First, let's address the most burning question surrounding
the 2011 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominations: No, Rush didn't make the
cut, again. Let the annual wailing and gnashing of teeth begin!
But, the great prog blackout notwithstanding, some other traditional
oversights did get addressed with this year's round of 15 nods.
Most gratifyingly, rock's female pioneers of the mid-'70s
are finally getting a shot at getting their due. It's sometimes seemed as if
the Rock Hall doesn't believe women did much of anything between Janis' death
and the Madonna nation's birth. But now they're coming straight on for you! The figures who arguably did the most to advance women in rock in the Me Decade, Heart and Joan Jett, both picked up first-time nominations.
So did Rufus with Chaka
Khan. Two previous women nominees associated with the era, Laura Nyro and Donna Summer, are also back among
this year's mix of contenders. (Maybe the nominating committee actually visited the Hall of Fame's new "Women Who Rock" exhibit this summer?)
The other area of obvious emphasis: the late '80s dudes
who helped make up the second generation of MTV rock stars. Guns N' Roses and
the Cure are up for the first time, joined by second-time nominees the Red Hot Chili
Peppers. Surely this town ain't big enough for all three of 'em. Will Anthony
be telling Axl to put a sock in it? Or will Rose tell Kiedis to put a scarf on
And then there's late '80s hip-hop, with first-time nominees
Eric B. & Rakim pitted against the Beastie Boys, who are trying for
induction a second time. You've got to fight for your right to… Parma! (Sorry,
a little joke there for the Rock Hall's hometown, Cleveland.)
The nominee slate is rounded out by the usual potpourri of strange
bedfellows that include the Spinners, the Small Faces/Faces, War, Donovan, and Freddy
You can expect the usual howls of protest, since there's no
national pastime that brings the nation together quite like carping about the
Rock Hall's choices every year.
Much of it will take the traditional form of "You consider
that rock & roll?" — often (but not always) directed at the R&B, rap,
or soul performers included on the list. Expect the inclusion of soul favorites
Rufus and the Spinners, rappers Erik B. & Rakim, and bluesman King to draw
protests from the folks who want to define rock strictly as a genre and not a
cross-cultural movement. (For good measure, they might even throw in the folkie
Donovan as someone whose yellow is too mellow to be "rock.")
And then there will be the "no Geddy, no peace" contingent. For the record, yes, it is a crime against humanity—resolvable only by a war-crimes tribunal—that none of the following have ever been nominated: T. Rex, the Smiths, Yes, Jethro
Tull, Devo, Todd Rundgren, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Roxy Music, Willie Nelson,
Warren Zevon, the Replacements, ELO, Chubby Checker, Hall and Oates, Los Lobos,
Black Flag, X, the B-52s, Dick Dale, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Nick Drake,
Captain Beefheart, Sonic Youth, and the Go-Go's. Agreed!
Special nods of woe, also, to some deserving acts who were
nominated in the past but failed to get in, who the nominating committee has
probably given up on trying to sneak past the general voters: Gram Parsons (even
the third time wasn't the charm, back in 2005), Ben E. King (another three-time
nominee, though his last turn at bat came in 1988), the Shangri-Las, Ben E.
King, Carole King, the MC5, the New York Dolls, Johnny Ace, Kraftwerk, the Sir
Douglas Quintet, and Lou Reed.
So who stands the best chances this year?
Voters tend to not pick more than one from each subgenre.
And unfortunately, they'll probably think of "women" as a subgenre. Joan Jett
looks like the strongest bet, partly because voters will also be thinking of
the Runaways, who've never gotten a nomination (possibly because the committee
can't bear to reward Lita Ford). Heart may be viewed, unfairly, as not cool
enough, while Nyro will probably still be too cool to get in.
If only one hip-hop act is likely to make it in, that one act is
likelier to be the still-active one, the Beastie Boys, even though the general votership denied their rights before.
After Jett and the Beasties, though, it's anyone's guess who might
take the other three winning slots. Who knows if the Chili Peppers will benefit
from their survivor status or suffer from the somewhat indifferent reaction to
their new album?
The biggest question mark is GNR, still viewed as cheeseball
by much (but hardly all) of the critical establishment and intelligentsia.
Axl's megalomania doesn't exactly foster a sentiment-fueled vote, either. But
the popular impact is undeniable. And, of course, there's the reunion curiosity
factor: How many of us wouldn't vote for GNR just to
see if Rose and Slash can get back together on stage and make it through a single number without yanking one another's headpieces off?
The idea that induction will force a reunion performance can be a false hope, though... as fans who expected to see Creedence or ABBA
getting it together for one night unhappily learned. You can lead the
long-busted band to the awards-show trough, but you can't make 'em drink
through their differences.
If there's no patch-up in store, it would still be pretty wonderful to hear a couple of rock's highest voices in harmony—say, Ann Wilson wailing on "Welcome to the Jungle" and Axl going "Crazy on You." Just saying...
Which nominees would you like to see make it to the final
five? And who's the most egregious ongoing shut-out?