Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hope I Die Before I Get Old (Yeah, Right!)

I have bought fully into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame media blitz. In their 25th year, the Hall is going balls out for public exposure and money. The two-day concert event at Madison Square Garden raised millions for an endowment. Me and my fortunate sons were there to see night one, and it was spectacular. (Read the four posts on the show - If There's a Rock and Roll Heaven...).

Then, there's the new Rolling Stone, with Bono, Mick and Bruce and the cover, the entire issue dedicated to the performances and the Hall of Fame. It's self-promotion to be sure, but that's fine by me. Best yet. there's a DVD of the Induction ceremonies, the hands down best part of the institution. I ended up with the 3 disc set, although there's a 9 DVD box out there somewhere. I can only comment on Disc 1, but that took a few hours to go through.

The jams are fun, though no high level art. It's a hoot to watch little Paul Shaffer "conduct" the melee. I tell you, Springsteen is always having the most fun, whether it's singing "Oh, Pretty Woman" with his hero Roy Orbison, or harmonizing to "Green River" with his hero John Fogerty. Seeing Peter Green stand uncomfortably stage right as he joins Santana and the Green-penned "Black Magic Woman" is gripping; Green disappeared for years due to psychological and pharmaceutical issues. Prince rips the lid off "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." He is the best guitarist on the stage, but it seems like old warhorses like Tom Petty don't really appreciate him. Petty gives a condescending smirk as the former symbol wails away. only George's son Dhani Harrison revels in the fireworks.

The speeches are the best. That's when the real emotion spews forth. Jagger shows real affection for The Beatles, Fogerty shows intense hatred for the rest of Creedence. Clatpon's speech on wanting to join The Band tells a lot about the man, and was one of the springboards to the Maybe Baby blog. The bonus material on Disc 1 features full introductions. Springsteen's take on Jackson Browne as a chick magnet is hilarious. It explains Browne's greatness better than Jackson's own speech. Paul's "letter to John" is as much about Macca as about Lennon, but it is heartfelt and, when The Cute One embraces Yoko it is cathartic. A quick shot to the late Linda in the audience, weeping as she watches, is another heartbreaker.

There are some bits of real douchery. Brian Wilson's awkward reading is sad, for sure, but when Mike Love follows with a nasty speech, shitting on The Beatles, The Stones (was he drunk?), you realize what torment Brian went through working with this asshole. Jann Wenner reads The Sex Pistols' letter of refusal, to the guffaws of the tuxedoed audience. The big shots laughing at Johnny Rotten's spelling and spleen prove the nasty one is dead right. Pete Townshend's paean to his heroes The Stones is funny, sweet, uncomfortable and sincere.

How great must it have been for these guys to be young? The music, the girls, the money, the fame. Yet, growing old hasn't diminished them in the least. McCartney, The Stones, Dylan - they've invented what we think of as rock and are consistently creating what it means to be an aging rock star. They have stayed artistically vital and strong in a way that no one could have seen in the days when pop icons fizzled out by the age of 30.

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