Here we are: the halfway mark, more or less, of the fan vote for the RRHOF Class of 2018 (official voters have until December 8). So far, this year hasn’t been marked by any overt drama on the order of last year’s mysterious data dump, but it’s still been an interesting four weeks.
A big part of that’s due to one of the best ballots in some time: I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed voting so much or voted so widely across the slate before, ticking boxes for 15 out of the 19.
So what’s happening with the ballot?
The fan vote continues to demonstrate just how effective a well-timed social media post can be. The Zombies have been consistently tweeting and have consistently been one of the top three daily vote-getters, currently sitting in seventh. Apparently, Alex Voltaire is a Zombie master—their votes took off immediately after his tweet for fans to get out the vote. Judas Priest have also been rallying their troops on Twitter; the latest gave them a similar surge that knocked Eurythmics out of fifth, and they’ve been posting good numbers since. The Cars, again, are the outliers: there’s been essentially no official support, but while they haven’t seen the dramatic surges some of the other acts have gotten, they’re in a solid fourth place on a strong fan effort.
I didn’t expect Dire Straits to do this well; they just haven’t come up in online discussions as a snub fans are passionate about. For reasons even I don’t understand, I subject myself to reading comments on HOF stories online so I was expecting big things for Bon Jovi (but not quite this big; see below) and for the Moody Blues, but Dire Straits was virtually never mentioned at all. And here they were racking up 10K+ votes daily for the first two weeks–it’s like people saw them on the ballot and said, “Oh yeah-I know them!” Starting in Week 3 their daily tallies fell to a more terrestrial 6K, but they still see surges, have never fallen from the top five in daily votes and their hold on third place is secure. The 6k level, incidentally, seems to be the dividing line between the Top Fivers and the rest of the ballot; once you get past it the rest of the pack hovers between around 2000-1500 votes…and then there’s the Meters.
Given the press about their position in rock history and that they’ve been touted as this year’s “lock,” I did expect Radiohead to be doing better, maybe around fifth or sixth like Pearl Jam did last year, instead of their current 11th (they yielded 10th to Nina Simone early in Week 4). Even if Millennials don’t vote as fervently as Boomers, it seems a bit soft.
And then there’s Bon Jovi, out-Journeying Journey and sitting on almost a half million votes. I expected them to win the fan vote but I don’t think anyone expected this insanity. Apparently there’s a fear that the band’s known lack of favor from The Powers That Be will cause them to be the first fan vote winner not to be inducted. Not a chance–the Hall can be tone-deaf but they’re not going to make a PR mistake on that magnitude. Or forego the HBO ratings or Museum attendance receipts. The Moody Blues are their closest competition, and they’re about 90K votes back, which makes those Bon Jovi fan tweets about getting out the vote especially eye roll-worthy. Brand loyalty on steroids.
All this makes it especially gratifying to see how much support Sister Rosetta has gotten as part of the performer ballot (initially 15th, now 16th), even though people who know who she is are puzzled at what she’s doing there.
Again, the top half of the fan vote is dominated by white male artists, with the exception of Annie Lennox as half of Eurythmics in sixth place. There’s something poetic about the fact that the leading solo female (and Black) act is Nina Simone in 10th. LL Cool J started strong over the first two weeks, occasionally placing ninth in overnight voting, but his support took a sudden drop around the start of the fourth week, when he fell as low as 17th or 18th place with less than 1000 votes on a couple of occasions. He’s still in 14th place overall but MC5 is poised to pass him. It’s apparent that the Hall isn’t engaging the Black/R&B audience, but not apparent if that’s an issue for it and if it is, what they can or will do about it.
So to me it looks like four of the final spots will go to Bon Jovi, The Moody Blues, Nina Simone and probably Radiohead, unless the voters really don’t agree that they’re the most influential band of the last 25 years. I see three acts playing musical chairs with the last (hopefully) two spots: The Cars, The Zombies and Judas Priest, with Dire Straits as a possible fourth. Sister Rosetta will go in as she should, as an Early Influence, and it’s possible Link Wray could be ushered in under the Musical Excellence category.
This long run up to the announcement has been spiced up by the publication of Joe Hagen’s Wenner bio, Sticky Fingers, with stories of Hagen’s and Wenner’s falling out giving the book a shot of publicity you just can’t buy. Personally, I was intrigued to see a blurb about Ric Ocasek trying to “butter Wenner up” to get the Cars into the Hall. Now, I wasn’t there and Hagen was, but that’s hard to picture. The band has maintained an air of studied indifference to the whole process, but then again I’ve heard Ric change some of his stories more than once, so who knows. Maybe he can have his wish, if that’s what it is. Only 37 days to go.