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Rock Hall inductions correct longtime snubs

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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CLEVELAND -- If there was a theme to the 33rd annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions ceremony, held Saturday night at Public Auditorium here, it was, “It’s about time.”

Jon Bon Jovi intoned those words during his lengthy acceptance speech, and they rang true for most of the class of 2018. Along with Bon Jovi (the band), the Cars, Dire Straits and the Moody Blues have long been considered Rock Hall slights. Moody Blues, in fact, was the subject of a particularly ardent fan campaign for many years, leading up to the British group’s election on its first nomination.

“It was so long that we were eligible and didn’t make it that I got a real sour grapes (feeling) for everything about it,” the Moodys’ Graeme Edge -- the night’s oldest living inductee at 77 -- told the crowd during the ceremony. “When it actually became something for us all to appreciate and have, I did realize what it means to me.”

Dire Straits’ Guy Fletcher, meanwhile, added that, “I never thought of Dire Straits as a particularly cool band. We weren’t really there to be cool.” He told the group’s fans to “consider this award yours, but if you don’t mind, I’ll look after it.”

The four-and-a-half hour ceremony -- which also honored Nina Simone and, as an Early Influence, Sister Rosetta Tharpe -- had a theme of reconciliation as well. Former Bon Jovi members Richie Sambora and Alec John Such returned to the fold to play a four-song set of “You Give Love A Bad Name,” “It’s My Life,” “When We were Us” and “Livin’ On A Prayer.” The Cars, who have been in park since 2011, regrouped with Weezer’s Scott Shiner subbing on bass for the late Ben Orr -- a Cleveland native -- to play “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “You Might Think,” “Moving In Stereo” and “Just What I Needed.” Former Moody Blues members Denny Laine and Mike Pinder accepted the band’s induction but did not take part in the group’s four-song performance, which closed the evening.

Dire Straits, however, was denied a reunion performance when frontman Mark Knopfler declined to attend. “I can assure you, it’s just a personal thing,” co-founder bassist John Illsley, who co-owns the band name with Knopfler, quipped. Illsley, in fact, was put in the awkward position of both making an induction speech and an acceptance speech when ceremony producers failed to recruit anyone to serve as an inductor.

Bon Jovi, which won the Rock Hall’s public vote with more than a million tallies, was the night’s clear headliner and was inducted first by syndicated satellite radio star Howard Stern, who delivered an envelope-pushing but loving salute that took Rolling Stone magazine and Rock Hall co-founder Jann Wenner (who didn’t attend due to health reasons) to task for reportedly holding up the band’s entry into the Rock Hall and discussed everything from Jon Bon Jovi’s use of hairspray to Sambora’s penis size and the fact that Bon Jovi’s sales of 130 million albums eclipsed the death tolls from the Bubonic Plague, the American Civil War and atomic bomb drops.

The 65-minute segment also included an earnest nearly 20-minute speech from Jon Bon Jovi, who noted that he’s “been writing this speech many days, in many ways -- some days it’s the thank-you speech, some days the f***-you speech.” But he kept things mostly sentimental and positive, saluting his bandmates and, by name, the many music business people who helped the band -- including a pair of New York radio veterans who broke his first single, “Runaway,” and were in the media room, where Bon Jovi embraced them in front of the rest of the press corps.

Bon Jovi also hosted a private afterparty at a warehouse in Cleveland’s Flats district, where group members mingled with family, friends, business associates and others.

Other highlights of the night included the Killers’ tribute performance of “American Girl” to honor the late Tom Petty and a duet by Heart’s Ann Wilson and Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell on Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” to honor that band’s singer Chris Cornell, who committed suicide after a concert last May at Detroit’s Fox Theatre. Lauryn Hill joined the Roots for a showstopping Simone set that included “Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair,” “Ain’t Got No, I Got Life” and “Feeling Good,” and Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Murphy made a brief speech about Tharpe, calling her “the godmother of rock ’n’ roll” and delivering a powerful rendition of “That’s All.”

During the ceremony the Rock Hall announced a new category, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Singles, inducting six songs as the inaugural class -- “Rocket 88” by Jackie Breston and his Delta Cats, Link Wray and his Ray Men’s “Rumble,” “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen, Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” and Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild.”

Rock Hall President and CEO Greg Harris also announced a $10 million donation from the Key Bank Foundation, the largest-ever single philanthropic contribution to the Hall, which will be detailed later this spring.

• HBO filmed the ceremony for broadcast, premiering May 5.

Web Site: www.rockhall.org

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