I had been in America barely six months when I found myself at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Jan. 12, 1993. Back when the annual event still had some prestige, despite the prescient tut-tutting of some of us, head honcho and Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner brought his New York-based jamboree to Los Angeles for the first (and only) time.
The Doors were inducted, and the three surviving members played publicly for the first time in two decades. A relatively unknown Eddie Vedder (second from left, between Robby Krieger and John Densmore) stood in for Jim Morrison singing “Roadhouse Blues” and “Light My Fire.” Jim was also represented by his sister, Ann (standing next to Ray Manzarek), and her family.
The power rock trio Cream played for the first time since 1968. I stood on a table in the Century Plaza hotel ballroom to watch Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce (pictured in that order) banging out “Sunshine of Your Love,” “Crossroads” and “Born Under a Bad Sign.”
Van Morrison didn’t show up for his induction, and Counting Crows performed a tribute to him. Sly Stewart of Sly and the Family Stone did emerge from his crack den long enough to get his gong.
Creedence Clearwater Revival, another defunct holdover from the ’60s, was also honored. But singer/songwriter John Fogerty refused to play with his long-estranged rhythm section. Instead, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford walked out of the ballroom while Fogerty awkwardly played his old hits with Bruce Springsteen (pictured above with Fogerty) and Robbie Robertson. I saw one of the guys nursing his sorrows at the bar, and went up to offer a sympathetic ear while he gave me some incendiary quotes. But I wasn’t sure if it was Stu or Doug, and I couldn’t compound the indignity by enquiring which one he was. So I asked him for his autograph, and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford duly signed his name, helping me out of a jam and maybe restoring his spirits a little. I long considered Fogerty a schmuck for not burying the hatchet that one night. But then I got to interview him a few times and concluded he was a nice chap, if somewhat beholden to his wife. As with any relationship, bands have unique dynamics that are often incomprehensible to outsiders.
I spent most of the time in the press area, yelling out questions as various honorees and bigwigs came backstage. I chatted with a pleasant L.A. Times reporter who seemed to focus most of his energies on getting autographs – a bit of an ethical no-no in such confines. I learned months later that he was an infamous gatecrasher. I admit I did wonder out to the bar a few times to gawk at all the famous people. I had never experienced such a gathering of rock ‘n’ roll VIPs. There was Phil Spector chatting with Lenny Kravitz. Ahmet Ertegun glided elegantly among the glitterati. Barbara Orbison. Yeah, I caved and got their autographs too.
At the end, they handed out a commemorative CD with selected tracks from the honorees, who also included Ruth Brown, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Etta James, Dinah Washington and non-performers Milt Gabler and Dick Clark. It’s one hell of a compilation. If I get my act together I’ll try and post audio from backstage and the event itself.
NOTE: An edited version of the above story appears in my gossipy rock anthology, Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles, available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com
Copyright © 1993, 2013 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING