It's less than a week until the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's induction ceremony at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, and the organizations's President and CEO Joel Peresman is having trouble getting a good night's sleep. "Some nights I wake up at 4 a.m. and write down notes for the next day," he says from his midtown Manhattan office. "There are so many elements to deal with beyond what's on the stage. I have to deal with seating, selling tickets, the various parties involved with the show and the logistics of getting people and equipment in and out of the venue. We have a great production team, but I have to be aware of all these little elements."
He's also had to deal with the wrath of Kiss frontman Paul Stanley, who has gone very public with his anger over the Hall of Fame's decision to only induct the band's original lineup. "I don't need the Hall of Fame," Stanley told Rolling Stone. "And if there's not reciprocity, I'm not interested. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, practically every member was inducted, and virtually all 175 members of the Grateful Dead. Rules need to apply to everybody."
"I don't like all the sniping back and forth, though mostly it's been forth," says Peresman. "And I totally understand his point of view. What he's failing to understand is that there are certain acts that are nominated and brought in on their entire body of work, up until the day before the nominating committee meets. They are still evolving bands that are breaking new ground. With Kiss, there wasn't a single person we spoke to that didn't feel the reason these guys were being inducted was because of the four original members. It's an incredibly unique situation. I can't think of another band, outside of Gwar, that has members that are dressed up in costumes. You basically have these new members that are replicating exactly and playing the music that was created by the two other members that are being inducted."
Kiss has invited current members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer to sit at their table, along with former guitarist Bruce Kulick. "I appreciate how Tommy and Eric have filled in and the way they do things," says Peresman. "They are fine musicians and I'm sure they're lovely guys, but they are basically replicating the two members that are getting inducted. How could we have asked Ace and Peter to accept the award and then have other people in their guise playing their music? They probably wouldn't have even come. They were very clear about that. . .Frankly, I'm really, really happy that Kiss are being inducted. It should have happened a while ago. The four of them will get up, accept their award, say what they want to say and then we'll move on."
The drama around Kiss has dominated press coverage of the Hall of Fame during the past few months, but they're only one part of an evening set to also honor Peter Gabriel, Cat Stevens, Linda Ronstadt, Hall & Oates, Nirvana, the E Street Band, Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham. "With the exception of Linda Ronstadt and Kiss, everyone is performing," says Peresman. "Cat Stevens is going to play on his own and with Paul Shaffer's band. There's a tribute to Linda Ronstadt - who won't be attending the show - featuring Stevie Nicks, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Carrie Underwood and Sheryl Crow that'll also use Paul Shaffer's band. Peter Gabriel is playing with his own group, though Pino Palladino will be on bass because his regular bassist, Tony Levin, will be on a prog rock cruise."
The exact plans for Nirvana's performance remains a tightly guarded secret, while the E Street Band's plans with Bruce Springsteen still aren't clear. "I don't know if all the new guys are playing or if they're just going to use Jake [Clemons] to play Clarence's parts," says Peresman. "I haven't heard yet, though I do think that [original E Street Band members] Vini [Lopez] and David [Sancious] will play with them. I know that Bruce has played with them in the past on certain occasions and it's a situation where everyone gets along and is real friendly. I'm sure they'll sort it out."
Springsteen will personally deliver the induction speech for his longtime band. "He's a great speaker and the speeches he gave in the past were always wonderful," says Peresman. "I'm sure that'll be a highlight of the evening." Victoria Clemons, the wife of the late Clarence Clemons, will accept his award and Danny Federici's widow Maya will accept his.
Most induction ceremonies end with a huge all-star jam, though that is also up in the air as of press time. "We honestly haven't started talking about that yet," says Peresman. "We didn't come up with the idea with Rush until a few days before the show last year. I do think that 'Rock and Roll All Nite' would be a natural end, but nothing has been discussed."
Until a few years ago, the event was almost always held at New York's Waldorf Astoria, but now the plan is to rotate on a three-year cycle between Cleveland, Los Angeles and New York. "We also want to keep having it at venues where the public can come," says Peresman. "Whether that means having it an arena or not depends on how things work out aesthetically, financially and timing-wise."
This is the first time the ceremony has been held at a basketball arena, and it's posed some logistical challenges. There's a Miley Cyrus concert five days before the show and a Brooklyn Nets game the day after. "From a production standpoint, it's an incredible challenge," says Peresman. "In hindsight, we could have used one extra day afterwards. We have to get all these things into the building, out of the building and onto trucks and out. Some of the stuff we're going to have to leave up. We'll have rigging in the ceiling that we have to leave up and take out after the basketball game."
All-star events like the Hall of Fame ceremony often stretch on well past midnight, but Peresman is determined to start the show at 7 p.m. and wrap it up before 11:15 p.m. "We're talking to all the inductees about limiting their speeches," he says. "We want to be respectful, but they know to be succinct. It's not live and HBO is going to air a two and half hour edit, but we don't want people sitting around for 10 minutes between acts. We have this down to a science. There should be only a few seconds between acts, maybe a minute. When people are speaking, the next act will be set up. It takes an incredible amount of coordination."
Artists are eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25 years after the release of their first single or album, meaning they are on the verge of honoring artists that began their careers in the 1990s. "You have Green Day and Pearl Jam coming up," says Peresman. "And then eventually Eminem at some point."
Pearl Jam should pose another conundrum considering the fact they've had five separate drummers. "I'm just trying to get through next Friday," says Peresman with a big laugh. "I'll deal with Pearl Jam's drummers after that."
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