Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction: The ceremony's shifting path

Hall & Oates (Daryl Hall and John Oates)

Hall & Oates (Daryl Hall and John Oates) in 1985. (Credit: Ilpo Musto / Rex USA)

CLEVELAND - The actual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, housed inside the larger, pyramid-shaped museum here on the shores of Lake Erie, used to be a silent, dimly lit room.

The darkness is needed to see the names and signatures of the 295 inductees who make up the Hall of Fame -- from Elvis Presley to Public Enemy -- on the backlit glass panels installed on the walls of what feels like a shrine. The room's design was meant to make the inclusion here seem all the more special -- a manifestation of how important the founders of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum wanted the honor to feel.

However, there is now a small theater in the center of the room where video highlights of the 28 previous induction ceremonies play on a big screen. The addition of music and video to the Hall of Fame was part of the organizers' ongoing attempts to fine-tune the balance of honoring the historical significance of rock and roll and celebrating its entertainment value.

 

Varied class of inductees

That balance has shifted many times since 1986, when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was a private party reserved for the honorees and music industry insiders at the Waldorf Astoria ballroom in Manhattan.

On Thursday, it will shift again. The inductions of Peter Gabriel, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Kiss, Nirvana, Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens at Barclays Center in Brooklyn will mark the first time the ceremonies will be open to the public in New York. And this year's class of inductees shows a shift in how the Rock Hall is picking its new members.

Both massive commercial successes, Hall & Oates, the top-selling duo in music history, has been eligible for induction since 1997, 25 years after their debut album was released, and Kiss, one of the top-grossing touring acts ever, has been eligible since 1999. However, until this year, Hall & Oates never even appeared on the nomination ballot for induction and Kiss appeared only once, in 2009, but did not garner enough votes.

John Oates says he's happy about the honor, but "I wasn't going to lose any sleep without it."

"We always thought that these decisions were made by a committee of people who have an agenda," Oates says. "They supported the people they liked the best, and we've just never been popular with that group of people. I look at things in a more holistic way, that there are a lot of branches on the rock and roll tree and they all lead back to the same trunk. Maybe there's more people like that now."

Oates says that despite the duo's six No. 1 singles, including "Rich Girl" and "Kiss on My List," and six consecutive multiplatinum albums in the '70s and '80s, Hall & Oates were always different from the rock norm.

"We got our first acceptance in black radio -- they embraced us first," he says. "FM underground radio -- that was the Holy Grail for us back in that day. Now, people think of us as the guys with the big hits, that 'They're just Top 40 guys.' I would definitely object to those stereotypes. That's not what Daryl and I were about."

In recent years, Hall & Oates have been championed by younger generations, who have found their music in movies and on the Internet, especially as Hall's Web series "Live at Daryl's House," where he teams up with new musicians, has grown in popularity.

"Young people go to concerts," says Oates, who released his new solo album "Good Road to Follow" last month. "They have rediscovered our music and appreciate it for what it is. The decline of the major labels has changed the audience. They aren't force-fed by a system any more. They can make their own decisions."

 

All about the music

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation chief executive Joel Peresman says it wasn't the commercial success of any of this year's inductees that landed them a place in the museum. It was their music.

"That's the beauty of the nominating committee," Peresman says. "We don't induct based on how many records or how many tickets they've sold. We look at their influence. Sometimes, it just takes time. Hall & Oates took that Philadelphia sound and made it their own. Those songs have stood the test of time."

Having a big, vocal fan base looking for its heroes to gain entry into the Rock Hall -- as Rush did last year and Kiss does this year -- doesn't really play into the discussion, Peresman says. "This is not the People's Choice Awards," he adds.

Kiss' Paul Stanley told K-EARTH 101 in Los Angeles that the band credits younger Rock Hall voters with its induction. "There are newer people who are voting, and clearly, their opinion has been different," Stanley says. "A lot of people wanted to see us in it, and who am I to argue? ... As much as we might have questioned the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame over the years, they've come to see things our way."

 

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The 2014 class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees is wildly diverse, reflecting changing musical styles and changing times, even beyond Kiss and Daryl Hall & John Oates. Here's a look at the others:

PETER GABRIEL

Already a Hall of Famer as part of Genesis, Gabriel influenced many genres with his solo career. He used synthesizers to create avant-garde works like "Shock the Monkey," before taking over pop with his "So" album and the accompanying eye-catching videos for "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time." Gabriel then used that fame to launch Real World Records and socially conscious tours to support Amnesty International.

BIGGEST HIT "Sledgehammer" (1986, No. 1, 1 week)

NIRVANA

Drummer Dave Grohl, bassist Krist Novoselic and Kurt Cobain turned the music industry upside down in 1991 with their album "Nevermind" and the anthem "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which brought rock roaring back into a then-dance-driven mainstream. The trio's success spawned the grunge movement, as well as opened the door for generations of alternative rockers.

BIGGEST HIT "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991, No. 6)

LINDA RONSTADT

One of pop music's most versatile performers, Ronstadt has had hits with everything from big band to Mexican mariachi music. Her biggest early successes, though, came with her country rock work and her interpretation of rock classics.

BIGGEST HIT "You're No Good" (1975, No. 1, 1 week)

CAT STEVENS

The British singer-songwriter began his career as a teenager, writing hits such as "The First Cut Is the Deepest" for other artists while recording hits of his own. His American breakthrough came in 1971, releasing his own version of "Wild World," after Jimmy Cliff had a hit with it. That touched off a string of hits, including "Peace Train" and "Morning Has Broken," making him one of the '70s' most influential singer-songwriters.

BIGGEST HIT "Morning Has Broken" (1972, No. 6)

THE E STREET BAND

The most important backing band in rock history helped establish Bruce Springsteen as one of the greatest concert performers ever. Guitarists Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren, saxophonist Clarence Clemons, drummers Max Weinberg and Vini Lopez, keyboard players Roy Bittan, Danny Federici and David Sancious, bassist Garry Tallent, and singer-guitarist Patti Scialfa all helped shape Springsteen's sound and live show.

BIGGEST HIT N/A

BRIAN EPSTEIN

Epstein became The Beatles' manager in 1962 and the driving force to get the band a record deal. He handled them through the early stages of Beatlemania, as well as signing a stable of artists that included Gerry and The Pacemakers, until his death in 1967.

ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM

Oldham was the manager and producer who helped launch the Rolling Stones to stardom, handling their first five albums between 1964 and 1965 alone. He also launched the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra to perform orchestral versions of rock classics, as well as the Immediate record label, which released albums from Small Faces and John Mayall.

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