Handicapping the 2018 Rock Hall Nominees!

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Every rock fan’s favorite parlor game is to complain about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: which artists deserve to be inducted and which don’t. Each year, the Hall announces its latest nominees and the outcries explode immediately: Why isn’t (fill in the blank) in there?!

This year the HoF nominated 19 artists spanning various musical eras and genres, a fairly larger pool than usual (but the same number as last year). Every fan should find at least a few artists they desperately want to see inducted and probably just as many that trigger a head-scratching: Who is that person and why are they even on this list?

From the annual list of nominees, traditionally the Hall chooses around five to seven new inductees, depending on the percentage of votes the artist receives. (The nominations are made by a committee of a few dozen music industry folks, artists and critics; a ballot is then sent out to several hundred voters, also involved in the music biz.)

What that means is that some of these people are going to be in the Hall of Fame’s class of 2018, and many more won’t be. But which ones will make it and which ones will be shunned?

Your guess is as good as ours (it really is—we have no spies inside the Hall), but each year we like to look at the overall list and try to determine who we think will be celebrating and who will be bummed.

Please don’t shoot the messenger: This article doesn’t reflect which artists we personally like or don’t like or think should/shouldn’t be inducted. It’s all about who we think the voters will choose, based on our knowledge of how they usually vote.

Related: Who were the inductees for the Class of 2017?

The winners will be announced Dec. 13. We’ll return to this list after the announcement and see how we fared.

We welcome your comments, whether you agree or disagree.

As before, we’ve divided the 2018 nominees into three categories: “Welcome to the Hall!,” “Soon, But Not This Time” and “Not a Chance.”

Bon Jovi
Seriously, Bon Jovi isn’t in the Rock Hall yet? Among mainstream hard rock bands with pop sensibilities, they’ve been at the top for some three decades, filling stadiums and racking up #1 albums and singles by the boatload. JBJ himself is rock celebrity royalty. Like a lot of other bands that have already been inducted, they’re not to everyone’s liking, but there is simply no excuse for keeping them out another year. Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

Kate Bush
There is no one else like Kate Bush. She’s an original, for sure. Terrific songwriter, engaging singer. She’s always pushing the envelope and refuses to bow to conventions. You could easily lose yourself in her music; her artistry is so rich. But her eclecticism has also kept her from large-scale mainstream success (in America, at least), and we’re guessing that the voters, while acknowledging Bush’s gift, will skip her in favor of others. Odds: Soon, But Not This Time

The Cars
They really were such a likable band. I mean, who doesn’t like the Cars?! But as we’ve said before, “The new wave band from Boston burst onto the scene in 1978 and made an instant impact with their self-titled debut and numerous follow-ups. However, they were essentially done by the mid-1980s. They achieved plenty of radio hits, but one might say the Cars were more influenced than particularly influential.” Odds: Soon, But Not This Time

Depeche Mode
Among the initial slew of British post-punk bands that figured out how to incorporate electronic instruments into the popular dance music of the day and sell it in massive quantities, Depeche Mode was unquestionably one of the best. Some of their early stuff was especially innovative, and good for them for keeping it going for so long. But popularity alone, as Hall watchers know, is never enough of a reason to induct someone, and it’s just our gut feeling that the voters are going to pass Depeche Mode over, at least for now, in favor of some of the more noteworthy acts. Odds: Soon, But Not This Time

Dire Straits
When they emerged at the tail end of the ’70s, amidst the punk and disco revolutions, Dire Straits was such a throwback to a more traditional, rootsy rock sound that they were almost freakishly out of place. Mark Knopfler wrote great tunes like “Sultans of Swing” and “Money for Nothing,” played a killer guitar and the band even resonated with the MTV audience despite being wholly non-photogenic. We can’t remember the names of any of the other band members (can you?) but we imagine that Dire Straits is still considered fondly by those who recall how refreshingly down-to-earth they were. Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

Eurythmics
Eurythmics, huh? Were Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart enough of a force that they deserve to be inducted into the Hall? Well, they did have that initial #1 dance hit, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” That’s about as catchy a tune as any. And then they had a few others (you’ll excuse us while we try to remember what they were). Stewart went on to become a top producer and Lennox still occasionally makes some fine music. We personally think they should wait a while but we just have a hunch that the voters will think it’s their time. Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

J. Geils Band
If you were fortunate enough to witness a J. Geils Band performance in the ’70s, then you already know just how amazing they were. These guys kicked some serious ass and singer Peter Wolf was such a dynamo! If you don’t know what they were capable of onstage, go find a live video or two and check them out. In the studio, they produced consistently stellar albums and even had a few massive hits in the ’80s MTV era. With the recent death of namesake guitarist Geils, we think they’re going to get it this time. Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

Judas Priest
The Rock Hall has had an uncomfortable relationship with metal. While some of the top bands have been inducted, there are many others that have been ignored, for whatever reason. Of that latter category, we’ve seen the name Judas Priest more than any other as being unfairly overlooked. While they’ve never even had a top 10 album in the U.S. (yeah, we were surprised to see that too), they’ve nonetheless been consistently popular for four decades and metalheads think the world of them. Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

LL Cool J
Let’s put aside, for now, the argument over whether rap artists “belong” in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We know that a lot of rock fans don’t think so, but that’s a debate for another time. Accepting that the Hall recognizes hip hop, and has already inducted several rappers, the question at hand is whether LL Cool J deserves to be the next one. Our feeling is that while he’s become something of a mainstream artist over the years, most voters won’t feel he was innovative or edgy enough to make the cut. In other words, he’s no Tupac. Odds: Not a Chance

MC5
These Detroit wildmen came about as close as any rock band could to being real revolutionaries. It was built into their music, which itself went against the prevailing peace-and-love grain of the day. They’ve been tremendously influential, beloved by punks, especially. But even today, they’re more rock critics’ darlings than fan favorites. We wonder how many of the Hall’s voters even own an MC5 album. They deserve to get in due to their impact alone, but we’re not so sure that’ll happen too quickly. Odds: Soon, But Not This Time

The Meters
They are, simply put, New Orleans R&B/funk personified. Their influence is enormous. Their imitators are countless. Their musicianship is off the charts. Paul McCartney and the Stones are among their many acolytes. But unfortunately for the Meters, their impact didn’t really kick in until long after their initial split and they never had any real sales to speak of. Today, the Meters are one of those bands that is more heard of than heard. Some day they will get the recognition that they’ve earned, but probably not yet. Odds: Soon, But Not This Time

Moody Blues
What?! The Hall of Fame finally discovered that the Moody Blues exist?! Amazing! Fans of the British band have been clamoring for years—make that decades—for them to get a nomination. They’ve been eligible for more than 25 years but were consistently passed over. Why? Although they were innovative and very popular, it seems that rock critics and the other insiders who make these decisions have always had something against them. Now that they’ve finally gotten the nod, we feel confident that 2018 will be their year. Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

Radiohead
What to make of Radiohead. On one hand, they’re the ultimate critics’ band. Indisputably inventive from the start (their first hit, “Creep,” has since become a standard, even covered by a slew of jazz artists), they have continued to grow since their early days without losing their edge or becoming mired in cliché or bombast. They’re one of the few modern rock bands that can claim a ton of baby boomer fans as well as younger ones. What makes them a Hall-worthy phenomenon is that they’re the rare contemporary act that is not only uncompromisingly original but also extremely popular, with #1 albums and Grammys galore. Yes, it’s true that there are still many, many artists of previous decades left out in the cold, but Radiohead is proof that creative new rock music is far from dead. Odds: Welcome to the Hall!

Rage Against the Machine
We’re going to do some politicizing here. Rage Against the Machine is an impressive, potent modern rock band. They fused elements of metal, punk, hip-hop and more, former frontman/lyricist Zack de la Rocha was a commanding presence and guitarist Tom Morello, especially, is a monster musician and songwriter. One of his biggest fans, in fact, is Bruce Springsteen, who has basically made him a member of the E Street Band in recent years. Which is where our “politics” comment comes in. We’re going to presume (and we could be wrong, of course) that some folks on the nominating committee have a special place in their hearts for Rage because of that Boss association, hence their nomination. But will enough fans agree that they’re a good fit? Odds: Not a Chance

Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
Last year Khan was nominated as a solo; this time her early group gets a shot. As if anyone knows any members of Rufus other than her. Either way, we’re still not convinced. As we wrote about Chaka before, “Long career? Check. Sales galore? Some 70 million. Awards? Ten Grammys. Crossover appeal? From the start. Household name? Your mom probably digs her. And when it comes to influence, we can’t blame Chaka for all the over-singers who followed.” But, compared to the other acts on the list this year, we just don’t think she’s going to get enough love. Sorry, Chaka. Oh yeah, and Rufus too. Odds: Not a Chance

Nina Simone
Oh, how we love Nina Simone! One of the most powerful women ever to step up to a microphone (or sit behind one—she was also a masterful pianist). Simone was important, very important. Whether you consider her a jazz singer, a blues singer or something else all together, she always dug deep into the core of a song and put it across in such an emotional way that you couldn’t help but be moved. She was also a massively important figure in the Civil Rights movement. Dozens of major rock artists have cited her as an influence but we wonder how many Hall voters will see enough of a connection to rock to consider her. Sadly, we say… Odds: Not a Chance

Sister Rosetta Tharpe
She may be the most deserving artist in the entire 2018 class. She was, without a doubt, one of the inventors of the music we call rock ’n’ roll. She should have been inducted in the Early Influences category years ago. If you’ve never heard of her, stop what you’re doing and watch a few live videos and see if you don’t agree. The word influential doesn’t even begin to describe her (just ask Dylan, not to mention Elvis, Chuck and Aretha). But it’s that lack of widespread recognition that’s going to keep her out. Most voters will look at her name on the ballot, say, “Who the hell is that?” (sorry, Sister!) and move on. Odds: Not a Chance

Link Wray
The man invented the power chord. Let us repeat that: the man invented the power chord! Try to imagine rock music without the power chord, OK? There’s a recent documentary film about Native American rockers called Rumble that’s not only titled after the late guitarist’s seminal instrumental hit but features him heavily. Wray absolutely deserves it; he’s deserved it for years. His influence on rock ’n’ roll guitar players was enormous. But he still doesn’t have enough name recognition to compete against the high-profile artists dominating this year’s list. Sorry to say but… Odds: Not a Chance

The Zombies
Truly one of the greatest bands to emerge during the British Invasion, and as good today as they ever were. Singer Colin Blunstone’s voice is a thing of beauty, and keyboardist Rod Argent is a gifted musician and songwriter. Even if just for their three big hits—“She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No” and “Time of the Season”—they deserve the nod. And their album Odessey and Oracle (from which “Season” was pulled as a single) remains one of the most perfect albums ever created. But we just think there’s too much competition this year for the Zombies to rise above. We do hope they make it in some day though, because they are one hell of a band. Odds: Soon, But Not This Time

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7 Comments so far

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  1. drp
    #1 drp 6 October, 2017, 07:10

    Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

    Reply this comment
    • Jack
      Jack 5 December, 2017, 02:58

      I agree with this! ELP should be in on actual musical talent alone. Not to mention, at one point in the Summer of ’74, they were the biggest band in the world. In addition to being world class musicians, they were phenomenal showmen. They took a genre of music (Progressive) that had very little mass appeal, and turned it into a stadium filler. I saw them in their prime (’74 & ’77), and I can honestly say that visually, I can’t think of a show since, that was better. The RRHOF needs to commit to a year where they step back and induct some bands that should have been in long ago.

      Reply this comment
      • Mike L
        Mike L 9 December, 2017, 03:14

        Totally agree. They need to take a year or two and make amends for all the bands who should have been in years ago. ELP should be an automatic in..along with King Crimson! Sister Rosetta Tharp and The Meters should be in as early influences. Until those 4 get in along with at least 20 others, bands like Bon Jovi have no business being in the hall of fame. It boggles my mind how they got over a million votes while Sister Rosetta Tharp and The Meters languished at the bottom of the fan votes. I do think The Meters would have gotten alot more votes if some of the well established jamband websites would have promoted their nomination. The jam scene is huge nowadays and a large majority of bands on the scene were heavily influenced by The Meters. And with the blues scene that also crosses over into the jamband scene..There can be no denying the importance and early influence of Sister Rosetta Tharp. I loved the Moody blues, J Geils, Judas priest among others on the ballot when I was growing up…and they certainly deserve to get in. Just not before these others who were basically passed over. IMHO

        Reply this comment
  2. Brad
    #2 Brad 6 October, 2017, 14:49

    Styx! Where the hell is STYX?!

    Reply this comment
    • Jack
      Jack 6 October, 2017, 18:56

      I think they’re in the back sitting with Foghat, REO, and Boston. Sorry Brad, not a chance!

      Reply this comment
  3. Mr Oasis
    #3 Mr Oasis 7 October, 2017, 13:48

    Until Chubby Checker is voted in these awards are a total sham, mean absolutely nothing.

    Reply this comment
  4. Mike L
    #4 Mike L 18 November, 2017, 03:12

    No one on this list deserves it more than The Meters and Sister Rosetta Tharp! She’s just as influential as Muddy and the other major blues folks. The Meters while they may not have the sales or radio hits are straight up the most important band to come out of Nola and still are influencing generations of musicians. Not to mention all of them are still very active musicians except sadly for Art Neville who’s had health problems the last few years. He still plays occasionally with The Funky Meters but the gigs are getting fewer with his health situation. Until they’re in I’ll always think the rock hall is a sham. Not to mention all the other bands and musicians who should have been in years ago.

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