At this point, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland has hosted as many marque fights as Madison Square Garden. Since 1986, the Rock Hall has been the location of moving speeches, great performances and legendary jams. But some artists have been bewildered, disillusioned and even enraged by the process and protocol of the Hall. There have been fights with ex-bandmates, current bandmates, Hall of Fame executives, judges and anyone else within range of the podium. Along the way, the musicians have crated controversies that have been nearly as memorable as the actual inductions.
Here are the times the drama got turned up almost as loud as the amps.
As many inductees have complained, sometimes the Rock Hall invites ex-members to attend a band induction and sometimes they don’t. In 2006, the establishment invited former Blondie members Frank Infante (guitar, bass), Jimmy Destri (keyboards), Nigel Harrison (bass) and Gary Valentine (bass, guitar). The problem was, 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. All three 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," he began. "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."
In one of his many mega-hits, “The Joker,” Seventies mainstay Steve Miller sang that he “sure don’t want to hurt no one.” But when he was inducted into the Rock and 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 was even more disparaging, commenting that his experience with the Hall was “unpleasant” and that “they need to respect the artists they say they’re honoring, which they don’t.” Miller didn’t stop there, adding that he nearly skipped the event and stayed at home, reported The New York Times. “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?" he said. 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.
When they were nominated, English punk pioneers The Sex Pistols made it crystal clear that they weren’t interested. So they penned a typo-riddled open letter that resounded with anti-industry, anti-capitalist, fuck you sentiment: "Next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain,” they began. “Your museum. Urine in wine. Were not coming. Were not your monkey and so what? Fame at $25,000 if we paid for a table, or $15000 to squeak up in the gallery, goes to a non-profit organisation [SIC] selling us a load of old famous. Congradulations [SIC]. If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons. Your anonymous as judges, but your still music industry people. Were not coming. Your not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real SEX PISTOL."
The biggest scuttlebutt regarding the 33rd annual event surrounded the ‘80s easygoing English rockers Dire Straits, who haven’t been so easygoing about their appearance. In the days leading up to the event, it remained unclear who will show up and whether or not they’ll perform. Frontman Mark Knopfler, guitarist David Knopfler, drummer Pick Withers, bassist John Illsley, keyboardist Alan Clark and keyboardist and guitarist Guy Fletcher were invited to attend and play, but only Clark, Illsley and Fletcher have RSVPd. Reports claim the Knopfler brothers get along about as well as the Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks, which explains why they’ve both been gunshy about committing. While Mark remained mum about whether or not he would attend, David, who initially seemed enthusiastic, later lashed out on Facebook at the Rock Hall for refusing to pay his expenses to get to Cleveland: “I can well understand that with only $5 million a year in sponsorships and 100k a table and no fees for the artist, that paying my taxi to the airport must have given them heart murmurs like Squeers hearing Oliver Twist asking for more and frightened them into refusal,” David wrote of Facebook. “Otherwise one might get the wrong idea entirely about what they’re all about.” Ultimately, neither fo the Knopfler brothers showed up and the Straits ended up making history again: as the first band to be inducted into the Hall without an induction speaker.