Casting a ballot, holding my nose

I waited and waited before submitting my ballot for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last week. The choices for the 23rd annual election were difficult to get excited about, but did I want to waste my vote, knowing that five of the nine finalists will be inducted? How could I protest? There has never been a write-in slot.

The nominating committee is dominated by the industry's East Coast elite, especially Rolling Stone publisher/editor Jann Wenner. It's been slimmed down, too. Longtime San Francisco critic Joel Selvin says his term unexpectedly expired as Hall officials sought "to create a committee whose musical education began in the '80s."

Cynicism and agism aside, I voted for only one candidate -- the first time I've been so reluctant. (The 600 or so voters are asked to rank, numerically, their top five choices.) In frustration, I wrote on my ballot: "How 'bout a write-in slot?"

Madonna deserves to be in the Rock Hall of Fame. No debate necessary.

Surf instrumentalists the Ventures and pioneering rapper Afrika Bambaataa were influential, but their careers didn't have enough depth or breadth to merit the Hall of Fame. Leonard Cohen is an important artist and significant songwriter, but he's not Hall caliber, either.

Donna Summer, John Mellencamp and the Dave Clark Five have more distinguished credentials than, say, Hall member and one-hit wonder Percy Sledge, but they are second-tier artists. I struggled with the Beastie Boys, who probably merit induction at some point but not before Run D.M.C., which isn't eligible until next year.

As for Chic, the disco group shouldn't have even been nominated. Many worthier names have never even appeared on the ballot: Neil Diamond, Kiss, Tom Waits, Alice Cooper, Linda Ronstadt, the Doobie Brothers, Genesis, Roxy Music, Jeff Beck, Steve Miller, Moody Blues, Hall & Oates, Rush and the Replacements, to name a few.

Maybe next year.

JON BREAM