Phil Spector, Paul McCartney and Sean Combs made news this week

By Tom Sinclair
Updated March 26, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

The Fourteenth Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Dinner, held at New York’s Waldorf Astoria, March 15, was such a spirited love-fest that even the mercurial Phil Spector was feeling playful. Three journalists descended on the legendarily temperamental producer, tape recorders and pens poised. Rather than turn tail, Spector flashed a chicken-eating grin and asked, ”Is there gonna be a fight now?”

Naw, Phil. Frankly, we were having too much fun to quarrel. From Hall of Fame cofounder Jann Wenner’s opening roll call of recent rock deaths (followed by ”Only the Good Die Young” from Billy Joel) to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s knockout encore (including ”Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and a duet of ”In the Midnight Hour” with Wilson Pickett), the ceremony seemed to peak from beginning to end. (Along with Joel and Springsteen, inductees included Dusty Springfield, Paul McCartney, Charles Brown, Curtis Mayfield, the Staple Singers, Del Shannon, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, and Beatles producer George Martin.)

Rock attitude ruled: McCartney’s daughter, Stella, joined her father on stage, wearing a tank top that read ”About F — -ing Time!,” while Macca asked, ”What about George and Ringo?” Springsteen called up the E Street Band to share his glory, saying, ”I can’t stand up here now without you.” And in a priceless comedic moment, Sean ”Puffy” Combs, inducting Mayfield, tripped over his words, unsure if he meant to say the R&B legend had ”left an impression” or ”left the Impressions” (either way is correct, Puff).

Among the surprises was Bono’s rhapsodic and witty paean to Springsteen, whom he called ”an unusual rock star…. He’s never embarrassed himself with all that success. No drug busts, no blood changes in Switzerland. Even more remarkable: no golfing.” As the Boss later quipped: ”You always want an Irishman to give your induction speech.”