MTV has had a big influence on the careers of numerous artists, but there are some artists who’ve had heavy exposure on MTV but have never performed at the network’s biggest event—the MTV Video Music Awards. Here are the top five rock artists who were MTV darlings but who never performed at the MTV VMAs.
5. Billy Idol
Billy Idol was all over MTV in the 1980s and early 1990s, thanks to his numerous hit videos, including “Dancing With Myself,” "White Wedding," “Rebel Yell,” “Eyes Without a Face,” “To Be a Lover,” “Mony Mony” and “Cradle of Love.” Idol was also famously part of the “I Want My MTV” campaign to increase MTV’s audience. And his videos received 10 VMA nominations, with 1990’s “Cradle of Love” winning Best Video From a Film. Even though Idol was a major MTV star, he never performed at the MTV VMAs. However, he was a presenter at the MTV VMAs in 1984 and 1991.
4. The White Stripes
The White Stripes—the innovative duo consisting of ex-spouses Jack and Meg White—broke up as a musical act in 2011, but in the years that they made music together, their videos won five MTV VMAs including Breakthrough Video, Best Editing and Best Visual Effects for “Fell in Love With a Girl” in 2002. The White Stripes were at the 2002 VMAs, but they never performed at the VMAs, even though the White Stripes had 18 VMA nominations over the years. However, Jack White did perform at the 2006 VMAs with his other band The Raconteurs, who teamed up with Lou Reed to perform “White Light/White Heat.” Jack White also performed as a solo artist at the 2013 MTV VMAs.
3. Billy Joel
Billy Joel was already a Grammy-winning hit singer/songwriter when he became a big MTV star in the 1980s, thanks to MTV’s heavy rotation for his videos such as “Uptown Girl,” “The Longest Time,” “Pressure,” “A Matter of Trust” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Although he received four MTV VMA nominations, Joel never won, and he never performed at the MTV VMAs. Joel has said that he will no longer release any albums of new pop/rock material (his last was 1993’s River of Dreams), and he’s been focusing on doing his longtime residency at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
2. Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks
In the early years of MTV, Fleetwood Mac was a regular fixture on MTV because of videos like 1982’s “Hold Me” and Gypsy” and 1987’s “Big Love” and “Little Lies.” Fleetwood Mac member Stevie Nicks launched her solo career in 1981, the same year that MTV debuted, and her solo videos instantly became big MTV hits, especially 1983’s “Stand Back.” And when Fleetwood Mac’s most famous lineup reunited in 1997 for The Dance live album, the band chose MTV, not VH1, as the network to air the concert recorded for the album. The “Silver Springs” video clip from the concert got a lot of airtime on MTV too. Fleetwood Mac members Nicks and Christine McVie co-presented the award for Best Group Video at the 1987 MTV VMAs. However, to this day, Fleetwood Mac and Nicks have not performed on the MTV VMAs.
1. Paul McCartney
Back in the 1980s, Paul McCartney’s videos got a lot of exposure on MTV, particularly 1983’s “Say, Say Say” (with Michael Jackson) and 1984’s “No More Lonely Nights.” His MTV “Unplugged” episode in 1991 remains one of the most famous in the show’s history. And even though the legendary McCartney was a presenter at the MTV VMAs in 1986 and 1999, he has never performed on the show. (By contrast, McCartney's peers the Rolling Stones have performed twice at the MTV VMAs: first, in 1989 and then in 1994.) McCartney’s only MTV VMA prize was when the Beatles were named one of the first Video Vanguard recipients at the first MTV VMA ceremony in 1984. None of the former Beatles who were alive at the time attended the ceremony.