The newest inductees into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Blondie emerged as the great pop icons of New York's celebrated late '70s new wave punk scene by defying easy categorization. They scored their first major hits with reggae, rock/disco and hip-hop songs. They wrote great rock hooks and brilliant ironic lyrics. They had the hippest clothes and the coolest hair. Debbie went from the pages of Punk magazine to being on the cover of just about every mainstream publication on the newsstands.
The original Blondie was formed in 1974 by art student/guitarist Chris Stein and ex-folkie and ex-Max's Kansas City waitress, vocalist/songwriter Deborah Harry. Drummer Clem Burke and keyboard player Jimmy Destri joined in 1975. The band played the fabled New York downtown circuit of CBGB's, Max's Kansas City and Mothers, amassing a major following before recording their first album Blondie in 1976 for the Private Stock label. It was released in 1977 and was well received as the band toured in support of Iggy Pop and David Bowie.
In the summer of 1977, they released their second album, Plastic Letters, and toured Europe and Asia. In March '78, the single "Denis" hit #2 in the U.K. That summer, the band worked with producer Mike Chapman to hone their radio sound and create the album Parallel Lines, with the single "Picture This" going #12 in the U.K. and the follow-up, "Hanging on the Telephone," hitting #5. At the end of the year, Debbie made her first film, the indie production Union City.
Blondie had their first #1 record in the U.S. with "Heart of Glass," which also sold over a million copies in the U.K., with the album moving more than 20 million copies worldwide. The fourth single from Parallel Lines, "Sunday Girl," also hit #1 in the U.K. In September 1979, the band's fourth album, Eat to the Beat, was released, along with the first-ever album-length video. Before year's end, Blondie continued their chart presence in the U.K. with the #2 hit "Dreaming." By February 1980, they landed another #1 U.K. single in "Atomic" and two months later scaled the U.S. charts a second time with "Call Me," from the Paul Schrader film, American Gigolo. Before the end of the year, Eat to the Beat was certified platinum and Debbie appeared on TV's The Muppet Show.
The fifth Blondie album, Autoamerican, produced the #1 U.K. smash, "The Tide Is High," which duplicated that feat in the U.S. The band appeared on the popular TV show Solid Gold, and soon the album was solid platinum. Debbie released her first solo album, Koo Koo, produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic and featuring a cover by H.R. Giger, the Academy Award winning sci-fi artist who created the Alien creature.
The band produced The Hunter in 1982, which included the single "Island of Lost Souls," their final U.S. hit before Chris was felled by a rare and often fatal genetic disease, which led to the demise of the group.
Debbie went on to appear in numerous films and plays and to create music in various contexts. In recent years she has been the featured vocalist of the Jazz Passengers. Jimmy left music for a while to become a family man and contractor. Chris produced various bands in New York. Clem continued to record and tour with top acts. Sixteen years later the band members were used to being apart, but miraculously they were still talking. The friendships were still there. The doors were ajar. Responding to a request, they reformed to play a concert and had so much fun and found so much chemistry remaining that they decided to try to make some new music. That worked out so well that they reformed and made a new album, No Exit, the seventh Blondie studio album, produced by Craig Leon, who had actually produced the band's first single, "X-Offender," and worked on the first album assisting producer Richard Gottehrer.
No Exit was a perfect, up-to-date evolution of Blondie - a great collection perfectly crafted pop songs. The trademark elements were still there: that perfect, propulsive beat; Debbie's unmistakable voice, seductive, soulful yet ironic; atmospheric keyboards, sometimes lush, sometimes eerie; and brilliantly articulated guitar lines. It was an auspicious return, highlighted by the hit "Maria," which went to #1 in 14 countries. The album sold more than two million units worldwide and, behind it, the band completed two tours of the U.S, the U.K. and Europe.
The band returned with The Curse of Blondie, their 11th album, featuring 14 powerful new songs - probably the most musically varied and experimental album in the group's history.
"It's been a standing joke for years," says Harry. "Every time something weird would happen we would say, 'It's the curse of Blondie.' A lot of people take it seriously, but it's silly. It's sort of a Vincent Price, horror movie type title. I think it's lucky."
"The title is about how much of a pain in the ass everything always is," philosophizes founding Blondie member Chris Stein. "Everything is a struggle. But I guess it's for the best. You can't argue with the results."
The film's horror movie title adds to the mystique that saw Debbie starring in creepy thrillers like director David Cronenberg's Videodrome and the scary Six Ways to Sunday with Norman Reedus. And that Chris is known to have a collection of occult artifacts from famed magicians that would scare the knickers off Harry Potter.
The Curse of Blondie starts off with "Shakedown," a state-of-the-art R&B hip-hop gem penned by Debbie and Chris, with a pro-Jersey rap by Debbie, whose delivery is as smooth as that other great blond rapper, the one from Michigan.
Co-produced by veteran Craig Leon, the album's first single, "Good Boys," written by Kevin Griffin (Better Than Ezra) and Debbie, is a classic up-tempo Blondie-thon with hooks that grab like Velcro, with a video created by Jonas Ackerlund, who directed Debbie in the edgy hit film Spun. The infectious "Hello Joe" is dedicated to the late Joey Ramone, with other charming excursions including a traditional Okinawan folk song "Magic (Asadoya Yunta)" and a cosmic, free jazz-tinged ballad "Desire Brings Me Back" that is reminiscent of the Blondie standard "Cautious Lip."
Blondie's Live By Request CD and DVD came out on Sept. 14, 2004, while the band recently released their Greatest Hits: Sight and Sound CD/DVD in the U.K. to coincide with a British tour in November-December 2005. The package is slated to come out in the U.S. in spring 2006 on Capitol/EMI Music Catalog Marketing. Aside from including the groundbreaking videos made by the group between 1977-1982, the CD/DVD features the bonus track and video of "Rapture Riders," a mash-up of "Rapture" and the Doors' "Riders on the Storm." The group's Capitol/EMI Music Catalog Marketing release, The Best of Blondie, was recently certified double-platinum by the RIAA for sales of more than two million, the first album by the band to achieve that mark. One of the plaques will be auctioned off to raise money to help the legendary CBGB's club to stave off eviction from its downtown location.
With a prestigious nomination to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and an upcoming 30th anniversary to celebrate in 2006, Debbie is rightfully proud of the band: "The guys have gotten really good at what they do. I mean they always were good players and songwriters, but I think now you could say they're accomplished." For once, she says it without a trace of irony.