Feuds abound around Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
New York – — All you need is love.
Love’s often in short supply at the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, however. For all the good vibes of a career’s crowning achievement, the event can be a display case for long-running feuds, petty jealousies and business disputes. Paul Simon once jokingly suggested the hall create a special wing for musical acts that didn’t get along.
This year’s ceremony, taking place Friday in Brooklyn, has a bumper crop of squabbling inductees.
Current members of Deep Purple have refused to perform with Ritchie Blackmore, guitarist who wrote the signature riff to “Smoke on the Water” and probably the most identifiable person who passed through the band. He left in 1993. So Blackmore told the hall he won’t show up this week.
A reunion was in the works for Chicago and its former lead singer, Peter Cetera. But something went awry, and Cetera announced that he’d be staying away, too.
Things didn’t look good for Cheap Trick, whose longtime drummer Bun E. Carlos hasn’t played for them in six years. He explained to Rolling Stone last year that “me and the singer don’t get along.” After legal wrangling, Carlos is still considered a member for business purposes, but guitarist Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx now plays drums.
Yet, Carlos is expected to appear Friday and perform with Cheap Trick again for one more night.
Maybe love will prevail after all.
Can’t buy me love
The Beatles actually set a sour tone early. George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, appeared for the act’s induction in 1988, but Paul McCartney stayed away. McCartney cited business differences between band members and said he would “feel like a complete hypocrite waving and smiling … at a fake reunion.”
That was a bummer, Beach Boys singer Mike Love said that same night in a memorably cranky speech where he took shots at nearly everyone in sight. At one point, he said Mick Jagger was afraid to have the Rolling Stones perform on the same bill with the Beach Boys.
“I’d like to thank Mike Love for not mentioning me,” Bob Dylan deadpanned when he spoke later that night.
McCartney was all smiles when inducted as a solo artist in 1999, five years after Lennon, but his designer daughter Stella didn’t hide her feelings that the honor was overdue.
The hall and inductees have months to prepare and smooth over unpleasantness for the ceremony. That’s not always enough to avoid awkward moments.
Creedence Clearwater Revival members Doug Clifford and Stu Cook were left uncomfortably standing to the side in 1993 when leader John Fogerty stepped to the stage to play Creedence songs with Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Robertson. Fogerty had bitterly split with the other two and his late brother Tom over business issues.
When Blondie re-formed in 1999, they left out members Frank Infante and Nigel Harrison, who sued unsuccessfully to rejoin. They lost again during the band’s 2006 induction, when Infante pleaded onstage with singer Deborah Harry to perform one last time.
“Debbie, are we allowed?” Infante said.
Elvis Costello still performs with two-thirds of his longtime backing band, the Attractions. But not bass player Bruce Thomas, who didn’t help relations by penning a thinly disguised novel about an autocratic band leader. When handed his rock hall trophy in 2003, Thomas said, “thanks for the memories, that’s it,” then walked offstage and out of the Waldorf Astoria ballroom.
Most often, the bad feelings produce emptiness, with musicians fans would love to see on their big night not showing or playing.
Three members of the classic Guns N’ Roses lineup appeared in 2012, but frontman Axl Rose skipped the event, saying it didn’t “appear to be somewhere I’m actually wanted or respected.”
Eddie Van Halen entered rehab the week before his namesake band was inducted in 2007. His drummer brother Alex also stayed away, and vocalist David Lee Roth was a last-minute pullout because of a dispute over what song he’d perform.
Diana Ross stayed away from the Supremes’ 1988 induction, two years after Mary Wilson wrote unflattering things about her in a book. Levon Helm didn’t show up in 1994; he didn’t get along with Robbie Robertson. Roger Waters’ longstanding disputes with his former Pink Floyd members kept him away from their 1996 induction. Kiss members appeared, but refused to perform, in 2014 in a dispute over which members would go into the hall.
It wasn’t bitterness that kept Jerry Garcia away when the Grateful Dead were inducted in 1994, a year before he died. He didn’t believe in the hall as an institution. His fellow members did, and brought along a cardboard cutout of Garcia.
Bridge over troubled waters
Paul Simon was already a rock hall member with partner Art Garfunkel when he was inducted as a solo artist in 2001. A nostalgic Simon took 10 minutes to read a list of his inspirations, from the first record he bought to “those two girls from Covington, Kentucky.”
When it came to Garfunkel, Simon said, “I regret the ending of our friendship, and I hope that one day before we die we will make peace with each other.”
With perfect comic timing, Simon waited for the audience’s warm applause to wash over him.
“No rush,” he said.
It doesn’t always have to be bad times. The hall brought Robert Plant and Jimmy Page back onstage together, joined by Neil Young, for Led Zeppelin’s 1995 induction. The Police reformed for a spirited set in 2003, and later toured together again. The Talking Heads, who dissolved in bad feelings, played their first live gig in 18 years for their 2002 induction.
Cheap Trick looked past its problems to please its fans and plan the set with Bun E. Carlos, although current drummer Daxx Nielsen joked this week that he feels like a girlfriend on a night the ex-wife is coming out.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Daxx’s dad, Rick Nielsen.