Tuesday, April 05, 2011

This Year's Bitchfest

Because I love pointing out the obvious, let's run down all the people who haven't been inducted into the Hall of Fame yet despite their eligibility.

Estimated Years Eligible: 16
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: Even

The same crowd who complained when Madonna and ABBA were inducted (and Grand Funk once again overlooked!) would probably weep tears of blood to see Kraftwerk inducted. And yet: without a doubt one of the five most influential bands ever. I mean, they're German! But without Kraftwerk the shape of modern music would be so different as to be recognizable. Every group either goes through a Kraftwerk phase or they go through a phase where they emulate the no-/new-wave bands who were influenced by Kraftwerk, or the 70s Bowie albums that were made under the direct influence of Kraftwerk and cocaine, in that order. Even U2 went through a Kraftwerk phase, for Chrissakes. If you're a rapper, you've got Kraftwerk so far back in your RNA that even if you don't know who Florian Schneider is, you know all the guys who built hip-hop out of sampling "Trans-Europe Express." If you sing pop music in 2011, you're basically standing on Kraftwerk's shoulders. They'll get in eventually, I'll wager, but probably not before half the band is dead.

Afrika Bambaataa
Estimated Years Eligible: 6
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 10-1

Founding Father of hip-hop. Let me repeat that for emphasis: Afrika Bambaataa is the guy who named hip-hop. After DJ Kool Herc and DJ Kool Dee, this guy here was right in the center of things, using the idea of throwing hip-hop parties as a way to keep Bronx kids from joining gangs. Afrika Bambaataa sampled Kraftwerk to make "Planet Rock." "Planet Rock" is one of the handful of most influential hip-hop songs ever recorded, and therefore fully 2/3 of the songs on the radio straight-up would not exist if this man hadn't figured out how to sample the hook from "Trans-Europe Express." Unfortunately, it looks as if we might have to wait a while before more artists fromthe early days of hip-hop are inducted - they inducted Grandmaster Flash in 2007 and Run-DMC last year. Unfortunately, so much of early hip-hop was a singles genre that it's hard to make a case for the fact that so many early rappers and DJs can only point to a handful of songs to make their case for history. That didn't stop any of the 50s doo-wop or Brill Building groups who've been inducted over the years, but it might be a while before they get around to folks like Afrika Bambaataa - we will probably see more prominent groups such as Public Enemy (a sure first-ballot pick for even the most conservative voters) and NWA inducted before Bambaataa, Fab Five Freddy or the Sugarhill Gang.

DJ Kool Herc
Estimated Years Eligible: 10-ish
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 250-1

You know what I said earlier about Afrika Bambaataa being one of the "Founding Fathers" of hip-hop? Well, this is the man who actually, you know, created hip-hop. As in: before Kool Herc there was no hip-hop, then after him there was. Of course, the fact that he was never a recording artist means his chances of being inducted are pretty near zero, but there are two other types of awards for which he qualifies: the sporadically given "Lifetime Achievement" award (for "unique contributions" that fall outside the strict roll of producer or artist, folks like Jann Wenner and Seymour Stein), and then the Ahmet Ertegun Award, given to non-performers. Often this goes to producers such as Phil Spector and Berry Gordy, but they've also given it to folks like Alan Freed and Dick Clark. Either The Man Who Created Hip-Hop gets one of these awards before he dies (which might be soon considering he's been in need of an expensive kidney transplant for some time), or the whole damn thing is just a joke. Every millionaire in the music biz who has made so much as a single dollar off hip-hop owes that dollar to this man, end of story.

The Cure
Estimated Years Eligible: 7
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 5-1

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Cure will actually get in one of these years, but it probably won't be soon. Despite the fact that they check all three boxes on the Induction Schedule (popularity, acclaim, influence), they are just too British to sit well with the old white guys on the induction committee. The let in John Cougar Mellencamp the first year he was eligible because Mellencamp is a "serious" American artist who does rootsy Americana type stuff, regardless of the fact that it's awful and boring. The Cure started off as punk - sort-of - and evolved with that genre in the direction of new wave and synth pop but not before taking a detour in the direction of industrial. Their prime period careens between jangly college guitar rock and synthesizer tracks. So far, not a single new wave or synth-pop group has been inducted, despite that fact that anyone around since 1986 is now eligible for entry. Robert Smith puts on makeup, which is just about the worst thing you can do in terms of getting the Hall of Fame to pay attention. (See: Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis). They're big enough and still relevant enough that it's hard to imagine them not being inducted at some point, but don't hold your breath.

Depeche Mode
Estimated Years Eligible: 5
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 10-1

Much of what I said for the Cure applies to Depeche Mode as well, but moreso. Despite the fact that they were for a good decade one of the biggest bands in the world - maybe not quite as big in America as everywhere else - they also played synths and made dance music. They certainly have the critical heft and the influence. But they're just too . . . well, fey and poppy, I guess. Maybe someday, I can see them waiting a while and then having a big synth-pop year just to get rid of these guys in one big rush.

Joy Division / New Order
Estimated Years Eligible: 7 / 5
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 25-1 / 10-1

If they induct either band, it will probably be New Order, because it's as New Order that they sold millions of records and performed across the world. But in a perfect world, if Eric Clapton can be inducted thrice than Bernard Sumner can be inducted twice. (But in a perfect world, would Clapton really need three inductions?) I can see these guys, Depeche Mode and the Cure being lumped together in a box somewhere in Jann Wenner's office that says "silly British disco shit." Ironically, the one time I actually visited the Hall of Fame in Cleveland they had a very nice display of Joy Division / New Order memorabilia, including a few of Ian Curtis' hand-written lyric sheets. So it's not like they're not on the list, but I doubt they're very high on the list.

Big Star
Estimated Years Eligible: 14
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 50-1

Pretty much the poster boys for all those bands who have exerted a completely disproportionate influence relative to their popularity. I just checked Wikipedia and I see that the Box Tops haven't even been inducted yet. If anyone deserves a double induction it's Alex Chilton, yet I see his first band getting the nod a long time before anyone thinks to give it to the guys who, you know, pretty much invented "indie" rock.

Estimated Years Eligible: 8
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 15-1

I'd say the odds are good these guys will eventually make it, but it won't be soon. They've got the whole "funny" think working against them, despite their undeniable influence, and despite the fact that the ideas behind their music were about as funny as a heart attack. Old white guys don't care for satire in their rock & roll, don't you know. And they don't care for synthesizers either, despite the fact that they were by all accounts always a ferocious live band.

Meat Puppets
Estimated Years Eligible: 5
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 30-1

The best chance these guys have will be in a few years when all the grunge guys get inducted - you know, all the guys who built their careers off the riffs on Meat Puppets II. (Which is a lot more people than just Kurt Cobain.) One of the biggest problems the Hall of Fame is going to have in the coming years is the fact that, starting in the late 70s and working through the 80s, the majority of critically acclaimed acts were simply not very popular by any reasonable stretch of the imagination. There's a huge disconnect in the 80s and 90s and 00s between what the critics and musicians listen to and what actually sells records. Are we going to see the Smashing Pumpkins inducted before Pavement? Amazingly, the Meat Puppets do actually have one Gold record to their name - 1994's Too High To Die - but their weirdness and obscurity will probably keep them out of the Hall of Fame.

The Replacements
Estimated Years Eligible: 5
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 25-1

Just slightly more likely than the Meat Puppets. Made some of the best records of the 80s, left an enduring legacy, but just not very popular. Again, when the 90s guys start getting in there's a chance they might sneak in under the radar as "influences" if people like Eddie Vedder make a big deal about it. There's a slight chance. And, you know, in thirty years when all the current old white guys are dead and the old white guys will be people who grew up in the 80s, then there will be another chance that some rich and powerful established artist might lobby for an aging Paul Westerberg in much the same way Elton John obviously did for Leon Russell this year.

Minor Threat
Estimated Years Eligible: 6
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 100-1

Hah! I'm sorry, what? You founded a whole genre of rock but you also did it by flipping the proverbial bird to every old rich white guy in the business? Eh, sorry, I think this is the year we finally give Grand Funk Railroad their long overdue recognition.

Sonic Youth
Estimated Years Eligible: 4
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 10-1

I give good odds on these guys making it eventually. Maybe they'll make it the same year as Nirvana - which is, you know, only three years away! Do you feel old yet? But in the meantime, you know, Eric Clapton's Taint ain't gonna nominate itself, guys.

They Might Be Giants
Estimated Years Eligible: 1
Chances of Eventually Being Inducted: 15-1

They Might Be Giants will be eligible for nomination this coming year, I believe. (If you didn't feel old yet today, you do now.) I think they have a pretty good chance, in time. Their career trajectory has been almost as influential as their music at this point, and their significance to the evolution of indie rock in the late 80s and early 90s cannot be overstated, even if it only seems as if they were on a different planet entirely from bands like Nirvana and Sonic Youth. They started out as DIY as possible, went to a major label and got a Platinum plaque, then went indie again and probably make more money now than they did then by a wide margin. They were the first band to release exclusive original material on the internet. They might have a few more gray hairs before they get the call, but I think in the long run they stand a better chance than Big Star or the Meat Puppets.

No comments :