British stars invade Rock Hall of Fame induction. The Police, performing for the first time in 18 years, join Elvis Costello and the Clash at the annual gala

By Gary Susman
Updated March 11, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: The Police: Ezio Petersen /UPI/Newscom

”It’s a very good night to be British,” Elton John said at Monday night’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction banquet at New York’s Waldorf Astoria. The comment was apparently one of the more printable remarks in a reportedly profane and funny speech inducting Elvis Costello and the Attractions into the Hall. Costello joined fellow Brits the Clash and the Police, as well as Aussies AC/DC and token Americans the Righteous Brothers in the Hall’s class of 2003.

The evening was not without rancor. Costello thanked a producer who ”let me make some good records before corporate raiders f—-d up the industry completely.” Attractions bassist Bruce Thomas, who has feuded with Costello for years, accepted his trophy and said, ”Thanks for the memories. That’s it,” then left the room. On stage, Sting said that Police drummer Stewart Copeland had complained about the song selection for the evening (”Roxanne,” ”Every Breath You Take,” and ”Message in a Bottle”), saying that they didn’t have enough drumming in them. Presenter Neil Young mentioned the likely war with Iraq, saying, ”We’re gonna be killing a lot of people next week. … We’re making a terrible mistake. I feel like I’m in a huge SUV and the driver is drunk as a skunk.”

As always, the evening included a jam session. The Righteous Brothers opened with ”You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” cited as the most frequently played American song in radio history. Copeland’s cavils aside, the Police performed together for the first time in 18 years. The Thomas-less Attractions played such Costello hits as ”Pump It Up” and ”What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding.” The Clash, who broke up in the early ’80s and lost frontman Joe Strummer to heart disease less than three months ago, did not play. AC/DC rocked with ”You Shook Me All Night Long.” Highlights of the gala, now in its 18th year, will air on VH1 on Sunday.