- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 12, 2006

NEW YORK

Between the Sex Pistols and Ozzy Osbourne, there’s an air of malice associated with this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame class.

Blondie is doing its part, too.

The band being inducted today includes two members, Nigel Harrison and Frank Infante, who unsuccessfully sued their former colleagues for being left out when Blondie re-formed in 1999.

Deborah Harry’s voice turns hard when she’s asked if the two men will be invited to perform again with Blondie for old-time’s sake at the Waldorf-Astoria ceremony. Even the Police and the 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.

Mr. Osbourne’s appearance is 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.

Now that Sabbath has made it, he and the band are expected to be at the Waldorf. They won’t perform, but Metallica will induct Sabbath and rattle the walls of the high-class ballroom with a tribute.

The Sex Pistols, who compared the rock hall to “urine in wine,” will be 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 band mates sneered in a letter posted on the band’s Web site last month. “We’re not your monkeys and so what?”

Jazz great Miles Davis and Lynyrd Skynyrd will also be inducted. Herbie Hancock will induct Davis and Kid Rock will honor the Southern rockers.

Highlights of the induction ceremony will be presented on VH1 on March 21.

Shirley Manson of Garbage, another woman who fronts an otherwise all-male band, will pay tribute to Blondie. Even before the ceremony, Miss Harry said she noticed a difference in people’s attitudes toward the band simply because it was voted in.

“It gives us a symbol of credibility that they had not really given us,” she told the Associated Press. “It pushed us up a notch in a lot of people’s thinking.”

The platinum-tressed Miss Harry, 60, gave Blondie its name when she formed the act with longtime partner Chris Stein in the mid-1970s. Miss Harry, now a brunette, still works with Mr. Stein and drummer Clem Burke in the reconstituted Blondie. Longtime member Jimmy Destri still writes songs but has otherwise quit the rock life.

Miss Harry said she and Mr. Stein were true city creatures and were influenced by the different forms of music they heard around them.

She takes pride 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 Miss Harry blames on band tension ratcheted up by inept management. She also took time off from music to help Mr. Stein, then a romantic partner as well, recover from a debilitating illness. They broke up, but never stopped working together.

Miss Harry, who’s long forged a parallel acting career, needed some coaxing to re-form 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,” Miss Harry 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 in itself.”

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