I don’t go anymore. I stopped going about the time it went from being a special and fun industry invent, into a television event. It was a formal affair. Which was half of the fun, because it seemed like an inside joke. All these guys, myself included who made their living in the trenches of the music industry, dealing with people in t-shirts, who smoked dope and always wore sneakers to work, now how to dress in tuxedos. Columbia was different. Ienner preferred that we all dressed well. We didn’t have to wear suits, but it wasn’t a bad idea. God forbid you showed up in something but Armani, Zegna or Hugo Boss. You would certainly hear about it. But I digress. At the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame Dinner, everyone got dressed up and took themselves very seriously…for once. Everywhere you looked you saw legends. The speeches were off the cuff and since it was not perceived to be an industry event, the speeches were more personal, for a lack of a better term.
Mick Jagger inducting the Beatles into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame 1988-
One of my fondest memories was when Jeff Buckley showed up at the event. Jeff had a plaid shirt, some sort of paisley tie and an equally bizarre pair of pants and a blazer on. He probably got an invitation at the last moment. But either way, you could see he had probably not worn a tie since he was a very little kid. My friend Oedipus, the legendary Program Director of WBCN in Boston was at the event as well. I had taken Jeff up to Oedipus’ Sunday night show on ‘BCN. It was an eclectic mix of mostly very tasteful music. Oedi knew more about music than any other radio guy in the country. He cut his teeth in the “Punk Scene” in Boston in the mid to late 70’s. His shows were always interesting. Anyway, when Jeff saw him, he smiled and said “hey Capernicus”. Oedi, took it in stride, but you could tell his ego was bruised just a bit. When Oedi was roasted by the TJ Martell Foundation a year or so later, I presented him with a gold Jeff Buckley album, made out to Capernicus. Within a year of that night, Jeff was dead.
The most important thing to me about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Dinners were that it was a small event. Everyone had tables. One year I looked directly to my left and there was Paul McCartney. To my right was Bruce and at our table was Billy Joel and all this was going on while I was visiting with James Taylor. This clearly for me was one of those pinch me moments. These were obviously all artists that I revered and with the exception of Bruce, all of these guys created the soundtrack for my younger years. Bruce was a bit more contemporary. Anyway, I knew all these guys and worked with them. At that point I realized how special a career I have had, that I have gotten to know and work closely with not only by idols, but true legends. I also remember thinking what some of the girls who wouldn’t go out with me in high school would say now. Also, that at 17 or 18 years old, I would have bet a zillion dollars that the scene , that was unraveling before me, would have ever happened to this kid from a blue collar family from Long Island. Somehow it did.
Before the HBO events, the show was taped and aired by VH-I. Complete with the rambling drunk speeches from Quincy Jones and rockers far past their prime. You would be amazed at how articulate Steve Van Zandt’s speech was as he inducted (I think this is right) the Young Rascals into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. David Chase actually saw Stevie give that speech and that is what landed Stevie his role on the Sopranos. Stevie is one of the brightest guys I know, though it is hidden beneath his affable nature and Jersey Shore accent. He seems like just another guy, but he is not. There were back stage squabbles between band mates who hadn’t spoken for decades and nervous laughter by artists about to appear onstage with some of their idols. It was a very cool scene, highlighted by the Jam Session at the end of the night. That is really the reason everyone came. The chance to see McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and other living legends get onstage together and play. There were truly some magical moments.
It has now become a much ballyhooed HBO event. It is no longer as spontaneous. This year’s show was interesting. It was nice to see the E Street Band clip package and Bruce’s speech. Bruce had a chance to undo one of the mistakes he has made in his career. When he was inducted in 1997 he was inducted as a solo artist. Had he wanted, the entire band could have been inducted. But for reasons apparent to only him at the time, he did not allow it. You could see him tear up as he told the story. It was obvious that he wish he had done things differently so that Clarence and Danny could have been alive to share in the experience. Bruce almost always does the right thing. In this particular case he slipped up. I think it has bothered him for some time. It was good to see him right the wrong. The E Street Band belongs in the Hall, because as he explained it, they brought life to his music and they were such a big part of making him the artist he has become.
It is sad to see things happen, as happened with KISS this year. The original band should have been inducted, not the guys along with Paul and Gene. I am still trying to figure out how Miles Davis is in. Also, I think inducting Blondie and Patti Smith was stretching things a little. But, the pickings will get slim from this point on. Less and less acts have broken and that trend will continue. The opportunity to really have a tremendous impact on the world, as the acts in the HOF have had, are coming few and far between. Should Alice In Chains be in the HOF. I think yes, because contrary to popular belief, they were really the first “grunge’ band to have mainstream success. I don’t mean to take a shot at Nirvana here. But they had a very small body of work. Curt was an astonishing songwriter and a true rock star. But, bands like Soundgarden, Alice and Pearl Jam, paved the way for him. But Nirvana had tremendous commercial success. Also, I think inducting them and have Grohl on TV and Courtney Love on as well, made for a better show. Certainly, these considerations will become more and more significant in the future.
It was great to see the Nirvana presentation. Again, their body of music is so small that we hear the same songs over and over again. The songs have become wallpaper and the meaning has gotten lost over the years of repetition. It is not until I heard Annie Clark and Joan Jett, sing those songs that I was reminded of how great a writer Cobain truly was.
Annie Clark “Lithium”
This year’s show was a good TV show. The feel and emotion of the event has been whittled down by commercialism. It was once a very special night for the music industry. Much more fun than the Grammys. Now, it seems like just another excuse for a show. Sorry to see it change. But I guess that is the price I pay for getting older.