Put aside, for a second, whether the notion of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a good idea in the first place. Since 1986, the institution has held induction ceremonies that have yielded once-in-a-lifetime jam sessions, wish-list band reunions and the most belligerent, bitter acceptance speeches you’re ever likely to cringe at. The events have also seen their share of questionable choices—is a classic like “Satisfaction” really served by having 50 famous guitarists playing over each other? But these car-wreck musical moments have also become part of rock’s rolling history. They all deserve to be viewed, reviewed and reevaluated ad nauseam.
So tip your Angus Young schoolboy cap to Time Life Records for compiling nearly a quarter century of broadcasted footage from the museum’s annual soirees; you can now watch Ozzy Osbourne sing along to Metallica’s cover of “Iron Man” until doomsday. Spread across nine discs, the box set’s collection of unforgettable performances and teary thank-yous seems to have been organized like an iPod on shuffle.
But what it lacks in chronology and curatorial coherence, it makes up for with full representations of the good (Cream’s first public outing in 22 years), the bad (the Eddie Vedder--fronted Doors) and the ugly (the Beatles’ acidic acceptance speech, sans Paul). Each disc comes with supplemental rehearsal footage and full versions of selected inductions, yet it’s the musicians doing what they do best—Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tearing into “American Girl,” Santana’s face-melting solo on “Black Magic Woman”—that make this a necessity for fans as well as historians. Hail, hail, rock & roll.—David Fear