Last night (March 29), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. This may have been one of the most drama-free, good-vibes-filled induction ceremonies ever.
There were no clashes between band members, no beefs between inductees and presenters, and there were relatively few complaints about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (although Janet Jackson notably asked the Hall to induct more women next year). Even Trent Reznor admitted that he hasn’t taken the Rock Hall seriously in the past, but that changed tonight, thanks to The Cure being inducted. He even seemed to be having a good time.
Stevie Nicks opened the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in style, as she always does. It was a huge occasion; she is the first woman to be inducted into the Rock Hall twice (the first time, of course, was with Fleetwood Mac). Before any speeches, she kicked off the show with a rousing version of “Stand Back.” She noted that she was performing with the cape from the original video shoot.
That’s not all she had with her: in the middle of “Leather and Lace,” her duet partner Don Henley joined her on stage for the song. Her next guest got the most high pitched screeches from the audience, though: Harry Styles sang T0m Petty‘s vocals for “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”
Most artists usually get just three songs, but Nicks played four, closing her set with “Edge of Seventeen,” a song she noted she’s closed her solo shows with for her entire career.
David Byrne of Talking Heads presented Radiohead, a band who named themselves after a Talking Heads song. He expressed deep respect for the band musically, but also their innovations in the music industry, including releasing their Kid A album as an app, and In Rainbows as an album that fans could buy, but pay what they wanted to pay.
Radiohead drummer Phil Selway and guitarist Ed O’Brien were the only two members of the band present and accepted the induction on the entire band’s behalf. Selway’s took a moment in his speech to express what Radiohead means to him.
“It can be awkward and challenging… but I’m beyond proud of what we achieved together,” said Selway. “It wouldn’t have become what it is without the five of us together. I never take any of this for granted, so thank you, thank you so much.”
O’Brien said, “This is a big f—ing deal,” and seemed truly grateful for the honor. While the band clearly didn’t agree on whether or not to show up for the ceremony, it seems that the band is tight as ever. O’Brien closed out his speech by saying, “But my biggest thank you is for my brothers, Thom, Colin and Johnny. All musicians know and fans know: It’s an incredible journey. It’s truly extraordinary. We’re not doing run-of-the-mill stuff. It’s amazing…I want to thank them for their integrity, their authenticity, their commitment. None of these things you should take for granted…We could’ve done this without this love for one another but there’s such a deep, deep bond and it’s a beautiful thing. So thank you. I love you.”
There was no performance for the Radiohead segment, and soon, Simon LeBon and John Taylor of Duran Duran took the stage to talk about Roxy Music. LeBon called their music “Pulp science fiction.”
“This was more than just music,” Taylor said, “This was an entire genre unto itself.” He recalled going to see Roxy Music in Birmingham with Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes when he was 14. After the show, he said, “I realized what I wanted to be. I knew my destiny.”
Bryan Ferry thanked all the former members of the band, including absent inductee members drummer Paul Thompson and keyboardist Brian Eno, and a long list of ex-bass players and studio musicians who worked on the band’s albums. Guitarist Phil Manzanera and saxophonist Andy Mackay were present but didn’t speak, instead opting to let the music speak for itself.
Ferry is currently on a solo tour, and he, Manzanera and MacKay performed backed by Ferry’s band. They performed “In Every Dream Home A Heartache,” “Out Of The Blue” and partial versions of their biggest hits “Love Is The Drug,” “More Than This” and “Avalon,” before closing with an intense “Editions of You.”
Steven Van Zandt then introduced the six songs being inducted into the Singles category of the Rock Hall that was introduced at last year’s induction ceremony. The six new single inductees are: The Chantals‘ “Maybe”; The Champs‘ “Tequilla” (Van Zandt noted that this song was part of the massive contribution that the Latino community made to rock, along with Richie Valens‘ “La Bamba”); Barrett Strong‘s “Money (That’s What I Want)”; The Isley Brothers‘ “Twist and Shout”; The Shangri-Las‘ “Leader of the Pack”; and The Shadows of Night‘s “Gloria.”
Trent Reznor then walked onto the stage to introduce The Cure. He recalled hearing the Cure for the first time. “Immediately, they struck a deep chord in me,” said Reznor. “A lot of darkness I felt in my head was coming back through the speakers, and it blew my mind. Hearing this music, I felt connected and I didn’t feel so alone anymore.”
He noted that The Cure was one of the bands to define the look, the sound and the attitude of the ’80s.
“Their impact has been gigantic,” said Reznor. “They’ve been in and out of fashion so many times in the last four decades that they ended up transcending fashion itself. Though they might be a hip name to drop in 2019, this wasn’t always the case…But they never failed to attract a passionate, intelligent and loyal fanbase who always knew the truth: The Cure are one of the most unique, most brilliant, most heartbreakingly excellent rock bands the world has ever known.”
Perhaps one of the most impactful things Reznor said was about his change of heart toward the Rock Hall.
“I remember distinctly saying to myself, among other things, how can I even take this awards ceremony seriously if they’ll open their doors to X, Y and Z and not acknowledge the Cure?” said Reznor. “Not so long ago I get a phone call I wasn’t expecting, and, well, here we are. Let’s just say I’ve never been as happy to eat my words as I was tonight.”
Robert Smith and several other members of the band, past and present then took the stage. Smith seemed both uncomfortable and grateful, noting “that I’m bad at stories, I’m a terrible communicator.”
The current lineup of the band then took the stage with a roaring version of “Shake Dog Shake,” “A Forrest,” “Lovesong,” “Just Like Heaven” and “Boys Don’t Cry.”
Janelle Monae spoke about Janet Jackson, calling her the “Queen of Black Girl Magic.”
“Our fearless leader is one of the best selling artists in history. She’s sold 180 million albums worldwide…This gifted singer-songwriter producer dancer and actress is an icon. There is only one Janet Jackson,” said Monae
“Even at the earliest stages of her career, you could see she was a different kind of star. When Janet broke big with ‘Control,’ it was like a big bang.” Monae said that the song was akin to a mission statement: “I am in control of my life, my voice and my art.”
She called Rhythm Nation Jackson’s manifesto. “But tonight we’re calling it a ‘wo-manifesto.'”
“Janet has her own category,” she said. “There’s pretty, there’s beautiful, there’s fine… and then there’s Janet Jackson! Her artistry could not be contained by any genre. [She was] a fully carefree black woman and pop star whose impact cannot be quantified. She has a legacy all her own.”
She also noted that Jackson has been her phone screen saver for seven years. “When I was writing my Dirty Computer album, it was you to gave me the confidence to fully embrace me,” said Monae. “History is not complete without you Janet, that’s why we bow at your alter tonight.”
After a long standing ovation, Ms. Jackson took the stage. She noted that she originally didn’t want to be a singer; she wanted to go to college to be a lawyer, but her father encouraged her to be a singer.
“I saw, with the rest of the world, my family’s extraordinary influence on pop culture,” said Jackson. “I was determined to make it on my own, I wanted to stand on my own two feet… but never in a million years did I expect tonight.”
Jackson continued, “I also want to say a word to each and every fan. You’ve been with me every step of the way, through all my ups all my downs, I have never taken you for granted. I love you with all my heart.”
She also thanked her two-year-old son and mentioned that he sings his own melodies, which he wakes her up with every morning. Finally, she said, “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In 2020, please induct more women!”
Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles then presented the Zombies.
“My love affair of the Zombies may have started in the ’60s, but the 60-year-old me loves them even more,” said Hoffs. “I listen to the Zombies every day…I need a dose of their particular sonic alchemy, it never fails to inspire me. It reminds me of what it is to be alive, to be human and the power of music to connect us all.”
Colin Blunstone was visibly moved by Hoffs’ speech and noted that tonight marked 50 years to the day that their hit “Time of the Season” hit number one on the pop charts, and thanked younger artists for keeping their music alive, including Hoffs and the Bangles, Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters and Cage The Elephant.
The current touring version of the band, including founding members Rod Argent and Blunstone, then performed “Time of the Season,” “This Will Be Our Year,” “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There,” throwing in a bit of the Spencer Davis Group‘s “Gimme Some Lovin'” into the latter song.
Finally, Brian May of Queen walked on stage to present Def Leppard. He appropriately asked, “I would guess from tonight, 65 years after Bill Haley and the Comets’ ‘Rock Around The Clock,’ rock and roll is alive and well, am I right?”
May made a point to recognize Def Leppard’s lengthy career saying, “They endured being very fashionable and very unfashionable. They got attacked for making hit records!” But those hits, May pointed out are why they will be remembered for a long time: “After all of us are gone.”
“These guys are a magnificent rock group,” May simply stated.
Joe Elliott spoke movingly about the band’s original guitarist Pete Willis and emphasized his importance to the band in the early days. (Willis was not present at the event). He also remembered the band’s other original guitarist, the late Steve Clark, and said, “We love him and we miss him every day.”
“We’re solid, we’re appreciative of who we are and what we stand for.” Elliott added, laughing, “If alcoholism, car crashes and cancer couldn’t kill us, the ’90s had no f—ing chance!” He also thanked drummer Rick Allen, who got a standing ovation and visibly teared up. He thanked the rest of the band and said, “We’re not brothers, but we’re the closest thing to blood that this only child has ever known.” They played the last songs of the night: “Hysteria,” “Rock of Ages,” “Photograph” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”
After that, they were joined by May, Blunstone and Argent of the Zombies, Hoffs, Van Zandt and Ian Hunter for one last classic jam: “All The Young Dudes,” in a possibly unsubtle hint to the Rock Hall to induct Mott the Hoople (or at least “All The Young Dudes” as a single) next year.
An edited version of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will air on HBO on Saturday, April 27 at 8 PM ET.