What Were THE INTERNATIONAL ROCK AWARDS?

While looking for Replacements videos on YouTube a while ago, I came across this footage of the band playing “Talent Show” at something called the International Rock Awards. There’s surprisingly little information about the awards–or as I’ll assume they were called, the other IRA–available online. The ‘Mats clip is one of only a handful that showed up during a more thorough YouTube search, and all one can glean from it is that Matt Dillon was in the audience. (Westerberg looks really happy, though.)

According to the NYT, the Replacements’ performance was from 1989, at the first International Rock Awards. There have been no more than three. The IRA emerge from the rest of the footage available as an attempt to be to the Grammys what the MTV Movie Awards are to the Oscars. This effort involved plenty of made-up awards, including an MVP Award (?) that Ozzy Osborne and Grace Jones handed out at the ’89 ceremony. (Before clicking play, know that there’s too much hammy weirdness in the following clip for it to be much fun; it’s like a carnival ride that spins slightly too fast for comfort.)

The same night, Eric Clapton presented Keith Richards with the IRA Legend Award and got applauded for apologizing for being in a beer commercial*:

Footage of the second annual International Rock Awards is harder to find, which is tragic, because the insane combo of Gary Busey and Sam Kinison apparently shared host duties. This Letterman clip confirms Busey was there, and also confirms that Busey was well on the road to lunacy by 1990:

The third and final IRA were possibly the raddest of them all, if InBaseline.com can be trusted; Dean Stockwell, Rick Astley, ZZ Top, and something called the Urban Dance Squad participated in one form or another. In this next clip, host Leslie Nielsen introduces Faith No More (whose early brand of rap-rock sounds corny now, but who are still ripe for reappraisal–“Epic” kinda rules in spite of itself):

The British Film Institute’s website lists the first annual IRA as the “Coca Cola International Rock Awards.” Although the BFI site is the only one I found that mentions Coke in relation to the awards, this would explain nearly everything–it’s easy to imagine the IRA as an extended ad for soda in the form of a music event, much like Pepsi’s televised concert series a few years back–if not for the final few seconds of a clip from the ’91 awards. At the end of this baffling multigroup jam session, a voice-over begins to explain who created the IRA, accompanied by some barely-legible text. The voice is cut off within a couple of seconds, but listen closely:

That’s right: Rock, Inc. Which–and I hate to end on such a cliché, but can’t think of a more appropriate instance–leaves us with more questions than answers. Theories and additional information are of course welcome in the comments.

* Clapton’s prostrating strikes me as quietly very sad, despite my having been forced to hear the same Clapton best-of comp over and over during car trips as kid–it’s like he’s way more worried about (or conscious of) being regarded as a lame-o than you ever would have expected.

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One Comment on “What Were THE INTERNATIONAL ROCK AWARDS?”

  1. Randy Says:

    I was at the 1st Annual Rock Show and ended up in the green room and talked with Lou Reed. The bangles were there along with a few noticable others. It was a lot of fun and we were all invited to a downtown nite club were we all hung out till the we hours. Danced with Grace Jones and I have that earing she was wearing.


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