Look-in - 5th January 1980
Clem gives Look-in the latest run-down...
Burke's Blondie Beat!
Blondie are back. After an absence from Britain of more than a year, they have returned to perform for the fans who were responsible for turning them into international stars, and for giving them a batch of Top Ten hits, including the last to make the higher reaches of the charts, Union City Blue...
With an itinerary of sold-out concerts, this tour is not only a welcome boost for these fans, it is also something of a restoration of confidence for the band themselves, as drummer Clem Burke explained in a trans-atlantic telephone call with Look-in's John Palmer before they arrived here.
"When you get to the point of having your singles getting regularly to number one, you start to take things for granted," he said.
"Dreaming did not reach number one in Britain - and I think that was good for us, because it shook us up a little.
"I'm just pleased that the record reached the chart at all - if you take things for granted you lose the fun in them," he added and recalled the time when they first began their rise to pop stardom.
"One of the most exciting things that ever happened to us was when our single Denis began to happen in Britain. We were touring clubs like Barbarella's in Birmingham and we could see the record slowly moving up the charts week by week, and as it got higher more people were locked outside of the clubs than those who managed to get in. You could see the momentum and the excitement building up.
"That's how it should be, that is a really great feeling. But in saying that, I don't mean to suggest that we don't enjoy doing what we are doing now. If we didn't enjoy it, then we would stop, because there would be no point in it. We like Blondie, and we will go on recording for a long time."
The current tour is genuinely seen by the band as a way of saying 'thank you' to all those fans who followed them from the beginning, and who have stayed with them as they rose to the top.
The group personally took special care in choosing the venues they are playing, to provide the best possible and most memorable event for those followers.
Explained Clem: "It was our choice where we performed, and although we could have played at places like the Wembley Arena, we didn't think that was fair to the British fans - who, after all, gave us a platinum album.
"We will lose money by deciding not to pack thousands into the giant venues, but at those big venues it becomes more of a circus than a rock concert, and people can't see or hear everything properly. We like theatres because they are about the right size... I just hope that everyone who wants to see us will be able to get a ticket."
If you have not been able to get a ticket for the dates already announced, don't despair yet. Clem said that the band were going to Paris in the middle of January, but were then planning on coming back to Britain to do some more shows. "One of them is a benefit concert in London and the others have not been finalised yet."
So Blondie really are back in Britain with a vengeance. Yet while they have been at home in America they have also been working extremely hard. First of all, they had to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with over there, where audiences had not taken to them nearly as quickly as us.
"When Denis was a hit in England, we expected some response in America when we went home, but things take longer to develop over there," said Clem. "The song which really helped us in our own country was Heart Of Glass. We fooled them with that.
"People thought that we were a mellow band, but when they came to see us, they found something quite different - yet we appealed to people at different levels," he explained.
Their single Dreaming is doing better in America than it did here, he said, and their album Eat To The Beat has also shown up well in the U.S. charts. But did he think that one of the reasons for the success was that these records were more commercial and less "punky" than earlier releases, like, for example the Plastic Letters album, their second LP which was released in 1978?
"That was an experimental album, and people either loved or hated it. Eat To The Beat is just a development of the Blondie sound. We feel that we have our own style, but we never consciously set out to write hit records. Personally, I did not think that Dreaming was as commercial as previous releases."
But the next album should show some definite changes to the Blondie sound, thought Clem, because keyboard man Jimmy Destri and guitarist Chris Stein have been working on some very different ideas.
"It's still the Blondie style, but it may surprise a few people," said Clem.
Something which seemed to surprise the American audiences was that Blondie was the name of the whole group and not the name of Debbie Harry. Stories have come back from America about the band being upset by the confusion, and Clem explained what the problem was.
"In the beginning there was an identification problem - but I suppose it was our own fault for calling the band Blondie. It's not that we mind if people want to speak to Debbie, but I don't like it when people speak to me but don't really know who they are talking to. We all want to be recognised for what we are and what we are doing."
There should be little problem in recognising the band members in the future, because over the past few months many of them have been involved in solo projects.
Clem is working on a solo EP which will probably be titled I'm A Lonely Boy, and he will be supported by some musician friends, who are not in Blondie. Jimmy Destri is producing a band he has discovered, called The Revlons, Chris Stein is also producing, and Debbie has appeared in the film Union City Blue, which is still to be released in Britain. "Our single is not actually featured in the film," said Clem, "but the words were written by Debbie as her impressions of Union City where she was filming.
"We've also made a film together. It's called Roadie - you know that a Roadie is a member of a rock show touring crew - and we are in the film for about half an hour."
He said that it was due for release in America in the Spring and should be out in Britain soon after that. And it may not be the only film you can see them in.
"We enjoyed making that one, and now that we have our Screen Actors' Guild cards, we may be doing a Blondie film. We have been talking about various movies, one of them based around the story of Blondie, but at the moment we are not sure exactly what we would do, although we would not necessarily play the music for the film."
If the film does not materialise, you should soon be able to see them on video, for they have recorded an experimental video disc of Eat To The Beat. Clem said: "Video discs are being talked about a lot in America at the moment, and ours will probably be one of the first to be released."
So if video discs catch on over here, too, you could make up for missing them on the present tour by watching them on your television screen at home whenever you wanted.
"We're really glad to be back in Britain," said Clem, finally, "and hopefully we'll have time for a holiday, too. Groups like The Knack and The Cars are happening now in America, but over here you've moved on from that, and I'm really looking forward to the chance of seeing bands like Secret Affair and The Specials."
And, of course, we, the fans, are all looking forward to the chance of seeing Clem and the rest of Blondie - whether it's live or on video, Debbie and the boys are equally appealing.
10 Sets of Blondie Singles
Must Be Won!
If you haven't been lucky enough to see fabulous Blondie live on their current tour we offer you the chance to console yourselves in fine style with a set of their best-selling singles, including Heart Of Glass, Picture This, Hangin' On The Telephone and Union City Blue.
To enter this unique competition take a look at the five questions printed on the right and write your answers to them in the spaces provided on the coupon. Then send it, on a postcard please, with your name, address and age, to: Look-in Blondie Competition, P.O. Box 141, London SE6 3HR. The senders of the first 10 all-correct entries drawn from the post bag after the closing date, Monday 21st January, 1980, will each receive a set of Blondie singles.
1. Blondie are visiting which European city in the middle of January?
2. Which Blondie single did Clem think less commercial than previous releases?
3. Name the likely title of Clem's solo E.P.
4. What is the name of Blondie's film due for American release in the spring?
5. Which English bands is Clem looking forward to seeing on the current tour?