With the regularity of the clocks going back this weekend to mark the end of British Summer Time, my nomination form for next year’s inductees into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame lands on my doormat. But something is different this year. Though no one informed me officially, it has come to my notice that fans can now vote for whomsoever they wish to enter the Pearly Gates of Cleveland, a worthy gesture indeed, but nothing on the HoF’s website indicates how much weight is attached to fans’ votes, as opposed to votes from grizzled old rock writers like me. The slightly sinister element of secrecy that has characterised the inner workings of the HoF since its inception in 1983 is ongoing.
As I have noted before, the need to induct five new acts into the R&R HoF every year has inevitably resulted in a lowering of the criteria, with the inevitable result that more and more of what, with respect, I would term B-listers are nominated and inducted. A secondary motive is the commercial potential of keeping the show on the road, ie satisfying sponsors and obtaining revenue from the ceremony itself, which usually takes place in New York in February and costs an arm and a leg to get in. In fairness, some of the money goes to music-related charities.
There are 16 nominees this year, rather too many in my opinion: Pat Benatar, The Dave Matthews Band, Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Judas Priest, Kraftwerk, MC5, Motorhead, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren, T. Rex and Thin Lizzy.
If I am to be ruthlessly logical about the listing, it poses few problems in terms of how to cast my votes. But firstly I need to eliminate several acts. I do not own, and have never owned, records by six acts on this list (Pat Benatar, The Dave Matthews Band, Judas Priest, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G. and Soundgarden), nor have I ever seen any of these in concert. I have owned, but no longer own, records by The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, MC5, Motörhead, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan and Thin Lizzy, though I have seen four of these (Doobies, Motörhead, Rufus and Lizzy) on stage.
I can therefore eliminate 12 of the 16 nominees, my thinking being that if I never owned their music, or opted to dispense with it later in life, then I can’t have rated them very highly or, perhaps more to the point, I grew out of them and decided that, since it was unlikely I would ever play their records again, I might as well take them to the charity shop.
This leaves Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, Todd Rundgren and T. Rex, all of whom will get my vote, though I have only seen the latter two on stage. I’m slightly ashamed not to be voting for MC5 (for political reasons) and Motörhead (because Lemmy represented the spirit of R&R far more than Ralf Hütter but the fact is these days I enjoy Kraftwerk’s music far more than Motörhead).
I should perhaps point out that the fans’ votes to which I alluded above are being collated at the R&R HoF with an ongoing leader board posted online at https://vote.rockhall.com/results/. Worryingly, it states that fans are restricted to ‘one ballot per day’ which I understand as meaning you can vote for your choice seven times a week. The most recent leader board reveals that, in order, Pat Benatar, the Doobies, Soundgarden, Dave Matthews and Judas Priest are the front runners. I rarely pick the winners, of course, and each year enclose with my voting form an angry letter bemoaning the fact that Richard Thompson and Slade have never been nominated.
But I have chosen four acts (Dep Mode, KW, Todd and T. Rex) and have to nominate five so, as in previous years, I will ask readers of my Just Backdated blog to nominate a fifth candidate for me. Who shall it be friends?