Axl Rose always manages to steal the show. This time he's doing it by simply not being there.
On Wednesday the notoriously contrary frontman for Guns N' Roses issued a rambling open letter explaining why he will not be in Cleveland Saturday for the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"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 to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. 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."
Since 2001, the singer has been fronting a version of the hard rock band in which he is the only original member. When GNR's induction was announced in February, speculation centered around whether the long-feuding band would perform together for the first time since 1993. Failing that, there was hope that the members would at least accept together.
Now, he's not only not going, he's rejecting the honor, which is to be presented, oddly enough, by pop-punk band Green Day.
Mr. Rose continued: "Taking into consideration the history of Guns N' Roses, those who plan to attend along with those the Hall for reasons of their own, have chosen to include in 'our' induction (that for the record are decisions I don't agree with, support or feel the Hall has any right to make), and how (albeit no easy task) those involved with the Hall have handled things ... no offense meant to anyone but the Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony doesn't appear to be somewhere I'm actually wanted or respected."
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame issued a statement, saying, "We are sorry Axl will not be able to accept his Induction in person."
Guitarist Slash, for one, has said he will attend the ceremony, and Duff McKagan plans to be in Cleveland to promote his book "It's So Easy (And Other Lies)."
Mark Madden, sports talk host on The X (105.9 FM) and longtime GNR fan, supports the singer's snub of the Hall.
"Axl's crazy," he says. "But I think the Hall of Fame is a hokey institution that serves at the whim and tastes of one man, Jann Wenner [Rolling Stone publisher and Rock Hall co-founder]. Rock 'n' roll is a rebel institution. Since when does a rebel institution need a Hall of Fame? I respected John Lydon for refusing. I respect Axl, too."
Having seen the current GNR in December in Youngstown, Ohio, he's indifferent to the GNR reunion that may have resulted from the Rock Hall appearance. "The current GNR is great live. It's not like the old GNR would get back together and write 'Appetite for Destruction II.' It's 25 years later!"
Chip DiMonick, who fronts the Pittsburgh hard rock band of the same name, has mixed feelings about the frontman's decision.
"I think that it's part of Guns N' Roses' core fabric to be irreverent. However, because Axl's current version of Guns is bordering on irrelevant, opportunities to behave irreverently are few and far between. This is a rare opportunity for Axl to make a gritty, rock 'n' roll statement that the media will actually want to talk about, and I almost respect the fact that he wants to preserve the attitude that was core to the GNR persona at the beginning.
"That being said, one can't help but think that the dude is mentally ill after reading the letter. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That's an honor! It is not something that requires 'an amicable solution ... to work something out.' To me, it seems like a bitter attempt to dilute the legitimacy of Slash and Steven [Adler] being inducted as well -- like 'if they're in there, I won't stoop to that level.' And that's pathetic."
Local promoter Lou Hetzer, who's booked members of GNR, thinks the singer lost a prime opportunity to create a scene.
"Am I disappointed that I won't see Axl at the podium or take the stage at the ceremony? Sure I am, but I'm disappointed because the guy who wrote the scathing 'Get in the Ring' didn't do what he asked of others. Instead he wrote a letter and then let the media do what they do. He could have gone in and threw the last great punch . ... He should have walked into the boys club and turned it into an out of control frat party."
Mr. Rose won't be the first no-show at a Rock Hall induction. In 2006, the Sex Pistols held true to old punk form by rejecting its induction and referring to the museum as a certain type of "stain."
"They never cared who we were," Johnny Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) said at the time. "They never bothered to correct the incredible fatal, bad mistakes about our legend and legacy in their museum and up until now, they've rejected our nomination for three years running, and now they want a piece of us. Well, guess what? Kiss this!" he said, making a rude gesture. Pistols guitarist Steve Jones noted, "Once you want to be put into a museum, rock 'n' roll's over."
The Hall of Fame inducted the Sex Pistols anyway.
A year later, news of Van Halen's pending induction opened a new wound within the fragmented band, the result being that the only members who attended the induction were Michael Anthony and Sammy Hagar, neither of whom is still in the band.
Guns N' Roses has been like Van Halen -- and even more so -- in terms of the antipathy that's run through the band. Speaking of Mr. Rose, Slash told Rolling Stone this month, "He hates my guts. It's over a lot of different stuff; I don't even know. There's just no communication between us. I talk to Duff and Steven, but when it comes to old Guns N' Roses, there really isn't anybody that makes decisions."
Guns N' Roses is set to be inducted into the Hall along with the Red Hot Chili Peppers (presented by comedian Chris Rock), the Beastie Boys (LL Cool J and Chuck D), Donovan (John Mellencamp), The Small Faces (Steve Van Zandt) and Laura Nyro (Bette Midler). The ceremony will air on HBO at 9 p.m. May 5.