Monday, June 30, 2008

Who's Headed for Cleveland?

While listening to the Offspring's "Hammerhead" on the radio, I had the same thought you did: This song probably puts them into the conversation for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It's a big hit already, and it's maybe their most serious hit, although not nearly as good as "Self-Esteem," but a lot of people respect "serious." It also means they've now been on the charts for a good long time; "Come Out and Play" dropped in 1994.

Nobody really talks about that kind of thing, do they? Baseball fans are constantly debating which current players have a shot at the Hall of Fame: Has Manny Ramirez already done enough to get in? Does Roy Oswalt have a chance? What does Ryan Howard need to do to make up for his late start? People never discuss midcareer rock bands like that.

Part of that has to do with what baseball fans call the bus test: Would this player make the Hall of Fame if he got hit by a bus tomorrow? Lots of rock acts succumb to the bus; some of them even drive their own bus. A rock band's bus can come in the form of an acrimonious breakup, death, obsolescence, or making Door to Door.

That factor makes it hard to handicap an artist's chances at Cleveland, but what the heck. Here's my look at what some current (or recent) acts need to do to gain enshrinement. Artists are listed in each category in order of their chances as I see them:

First-Ballot Locks
Green Day
Pearl Jam
: They haven't had a hit in a long time, but Eddie Vedder has always been a friend to the Hall.

Locks, but May Have to Wait
Beastie Boys: I have no idea what the voters will do with hip-hop. If they see it as just another form of rock & roll, Jay-Z and Eminem will waltz in, with Biggie and Tupac in the Buddy Holly/Ritchie Valens slots. Even if they don't, they'll still vote for the Beasties just to show they're "down" with what the kids are listening to. Then they'll reach for their copy of Who's Next to cleanse their palates.
Beck: He's had his share of hits, he's a true original, and he's got lots of fans. The only thing that might hold him back is that some voters might perceive him as insufficiently rock & roll. That and the fact that he doesn't bathe regularly.
: Neither has ever had a real hit, but they've each got a substantial body of work and have been revered for a long time. I've never heard a critic have a harsh word about either one. It'll take a while, but they'll both go.
Sheryl Crow: At some point, the Hall will go two straight years without inducting any female acts. After a bit of an outcry, the next year, Sheryl Crow will go in.

On the Right Track
: They're almost a lock, really. They're already where the Lovin' Spoonful were when they broke up, and the Spoonful are in. And they seem like the most unlikely candidate to get hit by the bus.
John Mayer: Beloved by everyone from Buddy Guy to Jessica Simpson. I guess that's how every single you put out becomes a hit.
The White Stripes: They could use one more hit like "Seven Nation Army," but people love 'em, and they sure have their own niche.
Beyonce Knowles
: The analogue would seem to be the Supremes, which means Beyonce would sashay right in. Drawbacks: She may be a bit too hip-hop for this crowd, and her career is divided between Destiny's Child and her solo work. My guess is that Beyonce goes in, but DC doesn't.
Alicia Keys: Probably a better bet than Beyonce, actually, as more of a pure R&B artist. The Hall has been exceptionally kind to R&B artists with lots of pop success.

Got Work to Do
Panic at the Disco
: With two hit albums and four hit singles under their belt, their oldest member is still only 22. "Nine in the Afternoon" went to Number One in Singapore.
The Killers: Two popular albums is a good place to start. Need about three more, with four or five more hits.
Death Cab for Cutie: "I Will Possess Your Heart" seems poised to run roughshod over the summer. They probably don't need more than a couple of really strong pop hits. Plus, "Crooked Teeth" was really fun.
The Decemberists: They already have a decent catalog, and if they make The Crane Wife three or four more times, they have a shot. They're smart, their politics are impeccable, they have their own sound, and you never know, there may be a bunch of American history grad students among the voters by the time they're eligible.
The Shins
: Wincing the Night Away should have been their move into the big time. It wasn't. Back to work, boys.
Maroon 5: They'd seem to be in the same place as the Killers, except I don't think there's much of a future for their warmed-over Jamiroquai. I suspect they've had their last hit.
Melissa Etheridge: Her politics are solid, she's a lovable survivor, she's been making hits for a long time, and the lesbianism won't hurt. She seems to have the kind of reverence for old-time rock & roll that Hall voters respect. Drawback: Her music has never been any good. Sorry, Missy.


Gavin said...

The Lovin' Spoonful are Phil Rizzuto, only without the Money Store ads.

I wouldn't be so sanguine about Pavement and Wilco; the RRHOF is not big on acts with so little chart action.

T. Nawrocki said...

I know, but times are changing. Hit singles are less important now than they've ever been. On a related note, as sort of the followup to this post, I was planning to go through the RRHOF roster and see who made it without ever having a Top 40 single; off the top of my head, I can think of the Velvet Underground and Leonard Cohen. I'm sure there are others.

Gavin said...

The Sex Pistols.

Anonymous said...

Alicia Keys and Sheryl Crow both stand a better chance than Radiohead. Not saying how good a chance. But better. Nirvana (eligible in 2013) is a first ballot lock. But not Radiohead, who will take a long, long time to get in.

Robbie Sunshine said...

2009: Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Metallica, Tina Turner, Chic
2010: Chili Peppers, Sting (solo), Don Henley (solo), Janet Jackson, Ringo Starr (solo)
2011: GNR, Tom Waits, The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode (they’ll wait for a slow year and induct them all together-- controversial, but they worked for Sire), LL Cool J, Bette Midler, Mick Jagger (solo)
2012: Bon Jovi, Jane’s Addiction, The Pixies, Public Enemy, Sonic Youth, Ozzy (solo)
2013: Kiss, Motley Crue, NWA, Sinead O’Connor, Melissa Etheridge, Gladys Knight, Brian Wilson (solo), Pete Townshend (solo) (another one of those slow catch-up years like 2006 or 2004)
2014: Nirvana, Mariah Carey, Flaming Lips, De La Soul, Selena
2015: C&C Music Factory

T. Nawrocki said...

Gladys Knight solo, or with the Pips?

T. Nawrocki said...

Wait, Gladys Knight and the Pips are already in, so it must be Gladys Knight solo. Someone really must have liked her theme song for "Charlie and Company."

I bet Warren Zevon sneaks in there somewhere too.

Gavin said...

I think a healthy percentage of Rob's list will come to pass, although he forgot Robert Plant's solo career.

You know who's remarkably far along in a HOF career, and could make it in even if hit by the proverbial bus today? Weezer.

I think the White Stripes are locks.

The Stooges are the Bert Blyleven of the Hall: if you don't induct them (or Sonic Youth), how can you put in [insert beloved and influential critical favorite here]?

Gavin said...

Also: Bjork. Hall of Famer or no?

T. Nawrocki said...

I thought about Bjork earlier today. I have to say no, at this point; I think she needs something approximating a hit. Maybe if you add the Sugarcubes' output, but it doesn't work that way. (If you add together the Fugees, Lauryn Hill solo, and Wyclef Jean solo, you have a Hall of Famer, but no dice.)

Others that Rob didn't mention: Eurythmics are a lock. They'll probably take one of Joy Division and New Order, but not both. Now that the Dave Clark Five are in, I don't see how they can keep the Zombies out, especially after their appearance in "Bunny Lake Is Missing." Weezer, absolutely; Blink-182, probably not; Foo Fighters, they'll say Dave Grohl is already in as a member of Nirvana and doesn't deserve to double-dip.

And I don't think even Jann Wenner is nervy enough to get Mick Jagger in as a solo act, "Goddess in the Doorway" notwithstanding.

Gavin said...

Two questions about the Hall's future classes:

1. How will they treat the grunge bands and other members of the class of '91? Obviously, Nirvana and Pearl Jam will get in on the first ballot, and I suspect Soundgarden won't be far behind. After that, hungering for successful guitar bands, will they methodically work through the groups of the era? Start working on those speeches, Alice in Chains!

2. How will they treat contemporary rap and R&B? Will somebody like Missy Elliot make it? Right now, there's a reluctant tokenism--I can see them either embracing hip-hop more fully or (more likely, I'm afraid) declaring it collectively "not rock."

Pike said...

"Her politics are solid"? Is that a criterion?

T. Nawrocki said...

Why, yes, I believe it is.