Monday, October 15, 2007

Slim pickings for the Rock Hall...

Got my ballot in the mail today for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Yeah, I’ve been a voter ever since the P-Funk oral history came out in 1998.)

What a weak bunch of nominees this year: Afrika Bambaataa, the Beastie Boys, Chic, Leonard Cohen, the Dave Clark Five, Madonna, John Mellencamp, Donna Summer, the Ventures.

I mean, this very minute... do you feel like hearing music by any of those people?

Madonna has had the biggest career of all of them, so yeah, no problem. She’ll take her place next to the Beatles, Elvis, Little Richard and James Brown. But Cher’s not in... either as a solo artist or with Sonny. If Madonna belongs in, doesn’t Cher?

And what’s up with John Cougar? What kind of Hall of Fame would it be with Mellencamp in and Tom Waits out?

And Bambaataa... but no Kraftwerk?

I guess Donna Summer belongs in. But that’s nothing to get excited about.

Here are some eligible acts that deserved a place on the ballot ahead of the damn Beastie Boys: Albert King, the Meters, Dr. John, Chicago, Los Lobos, Carly Simon... and I’m sure hardcore rockers would make a case for Rush, Judas Priest, Metallica, etc.


S.O.L. said...

David - I agree the list is pretty slim pickings. As you know I caught Mellencamp last weekend in S.F. when he sat in for three numbers with T. Bone Burnett's band. He's got a few pretty cool tunes but HOFer? Not even close.

If there's one name on that list that belongs in, it's Leonard Cohen. I'm not a huge fan of him as a performer but he's written some pretty seminal songs and been covered by people as different as Johnny Cash, Jeff Buckley and Jennifer Warnes. "Famous Blue Raincoat," "Dance Me to the End of Love," "Hallelujah," "First We Take Manhattan," "The Story of Isaac," "Waiting For a Miracle," -- these are some of our best modern American songs. Not to mention, the cat is a fine prose and poetry writer.

Couple all that with the sheer number of singer/songwriters he influenced and I think he definitely belongs in the Rock and Roll HOF.

bumpster said...

This group of nominees and the list of those excluded creates a good argument for calling it the Pop Music Hall of Fame.

DeAngelo Starnes said...

I agree with sol, and especially, bumpster.

A question - do "eligible acts" equal "nominees"? If so, I mean it's a pretty easy vote over everyone but Madonna:

Bad Brains - Thrash Rastas from DC;

Adrian Belew - Guitarist extraordinare for Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, and King Crimson as well as his solo acts.

George Clinton - I think he deserves his own spot.

Sting - see Clinton

Donald Fagen - see Sting and Clinton

Ice-T - pioneer of gangsta rap, whether you like that genre or not. His importance to the hip hop musical idiom is undisputed.

And how The Meters aren't on this list escapes me.

Steven said...

Like the baseball Hall of Fame, the R&R Hof suffers from a lack of definition about who belongs. Again referring to baseball, there's the question, are you voting on peak value, or career value? Sandy Koufax or Don Sutton?

Then there's the part where, absent subjective standards (and it's not clear how objective standards could be established for an artform), all the voting indicates is that the voters liked X and didn't like Y. Since that seems to be what it comes down to, if I had a ballot, I might just vote for the ones I liked best, without worrying about "standards."

Since I believe in the idea of critics, I am willing to pay more attention to critical opinion than I am to what Joe or Jane Doe likes (i.e., sales). For this reason, I find useful, because it collates critical opinion, much like Metacritic does.

Blah blah blah ... the one person on that list that I believe is irrefutably a Hall of Famer, as in "without that person you might as well close the sucker," is Madonna. But there you go ... subjectivity rears its head, so, as someone has already commented, "pop" ain't "rock and roll." This doesn't bother me.

Beyond Madonna, I personally would vote for the Beasties, and while I'm not a fan of Cohen's, I understand why people would vote him in. John Mellencamp is the Enos Cabell of rock, and he doesn't belong anywhere near the Hall without a ticket. Bam maybe in the Peak Value category, Donna Summer over Chic.

"Albert King, the Meters, Dr. John, Chicago, Los Lobos, Carly Simon."

Carly Simon? She can carry Donna Summer's handbag for her, otherwise, stay away. If Johnny Cougar is Enos Cabell, then Chicago is the team Enos played on. Albert King is a fave of mine, although I wouldn't vote for him. A good case can be made for the Meters, Dr. John, and Los Lobos ... if I was voting, I'd figure out a way to get Ziggy Modeliste in, for sure.

Me, I just want to make the list of voters in time to get Sleater-Kinney in there.

susie said...

I went and looked at the list of eligibles and had a veritable 80s flashback...$1 Long Island Iced Teas and all of the attendant mistakes in judgment.

I'm with SOL on Leonard Cohen although I prefer it when other people sing his songs. I can listen to Jeff Buckley sing Hallelujah over and over.

Do you have to vote for five? Will you always get to vote? Looks like it could get even more challenging in the years to come. Flash forward to Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and Jessica Simpson becoming eligible.

I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

dez said...

Madonna doesn't belong in the HOF any more than Mellencamp. 25 years into the game and bitch still can't sing worth a damn.

The Beasties have grown tremendously since their first tracks. I hope they make it in.

Who are The Meters?

Invisible Woman said...

I do like me some Beastie Boys, but the others you mentioned do deserve to get in waaaay first.

Dan Coyle said...

Donna Summer? John Mellencamp? The Dave Clark Five?

The only group I could conciveably vote for is The Beastie Boys, and I agree, Carly Freakin' Simon deserves to be ahead of THEM.

memomachine said...


Rush isn't in the Hall of Fame?

Eric said...

The Beasties absolutely deserve to be in. Paul's Boutique is a sonic masterpiece - part of the trinity of pre-sample-lawsuit rap, along with Nation of Millions and 3 Feet High and Rising. And they've stayed relevant for 20 years, morphing from punks to the first white B-Boys, to Arena rap-rock elder statesmen.

Hell, the video for Sabotage alone should put them in.

So it looks like David Simon's next series is going to be about musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans. Has he called you yet?

Jeff said...

This is a great discussion...I agree with Steven about Madonna, but more than anything this illustrates that the HOF has gotten well into the period when the rock/pop/whatever you want to call it audience totally splintered. As Lester Bangs said upon the death of Elvis, "we will never agree on anything like we agreed on Elvis." Madonna sends shivers down the spine of some; the thought of Rush being in the HOF almost makes me want to give up music entirely. But to each his own, and that's the way things go these days when it comes to music.

I'd vote for Chic, because Rodgers and Edwards were pretty damn omnipresent (and influential) for a few years there. And David, I never get tired of a little "Good Times."

And Steven, special kudos for the "Enos Cabell of rock" comment. Brilliant!

Comb & Razor said...

What a weak bunch of nominees this year: Afrika Bambaataa, the Beastie Boys, Chic, Leonard Cohen, the Dave Clark Five, Madonna, John Mellencamp, Donna Summer, the Ventures.

I mean, this very minute... do you feel like hearing music by any of those people?

let's see... i am ALWAYS down to hear music from Chic. i think they're madly underrated, so i applaud any props they get.

not a huge Leonard Cohen fan, but he is a pretty important artist.

i think Bambaataa and the Beasties deserve to be in... (well, whatever "deserve" means, anyway. it's not like i actually think any of this RRHOF is important in any way.)

what i can see going on is the RRHOF trying to spruce up their image. they seem to be actively combating their image as the Museum of Long-Haired fogeys by reaching beyond garden-variety "rawk" to embrace younger genres like hip-hop and more contentious ones like disco.

i don't think it's a bad thing per se. i mean, it's political, sure... but let's not pretend that ANY of the HOF's appointments have *ever* been based on any kind of objective "merit."

justjudith said...

you think you're having trouble picking now, what's it going to be like in ten years???

i love music but i'm not sure what quantifies a hall of fame nomination if madonna doesn't deserve it. is it the music or the longevity or the cultural impact?

Undercover Black Man said...

Great comments from all.

Comb & Razor: There's just one thing I keep going back to in the Chic catalogue... the two-minute instrumental break in the middle of "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah)" with Nile churning away on rhythm guitar.

Yes, Chic led the league in hitting for a couple of years... but in terms of longevity? Impact? Not museum-worthy. Plus you gotta deduct points for some of the worst lyrics evar!

Undercover Black Man said...

S.O.L.: Your Leonard Cohen defense is duly noted. I know hardly anything about his music. I wanted to check out the documentary that came out this year, but missed it. Did you see it?

Undercover Black Man said...

If Johnny Cougar is Enos Cabell, then Chicago is the team Enos played on.

Steven... now I feel obligated to work in a reference to Andy Etchebarren, regardless of context.

But do you have to hate on Chicago? They are way underrated. I think they set a very high standard of musicianship, pop songwriting and studio production for a solid decade. And "Beginnings" is an all-time jam.

Comb & Razor said...

ha! you hating on Chic's lyrics, UBM?

to be fair, Nile Rodgers maintains that they deliberately kept the lyrics simple(minded) and had the female vocalists sing with that deadpan delivery because

a) they wanted didn't want the vocals to get in the way of the groove

b) they were actually satirizing the vacuity of disco

i dunno how much of that is post-facto intellectualizing on Nile's part, but it does make sense. there was always a certain wry knowingness about the band, and he says they saw themselves as "the black Roxy Music," which is evident from their album covers.

(and Roxy was also a huge influence on Duran Duran, a band who made it clear that they wanted to be "the white Chic")

but that's neither here nor there, i guess.

RE: Chicago... awesome band, especially when Terry Kath was alive. but the Peter Cetera era might have sullied their legacy beyond repair!

Dougfp said...

How are the nominees selected? In my opinion, none of the artists nominated deserves to be in...with the possible exception of Leonard Cohen. Madonna? Please...her music...uh, sucks. I would, however, agree with you that the Meters, Dr. John, Tom Waits, and Los Lobos deserve to be in. They made great music.

The whole process of inducting acts is faintly ridiculous. Ricky Nelson is in (for what? Dying in a plane crash?), but Joe Tex isn't? Martha and the Vandellas are in, but the Shirelles and the Marvelettes (who both had as many hits) aren't?

Is it possible for NO ONE to get in this year? I will definitely join Susie in throwing up if the Dave Clark Five, Donna Summer, or John Mellencamp get in.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ From what I know, Doug, the Rock Hall has a "nominating committee" (don't know how many members) that puts forth the list of nominees. And then those nominees are voted on by a large number of music-industry folks, music journalists, etc. entertainment columnist Roger Friedman posted a scathing piece two weeks ago, describing the Rock Hall nominating process as being the personal plaything of Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner. Which might explain some things.

I know one shouldn't take this Hall of Fame stuff too, too serious... but I was thrilled and delighted when Parliament-Funkadelic got voted in a decade ago. And I went with my boys to Cleveland for the induction ceremony... had a blast.

Steven said...

Chicago: first album yes, not much else. And I've got nothing against pop songwriting. But subjectively, I normally have little interest in musicianship or production, so I'll probably underrate them. Tip for Chicago fans if you don't know it: check out Jill Sobule's "Cinnamon Park."

Someone mentioned Roxy Music, and I mentioned Don't know if this is still true ... I last checked awhile ago ... but at one point, at least, Roxy Music was the most critically acclaimed act (according to that website) that was not in the HoF.

memomachine said...


@ Jeff

the thought of Rush being in the HOF almost makes me want to give up music entirely.

Really? I rather like their music.

Is there any particular reason for your opinion?

Just curious, nothing else intended.

Jeff said...


It's just not my genre - just one man's opinion, but for me they represent a body of music that has gotten too far from the essentials of what made rock and roll vital in the first place. Also, the vocals drive me nuts - again, simply a matter of taste.

But what probably put me over the top was that the guy who lived in the dorm room next to me played "2112" constantly for an entire school year. At least twice a day, sometimes much more than that. I'm not sure any album could withstand that kind of scrutiny, but with a band that didn't move me in the first place, it became torture.

Thembi said...

I've always thought that Donna Summer is kind of a hack. I mean really, has anyone ever been interested in discovering more of her music than they've already heard?

Adam said...

We've spent a lot of time at ALOTT5MA over the years trying to apply Bill James' "Keltner Test" for the baseball Hall to the RRHOF. We're getting started on the 2007 class now.

memomachine said...


@ Jeff

the guy who lived in the dorm room next to me played "2112" constantly for an entire school year


Look. It could be worse. I grew up having to listen to my mother's collection of South Korean crooners trying to emulate Frank Sinatra.

If we lived on a corner penthouse apartment in NYC I'm certain those records would've summoned Zuul!

Russell said...

All Hall of Fames eventually cheapen themselves. If they were willing to have years when no one is admitted they might stay legit. Otherwise they simply beome parodies of their original goals of honoring excellence in a given field. They all eventually eat themselves.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Hard to argue with this.

Anonymous said...

Sorry don't have a blogger account so will post anonymously, bar a singnature name at the end of the post.

I have no idea who is presently in and out the rock hall of fame, but if it were on a sales perspective and longevity record - chicago would go in (even though all the stuff they did after Kath died was pretty much bland and insipid) -They'd be worth it for 25 or 6 to 4 alone. (Note: didn't realise Comb and Razor had already made this point, but this backs it up).

Re: Roxy Music - from a musical perspective, first few albums ace, but post country life into avalon and again it got bland and uninspiring. But Manzanera deserves 'props' for his work on the new David Gilmour record.

With regard to Chic, surely they should be bracketed alongside Earth Wind and Fire, Rose Royce etc, and aren't EWAF equally worthy?

Four that spring to mind that are easily eligible are Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Hall and Oates and Depeche Mode.

Maiden are arguably more worthy than Judas Priest, Lep have two diamond albums (I think), and Hall and Oates have been in the business for 40 years, and the mode regularly sell albums, stadiums and have maintained their relevance at least in popular conscious.

I don't agree with some of the posters that say sales should be discounted in favour of critical appreciation for their contribution - especially that some bands aren't as fashionable as they were.

I should point out I'm a Brit, so when we had a UK Music Hall of fame Joy Division were put in; A band that has had heavy influences on most of our indie output (along with Gang of Four, but sold nowt in comparison to NWOBHM bands like Priest and Lep).

Thanks again for the opportunity to contribute.

Machine Levine

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Machine, welcome and thanks for the input.

I lean more towards rewarding cultural impact and a critical assessment of worth, as opposed to record sales... and by that measure I'll go to my grave saying Kraftwerk belongs in.

Hall and Oates?? Yes, they've sold tons, but... Reminds me of a joke by the absurdist comic Neil Hamburger:

Why did the farmer start a punk rock band?

Because he was tired of haulin' oats!