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The 34th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony took place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Friday, honoring the Cure, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Roxy Music, and the Zombies. While the evening had its serious moments, the event got off to an upbeat start thanks to the delightful Nicks. The witchy woman paraded out in her original “Stand Back” shawl that she bragged was “worth every bit of that $3,000” she paid for it in 1983; delivered a charmingly rambling acceptance speech (“If you ever need a keynote speaker … I am your girl,” she quipped, joking that she’d actually majored in communications in college); and then in the press room, when answering Yahoo Entertainment’s question about her friendship with her induction presenter/“really good friend”/Hall of Fame duet partner Harry Styles, she accidentally identified Styles as being from the boy band ‘NSync, not One Direction.
“I’m never gonna live that one down, I know,” Nicks groaned — and sure enough, the funny flub was going viral on TMZ within minutes.
Styles, who confidently took on the Tom Petty role in “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” during Nicks’s opening performance (which also featured a lovely “Leather and Lace” duet with Don Henley) clearly had so much love for his “magical gypsy godmother” that he surely easily forgave her ‘NSync error. During his speech for Nicks, he revealed that Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” was the first song he learned all the words to as a child, and he rhapsodically described Nicks as a “rock ‘n’ roll Nina Simone,” a woman “responsible for more running mascara, including my own, than all the bad dates in history combined,” and “more than a role model; she’s a beacon to all of us.” When Nicks finally came out to deliver her own speech, Styles dropped to his blue-velvet-suited knees and bowed down, as if praying to a goddess.
In between motormouthed anecdotes about Lindsey Buckingham’s dirty dishes and hanging out with Tom Petty, Nicks took a moment during her speech to acknowledge the importance of the occasion, as the first woman to enter the Hall twice (she was inducted with Fleetwood Mac in 1998). “What I hope what I am doing is opening up the door for other women to go, ‘Hey man, I can do it,’” she explained.
While Nicks’s induction was celebratory, Radiohead’s was the downer of the evening, as the only members of the avant garde British group to show up were guitarist Ed O’Brien and drummer Phil Selway. There was also no live performance; anyone hoping that presenter David Byrne, of Talking Heads, might join the attending band members for some sort of one-night-only “Talking Radioheads” supergroup must have been especially disappointed. Still, Byrne — whose self-described “goofy Tex-Mex song” from 1986’s True Stories album inspired Radiohead’s name — spoke glowingly of the mostly absent band, and he cracked one the best jokes of the night: “‘Paranoid Android’ was considered the new ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ whatever that means. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie, and seeing who will play Thom [Yorke].”
Selway and O’Brien, in their brief but sincere speeches, acknowledged their missing bandmates, with the former saying, “I’m beyond proud of what the five of us have achieved together, and I know that Radiohead wouldn’t have become what it is without the five of us,” and the latter adding, “My biggest thank-you is for my brothers, Thom, Colin [Greenwood], and Johnny [Greenwood]. … 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.”
The most flowery and eloquent presenters’ speech of the night came courtesy of New Romantics Duran Duran — whose frontman, Simon Le Bon, described Roxy’s sound as “pulp science fiction” and whose bassist, John Taylor, declared Roxy singer Bryan Ferry “a synonym for cool” and “one of the most restless spirits of 20th century art.” Taylor also shared an adorable story about spying on a Roxy Music soundcheck with his childhood friend/future Duran bandmate Nick Rhodes when he was 14, then later following Roxy back to their Holiday Inn; later, when Taylor listened back to his secret recording of that concert in his suburban bedroom in Birmingham, England, he “realized what I wanted to be. I knew my destiny. … Without Roxy Music, there really would be no Duran Duran.”
Ferry’s acceptance speech on behalf of Roxy Music for the “unexpected honor” was much less extravagant: It was basically a very long list thanking the lineup’s many band members over the years (including the absent Brian Eno), as well as the many artists and photographers behind the group’s iconic album covers. However, when Ferry reunited with original Roxy members Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay for the first time in eight years to perform an epic six-song set, it was easy to understand, even 40-plus years later, why this band had had such a life-changing effect on the young Taylor and Le Bon.
Still, it was Duran Duran’s ‘80s new wave peers, the Cure, that elicited the biggest reaction from the Barclays crowd Friday. Presenter Trent Reznor’s speech for the legendary alternative group, which he described as “one of the most unique, most brilliant, most heartbreakingly excellent rock bands the world has ever known,” was nothing less than reverent, and it seemed to capture the mood in the room regarding this long-overdue honor. “I should make a full disclosure at this point. I think it’s only right for me to admit that I’ve been, let’s say, ambivalent about the existence of certain award ceremonies. I’ve perhaps been in the habit of questioning their motivations with a certain degree of cynicism. In fact, 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.”
Smith, who accepted the award flanked by nine past and present Cure band members (including group co-founder Lol Tolhurst) while receiving a standing ovation, was visibly emotional after hearing Reznor’s speech, but was more reticent when it was his turn to speak. “There’s obviously been a lot of people who’ve played a part in the Cure story, for better or worse. And I’m not going to stand here and read off a load of names because that’s … I shouldn’t say too much, really, but that’s quite tedious. And I’m no good with stories. I’m a very bad communicator!”
However, Smith did make a special mention of “much-missed” former drummer Andy Anderson, who died of cancer last month and was strangely not on the list of inducted Cure members, and he later explained in the press room that the band’s surprising decision to include the relatively obscure 1984 track “Shake Dog Shake” on their Hall of Fame setlist was a tribute to Anderson, whose tribal drumming helped shape the album featuring that psychedelic song, The Top. Smith also decorated his guitar with a sticker honoring the late drummer.
Janet Jackson, who was inducted by Janelle Monáe, was the other honoree of the night, besides Radiohead, who didn’t perform at the ceremony — a disappointment, considering that her recent “State of the World” comeback tour has been so well-received. But she and Monae both made impact with their speeches. Monae, wearing a seemingly Rhythm Nation-inspired military outfit and confessing that a photo of Jackson has been the screensaver on her phone for the past seven years, described Jackson as the “queen of black girl magic” and declared Jackson’s “womanist statement” album Control “one of the greatest breakout moments in music history.” Said Monáe: “I remember the first time my momma showed me a clip of our Janet Jackson. I saw this resplendent, assertive, talented girl with an afro puff on the top of her head. And it was just so refreshing to see someone who looked like me and millions of other little black girls around the world.”
Speaking to the audience, Jackson referenced her family multiple times — the Jackson 5 were inducted into the Hall in 1997; Michael Jackson was inducted solo in 2001 — although she avoided making any mention of the recent Leaving Neverland controversy. “I witnessed, along with the rest of the world, my family’s extraordinary impact on popular culture. Not just in America, but all around the globe, the entire globe. As the youngest in the family, 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 to follow in their footsteps. Tonight, your baby sister has made it in!” she said with a sly grin. She went on to thank everyone from her producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to her longtime fan Questlove to her many choreographers (including Paula Abdul), but concluded her speech with a call to action that surely Stevie Nicks would get behind: “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, please, 2020: Induct more women!”
Original British Invasion band the Zombies got in this year on their fourth nomination, and making the occasion extra-poignant for them was the fact that the ceremony exactly coincided with the 50th anniversary of their biggest single, “Time of the Season,” hitting No. 1. Presenter Susanna Hoffs gushed about “watching them inspire a whole new generation of music lovers,” and band founder Rod Argent namechecked Zombies successors ranging from Dave Grohl and Paul Weller to the Lemon Twigs and Portugal. The Man. The band then charged through an organ-enhanced four-song set that proved their power hasn’t diminished in the past 50 years.
Finally, the evening ended with the induction of the band that had been through a lot to make it to this milestone: Def Leppard. “I’ve got to say something about their endurance. You know the Def Leppard band is a family, an evolving family,” said presenter and Leppard frontman Joe Elliott’s dear friend of 35 years, Queen’s Brian May. “The loss of drummer Rick Allen’s arm in 1984 was a massive shock and setback, which would’ve ended the career of a lesser band. … Similarly the loss of the fantastic riffmeister, Steve Clark, in 1991 — what a great player, what a wonderful player. I think many people thought that could be a mortal blow to the band, and it could have been for lesser human beings.”
While Allen could be seen visibly tearing up during Elliott’s acceptance speech, Elliott addressed the band’s tragic past with humor. “It’s true, it did seem that every time we made some musical headway, life would knock us back down somewhat. … But we survived and came out the other side stronger people,” Elliott said. “And that’s the way it’s always played out throughout our career. So let’s face facts here: If alcoholism, car crashes, and cancer couldn’t kill us, the ‘90s had no f***ing chance!”
Def Leppard brought the night to a close with an all-star finale that included the Zombies’ Argent and Colin Blunstone, Hoffs, Steven Van Zandt, and surprise guest Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople singing Mott’s Bowie-penned “All the Young Dudes.” In a recent interview for Yahoo Entertainment, Elliott rallied for Mott the Hoople’s future Hall induction, so perhaps his performance was a foreshadowing of next year’s ceremony.
This year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony will air on HBO on April 27. Below is the full setlist from the night.
“Leather and Lace” (with Don Henley)
“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (with Harry Styles)
“Edge of Seventeen”
“In Every Dream Home a Heartache”
“Out of the Blue”
“Love Is the Drug”
“More Than This”
“Editions of You”
“Shake Dog Shake”
“Just Like Heaven”
“Boys Don’t Cry”
“Time of the Season”
“This Will Be Our Year”
“Tell Her No”
“She’s Not There”
“Rock of Ages”
“Pour Some Sugar on Me”
“All the Young Dudes” (with Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Susanna Hoffs, Steven Van Zandt, and Ian Hunter)
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