I wasn’t there last night, and you probably weren’t either. Tickets were $2000, and press people got sequestered in an off-site room watching the whole thing go down on TV. I’ve done that before, and I wasn’t especially eager to do it again. So I have no idea whether the whole shindig ended up being a fun night out or not. I’ll probably watch it when VH-1 runs it next weekend, if only to write about it.
But what a mess. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony is, of course, a big glorified photo op, an opportunity for people who once made some great but unspecified contributions to something-or-other to wear expensive clothes and get on TV for the first time in forever. It also offers plenty of opportunities for little moments of petty drama to absolutely overwhelm everything else, if only because they manage to interrupt the sterility of the whole thing for a minute or two, which is why we now get to read all about the former Blondie members who bum-rushed the stage and demanded to know why they hadn’t been invited to play. Can you imagine any other situation where a disgruntled former Blondie bassist could get press in 2006? The Sex Pistols, of course, made a big show out of not attending, not at all surprising considering that the band’s entire reason for being was supposedly to shit on the sanctity of sanctified stuff. Funny, though, that they’re pulling this card now after obliterating any remaining credibility (or whatever) with a reunion tour ten years ago. Funnier still that Lydon’s main beef seems to me that he wasn’t inducted last year or the year before, not that the Hall exists at all or that the whole thing always ends up being some insane spectacle of forced reverence and doofy pandering. It might be poetic justice that Lydon’s grandstanding resulted in David Fricke reading the note aloud to a tittering audience at the ceremony, doing his best to turn the whole thing into a cute little tantrum from a group of grown-ass men. And then you had Ozzy Osbourne, who’s been talking shit about the Hall for years, finally sheepishly accepting his induction. And honestly, it’s sort of nice to see under-recognized populist bands like Sabbath and Skynyrd getting recognition as long as recognition is going to be parcelled out like this, but none of that makes the whole enterprise any less silly.
The induction ceremony is going to have a lot of problems in coming years, since rock bands generally don’t age gracefully, either as artists or as entertainers; the Hall is ultimately playing itsef by keeping the rule in place that a band can only be inducted a minimum of twenty-five years after its first record is released. Things were fine when they were dealing with the first generation of rock stars. There’s been much made of the fact that Elvis adored Dean Martin; the people who first got famous playing this music wanted to be mass-cultural figures, and they learned pretty quickly how to smile for cameras. (Either that or they were dead by the time they were eligible, so they couldn’t pull any funny stuff and ruin the ceremony, which explains how the whole Miles Davis thing went so smoothly last night.) As time goes on, the Hall is going to have to contend with a group of potential inductees more and more prone to publicity stunts. In six years, Guns N’ Roses are going to be eligible. Imagine the flaming trainwreck we’ve got in store for ourselves there; the powers that be are probably hoping Axl dies first.