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Blondie

Blondie is an American rock band founded by singer Deborah Harry and guitarist Chris Stein. The band was a pioneer in the early American new wave and punk rock scenes of the mid-1970s. Their first two albums contained strong elements of these genres, and although successful in the United Kingdom and Australia, Blondie was regarded as an underground band in the United States until the release of Parallel Lines in 1978. Over the next three years, the band achieved several hit singles and is noted for its eclectic mix of musical styles incorporating elements of disco, pop, rap, and reggae, while retaining a basic style as a new wave band.

The band broke up after the release of their sixth studio album The Hunter in 1982. Debbie Harry continued to pursue a solo career with varied results after taking a few years off to care for partner Chris Stein, who was diagnosed with pemphigus, a rare autoimmune disease of the skin.

 

The group reformed in 1997, achieving renewed success and a number one single in the United Kingdom with “Maria” in 1999. The group toured and performed throughout the world during the following years, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. Blondie has sold 40 million records worldwide and is still active today, with a new album, Panic of Girls, planned for release in June 2010.

Early career (1975–1978)

In the early 1970s, Chris Stein moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Inspired by the burgeoning new music scene at the Mercer Arts Center, he sought to join a similar band. He joined The Stilettos in 1973 as their guitarist and formed a romantic relationship with one of the band’s vocalists, Debbie Harry, a former waitress and Playboy Bunny,Harry had been a member of the folk-rock band, The Wind in the Willows, in the late 1960s. In 1974, Stein parted ways with The Stilettos and Elda Gentile, the band’s originator. Stein and Harry formed a new band with drummer Billy O’Connor and bassist Fred Smith. By 1975, after some personnel turnover (including sisters Tish and Snooky Bellomo on backing vocals), Stein and Harry were joined by drummer Clem Burke, keyboard player Jimmy Destri and bass player Gary Valentine. Originally billed as Angel and the Snake, They renamed themselves Blondie in late 1975. The name derived from comments made by truck drivers who catcalled “Hey, Blondie” to Harry as they drove by. Later, band members were bemused to learn that the name was shared by Adolf Hitler’s dog Blondi, a fact acknowledged in parody when, in 1997, they semi-anonymously contributed a cover of “Ordinary Bummer” to the Iggy Pop tribute album We Will Fall under the pseudonym ‘Adolph’s Dog’.

Blondie became regulars at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB. They got their first record deal with Private Stock Records in early 1976 and released their debut single “X-Offender” on June 17, 1976. Their debut album Blondie (AUS #14, UK #75) was issued in December 1976. In September 1977, Blondie bought back its contract with Private Stock and then signed with Chrysalis Records. The first album was re-released on the new label in October 1977. Rolling Stone’s review of the debut album observed the eclectic nature of the group’s music, comparing it to Phil Spector and The Who, and commented that the album’s two strengths were Richard Gottehrer’s production and the persona of Deborah Harry, saying she performed with “utter aplomb and involvement throughout: even when she’s portraying a character consummately obnoxious and spaced-out, there is a wink of awareness that is comforting and amusing yet never condescending.” It also noted that Harry was the “possessor of a bombshell zombie’s voice that can sound dreamily seductive and woodenly Mansonite within the same song”.

Mainstream success (1978–1981)

Parallel Lines (Australia #2, UK #1, US #6) Blondie’s third album, produced by Mike Chapman, became the group’s most successful effort, selling 20 million copies worldwide. The album’s first two singles were “Picture This” (UK #12) and “Hanging on the Telephone” (UK #5).

“Heart of Glass” was their first U.S. hit. The disco-infused track topped the U.S. charts in April 1979. It was a reworking of a rock and reggae-infused song that the group had performed since its formation, updated with strong elements of disco music. Clem Burke later said the revamped version was inspired partly by Kraftwerk and partly by the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive”, whose drum beat Burke tried to emulate. He and Stein gave Jimmy Destri much of the credit for the final result, noting that Destri’s appreciation of technology had led him to introduce synthesizers and to rework the keyboard sections. Although some members of the British music press condemned Blondie for “selling out”, the song became a success, worldwide. Selling more than a million copies and garnering major airplay, the single reached number one in many countries including the U.S., where Blondie had previously been considered an “underground” band. The song was accompanied by a music video that showcased Debbie Harry’s hard-edged and playfully sexual persona, and she began to attain a celebrity status that set her apart from the other band members, who were largely ignored by the media.

Blondie’s next single in the U.S. was a more aggressive rock song, “One Way or Another” (US #24), which became their second hit single in the United States. Meanwhile, in the UK, an alternate single choice, “Sunday Girl”, became a #1 hit. Parallel Lines is ranked #140 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest albums of all time. In June 1979, Blondie, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Their fourth album, Eat to the Beat (Australia #9, UK #1, US #17), released in October 1979, was well-received by critics as a suitable follow-up to Parallel Lines, but in the U.S., its singles failed to achieve the same level of success as in the UK, where “Atomic” (UK #1, US #39) reached number one, “Dreaming” (UK #2, US #27) reached number two, and “Union City Blue” (UK #13) charted in the top 20.

Blondie’s next single, the Grammy-nominated “Call Me” was the result of Debbie Harry’s collaboration with the Italian songwriter and producer Giorgio Moroder, who had been responsible for Donna Summer’s biggest hits. This track was not included on any Blondie studio album; rather, it was the title theme of the soundtrack for the film American Gigolo. Released in February 1980, “Call Me” spent six consecutive weeks at #1 in the U.S. and Canada, reached #1 in the U.K. and became a hit throughout the world. The song is the band’s biggest selling single in the U.S. (over a million copies sold – gold status) and was Billboard magazine’s #1 single of 1980.

In November 1980, Blondie’s fifth studio album, Autoamerican (Australia, #8, UK #3, US #7) was released and contained two more #1 US hits: the reggae-styled “The Tide Is High”, a cover version of a 1967 song by The Paragons, and the rap-flavored “Rapture”, which was one of the earliest songs containing elements of rap vocals to reach number one in the U.S., sweeping the world by storm. “Rapture” would be the band’s only single to achieve a higher chart position on the U.S. charts than in the UK, where it peaked at #5. Autoamerican was a departure from previous Blondie records, featuring less New Wave and rock in favor of stylistic experiments, including acoustic jazz: “Faces”, and from an early Broadway show, “Camelot”, came “Follow Me”. As the title somewhat suggested, a recurring general theme of the album was the car as a subject; obvious for example in the song “T-Birds”, referring to the Ford Thunderbird, and Debbie’s spoken intro after the first instrumental track, “Europa”. Autoamerican was, however, not generally well-received by critics.

In October 1981, Chrysalis Records released The Best of Blondie (Australia #1, UK #4, US #30), the group’s first greatest hits compilation.

Discography

Studio Albums

1976 Blondie – http://www.bopping-elf.co.uk/blondie-blondie/

1978 Plastic Letters – http://www.bopping-elf.co.uk/blondie-plastic-letters/

1978 Parallel Lines – http://www.bopping-elf.co.uk/blondie-parallel-lines/

1979 Eat to the Beat – http://bopping-elf.co.uk/blondie/blondie-eat-to-the-beat/

1980 Autoamerican – Coming soon 13/07/2014

Unofficial Live Recordings (Bootlegs)

Live At The Waldorf Theatre, San Francisco 1977 – http://www.bopping-elf.co.uk/blondie-live-at-the-waldorf-1977/

Compilations

Greatest Hits – http://www.bopping-elf.co.uk/blondie-greatest-hits/

I was still into buying singles when I came across Blondie. The first one I bought was the one that broke them in the UK, DENIS DENIS. Shortly afterwards I purchased the parent album PLASTIC LETTERS. British Punk was almost over at this point so we were all looking for something to take us to the next level and Blondie was one of the groups that did this.

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