Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Stay Busy, Celebrate Longevity

 Kirk Weddle/Geffen Records

Tomorrow night's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Barclays Center in Brooklyn will go without a familiar hallmark this year: a long-awaited reunion. That’s because four of the six nominated acts -- Peter Gabriel, Cat Stevens, Hall & Oates, and KISS -- never quite stopped touring and recording, highlighting an outlier for the Hall, The Hollywood Reporter finds.

Since 1986, only one of every four performers was active either on the road or in the studio at induction time, not counting sidemen and those awarded Early Influence and Lifetime Achievement. The nominating committee hasn’t crowned this many at the same time since 2001, when it honored Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, Paul Simon and Steely Dan. The next year, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were the lone active nominee, as were AC/DC in 2003, U2 in 2005, and Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2012.

The 2014 cohort’s longevity suggests that more baby boom-era musicians are finally earning the ultimate title as they work to remain relevant. The Hall requires this class to have made its debut albums no later than 1989. Nirvana released Bleach that year, but Cat Stevens issued his first record way back in 1967 -- the year Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was born. Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, has been eligible for 22 years. First LPs from his peers arrived soon after: Linda Ronstadt’s appeared in 1969, while Hall & Oates, Kiss and Gabriel each made theirs in the ’70s. Several decades later, loyalists keep their idols busy, indulging their own nostalgia by reliving concert experiences and rebuying albums, many reissued on vinyl. 

Does the nominating committee favor an active musician or band over a dormant one? “It’s never come up,” a source close to the annual discussions tells THR, adding that their picks are based on “the worth of the body of work.”

Still, the body of work expands as the individual or group keeps going. And while such a schedule might not determine one’s Hall standing, it doesn’t hurt the odds of nailing that widely televised legacy show. Two years ago, the Chili Peppers were inducted between sold-out dates. “We were on tour so that was easy, as far as performing-wise,” drummer Chad Smith tells THR. Their biggest hurdle? “I think we each had to drink coffee to stay up, because the show was six hours long and we were the last ones to go on.” Over the years, rigorous road and studio activity has boosted others at ceremony time, including Santana, Prince, Patti Smith and Public Enemy. 

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Others have mustered the pride to confront the tension of reuniting for ceremony’s sake, like Heart, whose original lineup reformed in 2013 after 34 years. Simon and Garfunkel, Cream, the Police and Talking Heads also sidestepped acrimony. “We rehearsed for four days,” Heads bassist Tina Weymouth tells THR of their one-off with David Byrne, “and it was fun and easy with lots of laughter.”

“Really, there wasn’t any trouble or animosity about getting together to play a tune or two,” John Sebastian, who quit the Lovin’ Spoonful in 1968, tells THR. The problem, he said, was adapting the set list at the last minute to appease the Hall, which demanded extensive vocal-tweaking for hits like “Do You Believe in Magic.” “My voice had dropped considerably since that time,” he says. 

Prior to the Byrds’ induction, “we didn’t rehearse a single note,” front man Roger McGuinn insists. They also hadn’t played together since reteaming in the studio in 1973 for the last time. “We didn’t really pay attention to business, and the album suffered as a result,” he tells THR. “We just decided to hang it up at that point.” The 1991 performance was their last, and some of its awkward moments reflected that lackluster comeback two decades earlier.

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This week, 20 years since Kurt Cobain’s death, the only chance of a reunion lies with Nirvana’s surviving members. While it isn’t clear what Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic are planning, Grohl has only a handful of years until he’s eligible for induction again, with Foo Fighters. Ronstadt, now retired, has Parkinson’s disease and won’t attend. Meanwhile, Yusuf, who didn’t record from 1978 to 2003, recently teased his next album on Facebook in a photo with Richard Thompson and producer Rick Rubin. Hall & Oates and Gabriel each are working on music and touring. And though past and present members of KISS will sit out the ceremony, the current lineup will play North American dates starting in June.

If early predictions are to be believed, an active class is bound for the Hall next year: The Plain Dealer in Cleveland has floated Nine Inch Nails and Green Day as contenders in 2015.

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