On March 11, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted its nominees for 2003.
In the down and dirty dive bar surroundings of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, the Clash, the Police, AC/DC, Elvis Costello and the Righteous Brothers were allowed into the Hall’s prestigious ranks, along with several session musicians
who made the classic hits of Elvis and Motown memorable.
The ceremony that followed proved what we’ve known for a long time – rock and roll needs to be saved.
In his acceptance speech, the Clash’s Mick Jones accepted his award “on behalf of all the garage bands that might have never dreamed of this kind of moment.”
Five minutes later, Elton John inducted Elvis Costello into the hall of fame.
Elton John – a man who never met a garish costume he didn’t like, who once sang a mawkish, pandering tribute to Princess Diana that was inescapable for a few long months in 1997 – was inducting the man got banned from NBC for 12 years for insulting commercial radio.
It’s pretty simple – one man is rock and roll, the other man isn’t.
The session musicians honored were Benny Benjamin, Floyd Cramer and Steve Douglas.
Benjamin was Motown’s first drummer, the man who kept up the backbeats that propelled the Vandellas and the Supremes.
Cramer played piano with Elvis Presley and toured with the King for 20 years.
Douglas was the saxophonist in record producer Phil Spector’s “Wrecking Crew”, and played on everything from the Beatles’ “Let It Be” to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”.
These are men who once performed for next to nothing, anonymously playing in dingy clubs, all in the name of getting by.
Strangely enough, these men weren’t the inductees mentioned in the newspaper articles about the Hall of Fame.
Real rock and roll will never make it into the Hall of Fame. Puff Daddy will be in, while Eric B. and Rakim will never make it.
The Eagles made it, but not Tom Waits.
The Mamas and the Papas, a band best known for their singer choking to death on a ham sandwich, were inducted in 1998.
But Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, a man who jumped out of coffins onstage in the 1950s and toured non-stop until his death (and fathered 61 children before that),
never made it to the Hall of Fame.
But Rod Stewart did.
Regardless of his work with the Faces, Stewart is still the man responsible for “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”.
In a proper world, Stewart would be stoned to death instead of receiving accolades.
In the end, the whole idea of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is ridiculous.
After all, the only time anything ever makes it into a museum is when it is dead.
Rock and roll is the rapper selling tapes out of the trunk of his car to get gas money home.
It’s the hard-core punk band playing in a dingy squat, the guitar player doing a drunken Keith Richards impersonation on a Tuesday night, before an audience too tired to care.
That is what rock and roll is all about – passion, fire, energy and release.
Not Waldorf-Astoria dinners.
Neal Ungerleider can be reached at email@example.com.