Quick and Dirty Rock Hall Reactions

Three months ago (!?) in this space I said that as great a list as the 2023 slate of Rock Hall nominees was, it lacked a sense of surprise — a “jump back” name.

Wednesday, the Hall said “Hold my beer.”

With such a stacked ballot, it would’ve been pretty much impossible to make a bad class, and 2023 is set to go down as a strong year in Hall history and certainly one of the most genre-diverse. Almost every name here deserves their place and the induction ceremony should be one to remember. Major kudos are in order for the Hall not listening to the show runners and cutting the class size for a tidy broadcast.

(To recap: Performers: Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Rage Against the Machine, the Spinners; Musical Excellence: Chaka Khan, Al Kooper, Bernie Taupin; Musical Influence (formerly Early Influence): DJ Kool Herc, Link Wray; Ahmet Ertegun Award: Don Cornelius.)

The surprises: Trying to extrapolate from the published ballots to the voting body at large is normally a fool’s game, but the love for the Spinners carried over and carried them onto the nominee list. And a thing of beauty it is. And with the Hall signaling that it was done with the 60s if not the 70s, almost no one foresaw Link Wray. Justice came slowly, but it came.

The biggest surprise for me was that Warren Zevon didn’t get a nod; I thought with the big names that are in his corner and his being the link to classic-era non-R&B rock he’d go right in, but this wasn’t the ballot for him. Disappointing, but I think the Nom Com is behind him the way it was for Todd Rundgren and they’ll keep working on it. That’s true for any of the names that didn’t make it: it’s not over, it’s just another year to wait. This is an institution that didn’t welcome Queen, Bowie, or Radiohead on their first ballots either.

A mild surprise was seeing Rage in the Machine get the nod, but something turned in their favor this year and voters didn’t rely on the Musical Excellence category to get it done. And a precious ballot slot is freed for next year.

Another disappointment, but less of a surprise was Cyndi Lauper. It felt like people see her as a one-album wonder, but she will be back. Her documentary, “Let the Canary Sing,” directed by Alison Ellwood, who directed the Go Gos documentary, premieres at the Tribeca film fest next month. Kate Bush’s “Stranger Things” success came at about this time last year, and the Hall does love a documentary. She’ll be back as well. (And how wonderful to see Kate’s vision and artistry rewarded on her fourth try.)

Likewise for the expected miss by Iron Maiden. The refusal to honor hard rock or metal is as baffling as it is stupid.

It was a consensus opinion that this was likely Bush’s last chance at a Performer induction, but this year was a “must” for Chaka Khan in any capacity as well – while Mary J. Blige did make the ballot two years ago, it felt like this needed to happen in order to move forward with artists like Sade, Patti Labelle, and Mariah Carey.

And not so much a surprise, although not everyone thought she was a lock: in Missy Elliot we have the first female hip hop artist nominated AND inducted. She’s beyond deserving, and the Hall included DJ Kool Herc as a Musical Influence inductee, going beyond the household names and into the genre’s history.

And to cap off all this goodness, no lawyers, managers, or lawyer-managers.

But a couple of less positive things have to be mentioned. Among this year’s many surprises was that the longstanding media partnerships with Sirius XM and HBO seem to be finished. Those who wanted to listen to the Hall’s announcement were scrambling to find out where to tune in. Once they found it on Apple Music, they got a rushed LL Cool J reading from a card in what seemed to be random order. One of the biggest days on the Hall calendar…. After Allyson McCabe’s revelations in Vulture about the procedure of her recruitment as a voter, the less professional side of the Hall has been on display for sure this week.

And any Rock Hall class announcement means you have to check in on how women have fared. Again, it’s a mixed bag. Female artists make up three of seven Performers — almost 41 percent — and in a little stroke of luck for the PR department, the all three names fall together alphabetically at the top of the ballot for maximum impact. But of course, the lone band inducted is all male, and men make up the categories except for Chaka.

And in inducting Don Cornelius — completely deserved from a strictly music history standpoint — they’ve inducted a domestic abuser, in a category named for an abuser.

No words.

There’s never going to be a satisfactory answer to how to honor achievement on the part of problematic individuals, but just continuing on the same damn path is not it. We need to see women exclusively in a renamed non-performer category for a few consecutive years after this. You have the power, Rock Hall; the ball’s in your court.

But that’s no note to end on. This class is another in a line of strong ones and you can tell that in some areas the Hall is doing some thinking. There’s lots to celebrate. Looking forward to seeing how the ceremony shapes up.


Quick-and-Dirty Rock Hall Predictions

It was a little easier to predict this year’s RRHOF ballot this year – you’ll see a lot of names in common on the lists that were out. But now that the voting period is over at last, the knife is cutting the other way: the number of deserving names that made for relatively easy predicting makes it hard to narrow it down to a class. Just hazarding a guess before the announcement on the 3rd, I’m going with these names. I’ll put down seven, but given that the ballot is slightly smaller this year, I have a feeling that they’re looking to trim the ceremony running time and we may unfortunately only see five plus categories this year.

Sheryl Crow – What can you say? She checks every box.

Willie Nelson – Beloved, an absolute icon, and the embodiment of “rock and roll as spirit.”

Warren Zevon – I’ve thought for years that the Hall was committed to Todd Rundgren and as soon as he was in, they’d turn their attention to Zevon and that he’d go right in. I still do.

Soundgarden – This is one of those “feel” ones: It just seems to be their time. Cornell’s light is undimmed.

Missy Elliot – I’m slightly less sure of this, but the Hall has a record of inducting the marquee names in hip-hop with speed.

If six:

George Michael – The world is belatedly coming around to recognizing his genius. We’ve seen that winning the fan vote isn’t an iron-clad guarantee, but his victory was decisive.

If seven:

Kate Bush – Quite a few of the ballots we’ve seen published are going for her, and this is potentially “her year.” But the published ballots aren’t necessarily representative. Do we have more out there like those voters, or more like Bob Merlis?

Random thoughts: I don’t sense a lot of warmth towards Cyndi Lauper; I think she may be perceived, however wrongly, as a one-album wonder. I sense even less towards Rage Against the Machine, A Tribe Called Quest, and Iron Maiden. And the Spinners could be a dark horse, and they have different competition this year, but it’s a tough ballot. The White Stripes could be the dark horse and may slip into the slot I have for Missy. There is love for Joy Division/New Order out there but their profile isn’t as high as even Roxy Music’s was. I think it’ll take another try there.

I don’t usually try to call the categories, which are a complete wild card, but here are some thoughts:

Musical Excellence – I was wrong on this last year, but I thought Chaka would go here and she still may; I don’t see them doing it with Iron Maiden. If Kate Bush doesn’t get the Performer numbers, she could land here. We’ll talk about this whole practice later, OK?

Early Influence – Could the Elvis movie help shine a light on the criminally overlooked Big Mama Thornton? And if the Spinners don’t make it on the Performer list, they could slot in here. It’s not the most logical or desirable, but…Hall.

Non-performer: Could be anybody! Could it be Estelle Axton, now that Jim Stewart has passed? Just for grins, I’ll put down Casey Kasem. Just please, God, not another lawyer or John Landau’s accountant.

All will be revealed on Wednesday…as they say, stay tuned.

Where Do We Go Now? Thoughts on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2023 Nominees

And just like that, this year’s Rock Hall voting is underway. We have a slate of nominees (Or, if you read the font literally, “NNOMINEESS” (Just a side note; skip it if you wish: WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE GRAPHIC DESIGN ON THE HALL’S WEBSITE? This silliness with the fonts started with the ceremony last fall and it’s leaked over to the site. It’s ugly, disjointed, and it’s lousy branding. I will freely confess I have no background in design, but I have eyeballs, and they don’t like it.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the ballot. If you haven’t seen it yet, this year’s list is:

Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliot, Iron Maiden, Joy Division/New Order, Cyndi Lauper, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden, the Spinners, A Tribe Called Quest, the White Stripes, and Warren Zevon.

I won’t go into the merits of all the names, but just some thoughts off the top:

It’s a unique year when everyone’s first guess is Kate Bush. You have to think “If not now, when?” I’m a little surprised in a not-good way that she’s drifted right back to her usual spot about three-fourths down in the fan vote, but all we can do is wait and see.

I’ve been hoping for Cyndi Lauper, Warren Zevon, and George Michael for a long time now, and it’s a thrill to see them on the ballot at last.

I’d predicted Motley Crue because I thought they might go for someone never nominated, but I really hoped to see Maiden here, so more than happy to be wrong on that one. Priest is in and not only did the sky not fall, but they went down well, so you have to strike while the iron’s (no pun intended) hot. They’re doing well in the fan vote, but is metal really over with the voting body? Let’s hope so.

The Spinners?! This is WONDERFUL; I’d hoped but didn’t expect to see them again, and while the odds are steep, I’d so love to see them in. And it gives hope to those of us who still believe that some pre-80s names still deserve their due.

And Missy Elliot — finally, finally, a female hip hop artist. It shouldn’t have taken this long.

So what do I think the class will look like when the dust settles at the end of April? (God, this schedule…)

Right now, I’m thinking:

  • Sheryl Crow: Now that she’s on the ballot, she’s a textbook nominee and a shoo-in. May as well be now. Some of the names ready to play with and for her would be up for double-duty for Warren Zevon too if he were to make it in.
  • Willie Nelson: Enough said.
  • Missy Elliot: The sound you hear is the glass ceiling shattering. Again, stupid that it took this long, but the Hall is a history of putting in hips hop’s major names with speed.
  • Soundgarden: Chris Cornell is very much loved, the legal issues seem to be over, and it’s just time.
  • George Michael: Even those of us watching the ceremony on HBO heard that pop when his name was mentioned last year.
  • White Stripes: Jack White’s an industry icon and oh look, they tweaked the eligibility year.
  • Cyndi Lauper: She’s rightly beloved in the industry as well as by fans and although some podcast guests aren’t aware of it, her resume’s both stellar and long. The Hall might beat the Kennedy Center to the punch this time.

I’m listing seven here, but given that the ballot’s thet shortest it’s been since 2010, I think we may not get that many this year. The Hall wants to streamline the ceremony and we may not see classes as big as last year’s again.

There were some ecstatic reactions from journalists to this ballot, with Jill Mapes at Pitchfork declaring, “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations actually don’t suck this year.” I don’t know; the Nom Com does a good job overall — I wouldn’t say that taken as a whole, the slates suck the vast majority of years.

But this is the Hall, and there are some bones that sadly, must be picked:

Almost everyone on this list is exceptional and Hall-worthy. Can’t stress that enough. And as I said, a lot of these names as I said are ones I’ve hoped for and am personally excited to see. But if you hoped for an outlier, it’s not this year.

As has been pointed out, this was a wide-open year with no accepted no-brainer nominee. Most of us that made guesses had some left-field choices but generally got about five to seven right. But if you put everyone’s guesses together, you’d get almost the entirety of this class. Which is a long way of saying that despite that “anything can happen” zeitgeist, this is a fairly predictable ballot. It’s missing that stunner name — the one that takes you totally by surprise, that you had no idea was anywhere near the Nom Com’s radar. A Fela Kuti. A Nina Simone. Even a Gil Scott-Heron. I know Mary with Hall Watchers is looking for some edge, some sense of wildness and danger, and there’s none of that — we miss ya, MC5 and the Dolls. Sorry, Grace Jones.

But it’s not just that. For example, wouldn’t you all jump back if the Carpenters were on this list? How about Selena? (Maybe the Carpenters could happen, given this article that came out yesterday, the anniversary of Karen Carpenter’s passing.)

But that begs the question: Is the ballot even the place for an outlier anymore, assuming that there’s any room for them at all? The Hall put Sister Rosetta Tharpe on the ballot for 2018 because it gave her more exposure than just putting her in the Musical Excellence category. The Nom Com was looking to “engage, teach and inspire through the power of rock & roll.” That may have also been the thinking behind putting Kuti on for 2021. And it works. I’ve seen people online say they’ve learned about artists from the fan vote.

But in case you missed it, that mission statement has changed. As of last year, it does something to address just what the Hall defines as “rock and roll,” but it’s a lot more vague and a lot less, well, mission-y: “Born from the collision of rhythm and blues, country and gospel, rock and roll is a spirit that is inclusive and ever-changing. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame celebrates the sound of youth culture and honors the artists whose music connects us all.”

Sounds great. Especially if your initials are HBO. But it does not fill me with hope for the snubs and outliers.

And after the encouraging signs of the past couple of years, we can declare the Hall’s diversity issues solved, right? Wrong. Of 14 acts, four are performers of color. One of those is a woman of color. There are three other women and two bands with one female member. It’s a good ballot for stylistic diversity — there’s that mission statement in action — but not the demographic inclusion many of us hoped for. I had Rage and Soundgarden on my prediction list and thought I was wrong because there’s be at least one more woman. But no.

And one group is still missing out on both counts: female R&B acts. One of the biggest surprises of last year’s class was the omission of Chaka Khan’s name as a Musical Excellence inductee. That may be their plan this year. It had better be, because assuming the Hall wants to fix this, it’s painting itself into a corner: Patti is waiting. Mariah is waiting. Mary J. is waiting. (I’m going to leave the topic for later, possibly pending the ballot announcement, but we’ve got to talk about Musical Excellence.)

There’s no doubt that there’ll be lots more to say as we get closer to the class announcement and the ceremony. But for now, this slate of nominees all deserve to be celebrated. Here’s to a celebration-worthy class.

The Future is Wide Open: My Guesses for the 2023 Rock Hall Ballot

To tweak a Zombies lyric, it’s just about the time of the season. We should be getting word soon that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee is meeting and shortly after that the ballot will be published and we’re on our way to enshrining the Class of 2023. Rock Hall fans could use some good news: This year hasn’t exactly started auspiciously, with two two-time inductees leaving us just eight days apart. Those “heavenly band” stories are pretty trite, but you can’t help but think of the image, hopefully with a smile. It just underscores how time is of the essence, and you have to wonder if the NomCom will have this in mind.

The predictions are coming on fast now, and I thought I’d give it a try, but first a few quick words about the 2022 ceremony. So many people were saying what I felt, better than I could have, that I didn’t chime in. But for what they’re worth:

  1. Every inductee should have an inductor. If it’s baked into a video package that’s fine, but there needs to be somone who welcomes an act into the Hall. I know Hall reps have heard this so hopefully we’ll never have a Dire Straits/Harry Belafonte/Elizabeth Cotton situation again.
  2. We’re back in Cleveland this year, right guys? You kept saying how you were committed to the city. I know you want to expand your reach and all, but go where you’re the big fish in the pond. “Cleveland alternate years” should mean literally that.
  3. For God’s sake, what was with those horrendous graphics? The yellow and black with the squiggly/vibrat-y “2”s in the middle? Ugly as hell and totally off brand.

Back to the present…

We’re in the first year of the post-Landau era for the Committee, so it’ll be interesting to see how things play out. This isn’t a year with a surefire name like Jay-Z or Eminem were in their years, which isn’t a bad thing — things are wide open and anything could happen. The list of newly eligible artists is also painfully thin, so don’t look for many from there. If you’re keeping track of the predictions out there, it’s all over the map and that’s a lot of fun. I think every potential ballot I’ve seen would be fantastic – they’d all be hard to slice up into a subpar class. Here’s hoping that plays out in reality.

For the first time ever, I threw this list together pretty quickly without a lot of “strategery.” I don’t know as well as some others who’s in the room and who they tend to advocate for, so it’s a game of darts. I’ll be happy if I get four or five right. Here, in no particular order:

1. Kate Bush: Not going out on a limb here; she’s been on the ballot three times, so she clearly has support. Her “Stranger Things” push came right as the ballot closed last year, but I think her profile is still high. This might be her year.

2. Motley Crue: They’re favorites year after year at the fan kiosks and would do really well in the fan vote. I’m not sure the Hall’s ready to throw in its lot with Iron Maiden or Motorhead right away, although they should go in first.

3. Warren Zevon: A significant snub who would likely go right in once he’s on a ballot.

4. Salt n’ Pepa: As of now, no female hip hop artist has even been nominated, and it’s past time for that to change. Missy Elliott is eligible for the first time this year, and the Committee may give her the nod. There’s no doubt be some backlash if she’s passed up, but Salt n’ Pepa came first. They got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year, and despite a breakup, were on hand with Spinderella. I don’t see two female hip hop acts, and I’m going to put my chips on them going in order.

5. Chaka Khan: We were all surprised she didn’t go in under Musical Excellence last year, and maybe that’ll be what they opt for this time around. They want her in, and by rights, she and Patti Labelle should come before Mariah Carey. One way or another, the dam has to break. If they do go the Musical Excellence route, could Mary J. Blige return? She was a standout nominee two years ago who just didn’t have the right ballot.

6. Roberta Flack: She’s been snubbed for far, far too long. She recently announced she has ALS — we’ve lost the chance to see her perform at her own induction, but that shouldn’t be an obstacle here.

7. Cyndi Lauper: She’s one award short of an EGOT and quite simply one of the great talents of our time. You know you want to hear “Girls” as part of an all-star jam.

8. Willie Nelson: The red-headed stranger’s one of the most rock and roll choices you could have on any ballot. Let’s give him his laurels now.

9. B-52s: The Committee really wants Devo in, but it’s been a hard sell. The B-52s have been on a well-received farewell tour, and they’d no doubt light up the ceremony with a performance.

10. Meat Loaf: It’d likely be a hard sell, but I understand John Sykes and Rick Krim are both fans – Sykes worked BOOH in his early days as a label rep and was a longtime friend. The album’s a classic rock icon, and the BOOH musical, and sadly, Meat Loaf’s passing last year, kept his music in the spotlight more than 40 years after its release. One question though: Do you induct him and Jim Steinman as a tandem act? Meat Loaf I think would want it that way, and I’m inclined to agree. Every ballot has that surprise name, and I think this will be one, sooner or later.

11. Outkast: They’ve been a snub for a long time, and you have to think their day is coming. Alternatively, Snoop Dog has become a cultural icon and was just announced as a Songwriters Hall inductee this year. It could be a doubly big year for him.

12. Tears for Fears: I think there’s still a lot of love left at the Hall for the 80s, and Tears for Fears has always been well-regarded. Their “Tipping Point” album and tour were well received by fans and critics alike. More than 10,000 TikTok creators can’t be wrong — they could be bubbling under for a nomination. Another act that could fit here would be Joy Division/New Order, whose exclusion gets more ridiculous every year.

13. Mariah Carey. Her career speaks for itself. No time like the present for a nomination.

14. Luther Vandross: R&B has gotten scant attention from the Hall in recent years; Lionel Richie was a standout last year but had more crossover success. Vandross has been long acknowledged as one of the greatest R&B singers of our era, and was a songwriter and producer who worked with the best of the best in a range of genres: Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Judy Collins, and others. An absolute icon, beloved by fans and respected by the industry. Would also love to see the criminally overdue Spinners or Kool & the Gang in this slot.

15. Phil Collins: If there was a category for drum fills, he’d have been in long ago. If you look up “ubiquitous” in the dictionary, his picture might be there. The fact that he’d be a white-guy-repeat-inductee may play against him, but I honestly think he’s such a sentimental favorite at this point that ultimately it wouldn’t matter. He likely wouldn’t perform, but with the right artists in tribute, everyone in the place would be swaying joyously to every song — whatever they pick — and air-drumming to that fill. Note: Looks like he’s the No. 1 pick on the Goldmine list; I didn’t have that in mind writing this, but it makes sense. Future Rock Legends may disagree, but HBO wouldn’t mind at all.

16. Sheryl Crow: It’s a given that she’ll get in, and her stepping in to perform at last year’s ceremony only raised her profile with the Hall. There’ll be no shortage of high-profile names ready to play and do induct honors.

17. Jethro Tull: Not sure they’ll go with this many nominees again, but they’re high on the list of all-time snubs, and someone on the Comittee may feel it’s time to include some prog. They just dropped a new single this past week with an album to follow and will be touring this summer. They’re in the top 20 on the fan kiosk vote, so fans are keeping the faith. Rage Against the Machine or Soundgarden also have cases.

Here’s to a stellar Rock Hall season — are you ready? I am.

Hello City: Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Barenaked Ladies’ Gordon

In July of ’94, I made what would be the first of many trips to one of the truly great cities of the world, Toronto. I discovered lots of wonderful things you can’t find in Atlanta: quality public art, clothes by Roots, and Canadian music. It was here I first heard Spirit of the West, the Rheostatics, the Tragically Hip, and a band that was still a relative newcomer at the time, Barenaked Ladies.

This was the month before the band’s second album, “Maybe You Should Drive” came out, but MuchMusic was still playing tracks from their debut two years after its release, so my intro was “Be My Yoko Ono,’ watching with a friend, who shared (and I presume still does) that album’s title: “Gordon.”  

“Gordon” (album, not friend) was born from a series of indie-release cassettes spanning from 1989 to 1991. That year, “Barenaked Ladies,” aka “the Yellow Tape’, was the band’s demo for South X Southwest and became their first commercial release. The tape contained early versions of what would become some of their signature tunes, including “Brian Wilson,” “Be My Yoko Ono,” and “If I Had $1,000,000.” In a scenario akin to the Cars’ breakthrough almost 15 years before, commercial radio picked up on it, including the influential Toronto-are modern rock outlet CFNY.

Besides hawking the tapes, the band made the lowest-budget video ever – one loonie – by squeezing into the “Speaker’s Corner” public-access booth outside the MuchMusic studios in downtown Toronto and performing “Yoko Ono.” MuchMusic made good use of the freebie, putting it into heavy rotation.

The big break came when CFNY gave the band $100K to record a new album as part of its Discovery-to-Disc grant program. In 1992 BNL signed with Sire and went into the studio with Canadian uber-producer Michael-Philip Wojewoda.

It’s said of first albums that you have your whole life to write them and it held true here. The band had about 20 here to choose from; Wojewoda later said they were already pretty much fully shaped and it was mostly a matter of choosing what fit best to get to the final 14. “Gordon” made its debut on July 28, 1992. Thirty years later, it’s still fresh, with a wild sense of abandon and an infectious joy that’s never been duplicated.

“Gordon” sold more than 500,00 copies in Canada in its first year of release on the strength of four hit singles (“Enid,” “What A Good Boy” and re-recorded versions of “If I Had $1000000” and “Brian Wilson.”). It spent eight weeks in the Number One slot on the Canadian albums chart; was nominated for a Juno for Album of the Year and “Enid” got one for Single of the Year. By 2000, it had diamond status in Canada. In 2015, CBC Music named “Brian Wilson” one of the 50 Best Songs of the 1990s, and in 2017 “Gordon” was named one of the 25 Best Canadian Debut Albums by CBC Music. Response in the U.S. was a little slower, where the album took until 1998 to go gold.  

In 2013, LA Weekly’s Andy Hermann wrote, “Amidst the clenched-jaw rock singers of the day, “Gordon” was a breath of fresh air: a harmony-rich, mostly acoustic, wildly inventive goof of a record.” But you don’t make quirkiness in music work, let alone last, unless you can back it up – ask Was (Not Was) or Weird Al. BNL brings solid musicianship, sharp songwriting, and exquisite Kingston Trio-esque harmonies, and it was all there, fully formed, on “Gordon”.

The worst cover art in the history of pop?

Sire opted to market the “goof” factor, with cover art that proved that they were completely confused by their new signees: shots of them mugging between the letters spelling out the title. The band hated it, but the floating Pepsi logo just may be worse.

It’s true that humor has been Barenaked Ladies’ calling card from the start, and it’s all over here, from the third track, “Grade 9,” with a sonic reference to Rush’s Tom Sawyer and lyrics that perfectly capture freshman angst:

First day of school and I’m already failing….

I went out for the football team to prove that I’m a man

Guess I shouldn’t tell them that I like Duran Duran

Of course there’s the aforementioned “Yoko Ono” and the song that’s still a live staple, “If I Had $1,000,000” with its uniquely Canadian fantasy of unlimited Kraft Dinner.

But there’s a shadow side to Barenaked Ladies. Turn off the sunny street of songs like these and you’ll find the dark alleys, filled with the quiet suburbanite desperation that shows up in “What a Good Boy”:

We’ve got these chains

Hanging ’round our necks

People want to strangle us with them

Before we take our first breath

Afraid of change

Afraid of staying the same

When temptation calls

We just look away

White middle-class ennui may seem a twee luxury in the world we live in now, but it’s still very real. Eight years later, the terror morphed into weary resignation on “Pinch Me,” from the band’s 2000 album “Maroon”:

Like a dream you try to remember but it’s gone

(Pinch me) Then you try to scream but it only comes out as a yawn

Starting with “Gordon,” violence lingers in those shadows too, wrapped in those pretty harmonies on “Wrap Your Arms Around Me:”

I put my hands around your neck

You wrap your arms around me

I regret every time I raised my voice

And it wouldn’t be that bright of me to say I had no choice

I can kiss your eyes, your hair, your neck

Until we forget

The band would take this further on its third studio album, “Born on a Pirate Ship” with not one, but two songs about violent stalkers. “Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank” was inspired by the famous Anne Murray stalking case from the 70s and borrows lyrics from Murray’s “You Needed Me” and “Snowbird.” Fortunately, Murray’s story ended better: The narrator in “Hank” shoots the object of his obsession dead in her front door. More subtle but still terrifying is “The Old Apartment,” the most upbeat song about a violent stalker ever to break the Top 40. The clincher is the fact that the narrator doesn’t seem to understand why his former relationship is over:

Why did you plaster over

The hole I punched in the door?

When I saw the band in 1998, it was a little surreal to see hundreds of tweens/young teens bopping happily to this song, seemingly oblivious.

And in the BNL universe, love isn’t so much passionate romance as it is an uneasy détente, made explicit on “Gordon” in “The Flag:”

He tells her he’s sorry, she tells him it’s over

He tells her he’s sorry, she says over and over

You’ve never really known that when the white flag is flown

No one, no one, no one has won the war

The ultimate example of a BNL anti-love song comes on the “Pirate Ship” album, in what may be one of the most wrenching relationship songs ever written, “Break Your Heart”:

The bravest thing I’ve ever done

Was to run away and hide.

But not this time.

Not this time.

And the weakest thing I’ve ever done

Was to stay right by your side.

Just like this time

And every time.

I couldn’t tell you I was happy you were gone,

So I lied and said that I missed you when we were apart.

I couldn’t tell you, so I had to lead you on

But I didn’t mean to break your heart.

In between the comedy and tragedy, the songs on “Gordon” explore eccentric character sketches (“King of Bedside Manor” (with its side trip through Styx’ “Mr. Roboto”), the joys of a break with reality (“Crazy”) and two tracks that skewer the downside of fame. “Box Set” is a tragically comic look at pop-star career trajectories:

I never thought that words like “product”

Could ever leave my lips

But something happened to me somewhere

That made me lose my grip

While “New Kid on the Block” looks at boy band success from the inside out:

Now I’m a new kid on the block

Well I’m twenty-three and they won’t let me grow up

And on an album packed with gems, there’s a special jewel in one of the band’s signature songs, the poignant, beautiful “Brian Wilson”:

Drove downtown in the rain

Nine-thirty on a Tuesday night

Just to check out the late-night record shop…

While some elements from “Gordon” would carry over into the band’s later work, it was probably inevitable that the freedom and eclecticism would be left behind. With their second album, “Maybe You Should Drive,” Barenaked Ladies would display more discipline and find a cohesive voice that would bring them success on a global scale. But the maturity and complex wordplay of the songwriting was all there (Hello, Songwriter’s Hall of Fame?). And the jazzy arrangements propelled by Jim Creegan’s dancing bass lines were already defined. “Gordon” checks all the boxes not just as one of the strongest debut albums ever, but one of the best of its decade and a true all-time classic.

But time goes on, things change. The band’s “bunch of buddies” image may have been overstated to begin with, and as mainstream success grew, so did the tensions. Page’s coke bust in 2008 couldn’t have been more ill-timed, coming on the heels of the release of a children’s album and a planned relationship with Disney. Page left the band in 2009, citing a need for more of a songwriting outlet but later interviews on both sides revealed deep reserves of anger. The guys’ reunion for their Canadian Music Hall of Fame induction was cordial, but it seems clear that it was a destined to be a one-off.

I haven’t been to Toronto in years, and Gord and I lost touch almost as long ago. And I drifted away from BNL for good after “Barenaked Ladies are Men/Barenaked Ladies Are Me.” But “Gordon” remains a desert island disc, forever conjuring the image of the spinning neon turntables of the Sam the Record Man sign on Yonge Street, funky Thai fusion on Queen West, and the memory of a summer when life seemed expansive, exciting, and new.

Getting Nervous: Random Thoughts on the 2022 Rock Hall Class

Well, here we are. After another way-too-long voting period, the RRHOF Class of 2022 has been named. If somehow you don’t already know, that class is: Performers: Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, Duran Duran, Eminem, Eurythmics, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, and Carly Simon; Early Influences: Harry Belafonte and Elizabeth Cotton; Musical Influence: Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Judas Priest; Irving Azoff Award for Non-Performers: Allen Grubman, Jimmy Iovine, and Sylvia Robinson.

It’s a great class. As hackneyed as the expression is, it’s literally got something for everyone: hip hop, country, pop, a singer-songwriter, and lo and behold, metal. At least in term of act totals, it’s not bad for female representation. There aren’t a lot of female-dominated bands out there, and an all-female class is a likely non-starter, so vote parity isn’t going to come from the performer ranks. And it does, albeit posthumously, finally honor a woman with the Ahmet Ertegun Award. Sylvia Robinson is a wonderful place to start; precious few industry captains can claim to have left their mark on a genre that dominates the cultural landscape the way she did.

I didn’t predict this year; I listened to too many podcasts and read too many posts from critics and writers and then couldn’t decide what the 65-year-old voters would do. Duran Duran and Eminem were locks and I didn’t think Pat would get shut out again, but I wasn’t sure if they’d look fondly on the era of Bachrach-David and honor Dionne Warwick or if Lionel Richie’s undeniably massive reach would do it. And then there was Dollygate – how many voters would honor Dolly’s wishes and how would that actually play on their ballots? You have to have sympathy for the Hall on this: They were damned either way in the whole bizarre, strangely comical scenario.

Quite a few people did predict the entire class or most of it though, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. With a ballot this stacked, things should be more competitive. There should be a positive surprise. The biggest negative surprise for me was the name I was absolutely convinced since this time last year would be there under Musical Excellence: Chaka Khan.

Not that beauty precludes talent, but I’m starting to worry a little.

And that leads to something that Eric and Mary from Hall Watchers expressed in their reaction episode – something I’d felt but hadn’t put into words even in my thoughts. Everyone truly deserves to be there. Absolutely, no question. But as they said, this is a safe, ready-for-TV class. There’s no edge, no one who’s a misfit. The Dolls and MC5 have once again has been left out. John Sykes talks about the “music that impacts youth culture” (Lord, that’s a cringe-worthy expression — we’re talking people who debuted 25 years ago minimum. It sounds like something Ed Sullivan would say to announce Herman’s Hermits). But did Lionel Richie, as charming as he is and as tremendous as his career has been, impact “youth culture” even in his MTV heyday?

Speaking of MTV…five of the seven acts here had videos played on MTV, and four of the seven were mainstays on the channel for most of its 80s glory years. When Sykes took the helm two years ago I worried that the ballot would become a sleek parade of video stars. When Fela Kuti and Todd “Mr. Grumpy” Rundgren made the ballot last year, and Todd got in, I felt reassured. (Todd’s a video pioneer, but he didn’t get the massive airtime). But Devo is rapidly becoming sort of the exception to what I hope is not becoming a hard and fast rule of classes made up of Beautiful People. Not that beauty precludes talent, but I’m starting to worry a little.

Kuti’s inclusion this year feels doubly odd, if welcome. They had to have known he wouldn’t get in that way; it was a slot that could’ve gone to a competitive artist while Kuti went in the only way he will, as an Early Influence or Musical Excellence. If by chance they were banking on the same ecstatic reaction from voters in Nigeria and across Africa for excitement, that’s a cynical take that deserves the radio silence that greeted it.

The edginess that’s made it onto the ballot isn’t getting in. By all accounts, the Hall’s been tinkering with its voting committee for a while now, but it’s not translating into classes that include what the Nom Com so clearly wants.

And that brings us to categories. When the Hall slipped Starr in 2015 under Musical Excellence, formerly the “Sideman” category, the distinction largely went under the radar because it was unexpected. Two years later, when it was used to end our long national nightmare and induct Nile Rodgers after 11 attempts to induct Chic, the questions started to fly and it looked for all the world like a consolation prize.

Now the Hall’s been wielding the category with a vengeance, using it last year to right a long-standing wrong and make sense of hip-hop inductions going forward by finally welcoming LL Cool J, and this year finally putting more metal into the mix and inducting Judas Priest. Hear, hear to both of these inductions. Both long overdue and necessary steps. Combined with the larger classes, things are starting to move in ways we can see.

There’s a school of thought that the ends justify the means and the category meanings should be flexible. The Hall maintains that the Musical Excellence awards are true inductions, and it’s true that there’s not distinction at the ceremony in terms of performances, or speeches. It’s been said that it’s a distinction only Hall-watching types pay attention to, that to the public it’s all one big happy ballot.

When you have to spend most of Announcement Day explaining that yes, Artist X is really inducted, you have a problem.

But that’s just not true. These “side door” inductions — what the press always calls them — are very much noted by the public, fans, and no doubt the artists. The night of the announcement, I scrolled through the responses to the announcement tweet by the official Judas Priest account. Most of them were at least mildly happy, but there were quite a few that were keenly aware of the special category and were disappointed at what they felt was a second-class honor. A number were bummed that “It’s not a real induction” and Priest “Wouldn’t be able to perform; they’d just get a certificate.” This despite Rob Halford’s adorably enthusiastic spin on it being even better than just a plain old Performer induction because it meant someone had “dug deep” into the catalog. Metalsucks.net posted a poll asking “Is Judas Priest officially in the Hall of Fame?” (Almost half — 46.54 percent — flat-out said ‘No.'”)

Folks, when this kind of stuff happens, when you have to spend most of Announcement Day explaining that yes, Artist X is really, honestly, for truly and for reals inducted, you have a problem. Defining things makes my pedantic little soul happy, but more importantly, it lays the foundation of meaning for the award. Right now, it’s not clear what the awards mean, and Musical Excellence has devolved into what Garrick Groover aptly called on Twitter “Artists B.” And it may even tweak the voting for a certain extent, because when voters see an artist return to the ballot now, how many think they don’t need to vote for them and go for the shiny new first-year-eligible model instead, because that artist will likely get rolled over into a category? Not to mention that all this likely fills the category as much as it can take in a given year with the broadcast limitations and so takes a slot away from an actual side musician.

I think back in 1995 no one thought about all these subgenres, how much scrutiny everything would get, and how the voting body wouldn’t yield the results the Nom Com and other interested parties wanted, even for legit reasons. But psst, Foundation: You don’t have to devise band-aid fixes to get around the Rock Hall. You ARE the Rock Hall! You can create a system that makes sense and covers all these contingencies so that people understand the award and people don’t end up feeling insulted. It’s likely going to be a combination of defining terms and divvying up the class among factions, but it can be done. Take a stand! I’ve probably said it before, but the prestige in an award comes less from whom it’s given to than it does from the professionalism of the awarding organization.

There’ll be plenty of time starting November 6 to talk about what we want to see going forward. For now, let’s appreciate the definite merits of the Class of 2022. And spare some sympathy for the showrunners, who’ve begged for less of an embarrassment of riches. They’ve got their work cut out for them. Just give us Rob riding Dolly in on his Harley.