Thanks to a friend’s last-minute invitation, I wound up at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame‘s 2016 induction ceremony at Barclays Center last Friday. It was an incredibly entertaining night in a batshit-crazy kind of way.
First of all, an awards show where presenters and honorees can swear as much as they like and speak at length is better than any other kind of awards show. People sound so much more genuine when they don’t have to deal with an orchestra playing them off! All the performances were great too, starting with the David Bowie tribute that opened the show: David Byrne, Kimbra and the Roots doing “Fame.”
I got a special kick out of seeing Deep Purple.
Most of inductees were, like Deep Purple, all-white, all-male guitar bands, none of whom I’d ever seen live before: Steve Miller, Chicago, and Cheap Trick.
Steve Miller turned out to be much more interesting than I expected. I didn’t know electric-guitar pioneer Les Paul was his godfather and guitar teacher, or that Steve had formed his first band with Boz Scaggs at age 12. Sixty years later, he’s getting ready for a summer tour. “If you’re lucky enough to have a gift, use it, use it your whole life,” he said.
But what I really liked was that during Miller’s acceptance speech, he called for the Hall of Fame to include more women. (The only women who performed that night besides Kimbra were Sheryl Crow and Grace Potter, doing a tribute to the late Glenn Frey of the Eagles.) Little did I know he was going to get even fiercer in his backstage interview, during which he continued his criticism of the lack of inclusiveness, slammed the organizers for disrespecting the artists and said he only showed up for the sake of the fans. “This is how close this show came to not happening, because of the way the artists are being treated right now,” he said when a press officer tried to get him to wrap up. And then he topped THAT in an interview with Rolling Stone, in which he went after his own record label in addition to the Hall of Fame. You’ve GOT to read the whole thing, but this is a highlight:
“This whole industry fucking sucks and this little get-together you guys have here is like a private boys’ club and it’s a bunch of jackasses and jerks and fucking gangsters and crooks who’ve fucking stolen everything from a fucking artist. Telling the artist to come out here and tap dance.”
Oh Em Gee! I had no idea that Steve Miller was so punk rock when I used to watch his “Abracadabra” video on MTV in 1982.
Steve’s comments to Rolling Stone about the Hall of Fame ceremony being an “amateur production” involving “a hundred thousand phone calls” that is not at all artist-friendly helped me understand why rap group N.W.A — the only black musicians inducted this year — didn’t perform. N.W.A member Ice Cube had told the New York Times before the show that the group wasn’t performing because “I guess we really didn’t feel like we were supported enough to do the best show we could put on.” A first, I couldn’t comprehend why the organizers of the event wouldn’t support their own honorees. It seems self-defeating, no? But Steve Miller has clarified that for me. Now I know it’s a miracle that anyone performed at all!
Speaking of disrespect, N.W.A’s Ice Cube had some words for assholian Gene Simmons of Kiss, who recently told Rolling Stone, “I’m looking forward to the death of rap,” and had previously said that rappers don’t belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (Run-D.M.C., Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and the Beastie Boys are among the rappers already in the Hall of Fame.) “Hip-hop is here forever,” Ice Cube said. He also said, “You’re goddamn right we’re rock n roll … It’s a spirit it’s been going since the blues!” and “Rock and roll is not conforming to the people who came before you … That is us!”
(Gene Simmons might also want to think about the fact that country star Hank Williams, folk singer Woody Guthrie, blues icon Robert Johnson and “Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey are all Hall of Famers, credited as early influencers of rock. It ain’t all Gene’s limited concept of rock!)
There were other forms of craziness typical of the Hall of Fame. There are always issues with band members not being invited or not showing up due to longtime feuds. Deep Purple co-founder Ritchie Blackmore didn’t show, saying the band’s current line-up was unwilling to perform with him, though David Coverdale, Ian Gillan and Glenn Hughes all said they’d reached out to him. Despite his absence, all of the band members praised Blackmore during their speeches.
Similarly, original Chicago singer Peter Cetera skipped the ceremony, having written on his website, “Every idea or suggestion I offered about how it could work musically was either rejected or changed by the show’s producers.” His former bandmates weren’t supportive either, he said. They did enthusiastically sing his praises, so to speak, during their acceptance speeches, and original drummer Danny Seraphine performed with Chicago for the first time in about 25 years.
With the good will expressed onstage for former band members, I became hopeful that N.W.A would mention founding member Arabian Prince, whom I interviewed for the Huffington Post last year after I noticed his absence from the N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton.
Unfortunately, no one said a word about Arabian.
So I’m giving him a shout-out again now!
I wanted to wear something rock and roll to the event, and the late Stephen Sprouse was THE rock-and-roll designer. In fact, in the 1990s, Sprouse was the costume curator for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
What Wendy Wore
Sweater: Dsquared (2012. Often worn with the Sprouse skirt.)
Skirt: Vintage Stephen Sprouse (from 1988, but probably purchased around 2006)
Boots: Jil Sander (probably 2004/2005)
Earrings: My own arrowhead thread designs
Shearling coat: Larissa (1998. Seriously)
Pigeon-toed stance: I need to stick to what I know best
I normally wouldn’t keep my coat on for an outfit picture, but that shearling is a very rock and roll coat. The designer, Larissa (one name only, please!), used to hang out with Andy Warhol and David Bowie, and sold coats to customers including Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix (both now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). I got it at a sample sale in 1998 and I remember being so worried about how much it cost. Eighteen years later, it’s safe to say it was a good investment! It’s got some stubborn stains and has undergone a number of repairs, but I have no plans to part with it.
The only rock and roll fashion statement I forgot was my own “sign of the horns” stud earring.
I’ll have to try to wrangle an invitation again next year to fix that jewelry oversight … assuming the Hall of Fame is still around after Steve Miller gets through with it!