ItsNotYouItsMe "Back To The Future" Edition: What The French Windows Were The Rock Music Awards in 1975? Why We Should Remember

ItsNotYouItsMe "Back To The Future" Edition: What the French windows were the Rock Music Awards in 1975? Why we should remember.

"Five months after the 1975 Grammys, Elton John and Diana Ross drove onto the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium stage in a futuristic-looking golf cart to host a ludicrous awards show that has been forever lost to time.

Producer-manager-impresario Don Kirshner, who had long since earned his bona fides as the capo of the Brill Building, manager of the Monkees, and, later, as the dry host of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, which featured countless A-list acts, was looking for an alternative to the Grammys. He had the clout to get numerous superstars to attend on August 9th, 1975, and, with Elton and Ross on board as hosts, was ready to make a play for the industry’s most dominant, yet worthless, perennial spectacle.

It didn’t work out that way.

While it only went on for three years, the cleverly titled Rock Music Awards (which Linda Ronstadt would call the Who Cares Awards in a Rolling Stone interview the following year) was a loose, gloriously insane affair melding the debauchery of the Golden Globes with the scripted dad-joke hamminess of any other award show. (“Good evening, everybody in TV land, I’m Captain Fantastic,” Elton says in his opening line. Ross’ response: “And I’m general delivery!” ZING!)

Rock Music Awards – Part 1

John, frequently rubbing his nose, flies through the opening bit with Ross in a master class of unintentional hilarity, revealing that the winner’s card will be displayed via a bleeping, blinking podium that sounds like a robot in a D-level 1950s sci-fi film. Oh, and the award itself is not a trophy, but a medallion called … a Rocky. Elton will go on to read aloud the cue-card instructions (” ‘He starts to read from scroll,’ it says”), and at one point during a bit on the history of rock music will ask, “Do we have to say this?” Yes, Elton. You do. Go on.

“Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, at last, rock & roll, the most dominant form of music in America, finally has its own rock award show which recognizes and salutes its own stars,” Ross says. She’s an odd choice to host, given that her music oftentimes supplanted rock rather than embraced it, but she’s Miss Diana Ross (who opened her 1983 Central Park show like this), so Kirshner gets a pass.

To be fair, other genres were threatening rock as the country’s “most dominant form of music.” Yes, now-lauded albums by Neil Young (Tonight’s the Night), Bob Dylan (Blood on the Tracks, The Basement Tapes), Fleetwood Mac (Fleetwood Mac), and David Bowie (Young Americans) had all been released in recent months — and Born to Run was only two weeks away. But the elder, white, male keepers of the music industry were increasingly seeing disco — a sound that grew out of clubs predominantly populated by black, Latino, gay, and other marginalized attendees — as a potential mainstream threat. Earlier that year, the Andy Williams–hosted Grammys had given out big-award trophies to decidedly nonrockers Olivia Newton-John, Marvin Hamlisch, and Barbra Streisand. The Ramones’ first album was still eight months away. You see where this is going.

But rather than embrace other sounds, the scions of the music business played the victim, choosing to self-isolate for 90 minutes on a big stage. (In a fantastic plot twist, “Jive Talkin’,” the track that would help catapult the Bee Gees into disco and world dominance, was the number-one song in the country on the night of the awards.) Still, the award show found time for Kiki Dee, the Manhattan Transfer, and Tony Orlando and Dawn to either perform or present. For those about to schlock, we salute you.

It gets amazingly weirder from there. Ann-Margaret and Roger Daltrey, promoting the unwatchable-unless-stoned film Tommy, come out in what looks like a spoiled rich kid’s toy fire truck. (Tommy will win Best Rock Movie or Theatrical Presentation later that night in a sign of what we’re dealing with here.) Cher calls Elton an “old tart” before giving him the coveted (??) Outstanding Rock Personality of the Year award. Alice Cooper looks like a porn star playing a cop. Keith Moon, previously known tonight for terrorizing his petrified co-presenter Olivia Newton-John, makes a joke about having sex with a spaced-out Joe Walsh as the camera cuts to a … confused Ella Fitzgerald? Chuck Berry, sporting a mustache that looks like it needs to check in with a probation officer every month, becomes the first person — and one of the last —to get inducted into something called the Rock Music Hall of Fame (not to be confused with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame)." -

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