Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2017: Our Writers Answer Five Big Questions
The announcement of nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's class of 2017 gives us another chance to evaluate the relative merits of these acts – but also the state of the institution itself.
Is there a larger message to be learned from this year's list? Does the Hall of Fame, even at this late date, still have the ability to surprise? Putting aside the annual gnashing of teeth over who isn't in, who would you actually vote for? And why do they hate metal?
Our writers gathered to sort it all out in an unfiltered roundtable discussion ...
1) What do you think of this year’s list of nominated artists?
Michael Gallucci: It's a pretty typical Rock Hall list: a few obvious picks, an obscure R&B singer, a hip-hop icon, a handful of artists who have been kicking around as potential nominees for years now. ... In other words, it's pretty much what I expected.
Jeff Giles: I'm just old enough to still be routinely weirded out by the prospect of career honors for artists who released their debut albums when I was in high school. Setting that aside, sure, why not this group of nominees? The Rock Hall has gotten a lot of the slam-dunk inductees out of the way. Every year it gets more subjective, and there are more aging rock fans who don't understand how [act's name here] can possibly be considered for inclusion alongside Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley.
Dave Lifton: I think they're in a period of growing pains, where they're trying to reflect how rock evolved beyond the sound that became defined as "classic rock," while at the same time some of the people on the committee are trying to get in some bands that were more about influence than sales – like the Zombies, Kraftwerk and Jane's Addiction.
Nick DeRiso: They're certainly righting some wrongs with the inclusion of Yes, Journey and the Electric Light Orchestra – though it would have meant a lot more had this long-delayed nomination arrived before Yes stalwart Chris Squire passed away. On the other hand, that very nostalgia might be the only reason they finally – finally – received the nod.
Matthew Wilkening: It’s bigger than usual, 19 artists instead of 15 the past two years. If you’re cynical, you could just say this is their way of deflecting criticism over the artists that haven’t been inducted yet: “Hey, we nominated them, it’s up to our voters after that.” But more positively, it’s good to see them include a wide variety of artists from different genres and eras.
2) What’s the most surprising inclusion in this year’s pool?
Gallucci: Bad Brains. They made almost no noise outside of the hardcore punk scene of the early and mid-'80s, and even today they're often neglected when people discuss the genre. But like the Velvet Underground in the '60s, they were a huge influence on so much great music that followed.
Giles: Bad Brains! It was a nice surprise too.
Lifton: It's good to see Joe Tex on there. He's one of the most underrated soul singers ever.
DeRiso: The J. Geils Band – a group that, like Journey, is better known for their later, more pop-oriented stuff, but offered rich early musical experiences that certainly warrant their inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Wilkening: Journey. Which is not to say that they are undeserving, simply that the poppy, polished aesthetic of their most popular ‘80s work doesn’t fit with the kind of artists the Hall has previously nominated. Maybe this will open the floodgates, and artists such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Foreigner will get nominated in future years.
3) Which 5 artists would you vote for, from this pool?
Giles: Chic, Kraftwerk, Yes, the MC5, and Joan Baez — although it says something that I'd only listen to one of those acts for pleasure.
Lifton: I try to stay away from these arguments every year. I'm not big into awards ceremonies in general and, besides, I don't think the hall should necessarily mirror my record collection. But if I had to choose, definitely Chic (Nile Rodgers is so deserving, and they tease him every year) and Yes (prog needs to be represented better, and I really want to see that debate over which members are allowed in). After that, I'd go with Joe Tex, the Zombies and ELO.
DeRiso: Chic, Journey, the Cars, Tupac Shakur, Yes. ELO, unfortunately, are the bridesmaids – this time.
Wilkening: The Cars, Yes, MC5, Electric Light Orchestra and Jane’s Addiction, whose impact on future generations of rockers is only going to continue to grow.
4) Which 5 artists do you think will actually be inducted?
Gallucci: The J. Geils Band, Kraftwerk, MC5, Pearl Jam and Tupac Shakur.
Giles: Pearl Jam and Tupac seem like odds-on favorites. Baez certainly merits inclusion. Chic is long overdue, and Yes should get the sentimental vote.
Lifton: Journey (I'm sure the committee, who hated Journey back in the day, are gonna vote them in for the hopes of getting a Steve Perry reunion), Yes, Janet Jackson, Pearl Jam and Tupac Shakur. Nile Rodgers remains the Susan Lucci of the Hall.
DeRiso: Pearl Jam, Yes, Chic, Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur.
Wilkening: Pearl Jam, 2pac, MC5, Yes, Chic.
5) What’s the most surprising exclusion from this year’s nominated class?
Gallucci: Roxy Music. They've been eligible for 20 years now and have never been nominated. They've influenced so many artists over the past 40 years, many of whom were inducted years ago. What's going on here?
Giles: Everyone on the staff is probably already painfully well aware of the fact that I think halls of fame and awards ceremonies are stupidly beside the point when it comes to art, but that being said, it wouldn't be a bad thing if Todd Rundgren or Warren Zevon got their due from the Hall. And this would have been a good year for Motörhead too.
Lifton: Probably Husker Du, who I don't think have ever been nominated. And that would also be a great will-they-or-won't-they-reunite story? Come on, Hall, get with it!
DeRiso: Motorhead, because – with Lemmy's sudden passing – I figured the Yes corollary would apply here as well.
Wilkening: The lack of a straight-up metal nominee. The Rock Hall needs to get some more headbangers on their committee. Either Iron Maiden or Judas Priest would be a great place to start.
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