The annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction dinner in New York is only three years old but already it's starting to develop its traditions,the wildest being the all-star jam that ends the festivities at the Waldorf-Astoria's Grand Ballroom. No matter that the sound system last Wednesday night was more reminiscent of Liverpool's Cavern Club. What was really odd was seeing all those superstars doing songs like "Satisfaction" and "Twist and Shout" in their tuxedos and seeing the well-heeled crowd, so jaded that they seldom came up with much more than perfunctory applause, finally standing on their chairs and twisting the night away.
Maybe that's why they don't televise the affair. The dinner is put together by a mostly volunteer staff, and is essentially unrehearsed and therefore often discombobulated. Some inductors tend to ramble on, and this year Supreme Mary Wilson managed to both plug her book and offer some insincere excuses for the missing Diana Ross. But Beach Boy Mike Love's speech was the first to generate boos. Love has long been one of rock's notorious bores, and he cemented his reputation with stupid slurs on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. Band leader Paul Shaffer must have known something was up because just as Love was getting ready to speak he started up the music. Love simply waited him out.
Another, much more pleasant tradition is the Bruce Springsteen Memorial Induction Anecdote. Last year he did the honors for Roy Orbison, and this year for labelmate Bob Dylan. Since the Boss does no interviews, as a public service we hereby print his remarks:
"The first time that I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother and we were listening to, I think, WMCA, and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody'd kicked open the door to your mind ... 'Like a Rolling Stone.' And my mother, she was no stiff with rock 'n' roll, she used to like the music, she listened, she sat there for a minute and she looked at me and she said, 'That guy can't sing.' But I knew she was wrong, you know. I sat there and I didn't say nothin', but I knew that I was listening to the toughest voice that I had ever heard.
"It was lean and it sounded somehow simultaneously young and adult. And I ran out and I bought the single and I ran home and I put it on, the 45, and they must have made a mistake in the factory because a Lenny Welch song came on. The label was wrong. So I ran back, got it and I came back and I played it. Then I went out and I got 'Highway 61' and that was all I played for weeks, looked at the cover with Bob in that satin blue jacket and the Triumph motorcycle shirt.
"And when I was a kid, Bob's voice somehow thrilled and scared me, it made me feel kind of irresponsibly innocent, and it still does, when it reached down and touched what little worldliness a 15-year-old kid in high school in New Jersey had in him at the time. Dylan -- he was a revolutionary. The way that Elvis freed your body, Bob freed your mind and showed us that just because the music was innately physical did not mean that it was anti-intellect. He had the vision and the talent to make a pop song so that it contained the whole world. He invented a new way a pop singer could sound, broke through the limitations of what a recording artist could achieve, and he changed the face of rock 'n' roll forever and ever.
"Without Bob the Beatles wouldn't have made 'Sergeant Pepper,' the Beach Boys wouldn't have made 'Pet Sounds,' the Sex Pistols wouldn't have made 'God Save the Queen,' U2 wouldn't have done 'Pride in the Name of Love,' Marvin Gaye wouldn't have done 'What's Going On,' Grandmaster Flash might not have done 'The Message' and the Count Five would not have done 'Psychotic Reaction.' There never would have been a group named the Electric Prunes. But the fact is that to this day, where great rock music is being made, there is the shadow of Bob Dylan over and over and over, and Bob's own modern work has gone unjustly underappreciated for having to stand in that shadow. If there was a young guy out there writing 'A Sweetheart Like You,' writing the 'Empire Burlesque' album, writing 'Every Grain of Sand,' they'd be calling him the new Bob Dylan.
"That's all the nice things I have to say tonight. Now, about three months ago, I was watching TV and the 'Rolling Stones Special' came on and Bob came on and he was in a real cranky mood. He was kind of bitchin' and moanin' about how his fans don't know him and nobody knows him, that they come up to him on the street and treat him like a long lost brother or something, and speaking as a fan, when I was 15 and I heard 'Like a Rolling Stone,' I heard a guy like I've never heard before, a guy that had the guts to take on the whole world and make me feel like I had to, too. Maybe some people mistook that voice to be saying somehow that you were going to do the job for them, and as we know as we grow older, there isn't anybody out there that can do that job for anybody else. So I'm just here tonight to say thanks, to say that I wouldn't be here without you, to say that there isn't a soul in this room who does not owe you their thanks, and to steal a line from one of your songs, whether you like it or not, 'You was the brother that I never had.' "