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Special Feature: View From the Floor: The Heavy Metal Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

By: Jack Mangan

OK, so let's talk about the Hall of Heavy Metal History, and more specifically, about its first-ever induction ceremony, on January 18,2017. I was there. It was an unforgettable experience, to say the least. . . sharing that rarefied air with so many icons of my youth; those names in the cassette and CD liner notes which would constitute my own musical foundations. I was onsite as press, but was happy just to shake hands and chat with people. (I stopped [legendary Metal drummer] Vinny Appice in the hallway; he leaned in ready for a slew of reporter questions, but seemed genuinely happy when I just said it was an honor to meet him and left it at that.) But - - to co-opt and paraphrase the words of Hall CEO and Founder, Pat Gesualdo: "This is not about me. This not about just one person. This is about brotherhood; this is for the great fans and musicians of this community."

It was a chilly January Wednesday night at Business Expo Center in Anaheim, CA, a few miles away from the Anaheim Convention Center, where the annual prestigious NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Conference was just getting under way. Fans, Press, and stars all were primarily middle-aged or older. They'd gathered at the Expo Center for the Hall of Heavy Metal History Induction Ceremony, an event that stands up and shouts that Heavy Metal music and culture are worthy of respect, and that the pillars of this community are at least as worthy of respect as those lauded by more mainstream institutions and media.

Press Conference

The pre-show Press Conference didn't last long, but the discussion was lively and impassioned. I actually got to ask the first question, which I left open for the entire panel: "What is the future of Heavy Metal?" After a few moments, Mickey Dee of Scorpions, formerly of Motorhead and King Diamond, spoke up, "A lot of these guys are getting older and are starting to quit. There are some good young bands out there. I hope they can last, that's the problem. . ." Eddie Trunk (legendary Metal DJ) chimed in then to point out that the rise of festivals was very encouraging, especially since the lack of such events in the U.S. had been a complaint in the past, even if music sales are declining. Vinny Appice cracked that stations need to broadcast Eddie Trunk's radio show. Another reporter then asked about Metal's past, specifically what gave it it's staying power, to which Mr. Trunk responded: "It's the cockroach of musics. And I think everyone is very proud of that." A few more targeted questions followed for Don Airey and Tim "Ripper" Owens, but then Craig Goldy spoke up, saying he wished to answer the questions about Metal's past and future, stating (paraphrased): "There's a lot of integrity and heart in these guys, to make the music that punches you in the soul. The hard work that these guys put in; it's integrity that's going to make this last into the future," which elicited applause. I approached Mr. Goldy at the close of the press conference, shook his hand and thanked him for his great answer. He elaborated a bit more, speaking affectionately of Ronnie James Dio as a great man, full of heart and integrity, and how ridiculous some of the old-time perceptions of him were, since he was such a good man. I responded that seeing Dio's work on the "Stars" charity project (in which Goldy had participated) had really shown his true character.

The Awards Show.

After many delays, the bar was finally set up. In the greatest disappointment of the evening, the alcohol choices were only cans of Bud, Bud Light, or Miller Lite. So yeah. . . Diet Pepsi.

Eddie Trunk was absolutely perfect in the role of MC; as long as he's willing and able, he should always be the man for the job. He knew all of the inductees from his years in the scene, and was able to speak with eloquence and warmth, often foregoing the pre-written notes and sharing anecdotes and personal stories about the honorees:

Ronnie James Dio Lemmy Kilmeister Randy Rhoads Scorpions Vinny Appice Rudy Sarzo Frankie Banali Quiet Riot Don Airey Ross the Boss Metal Blade Records Zildjian Cymbals The Rainbow Bar and Grill

The inductees and their representatives also had great stories and insights to regale us with; from remembrances of Lemmy Kilmister's latter years at his favorite haunt: The Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood, to Ross "The Boss" Friedman telling how Ronnie James Dio had introduced him and Joey Dimaio, which led to the formation of Manowar. To a man (and woman, in the case of Wendy Dio and Randy Rhoads's sister, Kathy), the inductees spoke with un-Kanye-like humility, grace, and appreciation. Wendy Dio spoke eloquently and graciously about the late Ronnie James Dio and the Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund and its successes, emphasizing the need for men to take their own medical treatment more seriously. The acceptance speeches from from Randy Rhoads's brother and sister were nothing short of beautiful. He's been gone from us for decades, but the love in the room for this man from those who knew him was astonishing. The most moving moment of the night was when Rudy Sarzo was overcome with emotion onstage while recalling Randy with Frankie Banali, while they accepted statuettes for Quiet Riot's unscheduled induction. The night's other biggest surprise was an unscheduled appearance from future inductee, Kerry King of Slayer, there to speak a few words to induct Metal Blade Records.

The Music

The Ross the Boss band had opened the evening with some fun retro-stank - - although notably - - no Manowar tunes. Following a break for the Press Conference, the Ethan Brosh band took the stage for instrumental shredders with tremendous skill, but really only connected with the audience on their note-perfect cover of Iron Maiden's "Wasted Years", with the drummer on vocals. (All respect to the NAMM-worthy talents of Ethan Brosh, but this proved that classic Metal covers might be the best way to go to warm up the evening, for future induction ceremonies).

Immediately following the ceremony, we got shortened performances from L.A. locals Diamond Lane. Diamond Lane - - in a word - - rocked. The material was unfamiliar, but the sound and look fit as comfortably as patched up denim - - was pure pre-glampop Metal, in the vein of early Dokken and Ron Keel.

The majority of the stars and a large portion of the Wednesday night crowd had already cleared out by the time Diamond Lane cleared out and the Dio Disciples took the stage. Those few of us who were there to witness their set were truly part of something transcendent. Mi Dios, what a performance. An all-star assemblage of Ronnie's old musician colleagues, fronted by Tim "Ripper" Owens on co-lead vocals, with Craig Goldy on guitar, the Disciples crushed the 5 Dio, Sabbath, and Rainbow classics they played, delivering the best live renditions of "Holy Diver," "Turn Up the Night," "Long Live Rock n' Roll," The Man on the Silver Mountain," and "Heaven and Hell" that the post-Dio world will ever know. This performance was a rare, intimate treat, and clearly the highlight of the night. If you ever have the opportunity to catch Dio Disciples guys live, then do whatever it takes to be there. They proved to be the perfect climactic cap to an amazing, unforgettable evening of Heavy Metal History.

Thoughts from the Floor

I think it's fantastic that Pat Gesualdo and the Hall have chosen to honor worthy and deserving lesser-known players, e.g.: Rudy Sarzo, Zildjian Cymbals, Don Airey, Ross the Boss, along with the household name types like Dio, Lemmy, and Scorpions. We can all assume that we'll see Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Van Halen, Metallica, etc., etc. eventually - - but it would feel a bit shallow if the Hall only recognized the megastars, and overlooked the critical role-players. Pat Gesualdo has referred in interviews to a set of criteria for induction, in defense of the first round selections. This is a fine response, but I do think that as the event grows, the Hall committee will need to be a bit more transparency about the process.

I joked about the night's beer selections earlier. The drink service had zero impact on the success of the evening, but I do hope that an expanded bar and banquet can become part of the proceedings in the future. This comment ties into the venue itself. The Business Expo Center turned out to be correctly-scaled in a good SoCal location, but the building was obviously not intended to accommodate Craig Goldy melting faces. This is clearly a place expected to host day jobbers in gray suits enduring excruciating PowerPoint business slides. It suited the evening well, but I do hope the Hall of Heavy Metal History can grow to earn an upgrade - - to a good theater, arena, or a bigger Convention Center.

Children of the Grave

My final commentary is about the age of the attendees and participants. Any Hall of History, by definition, is about and for geezers (hopefully Geezer Butler gets in next year!). But for this institution to survive into the decades ahead, it will need to make itself relevant to the younger generations as well, so they'll want to pick up that torch and keep it burning. The overwhelming majority of today's young Heavy Music fans would have had little to identify with and hold their interest at this event, while those of us in the older generation, who grew up with this crop of inductees, were in our glory. There are also plenty of historically relevant acts who matter to the upcoming generation of teens and young adults in the Heavy scene; there will need to be some space in the Hall and at its events for those acts and their followers as well. It's not only sensible, it'll prove essential for the continuation and thriving of this great, much-needed institution. What I'm proposing could be easier said than done. Metallic and Megadeth are probably easy enough choices for this, but will the old guard of the scene be able to accept the major influential and significant acts of the 90s and 2000s who've found mainstream appeal - - like Korn, Rob Zombie, Linkin Park(?), Muse(???), etc. I also recognize that blending different subsets will then also create the additional challenge of gap-bridging and peace-keeping between the elders and the kids. Understand: this is not a criticism of the inaugural event or its choices. I'm just putting it out there: if the Hall of Heavy Metal History continues to be focused only on this one aging bracket of the Metal world, then there will be no bridge in place to bring in the next generations, so they can possibly learn to appreciate the magic of all the things Ronnie James Dio was and is, along with their celebration of Nickelback's enshrinement (I kid. Inducting Nickelback will never be acceptable.) Along these lines for the future (wording this carefully), while Metal music has always been predominantly the domain of white males, there have been a number of incredible women and men of other backgrounds who've come out to play and make it a better game. The best musicians are always color-blind, so this has never been an issue among the worthy. I'm not advocating special treatment for anyone based on their minority status - - or overlooking one legend in favor of a lesser deity due to their background, but I do think it would benefit the Hall to also pay heed to folks like Vernon Reid, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Trujillo, Max Cavalera, Doug Pinnick, Rob Halford, Joan Jett, Lita Ford, etc., - - heavy players who aren't straight white guys, who have made a difference in our genre and the overall music world.

OK! Congratulations to all of the Inductees, and congratulations and thanks to Pat Gesualdo and his team for creating something wonderful for the Metal community. Mr. Gesualdo said during his speeches: "Heavy Metal will never die." Let's keep the devil horns raised and do our parts to ensure that the Hall of Heavy Metal History can also last forever.

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