NEW YORK — As members of the Clash, the Police, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, AC/DC, and the Righteous Brothers officially entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame March 10, few had much to say beyond thanking family members, influences, managers, record executives, booking agents, and road crews. But in keeping with past induction ceremonies, each was feted with often funny and occasionally soul-baring speeches from some of the biggest names in music.
Dominated by products of the late '70s U.K. punk movement — the Police, the Clash, and Costello & the Attractions — the event included performances from each inductee except the Clash, and it marked the first public reunion by the Police in some 18 years.
Launching the affair — held at New York's Waldorf-Astoria — Billy Joel marveled at the range and power of the Righteous Brothers, noting that they sparked his life-changing realization that "sometimes people with blue eyes transcend the limitations of what their color and their culture are supposed to he. Sometimes, white people can actually be soulful."
Elton John raved about Costello's fearlessness, remarking, "His songs have no musical boundaries... Here's a man who knows no rules."
Coming only months after the December 2002 death of frontman Joe Strummer, the Clash's bittersweet induction was preceded by heartfelt speeches from U2 guitarist the Edge and Tom Morello of Audioslave/Rage Against the Machine. "I loved this band," the Edge said. "To me, without doubt, they are next to the [Rolling] Stones as the greatest rock 'n' roll band of all time. There is no doubt in my mind that 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' wouldn't — it couldn't — have been written if it wasn't for the Clash." Like so many Clash fans, both he and Morello said that the band had changed their lives. The band "instilled in me the courage to pick up a guitar and the courage to try and make a difference with it," Morello said, adding: "I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without them."
Inducting AC/DC, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler called the band "the greatest purveyor" of the almighty power chord, and No Doubt's Gwen Stefani charmed the audience with her story of meeting — and loving — the Police as a teen.
Also inducted into the hall's 18th class were late sidemen Floyd Cramer (pianist on such songs as Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman" and Patsy Cline's "Crazy"), saxophonist Steve Douglas (who appeared on recordings by the Ventures, the Beach Boys, and Jan & Dean), and Motown drummer Benny Benjamin, a member of the fabled Funk Brothers (see story, page 69).
Legendary Warner Bros./Reprise executive Mo Ostin received a lifetime achievement award; it was presented to him by Neil Young, who hailed Ostin as a champion of creative freedom.
The Police reunion, featuring "Roxanne," "Message in a Bottle," and "Every Breath You Take" — on which Tyler, Stefani, and John Mayer added vocals — closed the show, after three- and two-song sets, respectively, from Costello and AC/DC, as well as the show-opening "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" from the Righteous Brothers.
Highlights from the show will be broadcast March 16 on VH1.