Once again Rock & Roll we salute you! Back on April 8 of this year in the Barkley Center in Brooklyn, NYC an assembled mass of artists, their families and fans gathered to honor the latest set of inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That even was filmed and aired on HBO on April 30. If you missed it you can find it on HBO’s streaming sites under the Documentary heading. Here now is a look back at the inductees and the ceremony.
First let’s remind everyone of the honored this year. They are Deep Purple, Steve Miller, N. W. A., Chicago, Cheap Trick and Bert Burns. Those re mighty big industry talents right there. This writer has watched the event every year it has been on HBO and some years you get honorees that I just didn’t have a connection with, whose music I didn’t follow. This year, however, was different. I listened to and enjoyed the music of each of these acts in their day. Yes, I am old enough to have done so.
Music has the power to tie us to certain memories in our lives and while watching this event, even with the small sets most of them were able to jam, I was taken back to moments when I head those songs played and it enhanced the viewing experience ten-fold. That doesn’t happen every year. I watched the montage clip, listened to the presenter and was eager to hear them play again. As for the performances, you always have to keep in mind, that the artists are now 30-50 years older now and just might not deliver the play list the way you remember them; it is still fun to see them regardless. You also got to remember that there are accepted speeches involved; that means plenty of ‘thank you’ moments to spouses and kids that you just have to endure.
Let’s go through the evening in order starting with the opening number which was a tribute to the recently departed David Bowie. David Byrne, the Roots and Kimbra did a spot on replay of “Fame” and we are off and running with a solid moment.
1. Lars Ulrich inducts DEEP PURPLE
To me this was the best induction speech of the night. Lars is a true fan of the band and you could tell in each rich descriptive phrase he used about each and every member that he was a fan. Though it is true that Deep Purple is far more influential beyond “Smoke On the Water” Lars nails it when he tells us that everyone knows that four note guitar riff. That riff is one of those musical memories for me and was not disappointed in hearing it played yet again. Sadly, not all the original members are alive, but still a great moment. From the Hall website this snippet of bio –
They created a riff everyone knows, a concert format no one had previously presented, and a sound to which countless bands owe a great debt. That gives Deep Purple at least three claims on history. The chugging chord progression of “Smoke on the Water” became so deeply embedded in the culture, it now has the resonance of a Biblical quote. The 1969 Concerto for Group and Orchestra was the first live release ever to pair a rock band with a full symphony, while Deep Purple’s essential musculature forged the hard-rocking sound that later solidified into heavy metal.
2. Steven Van Zandt inducts BERT BURNS
The Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement was awarded posthumously to Bert Burns. From his bio –
Berns did take short cuts in his career. He had to: As a teenager growing up in the Bronx, he suffered from rheumatic fever and, in those days before heart surgery, he was told he would not live to be 21. He didn’t make his first record until he was 31; he then made 51 chart records in seven years. But more than writing and producing hits and thus playing an important role in the history (and solvency) of Atlantic Records, Berns ultimately wound up running his own successful independent label, Bang Records, and discovering major talents such as Van Morrison and Neil Diamond. He died in 1967 at 38.
Though none of his music was played I looked up his accomplishments I immediately connected to some other great songs of an era. They include “Twist and Shout,” “I Want Candy,” “Hang on Sloppy,” Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl” and The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk.”
3. The Black Keys Induct Steve Miller
I am not sure why The Black Keys got the job; they didn’t seem comfortable doing it, but it wasn’t about them. The video bio was more beneficial. Steve Miller added a bit of controversy to the event by being a bit ornery with the Hall, but in the end he was thankful for his induction. His set probably was the one that showed he had aged and couldn’t quite hit the notes any more, but put on a good moment with “Keep On Rockin’ Me, Baby” and “The Joker.” Keep in mind that the concert went on longer than what HBO showed. Everyone’s set was much longer than what HBO aired. I headed over to YouTube to get the full performances because I could have sung along with Steve Miller a while longer.
When he moved to San Francisco Steve Miller became a force on the scene, playing the Fillmore more than 100 times. He pulled a band together and, partly because record companies had become so enamored of San Francisco, he landed a five-album deal with Capitol for nearly $1 million, a massive figure at the time. The Steve Miller Band released two LPs in 1968: Children of the Future and Sailor. The latter rose to the Top 40 and included “Living in the U.S.A.,” which became a staple on the album-oriented format of FM radio. Brave New World, the band’s third album, rose to Number 22, and included “Space Cowboy,” another FM favorite, and “My Dark Hour.” The band’s next two albums, Your Saving Grace (1969) and Number 5 (1970), both cracked the Top 40, but it seemed as if the band had peaked. Miller was regarded as a credible figure, but none of the first five albums had gone gold. He had to make a decision.
“We had recorded five albums in something like 18 months,” Miller said. “We had been playing 200 gigs a year. The band was going through changes. I wasn’t hearing anything from Capitol about a new contract. So I thought, I’ll get some musicians, go down to L.A. on my own, and produce my own record. I finished it in about 19 days.” That album was The Joker.
4. Kendrick Lamar inducts N.W.A.
Truth be told, I am not a huge fan of gangsta rap and hip-hop. But I am heavily aware of N.W.A.’s contribution to the music scene and there ground-breaking testament that is Straight Out Of Compton. I can recall the day I wrapped my mind around that album and so could Lamar as he passionately raised up the praise for Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, the late Easy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella. The inductees each had something to say, especially about the loss of Easy-E, but the standout was Ice Cube. In addressing the controversy of whether a group such as his should be considered “rock and roll” he defined the label not as a musical genre but as an attitude. The attitude of being willing to rock the establishment is what it means to Ice Cube making N.W.A. fit easily into that definition.
Unexpected. Shocking. Flawed. Revolutionary. Worthy. N.W.A’s improbable rise from marginalized outsiders to the most controversial and complicated voices of their generation remains one of rock’s most explosive, relevant, and challenging tales.From their Compton, California, headquarters, Eazy-E (Eric Wright), Dr. Dre (Andre Young), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson), MC Ren (Lorenzo Patterson), and DJ Yella (Antoine Carraby) would – by force of will and through unrelenting tales of street life – sell tens of millions of records, influence multiple generations the world over, and extend artistic middle fingers to all the societal barriers.
Only thing missing here was that N.W.A. did not perform. Only thing missing here was that N.W.A. did not perform. Wait, didn’t they want to perform? What gives? How can you be inducted and not give us up some? Ice Cube stated simply to the New York Times that “I guess we really didn’t feel like we were supported enough to do the best show we could put on.” We wanted to do it on a whole other level, and that just couldn’t happen. But we’re totally honored, humbled and appreciative to the Hall for even just considering us, inducting us and inviting us.”
Two more inductees to go as we look now at Chicago.
5. Rob Thomas inducts CHICAGO.
Chicago stands as one of America’s most successful rock bands of any epoch in terms of both sales and longevity. The statistics are simply staggering: Over a 46-year recording career, the band has issued 36 albums, sold well over 100 million records, and released 20 Top 10 pop and 22 Top 10 adult contemporary singles (15 of which broke the Top 10 on both charts). It achieved the enviable feat of placing these hits on the Billboard charts in five different decades. 17 of its first 20 albums were certified platinum, nine of those multiplatinum and Chicago 17 hit platinum a whopping six times.
That is impressive. When this band took the stage at Barkley Center that night they still had it too. James Pankow on trombone, Walt Parazaider on saxophone and still had it. Also, having stepped away from the group, drummer Tris Imdoden was returning for this honor for the first time in 25 years, though Peter Cetera was a no-show. It was all a great sound and great fun. Check them out below.
6. Kid Rock Inducts CHEAP TRICK
In Cheap Trick, America had its first chart-ready group who could effectively combine rock chops, tuneful power pop, sarcasm, humility, and showmanship. Singer Robin Zander, drummer Bun E. Carlos (b. Brad Carlson), bassist Tom Petersson (b. Peterson), and guitarist Rick Nielsen managed to make stardom look like fun, not a chore or a right. The plush cushions of rock’s throne weren’t designed for the derrieres of court clowns, but that has never discouraged the foursome from being themselves, whether that’s serious or silly.
They proved a bit silly in their thank you and go to playing a fast, hot set. Robin couldn’t take it into the stratosphere anymore but they still rocked the house and could still rock Budokan!
Since it was cover off of the Live at Budokan album the masses assembled for “Ain’t That A Shame.” Everyone was nicely featured but one to watch I think is Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple. He has the best wail going out these older performers. The show ended with a tacked on taped tribute to the late Prince who was inducted in 2004.
Great concert and I catch it on HBO every year. How about you? Now I’m going to pull out my old 33 1/3 records and 8-tracks (yes, I still have them), and rock out some more!