BootLeg Betty

Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Aftermath

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Humor hotel: It’s only the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but . . .
By Mark Bazer
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012

There are many reasons NOT to care about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or the induction ceremony on a recent weekend.

– Rock thrives on rebellion against “institutions,” so why have an official rock one?
– Rock should be about the music, man, not oh-so-serious speeches about it.

– Who cares which bands “industry people” deem worthy of “enshrinement”?

– And how can you take seriously a Rock Hall of Fame that won’t recognize Rush?

The list of reasons goes on. And they’re all probably right.

But, thanks to a friend who scores tickets to things, I went to the induction ceremony and got to see:

– Two-thirds of ZZ Top, along with guitar slingers Derek Trucks and Joe Bonamassa, play the blues of the late Freddie King after King’s daughter told a story about how she found out what her father did for a living when her mom took her to a concert at the age of 6 and her dad walked on stage and lit up the room. Acceptance speeches are oh-so-serious and forgettable up until the moment they make you feel someone’s joy.

– A reunited Guns N’ Roses (OK, minus Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin) play with help from a fill-in singer who that day must have had both the most and least enviable gig in the world.

– Chris Rock share his love for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and make Axl jokes. “Even if Axl was going to show,” Rock said at around 1 a.m., “he wouldn’t be here yet.” Minutes later, bassist Flea broke down a little thanking his mom. Losing a bit of the mystique of rock stars can sometimes be a good thing.

– Bette Midler making me a bit misty-eyed — for the first time since “Beaches”! — when she inducted the late Laura Nyro, a singer-songwriter whom Midler described as someone who made the everyday lives of New Yorkers seem grand and romantic. Nyro meant a lot to a lot of people. I’ll admit, though, I’d never heard of her. Heck, I barely knew the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers beyond the hits before that weekend. We all have gaps. But it’s invigorating to get to fill them in, if just a little.

– Ronnie Wood, George Clinton, Green Day, Slash and the Chili Peppers closing the show, five-plus hours after it started, with a completely messy, completely satisfying “Higher Ground.”

What were those criticisms of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame again?

The reason, though, that I wanted to be at the ceremony was for the group that has meant the most to me over most of my life. The Beastie Boys, inducted . . . damn . . . 25 years after their debut record.

One of life’s pleasures is to keep discovering new experiences and art. At the same time that the Beastie Boys have helped me do just that (they’ve been my path to so many other kinds of music and pieces of the culture), it’s been hard for me to find a greater joy than my Beastie experiences.

At 13 seeing the “Licensed to Ill” tour, or at 18 in the basement of my friend’s house when we taped on VHS the second half of the “Pass the Mic” video and watched it over and over again, or everything having to do with “Paul’s Boutique.”

So, I wanted to be in Cleveland for myself. But as cheesy as it sounds, I also wanted to be there for the Beastie Boys.

MCA, one-third of the group, wasn’t there. He’s had throat cancer for the last few years. The group isn’t talking much about it, so I won’t speculate as to what his absence meant.

Ad-Rock and Mike D, the other two Beasties, were there. They were heartfelt in their remarks, which is not what you expect or usually want from the group. They didn’t perform, and I think I’m glad they didn’t. I hope they were happy to be there.

The Beastie Boys have always been synonymous with fun. They’re the music I put on when I need confidence, some swagger and a reminder that whatever I’m about to do isn’t life or death.

I can’t say the Beasties portion of the show was fun. But it wasn’t the opposite of fun, either.

My thoughts on the experience are still plenty unformed, and I don’t want to say something I don’t mean here.

But I will say the Beastie Boys have always been leaders for a portion of people of my generation; they were always a step ahead. Now, they seem, sooner than anyone would have liked, to be leading the way into the next inevitable phase of life, too, whatever that may turn out to be.

I’m getting too serious here. I don’t want to give fodder to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame detractors. It was an amazing night.

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