Once again I am called upon to vote for nominees to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, that worthy American Institution in Cleveland where the great and the good who produce the music we love are mounted like statues along ‘Route 66’. Some of those nominated have been up before, others are new, but as the years go by I cannot be alone in thinking that time has eroded the eminence of the nominees, of which this year there are 19, an unusually large amount. As ever I can pick five.
In alphabetical order they are: Bad Brains, Joan Baez, The Cars, Chic, Depeche Mode, Electric Light Orchestra, Janet Jackson, Jane’s Addiction, The J. Geils Band, Journey, Chaka Khan, Kraftwerk, MC5, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Steppenwolf, Joe Tex, Yes and The Zombies. It’s a mixed bunch to say the least, ranging from folk to prog, with pretty much everything in between – R&B, soul, AOR, punk, eletro, new wave, grunge, rap, you name it. I don’t think I have ever been faced with such a wide choice.
Interestingly, The Smiths – for whom I have voted in the past but who failed to be inducted – are not on the voter form this time around. Was Morrissey spectacularly rude about the HoF? If so I must have missed it. I’d vote for Johnny Marr any day.
But let us now consider who I can vote for. In the past I have nominated both Kraftwerk and Yes and I will do so again.
Townshend’s work on Who’s Next aside, Kraftwerk’s pioneering use of synthesisers is the foundation for modern dance music and in addition they wrote some lovely, sensuous melodies, of which ‘Europe Endless’ and ‘Neon Lights’ are supreme examples. Regrettably, as I noted before, only Ralf Hütter of the ‘classic’ Kraftwerk (Ralf, Florian, Karl & Wolfgang, all nominated) is still in the group and he’s alienated the other three by sustaining the lucrative KW franchise all for himself, and this might compromise their situation with regard to the ceremony in the event that they are inducted. There is no love lost between the four of them, not least because Hütter is fabulously wealthy and the others aren’t. Nevertheless, they deserve to be in there, even if the way in which they conducted their career was the antithesis of the clichéd rock'n'roll lifestyle.
I have some history with Yes, as can be seen from the two posts about them on this blog, and for them to be inducted would be a fitting tribute to their late bass player Chris Squire, the only Yesman to stay the course through dozens of personnel changes, and also to fellow co-founder, singer Jon Anderson, whose health has given cause for concern in recent years. Incidentally no fewer than eight former or active members of the group have been nominated: Jon and Chris, together with guitarists Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin, keyboard players Tony Kaye and Rick Wakeman, and drummers Bill Bruford and Alan White.
So who else? Let’s eliminate a few first. Perhaps shamefully (and this hasn’t happened before), I am insufficiently familiar with the work of Bad Brains, Jane’s Addiction and Joe Tex to consider them. Joan Baez is a folk singer with a wondrous voice and a renowned activist on the left side of the political divide but she isn’t rock’n’roll. ELO were never my cup of tea, ditto Chaka Khan, Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur. Although I’m familiar with their stuff, I wasn’t much of a fan of The Cars, Journey or Pearl Jam.
That leaves six, of which I can pick three: Chic, Depeche Mode, The J. Geils Band, MC5, Steppenwolf and The Zombies. Well, it’s a crime that Nile Rodgers isn’t already a member of the HoF and Chic have been nominated before, so there’s one of my votes. Depeche Mode will have another chance. The J. Geils Band deserve to be in but it’s not a crime they’re not, not yet anyway. MC5 were America’s first punks, anti-establishment to the max, and I want to vote for them, especially now if you get my drift. As is well known, Steppenwolf coined the term ‘heavy metal’ but, ‘Born To be Wild’ aside, what else? The Zombies were great (and I had a passing acquaintance with the late Paul Atkinson when he worked as an A&R man for Columbia Records in New York in the 70s) and I want to vote them in.
So it looks like Chic, MC5 and The Zombies alongside Kraftwerk and Yes. Any Just Backdated readers care to differ and sway my intentions? I need to get my vote in by December 15, so don’t hang around.