David Robinson woke up early on the morning the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced their class of 2018. The Cars drummer was told a couple of days earlier by his manager that they’d finally gotten inducted, but he wanted to see the news coverage himself. “I thought the local stations would be covering it,” he says. “Four people called me to say congratulations and I said, ‘Nothing has been on.’ But it came on while I was taking to the fourth person. Luckily they had some nice footage of us playing live, so it was good.”
About three hours later, he called up Rolling Stone to talk about the big honor, why he basically stopped playing drums when the Cars broke up in 1987, the short-lived reunion in 2011 and why he feels late bandmate Benjamin Orr (who died in 2000 at age 53) would have been thrilled by the news.
How do you feel?
Well, we’ve been through it twice already. I just sort of had a feeling we could squeak in this year. But it’s great. It’s great. It’s also a good time for us. Next year is the 40th anniversary of our first album [The Cars]. I’ve been working all this year on a bunch of re-releases. We’ve had some expanded records and I’ve worked on the covers. It’s a good time.
What does this mean to you on a personal level?
I think it’s a nice honor. Like a lot of people, maybe the only thing about the Hall of Fame is that they’ve been inducting things that aren’t rock and roll. I think they should change the name of the place or just re-think what they’re doing. Nina Simone? I’m not sure if she was a big supporter of rock & roll. That seems a little odd to me.
There’s also Dire Straits, Bon Jovi and the Moody Blues. Are you a fan of those groups?
Yeah. That’s great. I’ve voted a few times for other bands, not particularly those bands. [Chuckles.] If it’s going to be sort of historically viable, I’m not sure what their standards are or anything about who they vote for or how they vote and why. At different times I was suspect at who got in and who didn’t, but when I went and looked at who they inducted I was actually pretty impressed. There were so many things I liked and things I felt were important enough to be there. For the most part, we’re in good company. There’s loads of acts that are just fantastic and important in the scheme of things, they are in there. But I’m not so sure about other genres. If they’re going to bring them in there, they should change the name so their customers know what they’re getting.
Do you not see hip-hop as part of rock and roll?
Very seldom. I think if I was in a hip-hop band, I wouldn’t be too impressed if some rock and rollers thought I was a rock and roller.
That’s much closer to rock than, say, hip-hop. Maybe it should be Popular Music Hall of Fame? I don’t know. If you were a rock and roller and went there, some of the stuff would leave you cold.
Are you guys definitely going to perform at the ceremony?
We haven’t talked about it yet. I’m pretty sure we will. I don’t know why we wouldn’t. I gotta drag my drums out and practice a bit.
Performers tend to do three songs.
That’s good. It’s about as many as I can play. [Laughs]
Can you wager a guess as to what they’ll be?
No. I don’t have a clue. We’ve got a lot of songs to choose from. We’ll get together and talk about it. Actually, it’ll be fun. Maybe we’ll even throw a twist on some of the songs or just do something unusual, change it up a bit.
Are you able to imagine an all star jam with you guys, Bon Jovi, Dire Straits and the Moody Blues?
No. [Laughs] The Moody Blues, yes, that’s what I’m anticipating.
Is it true you didn’t play drums from the Cars breakup in 1987 until the reunion in 2010?
Yeah. I didn’t play. I would play once in a while on New Year’s. Even in 2010 and 2011 when we did that project and the short tour, I put my drums in storage with the expectation of taking them out and bringing them home
source: rolling stone