This year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was an overstuffed sonic bonanza with seven worthy and diverse inductees — Stevie Nicks, Roxy Music, the Zombies, Radiohead, Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, and the Cure — getting the opportunity to bask in the honor, whether they actually wanted to or not. Vulture was lucky enough to be reporting from all over the Barclays Center when the ceremony occurred last month, and with HBO airing it for everyone else to enjoy on Saturday, April 27, we figured it would be worth revisiting all of the highs, lows, and whoas of this 2019 induction class. Come for the snub gossip, and stay for the performances, what little of them we have left!
HIGH: Stevie Nicks and Janet Jackson’s demands for more women inductees
Nicks, the first woman to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, and Jackson, who’s been eligible for induction for over a decade, both used their speeches to critique the Rock Hall for its horrific track record when it comes to recognizing the musical talents of women. (The comparison is 22 to one as of this year.) “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, please, 2020,” Jackson said to conclude her speech, “induct more women.”
Nicks, meanwhile, took a chunk out of her speech to argue the Rock Hall’s main “problem” is that it’s reluctant to induct soloists who break out from a band, women or otherwise. “This is a hard thing to do. Because you have to; the times are different. It’s going to be hard,” Nicks directed to all the X-chromosome musicians out there. “But I know there’s somebody out there that will be able to do it because I’m going to give you all the directions and I’ll do enough interviews and say what to do.”
LOW: The Brian Eno snub …
Eno, one of Roxy Music’s founding members, was kicked out of the band in the early ’70s for essentially being too horny. (Among other things.) As Rock Hall ceremonies have previously served as a neutral reunion platform for bands harboring tepid relationships — Talking Heads, Cream, etc. — fans were hoping the ambient maestro would suck it up and get together with Bryan Ferry & Co. after all these years. It didn’t happen owing to the ever-vague “other commitments.” Bollocks!
WHOA: … And the 60 percent Radiohead snub
A more complex snub goes to those cheeky Radiohead boys, with band members Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway being the only ones who ultimately decided to show up after months of speculation. This was still a nice surprise, though: Most of the band members previously asserted that they had no intention to attend their induction, so we must give thanks to the power of persuasion. The duo didn’t perform owing to missing the three other dudes, but their speeches were witty, heartfelt, and clearly appreciative of the honor. “It’s a big fucking deal,” O’Brien said. “I wish the others could be here, they would be feeling it.” Selway remarked: “We’re certainly not the most media-friendly of bands … it can be awkward and challenging sometimes, but I guess that’s what kept us all interested for the past three decades.” Hard agree.
HIGH: Robert Smith’s DGAF viral moment
We have to give credit to the Rock Hall’s on-site interviewer, who, despite a big swing and a miss, tried out an overly cheery demeanor on the Cure’s Robert Smith to get him to open up about his induction. His response, when asked if he’s, like, so so so excited? “Um, by the sounds of it, no.”
WHOA: Trent Reznor walking back on his Rock Hall hatred
Among the Rock Hall’s noted detractors, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor’s dislike for the institution was still pretty notable in the grand scheme of things — last year, he said he would give minus-zero shits if his band was ever on the fast track for an induction. “I don’t give a fuck! You know what I mean?” Reznor explained at the time. “I can’t even imagine what that would be. I’m not saying this as sour grapes. I honestly couldn’t give less of a shit.” Well, it should then come as great amusement to everyone that Reznor not only happily showed up at this year’s ceremony to induct his favorite band, the Cure, but he also fully retracted his previous comments.
“I should make a full disclosure at this point. I think it’s only right for me to admit that I’ve been, let’s say, ambivalent about the existence of certain award ceremonies,” he said onstage. “I’ve perhaps been in the habit of questioning their motivations with a certain degree of cynicism. In fact, I remember distinctly saying to myself, among other things, how can I even take this awards ceremony seriously if they’ll open their doors to X, Y, and Z and not acknowledge the Cure? Not so long ago, I get a phone call I wasn’t expecting, and, well, here we are. Let’s just say I’ve never been as happy to eat my words as I was tonight.” Glad to have you, honey!
HIGH: The return of the “all-star jam”
Thanks to the weird, beautiful mess known as Dire Straits’ induction into the Rock Hall last year, the last time we were blessed with a group all-star jam performance was back in 2017. And while we’d argue it didn’t have its usual level of star power, it was super-good fun seeing Def Leppard, Brian May, Colin Blunstone, Rod Argent, Susanna Hoffs, Steven Van Zandt, and Ian Hunter have the time of their lives while rockin’ out to Mott the Hoople’s classic tune “All the Young Dudes.” Seriously, name us any other place where a jam like this could happen.
WHOA: The horny ladies of Barclays
Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon and John Taylor inducted their idols, Roxy Music, into the Rock Hall and gave a terrific speech about what it was like to witness the band’s ascent as awestruck teens in suburban England. At least, we think it was a terrific speech, as the near-constant screams from excitable women in the audience hindered Vulture’s transcription. Those ’80s New Wave heartthrobs — they’ve still got it!
HIGH: Stevie Nicks and Harry Styles’s enviable relationship
Styles referred to Nicks as an incredible “lady, lover, and friend” in his speech, so we’ll leave it up to you, dear readers, to figure out what they personally call each other. “She’s more than a role model — she’s a beacon to all of us,” he added. “Whenever you hear her voice, life gets a little bit better. When she sings, the world is hers, and it is yours.” (As for Nicks, she referred to Styles as a former member of N’SYNC. Close enough!) To win over the coveted Tom Petty crowd, Styles stood in for Gainesville’s finest to duet with Nicks on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” The result was sonic magic.
WHOA: Brian May’s outfit
Last year’s recipient of Vulture’s Snazziest Jacket Award went to Ric Ocasek. This year, the Queen chap gets the honor — and although it doesn’t photograph easily, we can confirm it was pure velvety goodness.
LOW: The increased normalcy of no performances
Two of the seven inductees opted out of performing at the ceremony, for two very different reasons — Radiohead wasn’t there in full, while Janet Jackson reportedly refused owing to HBO’s also airing a documentary about sex-abuse allegations against her brother Michael (HBO annually airs the Rock Hall ceremony). There was nobody, such as a peer or collaborator, who performed in their place, which had been the customary solution since the Rock Hall’s inception in the late ’80s. (They were inducted by David Byrne and Janelle Monáe, respectively. That would’ve been awfully fun!) It’s always a bummer to not witness these icons doin’ their thing live, but at least it didn’t evolve into something as bad as not having a presenter.
WHOA: Janet Jackson insisting she was never a “good dancer”
Pardon??????? “But I loved the way dancing made my body feel,” she added in her speech. “I have to thank all the choreographers I ever worked with.”