It’s that time of year when costumed creatures show up at our doors asking for treats.
No, I’m not talking about Halloween. Not that they’re all extravagantly costumed, but the nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2020 are out there, looking for votes.
This year’s Rock Hall maybes are: Pat Benatar, Dave Matthews Band, Depeche Mode, the Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Judas Priest, Kraftwerk, MC5, Motörhead, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren, Soundgarden, T. Rex and Thin Lizzy.
As is always the case with the proposed RRHF inhabitants, some of them may as well be wearing masks, as far as I’m concerned. Couldn’t name a song by Depeche Mode, Judas Priest, Motörhead, Nine Inch Nails, Mr. B.I.G. or Soundgarden, and not many by DMB or Kraftwerk.
Whitney Houston I’ve heard — she would have been hard to avoid, if you listened to FM radio at all the late in the 20th century or early in the 21st. She had an outstanding voice, recorded seven Top 10 albums (four of them No. 1s) and sold more than 200 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling artists of all time.
Houston also has a bunch of Grammy Awards. But I don’t really associate her with rock, nor do I think she had much influence on rock and roll, which is supposedly one of the RRHF’s criteria for induction.
Pat Benetar is another lady with a great voice, and she’s definitely a rocker. She’s got a handful of Top 20 LPs (including a No. 1) to her credit, and 15 Top 40 singles, among them the classic “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.” But you look at some of the other nominees, and wonder if she’s had the kind of impact that merits induction.
The Dave Matthews Band has sold a pile of records and compact disks (91 million or so) and concert tickets (100 million-plus). Seven consecutive album releases debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and the band won a Grammy Award in 1996, so they must be doing something right. I just can’t figure out what it is — the songs I’ve heard just don’t excite or interest me.
I’ve blogged before about Rufus and Chaka Khan, who — as a group, or just her individually — have been nominated for the fifth straight year. But that’s a trend: Depeche Mode and MC5 have been nominated for the fourth time since 2015, and Nine-Inch Nails is up for the third time in six years.
Also, Judas Priest has been given the nod twice in the past three. That’s maybe not enough to trigger my proposal to deny nomination to artists who have been picked X number of times before — like “three strikes and you’re out” — but they could get there.
But that rule would eliminate Rufus and Chaka, who might deserve induction. The band had No. 1 rhythm and blues singles and albums (five of each), and a bunch of pop hits; their lead singer has recorded four LPs that went gold or platinum, two Top 40 singles, won 10 Grammies and ranks 17th on VH1’s list of the 100 greatest women in rock.
So when I vote for the 2020 inductees, Rufus and Chaka may make it into my top five. I’ll also give some thought to MC5, a band that influenced the punk rock movement and the political side of rock — not that those are my favorite aspects of The Music.
Ditto for glam rock, but T. Rex — pioneers of that genre — might nevertheless get some consideration from me. That British band recorded four Top 10 albums in their native U.K., including the No. 1 Electric Warrior, from which came the classic “Get It On”; two of their LPs charted in the Top 40 in the U.S., where that single was a No. 10.
Thin Lizzy was an influence on many heavy metal bands, and their biracial bassist and lead vocalist Phil Lynott was a distinctive songwriter and had an interesting vocal style. I might be inclined to vote for them.
For sure, I’m going to pull the lever — or click the mouse, or whatever — for the Doobie Brothers and Todd Rundgren. The Doobies didn’t do anything earth-shattering — other than perhaps when they brought in Michael McDonald to sing lead, and that was mostly a change of style for them.
But their music has been part of the soundtrack of our lives, with a lot of great songs. They’ve also sold more than 40 million albums worldwide, over nearly 50 years of performing and recording; their resume includes seven Top 10 albums (one No. 1), and 16 Top 40 singles (two No. 1s).
Rundgren for sure will get my votes. Not only was he a member of two important bands — proto-garage rockers the Nazz and his Utopia — and released some classic solo albums, he is also acknowledged as a studio genius as producer and engineer. He had a half-dozen Top 40 hits, and one Top 40 album, as a solo artist.
The Wizard and True Star has been nominated for the second straight year, as a solo artist, and finished third in the fan voting. But he was the only one of the top five in the fan vote who wasn’t inducted into the Hall.
I have several of Rundgren’s albums, including Runt. The Ballad of Todd Rundgren and Something/Anything, both of which I really like; ditto for the Nazz LPs. But he further endeared himself to me with his response when asked what he thought about being nominated again after being stiffed last year: “I just don’t care,” or something to that effect.
Looks like I — and others sharing my viewpoint — had better get to votin’. The initial vote totals, released last week, show Benatar in first, followed by the Doobies, but with Soundgarden, Depeche Mode and Judas Priest rounding out the top five.