In the Waldorf-Astoria’s Grand Ballroom at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony last night, rock journalism’s upper crust — folks like Ann Powers, Joe Levy, and, of course, Jann Wenner, all decked out in their Sunday best — dined alongside music-industry suits, long-suffering band girlfriends, and anyone else willing to spend $3,000 to eat a cheese pâté with smoked salmon in the same room as Michael Stipe. Lesser press, however, was consigned to a chandeliered conference room elsewhere in the hotel, where more than a hundred surly non-big-name writers killed time between occasional artist pop-ins by sampling the cold-cut spread and avoiding mustard stains. Oh, and watching one dude play a furious air bass to Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines.”
Flash, the Hall’s first hip-hop inductee, snapped the monotony in person, too, when he used his moment in the press room to gleefully remind a room full of critics — the same brotherhood that he said had dismissed his beloved culture as “a passing ship in the night, a fad, a flash of brilliance” — how wrong they were. A clearly elated Patti Smith, on her visit, did a delightful job of putting overaggressive photogs in their place — “Cut the shit,” she said, “I’m not a fucking movie star!” — while Keith Richards wondered aloud about the “marvels of science” that have extended his life, while his notorious swag-hound kids, Theodora and Alexandra, pillaged through the nearby Gift Lounge. Otherwise, the press room carried all the excitement of a restless fifth-period study hall; Kurt Loder looked even more bored than usual.
Of course, the induction ceremony is never particularly riveting for anyone. There’s no suspense; no rock fan needs the 600 Hall of Fame voters to point out which acts are legendary. It’s a self-congratulatory career postscript. “We were absolutely certain that this would happen,” R.E.M.’s Mike Mills said last night. “That’s why we started the band 25 years ago.” —Amos Barshad