On Tuesday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame unveiled the nominees for induction in 2011, a list that's as inspiring (Beastie Boys! Tom Waits! Dr. John!) as it is mystifying (LL Cool J?).
Not surprisingly, this year's noms sparked a whole lot of debate — because kvetching about the Rock Hall is an exercise as old as the Hall itself — and for most of the day, I was ready to lend my voice to the argument. After all, any Hall of Fame that does not include among its ranks the likes of Kiss, Rush, Cheap Trick or Def Leppard (or even Joy Division, the Replacements, Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen or Black Flag, for that matter) but does include Madonna is no Hall of mine.
But then, I decided to do something completely different. Rather than complain about all the bands the Rock Hall — and its nebulous voting committee — have snubbed, I decided to focus instead on all the bands it will someday embrace. Ignoring surefire inductees like Guns N' Roses (eligible next year!) and Nirvana, I compiled a list of 11 active bands I truly believe will one day take their rightful place alongside greats like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and, uh, Traffic. This was a lot tougher to do than you could possibly imagine, since, you know, the state of rock is rather dire these days (let's just say I don't see Nickelback striding to the podium in 2021), but here are my picks, ranked in order of probability.
And while I feel pretty strongly about my list, if the Rock Hall has proven anything over the years, it's that this whole thing is a total crapshoot. So, if I missed anyone, let me know in the comments below. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to put on my dragon boots and join my fellow Kiss Army soldiers in our yearly protest outside the Rock Hall. It's not as bad as you might think. Cleveland is lovely this time of year ...
1. Pearl Jam
A mortal lock for first-ballot induction. Thanks to their longevity, ingenuity and morality, PJ became not only the greatest band to emerge from the Seattle scene of the early '90s, but probably the greatest American band of the past two decades. They've fought the good fights (taking on Ticketmaster, George W. Bush, the pro-life movement and world hunger, to name just a few), moved the required units and even threw the tapers a bone too. And through it all, Eddie Vedder has pretty much never cut his hair, except for that one time he inducted the Ramones into the Rock Hall. And even then, he had a Mohawk. That's pretty awesome.
First Year of Eligibility: 2016
Take everything I just said about Pearl Jam (except for the "Seattle" and "American" bits) and apply it here too. Since they first emerged on the scene with their unlikely alt-rock hit "Creep," Radiohead have pushed the boundaries further — and with greater fervor — than any of their major-label contemporaries, exploring space prog (OK Computer), avant electro (Kid A) and even, well, straight-ahead rock (In Rainbows). In the process, they've carved out a niche that is uniquely theirs, and when they're inducted, they'll instantly become, like, the fourth weirdest band in the Hall, behind Zappa, the Velvets and the Talking Heads. At least until Sun Ra is voted in.
First Year of Eligibility: 2017
3. Green Day
Up until American Idiot, there wasn't a chance they'd make it. But thanks to that album's globe-uniting success (and social import), Green Day are an unquestionable first-ballot selection. They've got the catalog, the critical love and the kind of career that doesn't come around all that often — one that actually had a fruitful second act. And through it all, they've never been afraid to take a stance or reach unabashedly for the stars. Or launch a Broadway play, for that matter. What will the punx at 924 Gillman have to say when Green Day are inducted? Who cares, really.
First Year of Eligibility: 2014
4. Kid Rock
For real. Bob Ritchie has had the kind of career that defies explanation, stomping through hip-hop, rock and even country, and in the process, he's sold roughly a bajillion records and become a rather unlikely American classic. It doesn't hurt matters that Rock Hall co-founder Jann Wenner is a fan, or that, by working with the likes of Bob Seger and Rick Rubin, Rock has developed the kind of pedigree the Hall is looking for. And with his upcoming Born Free album, he seems to be entering the "serious artist" phase of his career, which only bodes well for his enshrinement.
First Year of Eligibility: 2015
Dude, if Genesis can make it in, these guys can too.
First Year of Eligibility: 2023
The Grateful Dead made it in 1994. Phish will make it in 2013 (and the Dave Matthews Band will probably follow them in 2018). For the better part of two decades, they've not only been America's premier live act (don't call them a "jam band"), but they've released a stream of albums that — quiet as it's kept — are actually pretty great. Along the way, they've fashioned the kind of career that's practically beyond summation, though in a pinch, you can probably call them the musical bridge between bands like the Dead and current long-players like My Morning Jacket. And when they do make it in, the jam session will be mighty, indeed.
First Year of Eligibility: 2013
Here's where the list starts to get a bit shaky. Ten years ago, thanks to efforts like Odelay and Sea Change, Beck was a first-ballot selection, the much-fetishized heir to Bob Dylan's throne (only with better mic skillz). In the years since, however, he's seemingly lost a bit of his HOF luster, yet he's still active, and I'm not willing to knock him off the list just yet. He has the back catalog part sewn up, and he's about as close as a figurehead for the WTF DIY FTW 1990s as anyone I can think of, and with another solid album, he's a lock.
First Year of Eligibility: 2017
8. The White Stripes
They're not exactly active, but ever since 2007's Icky Thump, Jack White has single-handedly carried the mantle for the Stripes, and, in the process, he may very well have sewn up their enshrinement. Equal parts bluesman and shaman, he's about as close to a genuine guitar god as this generation has, and the fact that he's none too shy about praising all those dusty guitar-slingers who came before him has certainly earned him more favor in the eyes of HOF voters. Whoever they are.
First Year of Eligibility: 2024
9. Kings of Leon
They've gone about things the way great rock bands are supposed to: releasing a string of critically acclaimed (but commercially vapid) albums, building a fervent fanbase overseas, touring tirelessly and, finally, breaking through to the mainstream. As scions of the great Southern rockers of the past, they carry with them an air of mysticism too, which goes a long way with voters hungry for the rock of yesteryear. Toss in the Wenner factor (he loves them), and, so long as they keep churning out the hits, they're in.
First Year of Eligibility: 2028
10a. Sonic Youth
They're basically the Bert Blylevens of rock: a career that justly deserves enshrinement, yet lacking the groundswell support to make it into the Hall. That's bound to change one of these years, probably when voters realize that Sonic Youth are arguably the most important American rock band of the past three decades, anti-commercial artistes who, somewhat inexplicably, have managed to survive and thrive despite that fact. Their uncompromising ethos has made them figureheads of the indie movement, and their unyielding, effortless cool have made them the band that everyone aspires to be. Surely, all of that is enough to get them into the Hall.
First Year of Eligibility: 2007
10b. The Flaming Lips
Kind of like Sonic Youth, only with an actual hit or three to their names. Perhaps the fact that they've never really been embraced by the critical elite is what's holding them back, though that's generally what happens when you play shows encased inside an inflatable sphere. Ever since forming in Oklahoma City in 1983, they've undergone so many career transformations that they basically defy definition, though it's not exactly a stretch to call them the most proletarian rock band of our time. They do it all, on their own terms, and by whatever means necessary. And, if last year's Embryonic is any indication, they're just hitting their stride. At this rate, they may never stop swerving, which probably means you can look for them to be inducted sometime around 2055.
First Year Of Eligibility: 2009
Who did we miss? Share your surefire Rock Hall inductees in the comments!