10 Artists Who Turned Down Awards With Style

You’ll often hear talk of an impending awards season, though there is no season, not really. Aside from yuletide and a couple of months in summer when one might feel too icky in a penguin suit, awards ceremonies are omnipresent, inveigling us to go harder, better, faster, stronger all year round. And who wouldn’t want to outstay their welcome at a podium with the eyes of the world upon them thanking “God, my mother…” and a miscellany of minions all the while moistening a pink Ralph Lauren frock with a fountain of teardrops? This lot, that’s who…

You can lead a horse to water…
1996 was Nick Cave’s mainstream breakthrough year, though he’d been a cult concern for many years prior to that; Murder Ballads recorded with Kylie Minogue and PJ Harvey had done his profile no harm, though receiving a nomination for Best Male Artist was all too much for him to bear. In a letter addressed to ‘all those at MTV’, Cave thanked the station for its support and requested that further nominations should be ‘presented to those who feel more comfortable with the competitive nature of these award ceremonies’. “I am in competition with no-one,” he said. “My relationship with my muse is a delicate one at the best of times and I feel that it is my duty to protect her from influences that may offend her fragile nature.” He added that his muse was not a horse to be judged, and he would not “harness her to this tumbrel – this bloody cart of severed heads and glittering prizes. My muse may spook! May bolt! May abandon me completely!” He finishes his letter reiterating his gratitude: “I say thank you but no… no thank you.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to decline an award nomination.



Treble rebel?

We’ve all heard the one about John Lennon and how he returned his MBE to the Queen in 1969, but did you know David Bowie turned down not one but two awards from Her Maj? First Bowie was offered the CBE in 2000, the year of his triumphant headline set at Glastonbury; he politely declined. Sir Paul, Sir Elton and Sir Mick arose in quick succession, but there would be no Sir Dave, for in 2003 he also rejected a Knighthood: “I would never have any intention of accepting anything like that,” he said. “I seriously don’t know what it’s for. It’s not what I spent my life working for.” In the unlikely event Bowie gets to decline a third he will become a treble rebel…

Gorillaz on the list (withdrawn!)
It was hardly Solzhenitsyn refusing the Nobel Prize for literature, but still, Gorillaz withdrawing from the Mercury Music Prize in 2001 caused quite a stir, especially in Cartoonland. Murdoc, the band’s fictional bassist, said winning would be like “carrying a dead albatross ‘round your neck for eternity”. Parlophone’s MD Keith Wozencroft had entered the virtual band – featuring the real life Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett – at some expense, despite their expressed antipathy, and the ceremony went ahead with just eleven nominees that year following their withdrawal. Won by human PJ Harvey on September 11th 2001, people in the real world understandably had their thoughts elsewhere that day.

Gong #2
Damon Albarn has form, and in 2010 he rebuffed the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution without sparing a thought for bandmate and bassist Alex James, who’d miss out on the opportunity to hobnob with politically dubious celebrity chums in a bowtie and smoking jacket while eating a cornucopia of free cheeses. The honour instead went to Robbie Williams. Albarn soon made it up to James when Blur then accepted when offered the award again in 2012, and speaking to NME, Albarn said cryptically: “I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to who was next in the line, but the reality is none of us are irreplaceable and if we didn’t accept it, somebody else would get it. I tend to take a rather pragmatic view of these things these days.”


Another Axl to grind

Axl Rose is not a man you’re ever likely to see dancing to anyone else’s tune, and so it was a surprise to probably nobody that he refused to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the rest of his former Guns ‘n’ Roses bandmates last year. What did come as a shock was the long and baffling letter he wrote: “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,” he wrote. “Neither former members, label representatives nor the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame should imply whether directly, indirectly or by omission that I am included in any purported induction of ‘Guns N’ Roses’.” So nobody induct Axl behind his back y’all hear! You got that? It’ll be like the Mormons baptising Anne Frank all over again and we don’t want that. “So let sleeping dogs lie or lying dogs sleep or whatever,” said Axl near the conclusion, sounding like he’d been at d’herb. “Time to move on. People get divorced. Life doesn’t owe you your own personal happy ending especially at another’s, or in this case several others’, expense.” We gotcha Axl.

Showing disdain with ‘piss stain’

If Axl’s induction was unlikely then what the stuffed suits at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were doing inviting the Sex Pistols to be inducted is anyone’s guess. A volley of expletives and flagrant disregard for grammar greeted the academy in a scrawled note: “Next to the SEX-PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain,” they said. “Your museum. Urine in wine. Were not coming. Were not your monkey and so what?” And some other barely legible stuff that didn’t quite make sense…


Deacon breaks free (of merchandising opportunities)

John Deacon might be the quiet man of Queen, but he did write ‘I Want To Break Free’, ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ and ‘You’re My Best Friend’, so certainly no slouch! The bassist played the Freddie Mercury tribute shows following the great singer’s death in ‘91, and he’s been conspicuous by his absence ever since. Deacon didn’t show up at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2001, then refused to get into bed with Ben Elton for We Will Rock You. Subsequently he’s missed out on playing with Paul Rodgers, 5ive and Dappy. Merchandising opportunities be damned, and we don’t even know what the quiet man thinks about badgers.


Oooh get Carter
Jay Z has history with the Grammys. The hip hop great has boycotted the ceremony on a number of occasions, first in 1999 for a perceived lack of respect for rap from the suits, and then again in 2002 for disregarding the dog-biting badass loon DMX, who failed to garner a nomination. In a display that some have suggested is as a sign Shawn Carter is now firmly part of the establishment, Hova savaged The-Dream at the podium at this year’s 55th annual awards for donning two hats and not slipping into a tuxedo.

It ain’t Yeezy

Kanye West is another artist who has it in for the Grammys, mainly because he’s a bad loser. In 2012 the rapper and producer skipped the awards despite seven nominations, three of which he won; Yeezy apparently felt snubbed having been left out of the Best Album category. The antipathy runs deep, having troubled him throughout his career thus far. Take his first trip to the ceremony for instance: “I love Maroon 5,” he said, lying, “but when I lost Best New Artist to Maroon 5 … you know what I mean?” We do Kanye, we definitely do.

ITV are taking Depeche…

Depeche Mode are one of those bands their fans are forever complaining are overlooked, despite the fact they’re massive all over the world; it’s a bit like saying, “The Beatles just don’t get the credit they deserve”. This is unlikely to have anything to do with the singer’s messiah complex, but maybe something to do with his persecution complex. Dave Gahan recently turned down the Brits when it offered the Basildon trio Most Influential Band. Why? Because ITV wouldn’t televise their segment. “Fuck them then and bollocks to it” said Gahan, kicking his toys out of the pram in the process.