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A History of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame No-Shows

Axl Rose isn't alone: Paul McCartney, David Bowie and more rockers missed their inductions

April 12, 2012 1:50 PM ET
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Axl Rose and Slash of Guns N' Roses perform in 1985.
Marc S Canter/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Axl Rose caused a media firestorm yesterday when he announced that he won't be attending this weekend's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony with Guns N' Roses. "I strongly request that I not be inducted in absentia," Rose said in a very long statement. "Please know that no one is authorized nor may anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf."

Despite that request, it looks as though the Hall of Fame will induct Rose anyway and put his name on the wall in Cleveland alongside all the other inductees. "We are sorry Axl will not be able to accept his Induction in person," the Hall of Fame said in a statement. It's like saying you don't want to win an Oscar after getting named Best Director. You are free to not attend the ceremony or accept the statue, but that doesn't mean you didn't win. 

Making matters even stranger, Rose ends his letter by thanking the Hall of Fame. "I'd like to sincerely thank the board for their nomination and their votes for Guns' induction," he wrote. "More importantly, I'd like to thank the fans for being there over the years, making any success we've had possible and for enjoying and supporting Guns N' Roses music. I wish the Hall a great show, congratulations to all the other artists being inducted and to our fans we look forward to seeing you on tour!!

Rose is far from the only Hall of Fame inductee to skip out on the ceremony. Here is a (probably incomplete) history of Rock Hall no-shows:

Diana Ross, 1988
The original lineup of the Supremes has been feuding ever since 1967, when the group changed its name to Diana Ross & the Supremes. Ross, Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong last performed together in March of 1983 at the Motown 25th anniversary concert. In 1986, Mary Wilson published her memoir, Dreamgirls: My Life As A Supreme, which painted a very negative portrait of Ross. The Supremes were inducted two years later into the Hall of Fame, and Ross was a no-show. She claimed it was because she had given birth to her son Ross three months earlier, but many speculated that the feud between Ross and the other members played a role.

Paul McCartney, 1988
Relations between the surviving Beatles were also strained in 1988. Four years earlier, Yoko Ono, George Harrison and Ringo Starr started a royalty dispute with Paul McCartney, who opted to not attend the 1988 ceremony. In perhaps the most notorious speech in Hall of Fame history,  Mike Love addressed McCartney's absence that night when the Beach Boys were inducted. "It's sad that there are other people who aren't here tonight," he said. "People like Paul McCartney who couldn't be here because he's in a lawsuit with Ringo and Yoko. That's why he sent in a telegram to some high-priced attorney in the room." 

Van Morrison, 1993
The induction ceremony in 1993 boasted reunions of the Doors and Cream, as well as a surprising appearance by the extremely reclusive Sly Stone. The three surviving members of Creedence Clearwater Revival showed up, but John Fogerty caused major drama when he refused to perform with them. Van Morrison didn't show, so the Counting Crows performed "Caravan" in his absence. This was months before they released their debut LP, August and Everything After, so the induction ceremony was where many critics and fans first learned of them. 

Jerry Garcia, 1994
The Grateful Dead frontman didn't show up at his induction, reportedly because he was opposed to the whole idea of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The rest of the Dead disagreed, and they brought a cardboard cut-out of the singer onstage. 

Levon Helm, 1994
The 1994 ceremony was full of no-shows. Levon Helm didn't attend the Band's induction due to lingering bitterness towards Robbie Robertson. Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson did show up, though, and they performed "The Weight" together. It's the only time Robertson has performed with his former bandmates since The Last Waltz.

Eric Burdon, 1994
Animals frontman Eric Burdon didn't come to his own induction in 1994 because he had a gig booked in Dusseldorf, Germany. He made up for it in 2010, when he performed "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" at the ceremony to honor songwriting team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Rod Stewart, 1994
Two days before the 1994 Hall of Fame inductions, a massive earthquake hit Los Angeles. "Two of my children, Renee and Liam, they were just one and three, they were just terrified," Steward told Rolling Stone in December. "Absolutely terrified. I just couldn't leave them, so I missed it. But I'll be there this time!"

David Bowie, 1996
David Bowie was in Helsinki, Finland, touring in support of Outside when he entered the Hall of Fame in 1996. Madonna accepted on his behalf, and Marianne Faithful performed "Rebel Rebel." 

Roger Waters, 1996
Roger Waters and Pink Floyd weren't getting along very well in 1996. Two years earlier, the group went on a enormous stadium tour sans Waters and grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. They invited Waters to join them for a performance of Dark Side of the Moon in England towards the end of the tour, but he declined. Waters was still fuming over the fact that the band carried on without him, while his 1987 Radio K.A.O.S. tour played to half-full arenas. They patched things up a few years later – in part because Gilmour had quietly disbanded Floyd by that point – but in 1996, Waters had no interest in sitting in the same ballroom as the rest of Pink Floyd.

Grace Slick, 1996
The Jefferson Airplane frontwoman has a firm belief that "all rock-and-rollers over the age of 50 look stupid and should retire." She briefly toured with a reunited Jefferson Airplane in 1989, but ever since has basically stayed away from the stage. The rest of the Airplane did show up for their induction and played a great set. 

Neil Young, 1997
Reports vary about why exactly Neil Young didn't show up and reunite with Buffalo Springfield at their 1997 induction, but the most likely explanation is that he was fuming over the fact that his bandmates had to shell out big bucks to get their friends and family into the ceremony. Thirteen years later, Young did agree to a Buffalo Springfield reunion, but by that point original members Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin had died. 

Joni Mitchell, 1997
In 1965, a 21-year-old Joni Mitchell gave up a daughter for adoption. Shortly before her 1997 induction into the Hall of Fame, the mother and daughter had a highly emotional reunion and Mitchell skipped the Cleveland ceremony to focus on re-establishing a relationship with her child. Graham Nash accepted on her behalf.

John Deacon, 2001
The Queen bassist largely retired from music when Freddy Mercury died in 1991. He did join his bandmates at a Mercury tribute show in 1992 and again to perform with Elton John in 1997, but since then he's been completely off the radar. He refused to participate in Queen's tour with Paul Rodgers, and he didn't show up at the Hall of Fame induction in 2001. 

The Sex Pistols, 2006
The punk band's open letter said it all: "Next to the SEX-PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. 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."

Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth, 2007
Van Halen's 2007 induction into the Hall of Fame came at a very bad time for the group. Bassist Michael Anthony was just kicked out of the band, and they were plotting a reunion tour with David Lee Roth – but that couldn't start until Eddie Van Halen went to rehab. There was simply too much drama, and no member of the current Van Halen lineup showed up. Roth was in talks to come, but he wasn't happy that Velvet Revolver were going to perform. In the end, only Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony showed up.

Peter Gabriel, 2010
Genesis fans have been praying for a reunion of the classic Peter Gabriel lineup for the past 30 years. They didn't get it when the group was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. Gabriel was in rehearsals for an upcoming symphonic tour in England and didn't make the trip overseas. The rest of the band went and watched Phish perform "Watcher of the Skies" and "No Reply at All."

Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog, 2010
ABBA have reportedly turned down a billion-dollar offer for a reunion tour, so it was no surprise that they didn't all show up to their Hall of Fame induction. Agnetha Fältskog rarely leaves her native Stockholm, and Bjorn Ulvaeus has dealt with health issues in recent years. The Bee Gees inducted ABBA into the Hall of Fame, and Benny Anderson performed "The Winner Takes It All" with Faith Hill. 

Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott, 2010
The classic lineup of the Hollies hasn't toured in decades, but original members Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott have carried on the band's name with new members. They had a gig in Europe at the same time as their 2010 HOF induction and opted not to cancel. Founding members Graham Nash and Allan Clarke played a few Hollies classics with Paul Shaffer and his band, and latter members Terry Sylvester burst onto the stage uninvited to join them on "Long Cool Woman." 

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