TYF Analyzes the 2017 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Every October, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announces a list of nominees for induction. This year’s induction list featured 19 names, the most since 1990.

As with last year, members of our music staff were keen to give their thoughts on the nominees and who they think are the most likely to get in this year. Music editor Ryan Gibbs and music writers Jon Winkler, Matt Rice and Reagan Harrison engaged in a roundtable chat about the individual nominees and what they think about the Hall of Fame as a whole.

Opening thoughts

Ryan Gibbs: What is, in general, your opinion on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Jon Winkler: They have a problem, to put it lightly. They need to acknowledge more metal bands and, like the Oscars, need to bring in younger people on their board for bands.

Ryan Gibbs: I in general think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is something that should exist. The problem is that it’s so exclusive. I think it would better if they had 7-10 inductees from a 19 nominee  list instead of just five. There’s also a tendency for some people to think that one genre or another, or one artist or another does not “belong” in the Hall of Fame, which is a fallacy.

Matt Rice: My opinion is basically the same, although the nominees list this year is a major improvement on last year’s.

Reagan Harrison: I think they do a good job acknowledging the artists they should be – they’ve been making decent moves to include a variety of artists recently.

Matt Rice: I wonder why it’s so exclusive. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put a bunch of artists in the hall every year?

Jon Winkler: I think since it’s become such a business now, they want to stretch it out as long as they can.

Ryan Gibbs: Well in 2001, they inducted 8 artists, all of them slam dunk inductions. I think you can make an equally cool class out of this year’s if you had eight.

Matt Rice: Sure, but new artists are eligible every year. They’ll never run out as long as rock and roll exists.

Ryan Gibbs: Right Matt, and the logjam is only going to get bigger. This year Pearl Jam will get in one the first ballot. That means only four other artists will be inducted.

Matt Rice: Which means people of color and women will continue to be excluded.

Ryan Gibbs: Next year, there are two newly eligible artists that will get in on the first try: Beck and Radiohead. That means only three others would get in if that doesn’t change. And that’s not fair to Beck and Radiohead, or indeed the rest of whatever that ballot looks like.

Jon Winkler: They need to be more inclusive or make HOFs for R&B and Rap or something.

Matt Rice: Another thing is, should they change the name to the Popular Music Hall of Fame? That could help with making it more inclusive and taking away some of the rock snobbery. Especially since, every year, there seems to be a discussion of whether hip-hop, disco, and pop artists belong in the Hall.

Reagan Harrison: Rock has evolved so much so they should be more inclusive.

Jon Winkler: Right, that’s why they need younger people or people with more diverse musical background on their board at least.

Reagan Harrison: Our definition of “rock and roll” is completely different than 50 years ago.

Jon Winkler: Exactly, Reagan.

Ryan Gibbs: Questlove and Tom Morello are on the Rock Hall board now, and boy can you tell from this class. Speaking of which,  What are your thoughts on this year’s nominees as a whole?

Matt Rice: I like the diversity. I like the Michigan representation with MC5.

Reagan Harrison: Interesting (in a good way) is the first adjective that comes to mind.

Jon Winkler: Good variety this year.

Matt Rice: Joe Tex is surprising, especially since he’s been nominated a few times.

Ryan Gibbs: Yeah I think Joe Tex’s problem might be that, as deserving as he is, there are plenty of voters who have no idea who he is.

Reagan Harrison: And Joe Tex is awesome honestly.

BAD BRAINS

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Previous nominations: 0
Essential songs: Pay to Cum” (1980), “Banned in DC” (1982),  “Sailin’ On” (1983), “I Against I” (1986)

Jon Winkler: Bad Brains are a great choice. Definitely a good salute to punk. Definitely opens up opportunities for other hardcore bands to go in.

Ryan Gibbs: I was not expecting a DC hardcore band to ever get nominated. It feels like a style of music that the Hall would completely ignore. But I’m glad to see it get noticed.

Reagan Harrison: Love D.C. bands and they’re one of them!

Matt Rice: Are they seriously the first D.C. punk band to get nominated?

Ryan Gibbs: Yes, Fugazi and – outside of D.C., Black Flag –  have never been nominated for instance.

Matt Rice: Ugh. Well, the fact that they finally got there gives me hope for riot grrrl.

Ryan Gibbs: There are almost no American punk bands in the Hall at all either. the Ramones and Patti Smith are in, then you have some borderline cases like Talking Heads, The Stooges and Blondie, but other than that…the Beastie Boys, technically?

Reagan Harrison: It’s definitely a genre underrepresented.

Ryan Gibbs: Bad Brains had a massive influence on hardcore music, they were virtousos, brought a completely different style to punk…but I think their chances at induction are minimal.

Jon Winkler: Inducting them would be the right thing to do.

Reagan Harrison: I agree.

Matt Rice: Bad Brains, Rock for Light, and I Against I are all very good albums. But people often forget about the homophobic thing.

Ryan Gibbs: Oh yeah, that’s right. Daryll Jenifer apologized for some of the lyrics on Quickness, but it’s still very difficult to listen to that record.

Matt Rice: Yup. And there’s tons of artists that have homophobic histories, or even have homophobia attached to their best work (Eminem, Beastie Boys). But I think people overlook it with Bad Brains because it was on an album that hasn’t really been analyzed much.

Ryan Gibbs: Bad Brains, if inducted would be an interesting choice. It would certainly skew the perception a lot of people have that the Rock Hall is some sort of popularity or success award.

Jon Winkler: Yeah, I think it would inspire a lot of acknowledgement of punk as a legitimate part of rock history.

THE CARS

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Photo credit: Jeff Albertson

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Photo credit: Jeff Albertson

Previous nominations: 1
Essential songs:Just What I Needed” (1978), “My Best Friend’s Girl” (1978), “Shake It Up” (1981), “You Might Think” (1984)

Jon Winkler: Yes. Support pop rock. The Cars are great and very underrated

Matt Rice: They should be in.

Jon Winkler: They were never huge superstars but they influenced a lot of people and had a solid string of hits

Reagan Harrison: Literally love them so much, especially “Shake It Up”

Ryan Gibbs: New wave and power pop are two more genres who the Hall is lacking, and they could tick both boxes with The Cars

Jon Winkler: That first album is iconic. It’s like if Talking Heads wanted to make hit records

Ryan Gibbs: The Cars were nominated last year, and I honestly expected them to get in instead of the Steve Miller Band. I don’t think they’ll be passed on this year.

Matt Rice: I like The Cars a lot, and I hope their induction paves the way for Fountains of Wayne to one day make it in.

Jon Winkler: Weezer too

Ryan Gibbs: They seem  like the kind of band that Hall voters would definitely select.

Jon Winkler: I think a lot of people have a soft spot for them.

Reagan Harrison: Yeah they do, and I put them on par with the Steve Miller Band.

Ryan Gibbs: I bet the Hall wish The Cars got in over Steve Miller, considering what he said about them last year. 

Jon Winkler: Iif The Cars go in, they should have Rivers Cuomo induct them

Matt Rice: Speaking of power pop, what’s the chance of Buzzcocks and The Undertones ever making it in?

Ryan Gibbs: Undertones? Never under this system. Out of popular acts in the UK that are only cult groups in the US, they can’t even induct The Jam. Buzzcocks are more likely.

Jon Winkler: Lord knows they should though

Ryan Gibbs: The Cars had a great career, they were stylistically unique and even though it feels like the Hall isn’t sure what to do with new wave, they’re a safe, classic rock-radio approved pick. That shouldn’t go against them though, I’d love to see them in over a few acts this year

Jon Winkler: They are one of the sounds that crafted 80s new wave.

Reagan Harrison: It’s definitely a group that anyone could get behind, even if they don’t particularly love them.

Ryan Gibbs: Yeah, that they got nominated twice in a row bodes well for their eventual chances

Reagan Harrison: I can’t imagine they’ll sit on the list very long.

Ryan Gibbs: Especially with such a well-liked figure like Ric Ocasek in their lineup. Well, well-liked by everyone except for Car Seat Headrest I bet.

Matt Rice: Haha.

Ryan Gibbs: Didn’t you ask Will Toledo about that?

Matt Rice: Yeah. He said that he’d avoided sampling because he thought it was less legally risking if you just covered or took bits out of other people’s songs. In other interviews, he’s said he likes the new version of the song better anyway.

Ryan Gibbs: Still, Matador had to destroy all of those albums over a single line

Matt Rice: Yeah, apparently it was the first recall in Matador’s history.

Ryan Gibbs: Between Bad Brains and Ocasek we keep ending these on a negative note.

Jon Winkler: Well let’s end with the positive hope that The Cars go in. They and Bad Brains deserve to go in for their influence alone.

CHAKA KHAN

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Photo credit: Gordon Monro

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Photo credit: Gordon Monro

Previous nominations: 2 (once with Rufus)
Essential songs: Tell Me Something Good” (with Rufus) (1974), “I’m Every Woman” (1978), “Ain’t Nobody” (with Rufus) (1983), “I Feel For You” (1984)

Jon Winkler: Chaka Khan is a strong influence on female R&B.

Ryan Gibbs: Questlove has been pulling for her ever since he got on the nomination committee.

Reagan Harrison: Surprised she was in the list, but very happy she is. Super talented and offers them to opportunity to expand to new genres.

Jon Winkler: Speaking of new wave, some of her work helped merge R&B with new wave.

Ryan Gibbs: She’s been nominated twice before. Once as a member of Rufus & Chaka Khan, and then last year as a solo artist. I think it’s a good choice to nominate Chaka as a solo artist, but I’d love Rufus to be recognized in some way. They were a great band.

Jon Winkler: Rufus has done some good production work.

Matt Rice: Yup. Would there be a way to nominate Rufus and Chaka Khan, to include both her work with the band and her solo stuff?

Jon Winkler: But Chaka Kahn would be good to support the advancement of R&B over the years.

Ryan Gibbs: Dunno. You’d have the same discussion if this were Richard Thompson up: Would he go in solo, or with Linda? I bet that’s why he’s never been nominated before.

CHIC

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Previous nominations: 10
Essential songs: Dance, Dance, Dance” (1977), “Le Freak” (1978), “I Want Your Love” (1978), “Good Times” (1979)

Matt Rice: My top choice.

Jon Winkler: Yes yes yes yes. For “Le Freak” alone, yes.

Matt Rice: And “Good Times.”

Jon Winkler: Good Times is one of the pillars of hip hop.

Ryan Gibbs: They’ve been nominated a record 11 times. They’re incredibly worthy. But why do you think they keep being passed over?

Matt Rice: Anti-disco nonsense. But I’d think Chic would be disco’s biggest contender.

Jon Winkler: If they never let Chic in, they should at least acknowledge Nile Rodgers somehow.

Reagan Harrison: Yes, disco. People really dislike it…

Ryan Gibbs: I agree. People have an ax to grind with disco. Which is a shame.

Matt Rice: They were a great album band, which should at least give them a little rockist cred.

Jon Winkler: Chic had an incredible sound. Super thick and glossy production where you can hear all the essential elements of their records.

Ryan Gibbs: And Nile Rodgers has all these connections. I really think they should have gotten in when the Daft Punk album was released…wow, three years ago.

Matt Rice: Maybe in 50 years, Sister Sledge can have a shot too.

Ryan Gibbs: I’d love it if Chic got inducted, I’m just not sure if this will be the year they are. I don’t see a real push to finally get them in like there should be

Matt Rice: Which is funny, since it seems like it becomes a topic of discussion every year.

Jon Winkler: What’s the best Chic deep cut?

Matt Rice:26” is a personal favorite.

Reagan Harrison: Some bands, Chic included, just need to be inducted. Don’t think there’s a limit to how many times you can be nominated, but there’s a point where it gets old. I just feel bad for the band.

Ryan Gibbs: Yeah there’s no Baseball Hall of Fame type stuff here. They can be nominated until they get in.

DEPECHE MODE

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Photo credit: Carl Studna

Photo courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Photo credit: Carl Studna

Previous nominations: 0
Essential songs:
Just Can’t Get Enough” (1981), “Everything Counts” (1983), “Personal Jesus” (1989), “Enjoy the Silence” (1990)

Matt Rice: I’m mostly indifferent towards them.

Ryan Gibbs: Really? They’re one of my favorites on this whole list. It’s interesting seeing them here over another nomination for The Cure, though

Reagan Harrison: Yeah, The Cure, that’s a good point. I could jam out to them for days, which for me, a band that doesn’t get old after being on repeat for a week is a winner.

Jon Winkler: The Cure should have been in before them.

Ryan Gibbs: I think they’re a good choice for a new wave band. After all these years of synthesizer bands being ignored by the Hall, you can’t go wrong with one of the biggest.

Jon Winkler: But Depeche are prime staples of new wave and showed that it wasn’t all bright synths.

Ryan Gibbs: They’re one of the few bands of their era and genre whose new albums still sell incredibly well.

Jon Winkler: And they still make good albums! They can work with synths, dark European house sounds and even acoustic guitar. See “Dream On” for example

Ryan Gibbs: I also don’t think they have a good shot because voters who would vote for them will think “hey, where’s The Cure?” and not vote for them. Maybe The Cure will get a good push next year as a result.

Reagan Harrison: We can hope!

Jon Winkler: But anyway, Depeche really helped new wave shift into the direction alternative could go. Their lyrics are almost early emo.

Ryan Gibbs: One of the few examples where a band got darker and darker and got increasingly more popular. At their peak Depeche Mode were selling out huge stadiums

Jon Winkler: Well on the strength of an album like Violator, they deserved to. That’s their finest moment IMO. Depeche Mode often remind me of what Joy Division could’ve evolved into if Ian Curtis stayed alive.

Reagan Harrison: Don’t ask my why, but their music video for “Personal Jesus” makes me laugh (maybe it’s the cheesiness and awkward zoom ins).

Jon Winkler: Yeah, it is a little corny.

Ryan Gibbs: Although you can tell Anton Corbijn directed it.

Go to the next page for our thoughts on Electric Light Orchestra, Journey and more

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Ryan Gibbs is the music editor for The Young Folks. He is based in Newport, Rhode Island.