Writing About the Rock Hall Nominees Annually Is a Grim Reminder of the Passage of Time
Here's my list of who should make it this year, even if they have a snowball's chance in hell.
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This past August, I found myself in Cleveland with a day to kill before an afternoon flight (that turned into a late evening flight. You know how it is to travel in the good ol’ U.S. of A these days). While my traveling foursome was trying to come up with ideas, I half-heartedly suggested the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I noted the group’s silence and didn’t push it any further because I, a music writer, didn’t really care to go either.
After grudgingly writing about the nominees each year since I started this newsletter, I felt obligated to suggest the visit, even if I can best describe my feelings towards the Rock Hall as indifferent. We instead made a quick stop for a photo opportunity in front of the house from A Christmas Story (everybody chicken wing!) and elected for cocktails and mixed nuts at the airport.
Cleveland, you’re a gem.
Last year, the Rock Hall attempted to reckon with their past of being a white males club by nominating more women and hip-hop acts than in the past. This year… they still have some of that notion, but also are like, HELL YEAH, ROCK N’ ROLL again with some artists well overdue for a nomination.
Here’s this year’s list:
Joy Division/New Order
Rage Against the Machine
A Tribe Called Quest
The White Stripes
Since there are typically five to seven inductees each year, here are my top picks (not necessarily ones I think will make it), plus a few honorable mentions.
Get Them In There Already!
I never hide my love for the crop of singers and bands that popped up in Southern California in the 70s. Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac (peak commercial lineup), Gram Parsons, and Steely Dan (yeah, they’re New Yorkers but recorded in Los Angeles and encapsulate the region’s sound) are all in constant rotation around my house. Still, my guy Warren Zevon is always criminally overlooked when it comes to discussions about that scene. The same goes for the Rock Hall since Zevon has been eligible for induction since the mid-90s, and this is his first time being nominated. Absolutely insane.
If your only exposure to Zevon is “Werewolves of London,” we need to change that. As a touring keyboard player for The Everly Brothers and studio musician, Zevon had little luck in the first half of the decade and was chased out of L.A. But his luck would change when he returned to the city in 1975, where he found roommates in Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, who had just joined a little British blues band called Fleetwood Mac. I cannot imagine how deranged that living arrangement must have been.
He also met Jackson Browne, who brought Zevon along as an opening act and produced his self-titled major-label debut the following year. Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy, and Bad Luck in Dancing School is a pretty untouchable run of classic rock albums, but The Envoy (still pretty good) didn’t fair well in sales, and Asylum Records dropped Zevon from his contract. After another bout of alcoholism and heavy drug use, Zevon returned in the late-80s for his severely underrated outing on Sentimental Hygiene - this record includes Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Billy Berry of R.E.M. as his backing band. Never returning to his commercial peak in the 70s, Zevon released low-key albums until his early death from the cruel hands of cancer in 2003 (his last album, The Wind finally saw him atop the Billboard Indie Chart and number twelve on the Top 200 while winning a Grammy).
Is he a 2023 inductee? I’m honestly stumped on this one. Zevon is one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, but his drug use and messy lifestyle burned many industry bridges over the years. He’s deserved it for almost three decades, but I can see the old turds on the board holding grudges.
Hi, it’s me back in February 2021. I’m piecing together Check This Out! like Frankenstein’s Monster, and decided to write about the Rock Hall noms. The one thing I knew: Kate Bush is far too weird and cool for the suit-life geezers at the Rock Hall. Here’s what I had to say in my breakdown:
“The current state of art-rock and indie, would be nowhere without Kate Bush. Her 1978 debut single ‘Wuthering Heights’ was the first time a female artist topped the UK charts with a self-written song. While never as commercially successful in the US, Bush has had a career full of hits. Her contribution in choreography and music tech cannot be overstated, with Bush being the first person to come up with a microphone headset, something that every dancing pop star now uses. Those influenced by her include Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bat For Lashes, Tori Amos, k.d. lang, and Regina Spektor. You may also recognize her work on Peter Gabriel’s ‘Games Without Frontiers.’
Is she a 2021 inductee? No. Kate Bush continues to be considered too “avant-garde” for the Hall but should be in there as she is a real genre trailblazer.”
Even though so much current pop music is indebted to Kate Bush, there’s no question that she wouldn’t get in. Nor did she last year.
But my friends, in the age of memes and Gen Z discovering lost gems of the past, all of this can change in a few weeks. Not only did the last season of Stranger Things resurrect Metallica from the grave, but the show made Kate Bush the “it girl” of the summer festival season, with remixes of “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)” a requirement in every D.J. set. The song would spend multiple weeks on top of the Billboard charts.
Is she a 2023 inductee? Is Nikola Jokić guaranteed a triple-double against the Hawks this weekend? You know it.
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