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Strange Night For Rock & Roll Hall

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."

Southern rockers Skynyrd, whose name was a deliberately misspelled "tribute" to a hated high-school teacher, made much of its memorable music before a 1977 plane crash killed singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines.

"No one deserved to be here more than Ronnie Van Zant," said his widow Judy, "and he would truly be honored."

Johnny Van Zant, who replaced his brother as the lead singer, joined Kid Rock in a duet of the band's hit "Sweet Home Alabama," such a well-known prideful statement of Southern heritage that the title was later swiped for a Reese Witherspoon movie.

Kid Rock had to consult notes during his induction speech, not wanting to leave anyone out.

"This is a hard speech to write," he said. "There's been over 25 members of this ... band. There've been more members than the YMCA."

Davis, who added rock, soul and hip-hop to a bracing jazz stew, could often appear intimidating when he played with his back to the audience. But that was because he was conducting the band, said Herbie Hancock, who performed with him.

Hancock recalled one time when he struck a wrong note in the middle of one of Davis' solos.

"Miles paused for a second," he said, "and then he played some notes that made my chord right. He didn't judge it. He heard an intriguing sound and he came up with something that made it sound like butter."

The hall also gave a lifetime achievement award to Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, founders of the influential A&M Records label that bore their initials and signed artists like the Police, Supertramp, John Hiatt, Cat Stevens and Alpert's band, the Tijuana Brass.

"I haven't seen this many people since I played bar mitzvahs years ago," said trumpeter Alpert.

Inductees are honored at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Cleveland. Highlights of the 21st annual ceremony will be shown on VH1 on March 21.