This year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony is now behind us, even if Steve Miller continues to keep it in the news cycle. But we're already looking ahead to next year. The organization is finally coming up on acts that began in the early 1990s, meaning that everyone from Pearl Jam to Tupac Shakur will finally be eligible. Before they get to them, however, there's a huge backlog of great 1980s acts – like the Smiths, Joy Division/New Order, the Cure and Sonic Youth – still waiting for the nod. To put it mildly, this is a contentious subject in the music world. We opened up the question of next years class to our readers. Here are the results.
The Cars have been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 2003, but they didn't even make the ballot until last year. That's a bit surprising because they had a ton of hits in the late 1970 and early 1980s, and they were also beloved by most rock critics. It's true they haven't had much of a cultural presence since the mid-1980s and their semi-reunion as the "New Cars" in 2005 with Todd Rundgren subbing in for Ric Ocasek didn't do much to help their legacy, but in 2011 the surviving members came back together for a new album and brief tour. It's seems somewhat inevitable they're going to get into the Hall of Fame, possibly as soon as next year. If they live up to their legacy, expect a pretty stiff performance. Ric Ocasek is a man of many, many talents – performing live is not one of them.
Warren Zevon didn't get nearly the respect he deserved during his all-too-brief life. For a hot minute around the time of "Werewolves of London" in 1978, he was a genuine pop star. When the world learned he was dying of cancer in 2002, there was a massive outpouring of adulation. For most of his career, however, he was playing tiny club shows to his devoted cult while society at large mostly forgot he existed. That might explain why he's never even made the ballot, even though he's been eligible for 20 years. Anyone that doubts his genius, pick up Excitable Boy and the live album Stand in the Fire. They prove he was one of the great songwriters and performers of his time. It's probably a safe bet the Hall of Fame will honor him at some point down the line, or at the very least, put him on the ballot.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn't have a great track record when it comes to inducting progressive rock bands. King Crimson practically invented the genre, and they haven't even appeared on the ballot. Genesis got in back in 2010, but they transformed into a pop band in the 1980s and that probably played a role in their induction. Jethro Tull may have beaten Metallica for a Grammy in 1989, but they certainly didn't become 1980s mainstream hitmakers, despite a few half-hearted attempts. They're a prog band through and through, and if Yes and King Crimson are still waiting to get into the Hall of Fame, Jethro Tull probably have a ways to go before they get in.
There seems to be a distinct bias at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame against British rock bands that became popular in the 1980s. The old guard saw these MTV-friendly groups of the second British Invasion as a bunch of pretty boys with stupid haircuts that destroyed rock, seeing no real distinction between fluff like Kajagoogoo and Haysi Fantayzee and true geniuses such as the Smiths, Depeche Mode and the Cure. The Hall of Fame have put the Cure on the ballot and they had a ton of hits in America, so hopefully their time is coming soon. When it happens, the HoF will have their work cut out for them figuring out which members to accept. Robert Smith has gone through quite a few bandmates.
Short of an incredible cameo on The Simpsons in 1999, the Moody Blues haven't really had a moment in the sun since their 1988 hit, "I Know You're Out There Somewhere." Since then, they've worked the oldies circuit nonstop, losing a couple of original members along the way. They had a stellar run from 1964's "Go Now" through 1986's "Your Wildest Dreams," but they've never been a favorite of the rock critic establishment. That probably explains why they haven't been on a single Hall of Fame ballot despite regular protests by their huge fan community. But considering the fact that Chicago just got in, it feels like the Moody Blues won't be far behind.
The death of Yes bassist Chris Squire in 2015 was devastating for all sorts of reasons. One of them is that he won't be around when Yes inevitably enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was the only member to endure through every lineup change of the band, and it would have meant more to him than anybody. Their induction will still be a moment of triumph, and it will force the group to finally reunite with estranged frontman Jon Anderson, not to mention drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Let's just hope they get in before anyone else passes away.
Ms. Jackson postponed her 2016 tour dates due to unspecified "family" planning, but if she gets into the Hall of Fame, it seems likely she'll strap on a wireless mic and bust out "Rhythm Nation" once again. The woman has a staggering number of hits, but her career went into free fall following her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl. If not for that split-second of her career, it's easy to imagine that she'd already be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but for some reason she just hasn't been able to mount a comeback. Maybe the first big step toward making that happen will be entering the Hall of Fame.
Poor Jeff Lynne. He's the only Traveling Wilbury without his own Hall of Fame statue. It's certainly not because he didn't land a ton of hits on the charts. He has so many that he plays nearly two hours of popular songs on his ongoing ELO comeback tour. What happened is that Lynne became more famous as a record producer than performer, and ELO became a sad zombie band with Lynne-free offshoots like ELO Part II and the Orchestra playing casinos and fairs all over the world. It watered down the legacy of the original, though right now Lynne is on his first ELO tour in 32 years. It might restore the group to their proper place in rock history and help bring them into the Hall of Fame. If that happens, expect some drama around the performance. Lynne hasn't spoken to certain members without a lawyer present for a few decades.
Little Feat have been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the past 20 years, but as of yet they haven't appeared on a ballot. It's pretty baffling considering all the gold records and critical acclaim they racked up in the 1970s, though the death of Lowell George in 1979 might have something to do with it. He was a huge creative force in the band, and even though they reformed in 1987 without him, they've simply been unable to recapture the original magic. They also don't have any songs you really hear on the radio these days. They were always more of an album band or a live experience. Devoted fans love them dearly, but everyone else is only vaguely aware a group called Little Feat even exists. An induction into the Hall of Fame might change that, but the whole thing becomes a Catch-22.
Not many bands enter the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility these days. Even Metallica had to wait a year. Pearl Jam might be the exception. They're one of the most successful rock groups of the past quarter century, and the rock critic establishment truly understands them. They completely gave up trying to score hits at least 15 years ago, but their popularity on the road has only increased. They can sell out multiple nights at baseball stadiums with no promotion, and their three-hour shows just seem to get better as the years go by. It seems like a safe bet they'll be closing out the Hall of Fame ceremony next year, though fans anxiously await to see how the organizers will handle the situation with their four former drummers. That might get a little sticky.