I paid a lot more attention to the Rock 'n Roll Hall Of Fame election this year far more than I usually do for two reasons. First and foremost is the fact that Chicago, one of my all time favorite bands, was nominated. Secondly, I discovered Tom Nawrocki's blog. He is an official voting member of the hall and a former editor for Rolling Stone so I quickly became interested in his thoughts behind his ballot choices.
Nawrocki voted for The Smiths, Janet Jackson, Chic, Cheap Trick, and N. W. A. He was correct on just two of them. He discussed the reasons behind his choices at Debris Slide.
Here are my thoughts on the five winners.
I find their music repulsive and their behavior often hard to tolerate. Despite the fact they have an extremely small recorded catalog of one full length, smash hit, album, an EP, and a second album that didn't create nearly as much buzz, they deserve to be in the hall because they are extremely huge cultural icons. They not only helped shape the world's musical tastes, they changed society too. It pains me to say that they have become almost as iconic and influential as The Beatles, but it's a fact. So, unfortunately, I would have to vote them in.
I liked, but didn't love, these guys. It's unusual for me to be attracted to a band that often seemed to be a gimmick. I'm referring to Bun E. Carlos's rumpled business man outfit and Rick Nielson's stupid little kid duds with a beanie. I have to admit that it prejudiced me against them for a long time. Power pop has always been one of my favorite rock sub-genres and as anyone who has read this site for a long time knows my love of The Beatles has no boundaries. In the end Cheap Trick were well loved and sold enough records to become legends. I may not have voted for them myself but I have no problem with their induction.
Miller's early work, the stuff he released before he took the road to stardom, is better than his hits. Just listen to "Space Cowboy" and "Your Saving Grace" for proof. The man knew how to write a catchy tune and a great riff and he doesn't need to make any apologies for his career. Besides, I can listen to "The Joker" forever. However, to coin a phrase used by someone else (I wish I remembered who it was) it's the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, not the hall of the very good. Steve Miller falls into the latter category.
Some people say Deep Purple invented heavy metal but I never considered them to be a true metal outfit. Even so, they were one of the better hard rock bands to ever put notes on vinyl and rock musicians the world over highly respected them. They only had three top 40 hits. One of them included what may be the most memorable guitar riff in history so they get extra points for "Smoke on the Water." As with Steve Miller, an all-star act but not hall of famers.
From their 1969 debut until Chicago VII in 1974 they were one of my all time favorite groups. The original Terry Kath version of the band still rules. More hits came later but they turned into a very different band that even made Michael Bolton seem like an alternative rock act. The quality of their records varied greatly and in some cases, late in their hit making years, they issued a lot of outright dreck. Nawrocki believed they played their way out of the hall with much of their later work. I can understand his thought process but in the end the original septet gave me too much pleasure to keep them out. Early on, Chicago recorded some of the greatest rock music on Earth so my ballot would contain a great big YES vote for the Windy City's famous horn band.
If I had a vote here are the artists I would have given my thumbs up to. I already mentioned N.W.A. and Chicago would get my votes. Janet Jackson would get my thumbs up too, not because I'm a fan, I own none of her records, but because she accomplished a lot over the course of a long career. Nawrocki wrote a great explanation for her induction. My other two votes would have gone to another personal favorite, prog-rock's best band and one with outstanding musicianship, Yes. My final vote would have gone to critical favorites (and one of mine too), Los Lobos.