From R.E.M. & Patti Smith to Prince & Tom Petty: 5 of the best Rock Hall supergroup jams
The annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame landmark event is always a special day which sees the royalty of rock find themselves in the same building for one night only. Over the years since its inception in 1995 that fact has meant the event has seen its fair share of supergroups jamming for their audience.
When we say supergroup we really mean it too. Below, we’ve got five of our favourite jams from the annual event and it includes incredible artists such as Patti Smith, Prince, Tom Petty, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and so many more.
The event has truly seen it all since it’s incarnation in 1986 and its only fitting to celebrate this wild achievement by having a delve into the archives to find five of the most splendid meeting of giants that have occurred on the royal stage, that is Rock Hall.
Artists only become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their debut record. In order to be inducted, an artist must be nominated by a committee that selects a number of candidates, the highest being 16 for the 2020 class. Ballots are then sent to more than 1,000 “rock experts” who evaluate the candidates and vote on who should be inducted. The performers that receive the highest number of votes are inducted.
Let’s have a look at some of the greatest legendary jams featuring the biggest names in rock colliding.
Patti Smith and R.E.M. (2007)
R.E.M. and Patti Smith are two acts that create something bigger than themselves. Whenever they share the stage, both acts somehow elevate their already godlike ability to another level which creates an unstoppable force of nature as this cover of The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ is evidence of, at the 2007 bash.
It was only fitting that 11 years on from that timeless collaboration that they decided to share the stage once more when they were both being inducted into the 2018 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The only slight on the performance is the audience, who are all suited and booted in their seats rather than being fully transfixed by the greatness which is on stage in front of them.
There is tangible chemistry between Patti Smith and Michael Stipe who seem to be operating at the top of the game all while having incredible fun. The positive energy that they transmit through their rendition of ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ is infectious and is sure to beam a giant smile across your face.
George Harrison, Billy Joel, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young (1988)
There have been some incredible moments in Rock Hall’s long history, but none rank as highly as the institution’s third-ever event. Jams literally don’t get bigger than George Harrison, Billy Joel, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young forming the world’s greatest Beatles tribute band for a jaw-dropping performance of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’.
While The Beatles were being added into the Hall of Fame in 1988, not all the surviving members of the iconic band would attend the event. George Harrison and Ringo Starr would arrive at the show without Paul McCartney. The singer boycotted the event as the result of ongoing business disputes which could have put a real sourness on proceedings however, thankfully the event was anything but a damp squib.
The jam session is a joy to behold as Billy Joel, Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen excitedly take the mic and sing the 1963 classic. With George Harrison throwing in every back-up “woo” and a classic Beatles headshake for added effect. It results in a moment of beaming pride as the younger musicians in the group gratefully share the stage with their idols.
Kim Gordon and Nirvana (2014)
For Nirvana’s 2014 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic knew they had to mix things up for the evening’s proceedings. With a new take on the band, the duo decided to go with all-female singers to take over on vocal duty and breathe new life into their songs. In a bid not to sound like a Kurt Cobain tribute act, Sonic Youth’s enigmatic Kim Gordon arrived to steal the show.
Gordon went on to perform a blistering rendition of ‘Aneuresym’ that night which was electrifying with the former Sonic Youth member looking like she’d been performing alongside for Grohl and Novoselic for decades.
Another reason why Gordon was such a fitting choice to take part was that she played a monumental part in Nirvana’s mainstream success having recommended the band to major label Geffen who, in turn, would go on to sign the band and bring grunge to the masses. Without Gordon’s influence who knows if Nirvana would have gone onto the same level of success and end up being inducted into the hall of fame all those years later.
Led Zeppelin and Neil Young (1995)
Led Zep were inducted into rock’s most sacred members club by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry who would also join the band later in the evening for the first of their two sets, with the late John Bonham’s son Jason taking up his old man’s mantle on drums. However, the highlight of the entire evening came when Zeppelin joined forces with Neil Young — who fitted into the group like a glove.
Neil Young joined them for a staggering performance of ‘When The Levee Breaks’ which may not have been the band’s sharpest hour who may have needed some more rehearsal time but their lackadaisical approach somehow makes seeing these two musical legends sharing this slapdash moment even more special, with Young especially looking in his element. Towards the end of the song Plant then sings a bit of Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’ in tribute to Young. It’s a touching moment between two behemoths of the rock world.
According to Jimmy McDonough’s Neil Young biography Shakey, the experience was of such joy for Young that he briefly considered attempting to reform Zeppelin and becoming an honorary member for a new record. Unfortunately, that never happened and we will never know whether that would have been the best thing in the world or perhaps it’s for the better for both Young and Led Zeppelin’s that it never happened.
Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood and Jeff Lynne (2004)
On March 15, 2004, taking to the stage alongside the great Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison among many others, Prince was preparing something typically unique. The occasion was a celebration of former Beatles member George Harrison who was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—so it needed to be special and it somehow managed to surpass.
The all-star band, performing ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ which is quite possibly remembered as Harrison’s most-beloved Beatles song, included members of the Heartbreakers and had pre-planned a moment for Prince to take the lead, a moment of majesty, a moment of sheer rock and roll brilliance. A moment only Prince could pull off.
Remembering the moment on reflection, the late Tom Petty once explained: “Olivia Harrison [George’s widow] asked me if I would come along and induct George. I was told, ‘Well, Prince is going to play too,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s fantastic’.” If there was a chance of Petty feeling upstaged (and if you’ve watched the footage you’ll know that’s quite likely) he wasn’t going to spoil the evening and show it.