Strange Night For Rock & Roll Hall

Blondie band members from left to right, Clem Burke, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, backstage after being inducted at the twenty-first annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner in New York, Monday, March 13, 2006. (AP Photo/Stuart Ramson) AP

Blondie was feuding, Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne was charming and the Sex Pistols were absent — making for an eventful Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

In its 21st year, the hall also welcomed jazz trumpeter Miles Davis and Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose barroom standard "Free Bird" echoed off the walls of the stately grand ballroom in Manhattan's Waldorf-Astoria hotel as midnight arrived.

Blondie's induction was unusually ugly. The band reformed in 1999 behind leaders Deborah Harry and Chris Stein but left out members Frank Infante, Nigel Harrison and Gary Valentine. Infante and Harrison sued unsuccessfully to rejoin.

They all stood onstage uncomfortably Monday before Infante pleaded with Harry to let the outcasts perform one more time with Blondie.

"Debbie, are we allowed?" Infante said.

She curtly refused, and Infante groaned loudly before leaving the stage. The now red-haired Harry seemed alternately crestfallen and angry as she performed the band's hits "Heart of Glass," "Rapture" and "Call Me."

"They wrote themselves out of the band history, as far as I'm concerned," Stein said later backstage. "They should have a little bit of honor. This is supposed to be rock 'n' roll. This is supposed to be friendly. This is like going through the trenches together."

The Sex Pistols had turned down their honor in a profane letter that compared the hall to "urine in wine," true to the spirit of the lacerating lyrics in "God Save the Queen" and "Pretty Vacant."

Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner read the letter in its entirety, and invited the band to pick up their trophies at the rock hall in Cleveland.

"If they want to smash them into bits, they can do that, too," Wenner said.

All the animosity left Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King bemused backstage.

"Oddly enough, while we usually have our squabbles, we were the one band tonight that seemed to get along OK," he said.

The induction clearly meant a lot to Osbourne, known to a new generation as an addled reality TV star, and his mates in Black Sabbath. The makers of riff-heavy rockers "Iron Man" and "War Pigs" had waited 10 years for their entrance, and during that time an angry Osbourne asked that Sabbath no longer be considered.

Osbourne explained that was a defense mechanism: He didn't want to keep getting hurt when Sabbath didn't make the cut.

"It's an achievement," he said. "I'm really proud about it."

It was up to Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich to note the honor came "a decade or so late." Ulrich and Metallica guitarist James Hetfield offered heartfelt tributes and performed two Sabbath songs.

While touring with Osbourne in 1986, Ulrich said a young Metallica would play Sabbath songs in their soundcheck. Osbourne wondered if they were making fun of him and wanted to punch them out; Metallica was just hoping he'd join them to sing those songs.

"If there was no Black Sabbath, I could still possibly be a morning newspaper delivery boy," Ulrich said. "No fun."

  • Jennifer Hoar

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