“It’s getting pretty surreal, I got to admit,” the Cars’ Greg Hawkes told Billboard Friday night (April 13) at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s VIP Party at the museum in Cleveland.
With the 2018 induction ceremony looming on Saturday (April 14) at nearby Public Hall, Hawkes and fellow Cars Ric Ocasek and Elliott Easton, along with members of Dire Straits and the Moody Blues, took in the bash along with the likes of The Voice Season 8 champion Sawyer Fredericks, Trans-Siberian Orchestra manager Adam Lind (who confirmed a 2018 TSO tour has been booked) and members of the Cleveland political, business and philanthropic communities.
Featuring food from notable city chefs, it was a kind of calm before the ceremony storm (both literally and figuratively given thunderstorm predictions for Saturday) — albeit a loud kind of calm thanks to music from Philadelphia’s Low Cut Connie, which covered favorites by Rock Hall inductees and also dedicated a version of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” to the late Charles Bradley, who had covered the song.
Bon Jovi — who skipped the party but participated in Friday afternoon’s unveiling of the 2018 inductees plaque and individual exhibits — and the late Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe will also be inducted on Saturday. The ceremony will be filmed by HBO for broadcast premiering on May 5.
Save for Ocasek and his family, who were accompanied by security, most of the inductees who attended the party freely mingled and took pictures with fans, and most took time to check out their exhibits. Hawkes stood in front of the Arp Omni synthesizer he contributed, noting that he played it on the Cars’ first four albums and that it still boasted a set list from the tour supporting 1981’s Shake It Up album.
“I’m getting pretty excited,” Hawkes said of the induction, during which Weezer’s Scott Shriner will take the place of the Cars’ late Benjamin Orr for a performance. “I’m realizing that 40 years have gone by and I never expected to be here, but here I am.” Hawkes added that Orr, a Cleveland native who died from cancer in 2000, “would’ve loved it. I think he’d be reveling in this evening.”
Alan Clark of Dire Straits laughed in the bottom level food court as he spoke about how he claimed that he, bassist John Illsley and keyboardist Guy Fletcher would play an acoustic version of the epic “Telegraph Road” in the absence of frontman Mark Knopfler — and that it was taken seriously.
“That started as an April Fool’s joke, and I couldn’t help but perpetuate the myth further when people started to take it a bit seriously,” Clark said. He’s disappointed that the group won’t be performing and said he expected Knopfler wouldn’t show up, but added that hasn’t diminished his enthusiasm for the induction.
“It’s a great thing,” Clark said. “I mean, it’s a long time ago, but I’m constantly reminded about how people still love the music. It’s still as prevalent now as it was back then, and there’s so many young people who listen to their parents records who love Dire Straits, too. It’s amazing. A good song lasts forever.”
Clark contributed the accordion he played on the title track to the Brothers In Arms album, and bassist John Illsley — who co-owns the group name with Knopfler and, like Clark and Fletcher, roamed mostly unrecognized during the party — vowed to help find more items to fill out the group’s somewhat sparse display at the Rock Hall.
“I have a lot of things and just haven’t had the time to sort them out, but I will,” Illsley said. “I’d like there to be a good representation of the band here, too.”