Last week, I Mused on the eight 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees — Joan Baez, the Cars, Electric Light Orchestra, the J. Geils Band, Steppenwolf, Joe Tex, Yes and the Zombies — that I might vote for, if I participate in the public balloting.
This week, I’ll go over the other 12 who were proposed for induction next year: Bad Brains, Chic, Depeche Mode, Jane’s Addiction, Janet Jackson, Journey, Chaka Khan, Kraftwerk, MC5, Pearl Jam and Tupac Shakur.
A few of those were close to making my cut, chief among them the MC5. But it’s kind of like when my first listen to this Detroit-area band, which happened when I was working the graveyard shift cleaning a Madison department store, and my partner and I would take albums out of the racks and play them over the PA system.
MC5’s first LP, “Kick Out the Jams,” was one of those, and the name of the title tune sounded interesting. But it wasn’t what I expected, and the album in general was disorderly and incoherent — not surprising for what is considered to be a proto-punk band.
MC5 also was on the cutting edge of political rock, at a tumultuous time in our culture, influenced bands like the Stooges, and broke some ground in the genre. So maybe they do belong in the RRHF.
Journey certainly had some fame — No. 1 and 2 albums, a song (“Don’t Stop Believin’”) which is an iTunes all-time top seller — and had roots in a genre-changing band, Santana. But its music was too much FM boilerplate; they weren’t exactly pushing the envelope.
Chaka Khan also had a lot of success, winning 10 Grammys and making gold and platinum records on her own and with the band she used to front, Rufus. I’d be hard pressed to name any of those hit singles and albums.
My experience with her is pretty much limited to her cameo appearance on a Ry Cooder album. She just rips it up on that track, and she is called the Queen of Funk, but I think there’s a reason she has been nominated before but not voted into the Hall.
Chic was too much disco, a genre/period that I’d just as soon forget, and it doesn’t help their case to find out they were inspired/influenced by Kiss. Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “apparel malfunction” didn’t save a career that borrowed too much from her famous older brother(s).
Depeche Mode was not among the most interesting acts in a musically-not-so-interesting decade, the 80s, and they and Kraftwerk were purveyors of an electronic/synthesizer sound that was too prevalent around that time. Grunge Rock never did that much for me, so Pearl Jam’s artistic and commercial success didn’t make much of an impact, either.
Jane’s Addiction supposedly was an early example of alternative rock, but I’m not sure what it was an alternative to. Tupac Shakur — how come he’s not nominated as Onepac? — did rap, which I have a hard time calling music. As noted last week, Bad Brains may have been unique or unusual, stylistically and thematically, but does that make them Hall of Fame-worthy?
Taking a tour through the Hall of Fame and those who have already been inducted, though, I have to ask myself, who is worthy? Bobby Darrin? The Beastie Boys? Cheap Trick? Green Day? Red Hot Chili Peppers? Van Halen? Metallica? Public Enemy? Parliament Funkadelic?
On the Rock Hall’s website, on the Induction Process page, part of the eligibility criteria is this: “Besides demonstrating unquestionable musical excellence and talent, inductees will have had a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock & roll.” Have those groups had a significant impact? How many of this year’s nominees have?
Fans’ votes for the nominees have only been accepted since 2012; otherwise, the ballots have been solicited from to historians, music industry people and previous inductees. Some of those question marks above have been voted in since the fans got involved, but most got in by the verdict of the “experts,” and those who were already in.
I think I could do better, but I’m not sure that I care.