taping of the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction started
nearly 50 minutes late. Randy Newman was scheduled to be the
first inductee on Thursday evening, April 18, 2013. But, as
all in attendance later found out, his good friend and longtime
musical admirer Don Henley was stuck in traffic. It was getting
close to 8pm and the taping was scheduled to begin at 7pm.
Exasperated producers turned up the stage lights at the Nokia
Theatre and let Randy rip into a brilliant version of his
"I Love L.A.". Newman had Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and John
Fogerty all wailing away on guitar with him. Petty was in
particularly good voice and Fogerty knifed a razor sharp solo.
An auspicious beginning, indeed. The lights went dark, Newman
got up from his piano, straightened his tuxedo and went back
to his white-clothed table in the orchestra pit in front of
the stage. Only then did Don Henley appear at
the lectern. He sardonically noted that he, too, "loved L.A."
"It took me 90 minutes to get here." He drew the biggest laughs
of the evening until erstwhile stand-up comedians Dave Grohl
and Taylor Hawkins of The Foo Fighters showed up to close
out the ceremonies with their induction speech for Rush.
of Rush, they were far and away the main reason 5,000 of the
7,000 fans showed up in the cavernous, cold and dark Nokia
Theatre. For nearly five hours, my wife and I were surrounded
by late forty-something/ fifty-something beer-swilling white
guys in black Rush tee shirts who screamed at the top of their
lungs when anyone on stage even uttered the band's name. Yes,
their female companions might have come to shimmy to Jennifer
Hudson's rendition of the posthumously inducted Donna Summer's
"Bad Girls." But, their guys were all about Geddy Lee, Alex
Lifeson and Neil Peart. An often overheard comment that night
was: "It's aboot f---kin' time they got in. Rush ROCKS!!!
since this was L.A., allow me to go "Joe Friday" on you and
give you just the facts, ma'am or sir:
Henley inducted Randy Newman, who's droll and wisely observant
as ever. Newman did return to the stage with Henley in tow
to perform a new tune: "I'm Dead, But I Don't Know It."
and Chong inducted heroic record producer and man-about-town
L.A. impresario, Lou Adler. Carole King sat down at the
piano and caressed the 7,000 strong throng with a perfectly
pitched, gorgeous rendition of "You're So Far Away," a song
from her Adler-produced iconic seventies album,Tapestry.
Mayer posthumously inducted the fiery guitar-playing bluesman,
Albert King. King's daughter and granddaughter graciously
and joyously accepted on his behalf. Mayer joined 21st Century
Texas bluesman, Gary Clark, Jr. on a cover of King's best
known song, "Born Under a Bad Sign." Booker T. Jones of
Booker T. and The M.G.'s backed them up on Hammond B3 organ
and vocals. Jones WROTE this song. I was annoyed that neither
Mayer or Clark publicly acknowledged Jones while they were
on stage. Perhaps, HBO will fix this egregious slight "in
the mix" when the edited ceremony debuts on the premium
cable channel Saturday, May 18, 2013.
Rowland, she of the winning smile and Destiny's Child, posthumously
inducted Donna Summer, whose talents as a songwriter and
vocalist I believe are still under appreciated by far too
many people. Summer's widower, Bruce Sudano and her three
tall, movie star beautiful daughters accepted for Donna.
Jennifer Hudson took to the stage to deliver an inspired,
pounding version of "Bad Girls" Again, this one got all
the Rush fan girl friends and wives on their feet. Women
and more than a few guys, after all, this was L.A, teared
up when Hudson segued into an impassioned "Last Dance."
Winfrey drew gasps and applause when she sauntered to the
lectern, stage right, to induct legendary jazzman, record,
television and movie producer Quincy Jones into the Rock
Hall. Oprah shared that Quincy saw her exiting her Chicago
television studio back in the mid-1980s (before she went
"Mega") and said: "THAT's her. That's the woman I want to
cast as "Sofia" in The Color Purple." Quincy was producing
the movie adaption of Alice Walker's book. Winfrey's role
in it helped catapult her to worldwide fame. Quincy rambled
far too long in his acceptance speech but "dropped some
serious knowledge" regarding how we should treasure jazz
and push ourselves to learn and respect other cultures and
their languages far more than we currently do.
Usher performed "Rock with You" in honor of Quincy's production
work for Michael Jackson. The younger women in the audience
were ecstatic. There was a "currently hot celebrity" aura
around Usher. He sang and danced with gusto. Still, his
performance reminded me of how truly great Michael Jackson's
talent was. Michael defied gravity when he danced. He was
endlessly inventive and lighter than air, like The Nicholas
Brothers, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire before him.
Lee showed up in full "Mookie" garb. Harry Belafonte was
as regal and searing as ever in his earnest indictment of
America's racial injustices, a theme he wove into his remarks
while inducting rap's most politically vocal band ever,
Public Enemy, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class
of 2013. Spike noted that Public Enemy's anthem "Fight The
Power" helped make Do The Right Thing the commercial and
critical success that the movie came to be. Flavor Flav
did his best Dean Martin "too drunk to be coherent" impression,
except that it wasn't funny. The always authoritative Chuck
D calmed the audience and pointed out that HBO has "editing
machines." Chuck wisely observed that there were "too many
categories in this rock game" and that ALL musics go back
to the blues. Word.
mood of Rush fans who were angered and/or perplexed by Public
Enemy's set swung 180 degrees on the "joy meter" when they
saw Chris Cornell of Soundgarden come to the lectern. Cornell
was there to induct the Wilson sisters and their band Heart
into the "boys club" of rock and roll: an honor long overdue.
Nancy Wilson's remarks revealed her to be a wryly feministic
and insightful woman. She also must have a portrait in her
attic back up in Seattle absorbing the ravages of time.
She is stunningly attractive, fit and still looks like she's
in her mid-thirties. Ann Wilson, always seen as the brash
forceful sister, is confident, no doubt. But, Ann has a
surprisingly laid-back artist's perspective from what I
could tell by her comments. Heart immediately brought the
entire audience to their feet as the band slammed into "Crazy
On You" and then "Barracuda." Chris Cornell joined them
on guitar on ''Barracuda." Things were building to the inevitable
audience went berserk when Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins
came to the lighted lectern. There was no one left to induct
but Rush. Geddy Lee. Alex Lifeson. Neil Peart. "Fly By Night."
"Tom Sawyer." Need I say more?
what did Cleveland gain by having the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame Induction Ceremony staged in Los Angeles? There weren't
any more satellite trucks emblazoned with internationally
known media brand names parked outside the Nokia Theatre than
I've seen outside the Waldorf Astoria in New York City or
outside Cleveland's Public Auditorium. As Huey Lewis And The
News crooned in "The Heart Of Rock And Roll," in L.A. they
do it with a lot flash---and indeed they did. The event had
undeniable star voltage. It was likely easier and less expensive
to get the Oprah Winfreys, Ushers, Jennifer Hudsons, John
Mayers, Cheech Marins and Kelly Rowlands of the world to leave
their Malibu/Pacific Palisades/Santa Monica digs and drive
to downtown L.A. than it would have been to cajole them into
coming to Cleveland.
Theatre certainly made a big wad of cash. I hope the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum got a cut. Hundreds of seats
no closer than 50 yards away from the stage went for $750
a person and thousands of seats more than 150 yards away from
the stage cost $500 a pop. But, it was just another yawn of
a spectacle for L.A. The ceremony didn't even make The Los
Angeles Times until Saturday, April 20th...and even then it
was buried in the Calendar section. In Cleveland, the Induction
Ceremony is front page, above-the-fold news the very next
morning. In L.A., not so much. It's about The Clippers, Kobe's
tweets, the other glamorous sports franchises and "The Business."
Jann Wenner didn't do the Museum any favors with his barely
concealed mocking of its location. In his opening address
to the Rock Hall Induction Ceremony this year, Wenner rolled
his eyes and said: "let me explain to you why The Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland." There was a fluttering
of derisive laughter throughout the massive hall. Wenner went
on to say, in essence, "it's in Cleveland because Ohio was
willing to pay for it." He tried to take the negative edge
off that comment by then encouraging attendees to make the
trip to Cleveland to check out the Museum's fabulous collection.
"You've got to come there to see it," Wenner
stated as he closed.
based Rush fan sitting near me retorted: "No, I don't. It's
West Coast and Canadian Rush fans don't realize is that Cleveland
helped popularize the very rock music they love. As Chuck
D might snort, they are IGNORANT of the music's history. Rock
and roll would have happened, but it would have happened much
later without visionary pioneers like Alan Freed who bravely
helped "break down those categorical walls" between race music
and pop music in the same era in which Jim Crow plagued the
commercial popularity came to the sunny beaches of California
and the dank clubs of Seattle much later than the scene that
happened on the North Coast. In the early fifties, Clevelanders
enthusiastically embraced the music. They simply loved
it. And, the rock and soul musicians knew it,
making the City By the Lake a must-play venue for artists
from Elvis Presley to Otis Redding. Cleveland and all of Ohio
need to STOP seeking validation from the East Coast/West Coast
cultural elites and embrace the Museum for what it is: the
very best collection of musical artifacts of the most popular
music in the entire world. In fact, we need to expand The
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum. We've been packing
in the memorabilia from legendary artists for nearly twenty
years now. Have you been in the Museum lately? It's getting
a little close.
know Huey Lewis And The News would be my muse for this piece
until I started writing it. But, it's my contention that the
"heart of rock and roll is still beatin'...in Cleveland."
L.A. can mock, but Cleveland still rocks.
By Jack Marchbanks
April 22 (Earth Day), 2013