In some ways, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony is like a family reunion, giving loved ones a chance to reconnect and share loving memories. But as with many families, feuds can simmer and threaten to ruin that nice little gathering. The unknown element in the weeks leading up to the hall’s annual event is often whether hard feelings can be set aside.
On Monday, the Talking Heads – the foursome that was part of punk’s first generation and stayed together for more than a decade before dissolving in acrimony and lawsuits in the 1990s – were all smiles.
David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison and Tina Weymouth, whose hits included “Once in a Lifetime” and “Burning Down the House,” hugged each other as they posed for pictures and performed together onstage for the first time in 18 years.
When the group rehearsed for Monday’s ceremony “people were kind of taking a peek to see if there was any funny vibes,” VH1’s Bill Flanagan said.
“But the minute they started playing… it sounded majestic,” he said. “It was very emotional, very moving, and somehow I don’t think people expected it to be that great, as if it never stopped. And maybe it’s better that it did stop, because maybe it keeps it fresh and exciting.”
Byrne said the induction “helped smooth things out” among them, and Frantz said: “I’d like to thank the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for giving this band a happy ending.”
Other groups haven’t received such happy endings at the hall, however.
Paul McCartney skipped the Beatles’ induction in 1988 when they were squabbling over business issues; Diana Ross bailed out on the Supremes that year, too, apparently still miffed at Mary Wilson’s tell-all book. And Tina Turner was a no-show at the 1991 induction of herself and her ex-husband Ike Turner, whom she accused of domestic abuse. (Ike wasn’t there, either; he was in jail on a drug charge.)
Wilson recalls that Ross’ boycott made the induction “a bittersweet kind of award, because you would love to be there with the group members who made it all positive.”
Wilson was the only member of the original Supremes present. (Florence Ballard died in the 1970s.) Without Ross there, Wilson recalled last week that it “definitely put me in a corner all by myself…. It was almost like I had been bad.”
Flanagan, the VH1 executive in charge of producing the ceremony’s highlights show airing 9 p.m. EST Wednesday, said some inductees aren’t ready to make peace.
Then there are moments like when the Mamas and the Papas took the stage three years ago, with former couple Michelle and John Phillips, whose stormy relationship had been well documented.
Flanagan said you could tell they had shared a lot of love – and a lot of pain.
“And yet, somehow, it seems like when they sang ‘California Dreamin’,’ they were both reattaching to who they were when that song was new,” he said.
While no one is predicting any reunion tours for the Talking Heads, it appears the bitterness has been overcome.
“We hadn’t played together in a really long time, so it’s wonderful to be back together, and I think we’re all grateful to have a happy night like this, and have a great vibe,” Frantz said.