Here is Blondie performing "Heart of Glass"
Featuring the very blonde lead singer, the punk band Blondie was formed by Deborah Harry (1945) and Chris Stein (1950) in 1974. Harry, the blonde of the group, met Stein in 1973 at the CBGB's, the bar that is known as the birthplace of punk music in New York City. Harry was an important figure in early NY punk, and a regular at CBGB's. Despite her very feminine voice, she cast herself as an aggressive, sexual, street tough punk rocker, very much in the fashion that Madonna later embraced. This attitude disappeared as she entered the mainstream, as Blondie became the commercially successful band to emerge from NY Punk.
By 1975, the band consisted of drummer Clement Burke (1955), keyboard player Jimmy Destri (1954) and Gary Valentine on bass. By 1976, a self-titled album was released under the Private Stock Record label. Blondie, the album was fraught with the carefree and fun sounds found in 1960's all-female pop groups. This debut record contained the minor hit "In the Flesh" that was very popular in Australia. Blondie's concoction of new age punk also brought in the element of irony that the band would become known by. Much of the band's cutting edge image is attributed to the woman the group was based around: Debbie Harry.
Born in Florida in 1945, Deborah was adopted by Richard and Catherine Harry when she was about three months old. She would then spend most of her childhood in New Jersey when the family relocated. As a teen, Harry has said that she liked to dress in all black attire and appear unapproachable. Once she was in her twenties, she managed to work a long series of odd jobs before forming the band.
She went under the title of everything from secretary to Playboy Bunny. She first got into professional music when she sang backup for the little known folk band, Wind in the Willows. Harry met Stein while she was a member of the all-girl group, The Stilletos.
Once the makings of Blondie were in progress, it was Harry who produced the name for the band. Debbie had been the target of the promiscuous taunting of truck drivers who would yell, "Come on Blondie, Give us a screw" as they drove by. The name Blondie fit the band nicely as Debbie sported a movie star glamour look with a head full of platinum blonde hair. Harry also provided the image of a B-movie actress and would sometimes don a torn swimsuit and high heels during live performances. She made clever use of her stereotypical blonde-beauty image to further emphasize the sharp irony that was laced into the catchy songs the band produced.
1977 brought about several changes to the band. Number one, their record contract got bought out by Chrysalis Records. They also lost Gary Valentine and had to replace him with Frank Infante as well as adding Nigel Harrison on bass. At this time, Infante, who also played bass, made a move to guitar. Most importantly in 1977, Blondie released its second album, Plastic Letters that garnered their first European hit single with the cover of Randy and the Rainbow's 1963 song, "Denis."
But Blondie's first wide spread global hit did not come until the release of their third album, Parallel Lines. Many of the songs we still hear on the radio today were products of this album, among them, "Heart of Glass" and "Picture This", a British chart topper.
As one can already see, Blondie was often more popular in Britain than in the U.S. The band's fourth album is a perfect example of America turning a deaf ear to the group's New Wave sounds. Released in 1979, Eat to the Beat, contained some of the most dynamic, edgy music that the band would ever produce. Songs such as "Dreaming" and "Union City Blue" were hot commodities in England but failed to gain much attention in the U.S. However, the single featured on the movie soundtrack to American Gigilo produced for Blondie another universal hit with "Call Me." This song was a disco number that was co-written by Harry and the dance producer Giorgio Moroder and also signaled the disintegration of the once well-oiled machine that Blondie as a group had become. Sliding over into the disco-pop sect of music, Blondie began to produce songs designed for the dance floor. The album Autoamerican left fans with mixed feelings: some yearning for the delightfully bitter irony that the band was known for while others noting the artistic endeavors of the album.
One very key element was contained on Autoamerican in the single "Rapture", the first song by a white group to employ rap techniques that gained commercial success, only a year after Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" became the first widely distributed rap song. However, the muse that had allowed Autoamerican to be so eclectic in its content was the same force that begin to split the band apart.
Infante turned the growing tension in the band up a notch when he sued the group, claiming that he was not included on the albums' recordings. Even though he settled his suit, by 1981, most of the band members were off dabbling in solo projects. Harry produced her solo album, Koo Koo, only to see it fail. Also in 1981, The Best of Blondie was released as a harbinger for the looming end of the band. The band was, though, still under contract by Chrysalis and one more album was put out: The Hunter, even though most of the band members were not even on speaking terms at the time. A few good songs were still left in Blondie such as "English Boys" and "The Hunter Get's Captured by the Game."
By 1984, Blondie no longer existed as a band. Harry and Stein remained together when Stein became seriously ill with a genetic disease. Once he had recovered, Harry went on to pursue her solo career with the help of Stein. Jimmy Destri is now a talent agent and session musician. Nigel Harrison is a talent scout while Clement Burke went on the play with the Eurythmics and Dramarama. Infante also joined another band and played with the Divinyls.
The band that is now known for its part in developing the New Wave style that moved rock away from long guitar solos and blues themes reunited as Blondie once again in 1997. All but Harrison and Infante joined in the reunion and in 1999 they produced the hit album No Exit that featured the top-forty single "Maria."
Page author: N.G.