Q Magazine - PUNK SPECIAL EDITION - 2002

NEVER MIND THE juBiLee
HERE'S THE TRUE STORY OF PUNK!

Pages 3, 18, 19, 34, 35, 92, 93, 102, 103, 111, 127, 134.

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Page 3

Forword
By Deborah Harry

I remember that first gig in England so well. We played Bournemouth, we'd been told that that was the gig to play. Hot, wild and so very exciting. The audiences were so demonstrative and tribal. They danced and they slammed and they jumped and they spat. American audiences were much more conservative. It was funny - we were so successful in the UK that people thought we were British, both in Britain and the United States.
The punk scene in New York started in 1973. It was a very small scene, undiscovered and only really mentioned in the local press. It hadn't been developed or commercialised or exploited. The big thing for us was when Dr Feelgood came and played in New York. They weren't really a punk band, but they were the first British influence in that direction.
In New York, punk came out of a sort of camp sensibility. Contrary to the United States, the punk movement in the UK was much more political, and we could see it as soon as we got there. Everybody was very outwardly driven and politically minded and it was all in the music. It was really all about their economy because their economy had turned to shit. A great percentage of people were on the dole, and there was no future for these kids. Ireland was in a complete state of ruin, and there was war all the time, right in the British Isles, there was war. People forget what a wreck the place was in the early 1970s.
Everyone was aware of Suicide. They were a strong influence. Al [Vega] was completely mad. By the time he finished a show he was bloodied and destroyed. He really was committing suicide every night onstage. Another thing we appreciated in the UK was that in spite of the influences of R&B and blues on British rock, there was still a tremendous Gaelic natural influence in the sort of melodic sensibilities and some of the vocal techniques they used. The music was great! The Stranglers and The Clash were great, Siouxsie Sioux was great, I liked The Slits and Poly Styrene.
The Sex Pistols were, of course, wonderful. The music was original, both melodic and hard at the same time, and they reminded me of Beethoven, they were so grandiose. They really did manage to pull off the great rock'n'roll swindle. The whole execution of that band was based on criminality. They weren't worried about having credibility or not, they existed entirely in their own realm, and their whole thing was to do with anarchy. Malcolm had come to New York and dressed the Dolls up in red patent leather and hung a big hammer and sickle flag behind them but nobody rose to the bait. Nobody thought David Johansen or Johnny Thunders were into politics, it was obviously just the image. Whereas one could believe that Johnny Rotten and those guys were politically oriented. They had the rhetoric down, and they also wanted the money. And they got all that money just to get off the label! The Great Rock'N'Roll Swindle!
The fashion that came out of it all - that low-tech fashion, nothing was designer - it was really workmen's clothing made to look hip, ripped up and studded and funky. Some if the kids following the scene - who really were part of it even though they weren't in bands, like Sue Catwoman and a few others - they had a great tradition of creating their own looks. Some of them really had very distinguishable personae. One prevalent thing that I noticed in England was the tradition of dressing according to politics that has gone on for centuries. Even the kind of music that you listened to or the kind of motorbike that you drove, it all indicated your economic and political statement. It came through everything in your life, through your music, through your dress, through where you hung out. It was very obvious, very classified. I think punk has had a lasting effect. Even though now anybody with style stands out like a sore thumb, punk is still around. There are vast numbers of kids who actually go through a punk stage in their lives. It's a kind of bursting out, a first real expression of breaking away.
Deborah Harry - April 2002

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Pages 18 & 19

EYEWITNESS

January 1976
Television and Talking Heads play at CBGB's, New York.
HIlly Kristal (owner, CBGB's): People talk a lot about whether punk started in New York City or in London. CBGB's had a scene going long before the London thing started to happen, but I've never claimed that I started punk. All I really did was encourage bands to do their own thing and that meant a lot of diversity. Television had been playing for me at CBGB's since 1974. When they started they were really awful... very poor musicians who hadn't found themselves yet. As time went by they got much better. Talking Heads didn't start at CBGB's until June 1975, but they were great right from the start, better musicians, better image. Unlike the London punk thing, where you could see that all the bands shared a certain attitude and identity, all the bands who came out of CBGB's - like the Ramones, Blondie and Mink DeVille - were very different from each other.

February 1976
A new five-piece line-up of Blondie, now including Jimmy Destri on keyboards, debuts at CBGB's, New York.
Debbie Harry (Blondie): I think that debuting at CBGB's was clearly the starting point for us breaking out of the small, cocoon-like world of the New York club scene. The show was fun, we got fantastic response and I felt good about all the work that we had done. It was clearly a great departure and the next step up for us. We were moving into a bigger world and starting to do things we had previously not even gotten near to, as far as presentation is concerned.

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Pages 34 & 35

4 June 1976
The first US punk compilation, Live At CBGB's, is recorded over this weekend in New York, featuring Blondie, Laughing Dogs, Manster, Talking Heads, Mink DeVille and Tuff Darts. In England the Sex Pistols support the Buzzcocks at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester.

17 June 1976
Blondie release their debut single, X Offender, in the US.

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Pages 92 & 93

BLONDIE
Blondie had a long way to travel from New York's downtown dives to chart-topping world stardom. David Sheppard takes a look at how they got there.

THE FILE
Personnel: Debbie Harry (vocals), Chris Stein (guitar), Jimmy Destri (keyboards), Clem Burke (drums), Gary Valentine (bass).
Hometown: New York City
Formed: 1974
The gameplan: To recast classic '60s pop as a wittily hip art/trash phenomenon. To make the kind of records "we grew up listening to, when you couldn't find a bad record on AM radio" according to Gary Valentine.
First gig: August 1974, CBGB's, New York City.
First record: X Offender, December 1977.
Biggest UK hit: Heart Of Glass, January 1979 (Number 1).

Named after the catcall that peroxide-maned chanteuse and ex-Playboy Bunny Debbie Harry would habitually elicit from New York City truck drivers, Blondie rose from the ashes of Manhattan glam troupe The Stilettos in the summer of 1974, becoming the punk era's most commercially successful act. But it would have taken a brave punter to back Blondie as the band to transcend the back-to-basics rock scene that burgeoned in seedy downtown dives such as CBGB's during the mid '70s. Indeed, their initially amateurish parodying of '60s girl groups and British Invasion pop, not to mention Harry's easiness on the eye, cut little ice with ascetic peers like Television and Patti Smith.
However, Blondie were integral to the Downtown scene. Harry and her guitarist boyfriend Chris Stein were "faces" among the tiny coterie who congregated at New York Doll concerts and talked excitedly about David Bowie and Iggy Pop. And though they were living on the run-down Lower East Side, their sights were set on far more luxuriant vistas.
Employing Stilettos drummer Billy O'Connor and bassist Fred Smith, Blondie were, by summer 1974, regularly opening the bill at New York's principal underground venues, CBGB's and Max's Kansas City. But tangible success remained elusive and O'Connor soon departed, followed by Smith who joined Television.
Harry and Stein almost called it a day, but persisted thanks to the urgings of replacement drummer Clem Burke. Burke's New Jersey boyhood chum Gary Lachman (soon to be 'Valentine') then joined on bass. Burke and Valentine were still teenagers - a good 10 years Harry's junior - while Stein was already a veteran of 25. The mature couple's street smarts were as much a godsend to the new recruits as the latter's raw enthusiasm would be in resucitating Blondie's fortunes. "We were kids," recalls Clem Burke. "Debbie and Chris, being older, were a bit more sussed."
With keyboardist Jimmy Destri recruited, the classic Blondie line-up was complete by spring 1975 and an intensive period of rehearsal at Harry and Stein's tiny Bowery apartment followed.
Soon a distinctive sound was being honed in which classic '60s garage rock was welded to hook-laden melodies and wry lyrics. A plethora of gigs that year forged a more convincing Blondie.
"You could sense something was building," remembers Burke. "Anyone in a band notices how you go from playing to five, to 10, to 100 people. But there was an energy there, seeing the likes of the Ramones, Television and so on, every week. It was a romantic time. Exciting things were constantly happening."
Along with musical confidence came visual homogeneity. The Blondie boys cut their hair and raided Manhattan's thrift stores for old suits and de rigueur skinny ties. Harry, meanwhile, perfected her own take on recycled glamour - taking to the stage in minute dresses made from discarded pillowcases and bin liners.
Signing to mainstream pop label Private Stock in 1976, Blondie cut the X Offender single and soon found themselves borne aloft by the updraft of interest in New York underground rock. "Making a record was a really big deal back then," says Burke. "It was sort of unobtainable. Seeing the New York Dolls in all their primitive glory made people realise that playing music like that could get you a record contract."
Blondie's big break then came when they were asked to tour the US with Iggy Pop at the beginning of 1977 on a successful nationwide perambulation. However, internecine temper tantrums were now frequently erupting between the volatile Destri, Stein and an increasingly ostracised Valentine.
Despite the critical success of 1977's eponymous, Richard Gottehrer-produced debut LP, things came to a head when the band were approached by über-pop manager Gary Leeds. Valentine, who had misgivings, delayed signing the managerial contract and soon found himself discarded.
Blondie's ascension continued regardless, and within a year they had recorded two hit singles-packed breakthrough albums and would soon be quitting the spit and sawdust of punk's basement for a permanent booking in pop's VIP penthouse.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Debbie Harry
Debbie (centre) became 'Deborah' Harry after the demise of Blondie Mk 1. A variable solo career spawned a brace of hits and there was a parallel diversion into film. Harry occasionally sings with The Jazz Passengers when not fronting the reformed Blondie.

Chris Stein
Stein (second right) spend much of the immediate post-Blondie period recovering from emphigus vulgaris; a potentially fatal skin disease. He was briefly well enough, however, to set up Animal Records - releasing albums by Iggy Pop and The Gun Club. Stein later turned his hand to production work. It was his idea to re-form Blondie at the end of the '90s.

Clem Burke
Burke (second left) is also part of Blondie Mk 2, and during the interim years has worked with everyone from Iggy Pop and Eurythmics to Nancy Sinatra and Mark Owen.

Jimmy Destri
After Blondie's dissipation, Destri (far left) has busied himself with recording a solo LP (Heart On A Wall) and assisting Steve Lillywhite on the production of U2's War. He left the music business soon after then hooked up with his old friends again in 1998, penning the chart-topping comeback single Maria.

Gary Valentine
Gary (far right) left Blondie in 1977 and moved to LA. After touring with Iggy Pop, Valentine went to college, ran an LA bookshop and became a writer. His biography New York Rocker has just been published. He lives in London.

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Pages 102 & 103

SOME PRODUCT

PUNK MAGAZINE
Digging The 'Zine

They dreamt of stuffing Rolling Stone. But, as Punk magazine founder John Holmstrom tells Paul Stokes, fate and a dodgy printer had other ideas.

The idea was to do a rock'n'roll comic book. I'd always read underground comic books and I was a big rock'n'roll fan so it just seemed to be a natural to put them together," explains John Holmstrom, editor, illustrator, writer, designer and all-round dog's body of Punk magazine, the 1976-1979 New York-based publication which, with its bold illustrations and hand-written articles, ignited the punk fanzine scene.
A graduate of the New York School Of Visual Arts, Holmstrom got together with film-maker Eddie McNeil and college student Ged Dunn in the summer of 1975, to first plot the magazine.
"Eddie suggested I did some house painting for Ged that summer while he was making a movie with Eddie," explains Holmstrom. "We got talking about working together, then that October when I'd had some illustrations published and Eddie was doing another film, Ged dropped out of college and we opened up offices the next month."
With no thought other than for getting one issue out, the trio had noted the blossoming CBGB's club scene and knew their title was perfect for its times.
"Ged was always talking about decades defining themselves in the middle," recalls Holmstrom. "In the '40s it was the war, in the '50s it was rock'n'roll, and the '60s were defined by the period from '65 to '67. We knew the CBGB's scene was hot so I guess it was the right place, the right time and the right idea."
Punk's impact was instant. It was a success helped greatly by having Lou Reed on the first cover and by the unique visuals and articles running throughout the magazine that Holmstrom and his collaborators supplied.
"We printed on New Year's Eve 1975, and then had to hand-fold and collate the issues a couple of days later," recalls Holmstrom. "So Eddie [who, by now, was going under his punk moniker, Legs McNeil] went out into the street with a couple of copies and the first people he approached went, Wow, it's like a new Rolling Stone. Within a week The Village Voice called us The New Zeitgeist, which we had to look up in the dictionary, but it was exactly what we wanted to be."
Quickly imported into Britain by Rough Trade, Punk became the direct inspiration for native titles like Ripped And Torn and Sniffin' Glue, even indirectly funding them. "Rough Trade were selling Punk at quite a premium over there," explains Holmstrom, "and with the profits they bought a photocopy machine which helped some UK fanzines get started."
Indeed, Punk, led by Legs McNeil's stories about his punk rock behaviour, was an inspiration to British punks generally. "Chris Stein from Blondie came back from Britain and told us how everyone was going mad for Punk," says Holmstrom. "Legs did a story about throwing up in a subway car and Chris said kids were now deliberately throwing up on trains because they thought it must be punk."
Ironically, Punk was neither a fanzine nor particularly wedded to the punk rock scene. Holmstrom had ambitions of turning the magazine into a challenger to Rolling Stone, and attempts were made to move the magazine away from the CBGB's scene, though these all seemed eerily cursed. "Every time we tried to expand beyond punk rock a disaster happened," recalls Holmstrom. "Issue nine had Kiss on the cover and that would have really put us over the top, but the printer disappeared with all our money and artwork. To this day it's frustrating."
With the New York scene's decline and home-grown efforts swamping the British market, Punk began to lose influence, with advertising dwindling rather than readers. Even the final issue in 1979 sold well, but the fortune the team dreamed the title would yield never materialised and Punk was forced to close.
Punk, however, never fully died, a special edition accompanied the release of the 1980 punk film DOA, and a Best Of Punk book appeared in the '80s, and now Holmstrom has just relaunched Punk with the same values and philosophy intact 25 years on.
Proud of the magazine's influence, Holmstrom rightly identifies it as the era's original and superior product. "The fanzines were great, but nobody put in as much effort as us," he explains. "We figured if we put out a good magazine eventually good things would come."

For further details on Punk magazine see www.punkmagazine.com

ISSUE 10, BLONDIE
Summer 1977
"Bobby London did this cover as I was too busy. This was our benefit issue after issue nine disappeared. We had a show at CBGB's with Patti Smith, Blondie, The Dictators, The Cramps and Lester Bangs' first stage appearance with Radio Birdman. It got us $2,000 which meant we could bring out a few thousand copies of this and stay alive. It was a big seller."

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Pages 111

22 May 1977
Television and Blondie start their British tour at The Apollo, Glasgow.
Gary Valentine (bass player, Blondie): The British tour was fantastic. I would pogo around and either I would have my dark glasses on so I couldn't see anything, or I wouldn't have any glasses on at all, which was just as bad, because I'm short-sighted.

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Pages 127

PICTURE THIS
Punk almost ruined pop photographer Barry Plummer. But then, as he tells Paul Stokes, it soon helped him become the scene's most prolific snapper.

"I always used to wear my old jacket to punk gigs as it used to get a bit spitty."

DEBBIE HARRY
Private Stock offices, Notting Hill, 22 May 1977
"This shot was taken on the roof of Blondie's record company, Private Stock. It was quite a nice day so we thought it would be a good idea to take some shots up there with Debbie. Looking back, I wish I'd shot it in colour. But then I never used it at the time because I was working for a black and white magazine and you got into the habit of thinking in monotone."

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Pages 134

BUYERS GUIDE

THE 100 BEST PUNK ALBUMS

CHECK THIS OUT

BLONDIE
Parallel Lines
EMI 5335992

Parallel Lines would become Blondie's most successful album. Produced by glam-rock impresario Mike Chapman and built on the stout pillars of its four hit singles, Hanging On The Telephone, Picture This, Sunday Girl and Heart Of Glass, this saw Blondie finally setting their own agenda, with Debbie Harry buffing her new wave knowingly dolly-bird-esque personality on the shiny chrome of some of '70s pop's most mellifluous three-minute vehicles. It sold a cool 20 million copies, and in the droll, chart-topping Heart Of Glass (an ancient Blondie original once presciently dubbed The Disco Song) effortlessly anticipated the next two decade's worth of rock/dance cross-fertillisation. ****
David Sheppard

Extras: One bonus track and two live recordings.


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Blondie
Plastic Letters
EMI 5335982

Frank Infante may have replaced the disgruntled Gary Valentine on bass, but the latter's brilliant (I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear was a highlight here, along with a cover of Randy & The Rainbows' '60s hit Denise, neatly gender-switching title to Denis. An international hit, Denis established Blondie's lengthy residence at the business end of the world's hit parades. With Gottehrer again at the controls, this was music still in thrall to the bubble-gum symphonies of the previous decade, though the increasing sophistication of Chris Stein, Debbie Harry and Jimmy Destri's songwriting meant the Blondie brand was quickly evolving into state-of-the-art new wave pop. ****
David Sheppard

Extras: Five bonus tracks.

 

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