It’s been twenty years since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame brought their party to LA but they did the week of April 15th and it was worth the wait! I worked at the last Hall of Fame induction in LA which was held in 1993 at the Century Plaza Hotel, but this time it was party time at the Nokia Theatre downtown where both industry heavies and civilians could mix and celebrate their heroes together. Civilians can now buy tickets and definitely their energy contributes to the show!
A party that the Rock Hall held before the event brought scores of New Yorkers, eager to get out of the cold, together with Southern California legends like Graham Nash and Jackson Browne and it was a place where you got to connect with old friends. (I hadn’t seen Paul Shaffer for years, and an industry friend I was with said to me “There’s a guy behind you that is Paul Shaffer’s doppelganger. “) No it wasn’t, I said, it was Paul Shaffer, who I used to host an NBC Radio show with when I was at Today and Letterman was still at NBC. I cried I was so happy to see him. It was a great night for schmoozing and catching up. Also, I’m a Board Member for the Rock Hall and anytime I can be among musicians and try to part them from their archival stuff, for the Museum and Library, it’s a good evening.
The Induction ceremony itself was held at the Nokia and just walking in the door, you knew you were really in Rush world and Heart land. The fans who bought tickets turned out in insane droves wearing Rush t shirts to honor their guys. I have never seen so many middle age guys wearing really over washed and falling apart band t shirts except at a Bruce show. I have never loved Rush though I certainly appreciate their skill, their talent and commitment but for me, they are too much of a guy band energetically and sonically. A close friend in Canada, a Rush fanatic, has taught me to appreciate them though. I’ve interviewed Geddy Lee and he was absolutely lovely, smart, and thoughtful.
In the early days of these Hall inductions, the events were not television driven and now they are so that changes the structure of the show, the people chosen to introduce their heroes, but this year, I must admit, it was all a great fit and deeply moving even as it ran long for an early bird like me.
The night started off with Don Henley introducing Randy Newman, a man, a musical giant, an artist, who I have the deepest most profound respect for. Don Henley’s tribute was unbelievable really, and Randy sang I Love LA, Short People and I Think Its Gonna Rain Today . Jackson Browne, and John Fogerty and Tom Petty played with him. The night could’ve ended there, and I’d have been satisfied.
John Mayer spoke with astonishing and articulate reverence about his guitar hero, the late great bluesman Albert King and I must say, the man should speak on serious topics and stay out of the social media world where trouble often awaits him. Mayer played with Gary Clark Jr. and Booker T. blazing on among other songs, Born Under a Bad Sign. They took it home. Amazing, amazing.
Lou Adler, not a household name to rock fans right now, but to people of a certain age, well, he’s the guy who brought us all the Monterey Pop Festival and the unbelievable movie of it , a documentary of that time and place that will live in infamy. (I was there!) Adler also was responsible for the heavenly harmonies of the Mamas and Papas, and Michelle Phillips was in the audience with Adler’s buddy, Jack Nicholson, his Lakers courtside pal. Cheech and Chong introduced Adler and he spoke movingly of the incredible artists he has worked with. Lou Adler is one of the real foundational members of the rock world. There would be no 60s music out in the world as it is without his commitment. Carole King – who Adler produced of course, sang and I’m telling you…I was there in 1972 as I closed my eyes and listened. Bravo Lou Adler and thank you.
Quincy Jones was introduced by Oprah and really, she talked about him, not herself! Amazing…! Jones’ history is so deep and significant musically, it’s hard to imagine where music would be without his contribution. He is 80 now or thereabouts, and he has worked with every great in every field of music. It was great to hear him riff, though he went on a little too long, something that will undoubtedly be edited in the tv version. (Just my opinion of course). Usher sang some Michael Jackson and let’s say this, there was only one Michael Jackson.
Donna Summer’s family, her husband and three beautiful daughters, were on hand to hear her honored by Kelly Rowland. Summer’s husband was a funny guy and sweet when he talked about her giant talent. Donna Summer, whether you loved disco or not, set the world on fire. She was an original. Jennifer Hudson sang a Summer tune and sounded extraordinary, but the loose and abandoned quality that Donna Summer brought to her work, that made her so distinct in my opinion, is not there for Jennifer Hudson who I truly admire. That’s why we were there honoring Donna Summer.
Public Enemy was introduced by Spike Lee and then elder statesman Harry Belafonte who I felt added a moral authority to their body of work that I haven’t considered before. Flavor Fav sadly went on and on and on (like Donna Summer singing Enough is Enough) but he just wouldn’t stop yakking before they performed. He should take off the clock he wears and look at the time.
By the time Heart was inducted, you needed to be really committed to still be sitting there. Chris Cornell sang their praises and talked a lot about the barriers the band destroyed without even trying. He did them justice and when they got onstage they brought the house down. The Wilson sisters still have their power vocals and their band was tight tight tight. And they were having fun, real fun.
By the time Dave Grohl started talking about Rush – the fans were up and shrieking. I mean shrieking. Finally vindicated is really what they were here at their induction. When Rush started to play, it was impossible not to get up on your feet despite the late hour.
Despite different grumblings about how long it took for this band or that to be inducted, and how people get selected, these Hall of Fame inductions are great fun. It’s live music and musicians mixing it up, really great, accomplished musicians, no matter their style or genre. They are reminders of the power of rock and roll. And rock and roll is always messy and funky and spontaneous and up and down and it takes you to all those places too.
It was a great night for music. Anywhere you can here Short People and Born Under a Bad Sign at the same event is a good thing. Long live rock n roll!