The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Game

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S1: The show may contain my tips for making money on Bitcoin. It won’t. It also may contain explicit language and it really might.

S2: It’s Friday, November 22nd, 2019 from Slate. It’s the gist. I am Mike PESCA. You know what Americans love? I love Joe Biden. Apparently, nothing is getting in the way of their love of Joe Biden at every debate. Biden has mumbled and bumbled in the polls. He does not stumble. First debate, June Kamala Harris wraps him up over busing in the 70s.

S3: He does go down a bit in the polls. She does go up, but her lead evaporates, as does his dip July debate. Cory Booker told him he was dipping into the Kool aid and he didn’t know the flavor. Oh, yeah. Biden answered. Move right along in the September debate. Biden said something kind of weird about record players.

S4: Play the radio. Make sure the televisions. Excuse me. Make sure you have the record player on at night. There’s the fine. Make sure the kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school. I have a very poor background. We’ll hear four million words. Fewer spoken by the time they get there.

S3: All right. Which brings us up more data now. If it brings anyone, anywhere. But a couple of days ago, he did claim to have the support of the only black woman elected to the Senate, which was quite a shock to Kamala Harris, a black woman elected to the Senate who does not, in fact, currently support Joe Biden for the presidency. Biden then countered with, well, I do have the support of the only gay mayor of South Bend and also the only Asian-American test prep millionaire who wants to give everyone a thousand dollars for just being them. But now here he is. Couple days later with a lead as wide as he has ever had. How is this happening? What is going on? What explains it? I do think people love Joe Biden. By which I mean they love his personality, which to an audience is a rough standard for character. I mean, some predicted his UN consensual hair sniffing would hurt him. Others predicted a backlash to that backlash. I think people just sloughed it off like they shrug off stances he may have taken in 1974, like they aren’t bothered by verbal gaffes. In fact, a case can be made that there’s almost a weird, reassuring quality to a Joe Biden verbal gaffe. It calls forth a simpler time. But speaking of time, we are running out of time before the first votes that count are recorded. And I can’t quite believe that present day Joe Biden showing as he does every day on the trail. The level of mental dexterity that he’s showing. I can’t believe he’ll remain the leading vote getter, but that’s all we’re seeing. That’s all the evidence we have. So maybe I’m beginning to believe that it won’t be a big blow up or a huge mistake that bursts the balloon. It will possibly be a slow leaching of air that eventually grounds him because, you know, perhaps we’ve moved past the era where big mistakes have big consequences. The president seems to be immune and we’ve become inured to so many of his scandals. Just this week, the pardon of military murderers. The legal disillusion of his fake charity. His top advisor publicly revealed to be citing K K ish crazy racist conspiracy peddlers. And maybe, well, maybe impeachment’s gonna go down the same way. I’ve been worrying and wondering how it’s all going to play out. I can see the House impeaching. I can’t see the Senate caring. The logical conclusion is that that that series of events will have some impact on public opinion. It’ll be good for someone, but I don’t know, maybe it won’t. Maybe we will have what I consider to be really damning testimony. And maybe then the Senate will deliver what Trump will consider a vindicating exoneration. And maybe the sum total effect of those pretty monumental things will be nothing. The needle will not move at all, because when you’re as polarizing as a Donald Trump, you’re the only thing that affects the needle. The simple magnet math here, people. It’s an interesting question. It’s a question that I’m going to focus more on in-depth today. So the Today show’s a little different. We’re gonna do two interviews and the second of which will be a visit by our old friend Chris Mowlam fee to talk about the new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot. Do stay tuned for that. But first, Slate’s own Ben Mathis. Lili comes on. And what Ben and I do is lay down some markers we put forth in this time capsule called today’s show. Not quite predictions, but IOUs. Ben was gung-ho for impeachment. I was more cautious. So I asked him, OK, what series of events will have to play out for you to admit you were wrong? Or what will happen for you to say, see? Aren’t you glad you listened to me? I was right and I’m going to do the same thing.

S5: Accountability is what we’re about, though, we won’t know who’s right for a few months, I guess. And by then we could just burn the tapes or deny the transcript says what it clearly says. That appears to be a winning strategy. Ben Mathis, let me up next.

S6: So what I’d like to do now and maybe I’ll start doing this a little more on the show is to put down some markers, some points in the ground or a time capsule where we could look back and say, all right, this is how it worked out. And we knew from the beginning, if it worked out like this, it would be a good thing or it would be a bad thing. Well, what is the it? Right now, the it is impeachment. I’ve talked to my friend and colleague, Ben Mathis, Lily, who is a news blogger for Slate. He doesn’t like to be called the chief news blogger because he thinks that’s pretentious, even though the word blogger is there. There’s some pretension that could possibly be associated with the world of blogging, Ben.

S7: I’m just a humble, humble, regular blogger.

S6: Just a regular. But he’s no highfalutin blogger when he does it from his his the pajamas that he blogs in or not, you know, high thread count. Exactly. Exactly. God. OK. So when we last talked, I think we were talking about the Mueller inquiry and if that should lead to impeachment and we had, I don’t know, kind of different considerations. It didn’t lead to impeachment. Here we are, impeachment proceeding proceedings. The Ukraine thing. Let me ask you a couple questions about this.

S3: OK. Sure. One, this is I think it’s obvious, but it’s proper for the House of Representatives to be looking into impeachment.

S8: No. Oh, of course. Yes, absolutely. Yes. OK. So we both agree as far as the risks of this, when we talked about Mueller. You thought it was an acceptable risk. I worried about this. So let’s lay down some markers. If what this impeachment inquiry results in is an impeachment in the House of Representatives and then an acquittal in the Senate, will it have been worth it? Do you think?

S9: So I think one one of the first things you have to look at is does it stop Trump from cheating in the 2020 election? You know, and I think that one of the strongest reasons for doing it. Political, immediate political considerations aside, is that, you know, there’s a case to be made that it already. What the investigation has already stopped him from from going any further with this Ukraine plan. And, you know, I think that that you’re seeing all these administration figures, the ambassador, Gordon Saarland, who testifies this week, seeing those people hauled before Congress, could have a chilling effect on a hundred people and figures in the administration who might be considering other similar, I guess, you know, shenanigans or skullduggery.

S8: I’ll just say what my criteria is. If there is impeachment without conviction and that doesn’t affect the Democrat chances in the presidential election or different Senate elections, I’ll say it has been worth it. But if it does negatively affect the Democratic chances of winning different Senate races, I’ll deeply question whether it has been worth it. Do you agree with that?

S7: Sure. Yeah. And I think, you know, we’re starting to get some data points on that as as has been caution. You know, we got gubernatorial races in Louisiana and Kentucky are not not about impeachment at all. But if there was a kind of national backlash brewing to the Democrats, you know, Democratic overreach is the term that we hear a lot.

S9: You know, you might see you know, you might see candidate Democratic candidates, Louis, as in Louisiana and Kentucky, suffering by association. But in the last week or so, Democrats have won in both those places. So, you know, if there is a backlash, I don’t think we’ve seen it yet.

S8: Well, what if what if he wins re-election, President Trump? What if he beats it in the Senate and wins re-election? I mean, there are a number of reasons he could have one. He will have won re-election if that happens. Some of the Farias, some, you know, the Electoral College, some probably voter suppression, some because just he makes the winning argument. But what if a foundation of his argument is there just out to get me? And this was a legitimate. And polls show that the public or at least enough of the public who voted for them, bought it, bought that argument to some degree.

S7: Will you regret this whole thing having happened if that happens and there’s you know, there’s evidence in the polls of that? Well, I will definitely come on your show and admit that it was a mistake. I think, you know, again, though, if you look at the polls of independent voters right now, you know, plurality, there’s generally plurality support for what the Democrats are doing. You know, could they take it to another level of, you know, rhetorically, maybe add on some articles of impeachment that they don’t have as a solid support in the polling?

S9: You know, I think they could they could theoretically do that. But based on just the traditional caution that the Democratic Party and Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi, I don’t picture that happening right now is one.

S8: When I talk to you about Mueller, I got the sense that you were frustrated with Nancy Pelosi’s cowardice. Do you feel differently now?

S7: Maybe I. Feel a little more humility. You know, I still think that on the merits it was worth even impeachment. I mean, especially on the obstruction of justice case. I think that is very clear.

S9: I understand why they didn’t want to to go out on a limb of saying that that Trump colluded in a criminal conspiracy with Russia right after Mueller said he could not prove that. So, yeah, I think that you know, I think that I have to I have to give some credit to the approach. On the other hand, you know, I they didn’t do it knowing that this Ukraine thing was going to come up and happen. You know, they kind of just get it because they are, you know, cautious by nature.

S6: But you have you change. I guess my question is, have you changed your assessment of Nancy Pelosi as a tactician?

S7: I still think that she gets dragged by the public. And I think that that’s I think that they could do more to push to push the public. And I think that I think that, you know, another way of looking at the Ukraine story is that when it happened, Democrats jumped right on and said, this is out-of-line, this is impeachable. And the week that they started saying that, you start you started seeing polls, you know, shift toward pro-impeachment. Of course, it’s impossible to separate the just the the facts, the narrative, the story from the way the Democrats handled it. But I think kind of everyone can take a take out, you know, take a victory from this basically on the Democratic side.

S8: I think there is, by the way, the one thing we haven’t really talked about is I think that there there’s no way to run this experiment, but it’s quite possible that no matter what happens, an impeachment, no conviction and impeachment, no conviction. But it comes close in the bunch of Republicans break God and Piedra, no conviction. And there’s not even close to a vote. And there is, you know, maybe only Mitt Romney defects like nothing would have changed any of the dynamics of any election because it’s all baked in at this point.

S7: Yeah. I mean, that’s something I wrote about recently. You know, in regard to to Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who, you know, obviously have taken very different approaches to their campaigns so far. But if you look at their overall head to heads against Trump, their overall approval ratings with the public as a whole, the general public, not just the Democratic primary public, they’re very similar. So, yeah, in the end, Trump versus any Democrat is probably going to play out basically the same way as Trump versus Hillary Clinton did.

S8: Ben Mathes, Lily does some blogging, some light blogging for Slate. I consider him chief among equals. But, you know, he wouldn’t say the same thing. Thank you, Ben.

S10: Thank you very much.

S11: Rock and roll is here to stay. It will never die. It will always be this way. And here’s the most important part of that lyric, though. I don’t know why. I think we could answer why. It’s because if you need a rhyme with die, why is right out there and only rock and roll truly embraces it. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is here to. Embody the undying, immortal elements of those who played or saying rock and roll or really a number of other genres as we will consider as we talk about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The ballot has been announced. A voter is with me is not just a voter. He’s Chris Mowlam fee. He writes the why is this song number one column for Slate, which, you know, with the days of Old Town Road, that that was a fallow period for you, right, Chris?

S1: I mean, how many different number one songs did you have the opportunity to write a column about if that’s the only number one song?

S12: It was a long period where, frankly, it could’ve been better time because I got married this summer. And listen, I was planning the wedding and it made my life a lot easier that I didn’t have to write about a number one song. But yeah, there were about five number one songs I could have written about the year I walked at number two.

S1: So go figure. I gratefully attended the ceremony. Did they play Old Town Road? We did play Old Town. Yeah, we did. Was the new the newest song that we played at. So let’s talk about some of the the oldest songs, some of them some of these songs, Smiths No Longer With US who are nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We’ll just I shantou list them now. But by the end, people will know who some of the nominees are. So I think there are nine first time, first time nominees. Yes. And I will get to all of them. But some who I think have are long shots are Pat Benatar, the Dave Matthews Band, The Doobie Brothers. And I pry put T Rex on the list, too, as long shots. What do you think?

S12: Well, among the bands you just listed or acts that you just listed, you actually listed the acts that are currently the top three in the fan vote. And I take pains to remind people of this every year. The fan vote does not count for much. Yeah, literally thousands, probably millions of people vote in the fan vote. And then that is aggregated into a single ballot which is thrown into the mix with the roughly 1000 musicians, producers, critics, you name it. Journalists like yours truly. So if you want to be point one percent, point 0 1, you know, 00:00:00 1 percent. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s it’s it’s infinitesimal. However, the reason I pay attention to the fan ballot is the fan ballot is a good proxy for what I would call the centrist Rock Hall voter. OK, who’s going to vote for number one and has been number one since I’ve been tracking the fan ballot for the last few weeks is Pat Benatar. OK, so if, you know, take this as a mark of how well like she is, you know, the talent of her, you know, her voice, her influence, whatever.

S13: But Pat Benatar, I think, stands a very strong shot. I’ll put it this way. I ain’t mad at Pat Benatar. I’ll be happy for her if she gets in. Yeah. I’m not going to use a vote on Pat Benatar, not because I bear her any animus, but because I kind of don’t think she needs my vote based on these fan vote results.

S12: The number one fan vote getter, I think every year since they instituted the fan vote about six, seven years ago has gotten in in a walk or so.

S1: You think Pap Antar has the best shot? We should hit her with the best shot. I don’t know about the best shot, but we can hit her with a shot. I say she is a real tough cookie with a long history. She is of breaking little hearts like the one may, but other hearts that could be broken when someone dies. Someone has died recently. Do you find that that helps or hurts a nomination?

S12: I mean, the one I bring up and go figure. I am very predictable by bringing this up. A Donna Summer had to die before she was finally inducted. The difference with Donna Summer is that the nominating committee, in a very principled move, basically arguing back to the voters, hey, we know that you don’t like disco, but disco is a form of rock and roll. They put Donna Summer on the ballot four times while she was alive. It was the fifth ballot when she had just died where she finally got voted in kind of almost shaming the voting body into voting her in.

S1: Yeah, well, there’s some analogies to first time nominee Whitney Houston. As in is her genre rock. While the rock and roll has defined itself as including what she does, which is R&B and being a songstress and big vocals. It seemed like if you go by record sales, if you go by impact, if you go by society. Whitney Houston has got to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But will the rock roll hall of Fame voters see it that way?

S13: I really do not know how to predict what’s going to happen with this Whitney nomination. And I have seen more pushback about this one than almost anybody who’s on this ballot among the first timers this year. Let’s put it this way I can. I have Donna Summer is in the Hall of Fame. How could we. I’m with you. I am. I am with you.

S12: And and I must say that I I find the pushback a little surprising if I play devil’s advocate for a moment. I would say some would say, well, Barbra Streisand’s not in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Some would say Dionne Warwick, whom Whitney Houston is related. Jerry is not. I had to double check this. Darn. Dionne Warwick, believe it or not, not in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. So. Basically, women, let’s put it right out there, who are primary known as, you know, titanic vocalists. Mariah Carey has never been on the ballot to name a successor. Celine Dion’s never been on the ballot. She would now qualify if they wanted to put her on the ballot. Pure vocalists are often not put on the ballot. I’ve heard nominating committee members like my friend Alan Light in an interview defending the inclusion of Whitney Houston on the ballot. But I don’t honestly know how this is going to be received. It could go either way.

S1: OK, so here’s the. This is the last of the first time nominees that we’ve spoken about. I think that this act absolutely should get in. Going by history. And I could cite my data. I think you will get in. It’s Biggie Smalls, Notorious B.I.G. And I base this on a number of factors. His skill, his influence, the fact that Tupac Shakur got in first ballot. I think he did. Yeah. And the fact that he lived and did his work in a section of Brooklyn and one of the venues that the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame does its ceremony at. They rotate, but they do it at the Barclays Center. Biggie Smalls is Notorious B.I.G. Is no, quote unquote, is retired in the rafters Barclays Center. I would think this would argue for him getting in.

S12: I mean, I know I’m almost definitely going to vote for him myself. He is the only pure rapper on the ballot this year. So he’s going to aggregate the Hip-Hop vote, which, by the way, gets a little bit bigger each year. They induct more rappers into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

S14: I got the comic by. So you’re saying that music should play so far, these unemployment figures like.

S12: So I think he’s probably one of the safer bets on the ballot. And you know, again, the influence is there. The skill is there. You know, frankly, in the new season of Slow Burn, which of course is about the interrelationship of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. The host of the new season of Slow Burn THRO LANDERS, Joel Anderson has admitted that. And I share this bias that actually between the two of them, Biggie Smalls is pretty arguably the better rapper, the better technical rapper than Tupac. Tupac was an amazing personality. He was galvanizing in the culture of hip hop, you know, and magnetic and all sorts of ways. But if you’re talking as a rappers rapper, you know, Christopher Wallace, Biggie is the better rapper. And, you know, on skill alone, he deserves to be in.

S1: Here are some returning acts. Let’s go through them. Sure. M.C. five, I guess, let’s say broadly in the very hard rock category.

S12: I mean, progenitors of punk. You can’t argue with the influence of the M.C. 5. There’s some debate I’ve seen among critics over like how good the recorded legacy actually was. It’s kind of like a. Influence, no question.

S15: Once you get past kick out of the jams, like is is it has it aged well, you know what I mean? I mean, I will admit that I don’t have a tremendous closeness to the material I own. Kick out the jams I’ve played, kick out the jams. It frankly kind of washes over me. But I can’t argue with the influence of the M.C. 5.

S1: I was just going to say that if you ask me. Oh, yeah, I like the MSA. M.S. 5 was the last time you elected to play them. You sought out an M.C. 5 song, Mike yourself. Never. Nick would never be in that category.

S12: Yeah, I I think the M.C. 5’s material has aged awkwardly because it’s kind of like punk rock in the age of hippy. And it it’s it’s an awkward blend that is still deeply influential and important. Nobody would argue with that at this point. This is now, I believe, the fifth or sixth time, the m.c 5 fifth. This is now the fifth time the m.c fifth have been on the ballot. It might be time to do what they finally did with Cheek’s Nile Rodgers. That was a crime. How many times chic were on the ballot? They were on the ballot eleven times and they never got in. And they finally just inducted Nile Rodgers in four so-called musical excellence, which they can do by fiat if the MDC 5 or that influential and that important to the history of, say, punk rock. They probably just need to let in the m.c 5 that way.

S3: OK, Rufous featuring Chaka Khan Chaka in the Hall of Fame.

S12: No at all. I know this is confusing and you and I have talked about this in prior years, but this is either Chaka Khan’s fourth or sixth time on the ballot. They have nominated both Rufus featuring Chaka Khan and just Chaka Khan multiple times. Chaka has been on the ballot by herself twice. Rufus has been on the ballot four times.

S16: That’s.

S15: This, by the way, is Rufous third consecutive year on the ballot. I don’t know if the nominating committee will think they see the numbers. This is this is a little bit like, you know, PricewaterhouseCoopers or Ernst and Young at one of the award ceremonies only they get to see the final tally. Maybe the rock nominating committee gets to see the final tally. And they have determined that who stands a better chance of getting in collectively with Chaka Khan? I’m not sure what the logic is or the game theory on why you put Rufus in with Chaka Khan.

S12: Maybe you’re overthinking it. Maybe I’m over M-theory and I. Well, no, let me I’m going to disagree with you there. Let let me talk briefly about last year’s ballot. Last year’s ballot was, I would argue, easily the best ballot the nominating committee put forth in a very long time, because, again, using a bit of game theory, they took a lot of the centrist rock bands off the table. You had Def Leppard and not a whole lot else for meat and potatoes rock bands to hone in like catnip on. And so finally, on their second try, the cure got in on her third or fourth try Janet Jackson got in Roxy Music, were on the ballot for the first time and everybody said, oh, how nice they’ve got nominated. Too bad it’s a long shot. No, it wasn’t. Roxy Music. Got it. I thought that was gonna be a ridiculous long shot and I could not believe Roxy Music got in on the first try. So there is a bit of, you know, in and Brian Eno went in with them. Yes. Brian Eno is now a rock n Roll Hall of Fame member. So there is a bit of game theory in how you designed this ballad. I mean, I look at this ballad and some of the central stacks. I don’t know if this means that the Dave Matthews Band are a shoo in or Pat Benatar ha. Or The Doobie Brothers. It’s entirely possible that when you put these kinds of acts who are sort of, you know, 70s, 80s, 90s stalwarts on the ballot, that they draw that kind of. I like, you know, people standing onstage with rock guitars, you know, kind of voter, you know, it draws them like catnip. But it’s it’s an interesting ballad. It is like last year a fairly progressive ballot. I don’t I wouldn’t say it was quite as progressive as last year’s was. But if you’re ever going to get in a band like Depeche Mode or an act like Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, maybe a ballot like this is how you get them in.

S1: Now, look, the last thing we’ll say, we mentioned Dave Matthews Band. You said they have a good chance based on the centrism. I don’t know. I do currently currently ranked second on the fan ballot, but the fan ballot is a fan ballot. True clarity content. Fair enough. Do you think you’d have a good. This is probably just snooty. And this there is there? I’m sure someone who’s a ist can critique this, but if you let Dave Matthews in and you keep out, I don’t know almost all the other Whitney Houston craftwork, b.i.g., Soundgarden. If you keep out these bands, I don’t know. It seems less like a rock and roll with crazy, excessive, daring, challenging, rebellious. It seems less to embody the spirit of rock and roll than rock and roll itself would like it embrace a full throated embrace of the Dave Matthews the Dave Matthews Band.

S10: If I may make an argument for them, and I say this as not a fan, I don’t expect to be voting for them. I don’t think they need my vote.

S13: They are consummate players. They are road warriors. Among the so-called jam bands of the 90s, they are clearly one of, if not among the ones left standing the biggest.

S12: I think that’s kind of an arguable band’s at the center of a genre like that. Think about dire straits getting in a couple years ago. Like, can you call dire straits deeply influential? No. Can you call them consummate players? Sure. Maybe that’s a bad comparison. But centrist rock bands that attract an audience and sort of signal examples of ashara have gotten into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for decades. So it would not shock me if the Dave Matthews Band and I don’t think it would be unprecedented or a sign of the apocalypse if the Dave Matthews Band got in. Do you think Phish will ever get in? Well, I have seen it argued that if they’re going to nominate the Dave Matthews Band, Phish arguably have more of an idol. And I. I say this personally. I’ve never cared for Phish, but I I completely respect their fans argument that they are influential and important to the scene in a way that Dave Matthews is maybe a little less important. But Dave Matthews is clearly the more populist, more fan favorite of the act. So go figure.

S1: Chris Melaniphy hosts the hit parade podcast. Votes for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame writes, Why is this song number one for Slate? And does this every year and he’s always right. Thank you, Chris. I’m never right. But thank you very much, Mike.

S17: And that’s it for today’s show. You don’t know Daniel Schrader, just producer, but he’s your brother. He was raised here in this living hell. That’s a little bit strong, isn’t it? Christina de Jozen, just producer. She keeps telling me the things you’re gonna do for me. Like I know at at the interviews post the show page.

S3: I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I say. The gist you will find us everywhere, wherever people live together, tied in poverty, despair. Oh, my God. That Bernie Sanders rhetoric or a yacht rock staple?

S17: Doobie Brothers. Who knew? Poor, desperate. Depressed.

S18: And thanks for listening.