The New York Times: 1/13/98

It's a California Night for Rock Hall of Fame


NEW YORK -- The Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame celebrated California dreams when it held its 13th annual induction ceremonies Monday night in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Of the eight new additions to the Hall of Fame, four were bands that defined the sound of California in the 1960s and 1970s: the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Santana and the Mamas and the Papas.

"It represents a time of great success and a time of great excess," said Jann S. Wenner, the publisher of Rolling Stone magazine and the vice chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. Wenner added that bands like the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, known for repeated breakups and personal strife, were "the great harmony groups and the great disharmony groups."

There was also a New Orleans contingent, including the pioneering rocker Lloyd Price, the songwriter and producer Allen Toussaint and, as an early influence, the jazz composer Jelly Roll Morton. The other new member is Gene Vincent, the rockabilly singer from Virginia who died in 1971.

The event, with performances by the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Santana and others, was videotaped for broadcast next Monday night on the cable network VH1.

While the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is in Cleveland, the music business, which supports it, is concentrated in New York City and Los Angeles. All but two of the annual induction ceremonies have been held in New York. For the first time this year, 100 tickets were offered to the general public, albeit at music-business prices: $1,250 and $2,000 per person for cocktails, dinner and the ceremony.

It was a night for reunions and one-time-only performances. One of Santana's early hits was "Black Magic Woman," a song by Fleetwood Mac's founder and original guitarist, Peter Green.

Taking advantage of the coincidence, the ceremony included most of the original 1960s Santana band performing the song with Green on guitar; they traded solos and grins as the song turned into spiraling mambo.

Accepting an award, Michael Shrieve, Santana's drummer in the late 1960s, reminisced about joining the group after an all-night jam session when he was 17 years old. "This wasn't a hippie love thing," he said. "This was like a street gang, and their weapon was music."

The three surviving members of the Mamas and the Papas sang "California Dreamin'," of course, paying tribute to Cass Elliot, who died in 1974. Michelle Phillips said, "I have personal knowledge that Cass is sitting on top of that full moon tonight, looking down on these proceedings and wearing a size 6 Thierry Mugler dress."

Rockers become eligible for the Hall of Fame 25 years after the release of their first recording, and this year's new members span rock from the 1950s to the 1970s. In its early years, the Hall inducted 1950s rockers, many of whom had been relegated to the oldies circuit or returned to obscurity. But in more recent years, it has honored performers from the 1960s and 1970s who are still major commercial presences.

"There's always this mix of all the different paths people have found, from people who have been immensely successful to people who were largely forgotten," said Jon Landau, who manages Bruce Springsteen and Shania Twain and is a vice-president on the Hall's board of directors. "Even though we're able to recognize people as soon as they're eligible, we also went back and were able to get Lloyd Price and Gene Vincent. It gives the evening a correctness and a depth. Hopefully, we can continue to include others from the early period."

At one end of commercial spectrum are new members like Fleetwood Mac, whose best-selling lineup reunited last year for a tour and album that returned it to the Top 10. "In conjunction with what went on in 1997, this is a nice thing," Lindsay Buckingham said in an interview.

"In many ways this last year was the best time I ever had in Fleetwood Mac," said Buckingham, who left the group in 1987. "Everybody's lost their baggage. Back then, the tension of all of us together made something greater than the sum of its parts, and now, after 10 years, the tour was a chance to look back and say, 'Jeez, that was pretty good.' "

Sheryl Crow, inducting Fleetwood Mac, said that listening to Stevie Nicks sing "Rhiannon" changed her life when she was 14 years old: "She was the dark angel that I wanted to be." Mick Fleetwood said that the band's 30-year career was one of "lunacy, heartache, happiness, unhappiness and, thank God, a sense of healing."

The group's acoustic performance at the ceremony was one of its last, Buckingham said; the reunited group will not tour again. Oddly, Green did not perform with the group he founded in 1967.

John Fogerty, who led Creedence Clearwater Revival, belted some of Vincent's "Be-Bop-a-Lula," commenting, "It doesn't get much better than that." Later, he added, "It's what they call attitude."

Price, meanwhile, considered his membership in the Hall of Fame an overdue recognition of his contribution to rock and roll. "I feel like it's a little late, but I'm in great company," he said in an interview. "Any time is the right time."

Price was a teen-ager when he had a national hit in 1952 with "Lawdy, Miss Clawdy." It was a few years before the mid-1950s ferment of what was recognized as rock 'n' roll. But Price recalled drawing both black and white fans to his shows: "It revolutionized what this country was about in terms of race."

Price was drafted in 1953. He said a member of his draft board told him, "Washington wants you in the service. They don't like what you're doing, integrating the music."

After he returned from the Korean War, he had another string of hits, including "Personality" and "Stagger Lee." More recently, he has run a music-publishing business and a company that built affordable housing in the Bronx, and he is about to release an album on his own label, K-Jac.

The Hall of Fame's ceremonies have changed from a freewheeling showcase for rock's founding eccentrics to a somewhat more conventional awards show. VH1 started televising the event last year; its donation to the Hall of Fame covers most of the costs.

"We wanted to take this insider event and bring it to the public," said John Sykes, the president of VH1. "Why should the audience be limited to 1,000 wealthy executives at the Waldorf and not the public?"

He added, "There are some incredible moments at these events. When bands get together after all these years, you still have a lot of tension, you still have the emotions between these artists that are alive from events that happened 30 years ago."

Thanks to Nancy B for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for sending it to us.