For a conservative Grammys audience and board, U2’s Bono and popster Billy Joel might not make next year’s cut after pushing the limits at Tuesday night’s show.
Bono gave the awards their hottest touch of controversy with his X-rated exhortation for rock ‘n’ roll stars along with his ribald tribute to the chairman, Frank Sinatra.
Joel chimed in, during a live perf of his song “The River of Dreams,” with a stab at CBS. In between verses, he looked at his watch and said, “Valuable advertising time going by, valuable advertising time going by. Dollars, dollars, dollars.” He smiled, then resumed playing.
Bono stunned the Grammy crowd and East Coast audiences when, during an acceptance speech (U2 won for alternative album), he exclaimed, “We should all continue to abuse our position and fuck up the mainstream.”
Asked whether his remarks were planned, the Irish warbler smiled and said, “I say that every day so that was nothing special.”
Michael Greene, prexy of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, could simply say, “Welcome to live TV. Welcome to rebellion. If we wanted it taped, we’d tape it, but this was live TV and this sort of thing happens.”
Greene added, “This is the first time on Grammy Awards we’ve ever had something like this happen, but you know, get over it.” Greene also said that the 1996 Awards would be the subject of a bidding war between Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Nashville. He declined to speculate on next year’s Grammy Awards location.
Later, when the skedded tribute to Sinatra seemed delayed, the pressroom buzzed that Bono had been replaced because of his language.
When he showed up to give the Chairman his due, Bono gave the aud a double dose of his Irish flammability, launching into a five-minute speech where he called Sinatra, among other sultry lauds, “cocksure.”
Sinatra, unsure whether he’d been praised or punted, called it the “best welcome I ever had.” As the aud gave the chairman a standing ovation, Sinatra teared up and cried, “This is like being in baseball with the bases loaded. You don’t know what you’re going to do.”
Then, before being cut off to go to a commercial, Sinatra said “I hope we can do this again. I’m not leaving you yet.” Greene claimed Sinatra’s people had cut off the singer, not the show’s helmer.
Bono reportedly had squelched all attempts to see his speech before he actually gave it. Smoking a cigarette and sporting a growth of beard, he read his words off folded pieces of paper taken from his pocket.
“I wrote it on the plane coming over, but it felt like days,” Bono said of the speech.
His questionably facetious tone notwithstanding, Bono said he was honored to give the speech for Sinatra. “Someone asks you to do something like that,” he said, “you just say yes.”
As a kicker, Bono gave the pressroom a laugh at the end of his abbreviated press conference when a Rogers & Cowan staffer told him that was enough. “I say when it’s OK,” he said, grabbing the man by his tux sleeves.
“I learned that from Frank.”