Junior TVTimes No. 26 week ending 23rd June 1979
Since making it in a big way...
HAVE MORE FUN!
They've rocketed to the top of the charts yet again with Sunday Girl, and, not surprisingly, the album Parallel Lines is now being greeted as one of the top LPs of the last year, as track after track from the collection is plundered and turned into instant three-minute success by way of the singles chart.
So we thought this would be a good time to look at the early days of Blondie, the pre-New Wave beginnings.
Well, for starters, they weren't known as Blondie. In fact, when they played their first-ever public gig (at CBGB's in New York) they went under the less than compelling name of Angel And the Snake.
As well as Debbie Harry and Chris Stein (vocals and lead guitar), the band featured two other blonde girl vocalists, who went under the names Jamaica and Elda.
The girls eventually left to be replaced by two others, not blondes this time, Julie and Jackie, who left to run a punk clothing store.
The band survived for about a year playing occasional gigs around Manhattan until Clem Burke arrived to take up the drums.
At about the same time, the group recorded some demo tapes which included something called The Disco Song - which was apparently an early version of Heart Of Glass (incidentally, the tapes are soon to be released as an EP called Prototypes on Car Records).
Next to join were bassist Gary Valentine and keyboard player Jimmy Destri. As several of the floating members left, the band came together much more as a manageable five-piece. At this time, though, they were still looking after their own business affairs. They played infrequently around the small New York club circuit when their luck changed at last. Producer Richard Gottherer saw them and secured a deal with Private Stock Records. In late '76 the band entered Plaza Sound Studios in New York and, with Gottherer, recorded their first single X Offender and the album Blondie.
For a debut LP, it was generally very well received, especially in Britain, where the band's first appearance - with another American group, Television - was eagerly awaited.
However, Blondie weren't really prepared to undertake a major tour and at Hammersmith in London, although their performance was energetic, the band played nervously and they were ill-at-ease. The reception was less than enthusiastic, and this resulted in a poor showing for the group's second single, Rip Her To Shreds.
So, to get over their problems, Blondie embarked on an epic world tour which lasted the best part of a year and took in countries like America, Japan and Australia. As much as anything else, it gave them a lot of experience of being on the road.
Before their next trip here, bass player Gary Valentine quit to form his own band and Blondie themselves left Private Stock for a more desirable recording contract at Chrysalis.
In the studios for the second time with Gottherer, they recorded their second album Plastic Letters and, still without a bass player, they recruited an old friend of Clem's, Frank Infante, to stand in on that instrument. The line-up was expanded again when British born Nigel Harrison was brought in to become their permanent bassist. Frankie stayed on to contribute second guitar.
The second album displayed a marked shift towards a more keyboard orientated sound as Jimmy Destri began to experiment with synthesisers and toned down the use of his instantly recognisable Farfisa organ sound. The whole thing began to gel as Blondie, the group that we now know and love, and Plastic Letters was a big seller for many months.
A third single, Denis (a former hit by Randy and The Rainbows) was released to coincide with the band's first headlining British visit and soon shot to number two in out Top Ten.
At last, after a few false starts, Blondie had arrived. Debbie Harry T-shirts, badges, posters and carrier bags were everywhere. You could even buy a bar of soap or a
coffee-mug with her impression on it!
Gary Valentine left them a song called I'm Always Touched By Your Presence Dear, and it turned out to be a real gem, giving Blondie their second Top Ten hit. Flushed with success, they returned to America to record album number three with prolific hit-maker Mike Chapman, who was responsible for the hits of Mud and Suzi Quatro in the early seventies.
With Parallel Lines, recorded at the Record Plant in New York, Chapman succeeded in turning the group's ideas into a much more hit-worthy formula - the LP consisted of twelve songs which all sparkled with hit material. Right from the word 'go' Picture This rocketed up the charts to become yet another hit, and since then Hanging On The Telephone, Heart Of Glass and Sunday Girl have all made it to the top.
Amazingly, considering their phenomenal success over here, Blondie took a while to catch on in their home country, although they finally secured a hit in the USA with the inevitable Heart Of Glass.
Explains Chris Stein: "Well, we were simply too busy elsewhere to really start working in the States. And then our previous promotion company didn't help by promoting us the wrong way - at the time punk was really going on, we suffered because we weren't punk enough. But we never said we were, and that worked against us. In fact, all we've done is made good pop records."
Not surprisingly, at the moment Blondie are back in New York recording a new album with - guess who? - Mike Chapman as producer. We can await a whole host of super new singles to come from that successful partnership.