March 13, 2017

Long Live Prog: 5 Prog Acts Due for the Rock Hall

"Long Live Rock" is the Rock Hall's shiny new slogan, but the panoramic picture that is rock and roll has not entirely come into focus in Cleveland. Many legitimate rock subgenres—key building blocks of the rock and roll pyramid, if you will—are not yet in place. Goth? Not yet... sad! Electronic music? Kraftwerk's been nominated four times to no avail. Industrial? Nine Inch Nails haven't been pounded in yet, despite two tries. And let's not get started on '80s hard rock/"hair metal" which effectively has zero representation in the Hall thus far, despite many possibilities. It appears these subsets are just too edgy for that pyramid on Lake Erie.

Still, there are reasons for hope despite the Hall's seemingly exclusionary policy. One beloved subgenre, progressive rock, or "prog," has seen its fortunes improve, especially of late. In 2013, Rush was finally welcomed into the Hall to the ovation of suburban geeks and Bass Player magazine subscribers everywhere, and next month at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, another long-snubbed prog favorite, Yes, will be inducted (sadly two years too late for their late bassist, Chris Squire, to have seen it happen).

As the Rock Hall no longer considers prog to be a four-letter word, here are five more progressive rock acts due for induction:

King Crimson
King Crimson - The prog mothership. Much as Kraftwerk created the boilerplate for electronic music, Robert Fripp and a huge, shape-shifting cast of instrumental wizards (Tony Levin, John Wetton, Ian McDonald, Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford, Greg Lake and many others) set the prog template. They're now 24 years overdue for the Hall.

The Moody Blues - Disregard singer-guitarist Justin Hayward's recent lament that "It's too late now" for the Moody Blues' Rock Hall nomination/induction; it's really not. The nearly three-decade snubbing of these orchestral English prog masters could easily come to an end, if the trend indicated with Rush and Yes continues. A nomination this October almost feels inevitable.

Procol Harum
Procol Harum - Nominated in 2013, and 25 years eligible, the soulful British prog troupe behind "Whiter Shade of Pale" could easily return to the ballot, especially if Nomination Committee member Steven Van Zandt has anything to do with it. They are a beloved progressive rock entity, in any case, and one of those overdue groups that seem to make perfect sense for the Rock Hall. 

Jethro Tull - Eligible for 24 years now, Jethro Tull is one of those bands casual observers of the Rock Hall express shock over when you tell them they're not in yet. With "Aqualung," "Locomotive Breath," and "Bungle in the Jungle" to the band's credit, not to mention a memorable Anchorman reference, it's getting tougher as the years pass to justify their absence from the Hall. Heaving sighs and eyerolls from critics certainly haven't prevented other acts from being inducted. Even with the flute often front and center, the Tull does rock pretty damn hard.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Emerson, Lake & Palmer - A progressive rock supergroup, London, England's ELP—keyboardist Keith Emerson, singer-bassist Greg Lake, and drummer Carl Palmer—enjoyed commercial success and radio's embrace, even though they had their critics ("A waste of time, talent and electricity," sniped DJ John Peel). Musically gifted as they were audacious, ELP notably brought orchestras on tour to recreate their complex, classical-influenced sound. The singles "Karn Evil 9" and "Lucky Man" were rotated endlessly on the FM rock dial in the '70s and beyond, and the trio built a dynamic, influential discography, including Brain Salad Surgery (featuring cover art by H.R. Giger). As is too often the case with being honored by the Rock Hall, any induction would be posthumous for two-thirds of the band, as both Emerson and Lake passed in 2016. They still very much belong in the conversation.

February 23, 2017

Induct Them Already: Considering the Rock Hall's Award for Musical Excellence

The voters don't always get it right. There's a hopeful expectation of essential knowledge, and informed voting, but that is a presumption of an ideal that too often fails to materialize.

In the face of this condition, how does an institution course correct? What recourse does an experiment in democracy have when the constituents' choices don't completely mesh with an aspirational vision of ... well, if not utopia, then a functioning entity that respects history and supports a more perfect union?

In Rock Hall terms, voters get a lot right, but also a lot wrong. Apparently, the remedy for a worthy act repeatedly not getting enough votes to achieve induction is the Award for Musical Excellence. As defined on the Rock Hall's official website:

"This award honors performers, songwriters and producers who have changed the course of music history. These artists have dedicated their lives to creating influential, important music infused with originality, and have achieved a level of timeless distinction."

That definition lends itself to a broad, every-individual-knows-best argument akin to the Rock Hall's parallel "Performer" induction process, which is the true, knock-down-drag-out main event, and one annually rife with cries of injustice, predictable fan votes and the perennial, exhausting "rap ain't ROCK" tirades on far too many online comment boards.

Nile Rodgers
Bestowing the Award for Musical Excellence is unilateral and problematic, despite its function of sometimes tying loose ends that probably needed to be tied (E Street Band in 2014, Leon Russell in 2011). It can signal elitist string-pulling (Ringo Starr's induction in 2015 was put in motion when Paul McCartney realized Starr had not yet been put in for his solo career), or in the case of this year's recipient Nile Rodgers, a bungled decision that omits Rodgers' 11-times-nominated funk/disco band Chic. What is one to do when a hot club you've been trying to get into finally lets you in, but your friends have to stay outside? In light of his newfound inductee status, Rodgers, in an interview with Rolling Stone last December, expressed confusion:

"It's sort of bittersweet. I'm a little perplexed because even though I'm quite flattered that they believed that I was worthy, my band Chic didn't win. They plucked me out of the band and said, 'You're better than Chic.' That's wacky to me."

Rodgers' situation is the inverse of the E Street's Band Musical Excellence recognition, and an outlier in Rock Hall history: Here's the mastermind of Chic, nominated a record 11 times with that band, yet never inducted. How do you solve that problem? Well, the Rock Hall simply grants Rodgers the Musical Excellence honor, ostensibly to give a music industry genius, pioneer, performer and producer his due. Despite all this, Chic could still technically be nominated in the Performer category again (!), however unlikely that may be at this juncture.

Leaving Chic out of it for a second, maybe there are some commonalities between Rodgers and previous Musical Excellence Award winners. In 2012, the Musical Excellence Award was granted to producers Tom Dowd, Glyn Johns, and Cosimo Matassa. Like Rodgers, they are legendary record producers, and deserving of the honor. Rodgers easily belongs in the Rock Hall for his production work alone (David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, Daft Punk, etc.).

Still, it's impossible to ignore Chic, the elephant in the room. As Starr and Russell are both musicians that potentially could have entered the Hall as "Performers" through the established voting process, yet were ushered in through the Musical Excellence side door, it's not a stretch to think the committee could have just granted all of Chic the Musical Excellence distinction; it would have cleared them from the nomination pipeline, and furthermore, made Rodgers and his fans even happier. Why the Rock Hall brass decided to isolate Rodgers is confounding.

There are flaws in the Rock Hall inductee selection process, but at the same time there are options outside "Performer"—for instance, the "Early Influences" induction category that has granted a "Hall pass" to the "5" Royales, Pete Seeger, and Robert Johnson, among others. And as imperfect as it is, Musical Excellence will be used by the Rock Hall, for better or worse. If used appropriately, the category could really work in many artists' favor. As long as it's on the table to get overdue artists in, why not deploy the Musical Excellence honor for the greater good? There are many other snubbed acts of Chic's ilk that never seem to generate enough votes to get into that pyramid in Cleveland. The Rock Hall brass could use it to offset the more stagnant votership that repeatedly snubs deserving artists. Oftentimes, these artists appear on the ballot, disappear, and then appear yet again, to no avail. And with every passing year, their chances of being voted in as performers just seems to dwindle. Here is just a smattering of "multiple nominee, never inductee" acts that might fit this Musical Excellence approach:

  • Chuck Willis (6 nominations)
  • Joe Tex (5 nominations)
  • Kraftwerk (4 nominations)
  • War (3 nominations)
  • The Meters (3 nominations)
  • The Spinners (3 nominations)
  • Gram Parsons (3 nominations)
  • Johnny Ace (2 nominations)
  • Mary Wells (2 nominations)

There are many ways to slice and dice this argument, and other solid ideas, from establishing a veterans committee to increasing the number of annual inductees, have been broached. Any Rock Hall follower will tell you their own wish list, while others might point out some never-nominated artists that are especially egregious snubs: Johnny Burnette and the Rock 'n Roll Trio, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton, Connie Francis, Captain Beefheart, Harry Nilsson, the Monkees, Roxy Music... the sad song never ends, while the museum in Cleveland has become something of a glass-paneled wailing wall, quite contrary to architect I.M. Pei's original intentions.

If used wisely, the Musical Excellence award might be one progressive solution to gradually clear some of the snubbed artist backlog and right some overdue wrongs. Is the Rock Hall up to the task?

January 19, 2017

One and Done? Artists That Should Return to the Rock Hall Ballot

One is the loneliest number... especially if you're a musician with a single Rock Hall nomination, and still on the outside looking in.

While a growing multitude of worthy artists remain excluded from that famous pyramid on Lake Erie, it's intriguing to consider those in the "one nomination club." There are 21 acts with this distinction; below is a list of 10 that by all rights should return to the ballot.

New York Dolls
New York Dolls
Nominated for Class of 2001 
It's interesting that Aerosmith was also on this ballot, and got in, as Steven Tyler would be the first to tell you how influential the New York Dolls were on his band. Deeply impactful on everyone from the Smiths to Guns N' Roses, the shambolic glam godfathers—David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, Syl Sylvain, Arthur Kane, and Jerry Nolan—certainly deserve another shot at the Rock Hall.

Bon Jovi
Nominated for Class of 2011
Love'em or hate'em, even a brief survey of Bon Jovi's album sales, massive radio/MTV hits, and global popularity reveals that they're just too significant an act for the Hall to ignore permanently. The Jersey boys were nominated once, but they've been down on their luck with the institution since. Last October, Jon Bon Jovi had some rather candid, choice words about unspecified Rock Hall insiders, which could impact their chances, at least in the near future. Still, they are one of those groups that seem destined to get in. Before you moan and groan about it too much, imagine a Radiohead/Bon Jovi Rock Hall class... talk about balance.

The Cure
Nominated for Class of 2012 
Anyone that has followed "college/modern/alternative"-rock from the past 30 years would agree with the Cure's musical excellence and the shadow of their everlasting influence. They created a virtual social class of fans sporting their dark aesthetic, and remain a powerful live act.

Eric B. & Rakim
Eric B. & Rakim
Nominated for Class of 2013
A nomination in the next year or so could be nice timing for this Long Island hip-hop duo, as they are reuniting for a 2017 tour. They have deep respect in the hip-hop community thanks to Eric B.'s punchy, James Brown-sampling beats and Rakim's silken, poetic flow, and were held in high enough esteem to land a Rock Hall nomination. LL Cool J and A Tribe Called Quest could potentially be among the next hip-hop artists getting attention from the institution, but the influential Eric B. and Rakim deserve another appearance on the ballot.

Link Wray
Nominated for Class of 2014 
This six-string innovator basically pioneered the power chord and inspired the Who's Pete Townshend (and countless others) to pick up a guitar. A towering presence in rock and roll, Wray was featured recently in the documentary RUMBLE: The Indians who Rocked the World, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

The Replacements
The Replacements
Nominated for Class of 2014 
Perpetually teetering on the edge of self-destruction makes for some stellar music. Minneapolis enfant terribles Paul Westerberg, Chris Mars, and siblings Bob and Tommy Stinson forged a memorable artistic identity: drunken chaos mixed with unexpectedly genius songwriting. They were cocky enough to call one album Let it Be and cheeky enough to cover KISS' "Black Diamond," but it's tough to argue against their musical achievements and influence on so many acts—everyone from Nirvana to Guided by Voices to Ryan Adams.

Los Lobos
Nominated for Class of 2016
"Just another band from East L.A.," maybe, but they flirted with Rock Hall enshrinement when their nomination was announced, to some surprise, in 2015. They didn't get inducted, but Los Lobos' roots-minded, dynamic, and unique sound is deserving of another nomination.

Bad Brains
Bad Brains
Nominated for Class of 2017
It will be interesting to see where Dave Grohl is going next with his Nomination Committee advocacy (Motörhead?). This year, he was pushing for these Washington, D.C. hardcore legends, a choice so out of left-field that anyone hoping for punk bands like Black Flag, Fugazi, or the Minutemen to infiltrate the nomination list now has hope. In any case, it would be tremendous overall to see Bad Brains receive additional nominations.

Jane's Addiction
Nominated for Class of 2017
As the virtual mothership from which '90s "alt-rock" was beamed, then fostered through the Lollapalooza fest, Jane's Addiction belongs in the Hall. Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins and Eric Avery dropped two landmark albums in Nothing's Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual, unleashing monolithic Zeppelin riffs, tribal drumming, freak-funk and ethereal psychedelia upon the world. Music hasn't been the same since.

Depeche Mode
Nominated for Class of 2017
Hit-making titans of synth-pop, Depeche Mode will get in eventually. That said, their nomination this past year was still a surprise, as it seemed like a nomination was still a few years off. Nine Inch Nails and the Smiths dropped out of contention on the last ballot, which seems to have made room for David Gahan, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher and company. Their stack of hits and global prestige should rightfully land them on future ballots.

January 6, 2017

Forever Snubbed? 15 Artists Never Nominated for the Rock Hall

Hope springs eternal, but the Rock Hall can sure put that old saw to the test. If you're an eligible artist whose first release was 25-plus years ago, and you're still not in the Rock Hall, you're in good company (or... in Bad Company).

One can't help but marvel at just a random sampling of the noteworthy-to-genius artists that have never received a single nomination. In an increasingly variable Rock Hall ballot climate that has seen everyone from Bad Brains to Steppenwolf to the Replacements getting a nod, there would appear to be a huge swath of "never-nominateds" whose odds are as good as anyone's.

Here are 15 acts that, according to Future Rock Legends, have zero Rock Hall nominations to date (and yes, there are many, many more). Let your eyes go wide, or roll them, at your leisure:

Bad Company
Bad Company - 18 years eligible, with hits such as "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "Can't Get Enough," this British supergroup led by singer Paul Rodgers seems to fit right into the classic rock-friendly Rock Hall classes of late.

Pat Benatar - Benatar's merits were previously extolled in this space. Again, with the Hall tilting toward populist, FM radio-friendly rock, and the ongoing gender disparity within the institution, this overdue icon could rightfully get a nomination. Eligible since 2004.

Captain Beefheart
Captain Beefheart - The late, great Don Van Vliet has been eligible for 26 years, but so far no Rock Hall love for his avant-transgressive yet highly influential art-rock. A cohort and collaborator with Frank Zappa (check out the album Bongo Fury), Captain Beefheart is an outlier that the already-inducted Tom Waits (and unabashed fan PJ Harvey) would surely admit cribbing from a little. Could be an Early Influence candidate, and the musical performance at the ceremony could simply be a klezmer band falling down a stairwell.

Dick Dale Eligible for a whopping 30 years, "The King of the Surf Guitar" has yet to feel the Hall's gnarly wave of recognition crest over him. With his knack for reverb and distortion, not to mention his signature plucking style, his influence was especially great on hard rock and metal. Among many other accomplishments, Dale's "Misirlou" was used to striking effect in the movie Pulp Fiction.

The Guess Who
The Guess Who This past October, the Rock Hall nominated The Guess Who's fellow Canadians Steppenwolf, which was the second biggest surprise of the ballot after Bad Brains. It's difficult not to draw parallels; if they're willing to recognize the Great White North's John Kay and company, then it's not a stretch to think The Guess Who is just as worthy, with huge hits like "American Woman," "These Eyes," and "No Time." Their membership included Randy Bachman, who went on form Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Jethro Tull There are some artists with uncanny, heavy-rotation songs that feel forever imprinted on rock fans' cerebellums; Jethro Tull, eligible for 24 years now, is one of these, with "Aqualung," "Locomotive Breath," and "Bungle in the Jungle" to their credit. Not critical favorites really, so that might speak to why their conceptual, flute-driven rock/folk/prog hybrid hasn't resonated with the Hall. But that certainly hasn't been a problem for other critically-loathed acts like KISS and Journey.

Joy Division
Joy Division Dark wave post-punk legends that set a navel-gazing template for so many artists that came after them, from the Smiths (nominated twice) to Nine Inch Nails (nominated twice) to Radiohead (a strong bet for 2018) and many others. They disintegrated upon singer Ian Curtis' death in 1980, then morphed into electronic-pop masters New Order. Many will tear this suggestion apart, but let's go radical here: A joint Joy Division/New Order induction (a  la the Small Faces/Faces maneuver in 2012) could spike the chances of either of these bands getting in anytime soon. 

King Crimson - Yes fans have to be thrilled they're finally getting inducted, and Rush got in in 2013, but all concerned would still bow down to King Crimson, the consensus titans of prog-rock. Much like Kraftwerk forged a standard for electronic music, KC's Robert Fripp and a gigantic cast of instrumental wizards (Adrian Belew, Ian McDonald, Tony Levin, the late Greg Lake and many others) set the prog blueprint. Eligible for 24 years.

The Moody Blues
The Moody Blues It's always darkest before the dawn; even though the Moody Blues' Justin Hayward recently said "It's too late now" for the Rock Hall nomination, this drought is likely coming to an end, possibly as early as next year. Every time a snubbed artist says they don't care, and "it's for the fans anyway," you can almost guarantee a nomination. Eligible for 28 years.

Harry Nilsson - A deeply respected '70s singer-songwriter with some truly genius songwriting and a notorious lust for life. His achievements include "One" (covered famously by Three Dog Night), "Without You" and "Everybody's Talkin'." Two years ago, the late Nilsson made Rolling Stone's list of "The 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time" so there might be some real hope of a nomination.

Peter, Paul and Mary
Peter, Paul and Mary Folk icons of the 1960s who interpreted many Dylan songs ("Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are-A Changin'"), performed at the 1963 March on Washington, and maybe just saw their Rock Hall fortunes increase with this April's induction of socially conscious peer Joan Baez. Eligible since 1987.

Roxy Music Eligible since 1997, Roxy music emerged out of London in 1971 and went on to deeply impact glam, new wave, and anything that might be described as art-rock. In a career trajectory that took them from the cutting-edge to a suave sophistication, Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno and company created legendary music with plenty of disciples. Influence and musical excellence? No question.

Thin Lizzy
Thin Lizzy - Whiskey in the jar, and Lizzy in the Hall? 21 years eligible, these Irish hard rockers with a dangerous two-guitar attack and the compelling, gritty lyrics of late singer-bassist Phil Lynott would be a welcome addition to any Rock Hall ballot. It's tough to see them getting much attention before the likes of Motörhead and Judas Priest, hard rock/heavy metal-wise, but let's face it: pecking order has never been a priority of this insitution, so Thin Lizzy has to remain a valid part of the conversation.

T. Rex During their glam-tastic ten-year run, T. Rex, led by singer-guitarist Marc Bolan, created such indelible monster hits as "Bang a Gong (Get it On)" and "20th Century Boy." The band influenced many a genre (punk, new wave/new romantic, metal), not to mention the New York Dolls, the Smiths, and Oasis, to name just a few. The flamboyance and glitter ended with Bolan's death in a 1977 car accident, but the music has definitely lived on. Eligible since 1993.

Warren Zevon
Warren Zevon 23 years eligible now, Los Angeles' late bard of debauched, razor-witted songcraft would fit right into the Rock Hall ballot's singer-songwriter slot (think 2013 inductee Randy Newman). Will it take "Lawyers, Guns and Money"? Well, it might only take Paul Shaffer, who jammed with Zevon many times on the Letterman show, and is a key advocate/Rock Hall insider. Inducting this guy could also yield a terrific induction ceremony performance: Imagine what former Zevon collaborator Bruce Springsteen or even artistic descendant Father John Misty could do with that material.

December 30, 2016

Open Arms: The Rock Hall Embraces Populism

The people have spoken—they want Journey in the Rock Hall. And so it shall be. Once again, the winner of the official Rock Hall fan vote will be inducted. This fact indicates various things, but perhaps most significantly, it reveals that the Hall has now completely embraced Journey's particular brand of populist, FM radio-friendly arena rock. Whether that's agony or ecstasy for you, it's time to accept that, going forward, the Hall will absolutely induct acts that get a thumbs-down from critics, yet are adored by a vocal majority of rock fans.

In short, the Rock Hall is on a Journey, steering this boat toward the Styx.
Surprised? You shouldn't be. The signs have been there for awhile now. For the Class of 2016, longtime Rock Hall snub/fan vote victor Chicago got in, and right alongside of such other AOR acts as Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, and Steve Miller. The year before, rock radio staples Joan Jett and the Blackhearts got in. Not to equate or disparage any of these exceptional artists at all, it's just that their inclusion collectively demonstrates a strong undercurrent of "crowd-pleasing" going on here. You could even argue that Guns N' Roses' first-ballot induction is another example of the Hall navigating toward the mainstream; they are increasingly canonizing artists that have dominated radio airwaves/soundtracked proms and backwoods keggers. Journey is just the latest of these.

Another example of the Rock Hall's pivot toward pop-rock's often syrupy center was Rock Hall CEO Joel Peresman's 2015 interview where he expressed surprise that Journey and Bon Jovi weren't inducted yet. Steve Perry and company's current welcome into the Hall feels less like prescience on Peresman's part than the Rock Hall's apparent institutional mission to enshrine acts that will drive viewership of the HBO induction ceremony broadcast, as well as visitors to the museum.

"Who cares?" many will say. Why examine or care so much about all this? That's more than fair—ultimately, this isn't life or death stuff. No one will die. (They will be inducted after they do, however.) The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony may just be another music awards show to the casual observer, but it's still one of the most intensively discussed music events of the year. It's partly notable because it legitimizes musical taste, and ascribes the elite "Rock and Roll Hall of Famer" distinction (which, sadly, has been slapped onto far too many popular musicians' obituaries this year). Still, the debate over who is qualified to enter those hallowed halls rages on, and will continue to in the coming years.

Speaking of the future, and now that Journey has been voted into the Hall, it's time to consider what other acts they are blazing the trail for in Cleveland. Groan or exult if you must, but there are many bands that fit the specific Journey AOR/arena rock template that could potentially start seeing nominations. Here are just a few:

Boston Just another band of Boston? Not quite. A staggering 75 million records sold, with their 1976 debut, Boston (a veritable greatest hits, track by track) shifting 17 million units. Guitarist Tom Scholz, a guitar, songwriting and production wizard, laid down a powerful musical foundation for late singer Brad Delp's warm, unmistakable vocals. Songs include "More Than a Feeling," "Peace of Mind," and "Foreplay/Long Time," where their prog-rock ambitions were especially on display. They're a "Rock and Roll Band" with Rock Hall written all over them. You can't turn on a classic rock FM station and not hear Boston (for better and for worse).

Foreigner - "Feels Like the First Time," "Double Vision," "Hot Blooded" and the mega-ballad "I Want to Know What Love Is" distinguish Foreigner, another band that has saturated FM airwaves for decades, and, impressively, has sold 80 million records globally. "Cold as Ice"? Hardly. Foreigner's chances of nomination are actually starting to heat up, with a possible reunion of a classic lineup and their 40th anniversary, according to band founder Mick Jones. Radio and TV personality/Rock Hall voter Eddie Trunk recently said he thinks Foreigner should be next after Journey, in terms of priority. He might have a point there.

Styx - "Oh, this truly IS Hell!" - Homer Simpson, literally floating down the river Styx as "Lady" plays. Hey, satire was going to happen to these guys. They might laugh last, as a Rock Hall nomination is very possible. There is some reunion potential/drama with their estranged singer Dennis DeYoung, and the unique yin/yang of their hard rock/musical theater pastiche, which has yielded multi-platinum records on the strength of such songs as "Renegade," "Too Much Time on My Hands," "Come Sail Away" and Kilroy Was Here's dystopian cyber-pop hit "Mr. Roboto."

REO Speedwagon
REO Speedwagon - With their 1980 album Hi Infidelity in RIAA's "diamond status" with 10 million records sold, plus 40 million albums sold overall, REO Speedwagon might have the right combination of industry and chart success to achieve a Rock Hall nod eventually. Overall, they have a boatload of hits, and their heavy MTV presence in the '80s can't hurt either. Sadly, REO guitarist Gary Richrath, co-writer of "Take It on the Run," died in 2015, but the group still hits the road, often with some of the other bands mentioned here.

Kansas - Hailing from Topeka, this legendary troupe is best known for their ubiquitous hits "Dust in the Wind" and "Carry on Wayward Son"—both classics that have become heartfelt verses in purist rock fans' collective song. Mainstream acceptance has far outweighed Kansas' critical respect, but the recent documentary Kansas: Miracles out of Nowhere nicely detailed the origin story of how a scrappy band with art-rock/prog ambitions (check out the remarkable "Icarus (Born on Wings of Steel)" from their Masque album) ascended to headliner status. They're easily a long shot, but with the current Rock Hall shift toward big, unabashed classic rock, they cannot be left out of the conversation entirely.

December 15, 2016

Rock Hall 2017 Predictions: The Pundits Weigh In

Who's going in? Plenty of intrepid Rock Hall pundits are letting their predictions fly for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2017. And wow, is there some consensus out there, or what?

The Rock Hall's official inductee announcement hits at 8 a.m. next Tuesday, December 20 on SiriusXM's Volume (channel 106). Until then, here are some of the undeniably similar predictions:

Troy Smith (Cleveland Plain-Dealer / 

Pearl Jam
Joan Baez
Tupac Shakur
Electric Light Orchestra (ELO)
...and if there's a sixth inductee: J. Geils Band

Future Rock Legends (

Pearl Jam
Joan Baez
...and if there's a sixth inductee: J. Geils Band

Tom Lane (

Pearl Jam
Joan Baez
...and if there's a sixth inductee: Tupac Shakur

Alex Voltaire (

Pearl Jam
Tupac Shakur
Joan Baez
...if 6 inductees: Chic
...if 7 inductees: Janet Jackson


Pearl Jam
Joan Baez
...and if there are sixth and seventh inductees: The Zombies, The Cars
Ahmet Ertegun Award: Don Cornelius

Rock Hall Monitors (

Pearl Jam
Joan Baez
J. Geils Band
Sixth and seventh picks: Tupac Shakur, Chic

Iconic Rock Talk Show (

Pearl Jam
Joan Baez
Tupac Shakur
...and if there's a sixth inductee: Yes

Donnie's Blog (

Pearl Jam
Joan Baez
Tupac Shakur
...and if there's a sixth inductee: Janet Jackson
...and if there's a seventh inductee: Chic
...and if there's a eighth inductee: The Cars

One thought on the near-uniformity of the predictions thus far: The Rock Hall's sure to shock and surprise us next week in some way. Expect some wild deviations from what you see above. Dark horses could emerge.

December 14, 2016

Candidates for the Rock Hall's Ahmet Ertegun Award, Part 2: Bob Geldof and Casey Kasem

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2017 announcement is due Tuesday, December 20 (see our inductee predictions here). However, there's another significant honor the Hall frequently bestows: the Ahmet Ertegun Award, which generally goes to producers, record executives, songwriters, and various industry figures that have made their indisputable mark on rock and roll.

In a previous installment, the merits of Rick Rubin and Daniel Lanois for the Ahmet Ertegun were reviewed. This time around, the focus turns to two more prospects, one a notable rock and roll activist, the other a legendary DJ.

Bob Geldof at Live Aid
Bob Geldof
His name is forever synonymous with Live Aid, the monumental 1985 all-star concert for African famine relief, but Bob Geldof's achievements are many. For instance, this time of year, you are very likely to hear Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas," a huge international hit from 1984 penned by Geldof and Ultrovox's Midge Ure, and sung by a then-who's-who of Irish and British music stars. This mega-selling single was a clear prercursor to USA for Africa's "We Are the World."

Geldof's activist achievements also include Live 8, a 10-concert charity extravaganza in 2005 intended to raise consciousness around African economic, hunger, and AIDS issues. (The internationally-held event was also notable for reuniting Pink Floyd's long-estranged members for an historic performance.) To this day, he continues to fight on behalf of the impoverished as a member of the Africa Progress Panel as well as the ONE Campaign.

Before activism was a major aspect of his life, Geldof was the frontman for the New Wave group the Boomtown Rats, best known for their 1979 single "I Don't Like Mondays"—a harrowing song that both bemoaned and offered commentary on a school shooting long before such events sadly became commonplace. Elsewhere in his resume, it seems most rock fans either forget or are unaware that he played the lead role of "Pink" in the movie version of Pink Floyd's The Wall.

A major figure in the realm of rock and roll activism, music, and even film, Bob Geldof should probably be a part of any future Ahmet Ertegun Award conversation. This Rock Hall trophy might be a tad anticlimactic, as Geldof has an honorary knighthood from the Queen, and a Man of Peace award from the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, among other honors... but for his high-profile, decades-long committment to the greater global good, he should be recognized.

Top 40 Legend: Casey Kasem
Casey Kasem
A broadcasting luminary hailing from Detroit, Kemal Amin "Casey" Kasem was one of the most well-known, household name-level DJs in America until his death in 2014. For a wide swath of the populus, his weekly show American Top 40 (which ran between 1970 and 2004) was a regular listening habit—a ritual marked by hearing the latest pop songs, "Long Distance Dedications" and Kasem's resonant, reassuring voice. And zoinks, lest we forget, Kasem, a busy voiceover artist, was even the voice of Shaggy on the beloved animated show Scooby-Doo.

Kasem's most obvious peer on some levels is Dick Clark, who was given the Ahmet Ertegun Award in 1993, and if we're talking DJs, the first recipient of this honor was Mr. Alan Freed himself. While Kasem is perhaps more of a "pop music" figure, there's no denying the fact his voice was deeply woven into the American tapestry; he held an important cultural position long before MP3s, streaming music, and irretrievably fragmented musical tastes became the modern norm. His worthiness for the Ahmet Ertegun Award is, well, off the charts.