'My kids, I paid for their dental bills, and now I pay for their kids' dental bills,' Diamond jokes
If the first half of Monday's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction struck a note of awe and reverence, its second half, kicking off with an appropriately raucous and randy performance by Alice Cooper, was a bit more irreverent.
Cooper, who was joined in his performance both by Rob Zombie and a small pack of school children – all of them wearing stage makeup like Cooper's – celebrated the group's abiding spirit of immaturity. "I hope I never outgrow a Pete Townsend windmill chord," he said. "I hope I never outgrow a Jeff Beck lead guitar. I wish I could tell you that being in the Hall now, we'll never embarrass you, but I really can't make that promise. After all, we are Alice Cooper. It's what we do." He took those musings even further in the press room. "I kept thinking, 'Who will be the first band kicked out of the Hall of Fame"?" he joked. "And then I thought, 'Gee, that could be us!'" He praised his inductor Rob Zombie, saying "Rob gets it – horror and music and comedy, all of them in bed together. There aren't too many people who understand that."
Tom Waits was similarly wry, recalling how, at age 15, he'd snuck in to see Lightnin' Hopkins by putting "Wite-Out in my hair and drawing on a moustache," and comparing his induction to receiving the key to the city of El Paso. "They told me there was only one," he said, "but I found out there were a whole bunch of then, and they didn't open anything. So I hope there are some fringe benefits to this baby."
Elton John brought a moment of sweetness, recalling how rediscovering Leon Russell's music on a recent vacation moved him so deeply that he called Russell out of the blue, a conversation that resulted in their 2010 collaboration The Union. A deeply-moved Russell gave the evening's shortest acceptance speech, saying "About a year ago, Elton came and found me in a ditch at the side of the highway and he took me up to the hospital and treated me like a king."
Neil Diamond, who took the podium after a 25-hour flight from Australia, extemporized daffily, providing the evening's loopiest patter. "Where the hell am I?" he joked. "What are we doing here?" He took repeated shots at the audience members at the tables on the floor ("The $3,000 seats," he called them) turning his attention instead to his fans in the balcony. Since he hadn't prepared a speech, he instead embarked on a string of hilarious non sequitirs. He spent minutes on end praising presenter Paul Simon's upcoming record before admitting, "I can’t remember the title. It's a tough album title, Paul." He then asked Simon for $100 for the endorsement. "My kids, I love my kids, I paid for their dental bills, and now I pay for their kids' dental bills," he went on, concluding with, "I'm flying back tomorrow to Sydney fucking Australia. Because they love me there, and I'm gonna keep coming back until they stop loving me."