Some personal observations on the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Peter Gabriel is one of those people who have that artistic aura – even if you didn’t know who he was you’d realize he was an artist of some sort. On the surface he comes off as pleasant and affable. Nice to see him swaying about the stage doing In Your Eyes with Youssou N'Dour. He’s past 60 but has no trouble commanding the stage. Happy to see his long career honored by the Hall. He was inducted by Chris Martin (Coldplay).
I have known Linda Ronstadt’s music for most of my life. Never was too fond of her covers of songs like When Will I Be Loved, That’ll Be The Day, et al, but she exhibited great versatility throughout her career, offering everything from rock to country to standards. The old clip of Johnny Carson asking her what she’d do if she could no longer sing, and her response that she wouldn’t know what to do, is heartbreaking in that Parkinson’s disease has now robbed her of that talent. Linda was inducted by her old friend Glenn Frey (The Eagles). She was not in attendance. Thankfully the Hall of Fame did not wait until after she had gone as they did for Donna Summer and George Harrison. Carrie Underwood did a bellowing rendition of Different Drum. Bonnie Raitt and EmmyLou Harris joined her for Blue Bayou. Sheryl Crow made it a foursome for “You’re No Good” with Frey helping out on the harmonies. Finally, Steve Nicks (looking great at 66) joined them all for It’s So Easy. They closed the set with When Will I Be Loved.
We’ve been waiting a long time for KISS to finally be inducted (the honors were performed by Tom Morello of Race Against The Machine). Been a fan for 40 years and still believe their urgent, muddily produced first three albums (KISS, Hotter Than Hell, Dressed To Kill) are the most exciting. A lot of that is probably sentimental. The immediacy of their sound, their explosive and (for that time) innovative theatrics redefined live music. There were rumors that none of them were going to show up, but all four original members (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss) were indeed in attendance. I thought it was classy for Gene to mention all the other KISS members, including the deceased Eric Carr and Mark St John. It was moving to hear Peter Criss announce he is seven years cancer free. Ace was amusing walking up to the podium laughingly stating he could not read the speech he wrote because he fogot his glasses. His announcement that he is sober for 7 ½ years was another heartfelt moment. Paul Stanley capped it by stating they are being inducted for the reasons they were critically lambasted. There are many many rock bands that have been overlooked for too long by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fortunately KISS is no longer one of the bands. The only drawback is they are the only present inductees who did not perform, nor did anyone else do any of their songs.
Cat Stevens was inducted by Art Garfunkel. I would have preferred Salman Rushdie do the honors (I love irony). He had an odd life after his years of hit songs, and for some time his religion kept him from performing them. Not any more. He took the stage and did Father And Son, Wild World, and Peace Train. He still had the smooth, quivering voice that starts out deep and effortlessly rises to a higher pitch. After all that has gone on with him over the decades, it was rather moving to see him up there strumming an acoustic guitar and sounding like he should. Cat had the best line of the night, “I certainly am not the best of you, but, looking around, I’m not the worst either.”
Peter Asher inducted Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham, the first two managers to be inducated in the Hall of Fame. Brian was the Beatles’ manager and is long gone. Oldham managed the Rolling Stones and produced their first albums. Oldham is still living but apparently was not in attendance.
Hall and Oates really looked good for being 67 and 65 respectively. I loved Darryl Hall mentioning that they were the first Philadelphians to be inducted in the Hall, stating “I am not saying that because I am proud, I am saying that because it’s fucked up! What about The Stylistics, or Chubby Checker?” Hall and Oates sounded good doing She’s Gone, You Make My Dreams, -- but I think they have been together, active, and touring all along for the past 40 years, haven’t they?
I liked that the show did a Memoriam segment recalling music people who died over the past year like Phil Everly, Marshall Lytle and Franny Beechur (Bill Haley’s Comets), Marvin Junior (Dells), Cowboy Jack Clement, Pete Seeger, Donald Byrd, Jeff Hanneman (Slayer), Chris Kelly (Kriss Kross), JJ Cale, Bobby Blue Bland, George Duke, Allen Lanier (Blue Oyster Cult), Junor Murvin, Joey Covington (Jefferson Airplane), Boggie Mosson, Ray Manzarek (Doors), Alan Myers and Bob Casale Devo), Trevor Bolder (Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash), Dave Brockie (Gwar), Phillp Chevron (Pogues), Scott Asheton (Stooges), and Lou Reed. A nice tribute, but these always make one sad.
Bruce Springsteen inducted his own E Street Band. The anecdotes he offered about each one, and the history of the group’s formation was interesting and fun to hear. It is unfortunate Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici did not live to enjoy this honor, especially when Bruce says “this would have meant a lot to Danny and Clarence.” Clemons’ wife was on stage. Nils Lofgren was dressed like the Artful Dodger, hat and all.
Michael Stipe inducted Nirvana with Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear all in attendance. Courtney Love represents Cobain along with Kurt’s mom and sisters (daughter Frances Bean is not there). Kurt’s mom says “He would have loved this – but he would have said he didn’t." Courtney ignored some booing and heckling from the crowd, and put aside her differences with Grohl by embracing him warmly. Dave, Krist, and Pat then took the stage with a series of female singers filling in for Kurt. Joan Jett did a rockin Smells Like Teen Spirit, Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) effectively covered Aneurysm, offering a level of energy that belied her 61 years, St. Vincent competently performed Lithium, and Lorde concluded with a blubbering All Apologies. I was actively teaching when Nirvana hit, as well as when Cobain died, so I witnessed his impact on young people first hand. Their music really resonated with the misfits, the misunderstood and confused, like no other band I can remember.
Interesting audience sightings: Steven Spielberg, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, John McEnroe
Next year I would like to see Chubby Checker, The Shangri-Las, Joan Jett, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Slayer and Chicago considered. We’ll see.