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Done, Deaf, Delighted: Revisiting The 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Sure Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and other high profile rockers didn’t attend the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 27th induction ceremony at Cleveland’s Public Hall but the lack of star power was overwhelmed by real people power, aka the paying customers.

The five-hour-forty-minute ceremony was edited down to less than half of that timeframe for a broadcast at 9 p.m. EST May 5 on HBO. Viewers received only a small taste of the effect that comes about when an audience is involved. The 8,000 in the upper level sections – VIPs were seated at tables on the floor – were a raucous bunch, especially when it came to the night’s favorite inductees – Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns N’ Roses, Beastie Boys and the Small Faces/Faces.

But they also deserved credit for showing their appreciation for honorees that are important to rock’s history but not as well-known – Laura Nyro, Freddie King, the Blue Caps, the Comets, the Crickets, the Midnighters, the Miracles, and producers Glyn Johns (The Who, The Clash), Tom Dowd (Allman Brothers Band, Aretha Franklin) and Cosmo Matassa (Fats Domino, Little Richard).

Although the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum resides in Cleveland, the city is only allowed to host the event every three years. Being well aware of that fact the crowd loudly booed when Rock Hall President and CEO Terry Stewart thanked the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, which is based in New York and pulls the strings and votes on who does and does not make it into the Hall of Fame. An angry and embarrassed Stewart restated his appreciation, knowing full well that such co-operation between offices and the millions of dollars New York provides to put on the show is necessary now and in the future.

And despite the Boo Birds, the Rock Hall’s Powers That Be should keep the ceremony open to the public, when it returns to New York in 2013 and 2014 and back in Cleveland the following year. The reaction by the 9,000 in attendance made it much more of a rock ‘n’ roll event than the usual insider slap-on-the-back party that occurs at its usual setting, New York’s Waldorf-Astoria.

Shortly after 8 p.m. the proceedings began with a major surprise as Green Day played “Letter Bomb” from American Idiot. The three members would return after the deafeningly-loud performance to induct Guns N’ Roses. At that time Billie Joe Armstrong confessed that they considered doing a cover of GN’R’s “Patience” but he watched a 12 year-old on YouTube play it better then he could so that idea was cancelled. Besides, he considers himself an amateur guitarist when compared to Slash.

On a side note, due to the band’s commercial and critical history plus cooperation with the Rock Hall, it wouldn’t be surprising to find Green Day an inductee when the group’s available in 2015.

Surprisingly Rolling Stone publisher and Chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation Jann Wenner wasn’t lustily booed, probably because he quickly said all the right things in appreciation of the inductees, the host city and rock music, and exited stage left.

With those opening remarks out of the way, it was now time to start the inductions.

EARLY INFLUENCE: FREDDIE KING ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill of ZZ Top did the honors. Hill revealed that he toured with King before joining ZZ. King’s daughter, Wanda, accepted the award. She spoke of a meeting between her father and a 14 year old Stevie Ray Vaughan who sought his advice. The elder told him, “You can’t get to rock ‘n’ roll unless you can play the blues.” Obviously, Vaughan took that to heart and played the hell out of material from both musical worlds. Then, recognizing her time was elapsing Wanda told one more story. It dealt with the shocking experience of being a six year old going to a concert and seeing her dad onstage for the first time. Describing his playing as “wild” she believed she knew why. Wanda and some of the other children broke her dad’s Les Paul guitar.

Following this Gibbons and Hill were joined by Joe Bonamassa and Derek Trucks, performing “Hide Away” and “Going Down” with Bonamassa on vocals.

PERFORMER CATEGORY: DONOVAN Cigarette in hand, John Mellencamp inducted him. The video montage that preceded each induction showed Donovan move from being an English Dylan to the Sunshine Superman folk hippie. Mellencamp said that “I was stealing all the shit from Donovan” and then sarcastically rephrased that to the traditional version of “musicians call that being inspired.” He showed that his statement of intense affection for him wasn’t just a line by holding up his copy of Donovan’s 1965 album Fairytale. He then pointed out that his name is written at the top of the sleeve so he didn’t lose it at any parties. Citing that what Donovan did wasn’t a gimmick he busted the Red Hot Chili Peppers onetime wardrobe choice in the process. “You know what a gimmick is? You wear nothing but a sock onstage.” He also pointed out that Donovan taught John Lennon and Paul McCartney clawhammer picking on the guitar, which led to songs such as “Dear Prudence.”

When he came onstage Donovan recited a lengthy poem that he wrote in lieu of a speech when he found out he was finally being inducted (“…the brightest searchlight on my music the world can shine.”)

He then performed “Catch the Wind” solo, “Sunshine Superman” with full band (featuring members of Late Show with David Letterman’s CBS Orchestra). Prior to “Season of the Witch” he said, “This is for all you witches out there. You know who you are.” He was also joined by Mellencamp on the final number.

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