IF NOT FOR THE BRITISH INVASION…

April 17, 2010 – 4:02 am

The following is an excerpt from Steve Van Zandt’s induction speech for the Hollies at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 2010 in New York City.

You know, a lot of us in this room have been doing what we do a long time. We can’t help it, I guess, if we take it all at least a little bit for granted. Sometimes some of us don’t even show up. And we can’t help but feel a little disappointed now that the business is pretty much artistically, financially, and spiritually bankrupt. With a few exceptions. And I say a few exceptions so you can pretend you’re one of them.

It’s temporary probably, a cycle type thing we hope. There’s lots of great new bands out there and hopefully we can find a way to create an infrastructure to support them. But we can’t help be a little jaded. A little cynical about what’s going on, right?

So it’s good once a year that we stop for a minute.

And think about what we do. And this is it.

This is our best night, right?

The Grammys, nice people, good show, a lot of fun but, with all due respect, it’s mostly bullshit.

The American Music Awards, nice people, a lot of fun, mostly bullshit.

But this Hall Of Fame thing really has just a little bit of bullshit. On the bullshit scale, this is pretty good. As frustrating as it can be. This is as good as it’s gonna get. We should respect it and enjoy it.

Because this night makes us think about what we do. And when you rise ABOVE the bullshit for a minute, you realize something that day to day we don’t think about often enough. And that is this -

This thing we do, it’s beautiful.

Making music, creating art, inspiring people… motivating people… making people feel good… helping them understand a little bit about life, helping them get through the day… feel a little less confused… a little less alone. What Andrew Loog Oldham called the Industry of Human Happiness. It is truly a divine craft that we work our hands in.

Of course we didn’t have any of these big ideas when we started. Frankly most of us were just trying to get laid. Maybe get a little famous. Maybe get a little rich. But mostly it was the pussy. And, of course, trying to avoid having to work for a living. Something really went wrong with that one! I don’t want to name any names.

We are a strange combination of troubadours, court jesters, rabble rousers, and magicians, catching and communicating the mystical mystery of music. This would be a wonderful job in any era. But those of us who have lived in the time of what will surely be remembered as a Renaissance Period are truly blessed. I sincerely believe the 20-year period from 1951 to 1971 will be studied and analyzed for hundreds of years to come.

It may sound crazy but I actually believe history will be divided into the pre-’60s, and post-’60s. Because the ’60s was the birth of consciousness. Everything changed. And not all for the better.

It was the English bands that made us aware of the Pioneers’ greatness by their own greatness. They introduced us not just to their own extraordinary music, and not just to the global community of new ideas, but to the very idea of a band.

We’re still struggling with the fragmentation that inevitably comes with cultural changes THAT profound. Civil Rights, The Sexual Revolution, Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, Questioning One’s Government, the Explosion of the Teenage Marketplace, The Anti-War Movement, Computer Science, the introduction of Eastern Religion and thought to the West, the concept of a Global Community, the radical realization that our Constitution wasn’t finished, and a new mass media to tell us all about it.

Which included a terrific little magazine called Rolling Stone by the way.

These massive cultural changes both liberated and divided us. And our culture is still searching, still hoping to regain some common ground.

But for a moment our generation was very much as one.

And it was Rock and Roll that provided our common ground, our means of communication, our education, our means of venting our frustrations, our strength against the fear of growing up. It gave us hope and faith and somehow instilled in us a belief that there would be a future. It replaced everything our parents, our schools, and our society had taught us, and it would become our common religion.

The Disciples and Missionaries of this new religion would, for my age group, first come from England. We called it the British Invasion of 1964/’65. Ironically, as it would turn out, they would introduce us young Americans to what would eventually be recognized as a new art form, that much to our surprise, was born right here in our own country.

An art form born to serve the needs of a new species of humanity called the Teenager. Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan would add the eloquence and the specifics, but we didn’t need anything more than Little Richard. He opened his mouth and out came liberation.

These unlikely missionaries from England would change society’s perception, and history’s evaluation, of the Rock and Rollers of the 1950s completely. Their status would change from temporary teenage circus freaks passing through town as an amusing diversion helping kids get through those awkward years from adolescence to adulthood, to Pioneers of that New Art Form. Pioneers that were in fact instinctive creative geniuses whose work will be celebrated forever.

I never would have heard of Little Richard or Bo Diddley or Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis or Carl Perkins or Muddy Waters if it weren’t for the British Invasion. Forget about Arthur Alexander or Larry Williams. No chance.

It was the English bands that made us aware of the Pioneers’ greatness by their own greatness. They introduced us not just to their own extraordinary music, and not just to the global community of new ideas, but to the very idea of a band.

A band.

The singular profound revelation of my life.

The critically important notion that a group of individuals could be stronger together than apart, complementing and completing each other, communicating friendship, brother and sisterhood and, ultimately, Community itself.

Where would we be without that?

It is therefore a joy and pleasure to celebrate these artists, those that came before them, and those that have come since, and thank them in this setting once a year.

So here we are thanking the Beatles, the Dave Clark 5, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, Herman’s Hermits, the Searchers, the Zombies, the Who, Manfred Mann, the Spencer Davis Group, Procul Harum, and the band we celebrate and honor tonight, we’re here to thank the Hollies.

Note: Musician, DJ and actor Steve Van Zandt (aka Little Steven or Miami Steve) is also known as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. The above article was circulated by Rock & Rap Confidential.

  1. 3 Responses to “IF NOT FOR THE BRITISH INVASION…”

  2. finally how long has it taken to get these guys into the hall i was really dissapointed 5 hollies showed but only allan and graham sang why weren’t the others allowed to at least play their instruments i am sure they still can and probably wanted to kind of sad to hear allans voice is all but gone sad to was the way he pushed terry away from the mike when he tried to sing kind of like john fogerty saying stu and doug could not play when they both showed ready also their first drummer was mentioned but was he inducted after all he was on their first records and someone tell me why pete best was not put into the hall with the other beatles after all hes was in the band for 2 years and was on their first records also did sour paul have somethimg to do with it

    By mike on Apr 18, 2010

  3. “I never would have heard of Little Richard or Bo Diddley or Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis or Carl Perkins or Muddy Waters if it weren’t for the British Invasion…” Hmmmmmmmm. Funny, I knew all of them and had bought records by at least four of them before the ‘British invasion’. I knew Lightnin’ Hopkins, Johnny Cash, Jimmie Rodgers … a whole bunch before the ‘British invasion’… What that did for me was open my eyes to how good many of our own bands were and how good their material was, including The Hollies, The Searchers, Billy J. Kramer and more … but anyway, that over now. We have our memories to keep us cheerful … and as Bob Dylan sang:”Take care of your memories, you cannot relive them …” Cheers.

    By Canute on Apr 18, 2010

  4. I haven’t seen the show, but whenever a long-running band is inducted there are always questions about which members really belong there. Tony Hicks was one of the Hollies’ three main songwriters (with Clarke and Nash) and, with Bobby Elliott, still keeps the band going today - why wasn’t he there?

    Maybe this is the “little bit of bullshit” Steve talks about. But musicians are only human - whenever a band breaks up, the official line is to cite “musical differences”, but very often the real reason is that the members have been stuck together touring for 10 or 20 years and can’t stand each other’s company any more. Sometimes those bad feelings linger on - CCR, Pink Floyd - and still show up years later.

    By Private Beach on Jun 9, 2010

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