- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The museum may be in Cleveland, but the real action of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel, where every year, rock’s oldies and newbies gather for a black-tie love fest and a shambles of a superjam.

Compared to the last couple of years, which coalesced around a theme of punk and new wave, 2004 honors a mishmash of inductees. They include pop-funk icon Prince; singer-songwriters Bob Seger and Jackson Browne; British psychedelic band Traffic; legendary R&B; quintet the Dells; and Texas blues-rockers ZZ Top.

Also, there’s the late George Harrison, leaving Ringo Starr as the only Beatle yet to be recognized by the organization for his solo work — an omission sure to be corrected in coming years.

About the only remarkable thing about this choice of artists collectively is that they’re inching ever-closer to the video generation.

Under the rock hall’s guidelines, an artist is eligible for induction 25 years after releasing his first recording, which means in two years, we’ll be a quarter-century from the bewitching year of 1981 — the debut of MTV.

Two members of the class of ‘04 — Prince and ZZ Top — started in the ‘70s but reached mass audiences through the video medium.

ZZ Top already had hits with songs such as “La Grange,” but the band got a huge boost from skin-flashing and car-revving videos for its 1983 “Eliminator” album, which featured the hit singles “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs.”

VH1’s Sunday broadcast of this week’s ceremony will be interesting not just for the inductees, but for the artists introducing them as well. Sometimes the pairings are obvious; sometimes not, as in the case of ZZ Top admirer Keith Richards.

Following the more traditional formula of young revering old, Prince was seen to the gates of the hall by rap and R&B; hot things OutKast and Alicia Keys, while Traffic was inducted by Dave Matthews.

Kid Rock spoke of his hometown connection to Detroit’s Mr. Seger, calling him “the most overlooked musician of our time.”

“Bob Seger’s music not only influenced me, it taught me to be proud of where I come from,” he said. “I still am. He set the bar for all of us who came from the Midwest.”

Mr. Browne was presented by contemporary Bruce Springsteen, who copped to once having envied the California singer-songwriter for drawing “more women in his audience than an Indigo Girls show.”

Tom Petty inducted Mr. Harrison. “He often said he wasn’t pursuing a solo career,” Mr. Petty said of his fellow Traveling Wilbury. “He just loved playing music with his friends.”

(Tellingly, Mr. Harrison’s solo catalog was ignored during the evening’s musical performances: Mr. Petty led the Paul Shaffer-directed band through renditions of the Wilburys’ “Handle With Care” and the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”)

The annual ceremony — this year is the 19th — occasionally is noteworthy for staging reunions or semireunions of long-disbanded supergroups.

When Led Zeppelin was inducted in 1995, it gave John Paul Jones a humorous opportunity to complain of being dissed by band mates Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, who had begun working together again.

The famously ego-fraught Police reunited last year. The Clash just missed with the December 2002 death of Joe Strummer.

This year promised a reunion of the original Traffic lineup, which didn’t pan out. Dave Mason chose not to perform with Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood. He did, however, turn up for the all-star jam on his song “Feelin’ Alright,” made famous by Joe Cocker.

With the best of the best — and the best of the rest — near tapped out, reunions, or the potential thereof, soon will be the only thing to look forward to with future hall of fame ceremonies,when the floodgates will open to the likes of Madonna.

What: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony

When: Sunday night at 8

Where: VH1 network

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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