Last night, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2014 was inducted at Barclays Center. The arena was packed with the star-studded roster of fan favorite acts that included Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, KISS, Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, and the E Street Band. In the press room, several of them, along with their inductees and special guests, popped in to give their two cents on the whole shindig.
Here are some highlights of the event and dirt from the press room before the show premieres on HBO on Saturday, May 31st at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Peter Asher, the British musician, manager and producer most well-known for his work with James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, was the first to pop into the press room looking fly as hell in a purple suit. He was on hand for the ceremony to induct the first managers into the Hall, Brian Epstein (The Beatles) and Andrew Loog Oldham (The Rolling Stones). He joked: “This is a night of unity for the Beatles and the Stones. They’re truly Hatfields and the McCoys of rock ‘n’ roll”
Asher even noted how influential the pair were on his own work as James Taylor’s manager and noted most specifically the influence Brian Epstein had on his work. “Brian was one of my heroes as a manager,” he said.
We were all TRULY BLESSED, when a quintet of queens graced the room before the show where they’d honor Linda Ronstadt even began. Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, and Carrie Underwood stopped in to talk about Linda and about how great they each are. Sheryl noted that she wants “less bro country, more bra country,” an exemplary request indeed. Emmylou remarked that her friendship with Linda was based off of a mutual love of Dolly Parton, a source of some of the best friendships a person can have. Lisa G. from Howard Stern’s team asked a Stern-related question and Stevie Nicks made sure to let everyone know that she never intends on appearing on his show.
While it was still a surprise who would be up on stage fronting Nirvana during their segment, Annie Clark popped in to answer a few questions on the band and reveal her duties for the evening. In regards to the band’s influence on her own music, Clark said “I wouldn’t be playing music if it weren’t for Nirvana.” On the topic of a female-fronted tribute (dubbed ‘Hervana’ by the genius who passed by me on the way to train after the show), she noted: “They’re rad and forward thinking and inclusive. If you’re going to play these songs again, maybe do it from a different angle.”
Annie was the last of the talent to make their way through the press room before the show started. Jann Wenner opened it up to what sounded like booing from the audience. The camera panned to Gene Simmons and he looked straight-up bored and over everything.
Peter Asher inducted the managers first, getting out of the way the more administrative inductees early. Surprisingly, Peter Gabriel came in next to perform rather than after his speech (though there was another performance then too). After “Digging in the Dirt,” a post-conscious uncoupling Chris Martin looked like he just came out of somewhere super tropical given the tan he was sporting to induct Gabriel. He remarked that he would be “reading from the Book of Genesis” and revealed that he had zero comedic timing but still had a lot of fun with his string of joke attempts. about the “angel Gabriel.”
Peter Gabriel gave the first of many heart-warming speeches of the night, and his two main pieces of advice for aspiring musicians were to dream big “even if you dress up like a flower or a sexually transmitted disease” and to “surround yourself with brilliance.”
Together, Chris Martin and Peter Gabriel performed “Washing of the Water” which was followed by Gabriel with Youssou N’dour doing “In Your Eyes.”
Though Gene Simmons still looked COMPLETELY OVER IT, KISS was up next and inducted by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and Bruce Springsteen’s well of inspiration. Morello’s speech was as impassioned as one would hope turning it into a political rally as he spoke about the undeniable influence KISS has had on young rock musicians for generations. He noted that “KISS was never a critic’s band. KISS was always a people’s band.”
For Morello, who will hopefully be seeing his band RATM getting their own piece of the Hall of Fame pie in a couple years, there are three criteria for being inducted: impact, influence, and awesomeness. To him and probably anyone who owns a KISS shirt, the band fits all three.
Seeing the original line-up all together on stage for the first of many surreal images of the evening. They were all pretty genuine and looked like they were getting along well. The speeches were hilarious, but also touching as Peter Criss noted his survival of male breast cancer while Ace Frehley talked about his struggles with sobriety, which included a joke about diarrhea. But it’s not his fault — he did forget to bring prescription glasses so he couldn’t really read his speech.
Paul Stanley, on the other hand, got almost as political as Morello in noting how the process of voting for inductees into the Hall of Fame should be democratized. “The people pay for tickets. The people buy albums. The people who nominate do not.” He no doubt made Morello extra-proud for that one.
Art Garfunkel honored Cat Stevens and even shadily remarked that Stevens is “better than Paul Simon” in between tiny covers of the inductee’s songs.
Stevens himself probably took the same improv class as Chris Martin because he was doling out jokes left and right. One included how he considered changing his name to “Bat Stevens” and that it was so rock ‘n’ roll of the Hall of Fame to induct someone who doesn’t drink, do drugs, or sleep around.
Questlove popped in for a few questions during Cat Stevens’ segment to talk about Hall & Oates (the act he would be inducting later on). I asked him about a dream lesson plan he would do if he were to teach a class on Hall & Oates since he’s been playing the role of Professor Quest at NYU for a few semesters now. He said a lesson plan on Hall & Oates would be about fitting into spaces where you aren’t meant to fit into, like how “white boys weren’t supposed to be singing soul” the way Hall & Oates were.
Ace Frehley was the only member of KISS to take press questions and was just as charmingly candid and old-dude-from-the-Bronx as he was on stage. KISS hadn’t performed after their speech and no tribute was had, unlike the other inductees, but Frehley did say he wanted to perform with the group, but it just didn’t happen. He also doesn’t have any plans to create more music with any of the members, though they’ll always be his brothers.
Rock ‘n’ roll’s reigning angel Linda Ronstadt was inducted by longtime friend and collaborator Glenn Frey of the Eagles. The highlight was seeing the talented line-up of female singers influenced by Ronstadt take the stage in her honor. Carrie Underwood killed it on “Different Drum.” Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris were a power pair on “Blue Bayou.” Sheryl Crow brought the house down with “You’re No Good.” Stevie Nicks charmed and belted her way through “It’s So Easy” before pointing out that hearing Ronstadt sing “Different Drum” while Nicks was in high school is what influenced her decision to pursue music. All the ladies got together to sing “When Will I Be Loved?” and shift the universe to revolve around the shining light they create when together on stage all at once.
Later in the press room, Glenn Frey noted that noticeably absent Linda can’t travel anymore but is still doing well. Frey and Ronstadt had spoken recently for the first time since the early millennium. He also took a moment to remark that “everybody that made a record with her became her friend” and that her talent was obvious from the moment he met her and heard her voice fill up the room they were in.
Though he wouldn’t hit the stage for a long while, Michael Stipe popped in to share a few words on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, as he would be inducting them later. When asked about the first time he met Kurt, Stipe reminisced that Cobain was late to a party and had just moved in with Courtney Love to a place next-door to Peter Buck “The first time I looked into his eyes I was like ‘I get it. He’s all that,'” he said.
As much as everyone loves Bruce Springseen & the E Street Band, it felt like they were on-stage for an eternity as a Chris Martin-level tan Bruce gave his lengthy induction speech and then each member that has ever been in the band got up to say thank you and shout out everyone they’ve ever encountered. The biggest highlight was Bruce getting #real with the audience when he noted a conversation with Steve Van Zandt before Bruce’s induction as a solo artist into the Hall and how Van Zandt wanted the E Street Band to enter it with him then. Bruce seemed to show some regret in all of them not sharing in the glory at once. In the press room, Van Zandt showed some shock at the story being told on stage since it was a very personal moment they shared. Bruce noted on-stage that “the narrative [a band tells] together is better than what you could’ve told on your own,” a sentiment that may have motivated his sharing of that kitchen talk.
Then the long list of “thank yous” came. The best was Clarence Clemons‘ widow sharing a voice memo Clemons had recorded humming a little tune while in the car. It was even more personal than Bruce’s kitchen story but still very sweet. It seemed to make the band happy to hear.
Hall & Oates showed up after the very long E Street Block and John Oates cheekily started his speech with “Luckily for you, there’s only two of us.” Daryl Hall then ended his portion of his speech with a shout out to all the Philly artists that have been left out near-threatening that “there better be more Philadelphia artists in this place.”
Finally, the night ended with the youngest inductees of the night, Nirvana. Michael Stipe gave a touching speech before Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Courtney Love, and Kurt Cobain’s mother and sisters came on-stage to accept the awards. Grohl began by listing and shouting out every drummer that had been in the band before him. Krist thanked the fans and seemed genuinely stunned as he accepted the very real award. Cobain’s mother, Wendy O’Connor, took a moment to say how much she missed her son and how excited he would be about the award. “He’d say he wasn’t but he would be,” she joked. The biggest shock came from Courtney Love, who referred to everyone on stage as her family before hugging Dave Grohl and the rest in a beautiful display of hatchets being (hopefully) buried.
The night’s greatest joy came from the night’s second grouping of amazing women who came to perform some Nirvana tunes with Grohl, Novoselic, and Pat Smear. Joan Jett took the lead on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and absolutely crushed it. Kim Gordon was all fuzz and bounce and excellence on “Aneurysm.” Annie Clark reprised her “Lithium” performance and was just as excellent as her first one in Chicago last weekend was. The night closed out with the performer referred to so frequently to as “the new Nirvana,” Lorde, who sang “All Apologies” in a hot pink suit. Krist Novoselic noted that her intensity and passion made her “perfect for the job.” And she proved that she was.