Thursday, 14 June 2012

It's All Coming Back To Me Now - Blondie

by Jo Michelmore

I recently went on a mini road trip and while searching my ipod for music for the road I stumbled across this band and had one of those moments; “Oh! (insert artist name here), I love (insert artist name here).” For me, the artist name was Blondie. Yeah! I love Blondie! Ms Harry, you were number one on the It’s My Kind Of Scene ‘Women Who Rock’ countdown, and rightly so, you had it and you rocked it, didn’t you? Formed in the mid ‘70’s by Debbie Harry and her boyfriend, Chris Stein, they found themselves a drummer in Clem Burke (is that the most non-rock name ever?), keyboardist Jimmy Destri (see, that’s better, much more star factor in that name) and bass player Gary Valentine (there you go, anyone with Valentine in their name is automatically made for fame), they named themselves Blondie and the magic began.

Apparently the legend began in CBGB’s where they performed regularly (you don’t know what CBGB’s is? We’re going to have to focus on this venue another Thursday. Come back next week!), but it was Australia who gave them their first success where their self-titled debut album reached the top 10 (yay Australia!). Perhaps your taste is not so bland, sometimes. The first single was originally titled ‘Sex Offender’ until their record company insisted it be called ‘X-Offender’ so as not to cause controversy, even though the subject matter was about prostitutes and police. The ‘70’s were an interesting time weren’t they? Not much has changed. Regardless of title, it was just a little glimpse of the magic that Blondie were capable of making.

By the time they got to their third album, ‘Parallel Lines’, Mr Valentine had left (I know! Who could believe it? He had the famous name!) and various others (without famous sounding names) had joined in the Blondie fun. This is where they got really good. They were new wave and punk and pop and a little bit disco and this was the album that featured the now instantly recognisable Blondie tracks; ‘Hanging On The Telephone’, ‘Heart Of Glass’ and my personal favourite, ‘One Way Or Another’. The clips of Blondie performing at the time are awesome, Debbie is all ‘70’s sex bomb, bright make up, messy hair, tight clothes, dancing manically with the rest of the band hanging back, clearly knowing she was the star.

Their fourth album, ‘Eat To The Beat’ has to be mentioned, because although not their most commercially successful, it was a little bit of marketing genius as they released the album and a ‘video album’ - a video cassette containing clips for all the tracks! This was 1979! Whoever invented youtube probably wasn’t even born yet, so this was genius. Make people actually buy the cassette and take it home to watch? Imagine the excitement, having to go to a shop and purchase a physical cassette and then wait until you could get all the way home to see it, instead of watching something on your phone on public transport or in your pj’s while lying in your bed? If Blondie were a brand new band now, who knows how they would work the iTunes, the Spotify and the YouTube? I like to imagine it would be amazing and ground breaking. ‘Call Me’ was released just after this, as the theme song to the film ‘American Gigolo’ and although the song was apparently offered to Stevie Nicks first, I’m glad she couldn’t do it, even though Stevie is incredible, I can’t imagine anyone but Blondie doing it justice.

It was in 1980 when Blondie released their fifth album, ‘Autoamerican,’ featuring ‘The Tide Is High’ and this album took their sound in a few new directions; jazz, reggae and uuurgh, I don’t want to say it, rap. Not because I don’t like rap but because I don’t think Ms Harry does a very good job of rapping. Then again, there’s a long list of people who shouldn’t rap so maybe she should be applauded for being one of the first, after all ‘Rapture’ was apparently the first rap clip to be played on MTV. It was after this album that they took the first of their breaks with the members going their separate ways, before some of the core members and various others began reforming, which they continue to do now. I’m not totally sure they should, but that’s another issue altogether.

In their time, Blondie were one of those incredible bands that managed to play with their sound, re-invent themselves without alienating their fans and to top it all off they had a front woman who was like no other, she had that ‘thing’, she was simultaneously sexy and strong, she had heaps of fun, she was a fashion icon but she wouldn’t be messed with. She paved the way for so many female artists, without Deborah would we have had Shirley Manson, PJ Harvey, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Santigold, even Katy Perry? Blondie’s influence spans so many genres it’s hard to imagine where music would have ended up without them. Somewhere similar, I suppose, but it wouldn’t be as fun without some Blondie tracks along the way now, would it?

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