Somebody give me one of those “I Voted!” stickers.
No, it’s not a political election year, at least not in my neck of the woods — I voted on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination ballot, for the first time. Not that it will do much of any good, looking at the current “standings.” (Warning — you have to vote to see the totals, apparently.)
I blogged about this year’s proposed inductees, and the RRHF induction process, on Oct. 19, after the 2018 nominees were announced. I still think the process is flawed, and its premise is faulty, but I decided to put up or shut up.
My ballot contained four of the five acts that I said six weeks ago that I would vote for: Link Wray, the Moody Blues, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Zombies. I switched from J. Veils Band to Dire Straits, the latter being one of those that was on the bubble.
Doing a bit of browsing on YouTube convinced me on a couple of those votes. I had never heard — had hardly heard of — Sister Rosetta when I wrote that earlier blog, but watched several videos (film clips or kinescopes, actually) of her this morning.
Some of those clips were from the 1960s, but the lady was performing more than two decades before that, in which case she was rockin’ it 20-plus years before there was such a thing as rock and roll, in name, anyway. Blues-in it, might be a more accurate description, because her vocal phrasings are similar to the blues legends who in turn influenced rock musicians in the late 1950 and early ’60s. (One difference being that she’s singing about the Gospel, and not about drinking, gambling and womanizing.)
Her fretwork is blues-influenced, but the picking presages the licks of the rockabilly artists, Chuck Berry and the early rockers, and she inspired the likes of Johnny Cash, Elvis, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. You can check out her act at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnAQATKRBN0.
I’d heard Wray a few times before, but watched a couple videos of him performing as well. He didn’t sell a lot of records in the ’60s and ’70s, but it’s surprising that he isn’t in the Hall.
Wray was a very influential electric guitarist — some call him the Father of Heavy Metal — whose work inspired Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and other big-name pickers. Watch the videos, and you’re amazed at what he was doing in 1958.
The Moody Blues, in my opinion, should be in the Hall already. They were at the cutting edge of album rock in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and blended classical music, poetry and thoughtful themes in concept albums.
Their time in the sun was brief, but if like me you were in your late teens in the mid- to late-60s, it would be hard to imagine AM radio without a couple of Zombies songs, “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There.” And their album Odessey and Oracle is considered a minor classic.
I went with Dire Straits over J. Geils Band because, while the latter innovated some in blues and the use of blues harmonica, they weren’t that influential or impactful, in my opinion. Dire Straits, though, were fronted by a major guitar talent, Mark Knopfler, who wrote or co-wrote lyrically interesting songs; they were also on the cusp of digital recording and the music video phenomenon, with “Brothers in Arms” the first album to sell more than one million copies as a compact disc.
Based on the current vote totals, two of my picks, the Moodies and Dire Straits, have a shot at finishing in the top five, currently ranking second and third, respectively. One of my alternative choices, the Cars, is fourth. The Zombies are sixth, within striking distance of the top five.
But the fifth-place act, and the other top-five pick, are examples of what’s wrong with the induction process, as far as it takes into consideration the fan vote. Bon Jovi is way out in front, and Judas Priest may keep the Zombies from getting their due. Seriously. It’s a popularity contest, to be decided by fans who don’t know their rock and roll history, and apparently don’t care about doing the homework.
Sister Rosetta and Link? They’re 16th and 17th, behind Nina Simone, Kate Bush and a rapper. But maybe they can get in the Hall in another award category, Early Influences.
So between now and the Dec. 5 end of the fan vote, I will go back and vote again, even if it’s probably a futile gesture. (I thought you could only vote once, but it’s once a day.) Maybe I can at least move a true pioneer of rock past LL Cool J; Wray probably is too far behind him to help.