10 Years Ago: The Sex Pistols and Blondie Cause Trouble at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions
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The ever-popular argument over who does or doesn’t get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame causes enough fire among fans. But even at the induction ceremony tempers can flare, and what’s supposed to be a moment of celebration can turn into a podium for airing long-held grievances.
The Rock Hall’s 2006 class included a stellar list of inductees: Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Miles Davis, Blondie and the Sex Pistols. Just a few years earlier, Ozzy Osbourne had different feelings about the Rock Hall, saying “Just take our name off the list. Save the ink. Forget about us. The nomination is meaningless, because it’s not voted on by the fans. It’s voted on by the supposed elite for the industry and the media, who’ve never bought an album or concert ticket in their lives, so their vote is irrelevant to me. Let’s face it, Black Sabbath has never been media darlings. We’re a people’s band and that suits us just fine.”
Osbourne changed his tune when Sabbath finally got into the Rock Hall. But other artists were less flexible that year.
The Sex Pistols decided not to take part in the festivities and posted a grammatically challenged letter of explanation: “Next to the Sex Pistols, rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. We’re not coming. We’re not your monkeys, and so what. Fame at $25,000 if we paid for a table of $15,000 to squeak up in the gallery goes to a non profit organization selling us a load of any old famous. Congradulations. If you voted for us, hope you noted your reasons. Your anonymous as judges but your still industry people. We’re not coming. Your not paying attention. Outside the s—stem is a real Sex Pistol.”
Rock Hall president Jann Wenner read the letter to the slightly amused audience at the ceremonies. But the Sex Pistols’ no-show wasn’t the biggest news of the night, or it’s most disruptive one.
After being inducted by Shirley Manson from the band Garbage, Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, drummer Clem Burke and singer Debbie Harry were joined onstage by all of the group’s past members, including bassist Nigel Harrison, guitarist Frank Infante, bassist Gary Valentine and keyboardist Jimmy Destri. Harrison and Infante had been involved in lawsuits against Stein and Harry over money they claimed they were owed from their time in the band. Valentine, even though he was supposed to take part in Blondie’s 1999 reunion, was ousted at the last minute, and Destri had recently been let go for a variety of reasons, including substance abuse.
Infante spoke up at the ceremony, complaining in front of the gathered crows about not being invited to play with his old band that evening. “I’d like to thank the Hall of Fame for inviting us, and for not writing me, Gary and Nigel out of rock ‘n’ roll history,” he said. “This is like one of the greatest gigs you could do as a musician. … Actually, one thing that would make it better would be if we could actually perform for you tonight, but for some reason, some of us are not allowed to do that. I don’t know what we could do about that. I’d like to play.”
Watch Blondie at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions in 2006
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Infante then begged Harry to allow himself, Harrison and Valentine to perform. “Debbie, is that allowed?” he asked. “We’d like to play with you guys. Me and Nigel. Pretty please! Pretty please, Debbie!” Harry then made her way to the podium to cut him off. “Can’t you see my band is up there?” she asked. “Oh your band? I thought Blondie was being inducted tonight,” Infante shot back. Harry then proceeded to list the Blondie’s current members, to which Infante replied, “Are they being inducted? I don’t know!”
Harrison tried to salvage the moment by noting, “It’s nice to see everyone out of the courtroom. That’s the first positive thing.” But he quickly picked up where Infante left off. “I gotta say, after watching all that footage of us tonight, I felt I was going to my own funeral. It’s messed up for us. We wanna play, obviously, we were part of it. We’ve been led to believe we weren’t part of it. It sucks. Welcome to bingo night.”
At the press conference following the ceremony, Stein was clearly angry. “The reason I’m holding onto this is in case I run into any of those f—ers!” he said while grasping his award.
“I thought Chris’ backstage comments were a bit drastic,” Burke told Ultimate Classic Rock in 2016. “But everyone has a right to say and do as they please, as there really are no rules in rock ‘n’ roll. And that’s what makes it what it is: freedom of expression.
“The circumstances surrounding our induction made what could have been one of the happiest days of my life into a very dark and stressful one,” he continued. “Regardless of our business arrangement with the former band members, I still considered those guys to be my friends and would have been fine with standing together with them on the Rock Hall stage. For many reasons, it was not to be. All original members of Blondie were being inducted, and although we thought there would be some sort of protocol, that all went out the window, and the whole thing, for me, turned into very embarrassing public display.”
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