By Malcolm X Abram
Akron Beacon Journal via McClatchy-Tribune
It’s that time of the year again—the time when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation announces the nominees for the next class of inductees.
Rock and other genre fans, who are still interested in the rock hall’s opinion of whom is worthy of enshrinement, get their musical undies all bunched up at perceived and real slights to their favorite artists.
The 2014 nominees are: the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Kiss, LL Cool J, the Meters, Nirvana, N.W.A., the Replacements, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, Link Wray, Yes and the Zombies.
Artists become eligible 25 years after their first commercial release.
It’s a lengthy list containing several artists who have been nominated before and dissed multiple times. As only five or six of the 16 nominees will make it in, let’s play a quick, nonscientific, speculative game of induction handicapping. We’ll base it on the little information available about the foundation’s 600-plus voting body and the recently introduced fan vote available online at rockhall.com and rollingstone.com.
Among the artists who have previously made the nomination list, those with the best chance of walking up to the stage are a few whose names should have been called years ago, namely Deep Purple (first nominated in 2013) and Kiss (2010). The fact that neither of these seminal, highly influential hard rock bands is already in the hall is a bit of an embarrassment and they are held up as clear examples (along with the Moody Blues and, until last year, Rush) by rock fans that there are biases among the official voters that trump an artist’s real-world contributions.
Other returnees include Chic (the seventh time might be the charm, guys!), New Orleans funk-meisters the Meters (second), emcee/actor LL Cool J (second), the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (second), N.W.A. (second) and Cat Stevens (second). Most of them, save perhaps LL Cool J who will fill the hip-hop seat for 2014 ahead of N.W. A., and Yusuf Islam / Cat Stevens will probably have to wait and try again next year.
Among the first-time nominees, Nirvana, in its first year of eligibility because its debut single “Love Buzz” was released in 1988 a few months ahead of its 1989 debut album “Bleach,” is the only shoo-in among them.
Yeah, boomers and non-alt/grunge lovers can complain all they want, but the surviving members of the band are sure to take the stage in 2014. Nirvana is often credited—or cursed depending on your point of view—with obliterating the party-hearty, girls, girls, girls arena/hair metal era and ushering in the drop-tuning, disaffected, disillusioned, anti-rock star-ambition era.
That that the April ceremony will be happening right around the 20th anniversary of band leader Kurt Cobain’s suicide probably won’t hurt either. And hey, perhaps it’ll be an excuse for Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, to get back in the spotlight!
First-timer Ronstadt, who recently revealed she has Parkinson’s disease, is the list’s lone female solo act and one of only three females — the two singing ladies of Chic also offering a needed estrogen injection—to make the list. Though not a songwriter, Ronstadt is still high on the list of top-grossing female acts in rock/pop and her versatility and longtime success (country-rock? sure; updated takes on early rock ‘n’ roll, easy-peasy; big band American songbook? no problem) make her a likely statue holder come spring.
Peter Gabriel is already in the hall as a member of Genesis, and though his first four solo albums are fine mixes of dark art-rock, technology and some good tunes and he blew up in the pop realm with his 1986 album “So” featuring the Motown-influenced hit “Sledgehammer,” we just don’t think the rock hall voters are in a rush to welcome him.
With Rush’s 2013 entry, progressive and prog-flavored rock bands might start finding their way into the hall and Yes would be a decent place to continue the trend. The band had hits with eight-minute opuses such as “Roundabout” and “I’ve Seen All Good People” in the 1970s and then hit the pop charts pretty hard in the 1980s with “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and other tunes.
An onstage reunion of all the members being inducted (is drummer Bill Bruford being inducted? He’s awesome!) also would be a pretty cool thing to see.
We also wouldn’t be surprised to see pop-rockers Hall & Oates get in on their first try on the basis of their extended string of hits that include six No. 1 singles and 34 others that hit the Billboard charts. Despite Hall & Oates never being considered particularly “cool” or innovative, the duo’s enduring hits are pretty undeniable.
Alt/indie-rock makes some more inroads with the nomination of the Replacements, a beloved darling of critics and rock fans who came up with the rise of mainstream alternative music in the 80s, but we won’t be surprised if the band doesn’t join Nirvana as a 2014 inductee. We’re also not holding out too much hope for first-time nominees Link Wray, whose 1958 song “Rumble” was banned from radio play because of fears it might incite violence, and the 1960s band the Zombies (“She’s Not There,” “Time of the Season”).
The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees will be announced in December and the ceremony will be held in New York in April and aired on HBO in May.