music friday: 2007
horror of dracula (terence fisher, 1958)

rock and roll hall of fame

First, we can eliminate Stevie Nicks, John Prine, and Rufus with Chaka Khan. Nicks is already in for Fleetwood Mac. Her solo work consists of "Edge of Seventeen", a hit with Tom Petty, and an album that on its own wouldn't be enough to get her in, even if was tremendous, which it is not. I love John Prine. He's probably my favorite artist on this year's ballot, and he's the only one I've seen live (OK, I saw Stevie with F.Mac, and Tom Morello with Bruce). But as much as I like him even now, in his later years, his reputation rests mainly on his first album. It's great, but it's not enough. Rufus had a few fine singles, but they never made a truly great album. 

The Zombies had a few great singles in the 60s, and one great album. Not enough for the Hall of Fame. I've never quite understood the MC5 ... influential, but there's only three albums, all overrated in my mind, but even if they aren't, three albums doesn't make them one of the five best artists on this list. Devo was a lot like the MC5 ... attention-getting first album, innovative presentation, but after three albums they lose their touch. I appreciate that metal fans feel left out, rightfully so, and I don't know enough to effectively evaluate the genre. For me, though, Def Leppard is easy to pass on.

That leaves eight, and fans are allowed to vote for five at one time. Who do I drop? All eight are good. Todd Rundgren certainly has his champions, and his output in the early-70s is why he's on this list. But I have to drop somebody, and I don't see enough in Rundgren's career after 1974 to win my vote. I have argued for LL Cool J in the past. He's this year's token rapper. It wouldn't bother me if he got in ... I'd like it, actually. If I was voting for 7 artists instead of 5, he'd make it. I admit I'm surprised I've kept Rage Against the Machine on my possible list this long, which is probably reason enough to pass on them.

And then there were five. These are the artists I'd vote for. They aren't all favorites of mine, but even when I'm not a fan, I understand why they are important. When I make my own Hall, John Prine will be there. In the meantime:

  1. Radiohead
  2. The Cure
  3. Kraftwerk
  4. Roxy Music
  5. Janet Jackson

Honestly, I think they are all no-brainers, which is why Todd and LL and Rage don't make it. I'm one of those old Nick Hornby guys re: Radiohead. "Creep" is the only song of theirs I would recognize right off (it is a great song, of course). But Acclaimed Music, which collates critical opinion, lists Radiohead as the 6th-best artist of all time. The only ones above them are The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and Bruce Springsteen. Even if you want to quibble about Acclaimed Music's methodology, it's hard to argue with that kind of company. The one Cure album I treasure is Staring at the Sea, their first singles collection. Seventeen tracks and not a dud among them. I prefer Singles Going Steady by The Buzzcocks, but I'm not being asked to vote for them, so The Cure wins. "Autobahn" by itself practically places Kraftwerk in the Hall, and that's not their only song, plus they get points for innovation and influence. Roxy Music has belonged for a long time, and it's nice to see them on this list. As I said on Facebook, I don't dislike them, and I appreciate that they elicit wonderful reactions from their real fans, so I don't feel I could add anything to that. I can say that I have a favorite Roxy Music song, by far my favorite. I can also say that I never remember which one it is, so I'm always confusing it with another song on the same album. (It's "Out of the Blue".) Finally, Janet Jackson has had a bunch of great albums and lots of great songs, and her peak arguably lasted more than a decade.

One last thing. I'm trying to be "objective" here (impossible, I know). But then there's the question of what I actually listen to. So, off I go to Last.fm to see what it tells me. Here are the 15 artists, ranked by the number of times I've listened to them since 2005. This is the real Steven:

  1. John Prine
  2. Radiohead
  3. The Cure
  4. Todd Rundgren
  5. The MC5
  6. Roxy Music
  7. LL Cool J
  8. Devo
  9. Janet Jackson
  10. Kraftwerk
  11. Rufus with Chaka Khan
  12. Rage Against the Machine
  13. Stevie Nicks
  14. The Zombies
  15. Def Leppard

Finally, a nod to someone who didn't make the 15. If they had, they would replace The Cure on my list. The following song ... I love it so much, in my fiction-writing days I wrote an entire short story about someone who played "Temptation" over and over. I saw them in 1985, and it's one of my great regrets that they didn't play "Temptation" that night. Considering it's the most-played song of theirs in concert, I wonder why they hurt me like that. I mean, they played "Sister Ray"!

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