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Handicapping The 2017 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Ballot

Handicapping The 2017 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Ballot

Normally when writing about the city of Cleveland, the default is to mercilessly bash their sports teams, and then sneak in a mention of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Well, everything’s been coming up Cleveland, with the Cavs taking down the Warriors (they blew a 3-1 lead) for the NBA title and the Indians headed to the World Series. And hey! They’ve still got the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which happens to be the only Hall of Fame that encourages performance enhancing drug use. There is no asterisk next to the Rolling Stones, for instance.

The 2017 HoF class ballot was released earlier this week, and since I fancy myself a bit of a rock historian (kind of a Renaissance man, nbd), I’m going to handicap the ballot, giving you Vegas odds for entry. Just a quick note before we begin:

• Ballot is chosen by a nominating committee. Bands eligible must have released an EP at least 25 years ago, and bands can appear, disappear, and reappear on the ballot. Them’s the rules.
• Vegas odds work like this, for the novice gamblers. Anything with a (+) next to it means that the pick is an underdog; +500 means if you bet $100, you’d win $500. Anything with a (-) next to it means they’re favored in the outcome; -150 means you’d need to bet $150 just to win $100. Got it? Good.
• I think judging art is dumb; the Grammy Awards seem arbitrary, and what sounds good to you might seem like terrible music to me. HOWEVAH (Stephen A Smith voice), I don’t think this applies to the Rock & Roll HoF, because it’s about the achievements and the influence on music history. It’s a museum, after all, and you can’t tell the story of music without the people inducted into the HoF, whether you like listening to them or not.

Here we go!

Bad Brains
Bad Brains is a hardcore punk / reggae band originating in the 70s, who’ve inspired bands such as The Beastie Boys and Living Colour. They’re pretty intense and can be kind of hard to listen to. They never really had any hits, but if you’re curious what they sound like, just think of a skating video game soundtrack.

Eligible year: 2008
Number of nominations: 1
Nominated in: 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +5,000

Chaka Khan
Chaka Khan started out as a front woman for the 70s funk band, Rufus, got herself the nickname “Queen of Funk,” and set off on a long solo career. She’s had two Top 40 songs, 41 solo singles, and one certified Platinum album to go along with two Golds. She’s won 10 Grammy Awards, with 22 nominations. 1984’s “I Feel for You” is a hit of the 80s and a bonafide banger. Has kind of a funk/dance fusion thing going on.

Eligible year: 2003
Number of nominations: 3
Nominated in: 2012, 2016, 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +750

Chic
Chic was a prominent disco band that seemed to pump out hit after hit in the late 70s. Like, if you’ve never heard “Good Times,” or “Le Freak,” I don’t know where you’ve been hiding. They pumped out some of the genre’s most prolific heaters, and you can’t mention disco without talking about Chic. They’ve been nominated like a zillion times, and are the most nominated band without ever gaining entry. They’re hoping to pull a Bert Blyleven this year.

Eligible year: 2002
Number of nominations: 11
Nominated in: 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +600

Depeche Mode
If you’re into new wave, Depeche Mode is a mainstay on your playlist. And if you’re not sure where to start if you’re interested in getting into new wave, Depeche Mode is a great place, considering Q Magazine once called them “the most popular electronic band the world has ever known.” The opening riff to “Just Can’t Get Enough” is ubiquitously recognizable. They’ve had a profound influence on a plethora of subsequent genres, and all of their albums – all 13 – have gone at least Silver, with most going Gold or Platinum. Unfortunately, hall voters have not been kind to new wave artists to this point.

Eligible year: 2016
Number of nominations: 1
Nominated in: 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +800

Electric Light Orchestra
They were eligible in 1986, but somehow this is their first year on the ballot, which bamboozles me, because they’ve got some bangarang jams. “10538 Overture,” “Evil Woman,” “Strange Magic,” Livin Thing,” “Telephone Line,” “Mr. Blue Sky,” “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” “Don’t Bring Me Down.” Just straight fire auditory cocaine. They’ve had longevity, they had depth, and from 1972 to 1986, ELO accumulated more combined UK and US Top 40 hits than any other band in the world.

Eligible year: 1986
Number of nominations: 1
Nominated in: 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +300

J. Geils Band
The J. Geils Band is easily best known for “Centerfold,” “Freeze Frame,” and personal favorite “Love Stinks.” Interestingly, these hits came out towards the end of their run. They’ve experimented with a wide range of styles throughout the 70s and early 80s, and they’ve got a soft spot in my heart since they’re from Massachusetts. Just don’t think they’ve got the star power, longevity, or influence, to get in.

Eligible year: 1995
Number of nominations: 4
Nominated in: 2005, 2006, 2011, 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +1,000

Jane’s Addiction
Lead by Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro, Jane’s Addiction were pioneers of the 90s alt rock scene, laying the groundwork by mixing alternative metal guitars with the lyrical brilliance of Farrell from 1985-1991. They launched the first Lollapalooza, and if you want to know what life was like in the late 80s LA rock scene, put on some Jane’s Addiction. They may not have had much longevity, but man, they left their mark.

Eligible year: 2012
Number of nominations: 1
Nominated in: 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +2,500

Janet Jackson
First thing’s first: Janet Jackson is pregnant with her first child….AT FIFTY FUCKING YEARS OLD. That’s ludicrous. Okay, now we’ve got that out of the way: wardrobe malfunctions aside, Janet Jackson is one of the best-selling R&B/hip-hop artists ever. “Nasty” is on all my 80s playlists. She’s listed as the 11th best-selling female recording artist in US history and she still holds the record for the most consecutive Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 by a female artist with 18. She’s had seven number one albums, with “Rhythm Nation 1814” and “The Velvet Rope” being her seminal bodies of work.

Eligible year: 2007
Number of nominations: 2
Nominated in: 2016, 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +300

Joan Baez
Baez is a folk singer who’s been around since the early 60s, and actually performed at Woodstock ’69. She hit more mainstream popularity in the 1970s, and has been performing well into her 70s. Her career has spanned 55 years and more than 30 albums. Fuckin’ work horse. Influentially, she’s been a leading social activist since her career started.

Eligible year: 1985
Number of nominations: 1
Nominated in: 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +4,000

Joe Tex
Joe Tex was a prominent name in the 1960s and 70s Southern soul scene. Mixing funk, gospel, and country, Tex has some silky jams. As I write this, I’m enjoying “Aint Gonna Bump No More,” and the video is electric. The guy is a born entertainer. He died young (47 years old), but this guy was a talent.

Eligible year: 1990
Number of nominations: 5
Nominated in: 1998, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +1,500

Journey
They were eligible in 2000 and yet this is their first year on the ballot? The fucking nominee voting is more fucked up than the baseball HoF voting, that’s just fact. Steve Perry (ever heard of him?) has the voice of a fucking angel; designed by God to be a soaring beacon that could powerfully knife through any arena. They had a stranglehold on the 1980s stadium rock sound, and I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that “Don’t Stop Believin’” is one of the most recognizable songs of all time, and if you don’t choke up a little when you listen to “Faithfully,” you’re for sure one of those Westworld robots. Maybe they’ve been left off the ballot for the perception that they may be too “corporate,” but they belong in a Rock & Roll museum, because you can’t tell the story of 80s stadium rock without Journey. Unlikely that they get in on their first ballot.

Eligible year: 2000
Number of nominations: 1
Nominated in: 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +400

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk has had a major influence in synthpop, hip hop, dance, and electronic music. It’s nuts, but The Observer once said “no other band since the Beatles has given so much to pop culture.” Now, I don’t know about all that, but the dudes from Dusseldorf are considered the fathers of modern electronic music, so even though I couldn’t name one single jam, they’ve got the influence factor on their side.

Eligible year: 1995
Number of nominations: 4
Nominated in: 2003, 2013, 2015, 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +800

MC5
Defining names in proto-punk. Throw them on YouTube and let the garage rock amp up. You probably (hopefully) have heard 1969’s “Kick Out The Jams,” which you should certainly give a listen to in order to understand what we’re working with here. With the standard culture tearing and political rebellion themes, they were really influential in the world of punk. A similar band, The Stooges, is already in the hall.

Eligible year: 1991
Number of nominations: 2
Nominated in: 2003, 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +1,000

Pearl Jam
I have to caveat what I am about to say with this message: I will try to give you an unbiased recap of Pearl Jam and their chances, but I also cannot guarantee that it won’t turn into a fellatio fest either. If I could only listen to two bands for the rest of my life, I’d pick Pearl Jam and not even consider a second band. I’ve got Eddie Vedder’s words – in his handwriting no less – tattooed on my body. This band has changed my life in profound ways, and is indescribably important to me and my family. Okay, now that that’s out of the way…..
Pearl Jam exploded in the early 90s, rising to the top of the grunge era rock scene out of Seattle. But their anthology transcends just grunge. They never let the mainstream dictate what they did, whether it was the Ticket Master boycott, refusing to make music videos, or making music that they wanted to make as opposed to the music that they thought could get them the most radio play. They’ve had essentially the same lineup since their inception, just swapping out drummers until vulturing Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron permanently in 1998. They play transcendental live shows, with an outrageously dedicated fan base. nine out of ten albums have peaked as high as #2 on the charts and they’ve got an album that went Diamond. If you’re a PJ rookie, or don’t know anything beyond the hits, listen to live versions of “Release” and “Rearview Mirror.” That should get you hooked. Nirvana went in on their first ballot, and Pearl Jam should easily do the same, joining the exclusive first ballot club (someday I’ll get around to telling you why Nirvana is overrated, don’t @ me). PJ is as safe a bet there is this year.

Eligible year: 2016
Number of nominations: 1
Nominated in: 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: -250

Steppenwolf
You know them from “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride.” A true classic rock band, most prominent only from 1968-1972. While they’ve had eight albums go Gold with six Top 40 hits, they never really had much of a true influence on later acts. Nobody is citing Steppenwolf as their main inspiration. So while their sound personified the classic rock period of history, their lack of longevity and influence may hurt them.

Eligible year: 1993
Number of nominations: 1
Nominated in: 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +2,000

The Cars
Maybe they’ve got a soft spot in my heart since they’re from Boston, but The Cars are awesome, plain and simple. They took elements of 60s pop, 70s glam rock, and started churning out new wave hits in the late 70s / early 80s. They were singles machines – think Ichiro Suzuki – with 13 Top 40 singles, and four straight Top 10 LPs. Indubitably, you’ve at least heard “Just What I Needed,” “Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “Let’s Go.” I think they should be in, but again, the hall hasn’t been so kind to new wave acts.

Eligible year: 2003
Number of nominations: 2
Nominated in: 2016, 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +300

The Zombies
You probably know this 60s English rock band from “Time of the Season” of their formative 1968 album Odyssey and Oracle. They were psych-era mainstays, but they didn’t really pump out many hits, and while they’re certainly enjoyable to listen to, they don’t really rock hard. In fact, they’re kind of soft.

Eligible year: 1989
Number of nominations: 2
Nominated in: 2014, 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +900

Tupac Shakur
Rappers have certainly been seen somewhat favorably by the hall, with Run DMC and Public Enemy getting in on their first ballots, though it bottles my mind how it took NWA four tries. But Tupac is beyond influential. Not just in rap and hip-hop, but just from a purely cultural perspective. His strong anthology, met with tragic ending, all backed up by a rock star persona. He’s a shoe-in, the voters will show him some California Love (see what I did there?) What’re the odds that ‘pac reemerges for the induction ceremony? Hundo P they’ve got at least the hologram cued up.

Eligible year: 2016
Number of nominations: 1
Nominated in: 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: -150

Yes
This English rock band had most of their mainstream success in the 1970s, with an ambitious progressive rock flavor. Listen to “Roundabout,” you’ll get the idea. I generally think of Yes as Pink Floyd light, but that’s doing them a disservice, because they don’t belong in anybody’s shadow.

Eligible year: 1994
Number of nominations: 3
Nominated in: 2014, 2016, 2017
Boston Max Vegas Odds: +750

If you had to vote for up to five of the nominated acts, who you got? My five, with apologies to Janet Jackson: Pearl Jam, The Cars, Tupac Shakur, Electric Light Orchestra, and Journey.

Image via Dana Gardner / Shutterstock.com

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Boston Max

Spending my retirement fund at Trader Joe's and trying to remember to check my mailbox semi-regularly

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