Steven Van Zandt has been closely involved with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from the very beginning. He serves on the nominating committee, and personally inducted everybody from the Rascals to the Hollies. Next April, he’ll finally enter the elite club himself when the E Street Band receive the Award For Musical Excellence. We spoke with Van Zandt about the honor, as well as his future television and touring plans.
Tell me your first reaction to the news.
It was good. It’s always a bit strange when you’re in a conversation with somebody and they assume you’re already in. You gotta say, “Well, actually. . .” That little bit of awkwardness will be gone now. And of course, you’re honored to be part of the same institution as all of my heroes.
I think people assumed you were in because Bruce played with you when he was inducted and read all your names from the podium.
I know. Most people really assumed we were already in. It’s good to get if officially done.
Is the band going to play that night?
I haven’t heard anything about that. As far I know, that’s what usually has happened with inductees. But I haven’t heard one way or the other.
I know you’re close with Andrew Loog Oldham. Might you induct him?
I don’t know. I am a friend and I’d be happy to do it. It would be great, obviously, if Mick or Keith did it. I really haven’t heard who is doing what.
It’s a pretty cool class this time with Kiss, Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates. . .
It’s a challenge every year because we get a list of 100 names and virtually every one of them deserves to be in. Obviously, this is a wonderfully diverse group, which is always nice to see. The ones that we all personally hope to get in, we just have to keep making their case year after year. Hopefully everybody that deserves to get in will eventually get in.
You’ve been to so many of these things and been so closely involved with the organization. It’s gotta feel great to finally be the one getting a statue.
It’s great. Like I said, we’ve had so many great, great moments that I feel equally good about, whether I’m getting something or not. I feel equally good about getting the songwriters in and getting the bands in that got excluded: The Miracles, The Midnighters, all those bands. Also, guys like [Elvis Presley bassist] Bill Black. The big names are part of it, but the Hall of Fame is also about the guys behind-the-scenes, whether it’s the songwriters or producers or writers or sidemen. Whatever it is, it’s nice to have them included also. It’s a wonderful balance that we try to have every year. I would love to see Link Wray recognized, and Paul Butterfield and Procul Harum.
I know Clarence Clemons was pretty unhappy the E Street Band weren’t in.
Yeah. Obviously, when these things come up you wish the person was still alive when they got the award. When the Dave Clark Five got in, we just lost Mike Smith. It happens now and then. It’s good to be recognized for posterity, for the historical record. That’s the main thing.
It’s nuts it took Kiss all these years to get in.
Yeah. And I’m very happy they got in. A lot of times what people don’t understand is that we have people on our ballot, but then it goes out to the bigger voting group. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s completely unpredictable, really.
I spoke to Bruce the other day. He said that more American shows were possible, maybe in the summer.
We’ll see. It’s gonna be a little tricky for me. I always give him top priority, absolute top priority. I asked him 10 or 12 times: “Are you sure we’re not going to work next summer?” And he was absolutely sure. But I had to commit to the third season of Lilyhammer. I told him I was going to miss five weeks of work to go to South Africa and Australia, but then I’ll have to go back to Norway and work through June. If there are other E Street shows, I may have to miss a few and catch up with them in July.
So the third season of Lilyhammer is obviously inked at this point.
The third season is signed and I start on January 3rd. I’ll be filming a couple weeks, and then I’ll split and hang out with Bruce for a while. Then I’ll go back.