7:30: We’re backstage at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 2013 Induction ceremonies. An edited version of the proceeding will be televised shortly, but you can live it in real time with HitFix. We’ll be reporting on the induction and what the artists who are inducted have to say when they come to the press room. This year’s class is Albert King, Donna Summer, Public Enemy, Rush, Randy Newman, Lou Adler, and Quincy Jones. Rock On.
7:45: After a long taped segment, the show opens with one of tonight”s inductees, Randy Newman, singing, as he must, “I Love L.A.” He”s joined by Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and John Fogerty.
7:55: We”re now in the taped piece for Newman, who, in my mind, is one of America”s best songwriters of any period. Don Henley, who”s inducting Newman, calls his induction “shamefully overdue,” nothing like griping right off the bat. Henley now makes another dig at the R&R Hall of Fame, calling it a “perplexing organization” for waiting 20 years after he was eligible to finally induct Newman. Inbetween he said some nice things about how magnificent a writer Newman is.
8:08: Randy Newman is trying to live up to live up to Henley’s calling him “the funniest man alive.” He spends five minutes praising Henley and then says he’s honored and he hopes the fact that he rushed his song earlier doesn’t mean he gets kicked out on his first night in.
8:15: Newman and Henley are now singing “I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It),” which is perfect because it’s about a musician way past his prime, who just keeps on performing anyway, because as he sings, “Who would be so cruel to tell me so?” Ah, that’s the fine sardonic wit we love from Randy. He did another song along on the piano before this, but it was too loud in the press room. It was “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today.”
8:20:Cheech & Chong are inducting Lou Adler, who go immediately into their drug schtick. Adler produced the Mamas & the Papas, Carole King, Johnny Rivers, Janis Joplin, The Who and many more, as well as the movie, “Up In Smoke.” Cheech just said he’s so happy that Adler is one of the first black people to get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He’s not black, but he dresses like a rapper (for tonight, he has on a white cap like the red one ReRun from “What’s Happening” wore). Now he’s primarily known as Lakers Fan # 1, right up there with Jack Nicholson. Cheech is also very happy to “indict” Adler into the Rock & Roll Hall.
8:30: Adler is talking about working with Sam Cooke (he and Herb Alpert co-wrote Cooke’s “(What A) Wonderful World,”with him, among others) He’s talking about the first time the Mamas & Papas auditioned for him. It’s a little shocking to realize that Michelle Phillips is the only one of the four who’s still alive. No disrespect to Adler, who is legendary, especially in L.A., and the Sunset Strip, but if he spends this much time on each act, this is going to be a very long speech. The first time he saw Cheech & Chong, “they were crawling on the floor, smelling each other’s butts,” from their dog routine. Adler calls Carole King one of the best songwriters ever, and then goes into a long list of thanks to many people who are, sadly, no longer with us, before thanking his seven sons.
8:39: Carole King is singing “So Far Away,” one of her and Adler’s hits. One of the photographers in the press room just asked “when do they bring up the cots?” Yep, it’s going to be a very long night. I’ve come to greatly appreciate live shows as they run quickly. Taped shows are the bane of any reporter’s existence.
8:42: Randy Newman and Don Henley just came backstage. I asked Newman if he thought he was ever getting in when year after year passed: “I just didn’t think about it. I just didn’t think I’d get in,” especially after there was no original interest. “I’d see the list [each year] and I’d see that I wasn’t on it. I didn’t think it would happen. Never. Or until I died, because why would I?” Seriously, Henley is right that it was a gross omission to not have Newman in earlier. When picking his songs for tonight, he said he definitely wanted to do “I’m Dead,” because he felt it was very appropriate. So true.
8:53: John Mayer is inducting blues great/guitar titan Albert King, describing his incredibly unique technique. We missed most of it because Newman and Henley were backstage. King died more than 20 years ago, so his granddaughter is accepting for him.She hopes King and Stevie Ray Vaughan are jamming together in heaven.Gary Clark Jr. is playing King’s classic “Oh Pretty Woman (Can’t Make You Love Me).” Great performance, he’s bending the notes just like King.Now he’s joined by Booker T. Jones, who produced King and wrote some of his hits, and John Mayer on “Born Under A Bad Sign.”
9:15: Donna Summer’s being inducted, but we’re missing it. Booker T. Jones is in the press room. I asked him his favorite Albert King memory: “My best memory was when I was asked to write for him. Jones and William Bell wrote the song, and Jones says he wasn’t sure about it (how hard to believe it that?), until they got into the studio. “We started the first four bars and he played that guitar lick. I was 19 years old and there I was playing with a blues god.”
9:16: Summer’s widower and his three daughters are accepting her award If Donna was here tonight, she’s be gracious, she’d be funny, she was a very funny girl,” he says, though adding she wasn’t “very big on awards…She was about what’s coming next,” so much so that he could never get her to record a standards album. He thanks the fans for their “care and prayer” over the last year since Summer died, and, appropriately, all of the DJs, club and otherwise.
9:22: Kelly Rowland, who inducted Summer, just asked Flavor Flav for a clock. Man, you know he’s going to grab that mic from Chuck D when Public Enemy’s induction comes. “I need to know what time it is… ” Jennifer Hudson, dressed in a glittery jumpsuit straight out of the disco era, and with big Summer-like hair, is singing “Bad Girls,” although she seemingly forgot the words the second verse. She’s now singing “Last Dance” to Flavor Flav who’s about to hijack the proceedings. Hudson seems off her game.Christina Aguilera was supposed to perform as well, but she’s a no show.
9:32: Oprah Winfrey is inducting Quincy Jones talking about what a genius he is and how he has 79 Grammy nominations, more than anyone who ever lived. She just went all Oprah on us, as she screamed “AAANNNNDDDD 27 GRAAMMMMMMMYYYYYSSSSSS!” I feel like she’s about to go into her favorite things.
9:39: “I didn’t want to get into the Hall of Fame too early,” Jones, who just turned 80, jokes. He’s talking about his early jazz days and how it was all about the music “We didn’t care about the money, we came from the school of caring about the best musician you could possibly be. I’m so happy to have come up through that school.” He’s rambling, but part of the gist is to embrace other cultures, but also to learn more about our own culture. “Every country knows more about our culture than we do.” Sounds like he’s about to plug his education program that he’s started. Now he’s called out “Flavor Flav… I know you’re my dawg.” My goodness, Flavor Flav is getting more love in the room tonight than any other artist. Quincy’s 15 minutes in to his speech. “I wish all of you to feel as such a wild animal as I do at 80.” And, he’s done.
9:55: Usher ‘s tribute to Jones kicks off with “Rock With You.” He’s dressed like Michael Jackson, but he’s not bringing the rhythm, surprisingly. It’s a little loungey. He’s recreating some of MJ’s moves, which he certainly excels at and has had a lot of practice.He jumps off the stage and hugs Q.Best performance tonight by far has been the Albert King segment with Gary Clark Jr.
10:00: We still have Heart, Public Enemy and Rush to go… and the all-star jam. We’re not getting out of here until after midnight.
10:10: Spike Lee’s inducting Public Enemy, as is Harry Belafonte,, but the sound is down because we’re waiting for Lou Adler. They just flashed to Chuck D, who looks like he’s in a Kevlar jacket. I asked him who he wishes he worked with James Taylor because he only got to work with him when working with Carole King. “I like Vampire Weekend actually. My 13-year old has turned me on to Avicii, who i think is a talented producer. A lot of people, but I’m happy with the ones that I worked with. I haven’t worked with a lot of artists; you can count them on two hands. I never really went looking for talent, but I kept my ears and eyes open all the time and talent seemed to come to me.”
10:17: Public Enemy just took the stage and there are a lot of them on stage, including the Bomb Squad, Professor Griff, and Hank Shocklee. Flavor Flav: “First of all Chuck, I want to thank you for all the years of writing good records. I now I made a contribution. With you brains, it started the state of Arizona to have a Martin Luther King birthday. I don’t know if there’s another rap group that ever put a holiday on the map.” Now he’s talking about how God chose Public Enemy to be here and to “be here to get this wonderful award.” Flavor Flav is matching Quincy for rambling. And this is why you have have 30-second clocks. He’s now bragging about becoming the most sampled voice in music. Chuck D just gave him the wrap-up sign. This is not going to end well, especially because he just made a joke about Hank Shocklee’s mom. He’s been wearing the same clock since 1987.”I’m not taking it off until I get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, so I just want to let you know, this is the last night you’ll see me wearing this particular clock.” They just flashed on a man in his audience with his head in his hands… We know how he feels.
10:29: Chuck D: Give me 150 seconds and I’ll give you a performance.” Does that mean he’s not going to talk for 12 minutes like Flavor Flav, who’s lurking in the background. Chuck D is going to punch him out. He’s talking about honored to be in the same Hall of Fame as Grand Master Flash and the Beastie Boys. “We also hail as influences, Kiss, Deep Purple and Chic,” Chuck D says, invoking three artists who are eligible but have not been inducted yet. “Let us not forget, we all come from the damn blues.” Chuck D is trying to bring in all the acts who are being inducted tonight and salute them, including Rush: “We’ll get a ‘Tom Sawyer’ and fuck it up.” Now that I’d like to see.
10:36: Public Enemy is performing “Bring the Noise,” but we’ve lost the sound because Harry Belafonte has come backstage.He’s so elegant. He’s taking no questions, just photos.
10:40: Chuck D is a man of his word. DJ Lord just played some of “Tom Sawyer,” and now “Love to Love You Baby,” and now the theme song to “The Bill Cosby Show,” which Quincy Jones wrote. You know what, it doesn’t really work, but it’s incredibly sweet. They’re now performing a high energy “Fight The Power” with a full band that has the crowd on its feet.All it’s missing is Tom Morello on guitar. that would be awesome. He’s in the audience.
10:47: It’s Heart’s turn. The Rock Hall is woefully weak on female representation. Chris Cornell is getting ready to induct them… keeping it Seattle real, but we have Oprah coming backstage so there’s a little bit of pandemonium here. It’s OPRAH!! The photogs seem more excited about her than any of the actual inductees who have come back…. Ah, she’s not coming. I’m about to see grown men cry.
10:57: Chris Cornell is still going on…and on… He called Ann Wilson’s voice a “force of nature.” I agree with that. I’d put her vocal on “Crazy On You” or “Barracuda” up against anyone in rock. “It is incredibly beautiful to be included in this eagle’s nest” of musicians, says Nancy Wilson.Growing up, she says, women had four options: “teachers, mothers, nurses or waitresses.” It’s easy to forget what pioneers The Wilson sisters are. There were very few role models for them.
11:05: Chuck D is backsage, but he’s concerned about cutting off Heart, and now he’s apologizing for leaving them out of his speech “after Flavor Flav was running for president of the world.” He talks about letting Flav “relish what is his day job. I have a good sense of rolling with it until the wheels fall off.” Flavor Flav’s job “is to make you go ‘What the Fuck’.” says Chuck D. Oh, I can barely hear Heart playing “Crazy On You,” which is one of my favorite songs ever. I just asked him who, from tonight’s inductees, does he wish he could play with and he said Donna Summer. I had the biggest crush on her.” He’s also excited to play with Rush, who he will play with in the final jam tonight.
11:14: “We’ve never been on the cover of Rolling Stone, we’ve never had a Grammy, we’ve never had a top 10 record, we’ve just rocked the fuck out. We were the band that no one wanted to play after.”
11:20: Heart is blazing through its third song, “Barracuda” You’re gonna burn, burn, burn to the wick, baby.”Finally, a little rock and roll at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
11:29: Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins are inducting Rush. Grohl talks about the great mysteries: Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison sightings, but says, the greatest mystery of them all is ” When the fuck did Rush become cool?” His speech sounds like it’s hilarious.. it’s turned down just enough for us to not be able to hear them, but we can hear peals of laughter. Chris Cornell is backstage talking about how he thinks there’s more integrity after tonight’s inductees like Heart, Public Enemy and Rush, “one of my favorite bands of all time.” In fact, he only took one question because he wanted to go see Rush play.
11:34: Even though I’m missing part of it because of folks coming backstage, it’s clear that Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins’ induction speech is killing it. Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready is backstage now. His favorite Heart song is “Crazy On You” “because it kicks ass. I went to Peaches Records when I was 13 and met them and they signed my record. They put their hands in the cement, they were huge and a very big influence on all of us.” When asked Pearl Jam’s chances for getting into the Rock Hall, he says he never knows, but says he’s rooting for KISS.
11:39: “I have to thank the most passionate, the most dedicated fan base around the globe,”says Geddy Lee, “whose insistence has most certainly led us here this evening.” I’d say so. Seldom has a band’s fans felt such a strong part in lobbying them in. Alex Lifeson’s entire speech is him says “Blah, blah, blah in impassioned tones.Now he’s imitated a phone conversation and still saying “Blah, blah, blah” Now he’s writing a song. He seems to be acting out the band’s history in Blah, blah. It is truly weird and, perhaps, brilliant, but I have to say as someone in the press room just said, “That’s Canadian humor for you…”
11:46: After making fun of Rush’s white suits from the ’70s, Taylor Hawkins, Dave Grohl and someone else I don’t recognize are now playing in said suits with long wigs on a Rush instrumental. They’re tearing it up actually. Now they’ve been joined by the real Rush, who are not in white suits. Rush is the quintessential boy’s band. I can honestly say I’ve never met a woman who was a huge Rush fan. They’re now playing “Tom Sawyer,” a song I’ve always liked. Neil Peart may be playing the biggest drum kit I’ve ever seen. Alex Lifeson is tearing it up on “The Spirit of the Radio.” His fingers are flying incredibly fast.
12:15 a.m.: I’m sure there is absolutely no one still reading this… how could there be. We’ve actually switched over to another day. The final jam with many of the artists, including Rush, Foos, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Heart, John Fogerty and others was “Crossroads.” While that was going on, Hank Shocklee came backstage and talked about Public Enemy’s legacy. The part he thinks everyone overlooked was its role as a collective. “When we got signed, no one at the label understood that. Rick Rubin couldn’t understand what Flavor Flav’s role in the unit was. It balances out Chuck’s hardness. When you listen to Chuck solo, it sounds one way, when you listen to Flav solo, it sounds one way. Together, they register a whole different frequency.. Flav brings the release, Chuck brings the pressure.”
12:25: Heart came backstage but only for pictures. Neil Peart is outside on a balcony off the press room smoking a cigarette. So close… we’ll see if he just slips in here before we shut it down for the night.
12:35: Yay! Rush is backstage. Alex Lifeson jumps off the podium and Geddy Lee and Neil Peart joke that they are now a duo. I ask Geddy Lee to expand about the band’s fans’ role in getting them inducted. Their fans have been extremely ardent. “I think the collective voice put pressure on the [Hall],” Lee says. “I had people from the Hall of Fame tell me it’s the quietest it’s been after the inductees were announced. They’re normally so besieged with angry emails.” Not this time… or at least not by Rush fans. I’m sure the still disgruntled Kiss fans kept their email inboxes filled. Neil Peart added that he thinks the fans’ loyalty comes in part from the fact that the band and its fans have grown up together. “We’ve evolved naturally and grown up and expressed that in our songs. They’re part of the team.”