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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame: The Ballot We Have (Not The Ballot We Wish We Had)

Having already complained about the long list of  worthy acts not yet inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, it's time to fill out the ballot we have, not the ballot we wish we had. Let's look at this year's nominees:


Gotta love a band named for a song by The Ramones. This is a band I know more by reputation than by first-hand exposure; "Pay To Cum" and "Big Takeover" are the only two of their songs I can name without Googling, and "Big Takeover" is the only Bad Brains tune on my iPod. A seminal hardcore band, but not one I'm prepared to fight for this year.


When Rufus first hit big with the single "Tell Me Something Good" in 1974, I thought lead singer Chaka Khan had the sexiest voice on AM radio. She's better known for '80s hits like "I Feel For You" (a song I liked quite a bit when it was current), but I'm not convinced her body of work qualifies her for The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.


Chic would get a little more respect from insignificant bloggers like me if this wasn't already their bazillionth appearance among nominees. Always a bridesmaid, that Chic--never a bride! I kinda think they're deserving of induction, but given the prevailing presumption that Chic is on the list of nominees every freakin' year because Jann Wenner so desperately wants 'em in (while Wenner remains stubbornly and dickishly opposed to, say, I dunno, maybe THE MONKEES?!)...well, that sort of situation begs for a push back, dunnit? Am I being petty? Yeah. Damned straight, I am. (Though again, feigning objectivity for just a second, Chic does deserve to be inducted.)


My recollection of Depeche Mode is that they were a lightweight synthpop band that became a mopey, self-important synthdirge band.


A lot of my fellow pop fans adore ELO, while I've never been all that much of a fan. That said, and with the added quibble that I'd rather see The Move inducted first, ELO has indeed put an enduring footprint on pop music, and Jeff Lynne has rightly become a legend in his own right. I'd probably vote for ELO.


The J. Geils Band had a long and illustrious career as both a live act and a recording act throughout the '70s, long before visions of girls in nighties made 'em video stars on MTV. To me, they're probably a Hall Of Fame act, but there are so many other acts I want to see honored first.


I've never had any use for this band.


See, this is what happens when you induct Madonna. Neither Madonna nor Janet Jackson is any more rock 'n' roll than Dolly Parton or Bette Midler, or Placido Domingo, for that matter.  Granted, "rock" should be defined with very broad parameters--I'm okay with a definition that stretches to include latter-day girl-group pop like ABBA and prog-rock like Genesis and hip-hop like Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. But I don't see Janet Jackson within those parameters.


On the other hand, you could make an argument for including folk within those parameters--I certainly think Phil Ochs belongs, for example--and all those protest, Dylan, and Woodstock items on Baez's c.v. certainly bolster her case.


I'll stop just shy of calling Joe Tex a soul legend, but he's awfully damned close. My favorite Tex track is a lesser-known gem called "You're Right, Ray Charles," with an honorable mention for the two sides he did as a member of The Soul Clan (with Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, Arthur Conley, and Don Covay).


Behold the triumphant meatball! People love Journey, critics hate Journey, and I regard Journey with a shrug. "Don't Stop Believin'" has become such a pop-cultural touchstone that I'm no longer capable of loathing it, and there's something be said for heeding The Voice Of The People. I just wish The People liked more of the bands I like.


I used to hear "Pocket Calculator" on a new wavish weekly radio show in the early '80s, but it always seemed so far removed from anything I could ever call rock 'n' roll.


KICK OUT THE JAMS, MUTHA...ahem. So glad to see this incendiary rock band nominated again. There are days (and nights) when I think "Kick Out The Jams" has just gotta be the sine qua non of fist-pumpin' rock 'n' roll...and then I remember that I like The MC5's "Shakin' Street" even more than I like "Kick Out The Jams." The MC5 is one of my two big pick-hits among this year's nominees.


Do we haveta...?  By most prognostications the surest shoo-in among our 2017 nominees, Pearl Jam will somehow struggle on without my vote.


I have a soft spot for these unrepentant rockers, especially "Born To Be Wild" and "Magic Carpet Ride." But I was very surprised to see them nominated; they're just not an act that crosses my mind all that much. I'm overdue to re-acquaint myself with the Steppenwolf catalog, but I'm not yet convinced they're a Hall Of Fame act.


I had a love/hate relationship with The Cars. I thought their best stuff sounded terrific on the radio, and I bought each of their first few LPs. At the same time, I resented their success for irrational reasons: I was pissed off that they were successful--airplay, hit records, acclaim, fabulous babes--and The Ramones weren't successful. I think I was aware of that notion's inherent silliness even at the time that I embraced it. I don't play The Cars much, but I still like 'em, and I kinda hope they do get in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame someday.


My other big pick-hit this year. Really, The Zombies should have gotten in years ago, based on the sheer brilliance of those few shimmering, ornate, perfect records they made in the '60s. The current edition of The Zombies is still making great records today. I fear The Zombies are themselves like the walking dead in this vote, but they are the single worthiest act among this year's nominees.


God, I just feel unforgivably Caucasian when I admit that I can't stand most rap. But the truth will set you...well, either "free" or "on fire"--I can't tell which, because someone spilled pudding on my notes. I will concede that rap does have a rightful place in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, due to its own shared roots and occasional intersection with rock. In the '80s, I loved hearing rap mixed in among the left-of-the-dial rock programmed on WBNY, a college station in Buffalo. But rock and rap have long since diverged, just as rock and country diverged decades ago. I realize that rap will continue to be recognized in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and that it's only a matter of time before Kanye West is inducted. But I ain't voting for it.


When I was a young punk rocker in the '70s, prog-rock was the enemy, man, way more so than even disco was the enemy. ELP? Genesis? Yes?! Gimme my Dead Boys and Sex Pistols, and get that crappy, boring stuff off the turntable! Over the years, my tastes have broadened a little bit; I'm still not a fan of prog, but I recognize its importance and its appeal. Yes may not be my idea of rock, but they're long overdue for induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

And those are our nominees. I don't get a real vote--Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) hasn't quite reached that level yet, but we're almost...uh, nowhere near there--so I hope you'll join me in casting a fan vote at https://www.rockhall.com/vote. You can vote once a day, and the fan vote can sometimes be the difference between an artist being celebrated or snubbed yet again.  Five artists will be inducted, so you can vote for your favorite five.

My five? Glad you asked: The ZombiesMC5, Joe Tex, Electric Light Orchestra, and Yes.  Vote early, vote often.

TOMORROW: we've got one more Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame post left. And it involves starting the whole thing over from scratch.