"Something very unusual is happening here tonight, and that is this industry is paying some respect to the Ramones."
——Eddie Vedder


Ramones, Talking Heads, Tom Petty Inducted Along with Isaac Hayes, Brenda Lee,
Gene Pitney
It was a night to celebrate the roots of punk rock in New York City almost a quarter-century ago.

Last evening’s 17th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria in N.Y. was decidedly uptown for the shrine’s newest members—the Ramones and Talking Heads, whose careers started several miles south at venues like the legendary Bowery club CBGB and Max's Kansas City.

Also inducted at the bash, highlights of which will be televised Wednesday night on VH1 (see hitsdailydouble 3/15), included Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Brenda Lee, Isaac Hayes and Gene Pitney. Stax founder Jim Stewart and legendary guitar sideman Chet Atkins were also honored with Hall passes.

But it was the heralded punk class of ’76 which took the spotlight by finally earning its establishment stripes. Ubiquitous, mohawked Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder helped induct the Ramones in a rambling, drunken speech that stated: "Something very unusual is happening here tonight, and that is this industry is paying some respect to the Ramones."

The band’s original members Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy Erdelyi, joined by drummer Marky, were on hand, while lead singer Joey Ramone, who died last April from cancer, was represented by his mother Charlotte Lescher. Over the past several weeks, there had been friction about who would stand in for the group to play, and in the end, Green Day came on-stage to rip through a selection of the band's best-known songs.

And while the surviving Ramones wouldn't share the stage with Joey's mom or brother, Lescher did manage to clutch her offspring's award afterwards, insisting her son was "pretty sure they were going to be inducted" before he died, adding: "It was important for him to have recognition for what they did. He never felt they were really recognized."

Dee Dee joked: "I’d like to congratulate myself, and thank myself, and give myself a big pat on the back."

Talking Heads, who had an acrimonious break-up in the early ‘90s, delighted the crowd with their first live gig in 18 years, playing "Psycho Killer," "Burning Down the House," and "Life During Wartime," tracing their genesis from art-pop minimalists to world music funksters.

Drummer Chris Frantz thanked the Hall of Fame "for giving this band a happy ending," though afterwards bassist Tina Weymouth blamed the press for magnifying the group’s internal struggles.

Backstage, Tom Petty said: "It’s very easy to be cynical about the Hall of Fame. But on the other hand, it’s really a beautiful thing for someone like me, [who] dedicated [his] entire life to this music."

Isaac Hayes ended up joining the traditional all-star jam, which included a smoking version of "Take Me To The River," though several performers, including the Ramones, Petty and Vedder, did not participate. Explained the Heads’ Jerry Harrison: "The Ramones don’t jam."

Afterwards, at a star-studded Warner Bros. party in a room at the hotel, a who’s-who of execs and artists mingled, including AOLTW’s Steve Case and Richard Parsons, WMG’s Roger Ames, WB’s Tom Whalley, Jeff Ayeroff and Phil Q, Atlantic’s Ahmet Ertegun, Ron Shapiro and Craig Kallman, Elektra’s Sylvia Rhone, Warner/Chappell’s Les Bider, legendary Island founder Chris Blackwell, Sire Records chief Seymour Stein, Stevie Nicks, Rob Thomas, Anthony Kiedis, Jewel, Robbie Robertson and various inductees.