Iconic heavy metal quartet Black Sabbath, new-wave pop crossover combo Blondie, late jazz legend Miles Davis, southern rock mainstays Lynyrd Skynyrd, notorious punk outfit the Sex Pistols and A&M Records co-founders Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last night (March 13) during a ceremony at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Highlights from the event will be broadcast March 21 on VH1.
Metallica not only inducted Black Sabbath but also ripped into covers of “Hole in the Sky” and “Iron Man,” with vocalist James Hetfield reaching into his highest register to equal Ozzy Osbourne’s signature singing style. “I hereby not only acknowledge but scream from every f*cking rooftop that Black Sabbath is and always will be synonymous with heavy metal,” said Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, sporting a vintage Sabbath t-shirt.
“We did get criticized a lot by the press for many years, but we didn’t take any notice of that,” guitarist Tony Iommi said backstage when asked about how Sabbath defied constant critical bashing on its way to becoming one of the most influental rock bands of all time. “Everything we’ve done, we’ve believed in.”
Following an induction speech by Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd saluted late members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, who died in a 1977 plane crash, as well as deceased bassist Leon Wilkeson and guitarist Allen Collins. Various family members took turns at the microphone, with drummer Artimus Pyle adding with palpable emotion, “I miss everybody that they mentioned. It’s almost the end of the evening, and we’re going to end it with ‘Free Bird.'” Skynyrd then did just that, in addition to performing the southern rock anthem “Sweet Home Alabama” with assistance from Kid Rock.
“We all love each other. We’re staying in the same room tonight but we ain’t going to tell you what else is going to happen,” guitarist Gary Rossington said backstage, alluding to the band’s ever-rotating lineup.
Having already declined to participate in the event via a rambling, handwritten letter posted on its Web site (which Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner read to the crowd), the Sex Pistols’ were presented in absentia with their statues, which will reside at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland until claimed.
Earlier, after an induction speech from Garbage’s Shirley Manson, current and former members of Blondie found themselves in the midst of an incredibly awkward moment when long-departed guitarist Frank Infante and bassist Nigel Harrison bemoaned the fact that they were “not allowed” to perform with original members Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Clem Burke.
“We want to play. We weren’t part of it,” Harrison said, adding that watching a film of Blondie career highlights made him feel like he was attending his own funeral. “Welcome to bingo night.” The show went on without comment for the time being, with Blondie running through its hits “Heart of Glass,” “Rapture” and “Call Me.”
“They wrote themselves out of the band’s history as far as I’m concerned,” guitarist Chris Stein said afterward backstage, noting that Infante and Harrison had sued the band over the ownership of the Blondie name. “I would have been really happy to support those guys if they hadn’t attacked us.”
Pianist Herbie Hancock inducted Davis, with whom he collaborated from 1963 to 1968. “This is a black man whose ancestors were in slavery. He’s an international icon. America should be proud of him,” said Davis’ son, Gregory. “I hope by being here this will unite my family and keep us strong, like his music was.”
Hancock then led a band featuring drummer Jack DeJohnette, electric bassist Marcus Miller and guitarist Mike Stern through a suite of “In a Silent Way,” “Tutu” and “Jean Pierre.”
Sting inducted record moguls Alpert & Moss, confessing, “I have never to this day met two finer gentlemen. They began distributing records from a garage in Hollywood and wound up with the largest and most successful independent record company in the world.”
“We started on a handshake and we’re an American fable,” Moss said. “It never questioned us what we would do next. We bought a little lot and we had a record company.”
The evening began with a tribute to late soul legend Wilson Pickett, featuring a sequined-suited Solomon Burke (performing seated on a golden throne), vocalist Leela James, singer/guitarist Marc Broussard and E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons on “634-5789,” “Mustang Sally” and “Land of 1,000 Dances.”
It ended with a salute to New Orleans featuring Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint and the Band’s Robbie Robertson, who performed Toussaint’s classic “Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further?” and the Fats Domino staple “Walking to New Orleans.” Both Costello and Toussaint gave heartfelt speeches beforehand, referencing the impact of Hurricane Katrina and how “music jumped to the aid” to the city in its time of need. “We must make a song and not a speech.”