Our 5 Picks for the Rock Hall Class of 2014

Last month, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced the 16 contenders for its Class of 2014. Sound Affects picks five artists from a very strong ballot that it would vote for.

It's that time of year again. Almost a month ago, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame unveiled the ballot for its 2014 induction class to the public. The 16-strong list of names is admittedly impressive, boasting one marquee-level no-brainer (Nirvana, whose nomination in its first year of eligibility officially forces the Hall to acknowledge the 1990s), several deserving re-nominations (Chic, Deep Purple, N.W.A, LL Cool J, Kiss), and some unexpected yet wondrous first-time surprises (Yes! Peter Gabriel! Link Wray! The Replacements!). Along with the reappearance of a fan ballot on its website, the Hall's selections this year are laudable steps in its continued efforts to add a populist slant to an institution long slated for its myopic '60s rock critic view of popular music.

With ballots due not long from now, Sound Affects takes the time to sort through the nominees and share with you its five fantasy votes. Like last year, we are going to list the reasons why these five artists deserve to be enshrined in the Hall, paired with pragmatic assessments of their actual chances for induction. Once again, do note that the Hall adheres to a broad definition of what constitutes "rock and roll", which in its assessment essentially boils down to all popular music post-Elvis Presley. Keeping that in mind, we've weighted disco, blues, pop, and hip-hop acts alongside prog, metal, and alternative rock outfits, and given them equal consideration. Whatever grievances you may have against the Hall's overly flexible mission statement or egregious past slights (in an ideal world, both Black Sabbath and the Stooges would have never had to wait more than a year to garner enough votes to merit induction after becoming eligible), rest assured that all five of the artists listed below are more than worthy of concentrated veneration and remembrance, whether or not they are accompanied by a lavish ceremony and celebrity speechmakers.

1. Nirvana

Why they should be inducted

Definitive band of the '90s, grunge icon, leader of the alt-rock revolution, voice of a generation -- even the Cliff Notes version of Nirvana's story is enough to prompt any rock historian to start yabbering about capital-I Importance in relation to the band. No, Nirvana's music wasn't necessarily innovative if you had been listening to college radio during the '80s -- but then again, most people weren't, and that's why Nirvana was pivotal. It was unlikely stars Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl -- not Dinosaur Jr. or the Pixies or the Replacements -- that finally convinced the punters that buzzing guitars, flannel shirts, and PC politics were salvation from '80s music's excesses, and though rock's bad habits have steadily resurfaced during the 20 years since the trio released its last album (see: Coldplay's stadium-ready pablum and anything to do with Nickelback), the group's legacy continues to shadow any indie act that has to decide whether or not to sign the corporate dotted line. For the baby boomers that dominate the Hall's voting body, Nirvana is one of the undeniable worthy few to have emerged after the death of the hippie dream. To those who acknowledge that great music continued to be made post-1970, Nirvana's small yet potent catalog -- the song "Smells Like Teen Spirit" alone would have been reason enough to merit a glance from the nominating committee -- is as concise proof of that fact as any outfit you can find.

Will they get in?

Is the Pope Catholic? Nirvana is such a clear consensus pick for the Hall that for the band not to score induction in its first year of eligibility something will need to have gone horribly awry with the entire voting process. This is going to happen, end of story.

2. LL Cool J

Why they should be inducted

Being hip-hop's first solo superstar is enough to earn LL Cool J a place in the history books. But does that make him Hall-worthy? Not necessarily, but then you factor in his body of work (see "I Need Love", "Going Back to Cali", "I'm Bad", and arguably the greatest comeback single of all time, "Mama Said Knock You Out"), his longevity, and his images as the embodiment of '80s b-boy bravado, and the absence of LL and his trademark Kangol hat is all the more conspicuous.

Will they get in?

The last two times he made the ballot, he and fellow Def Jam labelmates the Beastie Boys cancelled each other out, with the Beasties only making it into the Hall in a year when they were not pitted against LL. History threatens to repeat itself this years as he and another major rap act, N.W.A, threaten to split the hip-hop voting bloc. N.W.A's incendiary reputation probably makes it a more "relevant" choice than another East Coast Def Jam act, but LL's got the heftier body of work and plenty of respect, so don't count him out yet.

3. Deep Purple

Why they should be inducted

As we stated last year, Deep Purple was one of the founding fathers of that burly musical beast known as heavy metal, with Richie Blackmore's injection of classical scales and motifs into his guitar-playing proving to be especial influential. Though casual listeners are likely only familiar with "Smoke on the Water" and its immortal riff, the whole slate of early '70s Purple records are worthy of investigation if one wants an informed picture of the origins of modern rock music.

Will they get in?

After Rush's induction last year, we would have said that Deep Purple would soon follow. However, this year's reemergence of Kiss on the ballot makes the battle for the populist hard rock vote even tougher. While Purple is arguably more important in the grander scheme of things, Kiss has the better name value. In Purple's favor: conspicuous name-checks by past inductees Metallica, Guns 'N Roses, and Alice Cooper when the topic of egregious Hall snubs has been brought up.

4. Chic

Why they should be inducted

Despite the readiness to declare disco dead at the start of the '80s, the genre has proved amazingly resilient, and counts a myriad of dance music descendants as its progeny three decades later. Chic is somewhat of anomaly in a style commonly accepted as producer-driven, being a proper band guided by guitarist and prolific producer Nile Rodgers. While many disco artists were indeed interchangeable and quickly forgotten, Chic made a career out of itself around funk-based dancefloor movers like "Le Freak" and "Good Times", the latter of which attained musical immortality when its break was reappropriated for the first rap record ever, Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight".

Will they get in?

The Hall's prejudice against certain genres has subsided in the last few years, disco among them. After years of pretending that disco was irrelevant, irredeemable pap, it's enlightening to note that the Hall has as of 2013 now selected Chic for the ballot for the eighth time. Donna Summer's induction last year was a long-deserved honor that came too late for the recently-deceased singer, and given Nile Rodgers' battle with cancer it's likely the Hall voters don't want to risk making the same mistake again.

5. Yes

Why they should be inducted

Simply put, Yes is one of the -- if not the -- definitive progressive rock bands. While Pink Floyd sold gazillions more records and Genesis is more easily recognized, Yes' instrumental virtuosity and conceptual excesses are the prefect embodiment of an oft-derided and frequently misunderstood genre. Certainly, Rick Wakeman's keyboard playing could be seen as overly florid and gargantuan packages like the three-LP concert album Yessongs demand a special kind of devotion to get through, but for entire strains of progressive and avant-garde music those traits are essential building blocks for a four-decade legacy. Yes' stature isn't restricted to prog circles either, as artists as diverse as PiL guitarist Keith Levine and Iron Maiden's Steve Harris have cited the band as a major influence on their music.

Will they get in?

Like with disco, the Hall's resistance to prog has noticeably crumbled with recent induction classes. Genesis and Rush have finally joined ranks alongside Pink Floyd after incessant lobbying by fans, and Yes is the next logical prog act to make the cut. And if Yes makes it in, the cases for King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and even the Moody Blues become harder to contest. Does the Hall want to fully break down the floodgates for one of rock's most unfairly maligned styles? The institution appears willing to do so. Unfortunately, Yes might have to wait a little longer, as a good crop of hard-to-contest names are also vying for attention on the latest ballot. And like LL Cool J, Yes faces direct competition from an act in its same genre -- in this case, it's Peter Gabriel, a man already inducted as a member of Genesis, but whom possesses better name value and a handsome critical reputation that has never required retrospective rehabilitation.

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Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

The Hall of Fame has been harshly criticized for some of its more inexplicable exclusions and for neglecting certain subgenres of music. Cynicism and negativity over the Hall's selection process and membership is fairly widespread. That said, despite the controversies and legitimate gripes, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is still widely viewed as a career milestone. The Hall's stature feeds its surrounding controversies: after all, nobody would care to argue so vehemently about the merits of one artist over another if it wasn't important. Very rarely will a newly inducted artist miss the opportunity to appear at the star-studded ceremony to accept their honor.

The criteria for nomination is as follows: "Artists -- a group encompassing performers, composers and/or musicians -- become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first commercial recording. Besides demonstrating unquestionable musical excellence and talent, inductees will have had a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock and roll." Specifically for performers, "This category honors bands or solo artists which demonstrate musical excellence. Such a descriptor includes (but isn't limited to) influence on other performers or genres; length and depth of career and catalog; stylistic innovations; or superior technique and skills."

These standards allow the selection committee wide latitude with their choices, and generating a list that would create zero controversy is an obvious impossibility. As for those deserving artists yet to be included, their time will surely come. There has purportedly been an emphasis on increasing diversity among the nominating committee and voters in recent years, and the list of contenders for the class of 2018 reflects this.

Radiohead, as expected and deserved, are nominated in their first year of eligibility, and there is little doubt they will be inducted. Other nominees include Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, the Cars, Depeche Mode, Dire Straits, Eurythmics, J. Geils Band, Judas Priest, LL Cool J, MC5, the Meters, the Moody Blues, Rage Against the Machine, Nina Simone, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Link Wray and the Zombies. It's a strong and varied group.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the list, however, is the British duo Eurythmics. Even though they've been eligible since 2006, this is their first nomination. Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox certainly deserve recognition for their important contributions to the musical fabric of the last 40 years. While Eurythmics have always been generally respected, they've never been darlings with the critics like some of their contemporaries. It's puzzling as to why. Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting and creative audacity. Lennox is second to noone as a vocalist, not just in her lead parts but also in the creative, often rhythmic way she uses her voice as an instrument. This nomination could boost the stature and perception of Eurythmics' body of work immeasurably.

Although Eurythmics are often consigned strictly to the synthpop genre, that designation fits only a portion of their repertoire. Each of their nine studio albums has its own unique vibe while retaining the duo's core identity. Eurythmics never repeat themselves, often taking bold risks and swerving in unexpected directions. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Eurythmics didn't "sell out" or compromise by chasing after obvious Top 40 hits. Even their most popular singles aren't commercial in the traditional sense, and they've always sounded like nobody else on the radio.

Despite the sudden emergence of their 1983 single "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" as an MTV staple and international smash, Eurythmics are far from an overnight success story. Their story begins in London, 1975, when Stewart fortuitously encountered Lennox at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress. The Scottish singer had recently dropped out of the Royal Academy of Music, which she felt didn't suit her musical interests. Stewart and Lennox strongly connected over their love of music, and they quickly became a couple who were inseparable. Along with singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Peet Coombes, Stewart and Lennox formed a short-lived group the Catch. After one failed single, they added two members and renamed themselves the Tourists.

Coombes was the dominant creative force and primary songwriter behind the Tourists. Lennox and Coombes shared vocals on the band's dour and melancholy power-pop. The Tourists released three albums and managed a handful of chart appearances in the UK. Two of their singles, a peppy cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be With You" and the hard-rocking "So Good T\to Be Back Home Again", made the UK Top 10. The band toured extensively, but their success was fleeting. The Tourists' third album, Luminous Basement (1980), tanked badly despite containing their strongest material yet, and the group dissolved shortly thereafter.

Lennox and Stewart also endured a painful ending to their sometimes tumultuous romance, but they recognized the power of their musical chemistry and decided to continue working together as a duo. They were a pair "who couldn't be together, and who could not be apart", as Lennox reflects many years later in the song "17 Again". History has shown that they made the right decision: Stewart and Lennox compliment each other intuitively through a shared passion for music, the thrill of experimentation, and the need for emotional release that songwriting and performing allows.

The name Eurythmics was derived from a technique used to teach music to children based on sensory and physical methods of learning rhythm. The newly-christened duo signed with RCA Records and in early 1981 headed to Germany to record their debut album with highly-respected krautrock producer Conny Plank.

Plank already had a long string of acclaimed albums to his credit, including collaborations with Neu!, Can, Ultravox, Kraftwerk and Brian Eno among others. The sessions for what would become Eurythmics' debut album, In the Garden, were held at Plank's studio in Cologne. He brought several of his regular collaborators into the proceedings, including bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit of avant-garde rockers Can, Blondie drummer Clem Burke and D.A.F. electronics whiz Robert Görl. Stewart has described the sessions as a learning experience that helped expand his perception of what pop music could be and how it could be created without following any rules, a perspective that served Eurythmics well.

Eurythmics' austere and hypnotic debut single "Never Gonna Cry Again" was released in May 1981. They filmed a low-budget video and landed a couple TV slots to promote the track, but the song's haunted nature did not translate to mainstream success: it barely scraped the lower reaches of the UK singles chart. A second single, the dreamy guitar-rocker "Belinda", followed in August but failed to chart.

In the Garden was finally released in October 1981, but without a hit to generate momentum it was barely noticed. Despite scant sales figures, the album's gloomy psychedelic guitar-pop makes for a rather strong debut. In the Garden exists in late summer shadows, densely atmospheric and shrouded in a veil of dread. Lennox's vocals are understated, subtle and lower in the mix than on subsequent albums. Sound effects, odd vocalizations and bits of sonic experimentation fade in and out like flashes of hazily repressed memory.

RCA wasn't eager to invest in a follow-up to In the Garden after its disappointing reception, so Stewart financed Eurythmics' second album largely through a personal bank loan. Faced with a minuscule budget, they worked in a London warehouse to avoid spending money on studio time. They were able to purchase cheap second-hand equipment for the sessions, including the basic TEAC 8-track on which most of the album was recorded. Adam Williams, former bassist for the ska band the Selectors, helped the duo learn the equipment while co-producing some of their earliest tracks.

The primitive set-up was the ultimate blessing in disguise. Since they were financing the sessions and self-producing, Eurythmics had the freedom to experiment with no oversight. As both Lennox and Stewart were enduring periods of deep personal strife at the time, the sessions evolved into an emotional and creative catharsis that helped shape the mercurial nature of the music. It was out of this environment that a classic was born.

Despite appearing only a few months after their debut album, the first single to emerge from the new sessions proved radically different than any of Eurythmics' prior work. Released in April 1982, "This Is the House" is a flamboyant, horn-driven spectacle on which Lennox belts out a vocal more confident and brash than any of her prior work. The song's odd mix of synthpop, R&B; and latin influences renders it completely unique, but despite its infectious ingenuity and beguiling loopiness (or perhaps because of it), "This Is the House" failed to chart.

The follow-up single that landed two months later is even better. Entrancing and soulful, "The Walk" exudes the anxiety, drama and innovation that became Eurythmics' hallmark. The vocal arrangement is ingenious, and Dick Cuthell (known for his work with Madness, the Specials, Fun Boy Three and others) lets rip a blistering trumpet solo. As in many of their songs, "The Walk" slowly ratchets up the tension through hypnotic repetition and the gradual addition of more layers of sound until it reaches a haywire frenzy. Although a brilliant recording, "The Walk" fared no better than its predecessor.

With the duo's second album Sweet Dreams (are made of this) completed, RCA began a strong promotional push, issuing the opening track "Love Is a Stranger" as a single in November 1982. Lennox's dazzling vocal ranges from icy cool to fiery passion over a relentless electric groove bracketed by sinuous lines of synth. "Love Is a Stranger" rose to #54 in the UK, their highest placement yet, and momentum was finally building for the duo thanks in part to the single's provocative video.

The first significant chapter in a series of visually arresting promotional clips that Eurythmics generated over the span of their career, "Love Is a Stranger" showcases Lennox's dramatic presence and her innate ability to command the viewer's attention. She plays multiple roles, ending the clip with her red hair slicked back and dressed androgynously in a man's suit. Image was quickly becoming an important part of the Eurythmics' equation, with Lennox always compelling no matter which character she inhabits, and Stewart often appearing as her sort of mad-scientist counterpart.

Sweet Dreams (are made of this) hit the shelves on 4 January 1983, along with its title-track, a single that continues to reverberate through pop music nearly 35 years after its release. Suddenly everything changed for Eurythmics. An obscure British duo, barely managing to survive in the music business, soared to the top with one of the more unconventional songs ever to scale those lofty heights.

"Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" has an unusual structure, with no real verses or chorus. Lennox has described it as a mantra, and indeed it is. The lyrics, which Lennox rattled off spontaneously in a matter of minutes, are a simple but profound statement about the human condition: "Everybody's looking for something," the search for meaning and fulfillment, the ephemeral "this" of which sweet dreams are made.

Lennox begins the song with a single line of vocal, then starting with "some of them want to use you" at the 0:24 point it doubles. From there the song gradually builds intensity, with the vocals increasingly layered. A masterful finalé combines all the sonic elements before fading to black, the mantra repeating endlessly, the "this" still stubbornly undefined. The booming minor-key bass riff and the epic string-motif solo starting at 1:31 are played by Lennox on a Roland Juno-6 synthesizer. The main riff (improvised by Lennox while listening to Stewart working on a drum-machine pattern), is a simple two-bar arpeggio that loops throughout most of the song. Two parts were recorded separately and panned on opposite sides of the sound spectrum, creating a richly resonant effect. "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" is no dated relic from the early days of MTV burdened by the limitations the time. Its massive waves of synth flood out of the speakers with enormous power, as inexorably as the tide.

The music video, which became wildly popular on MTV during its heyday, is forever entwined with the song in listeners' collective consciousness. The iconic image of Lennox in her masculine suit and flaming orange flat-top helps to define the new wave era. Her forceful demeanor, nervy confidence and the subtle nuances of her facial expressions amplify the song's inherent tension. She confronts the viewer directly by pointing right in our faces at the 0:24 mark. At 1:56, she offers a sly half-smile with, "some of them want to abuse you", and at 2:15 she pounds her fist just as the song reaches its dramatic apex. Stewart appears throughout the video stoically pecking away on the drum machine he used in the recording of the song, the Movement MCS Drum Computer MK1 (except for that part where he and the cow have, well, a moment… It's all in the eye contact).

After a slow climb up the US pop chart, "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" was finally able to derail the Police's "Every Breath You Take" from its seven-week reign at the top during the week of 3 September 1983. It would be Eurythmics' only chart-topping pop hit in America, and it reached #2 in the UK. In the wake of Eurythmics' new-found fame, "Love Is a Stranger" was re-released, this time becoming a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The album's deep cuts are every bit as strange and fascinating as its better-known singles. The ghostly "Jennifer" is a narcotic reverie of keyboard swells and spectral atmospherics. "I've Got an Angel" and "Somebody Told Me" are serrated neurotic fits, swerving dangerously off-the-rails from anything that would normally be considered pop music. A long and mesmerizing exploration of urban isolation, "This City Never Sleeps" is a powerful finalé. Sweet Dreams (are made of this) is an examination of the human psyche fraught with turmoil, a series of jagged recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks set to music that is soulful and experimental, melodic but eccentric, a stark electronic soundscape that bristles with horns and unexpected sonic jolts.

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