore the commercial artists of the Reagan Era.
  • The Replacements: Although they never reached major commercial success the Replacements were and remain one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the Reagan Era, and did make the transition to a major label much more effectively than Minneapolis rivals Hüsker Dü. Their chances do depend on whether Reagan-Era underground acts will be acknowledged, but Richie Unterberger once said they had a real chance.
  • Boogie Down Productions: Though not as critically acclaimed as N.W.A., they are generally regarded as an important pioneer of “gangsta rap” with their debut album Criminal Minded - which notably received a review from avant garne webzine Dusted, suggesting even today they have hip credibility. Then there is leader KRS-One rapping for R.E.M. on “Radio Song” as further evidence BDP might be on the radar.
  • The Pixies: Regarded as an essential influence on Nirvana and the first of the American “alternative” groups to become a big seller - though they were much bigger in Europe - the Pixies are a group whose sales are considered questionable for the Hall, though no alternative group before them sold as well. It is still tempting to think them as too “underground”, but then their critical reputation and influence might be enough for a chance eventually.

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