The Blondie controversy

For those who missed it: Blondie’s Hall of Fame induction turned testy.

That sort of thing happens when the Hall tries to reunite the current band members with the ex-band members who sued the current band members for being left out of the late ’90s reunion (among other things). You end up with really awkward moments between those who last played in the band 20 years ago and those who have been there the whole time, even if they’re no longer blonde.

There are arguments to be made for both sides here. So I’ll make them.

The case for Frank Infante, Nigel Harrison and Gary Valentine:

First of all, Debbie and Chris, let’s drop the crap about how you’ve worked with Leigh Foxx for all these years and only worked with Nigel for a few. That’s straight out of Spinal Tap. Nigel (or possibly Frank; the credits aren’t always clear) laid down the classic bass lines on Atomic (including the solo), Heart of Glass, Rapture and all the songs everyone actually knows. Gary may have had the briefest stint in the band, but he wrote (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear and X-Offender. Nigel co-wrote One Way or Another and the underrated Union City Blue. The guys taking our places in your touring lineup have contributed less to your two post-reunion albums than Coolio.

You’re not getting into the Hall because you have competent sidemen today; you’re getting in because of the years we slogged it out, defying all attempts to pigeonhole us into one genre or another. We’re listed on the Hall of Fame’s official induction list, not the guys who’ve been taking easy money for playing our parts for the past decade.

This was a perfect opportunity for you to put aside all the bad blood. You blew it. And now your induction will be remembered because you blew us off. Nice move.

The case for Debbie Harry and Chris Stein (and possibly Clem Burke and Jimmy Destri, who haven’t actually said anything):

Maybe we killed a few brain cells back in the ’70s, but didn’t you sue us? And then you just show up at the Hall of Fame induction and expect to play? Even Bands Reunited gave people a chance to patch things up and rehearse before taking the stage. Yeah, these guys have been playing your parts for years. What have you been doing?

If you’re ranking contributions to the band, you guys are fifth, sixth and seventh. It’s Debbie’s voice, face, public image and lyrics (mostly). It’s Chris’ sound and songwriting. Jimmy may have been the only prominent rock keyboardist to emerge between Rick Wakeman and Nick Rhodes (OK, OK, we’ll give you Geoff Downes), and he wrote our biggest post-reunion hit, Maria. And Clem was one of those rare drummers who had punk credibility but could put out a good disco beat. Besides, you heard him on Dreaming, in which his performance alone gets a “must to hear” nod from AllMusic.com.

Besides, Frank didn’t write anything memorable himself.

And my take is …

They should’ve patched this up beforehand. Infante had no right to barge in and put Harry on the spot by asking if they could play right there at the podium. But Harry and Stein showed a rare lapse in managing their image. Both sides had everything to gain and nothing to lose by talking it out months ago and agreeing to play at least one song together. Pink Floyd did it without Roger Waters and David Gilmour pulling out sabers. Why not Blondie?

And the ironies commence …

Blondie is going on tour with “The New Cars.” That’s The Cars you know and love, minus the late Ben Orr, drummer David Robinson and the other guy … um … what’s his name …

Oh yeah … Ric Ocasek. That’s a bit like Blondie lining up without Debbie Harry. (Ocasek, though, is apparently not annoyed. Good for him.)

And it’s a weird lineup. Todd Rundgren, he of a couple of hits with various bands and a glittering resume as a producer, is on board with one of his former bandmates.

Guitarist Elliot Easton, by the way, played with Creedence Clearwater Revisited, the band featuring the drummer and bassist (I know, I know — that in itself is an odd statement for a band not named Rush) from Creedence Clearwater Revival. Which had its own acrimony at its own Hall of Fame induction.

Messy business, isn’t it?

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