Trouser Press - October-November 1976 - No. 16
By Ira Robbins
The obvious assumption when writers (and people) approach the subject of Blondie ie (granted, up to now not many have, but with a single and an LP soon to follow, the typewriters should start warming up) is that the group is trying to be a seventies answer to Lesley Gore and the Shangri-Las. Well, it's true up to a point - some of the group's songs are rather teen girl-punk oriented, but that's not what they're really about. In a sense, Blondie is proving that a girl can sing in a rock band and not be a carbon copy of the obvious models - Joplin/Haslam/Denny/Cass/Spector/ et al. Also, the idea of a "chick singer" being an equal member of the band, as opposed to the figurehead thereof, is hard to accept. Blondie, despite all the preconceptions that seem to travel in advance of the band, is no typical band. Judging by a quick glimpse at their first day of recording an album, New York's national rep should be aided by their variety and agility, proving that the Ramones (or any other band) do not exemplify a New York sound - in fact, there is no New York sound.
The historical interest of such a young band is usually minimal, but a few random spots might better illustrate the people involved. Debbie Harry (vocals), if collectors are interested, appears on a Capitol LP in a group called Wind In The Willows. Despite the tough girl image, her voice sounds more like Nico in a sour mood than anyone else. Her styles range from show tunes to mean Patti Smith postures, while she trips visually through adolescence to adulthood. Basically, she has integrated her predecessors into a modern whole.
James Destri (keyboards) is a direct decendant from Question Mark and Liberace. On the group's first single, "X Offender" (Private Stock 45-097), he pulls out an organ riff (actually, it was done on synthesizer) that would have made Paul Revere proud. It makes the song an easy pop hit, catchy and memorable. [Egotistical Editor's note: Destri before joining Blondie a scant year ago, was a member of the fabled Knickers.]
Clement Burke, the group's drummer, is a Dave Clark fan. Copying DC's rigid drum pose, Burke is a quirky musician whose roots lie firmly in the sixties. A lot of the group's material employs Burke's unexpected turns and fills to give them excitement and power.
Christopher Stein (guitar) is the only original member besides Debbie. Not your ordinary hard rock guitarist, he mixes Velvet Underground with Dr. Feelgood. As one of the group's writers, he contributes quite a bit to the variety in the sound. Gary Valentine (bass) is an adept player and talented songwriter.
The album, currently being recorded (late August), is being produced by Richard Gottehrer. It's a little early to describe it, but "Rip Her To Shreds" is about as nasty as a song can get, and "In The Flesh" should be grafted into the soundtrack of some old Ann-Margret film. If the single is any indication, the final result will be catchy, neat, and uniquely Blondie. Keep an ear out, and a mind open. Don't follow leaders...
[Top photo by Linda Danna. Bottom group photo by Leee Black Childers]