Neil Young Slams Rock "VH1 Hall Of Fame" Ceremony

Bucking the system, as usual. Photo by Jay Blakesberg.

Declaring that last night's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction

ceremony--an edited version of which is to be televised Friday night by

VH1--has "nothing to do with the spirit of Rock and Roll," Neil Young skipped

the event, where he was inducted again, this time as a member of the legendary

Buffalo Springfield ("For What It's Worth," "Mr. Soul," "Expecting to

Fly").

Also absent from the ceremony, which took place in Cleveland, Ohio,

was Joni Mitchell because she's working on a new album and "isn't much for

awards ceremonies," according to a source at her label, Reprise.

But it was

Young who has now taken a public stand, lashing out at the event in a two-page

letter to the "Rock N Roll Hall of Fame" dated May 1 which was cc'd to Atlantic

Records founder and Hall of Fame co-chairman Ahmet Ertegun, fellow Springfield

members Steven Stills, Richie Furay, Bruce Palmer, Dewey Martin, the Hall of

Fame Foundation and VH1.

"The VH1 Hall of Fame presentation has nothing to

do with the spirit of Rock and Roll," wrote Young. "It has everything to do

with making money."

The legendary rocker decried the event, which in years

past has been a closed-door industry party held in New York. This year, for the

first time, a two-hour edit of the ceremony will air on the boomer video

station (Friday, May 9, 8 p.m. EST).

Young slammed the televised show on

several accounts, including the fact that, "Inductees are severely limited in

the amount of guests they can bring. They are forced to be on a TV show, for

which they are not paid, and whatever comments they would like to make, dirty

laundry they would like to air, thanks they would like to give, are all subject

to the VH1 editor. Someone who has absolutely no right to interfere."

A

spokesperson for VH1 confirmed that this is the first time the station will air

the ceremonies and the first time it will be packaged as a television

event.

Young, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a solo act in 1995

and has made a career of not following rules and never being afraid to speak

his mind, prefaced his negative remarks about the VH1 tie-in by offering a bit

of his own personal history of rock and what it has meant to him.

In

speaking about his early days with Springfield, Young, in a manner reminiscent

of some of his classic halcyon songs, said of the music industry: "Times were

simpler then..."



In speaking about his early days with Springfield, Young,

in a manner reminiscent of some of his classic halcyon songs, said of the music

industry: "Times were simpler then Music was a small business by today's

standards. Money was small, record sales were just beginning to take hold in a

major way. Those were innocent days. When the Hall of Fame became an organized

event some years ago and the 'originals' were inducted, I was proud and honored

to induct Woody Guthrie, the Everly Brothers, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience."

Young goes on to name a few highlights of the early induction ceremony

events, including a legendary rambling half hour speech by reclusive producer

Phil Spector and Mike Love's equally legendary slagging of the Beatles.

At

last night's event The Jackson Five, Bee Gees, Crosby, Still and Nash, George

Clinton, Buffalo Springfield, The (Young) Rascals and Mitchell were inducted.

Also honored were early influences like the recently deceased bluegrass legend

Bill Monroe, gospel queen Mahalia Jackson and King Records founder Syd Nathan.

It was the first Hall of Fame ceremony to be held in Cleveland and the first to

offer admission to the public, who paid a hefty $1,250 each for the honor of

attending.

Although a Hall of Fame spokesperson could not be reached to

confirm it, a source told ATN that inductees are allowed one guest and must pay

$1,250 to $1,500 for each additional guest.

Since 1986 when they were first

initiated, the ceremonies have traditionally been held in New York City (except

for 1993, when they were held in L.A.), mainly because the controversial I. M.

Pei-designed building simply didn't exist until 1995. Ironically, the $100

million glass and steel jumble of geometrical shapes that makes up the Hall of

Fame is too small for the event, which had to be held at a Cleveland

hotel.

A source close to Young referred to Tuesday night's event as the

"VH1 Variety Show," one at which Young was not expected to perform as either a

part of Springfield or during the "all-star jam" that always closes the night.

In what might seem like an ironic stance, since he is one of the few of

his generation to consistently buck the mainstream, Young has been a

not-reluctant supporter of the HOF in the past. Not only has he attended

several ceremonies and helped induct a few Hall of Famers, but he even gave an

odd performance of "The Needle and the Damage Done" (complete with projected

images of famous rock junkies) in the basement of the Hall of Fame for last

year's MTV Video Music Awards ceremony.

Young is part of select group of

artists who have been inducted into the Hall as both solo and group performers

which includes John Lennon, Clyde McPhatter (The Drifters) and Stills, the

first artist to be inducted twice in the same night.

A Hall of Fame

spokesperson could not be reached for comment at press time. When contacted, a

spokesperson for VH1 said she had not seen the Young letter.

Young's

Letter:

"To the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame:

"I am very proud to be

inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Buffalo

Springfield. The music we made, the times we had, will always be an important

part of my life. I always felt that we were doing something meaningful, that

our band and audience had a unique bond. "Times were simpler then. Music was a

small business by today's standards. Money was small, record sales were just

beginning to take hold in a major way. Those were innocent days.

"When the

Hall of Fame became an organized event some years ago and the 'originals' were

inducted, I was proud and honoured to induct Woodie Guthrie, the Everly

Brothers, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

"During those days, the Hall was

for musicians and record people, producers and writers of the music that

changed my life. It was great to hear Phil Spector talk for half an hour about

the music he made, Mike Love put down the Beatles, and Bob Dylan's eloquent

acceptance speech among many other free moments shared by our special group of

people. The comraderie (sic) was real. We all knew why we were there. We came

to celebrate and be celebrated, free to mingle with out own and to say what we

pleased.

"That was the real Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It could not be

contained by any building.

"Today it is a VH1 TV show, edited for

television and the adult contemporary market served by VH1. Cheapened forever.

Not anything like it once was. This should be a special private moment for

those who are on the inside, reported on but not seen or heard outside the Hall

itself.

"The VH1 Hall of Fame presentation has nothing to do with the

spirit of Rock and Roll. It has everything to do with making money. Inductees

are severely limited in the amount of guests they can bring. They are forced to

be on a TV show, for which they are not paid, and whatever comments they would

like to make, dirty laundry they would like to air, thanks they would like to

give, are all subject to the VH1 editor. Someone who has absolutely no right to

interfere.

"At over a thousand dollars a seat, many of the inductees can

not even afford to bring the family members they would like to accompany them

to see the event.

"For these reasons I regretfully will not be present to

accept the honors along with my brothers in the Buffalo Springfield.

"I

wish all the inductees well and congratulate you all. This is only my own

opinion, and I realize it may be a selfish one.

"This presentation is in

direct opposition to what I believe. Although I accept the honour, in the name

of Rock and Roll, I decline to take part in this TV presentation and be trotted

out like some cheap awards show. There are already too many of those.

"The

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is bigger than that. It lives in the Heart of World

music. It is a personal thing."