Music's Big Night
At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, Iggy Pop ripped off his shirt and David Geffen said his success is based on “bullshit,” not talent. Jacob Bernstein reports. Plus, view our gallery.
At most awards shows, honorees show up in safe outfits selected by stylists and give earnest speeches about how nice it is to be honored for their work among members of their peer group. At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, you get aging stars taking off their clothes, yelling obscenities from the stage, and slagging off the very industry they are being honored by.
This, at least, was what Iggy Pop did Monday night when he was inducted by the board of the organization. “Wow,” he said, picking up his trophy as he took to the stage. “This fucking thing is heavy... Roll over Woodstock, we won.”
Click Below to View Our Gallery of Music’s Big Night
He then jabbed at the folks in the business: “There's a lot of power and money in this room. It's a big industry and if it makes the right decisions it will remain a big industry.”
Pop welled up with tears while talking about what a great second act he'd been allowed to have and took off his shirt while one of his bandmates spoke.
For the Stooges, the ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York was a victory lap a long time coming. They'd been nominated for the Hall of Fame more than half a dozen times over the last decade and Pop said backstage afterward that he’d begun to feel like Charlie Brown at the start of each football season, when Lucy promises to hold the ball for him, then pulls it from under him just as he goes to kick it.
Others being inducted were The Hollies, Genesis, ABBA, Jimmy Cliff, and David Geffen, who also said he never expected to make it into the Cleveland museum.
“Here’s why: I have no talent,” Geffen said. In reality, of course, he is the industry giant behind artists ranging from Jackson Browne (who inducted him) and Bob Dylan to Nirvana and Aerosmith.
As he told it, everything about his career had been unexpected.
“I dreamed that I would somehow be involved [in the music business],” Geffen said. “Perhaps as a producer or even a manager or maybe—and this was only a dream—as an usher. That I was able to accomplish. I started seating people at CBS television studios and a few months later I was fired. I couldn't even make it as an usher. I asked Alex Gordon, the casting director at CBS, for advice. She asked me what talent did I think I possessed. I said I didn’t have a talent. I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t dance, I couldn’t write. I couldn’t do anything. She said, ‘Have you ever considered being an agent?’ I asked ‘What do you have to know?’ She said ‘Absolutely nothing.’ Pumped up with inspiration, I got a job in the William Morris mailroom and I went from one office to the next listening to agents bullshit on the phone and I had an epiphany: Bullshit. Now that's something I can do."
After he actually made it big, Geffen and his partner at Elektra Records, Elliot Roberts, brought their parents to Los Angeles to see Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Joni Mitchell perform.
The Marquee at the Greek Theater said “David Geffen and Elliot Roberts Presents,” so Geffen’s mother asked her son to explain what he actually did for his clients.
“I said ‘I manage them.’”
Next question: What does that mean?
“I told her that I advised them on their careers. She looked at me incredulously and said ‘You?’ And then my mother, who made ladies undergarments for a living, said, ‘I advise people on what bras to wear but nowhere does it say Batya Geffen presents Sadie Birnbaum’s tits.’”
As might be expected of an industry where the relationships between big egos are fragile and lots of people die early deaths, many of the inductees were not in attendance.
Iggy Pop paid tribute to the two members of the Stooges who have moved on to whatever's next (one from a pulmonary edema that was likely caused by too much drinking and another this year to a heart attack).
Genesis noted the absence of one of its most famous members: Peter Gabriel. (He was preparing for a tour that's scheduled to begin in a few weeks, a bandmate explained.)
And of ABBA's four members, just two showed up to be presented with their awards from Barry and Robin Gibb.
Said Anni-Frid Lyngstad, one of the two who did make it: “We haven't been a group performing together or singing together for 28 years. I don't think we'll ever do a reunion. It's a little too late for that.”
Jacob Bernstein is a senior reporter at The Daily Beast. Previously, he was a features writer at WWD and W Magazine. He has also written for New York magazine, Paper, and The Huffington Post.