Picture going to a wedding - but instead of all your friends and family in the room sitting at tables, there are all the musicians that you were ever a fan of. This is what it was like last night at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame 2003 induction ceremonies last night at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
My evening started off at cocktail hour where Andy Summers (Police guitarist) and I talked while Access Hollywood shot us for some of their B-roll footage. I told him that in 1983 I saw them at Shea Stadium and I was lucky enough to be sitting on the stage. (my Dad's friend managed the opening act - Joan Jett) I said there was this little girl next to me to my right - she must have been about 5 - and all during the show we were talking. Matt Dillon was on my left. At the end - she invited me to meet the band in their trailer and told me she was Andy Summers' daughter. Andy dug the story and proceeded to call his daughter, Layla, over to meet me. She too appreciated the story. She is now 24. Andy signed my Zenyatta Mondatta CD booklet.
Next, on to dinner (dinner is served first before the ceremonies begin.) Then, Mayor Bloomberg came out with an introductory speech that was somewhat funny - he incorporated song titles into some political humorÖok, it was a little funny and Jann Wenner spoke of the current U2 exhibit at the Hall in Cleveland and how it spans 2 decades of the band's career. We also paused for a moment of silence for all those musicians that have passed since the 2002 ceremony including Joe Strummer and Dee Dee Ramone.
Then - off we went. Billy Joel came out and inducted The Righteous Brothers. Billy was funny - adding that he is ok and told Sting that no tree is safe out on Long Island (referring to his car accident and how Sting is a big advocate of saving the trees and rain forests.) The Righteous Brothers sang "You've Lost that Lovin Feelin'" and thanked Phil Spector in their acceptance speech.
I talked to Neil Young for a minute about my all time favorite tune of his, "Pocahontas," and asked him if he knew if Brando ever heard the tune (Brando reference in the song) he said he never asked him.
Elvis Costello was brilliantly inducted by a very funny Elton John. We got "Pump it Up" from Elvis and the Attractions and a cover of "You Really Got a Hold on Me" among others.
Warner Brothers' Mo Austin was inducted first by Lorne Michaels and Paul Simon who had great things to say about Mo and how in the 70's at Studio 54 he was known as "Mo Blow". Paul then added that he remembered absolutely nothing about the 70's including the contract Mo signed him on in the basement of Studio 54. Then Neil Young came up to also induct and praise Mo. Neil first paused though and reminded us that yes tonight we are happy and celebrating, but that war sucks and that next week a lot of innocent people were going to die. It made him feel like he is in a gas guzzling SUV being driven by a drunk driver. Neil rules - really, I was talking to him and his entire body of work hit me at once and I almost fell over. After Mo's induction, Paul Simon did "Still Crazy After All These Years" and once again I felt so damn proud to be in NYC at that moment.
I went by Sting's table and he signed my CD booklet and we briefly talked about yoga and I asked him if he read the Yoga Sutras and if he refers back to them. He said yes to both. Sting is quite possibly the most beautiful human being in person. Guy is chiseled and his energy is striking. God bless that Yoga! I told him I saw him in '88 at Shea and he quickly corrected me and said it was 81. I was impressed - but then found out after looking at my stub that it was 83. I then went on to complete my CD booklet and went by Stewart Copeland's table who I cited as a major influence of mine being a fellow drummer. He said thanks and signed my CD and I congratulated him.
The Edge did a beautiful induction of The Clash and it was so incredibly touching to see Joe Strummer's wife accept his award. Mick Jones spoke beautifully of Joe as well.
Steven Tyler did a ripping induction of AC DC. Tyler recalled one time where he asked Angus about their philosophy and he couldn't understand a word Angus said. Tyler said he used to think it was cause he was so fucked up but soon realized this is simply how Angus talks. Brian Johnson accepted along with the band and late lead singer Bon Scott's nephews. Brain began the speech by quoting Bon's first verse of the song "Let There Be Rock." It was touching. The band then came roaring out into "Highway to Hell". Folks, this band is still by far the best sounding rock 'n' roll band ever. They get up, plug in and simply raise the roof. They were so tight I almost started crying. I was instantly brought back to my childhood and how in 1981 at the New Jersey Meadowlands I met these guys backstage. These guys know how to do it and have influenced so many others. They rule and deserved this night. Steven Tyler then joined them on "You Shook Me All Night Long." Pure high voltage rock 'n' roll with their thick Australian accents. Seeing Malcolm Young and Cliff Williams do their trademark walk in unison up to the front of the stage to sing the chorus - shit , this was it. I hope many of you reading this go see their gig tonight at Roseland. Best band ever - so tight. Brian Johnson - guy delivers with such a sledge hammer.
Gwen Stefani inducted the Police. She made a good speech. The band didn't have a whole lot to say - other than that there are no egos in the band (said by Andy) they just wanted to get to the much anticipated playing. Sting said they were simply going to do their biggest hits - "Roxanne" and "Every Breath You Take." I was really hoping for some more obscure oldies. Sting said Stewart didn't feel like these tunes had enough drums - but that they were going to play them anyway and asked Stewart what he was going to play? Stewart's kit was a TAMA circa 80's - green sparkle with the same 4 roto toms he had back then. Guy is by far one of the best drummers ever. He sounded incredible. As I remembered in 1983 when I last saw them, Stewart's entire kit was shaking cause of the force he was using. Guy is a bull behind the kit holding the snare stick with the traditional grip. I swear he was about to pound the snare and toms into the ground. They went into "Roxanne" then into "Message in a Bottle" and closed with "Every Breath You Take" and were joined by Gwen and Steven Tyler on vocals, Stewart broke his snare drum by the end of the last song. He is so good I don't know how any drummer cannot cite him as an influence. I loved that despite the broken snare head, he was still beating the shit out of it. There was no all-star jam after the Police - just a lot of mingling with everyone and a lot of photo opps.
Besides the performances, my other highlight was going to the men's room and seeing Sting and Paul Simon there. This is what kind of night it was. People were everywhere. I was watching Elvis Costello and Gwen Stefani was in front of me. Or I was watching AC DC and Tim Robbins was next to me.
Other faces in the house: Rob Thomas, Bob Gruen, Jimmy Fallon, Ric Ocasek/Paulina, Rick Rubin, Rita Wilson, Martin Short.
This was truly a treat to see this in person and be amongst the greatest of the greats. I will never forget this evening and the intimacy of it. Look for the VH-1 one hour edited up version of this probably airing this week. But beware - this edited, grotted up version never does this evening justice.
Congrats to all the inductees!! Especially Elvis, AC DC, The Clash and The Police! Thanks for all the great music and we'll see you and Joey in Cleveland!