Trent Reznor was nearly done inducting the Cure into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when he went off on a slight tangent to talk about the institution itself. “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,” the Nine Inch Nails frontman told the crowd at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Friday night. “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.”
The same thing could have been said about many other members of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019, most of whom have been somehow overlooked for at least as long as the goth/post-punk legends. The Zombies had to wait 29 years and go through four ballots, while Roxy Music, Janet Jackson and Def Leppard have all been waiting for at least a decade despite their obvious qualifications. It was therefore not surprising that the overriding sentiment throughout the evening was extreme gratitude and glowing euphoria. And when the Zombies performed their 1967 classic “This Will Be Our Year,” they seemed to be speaking for most of their fellow inductees.
The evening began not with the standard introductory remarks by a Hall of Fame official, but rather Stevie Nicks gliding onto the stage and belting out “Stand Back” with a crack band that included guitar great Waddy Wachtel. She’s been on the road with Fleetwood Mac for months and played a show just three days earlier, but was in absolute prime voice. Surprise guest Don Henley came out next to help her revive their 1981 hit “Leather and Lace” and was followed by Harry Styles to sing the Tom Petty parts on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” It wrapped up with a ferocious “Edge of Seventeen,” complete with Wachtel recreating his iconic guitar part from the original recording.
The performance set the bar high for the evening, as did Styles when he delivered a heartfelt induction speech about what Nicks has meant to him over the years. “If you’re lucky enough to know her, she’s always there for you,” he said. “She knows what you need, advice, a little wisdom, a blouse, a shawl — she’s got you covered. Her songs make you ache, feel on top of the world, make you want to dance, and usually all three at the same time. She’s responsible for more running mascara — including my own — than all the bad dates in history combined. That is true Stevie.”
Nicks is known for delivering long speeches, but she somehow kept her remarks to a relatively tight 12 minutes. (Jon Bon Jovi went nearly 20 last year.) It touched on every part of her career, focusing on the period in 1979 when she secretly began plotting a career outside of her band, often stopping to talk about the speech itself. “I wanna tell you that everybody in my life gave me ideas of what I could say to you,” she said. “Six minutes is not very long. So let me move right on — six minutes for me! I majored in speech communication in San Jose State!”
Had more than 2/5th of Radiohead showed up, they probably wouldn’t have been placed second, but without Thom Yorke or any sort of performance planned, that’s where they wound up. David Byrne (whose 1986 song with Talking Heads “Radio Head” gave the band their name) delivered their induction speech. “They richly deserve this honor for two reasons,” he said. “Their music, the quality and constant innovation, but equally for their innovations in how they release their work — that has affected the entire music business, and there’s quite a few people in the music business in this room tonight. They’re creative and smart in both areas, a rare and inspiring combination.”
Yorke made the dubious claim that he couldn’t make the ceremony since he needed to be in Paris for a piano performance nine days later, while Jonny and Colin Greenwood offered no explanations for their absences. But drummer Phil Selway and guitarist Ed O’Brien graciously accepted on behalf of the band. “I’d just like to say a little bit about what being in Radiohead means to me,” said Selway. “It can be awkward and challenging sometimes. But I guess that’s what kept us all interested for the past three decades. I’m beyond proud of what the five of us have achieved together, and I know that Radiohead wouldn’t have become what it is without the five of us.”
O’Brien echoed the sentiment. “But my biggest thank you is for my brothers, Thom, Colin and Jonny,” he said. “All musicians know and fans know: It’s an incredible journey. It’s truly extraordinary. We’re not doing run-of-the-mill stuff. It’s amazing. We’ve been doing it for 34 years and are still doing it. I want to thank them for their integrity, their authenticity, their commitment. None of these things you should take for granted.”
Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon and John Taylor came out next to induct Roxy Music. They both worshipped the glam rock pioneers as teenagers and seemed genuinely thrilled at the opportunity to speak about their massive influence. “Over a 12-year span, they recorded eight studio albums, each one a masterwork,” said Le Bon. “Always the experimentation, the drive, the humor, the articulate, versatile musicality. A body of work that fulfilled every promise of the electric rock era.”
Original keyboardist Brian Eno and drummer Paul Thompson were absent, and frontman Bryan Ferry stood alongside his bandmates Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera to deliver a brief speech on behalf of the entire band. “I’d like to thank everybody for this unexpected honor, especially our fans around the world, who’ve supported us through the years,” he said. “I’d also like to thank all the musicians, who played such an important part in the Roxy Music story, especially Paul Thompson and Brian Eno.”
Roxy Music hasn’t played in any capacity since they quietly disbanded in 2011, but after the speech they moved over to the performance area and kicked into their 1973 tune “In Every Dream Home a Heartache.” Not many people in the arena seemed to recognize it or their follow-up song, “Out of the Blue,” but when they broke out “Love Is The Drug,” “More Than This” and “Avalon” the place perked up. It wrapped up with a stunning “Editions Of You” from 1973’s For Your Pleasure. This could very well be the last time Roxy Music performs, and if so, they went out on a very high note.
As they began prepping the stage for the Cure, Steve Van Zandt walked out to induct six singles into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is a tradition that began just last year and is intended to shine a light on individual tracks that changed the course of rock history, often by acts that are unlikely to enter the Hall of Fame on their own. The selections this year were “Maybe” by the Chantels, “Tequila” by the Champs, “Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong, “Twist and Shout” by the Isley Brothers, “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las and “Gloria” by the Shadows of Knight.
Reznor may have been skeptical of the Hall of Fame in the past and his own group has somehow been overlooked these past few years, but he was still happy to put all that aside to induct the Cure. “Despite making challenging music that deals with the biggest themes, their impact has been gigantic,” he said. “They’ve sold the best part of who gives a shit how many million records and been an essential touchstone in the genres of post-punk, New Wave, goth, alternative, shoegaze and post-rock. They’ve been in and out of fashion so many times in the last four decades that they ended up transcending fashion itself.”
A small army of Cure members past and present walked onto the stage to accept the award, but only singer Robert Smith spoke. “As Trent said, it’s 40 years since our first album came out. It doesn’t seem like that,” he said during a short speech. “And in that time, there’s obviously been a lot of people who’ve played a part in the Cure story, for better or worse. And I’m not going to stand here and read off a load of names because that’s… I shouldn’t say too much, really, but that’s quite tedious. And I’m no good with stories. I’m a very bad communicator.”
(It should be noted that Reeves Gabrels somehow was inducted even though the guitarist hasn’t played on a single Cure record and only joined in 2012. That makes him this year’s winner of the Josh Klinghoffer Award for the inductee that has done the least in a band to earn their way into the Hall of Fame; Klinghoffer at least played on a single Red Hot Chili Peppers album when he got inducted with them back in 2012.)
The Cure could have pulled off an epic, insane jam with all their ex-members, but Smith opted to only perform with the current lineup while all the others awkwardly walked offstage. None of them got a chance to even say a word and it must have been strange for them to watch other people play music they helped create. That said, the Cure’s set of “Shake Dog Shake,” “A Forest,” “Lovesong,” “Just Like Heaven” and “Boys Don’t Cry” was transcendent. It’s insane they had to wait this long to get into the Hall of Fame, but better late than never. (Now that they are finally embracing British bands from this period, can we please get the Smiths, Depeche Mode and Joy Division/New Order in?)
Janet Jackson has been waiting around almost exactly as long as the Cure, with Janelle Monáe explaining why she’s one of the all-time greats in the most stirring speech of the evening. “With an epic career spanning over four decades and nine Number One albums, this gifted singer, songwriter, producer, dancer, actress is an icon,” she said. “She is a bold visionary, a rule-breaker, a risk taker, and a boundless visual artist. Quite simply, y’all, there is only one Janet.”
Jackson is in the middle of a world tour, but opted not to perform. She did, however, deliver an emotional speech about her long journey. “I witnessed, along with the rest of the world, my family’s extraordinary impact on popular culture,” she said. “Not just in America, but all around the globe, the entire globe. As the youngest in the family, I was determined to make it on my own. I wanted to stand on my own two feet, but never in a million years did I expect to follow in their footsteps. Tonight, your baby sister has made it in.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony is the one place in the world where the Zombies could come onto a stage right after Janet Jackson. Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoffs gave their speech. “I’ve loved the Zombies for as long as I can remember,” she said. “I first heard them when I was a very little girl in the 1960s — in the backseat of my Mom’s station wagon — and though their music played through a tinny car radio, its elegance, soulfulness, tonal textures, and foggy London intrigue, found me on the sunny palm-lined streets of Los Angeles. It was love at first listen.”
Every previous band of the evening had just one member speak, preventing a repeat of the E Street Band fiasco in 2014 when the group hijacked the ceremony for nearly an hour. But the Zombies have been waiting nearly 30 years to get in and none of the surviving four members were going to be robbed of their moment. “It’s a wonderful coincidence to all of us standing here in Brooklyn, the site of our very first concert in America, where we did a Brooklyn Fox Show, Christmas Day 1964, at 8 o’clock in the morning,” said founding member Rod Argent, “playing with some of our heroes like Ben E. King, Drifters and Patti LaBelle, who became a real friend and mentor at that time. But it’s actually 50 years to this very day, the 29th of March, 1969, that ‘Time of the Season’ reached Number One.”
They opened their set with that very song and went into “This Will Be Our Year,” “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There,” which Argent noted was one of the first songs he ever wrote. Colin Blunstone was in fantastic vocal shape and the original rhythm section of Chris White and Hugh Grundy were locked in tight even though they aren’t in the current touring edition of the Zombies and only play with them at special Odessey and Oracle shows. Of every group onstage throughout the evening, none looked as happy to be there as these guys.
Up next were Def Leppard to close out the evening. Their longtime friend Brian May gave the speech. He spoke at length about first encountering the band back in 1981 and slowly growing close to them over the years. “Not everybody realizes that these guys are not just crowd-pleasers,” he said. “They also embody such an amazing technical excellence. They have it all. I regard all these guys as great friends and kind of part of my family; that’s why it’s so important for me to be here. I wouldn’t have let anybody else do this.”
Joe Elliott spoke for the entire band. “It did seem that every time we made some musical headway, life would knock us back down somewhat,” he said. “But we survived and came out the other side stronger people. And that’s the way it’s always played out throughout our career. So let’s face facts here, if alcoholism, car crashes and cancer couldn’t kill us, the Nineties had no fucking chance!”
Midway through the speech, he turned his attention to drummer Rick Allen and his incredible fortitude that allowed him to remain in the band even after a devastating car accident that cost him his left arm. “He survived it,” Elliot said, “and came out the other side stronger.” At that point, the entire arena jumped to their feet and tears welled up in Allen’s eyes.
Within a couple of minutes, they switched into their stage outfits and ripped through their hits “Hysteria,” “Rock of Ages,” “Photograph” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” They’ve done all of these songs over 1,700 times, but they acted like they were brand new and got the entire arena singing along.
It truly seemed like the end of the evening, but then roadies brought out a bunch more microphones and suddenly Steve Van Zandt, Susanna Hoffs, Brian May, Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent were back onstage alongside Def Leppard. It was hard to imagine what song they could all play together, but then Ian Hunter appeared out of nowhere and before he could even open his mouth, it was obvious it was going to be “All The Young Dudes.” It was the perfect way to wrap up one of the best Hall of Fame inductions in recent memory.
(All videos courtesy of Joe Rashbaum.)