Every fall, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announces the nominees for the following year’s induction ceremony, and every fall, music fans find new reasons to fault the organization. Sure, I’m perpetually disappointed by the lack of female inductees, but that’s as much about rock history being dominated by men as it is about the nomination committee’s views, which are tangled up in all kinds of Rolling Stone think. (I’m also disappointed by the ongoing snub of ELO; why don’t people realize the genius of Jeff Lynne outside of their hits?!) Point is, most people who still care about the Rock Hall recognize at least one flaw within the Hall’s selections.
Those few months at the end of the year, between nomination and selection, are so full of hope, aren’t they? The prospect of left-of-center inclusions, like The Replacements last year and The Smiths this year, looms ahead. I find myself daydreaming: “Maybe the committee will realize that Paul Westerberg and Morrissey are worthy. Fuck, let’s throw in Brian Eno, Frank Black, and Robert Smith while we’re getting alt!” My hopes are usually dashed, but every once in a while a weirdo like Tom Waits (Class of 2011) slips in among the multiple inductions for Clapton and members of The Beatles.
Whether you share my sentiments or not, the universal aspect here is conjecture and hope. Let’s delve into the nominees for the Rock Hall Class of 2015, which were announced this morning, with a look at their histories with the organization and their chances. But first, a rule refresher.
For an act to be nominated and eventually inducted, their first official release on a label — be it a single, like Nirvana last year, or their debut album/EP — has be 25 years old in the year of nomination. This means that the year to beat this time around is 1989. A few notable newly eligible nominees left out this year: Pavement, Bob Mould, Garth Brooks, Lenny Kravitz. But the big ones are there in Nine Inch Nails and Green Day.
The other thing to remember is that only five or six performers are inducted each year, with additional spots reserved for industry executives and low-key legends (the Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement), sidemen, and what they call “Early Influences” (musicians whose work, usually in the blues, led to the develop of rock’n’roll). In recent years, each induction class has typically included at least one woman, at least one non-“rock” act (often including one prominent rap group), and at least one “forgotten” act from the ’50s or ’60s (moving into the ’70s now). The ideal class is one that picks a little from each of the following five categories.
THOSE FIRST-YEAR ELIGIBILITY JITTERS
If the nomination committee has selected an act who qualifies by the skin of their teeth (i.e. their very first single or EP on an obscure label, or just not a big breakthrough debut album), then there’s a good chance this act will be inducted. This means they’re eager to have them in the Rock Hall. I expect this will hold true for both Green Day and Nine Inch Nails this year, especially NIN, what with “Oscar winner Trent Reznor” being a thing now.
Green Day Number of Previous Nominations: 0, duh Eligible Since: Right now Chances: Lock
Nine Inch Nails Number of Previous Nominations: also 0 Eligible Since: Right now Chances: Lock
THE NON-“ROCK” MEGA-INFLUENCERS
Chic* Number of Previous Nominations: 8 Eligible Since: Class of 2003 Chances: I’m gonna call it a lock, partially because I think Rock Hall voters must be sick of seeing their name so many times, seeing as the nomination committee apparently REALLY wants Nile Rodgers inducted. Even the Chic leader’s Daft Punk-approved comeback wasn’t enough to cement an induction last year.
N.W.A Number of Previous Nominations: 2 Eligible Since: Class of 2013 Chances: If Chic’s not in, then it’s N.W.A. I know that makes no sense because they play totally different kinds of music, but they have to pick someone from this category, in part due to diversity reasons.
Kraftwerk Number of Previous Nominations: 2 Eligible Since: Class of 1996 Chances: LOL. This is a cred move, come on.
*Chic also falls under “Icons We’re In No Rush For” category — poster-childern of it, really. Also the “Wait, They’re Not In Already?!” category.
WAIT, THEY’RE NOT IN ALREADY?
Lou Reed Number of Previous Nominations: 2 Eligible Since: Class of 1998 Chances: Lock. Not trying to demean Lou, who was inducted with the Velvet Underground in 1996, but death/health scares are motivators to Rock Hall voters (see: Donna Summer in 2013, Linda Ronstadt in 2014). They’ve just recently been reminded of an artists’ greatness, of which Reed had an abundance.
Bill Withers** Number of Previous Nominations: 0 Eligible Since: Class of 1997 Chances: 70/30. Bill Withers absolutely should be in. Seems like he’s set up to be this year’s singer-songwriter pick, but a lot could go sideways, especially considering he’s been out of the spotlight for a while and has never once been nominated in nearly 20 years of eligibility. (If Bill Withers’ eligibility were a person, that person would be a legal adult by now. This is absurd. It’s Bill Withers, people.)
The Smiths Number of Previous Nominations: 0 Eligible Since: Class of 2009 Chances: I want to say it’s higher than 30/70, but the Rock Hall voters remain skeptical of English acts outside of the OG rock legends. We’re lucky if it’s 30/70, frankly (Mr. Shankly).
Stevie Ray Vaughan Number of Previous Nominations: 0 Eligible Since: Class of 2009 Chances: Not in. (Note on putting him in this category: It’s not that I think Stevie Ray Vaughan was the world’s greatest guitarist or anything, but he’s a quintessentially Rock Hall/Rolling Stone guitar hero who died young. He will get in, but not on his first nomination.)
**Bill Withers, too, falls under “Icons We’re In No Rush For” category.
ICONS WE’RE IN NO RUSH FOR
All these people will get in… eventually.
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts Number of Previous Nominations: 2 Eligible Since: Class of 2006 Chances: 60/40. She’s been in the news a lot in recent years (thanks, Runaways movie and Dave Grohl), so she’s been consistently nominated. I just don’t know if people will be gunning for her amongst this stacked competition.
Sting Number of Previous Nominations: 0 Eligible Since: Class of 2008 Chances: Not in. He’s already in with the Police, they’ll get to him in a slow year. For now, just be patient — enjoy some more tantric sex with Trudie or something to pass the time.
War Number of Previous Nominations:2 Eligible Since: Class of 1997 Chances: 30/70. (Another “if Chic, the other funk ensemble on the nominees list, doesn’t get in.”)
VINTAGE LEFTOVERS RARELY WORSHIPPED
Maybe one of these bands will get in. They’re all very different in sound, but I think The Spinners have the best shot.
The Marvelettes Number of Previous Nominations: 1 Eligible Since: Class of 1987 Chances: Ehh.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band Number of Previous Nominations: 3 Eligible Since: Class of 1989 Chances: Not in.
The Spinners Number of Previous Nominations: 1 Eligible Since: Class of 1987 Chances: Best shot in this category, still shaky.