Reporting Brian Ives
Reunions with former bandmates, one-off collaborations (one was very one-off ), long speeches, one speech that featured just one word (repeated over and over) and a late night. The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame‘s 2013 Induction Ceremony, held last night (April 19), was one for the ages. Here’s the rundown of the show; for more on each induction, click the bolded “read more” links below.
The first inductee was Randy Newman. These days, he’s more well known as the guy who scores films like the Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. franchises. But the man clearly has fans among rock’s royalty: Eagle Don Henley said that Newman’s songwriting represents “America in all its sham and all its glory.”
Newman seemed moved by Henley and by the honor, saying, “It’s hard for me to express a genuine emotion — as you can tell by my writing — but this means a lot to me.” He then performed “I Love L.A.” aided by Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and John Fogerty. His guests left and he performed “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today,” and lest the crowd thought he was getting sappy, Henley joined him for his ode to aging rockers (or just aging people), “I’m Dead But I Don’t Know It.” Read more on Randy Newman’s induction.
“Lou Adler’s not black, man!” Cheech Marin was trying to correct his partner Tommy Chong, who said that Lou Adler was “one of the first black men to get into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame” (an untrue statement, even if Alder wasn’t white). Chong responded, “Have you seen how he dresses man? He’s like a rapper!” Adler was indeed dapper, in a black suit and white beret, sitting next to Jack Nicholson throughout the speech and during Carole King’s performance of “So Far Away,” from Tapestry, which he produced. Read more on Lou Adler’s induction.
Guitar faces! John Mayer claimed that blues great Albert King invented them, and then he proved it on a guitar duel with Gary Clark Jr. on King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign” (featuring the man who wrote the song for King, Booker T. Jones of Booker T & The MGs). Read more on Albert King’s induction.
One early surprise: Christina Aguilera was not on hand to pay tribute to Donna Summer. Kelly Rowland, however, was, and made a speech about the singer, pointing out that she and many of her peers, may have actually been conceived to “Love To Love You Baby.” Jennifer Hudson performed “Bad Girls” and “Last Dance,” but the most emotional part of that portion of the evening, sadly, was when the late disco icon’s husband and children accepted the award for her. Read more on Donna Summer’s induction.
OPRAH! Yes, she was a surprise presenter for Quincy Jones, whom she told, “You have the most generous soul of anyone I know.”
Usher goes Off The Wall: As part of the tribute to Quincy Jones, Usher performed one of Jones’ most famous productions, Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” from 1979′s Off The Wall. He adopted Jackson’s outfit (and the green laser lights) from the pre-MTV video for the song. Read more on Quincy Jones’ induction.
The dichotomy at the heart of Public Enemy was on full display during their acceptance speech (coming on the heels of presentations by both Spike Lee and Harry Belafonte). Flavor Flav, in a long speech, complained that Chuck D was trying to get him to hurry up (the frontman actually pointed at Flav’s ever-present clock during his speech, and also gave a “wrap it up” sign), but also gave praise to his bandmate, crediting PE’s “By The Time I Get To Arizona” with getting that state to reinstate Martin Luther King Day.
Chuck was less lengthy, shouting out other hip-hop acts he expects to be inducted in the coming years, including Ice-T, Ice Cube, Eric B & Rakim, KRS-One and A Tribe Called Quest, as well as the long-snubbed KISS and Deep Purple.(perhaps he’s been talking to his old collaborating partner Scott Ian of Anthrax? ). The band performed “Bring The Noise,” “911 Is A Joke” and “Fight The Power.” Read more on Public Enemy’s induction.
Earlier in the evening, Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello spoke with Radio.com about PE: “I’m a huge Public Enemy, fan, they were such a big part of my musical and political upbringing. I would say not only should they be inducted in their first year of eligibility, they could have been inducted the year (1988′s) It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back came out. Skip the whole induction process!” (Read more: Rock Hall Lore Debunked: How Inductees are Chosen And Who’s Next)
Up next was Heart, who had what could be considered a perfect Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction. Founding members and sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson (currently touring for last year’s Fanatic) appeared and performed with the former members of the band for a drama-free reunion. They also were paid tribute by representatives of three of the greatest Seattle bands of the past few decades – Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains. Cornell made a glowing speech, noting, “It never occurred to us that Ann and Nancy Wilson were women existing in a world dominated by men. They blasted down any sexist barriers in front of them.”
Nancy Wilson said, “We came from an era where women normally did not rock and we weren’t supposed to be leaders. These days women are ferocious leaders — from the boardrooms to the bedrooms!” The group stuck to their ’70s era for “Crazy On You,” “Dreamboat Annie” and then were joined the guitar army of Cornell, McCready and Cantrell for the monster jam “Barracuda.” Read more on Heart’s induction.
Before the show, Cantrell told Radio.com, “They’ve influenced not only me, but a whole generation of Seattle musicians, and also musicians worldwide. Their body of work stands the test of time, and the level that they operate on as musicians has not dropped one iota. It’s humbling to be asked to be a part of this. They’re my friends, they’re my sisters. Just being around them, and getting to know them as people has been inspiring just on a human level. They’re one of the bands that made me want to do this. A band like Heart and musicians like Ann and Nancy show you the level that you should try to operate at.”
And then. It was the moment that thousands of fans had waited for, for years. Rush — the band that has always done things its own way, have never broken up, never had to reunite, only rarely had a lineup change, still sell out arenas (and never dipped below arena-headlining level) but were never been treated kindly by rock critics — were finally being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. At the beginning of the night, Rolling Stone founder and Rock Hall co-founder Jann Wenner was listing the names of the inductees, and the cheers when he got to Rush were deafening, as if the fans were shouting him down for his magazine’s ignoring the band for decades. Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins were on hand to do the honors, and Grohl joked about this fact. “They did it from the ground up: no hype, no bull****, without any help from the mainstream press – COUGH! Rolling Stone!” – a line that got huge cheers.
Rush’s speech ranged from Grohl-level hilarity to earnest and also sadness. Drummer Neil Peart joked, “We’ve been saying for a long time that this isn’t a big deal. Turns out it kind of is!” He later thanked “those who are among us, and those who aren’t,” a reference to his daughter who died in a tragic 1997 car accident and his wife who succumbed to cancer months later. It also may have been a reference to the band’s original drummer, John Rutsey, who left the band in 1974 and passed away in 2008. Geddy Lee thanked “the most passionate fanbase around the globe. The insistence of their voices has surely led to this moment. We share this honor with you.”
And then it was back to comedy, as Alex Lifeson gave what had to be the most bizarre acceptance speech in the history of acceptance speeches. It lasted minutes and only consisted of one word: “blah.” Start tweeting at HBO now and demand that they air it in its entirety.
Things got a little more weird after that, as Grohl, Hawkins, and Nick Raskulinecz hit the stage dressed as Rush from their 2112 era and performed “2112 I: Overture,” joined midway through by Lee, Lifeson and Peart, who then performed “Tom Sawyer” and “Spirit Of The Radio.” Read more on Rush’s induction.
Before the show, Lee told Radio.com that, joking aside, having the Foo Fighters present them “really means a lot to me because I love those guys as musicians and people. And to me, the Foo Fighters are an example of: you can have enormously talented people rise to the top of the music industry and are just normal and fun to hang out with. It’s a great honor that they’re giving us this award.”
Other artists raved about Rush before the show. “Rush is 0ne of my favorite rock bands of all time, they are about as good as anyone has ever played their instruments,” Morello told Radio.com. “I’ve spent a tremendous amount of American money on that Canadian band, and it’s an honor to be here to help celebrate them tonight.”
Cantrell added, “Rush is an amazing band. You want to talk about the top level of musicianship, Rush is at the top of the list. I spend a lot of hours spent trying to learn the riffs to those songs, ‘La Villa Strangiato,’ ’2112,’ ‘Fly By Night.’ Rush, Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures were all really important records to me.”
Was there ever a less likely collection of artists in one single induction class to get together on stage and jam? Rush, the Wilson sisters and Chuck D, along with Grohl and Hawkins, Fogerty, Gary Clark Jr., Chris Cornell and DMC (of Run-DMC) then took the stage for a mind-blowing version of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” (complete with a rap intro). And while the audience tried to figure out what they’d just seen, the show ended. Read more on the all-star closing jam.
Catch more from the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony when it airs Saturday May 18 at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Watch our recent Radio.com Inside Out episode on 2013’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction class, below.
(All images via Kevin Winter/Getty Images)