The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

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Steven Van Zandt inducts Frank Barsalona

Those camera's off?  Welcome to a much-too-long evening, celebrating that noisy, hopped-up, teenage garbage you youngsters like to call music.  If rock and roll had stopped at Dion, we'd be all right.  His hair alone qualified him for the Hall of Fame.  I'm kidding a little bit - little bit.  We're here for a good reason tonight - at least I am - to tell you about a very important guy.  Now, in my life, there have been three Franks.  Frank Costello, a man of entrepreneurial pursuits, Frank Sinatra, the greatest singer that has ever lived and ever will live, and the Godfather of Rock and Roll, Frank Barsalona.  Now, we don't use that term casually where I come from.  Without Frank, none of youse would be in this room tonight.  Let me give you an example or two real quick.  Looking around... who's here... Jimmy Iovine, for instance.  Bigshot now, eh?  When we found Jimmy, he was in Brooklyn, running numbers, all right?  We called him Jimmy Shoes.  He wore K-Mart pants, cheap shirt, stupid hat, and $1,200 shoes.  I can see nothing much has changed.  Who else is here - there's one other example.  Oh - what are they calling you now?  Jann?  Jann?  Back in San Francisco, his name was Johnny Policy, all right?  He worked the midnight shift at Fisherman's Wharf, breaking kneecaps.  Now it's Jann?  Let me just tell you one thing, Jann: without Frank Barsalona, you know who you'd have on the cover of that Rolling Stone?  You'd have Brittany Spears on the cover of that Rolling Stone.  [Companion on right whispers to him.]  She was on the cover?  [Companion on left whispers, "Three times."]  Three times?  All right.  Let's get down to business.  [Mutters something in Italian.]  Back in the early '60s, there was no rock and roll business, all right?  The agencies, they depended on movie stars, and TV stars, and real singers - the guys who sang at the Coco Cabana or Vegas.  The rock and roll part of the agency was this little room, way in the back, OK, behind the broom closet, and they figured, rock and roll's over, OK?  In the early '60s, rock and roll was either in the Army, it was in the priesthood, it was jail, or it was dead, OK?  They couldn't care less.  They cared so little about it that when the three guys who ran the rock and roll part of the agency quit, then this young kid called Frankie said, "I'll take it."  They said, "You know what?  Give it to the kid.  Who cares?  All he's gotta do is make sure that Little Anthony makes it to the skating rink on time."  You know, that was the industry.  So they give it to this very early... you know, early 20s, something like that.  But as luck would have it, Frankie books a group called the Beatles, and he goes down to see them in Washington, D.C.  And there's riots outside, there's riots inside - he says, "Wait a minute.  This is not the end of something, this is the beginning of something."  So he comes back, he quits his job, and against the Family's recommendation, he opens the first rock and roll agency, called Premier Talent.  Here he makes history two different ways.  First thing, he looks at the old promoters, he says, "You know what?  These guys are fighting with each other, they're cheating the acts, they cancel shows - you know, they hate rock and roll to begin with."  All right?  So he's gonna replace the old promoters - these Mustache Petes - with a bunch of new, young, hungry guys.  He does it in a very wise way.  He divides the country up into territories.  Yes, that's right.  It sounds familiar, doesn't it?  And then he started to give it out to these new, hungry guys.  Larry Maggot in Philly, Jack Boyle in Washington, Don Law up in Boston, you know, Bill Graham over there in 'Frisco,  the Belkins in Cleveland, Ronny Delsner here in New York.  In other words, he took out all the old thieves, and replaced them with a bunch of new thieves.  But all seriousness aside, what that did was create something that the business had never experienced, because it started to feel stable for the first time.  He created stability, and consistency, and longevity.  And the second amazing thing he did, was he had the vision to realize in this new era - it wasn't that radio and records weren't going to matter, because they're always gonna matter, but he said, "You know what?  What's most important in this new era is how good a band is live."  And that was a radical thought.  He said, before the hits - excuse the expression, before the records, before the radio, let's have the band be good live first.  And he proved the point over and over with bands like the Who, and Jeff Beck Group, and Led Zeppelin, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, and the Ramones, and the Clash, and the Pretenders, and U2, and Van Halen, and on and on and on and on.  You gotta be great live first.  And that combination created something that allowed the industry to breathe for a minute.  It wasn't gonna be just about short-term gain anymore.  He would even tell the promoters, they're gonna lose money on the first record, they're gonna break even on second record, third record, maybe make a few dollars, and then maybe everybody makes money.  And all of a sudden, there was a future.  All of a sudden there was stability, and there was longevity, and the industry was able to breathe and to develop, and the art form was allowed to flourish, and that changed everything.  And 30 years of prosperity is due to Frank Barsalona's vision.  And everybody in this room benefited, and everybody who loves music benefited. So it is on behalf of a very grateful industry, and the greatest honor of my life, to induct into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the Godfather of Rock and Roll, Frank Barsalona.  Come and get it, baby.