With absent Sex Pistols, a backstabbing Blondie and a kinder, gentler Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath, Monday night's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel featured its usual raucous attitude as those seminal bands, along with Dixie-powered rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and jazz icon Miles Davis, were enshrined in the music establishment.
The always rollicking ceremony featured the Sex Pistols swearing off the ceremony with a written statement that compared the Hall of Fame to a "piss stain." The band also declared, "We're not your monkey." Tension also mounted around the induction of Sabbath, with organizers not sure how Ozzy & Co., who had publicly slammed the voting process over the years, would behave.
But it was a rare public feud between the once and current members of Blondie that not only provided the evening's most awkward moment, but also belied that old rock 'n' roll axiom that great bands don't always get along.
The current lineup of Chris Stein, Clem Burke and now-red-haired singer Debbie Harry made it a point of ignoring ex-bandmates Frank Infante, Nigel Harrison and Gary Valentine, who left Blondie years ago in a nasty battle over royalties. The trio of former members were permitted onstage to accept the Hall of Fame award but were barred from performing with the group.
"Debbie, are we allowed?" Infante pleaded into the microphone.
"Can't you see my band is up there?" a terse Harry shot back, prompting a grunt from Infante as he left the podium.
Blondie, minus the three original members, then took the stage and played three of its classic hits, "Heart of Glass," "Rapture" and "Call Me". (The revamped band later announced it was heading out on a North American tour with a similarly reunited Cars, minus Ric Ocasek. The 27-date Road Rage tour kicks off May 12 in Robinsonville, Mississippi, and wraps June 30 in Clarkston, Michigan.)
The fact that the Sex Pistols skipped the banquet didn't seem to bother Jann Wenner, the Hall of Fame's vice president and founder of Rolling Stone magazine. He praised the punk band for giving '70s rock music a major dose of mayhem on the strength of their one seminal album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. The record featured blistering two-minute anthems such as "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen" that were not only odes to rebellion but also influenced generations of mohawk-sporting rockers.
Wenner attempted to channel some of that spirit by reading aloud the letter the rockers issued a few weeks ago, flipping off the whole affair. He then invited surviving band mates Johnny Rotten, Paul Cook, Steve Jones, and Glen Matlock to pick up their trophies in Cleveland, the official home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.
"If they want to smash them into bits, they can do that, too," Wenner said.
Rotten, who now goes by his birth name, John Lydon, appeared on ABC's late-night gab fest Jimmy Kimmel Live Friday and reiterated why he and his mates have scorned the rock establishment.
"They never cared who we were," Lydon said. "They never bothered to correct the incredible, fatal, bad mistakes about our legend and legacy in their museum. And up until now, they've rejected our nomination for three years running, and now they want a piece of us.
"Well, guess what? Kiss this!" he said, making a certain obscene gesture.
On the other hand, bat-chomping metal god Osbourne and his "War Pigs" comrades--Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Bill Ward--showed up and were relatively well behaved. Metallica's James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich inducted Sabbath, explaining exactly why they deserved to be enshrined alongside rock's greatest luminaries.
"If there was no Black Sabbath, I could still possibly be a morning newspaper delivery boy," Ulrich cracked. "No fun."
Sabbath didn't perform, however, preferring to let Metallica play covers of "Iron Man" and "Hole in the Sky."
"I thought at the end of the day they're never going to do it," Osbourne said of being inducted after being passed over on the Hall of Fame ballot for eight years.
The Prince of F--king Darkness then thanked his manager-wife Sharon and the couple's two daughters, Kelly and Aimee, sitting in the ballroom audience.
Southern rock greats Lynyrd Skynyrd, who lost founding members Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines in a devastating 1977 plane crash, proved themselves the ultimate survivors as they were inducted and duly performed their greatest hits, "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird."
Herbie Hancock heralded his jazz forbearer Davis for his innovative fusion of rock and jazz on such classic recordings as A Tribute to Jack Johnson and Bitch's Brew, calling the trumpet master a "man of mystery, magic and mystique." Davis' children accepted the induction honor on his behalf.
Last but not least, Sting paid tribute to A&M Records founders Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss for creating a hugely successful label that launched the career of his old band, the Police, as well as such acts as Cat Stevens, John Hiatt and Supertramp, among many others.
An edited version of the 21st annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fames induction ceremony is scheduled to air on VH1 on Mar. 21.