Friday, January 18, 2008
Drive-by Blondie Inspiration
Although Blondie is associated with New York City and the CBGB and Max's scenes, the two most photogenic members...Debbie Harry and Clem Burke grew up in New Jersey... Since I have been staying in Jersey City since the beginning of the year, as I have driven back and forth between Newark Airport and Jersey City, I've passed Bayonne more than a few times and always think of Clem.
I think of Clem as one of the most valuable players, not just of punk rock, but of the last 30 years of pop music. This image of Clem during a 1978 sound check at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA is a favorite on my Unguarded Moments: Backstage and Beyond Tour. If you're in NY, you can see the print in person - the exhibit at Magnetic Field is hanging throughout January!
All of these photos were taken in April, 1978 when Blondie were touring the USA relentlessly in support of their second album, Plastic Letters, which had been released six months earlier, in 1977. The album was a smash hit in Europe and the UK, and in the UK, yielded two chart hits - "Denis," a cover of Randy & the Rainbows 1963 hit, and "I'm Always Touched by Your Presence Dear, " an original song by original bass player, Gary Valentine, who had departed ways with the band prior to the record's release.
The theme of the Spring 1978 "Welcome Back Blondie" tour was Blondie is a Group... because Debbie Harry and the band were interchangeably called "Blondie." During 1978, Blondie would rise from their cult fave status to International Pop Stars on the strength of the song Heart of Glass from the Parallel Lines album, which was released in the Fall... BUT... I don't think anyone really knew just how renown they would become... certainly neither Pleasant (pictured with Debbie below, backstage at the Starwood, April 1978) nor I... although at the time, we thought they were pretty big stars anyway.
So next time you're driving on the New Jersey Turnpike... and you pass Bayonne... remember Clem Burke... when you drive through the Holland Tunnel, remember Debbie Harry... and that Blondie is a GROUP!