Straddling the decades, Blondie was one of the finest examples of a band that could not only straddle decades, but genres… and in the process became one of music’s giants. Even to this day, I don’t think anyone has managed to pigeon hole their style… are they pop? punk? disco? rock? or all of the above?
In a wonderful documentary on the rise of punk in the 70’s, Debbie Harry, the lovely former waitress and Playboy bunny who became the face and voice of Blondie (the band is named Blondie… not Harry… they named it that because people would often refer to her as such), laughed at the notion that people would whisper fearful things about her because somehow she was labeled “punk”… as though this beautiful woman was a threat in some physical way. She never considered herself as such… but the label stuck, and being a regular at CBGBs in NY only added to that perception. According to Wikipedia, it was a DJs mistake in Australia that helped propel them in 1977… almost a year after releasing their first album. He played the B-side video of In the Flesh to the A side’s X-Offender… and fans went for it.
Of course… I have no recollection of any of this… I was only 4 at the time… and she still had yet to chart in the U.S…. but in the UK they were ascending. In 1978 they release Parallel Lines, their third and most popular (and awesome) album… and they exploded here at home. And it is at this point I became very aware of Blondie… and almost every memory at that time involved roller skates. Heart of Glass and One Way or Another were massive hits… and have never once left my music collection since that time. In the early 90’s, the last band I played in happened to cover One Way or Another… and I have a hard time thinking of a more perfect song for this band than Heart of Glass. In the video below… I can’t help but wonder… just how high is she?
After Parallel Lines they returned with Eat to the Beat which didn’t do as well as the previous album here in the U.S., but a great song did take of in the U.K., Atomic… and incredibly under-appreciated tune.
As I’ve mentioned many times before… I consider a huge aspect of my job as father to two beautiful young girls to be mentor of pop culture… and I recently have begun their education in late 70’s/early 80’s music… and one of the first stops is Blondie. Not only is the music awesome in so many ways… and in so many styles… but I would say Debbie Harry is an incredible role model. Yes, she can be a bit hyper-sexualized… but she is also intelligent, tough and still rocking. Yes, she was a Playboy bunny… but she wasn’t limited by that. My eight year old has definitely latched on…. and whether it’s to make me happy or not, her two favorite songs by Blondie happen to be my favorite two… the aforementioned Heart of Glass and what may be my absolute favorite of their’s, Call Me.
Many people don’t realize that Call Me never appeared on a Blondie album, but was a single on the soundtrack to American Gigolo. At this point, we are in early 1980 and the feel is far less disco and much more gritty underbelly of a New York at it’s low point… less glitter… more raw… more rock… and it works very well. This video I’ve posted for it says it’s the official video… but really… it’s pretty crap. Song’s great though….
In late 1980, the band roared back into the U.S. charts with Autoamerican, featuring two huge hits… the reggae inspired The Tide is High and something that sounded totally new… and definitely with a hint from the streets of NY… Rapture. Now… I’m not 100% sure of this, but I imagine this may have been one of the first commercial hits for a song with someone rapping in it… and it’s extra great that she name dropped Fab Five Freddie.
They released one final album, The Hunter, in 1982 and then very promptly broke up. Although they have reunited and released a few other things since… it is the band in the late 70’s and early 80’s that fill my mind with images of the roller rink… of boom boxes… of beautiful women in tube tops and too much eye makeup… and ultimately of me and my friends tittering over the fact that she was in Playboy and where could we see those pictures (it was much harder to find any pornographic materials back then… no google searches for us… oh no, it meant stealing a Playboy from the barber shop or from under my dad’s bed). I’m thrilled that my daughters are loving the band as much as I do… and even greater that my youngest has a Blondie shirt that she digs on wearing. When something is genuinely great… it doesn’t matter what era it’s from… it will stand on it’s own.
I’m not the kind of girl who gives up just like,
Cornelius J. Blahg