prolificnorth.co.uk – 6th September 2023
by Chris Newbould
The story of Blondie’s enduring relationship with Britain is to be explored in a new BBC Two documentary from Leeds-base Wise Owl Films.
When Blondie Came To Britain traces the connection between Britain and one of the most iconic bands in music history – from their first UK gig in Bournemouth in 1977 and their UK TV debut in the same year, courtesy of Tony Wilson and Granada Reports, through to their electrifying performance, featuring a remarkably sprightly looking Debbie Harry up front, on the Pyramid Stage at this year’s Glastonbury just six days before her 78th birthday.
Featuring new interviews with band members past and present – Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Clem Burke, Gary Lachman AKA Valentine, Jimmy Destri, Frank Infante and Nigel Harrison – the 60-minute documentary is made by the company behind previous films in the When ‘X’ Came To Britain brand.
The band’s lead vocalist Debbie Harry said: “When I think back about all the times we’ve been to the UK, it’s been a tremendous influence on learning my craft – it’s been a big influence on us. I feel such a kinship to the British and the UK that when I don’t go there on a regular basis, I miss going. I like the culture. It had a deep effect on me.”
Co-founding member and guitarist Chris Stein added: “I remember the physicality. Everybody went crazy and was pogoing and going nuts. We were all taken aback, it was very exciting. I always remember that fondly. In New York there was really no rock dance going on.”
Drummer Clem Burke said: “That was the ultimate for us, to be on tour in the UK. It couldn’t have gotten any better in my mind. The music scene was taking off. It was a major catalyst for the success of Blondie […] by the time we got to Top of the Pops I was like ‘yeah, this is success’.”
Produced and directed by Kate Siney (When Motown Came To Britain), the film also features contributions from musicians and producers including Jools Holland, Johnny Marr, Mike Chapman, Pauline Black and Don Letts.
This new documentary follows four other …Came To Britain films made by Wise Owl: When Bob Marley Came to Britain (August 2020), When Nirvana Came to Britain (September 2021), When Tina Turner Came to Britain (December 2022) and When Motown Came to Britain (January 2023).
Executive producer Mark Robinson said: “Just like with our previous films in this brand, we will see how one of the world’s greatest musical acts left an indelible mark on British pop culture history – but also how Britain played a key role in Blondie’s early career.
“As well as hearing about the revolutionary impact of Debbie Harry as a rock’n’roll front woman and the influence of musicians like Chris Stein and Clem Burke we will trace the band’s early footsteps across the UK – including how they were booked for their first gig in Britain by the students union in Bournemouth and were given their British TV debut at Granada TV by the legendary Tony Wilson, helped by Andy Harries, a young researcher who would also go on to become TV royalty.”
When Blondie Came To Britain is a 60-minute documentary for BBC Two, commissioned by Rachel Davies, commissioning editor BBC Music TV, produced and directed for Wise Owl Films by Kate Siney with Mark Robinson as executive producer.