Tom Petty Recalls Prince’s Hall of Fame Guitar Solo: ‘You Could Feel the Electricity’
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Since Prince‘s death, the video of the night he blew up the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony with a performance of the Beatles‘ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” has been shared ad infinitum on social media. Now, some of the musicians and other people involved in the event, including Tom Petty, have remembered that performance in a new oral history.
As the New York Times reports, it came together when Joel Gallen, the producer and director of the ceremony, wrote to Prince asking him to play lead guitar — he was already going to be there because he was being inducted. But when it came time to rehearse, there were problems. Marc Mann, Jeff Lynne‘s guitarist, recreated Eric Clapton’s famous solo in the middle note-for-note. “And we get to the big end solo,” Gallen says, “and Prince again steps forward to go into the solo, and this guy starts playing that solo too!”
Before leaving, Prince reassured Gallen that, even though they didn’t get to rehearse it the way Gallen envisioned it, everything would be fine when it came time to the performance. Let Mann do the first solo, he told Gallen, and he would take over for the end. “They never rehearsed it, really,” Gallen continued. “Never really showed us what he was going to do, and he left, basically telling me, the producer of the show, not to worry. And the rest is history. It became one of the most satisfying musical moments in my history of watching and producing live music.”
The next day, Prince stepped out of the darkness and blew the roof off of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. Petty, who had a perfect view of the proceedings, recalled it with awe. “You see me nodding at him, to say, ‘Go on, go on,'” he said. “I remember I leaned out at him at one point and gave him a ‘This is going great!’ kind of look. He just burned it up. You could feel the electricity of ‘something really big’s going down here.’”
But there’s still one pressing question from the evening: What happened to the guitar that Prince threw up in the air after his solo? As you can see above, although the camera lingers on Prince for several seconds, it doesn’t seem to land. It’s something that’s puzzzled Steve Ferrone, Petty’s drummer. “I didn’t even see who caught it,” he said. “I just saw it go up, and I was astonished that it didn’t come back down again. Everybody wonders where that guitar went, and I gotta tell you, I was on the stage, and I wonder where it went, too.”
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