Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019 Inductee: The Zombies

I voted for The Zombies in the fan poll but, honestly, I have some misgivings. Don’t make that face, permit me to explain. These are my thoughts if I wrote the unwritten rules. If I actually had a ballot, I might ask myself, “Who did they influence?” Psychedelic rock came and went. There weren’t really any survivors and no “next generation.” It kinda hurts them, in my mind, that they only release an album per decade or two.

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L – R: Begin Here, Odessy and Oracle, New World, Extranos Juegos, Live at the Bloomsbury Theatre, 40th Anniversary Concert, Breathe Out Breath In, Breathe Out Breath In, Live In Concert, Live In the UK, Still Got That Hunger

Having said that, their most recent album, Still Got That Hunger is really good. Quality-wise, it might help that they only release an album per decade or two.

Quantity of releases isn’t fair, obviously, otherwise the MC5, Jimi Hendrix, and others with only 2-3 albums would never stand even a chance. There are oodles of artists that released a single magnificent masterpiece and then vanished.

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Everybody knows, if not loves, the hits for which the Zombies are known but … might they be called, however unfairly, two-hit wonders? Where do you draw the line? And, it’s not like The Stooges or many other exceptional, actually legendary, artists never had a single hit. The Velvet Underground didn’t have a large catalog, none of their records sold a lot, they never had a hit (and, in my opinion, they sucked) but I know without even checking that they’re in the Hall of Fame.

Most importantly, they replied to and liked a couple of my tweets. They’ve been in Florida multiple times on tour and I’ve missed them every single time.

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019 Inductee: Roxy Music

Part 2 in a series on Spotify and LastFM Data for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019 inductees.

Personally, I don’t understand the whole Roxy Music thing. I only know one song by them and I wasn’t impressed. But, then, I know a lot of people don’t understand why The Stooges should have been in a lot sooner and Judas Priest should be in at all.

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Figure 01: Keep in mind that dip in February and subsequent climb back up was almost universal among artists on Spotify (because their popularity score is relative) so you have to ignore everything between early Feb to late March. All that to say, once you remove that, they have moved consistently upward.

I should also point out, in case you haven’t noticed, that this graph has a range of Roxy Music’s lowest popularity score to their highest (in this time period) and not 0-100 like the group charts in the first post of this series.  While using this range can be extremely useful to examine relatively small changes, it can be both shocking and confusing if you’re not aware of it.

Above the line chart, we’ve got their “profile pic,” if you could call it that, brought in via the Spotify Web API. Next to that, their current stats as of yesterday (for LastFM) and today for Spotify. I definitely need to beat Bootstrap into submission because it took me a couple hours to get those two elements as pretty as they are — you should have seen some of the horrors I brought to life playing with the CSS.

The Followers, Listeners, and Playcount numbers are a much more quantifiable and useful bunch. I’ll be doing even more cool things with those stats in the near future.

The uselessness of Spotify’s popularity score due to it’s relativity isn’t quite so ugly in when applied to charts like comparing albums to each other. In their defense, Spotify’s popularity score wasn’t designed for my convenience — it does exactly what it was meant for … creating the “top tracks” for any given category and so on.

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Albums often appear twice because they have more than one version — the initial release and a remastered edition, for example.

I can’t even recall reading anything explaining (not that they need to justify anything) to me what made them special or how they influenced others. The only lists — not that that’s necessarily evidence of anything — I’ve seen them on are those mentioning their Country Life album cover as being among the best and most controversial covers.

Spotify and LastFM Data for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019

The ongoing project I’m usually busiest with is PopRock — a web app that tracks statistics and creates data visualizations using data from the Spotify Web API and the Last.fm API.

From Spotify, I grab artist Popularity and Followers (daily) as well as Popularity for albums and tracks (weekly). That is

  • 327 artists
  • Their 5,742 albums
  • The 75,283 tracks from those albums

If you’ve never heard of Last.fm, it gathers data via “scrobbles” from all participants who have a “scrobbling” app installed. When you, the music lover, listen to a song using iTunes, Spotify, etc. the app sends that bit of information as a “scrobble” to Last.fm. As often as I remember to, I run a Python script that gathers the Listeners and Playcount for each artist, their albums and tracks. At the moment, this task is so cumbersome, I keep the list relatively short — 32 artists.

What brings joy to my nerdy little heart is when there’s an event that creates an anomaly or jump in my data. For example, a movie about Queen causes a spike in popularity — especially for a particular song (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) or a movie about Motley Crue causes a spike in their popularity.

What brings sadness to my heart is how little influence the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has on my little data exercises. For the most part, neither inductions nor nominations cause much of a change. Having said that, I look forward to the announcement of nominations every year as well as to the broadcast of the induction ceremony. The ceremony was held last week and the ceremony will air on HBO April 27. To celebrate that, I’m going to share some data and charts for this year’s nominees and inductees.

Below (Figure 01) is the Spotify popularity for the Class of 2019.

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Figure 01: L-to-R Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Radiohead, Roxy Music, Stevie Nicks, the Cure, the Zombies

I’ve already written about how Spotify calculates their popularity score numerous times and every article about the RRHoF repeats their rules and controversy so forgive me if I don’t regurgitate all of that here.

Induction Process and Eligibility Requirements, etc.

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Figure 02: A line starts on the day (or day after) I add an artist to my database.

As you can see, all artists flow together for the most part — because Spotify’s popularity scores are relative. That’s what caused all of them to go down together in late June, climb back up and fall again together in February. Given that, the lines, in a vacuum, would be pretty straight. Knowing that, the nominations announced in December 2018 seem to have no effect.

Speaking of nominations, here are those who were nominated last year but not inducted.

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Figure 03: L-to-R: Devo, John Prine, Kraftwerk, LL Cool J, MC5, Rage Against the Machine, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren

Like many people, I find it extremely difficult to keep my thoughts about this to myself. At least three of those artists deserve to be in more than at least three of the inductees. But, of course, if the RRHoF used reason and logic, people wouldn’t write motherloads of articles and blog posts about them twice a year.

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Figure 04: Yes, I know I need to tweak a couple things. It’s a work in progress.

The only artist I would say was really affected by their nomination is the MC5. I would expect all of them would bump up because the public was reminded of these artists and listened to them like, “Oh, yeah, I haven’t listened to LL Cool J in forever” but, in the case of the MC5, I think it’s more like, “Who are the MC5?” and I am just fine with a new generation being exposed to them by any means necessary. Very similar to another highly-influential Detroit band, The Stooges (inducted 2010). I’m still waiting for Ted Nugent to get selected for consideration to be put on the ballot. Once.

Because popularity is relative, you might be thinking the line charts are pretty useless and you’d be right. If I look at each artist individually, however,  and change the Y-axis from a 0-to-100 scale to a lowest-to-highest scale, they become (a little) more useful. Sometimes. This begins a series of posts about each inductee that do exactly that with some more useful statistics and data visualizations.

Before we go on, however, here’s something more useful — a graph using each artist’s followers on Spotify.

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Figure 05: L-to-R: Def Leppard, Kraftwerk, Janet JacksonJohn Prine, DevoLL Cool J, MC5, RadioheadRage Against the Machine, Roxy MusicRufus featuring Chaka Khan, Stevie Nicks, The Cure, The ZombiesTodd Rundgren

Day-um! Radiohead has some fans, yo!

That wide range between, for example, The Zombies (who deserve better, by the way) and Radiohead makes for what could be considered a clunky chart.

In other charts, the ratio for popularity (which is, conveniently, on a scale of 0-100) is 1:2. One popularity point gets represented by two pixels so I can fight against the opposite problem of a chart that’s too small. The ratio in the above chart is 5000:1. 5000 followers to one pixel.

Chrome’s dev tools were invaluable in troubleshooting that.

I love how “good” I’m getting at math now that it’s always in a real, practical context. For the labels on top of the columns I first checked to see whether the number was above or below one million.

  • If it was below, I divided by 1000 and used Javascript‘s toFixed(0) method to strip away the decimal places — which super conveniently converts the integer to a string which I concatenated with a “k”.
  • If it was above, I divided by one million, used toFixed(1) and added the “M”.

How Do Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominations Affect Popularity On Spotify?

Shout out to: Malcolm MacLean‘s book, Data Driven Documents D3.js Tips and Tricks v4 which made these really super easy.

See, this here is the endgame — the kind of thing I learned D3 and coding so that I could create. This is what makes programming fun. The following are based on data I collect using the Spotify API.

Here are the inductees in the class of 2019 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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I was in a hurry. I’ll tweak the math for legend placement later.

Here are those who were nominated but not inducted.

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I was in a hurry. I’ll put the names in a container later. Maybe.

Nominations were released October 9. You can tell I wasn’t tracking a few of these artists (John Prine, Todd Rundgren, Roxy Music, Stevie Nicks, Janet Jackson) until that date because their lines don’t start until then. There seems to be a slight gain for each (maybe) but that’s total “correlation not causation” because these are Spotify’s very relative and ever-fluctuating “popularity” scores not playcounts.

Suppose the Beatles are higher than all these artists and John Lennon says something stupid like, say, “We’re more popular than Jesus” — the Beatles popularity goes down and since it’s a zero-sum game with Spotify Popularity, everyone who doesn’t put their foot in their mouth gets a bump.

Which, looking at the above graphs, begs the question, “What happened at the end of June to make everyone crash and in mid-July to cause everyone’s climb back up?”

Another, more intriguing point, is early April when the MC5, Radiohead, and the Cure all spiked up and right back down.

Spotify doesn’t answer any of my questions so we’ll never know.

Even if nominations don’t affect anything significantly, we can watch and see if the induction has any significant effect.

Spotify’s Artist Genres

I’ve got the PHP scripts written to get the genres from their API and store them in my table. Over the last few weeks, I’ve battled some learning-dragons with PHP and JSON both with this project and my election project. Good fights, though, because I learned stuff. Frustrating but in a good way … like a really good workout burns after.

Bad fights with learning-dragons are the ones that last hours, days, weeks … and I didn’t learn anything really because it wasn’t that I didn’t know something … it was that some documentation, tutorial, or something else was junk-jacked all up … so it was just wasted time.

I can tell already Spotify‘s genres are as mystifying and unpredictable as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame‘s nomination and induction announcements.

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  • meWithoutYou definitely wins the longest and weirdest genre list award (so far). While using echo as I wrote my script via experimentation, I actually thought “dreamo” was a PHP error.
  • David Bowie is pretty much what I’d expect.
  • That’s really all Prince gets? Seriously? No “rock”? No “dance” something or other?

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2018 Nominees

The latest nominees were announced in the last couple of days so I was in a sudden rush today to fix a bunch of stuff so I could get them into my database. Hence, I used the old, icky method. I’m not bummed out about that, though, because I did get a ton of stuff fixed that had become broken over time — including changing from PHP session variables to PHP cookies. I also fixed all the column-sorting links and related page-building functions that were jacked up. So, I can take screenshots of some the latest top tracks and albums for this years nominees.

Spotify, because they hate people, doesn’t make the number of plays available through their API — also not available in their web player. “Popularity” is relative to other artists, albums, and tracks on Spotify so the number may go up and down from day to day. So, from what I can guess, an artist’s top albums or tracks may not really be the top tracks or albums by that artist — because the numbers are calculated relative to all other albums and tracks — not like you’re ranking an artist’s songs by number of plays.

Yes, it’s stupid. It’s not just you.

Even more stupid is Last.fm‘s API which totally got my hopes up because you can access the number of plays! But … not the identifiers for the artists, tracks, or albums.

Because they’re stupid. That’s why.

But, in the words of Count Rogin, “Let’s work with what we have, shall we?”

Janet Jackson

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janetAlbums

WordPress is ridiculously stupid. Depending on the browser and OS you’re using, the tools change. Sometimes you can control how large an image is when it’s placed. Sometimes, you can also make it so a user/reader can click it for a larger version. That seems to be increasingly rare so I apologize for how difficult to read some of these charts are.

John Prine

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Each column can be sorted in the app by clicking on “Album Name”, “Track”, or “Track Popularity”.

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Again, I apologize. When an artist has a ton of albums, it makes for lots of horizontal scrolling so, at some point, I’ll make the bars listed vertically so it doesn’t suck even on a desktop.

Roxy Music

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Eventually, I’ll have the years appear beneath the albums. The albums, by the way, are ordered chronologically by release date.

Stevie Nicks

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I included more tracks by Nicks because I thought it was interesting that “Rooms On Fire” made it into the top five while “Talk To Me”, the other single from Rock A Little was at #23.

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Todd Rundgren

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I grabbed the top 11 tracks because, again, I was rather amused by the fact that four of the top 11 were all “Bang on the Drum All Day.”

I am currently working on an algorithm that would somehow combine all the scores for the same song across albums (including remasters and compilations but not live versions). Same for albums … I’d like a score that took into account several versions of the same album.

At some point, I realized I could take screenshots of the app’s “list” view for albums. In list view, I can sort them, just like the list view for tracks.

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Def Leppard

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I grabbed so many more of theirs because, well, I cared more.

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See how there’s two versions of so many of their albums? I find that irritating. It lowers the tide for all of the albums and tracks in question.

Devo

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More rows of Devo because, again, I cared more.

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Kraftwerk

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I like it when there are fewer albums. The screenshots are prettier.

LL Cool J

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MC5

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Not a big surprise there for the #1 track.

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Radiohead

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Rage Against the Machine

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Rufus

I know for a fact I didn’t add Rufus to my database until they were nominated last year so this line graph represents their popularity over the last year. You’re welcome.

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The Cure

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The Zombies

The Zombies are nominated again which makes me happy. I think they stand a better chance of getting in this year.

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No surprise in that list. I think what might hurt them is many people might be like me and can only name those top two tracks.

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I love that Still Got That Hunger is so high on their top albums list. It deserves it. Good on ya’, guys!