Blondie: The Iconic New Wave Band That Rocked the World
Blondie is an American rock band co-founded by singer Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein. The band was a pioneer in the American new wave scene of the mid-1970s in New York City. Their first two albums contained strong elements of punk and new wave, and although highly successful in the UK and Australia, Blondie was regarded as an underground band in the US until the release of Parallel Lines in 1978. Over the next four years, the band released several hit singles including “Dreaming”, “One Way or Another”, “Heart of Glass”, “Call Me”, “Atomic”, “The Tide Is High”, and “Rapture”. The band became noted for its eclectic mix of musical styles, also incorporating elements of disco, pop, reggae, and early rap music.
Blondie disbanded after the release of their sixth studio album, The Hunter, in 1982. Harry continued to pursue a solo career with varied results after taking a few years off to care for partner Stein, who was diagnosed with pemphigus, a rare autoimmune disease of the skin. The band re-formed in 1997, achieving renewed success and their sixth number one single in the UK with “Maria” in 1999, exactly 20 years after their first UK No. 1 single (“Heart of Glass”). The group toured and performed throughout the world during the following years, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. Blondie has sold around 40 million records worldwide and are still active. The band’s eleventh studio album, Pollinator, was released on May 5, 2017.
In this article, we will explore the history, achievements, and legacy of Blondie, one of the most influential and enduring bands of all time.
1974â1978: Early career
Inspired by the burgeoning new music scene at the Mercer Arts Center in Manhattan, Stein sought to join a similar band. He joined the Stilettoes in 1973 as their guitarist and formed a romantic relationship with Harry, who was one of the band’s vocalists, a former waitress and Playboy Bunny. Harry had been a member of a folk-rock band, the Wind in the Willows, in the late 1960s. In July 1974, Stein and Harry parted ways with the Stilettoes and Elda Gentile, the band’s originator, forming a new band with ex-Stilettoes bandmates Billy O’Connor (drums) and Fred Smith (bass). Originally billed as Angel and the Snake for two shows in August 1974, they had renamed themselves Blondie by October 1974.
The new name derived from comments made by truck drivers who catcalled “Hey, Blondie” to Harry as they drove past. The band began playing regularly at CBGB’s club in New York City’s Bowery district alongside other emerging acts such as Television, Patti Smith Group, Ramones, Talking Heads, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Blondie became regular performers at Max’s Kansas City and Mothers. In June 1975 they were playing at CBGB’s when they were spotted by music producer Richard Gottehrer who offered to produce their debut album.
Their self-titled debut album was released on Private Stock Records in December 1976. It was well received by critics but failed to chart in the US despite strong airplay on college radio stations. It reached number 14 on the Australian albums chart and number 75 on the UK albums chart. The album featured some of Blondie’s most popular songs such as “X Offender”, “In the Flesh”, “Rip Her to Shreds”, and “Look Good in Blue”. The album also showcased Blondie’s diverse influences from girl groups to garage rock to reggae.
1978â1982: Commercial breakthrough
In early 1977 Blondie signed with Chrysalis Records who gave them more creative freedom and better promotion. They also recruited keyboardist Jimmy Destri and drummer Clem Burke to replace O’Connor who had died of a drug overdose. Their second album Plastic Letters was released in February 1978. It reached number two on the UK albums chart and number ten on the Australian albums chart but again failed to enter the US Billboard 200. The album