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It’s Friday – Evening Herald Weekend Magazine

Friday November 7th 2003

page 8


Written by: George Byrne

Blondie’s great back catalogue and Debbie Harry – two good reasons why GEORGE BYRNE wouldn’t be anywhere else but Vicar St this weekend.

THERE’S A LONG-STANDING AND NOT exactly ill-judged argument that once great bands call it a day they should resist all temptation to get back together again, because such reunions can only result in embarrassment for all concerned.
Certainly, the sight of never-wases like Stiff Little Fingers still attempting to maintain the spirit of ’77 (although in SLF’s instance it was more a case of the Spirit of late ’78/early ’79) for an audience who’d barely be able to fit one leg through the waistband of the strides they proudly wore back in the day is hardly the most edifying, but there are exceptions to the rule.
Next week this page will more than likely feature a deranged eulogy to the glorious Dexy’s Midnight Runners so I’ll opt to play the ‘reformation’ card on Blondie instead.
Once one of the unquestionably great pop bands on the planet, Blondie’s decline from the peak of 1978’s Parallel Lines (a globe-gobbling platinum monster which remained on the UK charts for over two years) to the turgid mess that was The Hunter in 1982 was drastic to the extent that the very idea of a reformation seemed ludicrous.
However, 16 years later – having mercifully maintained their aloof New York cool by resisting the temptation of those awful ‘memories of your youth’ package tours – the core members of the band regrouped and were rewarded in February of 1999 with a UK chart-topper in the shape of the fabulous Maria. And now, four years after that triumph they’ve returned with a fine album in The Curse Of Blondie.
Their modus operandi hasn’t altered greatly since their heyday, Blondie’s always being based on a solid structure of meticulously melodic songs with buckets of attitude and a hustler’s ear for the street filtering contemporary influences into the mix.
Don’t forget that Blondie were the first mainstream act to incorporate rap into their repertoire (1981’s Rapture) so we can only thank God they weren’t active during the dark days of the drum’n’bass phase (alas, David Bowie wasn’t so lucky) and they are true musical magpies.
Of course, absorbing influences can only get you so far unless you possess canny songwriting skills in the first place and Blondie have never been wanting in that department.
Guitarist Chris Stein and front-goddess Debbie Harry more than know their chops – as well they’d want to at this stage, having been on the go in various guises since the early ’70s – while keyboard player Jimmy Destri has more than chipped in his fair share over the years, being the principal architect of the 1980 No 1 Atomic.
Ah yes, Debbie Harry, or Deborah as she prefers to be known these days. Possessed of the kind of natural cool which Sophie Ellie-Bextor could spend the next three decades and three million quid trying to emulate without even coming close, Ms Harry was the first pin-up of the punk era, even though Blondie were never, by any stretch of the imagination, a punk act.
Although hardly a spring chicken by the time the band landed their deal – having been in a dire hippie band called Wind In The Willows and served time as a Bunnygirl in the Playboy Club before, er, introducing herself to The Big Apple’s rock’n’roll main players during a stint at the tables in legendary sleaze venue Max’s Kansas City – Harry nonetheless sparked the fevered imaginations of a generation of impressionable young men and even today she looks absolutely radiant onstage – at the age of 58!
The final piece in the Blondie jigsaw comes with sticksman Clem Burke, without question one of the greatest rock’n’roll drummers ever to have sat behind the traps.
Even if Blondie didn’t happen to have a back catalogue to die for – and let’s face it, when you have the likes of Picture This, Heart Of Glass, Union City Blue, In The Flesh, Sunday Girl, ‘(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear and Hanging On The Telephone to draw from you’re looking good to fill out the guts of a live set – I’d still pay money to watch this primal musician and supreme showman in action.
Just to witness his favourite trick of sending a drumstick flying high in the air and catching it without looking or missing a beat is to see the essence of Blondie. And, indeed, the essence of rock’n’roll itself. Be there.

Blondie, Vicar St, Sunday, 8pm

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