The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony returned to its hometown of Cleveland for the first time in 12 years last night to welcome the latest class of classic artists, early influences, and sidemen. It was a seriously diverse group with metal, funk, doo-wop, rockabilly, r&b, and hip-hop all represented.
For the first time the public was invited to attend and the balconies were chock full of fans, many of them there to see heavy metal titans Metallica take their place on the venerable roster.
The four hour and forty minute show was broadcast on Fuse live in its entirety. ("Sound Effects" had a live show in Boston to attend so we time-shifted and boy are we glad we got to zip through the commercials.)
Little Anthony and the Imperials
"Give yourself a treat, go see them somewhere because they are the bomb." - Smokey Robinson.
Robinson kept his induction speech short and heartfelt talking sweetly about the brotherhood shared by his group the Miracles and this Brooklyn vocal group who still sounded impressively tight 50 years on, singing a trio of their harmonious hits including "Tears on My Pillow."
"For girls with guitars, myself included, Wanda was the beginning of rock and roll." - Rosanne Cash
Cash gave one of the night's most touching and thoughtful speeches, detailing "early influence" Jackson's pioneering path and her ability to retain her femininity while competing as an equal in a serious boys club that included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Jackson, looking fabulous and sounding tough as ever, was a treat as she ripped through her growly rockabilly hits like "Let's Have a Party" strumming her hot pink guitar, backed by Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra.
Shaffer ushered this keyboard legend into the Hall with a very savvy induction speech, stringing together his famous piano and organ parts - from songs like "When a Man Loves a Woman," "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman," and "Cry Like a Baby" - perfectly illustrating why this sideman and songwriter was such an integral part of the songs on which he played.
"Anybody who started work with Sam Cooke is alright with me." - Ronnie Wood
Wood rambled on a bit, at times incoherently but he rightly extolled the virtues of this Cleveland homeboy. Womack has an impressive list of credits as a guitarist (Sam Cooke, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone), songwriter (the Rolling Stones had their first U.K. number one with "It's All Over Now" and the J. Geils Band famously rocked out "Looking for a Love"), and solo perfomer ("Across 110th Street," "If You Think You're Lonely"). He sang the latter two with great grit and grace.
"If you grew up on hip-hop like I did they are the Beatles." - Eminem
Given his way with words when he's on his game it was no shock that Eminem did a bang-up job honoring his childhood heroes, even getting a little choked up in the process remembering his pre-teen self skipping school and running off to the store to buy "Tougher Than Leather" on cassette the day it came out.
The late Jam Master Jay got a lovely tribute from his proud mama and Rev Run got a little bit of his preacher on as he repeatedly expressed gratitude for "so much help, so many smart people." He also thanked his brother, Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons, for the brilliant ideas he came up with, apparently while drinking screwdrivers and smoking weed. DMC gave props to his adoptive parents and offered himself as a symbol of hope for foster children. Although few expected the surviving duo to perform it was disappointing- and inexplicable- that no one paid live tribute to them especially since Eminem and Joe Perry were both in the house.
DJ Fontana and Bill Black
Max Weinberg and Gary Tallent of the E Street Band could've taken a cue from Shaffer as their induction of these Elvis sidemen was heartfelt but l-o-o-o-ng and kind of dry. Fontana and Black's kids on the other hand were funny and poignant, with Black's daughter pointing out that the drummer and bassist should always be cherished since they "were the music behind the voice that shook the world."
"He leaves us mere mortals just wondering and having so much respect for him."- Jimmy Page
Page, a dear friend of Beck's since they were teens, paid both lovely lip service and actual musical service during a fiery jam of "Immigrant Song" that, along with "Beck's Bolero," proved that the guitar god, who plays the House of Blues on April 13, retains his singular tone and dexterity. An extremely humble Beck said "I've been naughty all my life and I don't deserve this."
"Whatever the intangible elements are that make a band the best, Metallica has them." - Flea
The voluble Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist obviously loves Metallica and that came through in his thoughtfully crafted homage, especially the part dedicated to late bassist Cliff Burton. And how classy was it of the band members to invite Burton's dad Ray and Jason Newsted to come up and accept along with them? (Apparently, they also invited original guitarist Dave Mustaine but he declined.) I also liked James Hetfield's not-at-all subtle directive to the Hall of Fame folks to include more metal pioneers including bands like Deep Purple, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. The band, including Newsted, performed horns-up versions of "Master of Puppets" and "Enter Sandman."
Unfortunately, instead of several tunes featuring a variety of participants celebrating all of the inductees, the finale jam was a one off of "Train Kept A-Rollin.'" The line-up was certainly impressive though with a phalanx of guitars -Page, Beck, Wood, Hammett, Hetfield, and Joe Perry- a trio of bassists- Newsted, Rob Trujillo, and Flea - and Lars Ulrich on drums.
About Sound Effects
ContributorsSarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.
James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.
Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.
Julian Benbow is a staff writer at the Boston Globe, covering sports and music.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.