McCartney’s Absence Sparks Rancor at Rock Hall

Times Pop Music Critic

Hopes that the three surviving Beatles would stage a mini-reunion at Wednesday night’s third annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction dinner were dashed by Paul McCartney. And that led to some bad vibrations from the Beach Boys’ Mike Love.

Moments before the start of the dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, a representative for McCartney distributed a statement in the press room that indicated McCartney wouldn’t be joining Ringo Starr and George Harrison at the ceremony, which also honored Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, the Drifters and the Supremes.

The reason: longstanding business and legal problems involving the surviving Beatles and their former record company, Apple. It would have been the trio’s first public appearance in America since the Beatles’ 1966 concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.


“I was keen to go to (the dinner) and pick up my award, but after 20 years the Beatles still have some business differences which I had hoped would have been settled by now,” McCartney said in the statement. “Unfortunately, they haven’t been (settled), so I would feel like a complete hypocrite waving and smiling with (Harrison and Starr) at a fake reunion.”

The more than 700 people who paid up to $1,000 a ticket to attend the black-tie affair were caught by surprise when the Beach Boys’ Love took a slap at McCartney and another no-show, the Supremes’ Diana Ross.

“I think it is wonderful to be here tonight,” said Love, following the other Beach Boys at the microphone as they accepted their awards. “But I also think it is sad that there are other people who aren’t here tonight (to be honored) and those are the people who passed away,” Love said, referring to the Beatles’ John Lennon, the Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson and the Supremes’ Florence Ballard. “Those are the obvious ones.

“But there are also (people who chose not to come for other reasons), people like Paul McCartney, who couldn’t be here tonight because he’s in a lawsuit with Ringo and Yoko (Ono, Lennon’s widow). . . . That’s a bummer because we’re talking about harmony . . . in the world.”

Amid sighs of disappointment over the news of McCartney’s decision, there was also scattered applause in support of Love’s remarks.

The applause apparently spurred the notoriously outspoken Beach Boy to further jabs, which generated additional nervous laughter and applause.

“It’s (also) a bummer when Ms. Ross can’t make it. . . .”

On a roll, Love made some more sarcastic references to the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Mick Jagger during a long, rambling speech. He even suggested that Jagger was afraid to be on the same bill as the Beach Boys.

The remarks were so pointed that when he left the stage, there was widespread booing from the audience.

Dylan, in making his induction acceptance speech a bit later, responded, at first humorously, then seriously.

“I’d like to thank Mike Love for not mentioning me. . . . Peace, love and harmony is important indeed, but so is forgiveness.”

(A Beach Boys spokeswoman said Thursday that Love would have no further comment on his speech.)

Love’s criticism of McCartney was not shared--at least publicly--by Harrison, Starr or Ono, who accepted a Hall of Fame statuette for her late husband.

Harrison, however, made a playful reference to McCartney as he stood at the podium with Starr, Ono and Lennon’s sons, Sean, 12, and Julian, 24.

“I don’t have to say much because I (was always known as) the quiet Beatle,” he said. “It’s unfortunate Paul’s not here because he was the one who had the speech in his pocket. . . .”

In reflecting on how strange it felt being on stage without Lennon, however, Harrison also made a poignant reference to McCartney.

“We all loved (Lennon) so much--and we all love Paul very much.”

Mary Wilson, representing the Supremes, also sidestepped Love’s criticism of her former partner.

“It was my wish that (Ross were) here tonight, but we all must recognize that people have to live their lives. . . .,” Wilson said.

“There comes a time in a star’s life when you have to really assess what is important to you, and I would say that since Diana has received so many, many accolades in life . . . that she probably has felt that (her marriage and recently born baby) is something that’s very, very important and I respect (that). . . .”

A spokesman for Ross, however, reacted angrily to Love’s comparing of Ross and McCartney. Elliot Mintz, media consultant for Ono and Ross, said in an interview after the dinner: “If his speech was intended to be about harmony, it had totally the opposite effect. It was divisive, judgmental, misguided and at times venomous.

“Paul McCartney’s statement stands or falls on its own merits. He made a conscious business decision to purposefully boycott the evening’s ceremony. Ms. Ross issued a statement through my office . . . that personal family reasons prevented her from attending. In that statement she said she was honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and has many wonderful memories of her days with the Supremes.”

Love joined Jagger, Harrison and the other musicians on stage during the closing jam session and made it a point to go over to Starr on drums and pat him on the back--as if the remarks about the Beatles were just in jest.

Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Les Paul were also honored as early influences on rock ‘n’ roll, while Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. joined the Hall of Fame’s list of music business giants.

In an apparent salute to the Beatles, the first non-American act to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, the stage was decorated with U.S. and British flags, and the dinner had an English flavor: poached salmon, English green salad, bangers and mash (a sausage and potato dish) and plum pudding.

The induction of Dylan, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Supremes and the Drifters brings to 30 the number of performers voted into the Hall of Fame. A panel of 150 critics, musicians and recording executives votes on potential members, but artists aren’t eligible until 25 years after the release of their first record.