The nominations for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019 have been announced, so let’s cut to the chase and congratulate Devo on finally making the list.
Sure, there are 14 other artists, six of which are newcomers to the process as is Devo, but you have to pull for Akron’s own, right?
The other newcomers — '80s arena metal kings Def Leppard, beloved singer-songwriter John Prine, influential U.K. glam rockers Roxy Music, rock icon Stevie Nicks (who’s already in as a member of Fleetwood Mac), and Northeast Ohio favorite Todd Rundgren are all worthy of entry, but Devo fans are surely “here to go.”
Returning for another try at induction are Janet Jackson, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, the MC5, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, the Cure, Rufus & Chaka Khan and the Zombies.
One longtime local spud is David Giffels, the author, former Beacon Journal columnist and current professor at the University of Akron who co-wrote a biography of Devo with Jade Dellinger called “Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!” He's happy for the band, if a bit confused.
“Why now?” Giffels said.
“It is very Devo and it is very Akron that they would sort of randomly show up after 15 years of eligibility, like they dropped out of the sky like space junk into the rock and roll stew."
Giffels recalls covering the opening of the rock hall back in 1995 and speculating on which Northeast Ohio bands had a chance at one day being welcomed. He felt Devo was a long shot to get in but had definitely earned consideration.
“If you looked at the new wave icons, in a lot of ways they were the most innovative, mainly because of what they did with video. They really pioneered the music video and the use of visuals in a way that nobody had done yet,” Giffels said.
“So taking them seriously as a potential inductee, I think they’re deserving, especially if you look at the way the rock hall tends to pick things, where they’ll take a genre and they’ll find somebody who represents the quintessential version of that genre. So, as a new wave act they totally fit and plus their artistic integrity is much, much greater than a lot of the pop bands that did a similar kind of music."
Being nominated multiple times doesn’t necessarily help move artists up to the actually inducted list. There are highly influential bands, including the proto-punk and metal godfathers MC5 (fourth nomination) and electronic/dance pioneers Kraftwerk (fifth) that are still waiting for their invitation to buy a pricey table at the big party March 29 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Kate Bush and Depeche Mode, who made last year’s list of nominees, have apparently been sent to the back of the line and will have to wait at least another year.
That being said, Devo’s chances of first-ballot induction are honestly probably not that good. Despite being an influence on other major bands, including rock hall inductees Nirvana and fellow nominees Rage Against the Machine, there are bands on the list that had more hits and filled bigger venues.
In recent years, the voters appear to want to cover as many genre bases as possible (remember, “rock” is being used as a general term for popular music), so Devo may have to wait in line behind the commercial behemoth and more traditional “rock” of Def Leppard. Stevie Nicks is deserving and likely to take the “we respect women artists, seriously!” spot, leaving Janet Jackson and Rufus & Chaka Khan to populate the 2020 list.
Prine, a cancer survivor who recently has collaborated and toured with Dan Auerbach of the The Black Keys — yeah, we’re going full homer — is a highly respected songwriter’s songwriter whose tunes such as “Angel Of Montgomery” are oft covered, but there are simply more prominent arena-filling stars on the list, although Prine’s presence ups the prestige factor.
Rundgren’s name gives a chunk of Northeast Ohio someone else to root for, as he has been a favorite in the area since the 1970s, has done several special shows at the Akron Civic, and still makes sure to come around at least once and sometimes doing multiple shows when he tours.
But for now, Akron music lovers and general homers have another team to pull for. (You can cast your ballot for the "fan vote" at rockhall.com/fanvote.) The inductees will be announced in December.
Even if they don't make it in 2019, they are on the hall’s radar, though surviving members Mark and Bob “Bob 1” Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale probably aren’t going to lose any sleep over the process.
“I would imagine that if they somehow get inducted that their subversive sense of humor would play into how they accepted that,” Giffels said.
“They’ve been pretty sincere about the kind of attention they’ve gotten in their dotage, but I think they recognize the absurdity of dressing up in yellow suits at close to age 70 and the absurdity of the rock spectacle in general that they will have a healthy sense of humor about whatever comes out of this.”
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3758. Follow him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml or on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.