Friday, February 08, 2008
Punk Rock's February Surprise
Part 1: Blondie
In 1977, from February 9 - 12, Blondie headlined at the Whisky A Go Go. For me and my closest friends, Pleasant, Randy and Kid Congo, this was a momentous event. Blondie's music touched a chord in us and seeing them, meeting them and befriending them changed our lives considerably. For us, I guess you could say that Debbie Harry's face, like Helen of Troy's, was the one that launched a thousand ships...
Blondie's embrace of the Girl Group phenomenon combined the right balance of kitsch, camp and in all seriousness - great pop songs with staying power. There was something for everyone to latch on to. The eponymous debut record boasted the production wizardry of one Richard Gottehrer, who had previously brought the world such pop gems as "My Boyfriend's Back" by girl group The Angels and "I Want Candy" by the Strangeloves (his own group with co-writing/producing partners, Bob Feldman and Jerry Goldstein). Such an auspicious debut could lead only to great things.
So, each night of this headlining stand for Blondie, we were there... front and center at the foot of the stage. All our friends and roommates were there. Every music writer and photographer was there. It was THE place to be.
The Whisky A Go Go had only recently re-opened for live music after a short hiatus of nothing. So, within its first year of being "back," the club was hosting the leading edge of the new music... punk rock... from NYC... bands that people were waiting with great anticipation to see... just like Blondie.
Back in a time when there was no World Wide Web to disseminate information, there was only printed matter - magazines, fanzines and newspapers; radio - and that was tricky because the underground stations didn't have such strong signals; but there was and always will be word of mouth.
Back then, people wrote letters and called each other to spread the news... no ease of instant info like with text messaging or cel phones. Telephone calls were expensive but pay phones on the street actually worked.
Perhaps all this is why Lobotomy the Brainless Magazine had to be born!
For people who weren't as excited about Blondie as we were, the news of their lively performance spread like wildfire over telephone lines to be sure. Debbie Harry wore fabulous vintage clothes and dressed up in costumes (a wedding gown on the small Whisky stage a full decade before Madonna did the same when she debuted "Like A Virgin" on national TV). On tours to come, Debbie's stage clothes never disappointed. The straitjacket she's wearing here made its debut in September of 1977 on the Whisky A Go Go stage.
Overlooked because of their non-punk rock status, but still making an auspicious appearance that night at the Whisky A Go Go were Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Another retro-in-a-good-way, well dressed, good looking band with killer instant classic songs... they were showing all the signs of superstardom back then. Of course, when a band's signature song sounds like the Byrds over a Bo Diddley beat, there's no way they're not gonna blow you away.
Thirty years later, both these bands with charismatic blonde front people have been inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame... clearly something not on their radar when they were making fans sweat, scream and dance on the Whisky A Go Go floor.
If you missed last week's special offer on a killer deal for this photo of Debbie Harry... you're in luck!
In honor of Blondie's 1977 debut, I'm extending this special on a 1978 image of Debbie Harry... newly restored... just for another week...Debbie Harry Photo Special