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Salute to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

| March 14, 2011 | 0 Comments

Tonight is the 26th annual induction ceremony into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and some of our favorite people are being honored: Alice Cooper (inducted by Rob Zombie); Neil Diamond (inducted by Paul Simon); Dr. John (inducted by John Legend); Darlene Love (inducted by Bette Midler); Tom Waits  (inducted by Neil Young); Jac Holzman (inducted by the Doors’ John Densmore); Art Rupe (inducted by Lloyd Price) and Leon Russell (inducted by Elton John).  The event will be televised on the Fuse cable channel next Sunday, March 20.

A huge congrats to all of the honorees—it’s such a deserved recognition for the many years of music you’ve given us. Here are bits of conversation we’ve had with a few of these legends.

Alice Cooper

On prop malfunctions during his shows: “Everything has broken down. We’ve had more Spinal Tap moments than anybody. We had a giant cannon once, and we decided to shoot Alice across the stage. We had it custom made. That thing was 20 feet long. We used it at stadium shows, and they would load me into this cannon, and then of course, I’d get out the side. There was a dummy inside the cannon that would literally shoot across the whole stage into a net. As soon as it was in the net, I would switch places with it, and come out like I’d been shot across the stage. So I get into the cannon, and there are 15,000 people watching, and I roll out of it. It’s all loaded, and there’s a big explosion, and the dummy comes about halfway out and is just hanging there, out of the mouth of the cannon (laughs).

“What do you do at that point? You have to play it like Clouseau. You have to pull it out and kick it back like no one’s going to notice. The next day, we put the cannon away, and one of the guys in the Rolling Stones saw it and said, “Where’d you get that cannon?” And we ended up selling it to the Stones, and I think they used it as a giant phallic symbol (laughs). But I always tell the guys, “There’s no such thing as a mistake.” If you’re coming toward the audience and you trip over a garbage can and fall down, that’s a mistake. Until five minutes later, when you do it again. Then it’s part of the show.” If you make a mistake, make it twice, make it three times. The audience has no idea that it wasn’t planned.”

(From Performing Songwriter Issue 88)


Neil Diamond

“In the beginning I spent seven or eight years knocking around in the music district of New York City, which was filled with publishers and record companies—and, therefore, swarms of hungry young songwriters trying to make their way into the music world. I was going to New York University at that time, so I would take the subway into Manhattan and attend my classes. Then I’d hop back on the subway and take it up to 51st Street and make my rounds with the songs that I’d written during the previous week or two weeks. I’d wait my turn on audition days and play my songs. Sometimes they were accepted and I would get a small advance—about $50 or so—and go down into one of the tiny studios in those buildings and make a demo. It was an opportunity for me to familiarize myself with the recording world.

“Over a period of years, I’d “place” songs—meaning I would sign over songs to a music publisher for a small advance. I lived meagerly on that money for years. I was occasionally signed to a publisher as a staff writer, which meant regular full-time employment with a weekly salary and all my output going to that publisher. This happened in four or five situations, and unfortunately I was eventually let go by each of these publishers—probably for not coming up with any hits. As I grew up, I got married and continued trying to place songs independently. It was barely enough to pay the rent, but I did. Then a watershed situation came up in my life: My wife became pregnant. I knew I’d have to bear down and get very serious about something that I’d been doing more for the fun of it and the camaraderie of hanging with other writers. I got to know Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, two of the top songwriters in the country at that time—I believe Phil Spector had 12 songs on the charts, and Jeff and Ellie had co-written all of them with Phil, so they were very hot. They supported me and recommended me to Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber, two of the premier writer/producers of that period, who signed me to a one-year contract with their publishing company. That period prepared me better as a songwriter.”

(From Performing Songwriter Issue 109)


Dr. John

“Everybody in my neighborhood in the ’40s, they played pianos. That’s how people partied. They didn’t try the TV, the radio was OK, records was cool, but when people wanted to party, they got around a piano. My mother played piano, my sister played. I’ve been around a lot of piano all my life.

“When I was a little bitty kid, my aunt showed me how to play a little boogie. It took me years. I had to play the left-hand part with two hands, because my hands was so little. Then as I grew up and I learned how to play the left-hand part with one hand, she showed me how to play the right-hand part, and et cetera. My Uncle Joe showed me how to play a little bit different boogie stuff. I had people in my family that was professional musicians, but I just wasn’t interested in what they did. I wasn’t very open-minded to a lot of music that I’d be more open to today.

“When I was a little kid wanting to play music, it was because of people like Pete Johnson, Huey Smith, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, James Booker, Art Neville … there was so many piano players I loved in New Orleans. Then there was guys from out of town that would come cut there a lot. There was so many great bebop piano players, so many great jazz piano players, so many great Latin piano players, so many great blues piano players. Some of those Afro-Cuban bands had some killer piano players. There was so many different things going on musically, and it was all of interest to me.”

(From Performing Songwriter Issue 93)


Leon Russell

If one measure of greatness is how many times a composer’s songs have been covered by others, then Leon Russell’s legendary status is indisputable.   Even before Russell’s “This Masquerade” helped launch the career of George Benson, the song had already been recorded by more than 40 artists.  Similarly, over a hundred people covered the classic, “A Song For You,” before Ray Charles recorded the song 15 years after Russell wrote it specifically for him.

“I’m sort of an ‘automatic’ writer,” says Russell. “I’m not much for chiseling away at songs or working at them for days trying to make them perfect.  If I can sit down and write something in five minutes, then that’s great.   And if that doesn’t happen, then either it doesn’t get finished or else it’s usually not any good.”

(From Performing Songwriter Issue 30)


Tom Waits

“If you can make a little painting for the ears with a few words, well, I like words: I like cutting them up and finding different ways of saying the same thing. I get into a spell, and it all comes easy. I don’t labor over it. I go inside the song. I think you make yourself an antenna for songs, and songs want to be around you. And then they bring other songs along, and then they’re all sittin’ around, and they’re drinking your beer, and they’re sleeping on the floor. And they are using the phone. They’re rude, thankless little f—ers.”

(From Performing Songwriter Issue 39)

Category: Best of PS

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