Article 1994-01-20 New York City, NY

Rock Greats Hail, Hail Their Own At Spirited Hall of Fame Ceremony

A star-packed audience at the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame heard Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead reveal, "I've hated tie-dye all my life."

Unlike their many fans, who are known for wearing tie-dye, the Dead wore tuxedos to take their place among other rock legends at the Hall's ninth annual induction ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The head Dead, Jerry Garcia, did not attend, but a life-size cardboard cutout of him served as a stand-in.

In presenting the award to the group, Bruce Hornsby, their occasional keyboardist and a star in his own right, said: "There were many times I'd be on stage with these guys and I wouldn't know what the hell was happening."

In an evening shot through with heartfelt tributes, wise-cracking irreverence and great music, the Dead shared the spotlight with other new Hall of Fame members, including Elton John, Rod Stewart and John Lennon, who become the first three British solo artists to enter the hall. Though the Beatles were inducted as a group in 1988, Mr. Lennon was inducted on his own last night for his contributions after he left the group. Also inducted were Bob Marley, the reggae pioneer and superstar who died in 1981; Duane Eddy, an early guitar hero known for his unusual "twang" sound, and the legendary rock bands the Animals and the Band.

Chicago bluesman Willie Dixon was inducted in the early influences (or pre-rock) category, and Johnny Otis, composer of the late 50's classic "Willie and the Hand Jive" was cited in the nonperformer category for his contributions to rhythm-and-blues.

About 1,200 music-business figures and performers paid $1,250 and $1,500 a ticket to attend the ceremony, a lavish black-tie dinner and closing jam session. They saw not only most of the living greats being honored — Mr. Stewart who was still in Los Angeles because of Monday's earthquake — but also Jeff Beck, Etta James, Chuck Berry, Bono, Axl Rose, Eric Clapton and others step up to the dais to present awards and pay tribute to fellow departed musicians. Even Paul McCartney appeared to present Mr. Lennon's award to his widow, Yoko Ono, and his sons, Julian and Sean. He was a no-show in 1988, when the Beatles were honored, at the time citing "business differences."

Mr. Beck, accepting for Mr. Stewart, said he had written notes for a speech about the artist on "a sick bag" and added: "You can have the schmaltzy speech if you like, or the truth about Rod Stewart." He said backstage later that it was the singer's "hairy throat" that caught his attention back in the late 60's, when Mr. Stewart became front man for Mr. Beck's band. Linking Jamaica and Ireland

In presenting Mr. Marley's award to his widow, Rita, and their son Ziggy, Bono gave a poetic speech comparing Jamaica to Ireland as islands that had both been under the colonial yoke. He described Mr. Marley's music a "sexy revolution and the artist as "Dr. King in dreads." He said he "wanted everything at the same time and he was everything at the same time."

Mr. Rose, of the group Guns n' Roses, introduced Elton John. Mr. Rose said: "For myself as well as many others, no one has been there more for inspiration than Elton John. When I first heard 'Bennie and the Jets' I knew at the time I had to be a performer."

Members of the Hall of Fame must have made their first recordings 25 years before they are voted in, so this year's ceremony harked back to 1968, when the United States was in the throes of civil unrest and Vietnam, and radio stations were playing the Beatles' "Hey Jude," Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay" and Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson."

A committee of historians and musicologists selects nominees. More than 600 industry professionals, producers, broadcasters, music journalists and performers then cast ballots. In most years, the seven top vote-getters gain induction; this year, there is an eighth inductee, under a provision that allows the Hall of Fame's board to honor someone who has missed election in seven consecutive years. Historical Perspective

The 25-year time limit was intended to provide historical perspective for those who choose Hall of Fame members and to free them from what is viewed as having the commercial nearsightedness that affects other music-business awards.

But given the extraordinary length of some rock careers, the 25-year rule can still be too short. The Grateful Dead and Mr. Stewart are still going full steam, and Mr. John, who recently released a new album, "Duets" (MCA), hasn't slowed much, either. The Dead was the top-grossing concert act of 1993, and Mr. Stewart wasn't far behind. His latest album, "Unplugged … and Seated" (Warner Brothers), was a huge international hit. Several members of the Band — Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson — have also begun playing together again, though they have not been able to lure Robbie Robertson, the group's lead guitarist, back with them.

Mr. Eddy may have described the evening — part party, part jam session, part nostalgia trip — most simply.

In accepting his honor, he said, "This is a great night, a hell of a party and a great honor."

By Sheila Rule via The New York Times.

Hall of Fame or Shrine to Nostalgia?

THIS IS REALLY NO TIME TO BE cynical about the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame. The building in Cleveland, so long in the planning stages, has been under construction since last June; a chief curator who has strong credentials in documenting popular music, James Henke (a longtime Rolling Stone editor), has been hired. But the ninth annual induction ceremonies, which took place on Jan. 19 at the Waldorf-Astoria, only made it clearer that the Hall of Fame will have difficulties rising above the tensions that are at the heart of rock music: between art and commerce, between rebellion and accommodation, between impetuous youth and established institutions.

At best, the Hall will finally tell the story of late-20th-century music from a rockers' perspective. But younger fans may see it as one last attempt by baby boomers to impose their now outmoded esthetics on rock.

The annual event always features public reconciliations; this year, Paul McCartney presented the Hall's award for John Lennon's solo career to Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and their son Sean, after he had stayed away from the Beatles' own induction in 1988, when he cited "business differences." McCartney has also patched things up with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, and the three plan to record together for a documentary on the Beatles.

The induction ceremony, like the Hall, tries to give rock some long-term memory, declaring that the music proceeds by evolution rather than revolution and that each generation reveres its predecessors — hey, no Oedipal conflict here. In its early years, the current stars presenting the awards would admit where they stole some of their best licks; then the new members of the Hall would graciously pretend they didn't resent other people cashing in on their original ideas. At the end, they would all perform together in an anarchic jam session, as if insisting that the music is a continuing tradition.

Lately, as the Hall has begun to produce its ceremony for eventual television broadcast, the jam sessions have grown considerably less spontaneous. This year, performers were reading lyrics off a Teleprompter, so Axl Rose and Bruce Springsteen didn't need to memorize the non sequiturs of Lennon's "Come Together," as millions of fans have. A sense of shared heritage dissolved into a pro forma tribute.

The Hall's main mission is to create a rock canon: Here are its most important figures, its founding fathers (and a few foremothers). The implicit promise is to create a narrative of rock history that's different (and more significant) than a simple tally of the Top 10, that recognizes influential people whether or not they were hitmakers. But to do so, the Hall had to assume that there were tributaries — blues, country, jazz, Tin Pan Alley, rhythm-and-blues — running into a well-defined mainstream, which the Hall's choices would define year by year.

Actually, rock has always been more contentious than that, sometimes defining itself in opposition to pop (whatever that is), often running along many separate but parallel tracks, generally sneering at old fogies. Lately it has been growing more tribalistic, not less. And the tribe that chooses members of the Hall of Fame, a pool of music-business and music-media people, seems to be dominated by well-meaning but often myopic baby boomers. Younger fans might wonder whether the Hall will simply institutionalize boomers' tame, "lite radio" tastes rather than honor rock's noise and icon-busting.

At the Waldorf, the most youthful rocker on stage was Dave Pirner, 29, of Soul Asylum, who presented this year's award to the Animals. Groups that arrived in the 1990's were absent. Perhaps it was merely an aberration — last year, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder sang with the surviving members of the Doors — but it may also signify current rock's increasing lack of interest in any kind of rock pantheon. All the past is just a sample away; why act so reverent?

The Hall's rule that its new members must have been active for at least 25 years was intended to shield choices from current commercial fads, and for a while it worked; pioneers like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, the Everly Brothers and Little Richard got what they deserved. But the longevity of rock careers means the 1960's are still with us, and some of this year's choices — Rod Stewart, Elton John — honored continuing commercial visibility as much as overwhelming influence. Were the Animals really more important than eligible candidates like the Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa or George Clinton? With the Beatles already in the Hall, does John Lennon need his own citation?

Of course, Beatles nostalgia is the ultimate baby-boomer pop preoccupation. Backstage, McCartney was grilled about the news of the reunion of the surviving Beatles, and he tried manfully to lower expectations. He said the impending sessions were only for "a little incidental music" and "a bit of fun," and he said that the group wouldn't try to "better the Beatles."

Why not? True, the Beatles were a hard act to follow; like a well-planned Chinese banquet, they offered a perfect balance of sweet (McCartney), spicy (Lennon), sour (Harrison) and salty (Starr). But why should any working musician be so daunted by history that he (or she) gives up in advance? A true rock Hall of Famer ought to blast away now, and let posterity judge.

By Jon Pareles via The New York Times.
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