It was a moment worthy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame archives--and that's probably where it will go.
Shortly after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Bob Dylan, a black overcoat draped over a white tuxedo jacket, stepped to the microphone in the grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for a spirited rendition of "Like a Rolling Stone," backed on the chorus by Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and ex-Supreme Mary Wilson. Behind them stood an all-star band headed by a guitar army of John Fogerty, George Harrison, Neil Young, Jeff Beck and Les Paul.
The atmosphere was so electric that hundreds in the black-tie crowd attending the third annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Wednesday night danced on their chairs or tables.
As the musicians repeated the song's key phrase-- how does it feel?-- over and over, it seemed like no one on stage wanted this historic moment to end.
When Dylan finally brought the number to a close, host Paul Shaffer, musical director of David Letterman's TV show, walked over to the microphone to bid the audience good night. How could he ask anyone to follow that?
But several of the more than a dozen musicians on stage were ready for more.
Before members of the audience could leave their chairs, the band went into a familiar Rolling Stones refrain. The crowd shrieked its approval as Jagger suddenly took off his jacket and began prancing across the stage, singing "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."
It's moments like these that have made the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies the industry's most spectacular annual event--and it's a shame that the dinners are only seen by the estimated 700 musicians and industry executives in the ballroom.
But Bob Altschuler, vice president of press and public affairs for CBS Records and a member of the induction dinner committee, said the Hall of Fame board of directors has ruled out turning the dinner into a TV special for fear of violating the integrity of the ceremony.
"There's no question that what goes on each year in this room would make for sensational television," he said before the event began. "But we are afraid that if we turned it into a TV program, the character of the evening would be changed in a way that wouldn't be to our advantage.
"One reason we have so many artists turn up, both as presenters and guests, is that they don't feel they are going to be exploited. They participate in the dinner and get up and jam at the end of the evening because they know that it is just to honor other musicians--that there are no hidden agendas."
The absence of a TV contract, however, doesn't mean that these prized moments are lost. The dinners are videotaped--and presumably will be available for showing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame archives, which is scheduled to be built in Cleveland. Plans for the $40-million structure--to be situated on a bluff above the Cuyahoga River, a place immortalized in rock history in a humorous Randy Newman song--were unveiled Wednesday by architect I. M. Pei.
The closing jam has become a tradition at the Hall of Fame dinner, and Wednesday night's stretched nearly an hour.
There were so many musicians and guests on stage at the start that there wasn't enough room for all of the instruments, so promoter Bill Graham had to weed out some of the guests before the band could get started.
The ensemble started off with a rather wobbly version of "Twist and Shout," with Ringo Starr sitting in on drums and Billy Joel and Elton John both stationed at keyboards. The lineup also included Dylan, Springsteen, Fogerty, Young, Beck, Little Steven, the Beach Boys, several members of the Drifters, Mary Wilson, Peter Wolf, Paul Simon and Dave Edmunds.
Dylan and Harrison then shared lead vocals on a version of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" that was highlighted by a blistering, vigorous solo by Les Paul, the 71-year-old musician and inventor who was one of three pre-rock influences inducted into the Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Joel, Jagger and Springsteen then swapped vocals on the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There," followed by a rendition of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" that featured King and Julian Lennon on vocals. Mary Wilson led the band through the Supremes' "Stop! In the Name of Love," and Elton John kicked off a medley of "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" and "Hound Dog."
The Beach Boys revived "Barbara Ann" and Fogerty returned to his Creedence Clearwater Revival days for a stinging version of "Born on the Bayou." That led to "Like a Rolling Stone."
As stirring as these spontaneous jam sessions are, an equal treat is the induction speeches. It's endearing to see artists speak with the affection and awe of fans when talking about other inspirations or contemporaries.
This year's induction speeches were made by Elton John (on the Beach Boys), Billy Joel (the Drifters), Little Richard (the Supremes), Mick Jagger (the Beatles), Pete Seeger (Leadbelly), Ahmet Ertegun (Berry Gordy Jr.) and Jeff Beck (Les Paul).
But it was Springsteen who made the most affecting speech.
Reading from notes, Springsteen recalled how he felt when he first heard Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" album.
"Dylan was a revolutionary," he said. "The way that Elvis freed your body, Bob freed your mind. He showed us that just because the music was innately physical did not mean that it was anti-intellect. He had the vision and the talent to expand the pop song until it could contain the whole world. He invented a new way a pop singer could sound. He broke through the limitations of what a recording artist could achieve and he changed the face of rock 'n' roll forever and forever."
Dylan is uneasy about praise like that and he looked a bit sheepish and uncertain as he walked on stage, but he briefly embraced Springsteen.
Because the Beatles and Dylan are arguably two of the three most important forces ever in rock, several of the attendees Wednesday suggested before the dinner that future induction ceremonies would be a letdown.
But Jagger's appearance was a teasing reminder that there is still plenty of excitement in reserve. Among those artists eligible for 1989 induction: The Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder. That's more guaranteed footage for the archives.