Inside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Preparations for 2016
Classic rock fans had plenty to love about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class of 2016, between Cheap Trick, Chicago and Deep Purple finally receiving a nod, and guitarist Steve Miller also being inducted.
So far, there's also been plenty of speculation surrounding the April induction ceremony, specifically involving whether Peter Cetera will reunite and sing with Chicago (signs point to no, although no one's quite sure what his promised big announcement might entail) or what role Ritchie Blackmore might play in Deep Purple's performance (if any).
Before any of these dramas unfolded, Todd Mesek – the Rock Hall's vice president of marketing and communications – hopped on the phone with Ultimate Classic Rock to talk about the new class and next year's induction.
How long in advance do surprise, interesting performances come together for the induction ceremony?
It's all over the map. Sometimes there's an idea that comes in people's heads before we even know somebody gets inducted. Sometimes it comes from us or someone in production. Sometimes the artists say, "You know, what I really want to do is …." Sometimes there's been stuff that we don't know if it's going to happen until they go onstage together. And you [have] to imagine some of them [haven't] played in a number of years, [so it's like] "Do I want to do this?" You've seen some artists that have said, "I don't want to get up onstage. I just want to enjoy the show." You have some artists that are like, "Hell, yeah, let's go!" It's all over the map, in terms of the time and who will do it and who won't. Their reactions – everybody's different.
I would imagine that because it's being taped for TV broadcast, it makes for a harried night.
I was going back to what happened here in 2015, and you had one of my favorites, Tommy James, onstage with Joan Jett and Miley Cyrus doing "Crimson and Clover." It's this guy who comes from a generation before her, who wrote one of her biggest songs. A lot of people are like, "Miley Cyrus?" But she's a friend of Joan's. You would never have them onstage together. And then when the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers played with the Metallica guys [in 2009] – that's some really cool stuff that's uniquely ours. No one else would do that; no one else can do that. Even the fact that Rick Nielsen pondered that it might be interesting to play with N.W.A., I thought, "All right, this could get really exciting." And Steve Miller, too. He's such a great FM radio guy, and has some classic songs. It'll be interesting who comes together for the show.
Have there been any preliminary discussion about performances yet?
No, we're starting those conversations now.
Watch Joan Jett Perform 'Crimson and Clover' at the 2015 Ceremony
What was interesting is in Rolling Stone, Rick Nielsen said he was good friends with Dave Clark, and they spend Thanksgiving together. You could see – maybe he'll get up there, too. There's so many different configurations.
There's so many different possibilities But also with a band like Cheap Trick, you see the number of people that cite them as influences – Foo Fighters, members of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins. They just have this huge, huge following, and their stage presence is this interesting [combination of] rock, punk, comedy. And so many people have been impacted by them, that there's a lot of possibilities there. Same with Chicago. Somebody reminded me that when they came out as a nominee, Tom Morello was at one of the induction ceremonies and had a Chicago Transit Authority hat on. Somebody like [him] citing Chicago as an influence just shows you their impact.
A lot of people might miss that. A band like Chicago – a lot of people just know them for their '80s work and forget they had this amazing '70s body of work that was very influential.
I was just looking at something: Jimi Hendrix said that Terry [Kath], their guitar player, was better than him. Yeah, they were in that era, and made an impression on somebody like Jimi Hendrix.
For the inductee exhibit that's going up in the museum after the ceremony, it strikes me there could be a lot of interesting multimedia elements and ways it could be presented. What's in the works for this particular exhibit in Cleveland?
A lot of what we want to do in the exhibits relates to connecting things, whether it's genres or eras or different artists. There's a lot of potential for that. There's some stuff we already have in our collection, but the two things that happen right now is we go out to the artists and figure out production plans for the show, and figure out how we do that exhibit. It's not that many months until April. That happens at a really, really quick turnaround. That all starts right now.
That is a really short amount of time to put together an exhibit. What are the particular challenges for you guys?
The main one is the time. But even in the short time [artists have] known they were inducted – everybody's saying what an honor [it is] and how humbled they are. And how this is at the top of their resume. It's really great, because that's what you want to hear – and you want them to be really participants in it.
When is the timeline for finding out the other historical or industry inductees?
We're not sure if we'll have the non-performers yet, but if we do, they'll happen in January. They'll be announced in January.
What would you tell fans of the Cars and Yes, the bands that didn't get in?
That it's not over. We've seen this over time, whether it's Queen fans, Kiss fans, Rush fans, Chicago fans, Cheap Trick fans – the bands that should be in will get in.
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