The 19 potential inductees for next year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class have been announced, and you know what that means: Let the debates begin! Who got snubbed, which nomination was the most surprising, and does Bon Jovi really deserve to be honored among rock’s all-time great bands? Our writers tackle five burning 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame questions.
Overall, what do you think of this year’s class of Hall of Fame nominees?
Michael Gallucci: Like last year’s nominees, the Hall of Fame is playing catch-up with all the artists they’ve neglected over the past three decades. There’s, like, only two nominees on this list who were eligible for the first time this year. All of the other ones could have made it in any other year. This has a lot to do with the dwindling quality of artists too. Things are going to look mighty sad 20 years from now after all of these catch-up bands are finally in. Still, it’s nice to see MC5, the Meters, Nina Simone, the Zombies and a few others here.
Martin Kielty: Usually it’s a mix of “About time,” “Never ever” and “I forgot about them.” This year, though, seems like a relatively strong list, with something to be said for almost everyone – even though I wouldn’t call them all rock artists. As ever, it appears to do more to generate controversy and discussion rather than reflect the greatest contributors to the rock genre. But maybe that’s more worthwhile than it’s ever been, as the “rock is dead” conversation rumbles on.
Dave Lifton: It’s pretty by-the-book. You can put this list up against any recent year and see how they fall into the same patterns: a massively popular but critically hated group, a rapper, a couple of early influences, a metal band, a ‘70s funk group, a couple of bands that are eligible for the first time, some early influences, etc. And it’s rounded out with some critics’ favorites, who seem to show up every year or two.
Vincent Caruso: It’s a great joy to see Radiohead on the ballot, although the band has previously declared themselves to be characteristically indifferent. Their career, the post-hiatus segment of their career namely, has been one of almost nonstop glory—from the fantastic In Rainbows to the epic anniversary reissue of OK Computer. However, there are far more reasons for sighs of dismay than relief. It’s a shame to see the Smiths snubbed after finally earning the tease last year. But they’re hardly the most worthy of the snubbed: Country greats Willie Nelson and Gram Parsons are also absent from the running.
Matthew Wilkening: No alarms and no surprises. With the ’70s acts, we’re pretty much at the “Who’s gonna be the last kid to be picked in gym class?” point. What’s far more interesting is to see the nomination committee navigate between the commercially successful and the critically acclaimed in terms of ’80s artists.
Nick DeRiso: You want the list to right some age-old wrongs (the Cars, Judas Priest, the Moody Blues), to continue recognizing inheritor acts who’ve kept the music vibrant (Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Rage Against the Machine) and to dig deeply into its roots (the Meters, Link Wray, Sister Rosetta Tharpe) – and they’ve done that here. I’m not sure about LL Cool J getting in before Dr. Dre, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Who is the most surprising nominee?
Gallucci: Kate Bush. She’s been eligible for 15 years now, constantly ignored by the Rock Hall and is rarely mentioned in those artists-who-should-be-in-the-Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Fame stories. That said, she’s too British, too weird and has a pretty slim chance of getting in, though I’d love to see her induction.
Kielty: Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan. Not just that they’re not really rock, but also that it’s a kind of lopsided way to get Chaka Khan mentioned.
Lifton: I’d say Kate Bush. You don’t hear too much about her these days, so it’s great to see her recognized.
Caruso: My surprise is shared between Nina Simone and Link Wray here. Not because they’re undeserving. Quite the contrary. That the two weren’t inducted on their eligibility-reaching years (1983 and 1985, respectively), I can’t help but view as bewildering. However, the noticeable increase in interest in Simone the past couple years, bolstered by the great documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? in 2015, gives me hope for her.
Wilkening: Nothing’s very shocking here. The only surprises to be found are of the “How are they not in already?” (the Cars) or “Wow, they’re really opening the floodgates” (Bon Jovi) variety.
DeRiso: The Meters. Not because they don’t so richly deserve it, but just because their legacy seems to have been so wrongly forgotten over the years. Don’t think the Meters belong? Exhibit A: Dr. John’s ‘Desitively Bonnaroo.’ Case closed.
What’s the most surprising snub?
Gallucci: I know the popular answer here is Soundgarden, but there are better bands from the era that should get in before them (like Nine Inch Nails). I’m always surprised that Roxy Music are left off year after year. They were a major influence on punk, New Wave and all forms of college/alternative/indie rock over the years. And they were a great band. So why are they missing from the list of nominees … again?
Kielty: The Verve, but I say that as a British-based writer. It’s difficult to overstate the impact of Urban Hymns here in the U.K. in 1997. The hype had begun months before anyone heard it, and it was impossible to argue the album hadn’t earned every minute of its fame once it arrived. That record changed a lot of things for a lot of people – but perhaps only on this side of the big water.
Lifton: The Jam never had many hits in America, but when you look at how consistently they were in that short period of time, and how influential they were on Britpop in the ‘90s, it’s amazing that they don’t seem to be on the radar. Hell, Paul Weller should even be inducted as a solo artist by now in a just world.
Caruso: Devo! With last year’s ballot making room for Bad Brains, the Cars and Kraftwerk, the committee seemed to signal that they were growing comfortable with a bit of weirdness. None of these bands wound up inducted, it’s true, and that only the Cars among them managed to re-enter the ballot this year might prove that my surprise is unwarranted. On the other hand, Cheap Trick‘s induction in 2016 is perhaps good reason to stay optimistic for the weirdos.
Wilkening: Soundgarden, obviously. Even before Chris Cornell’s death, they figured to be next in line from the grunge era now that Nirvana and Pearl Jam are in. But it actually might be a good thing. Judging from what Matt Cameron recently said, the band are still processing their grief, so maybe they are best left alone for a while.
DeRiso: Soundgarden, by a country mile. They’ve been overlooked in favor of more mainstreams grunge brethren like Pearl Jam for far too long. Suddenly, the time seemed right. After all, Pearl Jam earned entry last year. Chris Cornell’s tragic death should have opened the door even wider for a needed critical re-evaluation.
Okay, here’s the big one: Should Bon Jovi be in the Hall of Fame?
Gallucci: No. While “Livin’ on a Prayer” is catchy as hell, and a pretty good song, the band’s hair-metal roots, consistent genre jumping in search of an audience and, let’s face it, second-rate imitations of so many better artists (start with fellow New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen, and move on to pretty much anyone else who’s made heartland-based rock ‘n’ roll over the past 30 years) make them insignificant as far as these things go. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get in based on their commercial impact.
Kielty: Without a doubt. I’ve never been their biggest fan, but it’s impossible to deny their impact, their cultural presence and their longevity. We criticize the ’80s a lot, but as a function of their time, they did a lot more with the confines than many bands did – and changed with the times too. There are plenty of other bands I’d like to see in there first, but Bon Jovi have earned their induction several times over.
Lifton: I don’t think it’s a bad idea for groups that have been insanely popular over decades despite getting no respect from critics to be in the Hall. Regardless of what I or any of the rest of us may think about their music, they’re part of the story of rock ‘n’ roll too. It really can’t be told without including Patti Smith and the Velvet Underground … and Journey and Bon Jovi.
Caruso: Let’s take a look at some of Bon Jovi’s contemporaries who have earned induction: Journey, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Blondie, Talking Heads, Bruce Springsteen and Genesis. The list seems to be divided between acts whose impact transparently reverberates through pop culture today (Blondie, Costello) and those who commanded the commercial height of their musical territory (Genesis, Springsteen) with some overlap between the two (Talking Heads). Not seeing where Bon Jovi fit. I say pass.
Wilkening: Yup! It’s the Hall of Fame, not hipness. Like it or not, Springsteen fans, this is how your hero’s influence was felt and interpreted by the next generation. You can’t tell the story of ’80s rock without “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Also, Def Leppard better be next.
DeRiso: There was certainly an era when I would have said no, since Bon Jovi were always more popular than they were influential. But the Hall has been moving more toward recognizing mainstream success as much as direct musical impact for a while. In that context, their candidacy seems like something of an inevitability.
Who do you think will get in this year?
Gallucci: I think Radiohead is the one shoo-in this year. Simply put, no band has mattered as much as them over the past 25 years. They’ve released one great record after another, and have constantly redefined themselves in the process — all the hallmarks of a great band. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rage Against the Machine — like Radiohead, this is their first year of eligibility — get in too. They pretty much set the standard of politicized alt-rock/hip-hop music with their excellent debut album. Plus, guitarist Tom Morello is a favorite of Rock Hall voters.
Kielty: No idea. I can’t read America anymore. Not sure I ever could. But I’d love it to be Kate Bush, Judas Priest, Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Link Wray – I think that would be a lovely balance of the best of the music we all love.
Lifton: Bon Jovi and Rage Against the Machine (as much because they want to milk the possibility of a high-profile reunion for both bands, and I’m guessing Bon Jovi will win the fan vote). LL Cool J (they really should nominate more than one rapper just so it doesn’t seem so obvious) and Radiohead are also locks. For the final one, I want to think the Cars will finally make it, but something tells me Eurythmics will get in. Sister Rosetta Tharpe will be inducted as an Early Influence, and the Meters will get the Award for Musical Excellence that they always give to sidemen on the strength of their work as Allen Toussaint’s house band.
Caruso: Let me start by admitting that A) I am terrible at predictions and B) I am interminably bad luck. But in the spirit of giving, I foresee (but hopefully don’t curse) Nina Simone, J. Geils Band, the Zombies and the Cars as this year’s lucky winners.
Wilkening: Radiohead’s the lock, with Rage Against the Machine right behind them. Bon Jovi, most likely. The Cars are so overdue, and seem to match up with the tastes of the voters so well that it’s just shocking they aren’t in already. My inner conspiracy theorist says it’s no coincidence that Judas Priest are working on a new album right now.
DeRiso: I don’t traditionally do well at predictions. Last year, for instance, I thought they’d pass on ELO, and wrongly picked Janet Jackson. That said, it’s past time – long past time – for the Cars to get in, and I have a feeling this is their year. Sorry, Ric Ocasek, if I just cursed it.
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