Green Day, Joan Jett and more show their love for rock ‘n’ roll at induction … – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CLEVELAND — Believe it or not, there were very few Paul Butterfield Blues Band T-shirts seen in and around the Public Hall in Cleveland where eight new members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were inducted Saturday night.
The multi-colored hair and Green Day shirts indicated that most fans out were looking for a glimpse of the pop-punk band from Berkeley, Calif., which closely follows another ’90s legend, Nirvana, into the Rock Hall.
The sold-out show got off to a punk rock start, all right, in the hands of a stunningly youthful Joan Jett (at 56) and the Blackhearts playing it fast and loud and leathery on “Bad Reputation,” soon to be joined by Dave Grohl for the Runaways hit “Cherry Bomb” and Tommy James (a Michigan rocker who ending up breaking out of Pittsburgh with the Shondells) for his classic “Crimson and Clover,” with Miley Cyrus jumping in on gang vocals.
Green Day and Jett were there to be inducted along with soul man Bill Withers, the late Lou Reed and two bands with deceased frontmen, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble and the Butterfield band. The 5 Royales received the Early Influence Award and the beloved Ringo Starr, accepting the Award for Musical Excellence, completed the set of Beatles going in as both band members and solo artists.
Ms. Cyrus, a pop tart and a controversial choice to induct the Blackhearts, took the podium as the first presenter with a jarring opening line: “I’m gonna start this induction with the first time I wanted to have sex with Joan Jett.”
She described walking into a hotel room while they were doing “Oprah” together and seeing Jett, who was with her partner Kenny Laguna, running around the room “spraying orange-smelling cleaner to mask the smell of pot.” She described another instance of Jett, whom she praised as a “badass” and “Superwoman,” nearly creating an international incident by saying a prayer on the men’s side of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
Jett, seeing the standing ovation, said, “I was really gonna try not to cry and be tough but that was overwhelming.” She acknowledged her late parents, and said, “Hey mom and dad, did you ever think that Christmas guitar would lead to this?” She talked eloquently of rock ‘n’ roll providing a voice for dissent and revolution.
“I come from a place where rock ‘n’ roll means something. It’s more than music, more than fashion, more than a pose. It’s a subculture of rebellion, frustration, alienation and the groove. … Rock and roll ethic is my entire life.”
Backstage, she was asked about going in with her second major band. “I never really thought about the awards in general, so it wasn’t like ‘Should I go with the Blackhearts? Should I go in by myself? Should I go in with the Runaways? I’m just very honored that I’m in.”
Fall Out Boy singer Patrick Stump started the Green Day honors asking “What is punk rock?” and then issuing a sort of apology for Green Day being his favorite punk band. But that’s certainly true of a lot of kids who came of age in the ’90s listening to “Dookie” and learning how to play those songs.
He further explained backstage that with the ’70s punk bands having faded, “without Green Day, none of the rest of it happens on a major scale” — “on a major scale” being the operative words, because Green Day is all about major scale.
Drummer Tre Cool said when the band started out, they didn’t think they would end up where they are now. “We thought it would take another year or two.”
Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, in a black tux and bow tie with spiky black hair, fought back tears thanking his family for surrounding him with all those records. “My house was like rock ‘n’ roll high school,” he said.
Looking out at the crowd, which included Jerry Lee Lewis sharing a table with Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono, he said, “My record collection is actually sitting in this room. The fact that I got to hear an album like ‘Horses’ by Patti Smith … and there you are.” With a nod to Jett, he said, “I love rock ‘n’ roll, and I love it for the rest of my life.”
After the speeches, Green Day was as dressed up as it’s ever been to play “American Idiot,” When I Come Around” and “Basket Case.”
Punk poet Smith, inducting Mr. Reed, spoke of dancing to the transformative Velvet Underground and of her relationship with the late rocker being part friendly, part antagonistic. “Everything Lou taught me, I remember,” she said and broke into tears before saying, “Thank you for brutally, benevolently injecting your poetry into music.”
In accepting for him, wife Laurie Anderson said he taught her to love. “Lou understood pain and he understood beauty, and he knew these two were often intertwined,” she said. He also led multiple hollers of “Louuu!” The Reed musical honors went to Karen O and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs doing “Vicious” and Beck doing “Satellite.”
Stevie Wonder praised inductee Withers saying that “great singers let you feel every word they sing and express.” The 76-year-old Mr. Withers, who retired from music decades ago, took the stage, saying, “Stevie Wonder inducting me into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is like a lion opening the door for a kitty cat.”
His speech was like improv comedy, wisecracking, “I’m honored to be this year’s youngest solo performing inductee — don’t hate me because I’m precocious.” He also joked, “Who else came here with a Legend and a Wonder?” The Legend was John Legend who followed Mr. Wonder’s moving “Ain’t No Sunshine” with a funky “Use Me” and then joined him on “Lean on Me.” Mr. Withers was content to be a part of the backup vocal choir.
Peter Wolf inducted the Butterfield Blues Band, who were represented by a scorching jam from Tom Morello and Zac Brown. Backstage, Mr. Morello, of Rage Against the Machine, said of the Butterfield Band, “They were musicians first and stars second. I see that in Zac and I aspire to that as well.”
Butterfield band member Elvin Bishop, in — what else? — overalls, said when he first met those guys he was “square as a pool table and twice as green.” He was thrilled to be part of a “butt-kicking band” that pushed heavy blues on the world.
And furthering the subject of heavy blues, John Mayer got the honors of inducting and jamming for SRV, the late Texas guitar hero who schooled him and countless contemporaries on the blues.
“There’s an intensity to Stevie’s guitar playing that only he could achieve, still to this day,” he said. “It’s a rage without the anger, it’s devotional, it’s religious. It was as otherworldly as Hendrix, but whereas Hendrix was coming down from outer space, Stevie came up from below the ground.”
His brother Jimmie Vaughan, a founding member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, said his dad called Stevie “a bad motorscooter.” He remembered Stevie on a toy cowboy guitar and his dad saying, “Maybe you boys can make a record together someday.” He recalled a teenage Stevie having the guts to go up and ask Albert King if he could sit-in, and blowing people away, after which Mr. King became his mentor. “Stevie took all those influences and made them his own… He was the most talented, cool little brother that anyone could ever have… I’m never going to get over losing him.”
The jam had Vaughan and Mayer blazing with Gary Clark Jr.
The last honors of the night, after midnight, went to Ringo, with his old mate Paul McCartney recalling that when the Beatles first encountered the drummer, “Ringo was like a professional musician; we were just slamming around.” They were impressed that Ringo had a beard and drank bourbon.
“It’s a great honor for me to induce him,” Paul laughed. “Oh, induct.”
“My name is Ringo, and I play drums,” he said, greeting the crowd, before telling his story of discovering rock ‘n’ roll and joining the Beatles, a band that “was sooo big, but we shared rooms.” For part of the jam he was joined by Green Day on “Boys.”
The two Beatles reunited for “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
The ceremony will be aired in edited form on May 30 on HBO.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576, Twitter: @scottmervis_pg