Air of malice at rock hall induction ceremony
By David Bauder
By David Bauder
Between the Sex Pistols and Ozzy Osbourne, there's a bit of rancor associated with this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class.
Blondie is doing its part, too.
The band inducted last night includes two members, Nigel Harrison and Frank Infante, who unsuccessfully sued their former colleagues for being left out when Blondie reformed in 1999.
Deborah Harry's voice turned hard when she was asked if the two men had been invited to perform again with Blondie for old time's sake at the Waldorf-Astoria ceremony. Even the Police and Talking Heads managed to set aside bad feelings for a few songs upon their inductions.
"Absolutely not," she snapped. "There was no excuse for them suing us. That ended it."
Ah, a good, old-fashioned rock 'n' roll feud! Something to add a little spice to the night.
Osbourne's appearance was highly anticipated. He's been a longtime critic of the rock hall because it took several years for his band Black Sabbath to be inducted. In 1999, he dismissed the annual vote as "totally irrelevant" to him and asked that Black Sabbath not be considered in the future.
The Sex Pistols, who compared the rock hall to "urine in wine," were a no-show. Perhaps they were upset by being beaten to the hall by peers like the Clash, Talking Heads and Elvis Costello.
"We're not coming," Johnny Rotten and his bandmates sneered in a letter posted on the band's Web site last month. "We're not your monkeys, and so what?"
Jazz great and cool jazz progenitor Miles Davis and Lynyrd "Free Bird" Skynyrd were also inducted. Herbie Hancock was asked to induct Davis, and Kid Rock was pegged to honor the Southern rockers.
Shirley Manson of Garbage, another woman who fronts an otherwise all-male band, was scheduled to pay Blondie tribute. Highlights of the induction ceremony will be presented March 21 on VH1.
Before the ceremony, Harry said, she noticed a difference in attitudes toward the band because it was voted in. "It gives us a symbol of credibility that they had not really given us," she said. "It pushed us up a notch in a lot of people's thinking."
The platinum-tressed Harry, 60, gave Blondie its name when she formed the act with longtime partner Chris Stein in the mid-1970s. Harry, now a brunette, still works with Stein and drummer Clem Burke in the reconstituted Blondie. Longtime member Jimmy Destri still writes songs but has otherwise quit the rock 'n' roll life.
Blondie's energetic rock, topped with breathy vocals from Harry that recalled girl groups of the early 1960s, fit in with other bands from New York's CBGB scene. But stylistic diversity became its signature. "Heart of Glass" was a pop hit with a sharp disco beat. "Rapture" was among the first Top 40 songs to incorporate rap. "The Tide is High" was a reggae remake.
Harry said she and Stein were true city creatures and were influenced by the different forms of music they heard around them.
"It's the old art-school mentality, the idea of experimenting or doing conceptual pieces," she said. "We weren't really married to one particular kind of style."
She is proud that the form of musical cross-dressing was influential. It's now commonplace, but Blondie took heat from fans and critics at the time. Even some band members weren't fully on board, she said.
"There is no accounting for taste," she said. "It took awhile for some of the guys to become a little more sophisticated. Eventually, they did, because times change and styles change."
Blondie fell apart in the mid-1980s, which Harry blames on band tension ratcheted up by inept management. She also took time off from music to help Stein, then a romantic partner as well, recover from a debilitating illness. They broke up, but never stopped working together.
Harry, who's long forged a parallel acting career, needed some coaxing to reform Blondie. They're caught in a trap similar to many acts their age: maturity and experience have made them better musicians than when Blondie topped the charts, but few people — except for the nostalgic — notice.
Like at the start of their career, Blondie is more popular overseas, particularly in England. The greatest hits package that is being released in the U.S. to coincide with their induction, "Sound and Vision," was available in Europe months ago.
"In a way, we never really finished our mission," she said. "But I think getting back together and writing new music was a really good thing for us. To have everyone still pretty much with it and alive was kind of a miracle itself."