The haters' guide to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Insults, long-standing feuds, calls for its destruction. Hating on the Rock & Roll Hall of fame is as old as the organization itself. So, just in time for this year’s ceremony — which will see Nina Simone, Bon Jovi, The Cars, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Dire Straits, and the Moody Blues inducted into the Hall — we collect the dirt and disses thrown over the years at music’s most venerable institution.
Hate (mail from Johnny Rotten)
Turns out a group of British punk rockers were not happy about being honored by an organization backed by corporate interests. When the Sex Pistols’ induction was announced in 2006, lead singer Johnny Rotten (né Lydon) sent along a hilariously blunt (and grammatically incorrect) handwritten decline: “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. Were [sic] not your monkey.” Later he told Nikki Sixx, “I can’t accept any accolade from them—unless they offer me a s—load of money.” No matter: When Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner inducted the band, he read Rotten’s entire letter from the podium.
Hate (from the Gangster of Love)
Unlike Rotten, rocker Steve Miller showed up for his induction. But that didn’t stop him from scorching the earth right after accepting his prize. “This little get-together you guys have here is like a private boys’ club, and it’s a bunch of jackasses and jerks and f—ing gangsters and crooks who’ve f—ing stolen everything from a f—ing artist,” he said in a hair-raising post-ceremony interview, where he also complained about the show’s “amateur production.” But wait, why did he show up in the first place? “I came out here for my fans,” he said.
(Axl Rose’s very polite) hate
Before Guns N’ Roses (mostly) regrouped in 2016, fans were clamoring for a reunion at the 2012 Rock Hall ceremony. But days before, singer Axl Rose dashed those hopes: “I would not begrudge anyone from Guns their accomplishments or recognition for such,” he said in a statement. “That said, I won’t be attending The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction 2012 Ceremony and I respectfully decline my induction as a member of Guns N’ Roses…. I strongly request 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.”
Hate (with a KISS)
In one of the longest-running feuds in Hall history, KISS were snubbed for 15 years until their induction in 2014. As guitarist Paul Stanley noted in his acceptance speech, “Here we are tonight, basically inducted for the same things that we were kept out for.” Later, he made a plug for the fans: “They want to be a part of the induction. They want to be a part of the nomination. They don’t want to be spoon-fed by a handful of people. Choices. The people pay for tickets. The people buy albums. The people who nominate do not.”
Hate (for the sausage fest)
Like the rest of the industry, the Hall has a horrific track record when it comes to representation of female musicians. Currently, less than 7 percent of the organization’s 317 inductees are female solo artists (that number will increase slightly this year, with Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe). Joan Jett, who was inducted in 2015, has said, “There should be more women in the Hall of Fame.” Meanwhile, Steve Miller weighed in on the representation issue during his 2016 acceptance speech, telling the voting committee, “I encourage you to keep expanding your vision, to be more inclusive of women.”
Hate (with a change of heart)
Frontman Ozzy Osbourne dismissed his band’s nomination into the Rock Hall in 1999, with a letter accusing the institution of rank elitism. “Just take our name off the list,” he wrote. “The nomination is meaningless, because it’s not voted on by the fans. It’s voted on by the supposed elite for the industry and the media, who’ve never bought an album or concert ticket in their lives, so their vote is irrelevant to me…. Black Sabbath has never been media darlings. We’re a people’s band.” Despite the criticism, Ozzy still showed up to the group’s official induction seven years later.
Hate (from the critics)
Music scribes have called the Rock Hall everything from “wildly inconsistent” to “outdated.” One of the most pointed disses, though, came from Guardian writer Dave Bry in 2016: “Let’s go to Cleveland, where the museum itself is located, and burn the place to the ground. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is the worst arts institution in America.” Yikes!