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Cleveland's Rock Hall welcomes new class

Published: Saturday, April 14 2012 5:36 p.m. MDT

Rocker Alice Cooper with his wife, Sheryl, talk with reporters after arriving for the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies  Saturday, April 14, 2012, in Cleveland.  (Tony Dejak, Associated Press) Rocker Alice Cooper with his wife, Sheryl, talk with reporters after arriving for the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Saturday, April 14, 2012, in Cleveland. (Tony Dejak, Associated Press)

CLEVELAND — Axl Rose may regret missing this bash.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, a musical celebration that in past years has included awkward moments, touching tributes and unforgettable performances, is set for Saturday night in historic Public Hall where 6,000 fans, 1,400 well-heeled guests and many of music's biggest stars were set to party with the class of 2012.

Hard rockers Guns N' Roses headlined this year's eclectic group of inductees. Others are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, folk icon Donovan, late singer-songwriter Laura Nyro and British bands the Small Faces and Faces.

Rose, the Guns N' Roses lead singer with an affinity for drama, is skipping the event.

George Clinton, left, arrives for the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland on Saturday, April 14, 2012.  (Amy Sancetta, Associated Press) George Clinton, left, arrives for the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland on Saturday, April 14, 2012. (Amy Sancetta, Associated Press)

Cleveland will rock without him.

The screeching frontman and ringmaster of the G N' R traveling circus of dysfunction for decades said earlier this week that he didn't want to be part of the ceremony because it "doesn't appear to be somewhere I'm actually wanted or respected."

Rose cited a continuing rift with his former band mates as the main reason for not attending. His decision disappointed fans and ended months of speculation about whether the original Guns N' Roses lineup would unite for the first time since 1993 and perform any of their classic hits like "Welcome to the Jungle" or "Sweet Child O' Mine."

Although he asked not to be inducted, the hall plans to enshrine him with whether Rose likes it or not.

As the ceremony approached, fans gathered on the sidewalks outside the historic venue, which hosted the Beatles in 1964, for a peek at some of rock's royalty.

Rocker Alice Cooper and his wife, Sheryl, arrives for the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland on Saturday, April 14, 2012.  (Amy Sancetta, Associated Press) Rocker Alice Cooper and his wife, Sheryl, arrives for the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland on Saturday, April 14, 2012. (Amy Sancetta, Associated Press)

Alice Cooper was the fan favorite on the red carpet, signing autographs, telling printable stories and waving in response to cheers of "Alice, Alice!"

"New York is glitz, Cleveland is the nuts and bolts," said Cooper, comparing the cities that share the rock hall induction ceremonies, which are held at New York's Waldorf-Astoria and come to Cleveland every third year.

"I'm from the Midwest. Cleveland feels normal to me," said Cooper, dressed in a decidedly Hollywood-style black no-lapel tuxedo with a flowered shirt.

Cooper, standing under a canvass canopy protecting against threatening skies, marveled at the scene and said he was glad to be around.

"It's our version of the Academy awards," he said. "If you can stay alive to 27 — that seems to be the expiration date for rock stars."

Funk icon George Clinton made a splashy entrance, arriving in a silver bullet-shaped vehicle familiar to amusement park thrill riders. Wearing a gray herringbone coat and black fedora, he stood and waved from the back seat.

Singer Darlene Love waves from the red carpet before the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland on Saturday, April 14, 2012.  (Amy Sancetta, Associated Press) Singer Darlene Love waves from the red carpet before the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cleveland on Saturday, April 14, 2012. (Amy Sancetta, Associated Press)

Darlene Love, who will perform "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" for deceased inductee Don Kirshner, showed some love to her Rust Belt fans when she arrived. "They show their appreciation," said Love, glamorous in a one-shoulder red dress, black wrap and red clutch purse.

"Good to see you," she cooed.

Rose isn't the only lead singer missing.

Rod Stewart, who was to be inducted and perform with Faces, came down with the flu this week.

"I'm absolutely devastated," Stewart said in a statement. "Shattered that I'm going to miss my second induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — and this time alongside my mates."

Faces will be joined for a short set of songs by Simply Red's lead singer Mick Hucknall, a friend of the band who has played with them before and will take Stewart's spot.

Like Guns N' Roses, the Red Hot Chili Peppers emerged from Los Angeles during the 1980s when Sunset Strip's rock scene was dominated by "hair" bands more concerned with their tight lycra pants and eyeliner than their sound. Not the Chili Peppers, who found their unique groove by blending funky hooks and a punk ethos.

While their lineup has undergone some changes — founding guitarist Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988 — lead singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea have survived personal highs and lows and the band remains one of music's top live acts.

Three white middle-class smart alecks from New York, the Beastie Boys were initially dismissed as beer-swilling frat boys following their 1986 debut album "License To Ill," which featured songs like "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)" and "Girls." But their follow-up, "Paul's Boutique," was acclaimed by critics and brought the Beasties credibility in the black hip-hop community.

John Mellencamp will induct Donovan, who had a string of hits in the '60s with "Sunshine Superman," ''Hurdy Gurdy Man" and "Mellow Yellow." The pair is expected to perform together.

The influential Nyro, who died in 1997, will be in inducted by her son, Gil Bianchini. Smokey Robinson will induct long-deserving backup bands for early rock artists. The group includes Buddy Holly's The Crickets, James Brown's The Famous Flames, Bill Hailey's The Comets and Robinson's The Miracles.

Blues artist Freddie King is being inducted as an early influence. Carole King will induct Kirshner, who launched Prince and the Eagles. New Orleans engineer Cosimo Matassa, engineer-producer Tom Dowd and engineer-producer Glyn Johns will also be enshrined.

Associated Press writer Thomas J. Sheeran contributed to this report.

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