Saturday, February 18, 2012

Poll Results - "The following bands have NEVER been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - which is the worst travesty?"

[I should have posted this a couple of months back, at the end of the polling period. But I got unavoidably sidetracked, and in addition an exercise related to this poll took a little longer to complete than I figured it would. So please pardon my delay.]

Thanks for all of the participation regarding this question. Here are the results to the question of which current non-inductee deserves immediate enshrinement in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

  8 (19%) The Smiths
  5 (12%) Captain Beefheart
  4 (9%) Roxy Music
  3 (7%) Nick Drake
  3 (7%) T. Rex
  3 (7%) Stevie Ray Vaughan
  2 (4%) The B-52's
  2 (4%) Dick Dale
  2 (4%) Hall & Oates
  2 (4%) Todd Rundgren
  2 (4%) Sonic Youth
  1 (2%) Black Flag
  1 (2%) Devo
  1 (2%) ELO
  1 (2%) X
  1 (2%) Yes
  0 (0%) Chubby Checker
  0 (0%) The Flying Burrito Brothers
  0 (0%) Los Lobos
  0 (0%) The Go-Go's
  0 (0%) Willie Nelson
  0 (0%) Jethro Tull
  0 (0%) The Replacements

Frankly, almost every band and artist listed above has a legitimate claim for inclusion. But for such an intensely subjective topic, I knew that I would have trouble in attempting to come up with even a semi-objective way to measure a band's "worthiness" for the Rock Hall of Fame. I mean, I'm a big fan of The Smiths, The B-52's and X, and would love to see them in the RRHOF someday. But are they more deserving of more immediate induction then, say, Roxy Music or Captain Beefheart? And if so, how could I 'prove' it? For weeks, I wracked my brains for a method by which to compare these bands that could fend off, if now wholly withstand, partisan criticism and finger-pointing. But I had no such luck . . .

. . . until, by chance, I stumbled across a copy of a book called Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life, by an author named John Sellers. The book, released in 2007, is both a witty memoir of and heartfelt homage to the author's longtime obsession with music, especially with alternative/indie bands, like Pavement and Guided By Voices, that the vast majority of people have never heard of. The book is a little chatty, filled with anecdotes of Sellers' personal encounters with his music heroes, like Robert Pollard and Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg. But all in all, it is a very entertaining read for those of us who have the same affinity for this type of tuneage.

For me, the best part of the book came in the back, with a series of appendicies added by the author. And in one of them, I believed that I found the solution to my problem. In this section. Sellers conducts a mock debate with himself, over the relative 'coolness' of one particular band over another. To resolve this question, he actually comes up with an obsessively detailed equation, involving many factors and variables, that measures "exactly how much your favorite band rocks". These variables include the quality of an artist's entire oeuvre, their 'image', and an "X" factor, with the music quality factor accounting for the majority (2/3rds) of the overall score.

Now, admittedly, a lot of the variables that Sellers comes up with are silly and/or tongue-in-cheek ("If the band members have costumes, -10 points, unless that band is Kiss, in which case, +75"; "Every lyric equal to or better than 'Her love’s a pony'?"). But the section regarding music quality was pretty straightforward. So, for lack of a better alternative, I decided to use this formula in my analysis and determination of "Worst Rock Hall of Fame Travesty of Non-Inclusion".

Utilizing album critiques and band information found on the Web to fill out the equation, I came up with the following scores/rankings:

1. Los Lobos (9,849.20)
2. Roxy Music (8,601.07)
3. Rundgren, Todd (7,542.98)
4. Yes (7,215.74)
5. ELO (4,074.89)
6. Sonic Youth (3,461.98)
7. Dale, Dick (2,914.92)
8. B-52's, The (2,497.10)
9. Hall & Oates (2,242.42)
10. Smiths, The (1,859.05)
11. Captain Beefheart (1,744.35)
12. T. Rex (1,559.47)
13. Replacements, The (1,510.93)
14. X (1,277.58)
15. Vaughan, Stevie Ray (1,157.38)
17. Devo (907.83)
18. Flying Burrito Brothers, The (764.17)
19. Go-Go's, The (465.35)
20. Jethro Tull (388.83)
21. Drake, Nick (241.52)
22. Black Flag (203.23)
23. Checker, Chubby (57.44)

Details of each band's scores are included here.

A couple of notes regarding this analysis:

- The most important consideration driving this band quality formula, the factor that raised scores the most, is that the band/artist had to have put out a high percentage (of their overall output) of critically-acclaimed studio albums over an extended period of time. For example, Los Lobos has released a total of fourteen albums in their 36-year history; two-thirds of them are considered 'good' or better, with five ranked as 'brilliant'. On the other hand, all four of The Smiths' studio albums were acclaimed, with 3 considered 'brilliant' . . . but The Smiths were only together for four years total. In this equation, longevity counts.

- According to this evaluation, the highest-scoring artist of the 24 considered was Willie Nelson. But I removed him from consideration for the RRHOF, since almost all of Nelson's celebrated output has been in the country genre (and besides, Willie's already in the Country Music Hall of Fame; give someone else a chance for the Rock Hall).

Again, this is an attempt to use objective methods to answer a subjective question. I am not a huge fan of the top five scorers on this list; my tastes lean toward bands like the aforementioned Smiths, the Bee-Fives, Devo, etc. But taking a step back and looking at each band's career with a cold, unprejudiced eye, I can see how those other bands would and could be more deserving than my own personal favorites.

If you have the chance, download and take a look at the spreadsheet, and let me know your thoughts on all of this. I'm looking forward to some comment on what is, in many ways, a highly personal issue. Thanks, and sorry again for taking so long to get this done. I'll try to come up with another poll question sometime soon.

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