At this point, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland has hosted as many marquee fights as Madison Square Garden. Since 1986, the Rock Hall has been the site of moving speeches, great performances, and legendary jams. But some artists get bewildered, disillusioned, and even enraged by the process and protocol of the foundation.
Fights involving ex-bandmates, current bandmates, Hall of Fame executives, judges, and anyone else within range of the podium regularly occur. Along the way, the musicians have created controversies nearly as memorable as the actual inductions.
In one of his many mega-hits, “The Joker,” '70s mainstay Steve Miller sang he “sure don’t want to hurt no one.” But when he got inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he took a stab at the Hall that was honoring him.
Miller chided the institution to “be more inclusive of women” and take a greater role in promoting music education in schools. Backstage, he continued, commenting that his experience with the Hall was “unpleasant” and “they need to respect the artists they say they’re honoring, which they don’t.”
“When they told me I was inducted they said, ‘You have two tickets - one for your wife and one for yourself. Want another one? It’s $10,000. Sorry, that’s the way it goes.’ What about my band? What about their wives?"
When a Hall of Fame publicist told Miller to “wrap it up,” he snapped, “No, we’re not going to wrap this up. I’m going to wrap you up. You go sit down over there and learn something.” Now, that’s no joke.
As many inductees complain, the Rock Hall doesn't always invite ex-members to attend a band induction. In 2006, the establishment invited former Blondie members Frank Infante (guitar, bass), Jimmy Destri (keyboards), Nigel Harrison (bass) and Gary Valentine (bass, guitar). Unfortunately, vocalist Debbie Harry, guitarist and bassist Chris Stein, and drummer Clem Burke didn't want them there for various reasons, ranging from past lawsuits to bitterness over alleged substance abuse problems.
They all showed up anyway, but weren't allowed to perform with Blondie. When Infante accepted his award, he let fly with his grievances:
I'd like to thank the Hall of Fame for inviting us, and for not writing me, Gary and Nigel out of rock 'n' roll history. This is like one of the greatest gigs you could do as a musician. ... Actually, one thing that would make it better would be if we could actually perform for you tonight, but for some reason, some of us are not allowed to do that. I don't know what we could do about that. I'd like to play.
When they got nominated, English punk pioneers The Sex Pistols made it crystal clear they weren't interested. So, they penned a typo-riddled open letter that resounded with anti-industry, anti-capitalist, f*ck you sentiment:
Next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. Were [sic] not coming. [We're] not your monkey and so what? Fame at $25,000 if we paid for a table, or $15,000 to squeak up in the gallery, goes to a non-profit organisation selling us a load of old famous. Congradulations [sic]. If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons. [You're] anonymous as judges, but your still music industry people. We're not coming. You're not paying attention. Outside the sh*t-stem is a real SEX PISTOL.
Cleveland, Ohio was far from Paradise City when Guns N’ Roses got inducted into the Rock Hall. Frontman Axl Rose, who hadn't played with original guitarist Slash since 1996 and co-founding bassist Duff McKagan since 1997, declined the invitation and sent a letter to the Los Angeles Times, which read in part:
I strongly request that I not be inducted in absentia and please know that no one is authorized nor may anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf. Neither former members, label representatives nor the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame should imply whether directly, indirectly or by omission that I am included in any purported induction of “Guns N’ Roses.”
In light of Rose’s reunion with Slash and McKagan for the Not In This Lifetime… Tour, which launched in 2016, the singer's most declarative comments to the Hall of Fame remain particularly ironic:
Let sleeping dogs lie or lying dogs sleep or whatever. Time to move on. People get divorced. Life doesn't owe you your own personal happy ending especially at another's, or in this case several others', expense.
Apparently, he left out, “If the money offer is good enough, anything can happen in this lifetime.”