Punk's British invasion hits rock hall of fame

Elvis Costello, Clash, Police among inductees

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

— The Police reunited for their first public performance in 18 years Monday, celebrating their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with classmates the Clash and Elvis Costello & the Attractions.

The blue-eyed soul of the Righteous Brothers and the thunderous roar of AC/DC -- making quite possibly the loudest noise ever heard in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel -- were also honored.

"It's a very good night to be British because three of the finest acts of the last 30 years came out of Britain and three are here to be honored," said singer Elton John.

Police lead singer Sting joked about the ego problems that helped splinter the band when he said they wanted to play their first hit ("Roxanne") and last one ("Every Breath You Take") at the ceremony but drummer Stewart Copeland complained there wasn't enough drumming in them.

So they played "Message in a Bottle," too.

The Clash were saluted by two of the best-known rock guitarists today: The Edge of U2 and Tom Morello of Audioslave. Morello called the Clash, who started with explosive punk rock in 1977 and incorporated funk, reggae and rap, "three chords of funky groove."

"There's no doubt in my mind that 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday' wouldn't and couldn't have been written if it wasn't for the Clash," The Edge said of an early U2 anthem. Both guitarists recalled being awed by seeing the Clash as teenagers.

Hopes for a Clash reunion at the Hall of Fame induction were dashed when lead singer Joe Strummer died of a heart attack on Dec. 22.

"I accept this on behalf of all the garage bands who might have never dreamed of this kind of moment," Clash guitarist Mick Jones said.

Elton John, his hair weave teased in a punk rock style and playfully tossing expletives, inducted Costello and the Attractions, his three-piece backing band. Costello and his new band, the Impostors, played a ferocious version of his hit "Pump It Up."

Costello's keyboard player, Steve Nieve, issued a plea for peace on the eve of potential war with Iraq. Costello and the Impostors performed "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" before leaving the stage.

AC/DC performed two songs, featuring their signature of guitarist Angus Young's schoolboy outfit and stutter-step dancing. The chorus of "Back in Black" seemed loud enough to peel paint.

Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, before joining AC/DC to sing "You Shook Me All Night Long," praised the band's mastery of the power chord.

He called it "the thunder from Down Under that gives you the second most powerful surge that can flow through your body."

Singer Billy Joel inducted Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley -- the Righteous Brothers, whose smooth hits "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin"' and "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" graced radio in the mid-1960s.

"Sometimes people with blue eyes transcended the limitations of what their color and culture can actually be," Joel said. "Sometimes white people can actually be soulful. This was a life-changing idea. It changed my life."

The Righteous Brothers were disciples of legendary producer Phil Spector, usually a fixture at the rock hall dinners. Spector is now charged with murder after the body of an actress was found at his suburban Los Angeles home on Feb. 3.

Three veteran session musicians -- Benny Benjamin, Floyd Cramer and Steve Douglas -- received posthumous honors as sidemen Monday. Mo Ostin, longtime Warner Brothers Records chief, won a lifetime achievement award.

Benjamin was Motown's first drummer, pianist Cramer played with Elvis Presley and sax player Douglas was a prominent member of Spector's studio "Wrecking Crew." Ostin led Warner Brothers during its strongest years.

The Rock and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland but the induction ceremonies are in New York. Highlights of the ceremony will be shown March 16 on VH1.