Oh my God, I am shaking in my shoes. Anyway. Blondie put it this way once: «Dreaming is free.» For many of us, myself included, Blondie were the dream. Yet if anyone had told me 15 years ago, when I was unemployed and desperately frustrated in Edinburg, Scotland, that I’d be up on a podium, in New York City, in preparation to induct Blondie into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’d have peed myself laughing, and told them to f*ck right off.
But here I am, and it’s thanks in no small part to Blondie themselves, who’ve played such an important role in the realization of my own dreams. I don’t think I’m remiss in observing that Blondie enjoyed a deep respect and heartfelt affection in the musical community that crosses all genres of music. It’s no doubt that they enjoy this particular honor as a result of their fearless and freewheeling approach to making music. Touching on influences as diverse as punk and disco, to ’60s girl-group trash and reggae, they fashioned a new sound, keeping one eye fixed on the past, and another focused on the future. They started over 30 years ago, here in New York City. And of all the bands that came out of CBGB’s they’re still here, still making records, and still having hits. They were the band that first carried the idea of punk into the U.S. charts, and they were the musical visionaries who first mixed rock with another rebellious New York City sound — hip-hop. With rapture, they introduced millions of us to a sound that was to later revolutionize the world. As fearless as ever, Debbie Harry got on the mic and rhymed about Fab Five Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, and the Man from Mars. As one of our most beloved musical originators of the 20th Century, sitting pretty with an astounding catalogue of classic songs under their belt, and a career that has already spanned four decades, with no imminent end in sight, Blondie will enter the Hall of Fame as one of the coolest, most glamorous, most stylish bands in the history of rock and roll. Which leads me, of course, to pause at the feet of Debbie Harry — the most beautiful girl in any room, in any city, on any planet. The girl who invented the archetype by which all other stars who have followed in their footsteps have been measured. Her influence can still be detected today in the style of every self-respecting rock and roll queen, from newbloods like Karen O., modern icons like the divine Gwen Stefani, and of course, the indomitable Madonna. Blessed with the looks of an old-school Hollywood movie star, and in possession of some golden pipes, she carefully subverted her mind-blowing beauty with her punk spirit and her gladiator heart. She combined a peerless integrity with intelligence, with a unique and cutting-edge style that was so ahead of its time, it wouldn’t look out of place on MTV today. And she speaks a universal language that endears her to men and women alike, and secured her unassailable position in rock history. I should, of course, mention, that there were a few others involved. Behind Debbie was a band dressed like the killers in Reservoir Dogs — a rock and roll street gang with a sound just as deadly. Chris Stein, a master conceptualist, whose guitar was the sneaky surprise in so many Blondie songs. Jimmy Destry, who could look backward and forward with the same keyboard line. And the handsome Clem Burke, who like all great rock drummers, made the hard work of keeping a band moving, sound easier than it really is. But of course, you know all this already, because that’s why we’re here. But perhaps what you don’t already know is that the members of Blondie also happen to be some of the loveliest, most self-effacing people you could ever hope to meet. There’s no posturing, there’s no need for flash cars or flanks of bodyguards. When they turn up to play, there are no ridiculous demands, no outrageous riders, no bling, no flash, no ego. There’s just coolness, and sweetness, and integrity, and grace. And that is what makes them so very precious, for they truly are a rare breed. They’re great artists, but they’re also great people. Ladies and gentlemen, I take great pride in introducing you tonight — the great, incomparable Blondie.