Although I didn’t start exercising my right to vote until last year, if you can believe it, I was kind of excited when I learned that voting started on Tuesday, Oct. 9, and I planned to vote early and vote often this year.
Um, you know I’m talking about voting for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees, right?
The early in-person casting of absentee votes for public elected office — votes that really matter — start on Oct. 15 in most La Crosse County municipalities.
On Tuesday morning, I was ready and waiting at 7 a.m. to jump on the Rock Hall’s website to see this year’s batch of nominees and be among the first to cast my vote in the public online polling. Hard to believe, but the Rock Hall has yet to ask me to be an official voting member. I mean, this year I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune to interview two Rock Hall inductees — bass players Chris Hillman of The Byrds and, just last week, Steve Fossen of Heart. What more do they want?
I had high hopes before looking at the nominees online that it’d be like last year, with personal favorites of mine making the list. Last year, I was most excited about Dire Straits and The Cars, bands that came out with great first albums that made a huge impression on me in my youth.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
If you could only pick one of this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees for induction, which one would it be?
This year’s nominees certainly include artists that I can get behind intellectually as inductees, but none where I could name the bass player in the band, a sure sign that it’s a band I really care about. The only one that raised my heartbeat at all was the Zombies, mainly because a few weeks ago I finally got around to listening to the band’s much-loved “Odessey and Oracle” album.
For the record, I liked it so much I listened to it four times in a day. But I cannot name the bass player.
Among the 14 other nominees this year, there were six acts that are on the ballot for the first time: Def Leppard, Roxy Music, Devo, Stevie Nicks (already inducted with Fleetwood Mac), John Prine and Todd Rundgren, which is unbelievable to me because he deserves to be in there for “Bang the Drum All Day” alone.
I have to admit the inclusion of Prine, a very fine folksinger, gave me pause, but then I considered James Taylor is in there and it made some sense.
Other nominees this year who have been considered for induction before (besides the Zombies) include Janet Jackson, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, MC5, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan and The Cure.
Now, I would really have been excited if they’d included Warren Zevon, Television, XTC, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Gram Parsons, NRBQ, Bad Company, Thin Lizzy, The Meters, Pat Benatar, Tina Turner, The B-52s, Big Star, Smashing Pumpkins, Dick Dale, Link Wray, Joe Cocker and T. Rex. Oh heck, let’s put Three Dog Night in there, too.
Any music fan will have a list like this, and yours is as good as mine or anyone’s. We all like what we like, and we think others should like what we like because, like, how could I possibly be wrong, right?
It would sure be nice if the Rock Hall was like the Baseball Hall of Fame, where you can look at the stats and do a well-reasoned analysis of whether someone is deserving. But with the Rock Hall, it’s not really just rock and roll, and it seems like nominees are playing entirely different games with a wide array of statistical success.
But like John Prine would say, it ain’t hurtin’ nobody. The Rock “Hall of Lame,” as some like to call it, means no offense by not including our personal favorite bands or inducting acts we don’t like. It’s an amazing place that has so many holy rock music relics that you can skip over the exhibits you don’t like and still not feel cheated.
I have visited the Rock Hall once, back in late summer of 2001. We’d driven from Washington, D.C., arriving in Cleveland late in the afternoon. We only had a few hours to spend there, and my wife and I had our two young daughters with. I knew going in that it was not going to be the deep dive I wanted, but it still turned out to be memorable and inspiring.
We arrived just in time for a special concert, featuring an all-star band led by former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman (yep, knew his name). We didn’t linger to watch the concert because I wanted to see some of the museum, but somehow we ended up going down an escalator from the second floor to a spot behind the stage just feet away from Gary Brooker of Procul Harum as he was breaking into “A White Shade of Pale.”
Toward the end of our visit, we came across a special John Lennon exhibit that had his first guitar hung on the wall and, I think, the piano on which he wrote “Imagine.” I will never forget seeing Lennon’s handwritten lyrics for “In My Life” while the Beatles’ recording of the song played in that room.
Would it be as much of a thrill and everlasting memory when I go back — and I will — to see the handwritten lyrics of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” the wacky red hats worn by Devo or one of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” outfits? Not really, but that’s OK. For some people, those relics might induce chills. I’m OK with the Rock Hall being a big-tent kind of place.
Rock on …
Contact Randy Erickson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Troubadog.