May 5, 2016

In the Air This Year? 2017 Rock Hall Dark Horses

A real dice roll, predicting what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is going to do (you know, besides reliably tick people off). In any case, it's still pretty interesting to bat around some names, certain or otherwise, that might crop up as nominees each year. 

With the HBO broadcast of the 2016 induction ceremony now in reruns, why not start informally speculating on some of the dark horses that "could" surprisingly nab a nomination for the 2017 class (i.e., like Los Lobos this past year—did anyone see that coming?). These 10 acts aren't official predictions, aren't comprehensive, nor are they personal selections, necessarily. Sporadically mentioned in various quarters, it just feels like they're in the air around the Rock Hall conversation to some degree. Call them maybes. In other words, not Pearl Jam.

Black Flag - Formed in Hermosa Beach, CA, they were the pioneers of hardcore punk, blazing a screeching, take-no-prisoners trail across the U.S. They embodied the DIY ethic, self-releasing albums and touring in a van under such brutal conditions, they had to have wanted it. You want influence? It's remarkably widespread, with Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Pantera, Faith No More, Beastie Boys and Green Day just a smattering of names that owe them a huge debt.
Photo by Naomi Petersen
Black Flag

Phil Collins - Deluxe reissues of his solo work hitting the marketplace, and after a bizarre retirement phase where he collected a trove of Alamo artifacts (no, really), he's suddenly active again, playing live. So functionally and logistically, it's the right time, never mind that his fellow Genesis vocalist, Peter Gabriel, was enshrined solo in 2014. Collins bore the scarlet letter of "adult contemporary" as his solo career wore on, but his earlier efforts had some inventive edge ("In the Air Tonight," of course) and Top 10 cachet. Unless the Rock Hall nominators and voters just don't care anymore-oh-OH.  

Electric Light Orchestra - Musical mastermind Jeff Lynne was behind some innovative, catchy '70s hits with ELO, and he's lauded both as a producer and as a co-founder of the Traveling Wilburys. Lynne is the type of guy that could be inducted under Lifetime Achievement, or Musical Excellence, but ELO is an iconic name that wouldn't be out of place on the 2017 nominee list.

Eurythmics - One of the great duos of late-20th century popular music, the aesthetically-savvy new wave/synthpop act lit up the charts and MTV in the '80s starting with the haunting single "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and many more after. Alongside her guitar-playing foil Dave Stewart, powerhouse vocalist Annie Lennox summoned an ice and fire that danced atop both chilly synth soundscapes and power chords to striking effect. They have plenty of hits and respect, so who am I to disagree?

J. Geils Band - The type of classic, all-American rock and roll band that will probably get in eventually. With FM radio staples the Cars achieving nominee status, and similarly, Cheap Trick inducted, J. Geils Band's chances would seem to increase. Also, there's the "Friend of the Rock Hall" thing: loose-limbed frontman Peter Wolf is regarded by the Rock Hall brass enough to be invited twice as an induction speaker, so J. Geils Band could likely be funneled into the nominee holding pen.

Journey - In a recent interview with Den of Geek, Rock Hall CEO Joel Peresman was asked about bands he was surprised weren't in yet, and he mentioned Journey. Sure, they're massively successful overall, but in Rock Hall terms, still reside in that dark horse realm, as populist arena rock of this ilk has been given acutely short shrift by the institution (think Boston, Kansas, Foreigner, Styx). But don', count out Steve Perry and company. 

Kool & the Gang - Yeah, you never need to hear "Celebration" ever again. But if you go to a wedding reception or any New Year's Eve event, rest assured, my friend, you will. Kool the Gang have actually been at it since the '60s, when they started as a jazz unit, but broke big in the next two decades as they brought in the funk and had crossover pop/R&B success. Quentin Tarantino gave them a boost in the '90s, featuring "Jungle Boogie" in Pulp Fiction, a classic track by any standard. So there's serious career longevity here, if nothing else. And their catalog of hits is undeniable. But the Rock Hall, really, you might ask? Well, if their road manager is to be believed, they have been "in talks" per this article. Unless we're being misled.

Little Feat - The late Lowell George's versatile collective, which encompassed blues, funk, country, R&B, and more, is legendary and still touring. Additionally, they're beloved enough by fans to land at #2 on Rolling Stone's recent readers poll of who should be inducted in 2017. This unlikely high placement is a result that smacks of ballot-stuffing, but perhaps it means Little Feat is on the Rock Hall radar. 

Sonic Youth
Randy Rhoads - Per his social media posts, Tom Morello has Rhoads on his "Mt. Rushmore of Rock and Roll." Morello's on the Nomination Committee and his persuasive powers were sufficient enough to get KISS inducted, so the late, prodigiously talented Ozzy Osbourne/Quiet Riot guitarist might just shred his way into a Musical Excellence recognition slot. Crazy, but that's how it goes.

Sonic Youth - Repeatedly mentioned as prime Rock Hall candidates, Sonic Youth, those New York City-based arbiters of guitar experimentalism, punk noise, and left-field alt-rock hits ("Kool Thing," "100%") would seemingly have the credentials the Hall is looking for. They were impactful, dynamic, and resolute in their art-damaged mission until they effectively disbanded due to the marital breakup of their principals, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon.  For the musical performance of inductee Nirvana at the induction ceremony in 2014, Gordon was brilliant singing "Aneurysm," so there is definitely some Rock Hall association.