Sunday Extra

BLONDIE: no sour grapes

10th February 1980 – Page 4

EXTRA STAGE by Maree Mahony

BLONDIE’S Clem Burke caressed the rim of a large drum, and then smiled. “This place is like paradise to me,” he said.
The 24-year-old New Yorker was visiting Premier Drums in South Wigston, where he purchased a £800 set of drums at the start of the group’s recent British tour.
A quiet, serious young man, soberly dressed in a brown suit and black shirt, he seemed the opposite of the loud, extroverted character he projects on stage.
He told me: “I’m a flamboyant drummer, and tend to get rid of all my aggressions and emotions during a performance. Drummers usually stay in the background, which I don’t think is fair.

Failed guitarist
“Guitarists and singers get all the attention because they can strutt round the stage, and I’m out to combat that.”
Clem, who is left-handed, took up drumming at the age of 14, after his attempts to learn the guitar from right-handed friends proved a failure. His earliest influence was the Who, particularly their drummer, Keith Moon with whom he has often been compared.
“Keith’s style was totally different from anything else happening at the time. He was a showman, and he made a lot of noise, which really appealed to me.”
Four years later Clem teamed up with Debbie Harry and Chris Stein and Blondie was born. Do the rest of the group resent the attention that is focused on their sensuous lead singer, who has become the biggest white pin-up and sex symbol in the history of rock ‘n’ roll?

Trouble stirrers
Clem said: “From the start I knew Debbie had enormous star potential, and I’m glad it is now been recognised throughout the world. Debbie’s voice and looks have been a big factor in our success.
“People are always trying to stir up trouble between us, but there’s no feeling of sour grapes from any of us in the band about the way Debbie always gets the limelight.
“But we do get a bit annoyed when people forget that Blondie is a group effort. Various members of the group write songs, and we all decide what happens in the recording studio.”
The group have just completed an arduous British tour – it opened in Leicester on December 27 – and although the reviews were mixed, it was an unqualified success for the fans.
Clem said the tour had been expensive because the group refused to play large arenas like Wembley and chose smaller venues instead. They concluded the tour with a charity concert, and later Debbie Harry handed over a cheque for £5,000 to the Variety Club.

Repay fans
The gesture was typical of the attitude of the group who are keen to repay the hospitality of British bands. During his visit to the East Midlands last weekend, Clem spent a day signing autographs and advising young drummers about the skills of the trade.
Some of the group have gone back to New York, but Clem is staying in London, and is hoping to tour and perhaps make a record with some other well-established English musicians.

Group film
BEFORE the British tour Blondie made a 30-minute appearance in a rock ‘n’ roll comedy film The Roadie, starring Meatloaf, an 18-stone American rock singer. Clem Burke enjoyed it so much he is keen the group make a film themselves, perhaps about their struggle to become famous.
“We’ve been together for six years now, and well-known for only two. I’ve kept a diary and one day I’d like to write a book about our early days together.”
He is also hoping to produce a young New York band, The Colours, whom he describes as a cross between T-Rex and the Bay City Rollers. Blondie will make a major American tour later this year, and then another album.

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