Axl Rose’s decision to skip his own induction ceremony at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum this weekend looks, on its surface, like a very rock ‘n’ roll move.
The enigmatic Guns N’ Roses front man, notorious for not showing up to other performances, penned a long “To Whom It May Concern” Wednesday laying out his reasons for not attending the ceremony, to be held this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio. He won’t be there to mix it up with the Beastie Boys, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Donovan, Rod Stewart’s The Faces, and others.
And not only has he declined to take the stage and be honored with Slash, Izzy, Duff, and Steven—what Rose refers to as the “Appetite and Illusion lineups” of GNR—Axl also requested that he not be inducted at all. As in: Keep him out of the shrines, the toasts, the whole deal.
“Please know that no one is authorized nor may anyone be permitted to accept any induction for me or speak on my behalf,” he wrote.
So screw the greybeards and industry fat cats with their a mausoleum full of outfits you no longer fit into, right? This is just like when the Sex Pistols—the only other act to refuse induction—proclaimed, in a hand-scrawled letter, that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is “a piss stain.”
Except that it’s not like that at all. Rose’s refusal is not a way of giving the finger to the man. In fact, Rose says that, in coming to this decision, he’s not only “listened to fans,” but also “talked with members of the board of the Hall of Fame,” “had discussions with the president of the Hall of Fame,” and even “read various press (some legit, some contrived).”
It’s quite possible that Axl Rose never thought so deeply about skipping a gig. Reading the letter, you get the sense that Rose truly agonized over whether or not to come—and that he’s self-aware about what it means not to. There’s still some rock star attitude in the missive; not even mentioning his most famous GNR bandmate, Slash, seems like a bit of an eff you. But there’s no appetite for destruction here.
Indeed, Rose’s primary reason for not going seems to be that, in his mind, Guns ‘N’ Roses very much lives on—in its current incarnation. And going to the ceremony and playing with his old pals wouldn’t be fair to the new guys—his loyalty to whom is almost touching.
The only reason, at this point, under the circumstances, in my opinion whether under the guise of "for the fans" or whatever justification of the moment, for anyone to continue to ask, suggest or demand a reunion are misguided attempts to distract from our efforts with our current lineup of myself, Dizzy Reed, Tommy Stinson, Frank Ferrer, Richard Fortus, Chris Pitman, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal and DJ Ashba.
Of course, for those who loved the original lineup, and believe that pre-Chinese Democracy GNR is the only “real” GNR, it’s another nail in the coffin, killing dreams of resurrection. And no matter how much fans call for it, no matter how Rose’s bandmates leave open the possibility in their own comments, a reunion of the band that seemed to rule the world in the late ’80s and early ’90s appears farther off than ever.