RIP IT UP - 10th-16th February 2005
Issue 816 - Page 12

Blondie

Chris Stein Back On-Line - by Nazz (gga)

What is it about New York pop legend, Blondie? What is it about them that makes their music, influence and ideas ring with the same clarity (not that it necessarily gets the credit it's due enough... believe it or not, some of the members still think of the band as being somewhat underground). Sure vocalist Debbie Harry's striking beauty didn't hurt their heyday, but it was obviously the strength of her voice and the songs that made us continue listening to them years after Blondie broke up.

Think about it. Even while supplying addictive melodies and songs worth falling in love with, Blondie also managed to bring a sense of instant accessibility to the world of popular music; proving you didn't have to be a fan of the style before to learn some appreciation. Through an alarming string of hits from the late '70s through to the early '80s, Blondie managed to popularise a range of music genres even The Beatles might have been envious of: the punk of Hanging On The Telephone; girl group sounds of In The Flesh; rock of Call Me; reggae of The Tide Is High; unabashed pop of Sunday Girl and with arguably its greatest crowning achievements, it legitimised disco (Heart Of Glass and Atomic), and pioneered giving white audiences their first real glimpse into rap music (Rapture).
Well, it's been several years now since the founding members got Blondie back on the road and touring the world. In fact, the last time Blondie visited Australia - to a rapturous reception I might add - it was sadly without founding member, guitarist and songwriter Chris Stein. As he explained by telephone back then, it would be the first time he had ever missed a Blondie tour. His reason? Possibly the greatest excuse there is: his wife was just about to give birth to their first child. But he'll definitely be present and accounted for this time.
"I'm definitely coming this time. But guess what? My wife Barb and I have got another on the way." You're joking. Man, you don't waste any time do you? "I guess not. But I worry. The world's in a pretty bad state of disrepair at the moment. I'm not sure I have any faith left in our political world leaders, or even the general public, to do the right thing and safe-guard our future. To be honest, I'm still in shock about George W Bush being voted back in. I really thought we had a shot this time, but now I seriously doubt that I'll see the world get back on track in my lifetime."
Sounds like a scary time to be bringing another child into the world, Chris.
"It is. But we've pretty much backed right away from the city nowadays. It's too crazy, too dangerous... there's too little freedom as far as civil liberties are concerned over here, if you follow me."
If it makes you feel any better, my six-year old is an avid Blondie fan already.
"Really? That's really cool. Man, I hope kids do a better job with the world than we have."
If you're talking about the masses at large then you've got a serious point. But as for yourself, it seems to me that you've made a positive contribution.
"I'm not in a position where I can take or save people's lives - and the people with the real power seem to me to only be interested in their own short term self interests and making money for the big corporations. It saddens me to no end. But as far as what you've said about me... and by that I guess you mean Blondie's music, then thanks. We've always tried to do something a little different and be ourselves."
A tribute to this enduring universal appeal, Blondie stand as one of the few acts capable of saving just about any ailing party. Along with Michael Jackson's Thriller (of all records), I've witnessed The Best Of Blondie resurrect more dying vibes at parties than all other records combined - and most of the reignited masses didn't even know they were fans at the time.
"You think so? We've always tried our best. The fact that Debbie is such a strong personality has helped. You know she never likes to come across as a victim and I think, especially for a woman - even now, that's a very important thing. That music can help a person or give them an excuse to have a good time is quite a special thing."
On a different note, I notice original keyboard player Jimmy Destri isn't onboard for this tour (his replacement is Kevin Topping, as featured on the cool new Blondie DVD Live By Request). What's the story there?
"Uhhh, that's a little delicate. Jimmy's having a rest at the moment; with help from professionals. It's pretty common knowledge that he's fallen off the wagon again so I don't think I'm spilling any secrets to say he's currently in rehab. He's been good for a long time then he came back. I'm going to visit him next week as a matter of fact. I love the guy but sometimes when he hurts himself like this, I don't know whether to hug him or hit him."
I saw Jimmy a bit backstage - and he was having a pretty good time; loose and raucous but a good time.
"I think Australia was actually what broke him."
No way.
"Seriously. He had such a good time over there, I think everybody did. There's something special about Australia that we can't help but have a good time when we come over. But Jimmy got on a roll and didn't know where to stop. When we got back home, he was a mess. Hopefully he'll be straightened out again pretty soon.
"Personally I can't wait to see you guys in Australia again. It'll be a great show I promise. I've got to make up for missing out last time," Chris concluded.

Blondie play Thebarton Theatre on Mon Feb 21 with special guests The Cops. Their latest album, The Curse Of Blondie, and DVD, Blondie: Live By Request, are available in stores now.


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