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Music DVD Review: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Live

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While it’s easy to hold contempt and disdain towards the corporate exclusivity that is so antithetical to what rock 'n' roll is all about, it's difficult not to be envious seeing the roster of guests who perform at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies. Over the years, some of the events have been broadcast, and now Time Life allows you to bring the party home with this fantastic three-DVD set you'll play over and over.

Disc 1 opens in 1988 with Mick Jagger inducting the Beatles. Only Ringo Starr and George Harrison are in attendance. John Lennon isn't there for obvious reasons, but there's no explanation given for Paul McCartney's absence. After doing some research, it turns out the Beatles were involved in a lawsuit with each other and McCartney released a statement:

"After 20 years, the Beatles still have some business differences which I had hoped would have been settled by now. Unfortunately, they haven’t been, so I would feel like a complete hypocrite waving and smiling with them at a fake reunion."

Following the Fab Duo's acceptance, Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rock Hall Jam Band perform "I Saw Her Standing There." The attribution on the video is puzzling because also on stage are Billy Joel (the first person to sing), Bob Dylan, Ben E. King, Brian Wilson, Little Steven, Clarence Clemons, Jeff Beck, Peter Wolfe, Neal Schon, and Arlo Guthrie to name a few. Not to mention George and Ringo, so it's odd that Jagger and the Boss get mentioned.

McCartney appears twice later on the set when he inducts John Lennon as a solo artist in 1994 and giving his own acceptance in 1999. He comes off even pettier by bringing on stage his daughter Stella who is wearing a t-shirt reading “About Fucking Time.” Still, how his absence at the Beatles induction didn’t make it into the set, even if told in a special feature or the liner notes, is absolutely stunning because it is an important historical footnote.

Band feuds are as prolific in the history of rock as guitar solos, evidenced a few chapters later when, after Creedence Clearwater Revival makes their acceptance speech, John Fogarty plays "Green River" without former bandmates Stu Cook and Doug Clifford. Instead, Springsteen, Robbie Robertson, and Don Was accompany him. Where was Neil Young when Buffalo Springfield got inducted? Even more curious, when Crosby, Stills & Nash and Tom Petty sing "For What It's Worth," why do they shut out an unidentified BS band member from singing along? Did Stills not like him?

Each of these nights should be a time for celebration and commemoration not a continuation of long-held animosity. In 1993 when Cream makes their acceptance, Eric Clapton states he was against the idea of respectability being paired with rock 'n' roll, but changed his mind after he talked with Robertson. It's palpable that he's so glad (so glad, so glad, so glad) to have reunited with his dear old friends and it's wonderful they can still create magic together after a 25-year hiatus.

This same joy can be seen in the reunions of Bruce Springsteen in 1999, when he calls up the E Street Band during his acceptance and their first performance together in a decade; Jason Newsted back with Metallica for one night, particularly when they played "Master of Puppets," made even heavier with two basses; and drummer Bill Berry back on the kit for R.E.M in 2007.

Rock music has seen its fair share of death, usually at too early an age, but it led to compelling match-ups. In 1992, Neil Young led the Jimi Hendrix Experience and is joined by guitarists Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Fogerty, Carlos Santana, and The Edge for "All Along the Watchtower." In 1993, Eddie Vedder filled in for Jim Morrison on The Doors' "Light My Fire," which sounds slightly different here with the addition of Was on bass. In 2001 Foo Fighters and Queen rocked the house with "Tie Your Mother Down." In 2004 George Harrison was inducted as a solo artist, yet the viewer doesn’t get any of his solo material. Jeff Lynne and Petty play The Traveling Wilburys' "Handle Me With Care" and then the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." However "Weeps" had to be included because it contains the single greatest performance of the entire set as Prince delivers a scorching guitar solo.

Springsteen inducts Roy Orbison in 1987, the second year of the ceremony. The group rendition of "Pretty Woman" sounds off, but there's a charm to it, bringing to mind kids playing in their garages. Although the video quality looks its age, Orbison is the earliest inductee shown to be honored, which is truly mind-boggling. Where's B.B King and Aretha Franklin from that same year? Omissions like this are the set's greatest flaw.

Obviously you can't include everyone from over two decades on just three DVDs and it will likely sell more units including U2 and Metallica, but representatives from the first class deserve their due. Ray Charles shows up to induct Billy Joel, and Little Richard can be seen on stage during some end-of-the-night jams, but they certainly deserve to be featured for their influence more than Jackson Browne and The Righteous Brothers.

Hell, every disc contains a portion of The Rolling Stones induction and they perform three songs. Surely, Richards would have given up one spot to Chuck Berry. James Hetfield makes a very classy move when he cites bands like Deep Purple, Motorhead, and Iron Maiden that were influences on Metallica and are deserving of induction, and it's cool to see Peter Green show up for induction with Fleetwood Mac.

Each disc offers bonus material with complete induction segments as well as backstage and rehearsal footage. Pete Townshend roasts the Stones, even mentioning black artists they were inspired by (ripped off); Jann Werner reads the Sex Pistols scathing response to their induction; and Billy Joel is stand-up comic funny in his tribute to John Mellencamp.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Live is not just entertainment but an education of popular music of the latter half of the twentieth century. Any fan of the many subgenres of rock 'n' roll will find it money and time well spent. Hopefully, this is Volume 1 in a series.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • No reunion could ever be complete without the squabbling in-laws and I guess the R&RHOF is no exception. And like those other reunions, grandma and grandpa are usually sent off to their respective corners so the rest of the kids can play. It’s a sad reality. Anyway, no reunion is ever perfect, but it sounds like this one will do nicely. Good review too.


  • Hey El, they had the 25th rock n’ roll anniversary on Sunday (HBO), pretty good, except too much of Crosby, Stills and Nash. Did you see it?

    25th Anniversary HBO Concert Special

  • Thanks, Glen.

    Christine, I have it on the DVR.

  • and I have a audio bootleg of the first night

  • Very good then.

  • Hows the sound quality?

  • Greg Barbrick

    I saw you mentioned Neil Young and Page together at one point, but on the night Led Zep were inducted, did Young play with them?

  • This 3 DVD set represents just the first three of 9 DVDs that compile great moments from the RockHall ceremonies and 1995 Concert for the R&RHoF. BB King, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Ruth Brown, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Aretha Franklin and many other founding fathers and mothers are represented in the more complete version of this compilation, available on Time Life’s website.

  • Greg, although not included here, Young did play with Zepp. I believe it was “When The Levee Breaks.” It was stellar.

    bsarles, thanks for the clarification. Do you happen to know if the remaining six discs will be released in smaller sets?

  • Liz

    Typical Paul bashing. You should be ashamed of yourself. There was no better rock and roll moment at the silly Rock and Roll Hall of Fame than when Stella McCartney wore that T-shirt “About Fucking Time.”

    And it was “About Fucking Time.” The HOF should have inducted him as a solo artist years before it did, and it was just because its board was dominated by Lennonites that it didn’t.

    But …. Paul should have attended the Beatles’ induction. That did make him look bad, even though HE was the one being sued by George, Ringo and Yoko.

  • El Bicho

    No, Liz, you should be ashamed.

    First, how lame that you turn a blind eye to whatever Paul does. It’s sad that someone as successful as he has such a fragile ego that he cares about getting in the Hall. If it was so important, he shouldn’t have snubbed the Hall when they inducted The Beatles. He probably pissed off some judges.

    Secondly, you don’t appear to know rock ‘n’ roll. Paul’s solo career is more pop than rock and really has had little impact on the artform.

    Bowie and The Sex Pistols turning down their induction were more rock ‘n’ roll than Sir Paul using his daughter to make a lame statement. If that’s the way he really felt, he shouldn’t have accepted.

  • kedame

    Paul has some great rock moments in his solo career (Oh Woman Oh Why?, Monkberry Moon Delight, Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight, etc.). Some people are just too lazy to find them. John Lennon was inducted, and really, people only care about one solo song he wrote (when there are many better ones). “Imagine” is such a great rock and roll tune, isn’t it, what with that rollicking piano. (Not saying he didn’t deserve his solo induction, but no more so than Paul deserved his. He wrote about an equal number of pop songs as Paul, a lot of them really mushy, worshipful, apologetic songs to Yoko…and a lot of them filled with naive political ideologies that didn’t work in the 70s and still don’t work today.) I do wish Paul would have attended, but on the other hand, why should he have to go endure the company of people who have mocked and belittled him for years? Should he do it just to appeal to the masses? If he had attended, people would have called him fake or something for pretending that all was well in Beatle-land. He can never win. It also must rankle that he has to kowtow to someone regarding music that he actually helped write and perform. It’s no wonder he didn’t really want to be there.

  • There must be something about the name Paul. Many McCartney fans come off just as kooky and obsessed as Ron Paul fans.

    What impact did those obscure songs have on rock ‘n’ roll, kedame? Show me the interview where upcoming musicians are talking about the influence Paul’s solo career had.

    Though it would have been nice, Paul didn’t have to attend when Beatles were inducted, but then don’t act like a brat later and wonder why the same judges are in no hurry to induct you. It’s like athletes who have a horrible relationship with press who then wonder why those same people don’t vote them in the Hall of Fame of their respective sport. If he didn’t want to be, then he shouldn’t have gone.

  • kedame

    Okaaaay. I’m not exactly sure how enjoying a person’s music comes off as “kooky and obsessed,” but you didn’t have to be so rude. I wouldn’t say we are more kooky and obsessed than any other fan of any other musician. What can I say…I just like Paul. I shouldn’t have even said anything, I guess. Maybe he acted like a baby, but we’ll probably never know what went on behind the scenes that made him not want to go. Anyway, I’ll just shut up now because I’m sure you don’t care.

  • kedame

    Oh, and go check out August’s issue of Mojo Magazine. There are quite a few artists/critics that have enjoyed his solo music. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be influential to people.

  • Buggy

    “He comes off pettier”??? Well, I guess if I had had the chance to do what he and Stella did, I would have done it without thinking. Typical Lennon-fan review! Nothing new… same old arguments trying to cover the sun with the little finger. Even if we dislike McCartney’s personal appeal, it’s such a shame when people try to discredit his contribution to music. Even his craziest and most experimental sounds have turned out to be a breakthrough (remember Temporary Secretary??). Had John been alive, we could probably have real arguments to say his contribution to rock and pop was greater, but sadly, that did not happen and only after his death did his music become so “grand” and “superb”. Double-Fantasy was deemed his worst record but then, he became a legend and he deserved it, but it’s a shame people are not able to recognize that fortunately the other half of those two geniuses is still around here and has accomplished many great things as well… 1999 was too late to induct him… Definitely “about fucking time”!

  • Typical overly defensive McCartney-fan response. Why don’t any of you actually make the case of how his solo career impacted rock ‘n’ roll? Instead, you just throw out a random song title and think you’ve made your case.

    And yes, he is a petty man. Here’s another example. Cries to the press about Michael Jackson buying the rights to the Beatles catalog yet had no qualms about buying the rights to other artists’ work.

    He’s a talented musician, but too many of you think he walks on water.

  • Buggy

    All we are saying is give peace a chance my friend… The fact is that Lennon’s contribution has been magnified since that sad and pathetic Dec. 8th. Good for him, like I said before, he deserved it mostly for his lyrics on social causes; yet, musically my friend, the real “muzak” creator was McCartney… In spite of the negative connotation people give to “elevator music”, his melodies truly exceed anything Lennon did while he was still with us… Guys like you take “How do you sleep” so seriously! But whether you like it or not, the urban myth of what Lennon thought when he heard “Coming Up” (“well, he’s done it again”) referring to McCartney’s ability to make #1 hits at the time and his “jealousy” towards Paul due to that (Yoko said a few years ago that John woke up at nights saying “why do they cover his songs and not mine”) clearly demonstrate that the other half (please take note of that) of those two geniuses was Paul McCartney. And well, just like I hate many of Lennon’s songs that in my opinion did not contribute to shape Rock and Roll, I also hate many of McCartney’s songs, but that doesn’t mean I do not acknowledge tunes like “Get out of my way” (from the Off the Ground album), or the amazing “Somedays” or “Calico Skies” (from the Flaming Pie album) or the fine “Too much rain” or “Riding to Vanity Fair” (from Macca’s Chaos and Creation) or “Mr. Bellamy” (from his Memory Almost Full) or “Dance till we’re high” (from Electric Arguments)… I’m intentionally naming only some songs from his most recent solo catalog that you probably have not even heard of but if we go back to the 80’s and 70’s you do have tunes that have impacted to Rock my friend… and if you’re an honest Lennon fan, you shouldn’t be so annoying not to admit it: Let ’em In, Take It Away, Every Night, This One, My Brave Face, Temporary Secretary, Mull of Kintyre, With a Little Luck, Getting Closer, Maybe I’m Amazed, Helen Wheels, Oh Woman, Oh Why, Another Day, Band on the run, Hi hi hi, Silly Love Songs (in reply to Lennon’s acid comments about him writing on the subject as you probably know)… So, in summary, yes… McCartney’s lyrics are light… his songs are not written for social causes (last year he admitted in an interview that he’s never been great to that… we all know that), his concerts are expensive and his personality is not the most appealing… but the point is that whether we like it or not, he has had something to say on the matter and 1999 was way too late to recognize that… Now, I’m writing from a total subjective stand and posting a comment to a DVD reviewer (as I understand from the blog). Now, I arrived to this website out of curiosity for the DVD itself, yet, in my opinion, your tone as a mere commenter or critic or reviewer of this DVD was not that objective and since I can see from other comments you have decided to show your subjective side and launch this Lennon defense, well, here you have my personal opinion then. Excuse me if it goes beyond the purpose of your DVD review and well, it would be great to discover you are a real Beatles fan prone to Lennon instead of an unreasonable Lennon fan who believes he’s god… I tell you I’m prone to McCartney but I’m aware of his many demerits and have taste for George’s solo work as well as for John’s (not Ringo I most confess, though his latest work with McCartney [walk with you] is a real achievement in his career).

  • buggy, my pal, you and a few other McCartney fans really need to work on your hero worship/inadequacy issues. The only people talking about Lennon here are you.

    If you are fine with Paul’s entitled, bratty behavior at the event, so be it, but I thought it reflected poorly on him. I also found John Fogerty not playing with the rest of CCR very petty, but that doesn’t automatically mean I am the President of the Doug Clifford fan club.

    As far as Paul’s solo not being HoF worthy that also has nothing to do with Lennon. There are many artists currently inducted I would not have allowed in if I had a vote, from the Hollies, to Billy Joel, to most of the Motown artists, etc.

    Feel free to name every song Paul has ever written if you like. It does nothing to show any impact his solo work has had on rock ‘n’ roll. You have to do more than mention a title. You need to explain what the impact was. You and the other defenders have failed to do so. Yes, Paul has had a successful solo career filled with hit records and sold-out concerts. That’s not enough to sway me to think he’s deserving to get into the Hall of Fame.

  • Another worshipper…

    Yeah, I’ve been reading your comments and well, may I just say that according to “El Bicho”, we’re just a whole mistaken generation then… If you see no impact at all, that’s because you don’t want to see it mate! May I transcribe something that took place very recently though you will probably keep on saying Paul’s merits have to do with “hit records and sold-out concerts” only… We’re and will remain as blind as we want to be…

    The White House
    Office of the Press Secretary

    For Immediate Release June 03, 2010
    Remarks by the President in Presenting the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to Sir Paul McCartney

    East Room
    June 2, 2010

    8:36 P.M. EDT

    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Please, everybody have a seat. The show is not over. (Laughter.) To all the tremendous artists from all the genres and backgrounds who’ve joined us tonight to pay tribute to the one and only Sir Paul McCartney, thank you so much. (Applause.)

    Stevie Wonder — (applause) — the Jonas Brothers, Faith Hill, Emmylou Harris, Lang Lang, Herbie Hancock, Elvis Costello, Jack White, Corinne Bailey Rae, David Grohl, and the funny man, Jerry Seinfeld — give it up for them. (Applause.)

    We also want to thank the Gershwin family, as well as the Library of Congress, and Dr. James Billington, as well as PBS, for helping to put this together. Dr. Billington has done extraordinary work at the Library of Congress, and his deep commitment to preserving America’s cultural heritage for future generations is something that we all treasure.

    We have a number of members of Congress, number of dignitaries here tonight. I want to make special mention of our outstanding Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.) You will not find a bigger supporter of the arts than Nancy Pelosi, and so we’re grateful for that.

    Even as we gather here tonight to present this annual award for extraordinary contributions to American music and culture — that’s right, we stole you, Paul — (laughter) — it goes without saying that this has been a very difficult time. We’ve gone through a difficult year and a half, and right now our thoughts and our prayers are with friends in another part of the country that is so rich in musical heritage — the people of the Gulf Coast who are dealing with something that we simply had not seen before. And it’s heartbreaking. And we reaffirm, I think together, our commitment to see to it that their lives and their communities are made whole again. (Applause.)

    But part of what gets us through tough times is music, the arts, the ability to capture that essential kernel of ourselves, that part of us that sings even when times are hard. And it’s fitting that the Library has chosen to present this year’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to a man whose father played Gershwin compositions for him on the piano; a man who grew up to become the most successful songwriter in history -– Sir Paul McCartney. (Applause.)

    By its very definition, popular music is fleeting. Rarely is it composed with an eye towards standing the test of time. Rarer still does it actually achieve that distinction. And that’s what makes Paul’s career so legendary.

    It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly half a century since four lads from Liverpool first landed on our shores -– and changed everything overnight. And I have to share this story. While we were sitting here I learned that the bass that Paul was playing on stage is the same bass that he played at The Ed Sullivan Show, which he told me it cost him 30 pounds. He says he suspects it’s worth a little more now. (Laughter.)

    But the Beatles, they weren’t the first rock stars. They’d be the first to say that others had opened that door for them. But they blew the walls down for everybody else. In a few short years, they had changed the way that we listened to music, thought about music and performed music forever. They helped to lay the soundtrack for an entire generation — an era of endless possibility and of great change.

    And over the four decades since, Paul McCartney has not let up — touring the world with the band Wings or on his own; rocking everything from small halls to Super Bowls. He’s composed hundreds of songs over the years -– with John Lennon, with others, or on his own. Nearly 200 of those songs made the charts — think about that — and stayed on the charts for a cumulative total of 32 years. (Laughter and applause.) And his gifts have touched billions of lives.

    As he later confessed of the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show -– where he carried that bass out — that one evening that changed everything –- Paul said, “Luckily, we didn’t know what America was. We just knew our dream of it, or we probably would have been too intimidated.”

    Tonight, it is my distinct pleasure to present America’s highest award for popular music on behalf of a grateful nation — grateful that a young Englishman shared his dreams with us -– Sir Paul McCartney. (Applause.)

    8:44 P.M. EDT

  • AW, I notice you are unable to articulate what that impact is and Obama’s words don’t either. There’s no denying Paul is a talented, successful musician who has had a lengthy career, but his solo work is not influential enough that he deserves to go into the HoF no matter how much you like the music. Sorry, mate

  • Puppyland

    El Bicho, you’re really blind my friend! A real shame you don’t see McCartney’s countribution and influence. I’ve read all the comments people have made to you and I see plenty olf evidence supporting the fact but that subjectivity they’re using to defend Paul is the same subjectivity that unfortunately is blinding you!