Greatly Appreciated

Blondie  is an American rock band founded by singer Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein.  Blondie was regarded as an underground band in the United States until the release of Parallel Lines in 1978.  Over the next three years, the band achieved several hit singles including “Call Me”, “Atomic” and “Heart of Glass”.  Blondie broke up after the release of its sixth studio album The Hunter in 1982.  The band re-formed in 1997, achieving renewed success and a number one single in the United Kingdom with “Maria” in 1999, exactly 20 years after their first UK No.1 single (“Heart of Glass”).   Blondie has sold 50 million records worldwide and is still active today.  (More from Wikipedia)
As it turned out, three competing and complementary strains of music arose seemingly overnight by 1974:  In addition to power pop, they were what most of us know as “punk rock” – e.g., RamonesSex PistolsPatti Smith Group (with Lenny Kaye on lead guitar), Dead Boys – and “new wave” – e.g., Elvis Costello, BlondieTalking Heads, the Runaways – the latter band, the first successful all-female rock band, is now the subject of a major motion picture.
The lead song on the EP by the Nerves, “Hanging on the Telephone” was gloriously covered by Blondie and became the opening track on their breakthrough album Parallel Lines.  Rumor has it that someone put the Nerves EP on while the band was on their way to a gig, and the rest is history.  “Heart of Glass” might have been their #1 hit song, but as the follow-up, “Hanging on the Telephone” reached #5 in the UK and ensured that Blondie would remain a force in rock music well into the 1980’s – in fact, they are still touring and recording good albums to this day.
(April 2010) 
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Back in 1973, that was about as unfashionable as it got; but the world would soon catch up with them, and the Poppees found themselves right in the thick of one of the most exciting music scenes in rock history, playing clubs throughout the City, including CBGB, the epicenter of New York’s punk/new wave scene.  At the weeklong Easter Rock Festival in April 1976 at the equally storied Max’s Kansas City – with a line-up that makes me salivate just looking it over – the Poppees opened for Blondie and Ramones on Easter Sunday.
(December 2010)
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Katz Rap(“Cat Rap”) by Ja Ja Ja came out the year after Blondie’s pioneering single “Rapture” was released.  
(February 2012)
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Some great music came out of that era, without a doubt.  One of the great voices in soul musicLou Rawls had his biggest hit song with the disco-flavoredYou’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”.  He was hardly the only 1970’s artist to retool their sound to a disco feel:  The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Diana RossBlondie and even Pink Floyd are examples, but no one made it bigger than the Bee Gees in their Saturday Night Fever heyday.  
 (March 2012)
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As I remember, I already had an article partially written on somebody else when an order from Bomp! Records came in that included a specially priced package of new CD’s by three related power-pop bands:  the Nervesthe Plimsouls and the Breakaways I already knew the Plimsouls’ hit A Million Miles Away”, but just about everything else was a revelation, including the Nerves’ original version of Hanging on the Telephone that became Blondie’s follow-up hit after their monster Heart of Glass”.  I quickly checked Wikipedia and determined that the Breakaways did not have an article, so I dashed off a UARB post on them, hoping to interest others in this amazing music. 
(April 2012)
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The American songwriter/producer trio of Bob FeldmanJerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer has been a veritable cauldron of one-hit wonders over the years.  I later saw Richard Gottehrer’s name on recordings by Blondie, and he produced the first two albums by the Go-Go’sBeauty and the Beat and Vacation.   
(May 2012)
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The song by Face to Face called “Under the Gun” that – like Blondie’s early foray into hip-hop, Rapture (from 1980) – includes a long verse that is spoken rather than sung.  I can’t prove it, but from what I can tell, this qualifies as the first Christian rap song.  
(June 2012)
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My own Wikipedia handle is “Shocking Blue”, the name of a Dutch rock band that I have been particularly enamored with for several decades.  “That is not the name I was born with, that is my Wikipedia name.  Some day all of us will have special names,” as Brian O’Blivion might have put it; he is the “television prophet” who appears in the incredible 1983 David Cronenberg horror movie Videodrome that features among its cast members James Woods and Blondie’s Debbie Harry
(August 2012)
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Richard D’Andrea, who was in the original line-up of the Motels with the bandleader and songwriter for Code BlueDean Chamberlainlater joined a band called the Pits that was founded by controversial rock critic John Mendelsohn, whose previous projects included underground glam rockers Christopher Milk.  For about three years, D’Andrea was in The Know with one of the founding members of BlondieGary Valentine; they released several singles but never landed a record deal. 
(September 2012)
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As a collector, I also keep my eyes open, and I actually did have a chance to get the famous Andy Warhol banana cover of The Velvet Underground & Nico album for a halfway reasonable price.  (I’m just as happy that I didn’t buy that one and just got the reissue album instead, since it would have gone down in Katrina like all the rest).  My attitude is this:  Why buy the same old Parallel Lines album that everyone else has, when I can get the Brazilian import for practically the same price?  (Thus, I don’t consider the Blondie album that Ernie Guyton gave me to be a duplicate.) 
To return to the present that Ernie Guyton bought me, one of the albums was a long-time favorite that had not yet surfaced for clean-up from Katrina – Blood, Sweat & TearsChild Is Father to the Man – and I almost immediately played it.  I waxed enthusiastically about that album a couple of months back, and that was due in no small part to being reacquainted with that wonderful music.  Two other old friends that hadn’t come up for cleaning either were also included:  Blondie’s Parallel Lines, and Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
(November 2012)
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Ritchie Valens follow-up single, “Donna” was completely different and became a bonafide hit, peaking at #2 on the charts at the end of 1958.  “Donna” inspired a host of other songs addressed to female loves, most directly Dion’s “Donna the Prima Donna” (Dion and the Belmonts were also along on the Winter Dance Party), but also Neil Sedaka’s “Oh, Carol!” and “Denise” by Randy and the Rainbows (later covered by Blondie as “Denis”). 

(June 2013/1)
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The frontwoman for Fur is Holly Ramos, a musician and actress from New York City.  As revealed in a 2003 interview with Glitzine – a glam/punk/pop online fanzine that has evidently been around for 40 years – Ramos was into the New York punk scene at an early age:  “In grade school I started to get interested in 1977 type punkthe RamonesBlondiePatti Smith.  And in high school I got into hardcore (Black Flag/Bad Brainsetc).  I am interviewed for the book American Hardcore, a book about the history of that music.”  The book was written by Steven Blush and was the basis for an acclaimed 2006 documentary by the same name, American Hardcore that was directed by Paul Rachman


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Holly Ramos wrote all but one of the songs for the Fur CD.  The exception is X Offender, a track from Blondie’s first album, Blondie that was written by Gary Valentine and Deborah Harry.  This song was also released as Blondie’s first single in June 1976, on Private Stock Records.  This single did not chart, though two others from their first album did. 


The title of “X Offender” is a double entendre; the reference is not to an ordinary ex-offender but to a sex offender.  Fur’s version of the song is rougher and has somewhat lower production values, though I prefer it to the original.  X Offender fits like a glove into the Holly Ramos songs that make up the remainder of the album, so I suppose you could say that Fur sounds like a punkier Blondie in their original incarnation. 


(June 2013/2)


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Later, Deborah Harry in Blondie and Chrissie Hynde in Pretenders led two of the most successful rock bands of the 1970’s and 1980’s.  The above record covers illustrate the difference in the way the women appeared within their groups, with Deborah Harry standing out among the men, though frankly, it could hardly have been any other way. Chrissie Hynde though is often regarded as being of equal status with the male bandmembers; what’s more, Hynde was also a guitarist in the band, whereas Harry primarily sang.  This is a stance that alternative rockers would take later on, such as identical twins Kim Deal and Kelley Deal in Pixies and the Breeders

(October 2013)
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At this point, the Runaways was signed by Mercury Records and released their first album, The Runaways in 1976.  The credits for the bandmembers on the back of the album included their ages (most were 16 or younger as I recall), thus cementing Kim Fowley’s Svengali reputation.  Fowley refused to let Jackie Fox play on the debut album, so Blondie bass guitarist Nigel Harrison filled in. 


(November 2013)


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Years ago, I heard that there was an unwritten rule among disc jockeys (maybe not unwritten in some places) that you were not supposed to play two songs with female singers one after another, under the theory that listeners wouldn’t be able to tell the songs apart.  I cannot imagine that this has ever really been true, but it certainly wasn’t the case by the punk rock/new wave era:  Picking artists almost at random, would anyone really have trouble distinguishing BlondiePat BenatarPatti Smith, and Pretenders


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I saw the above album by Angie PepperIt’s Just that I Miss You (2001) that was advertised in the Bomp! mailorder service as recommended for Blondie and Patti Smith fans, so I immediately ordered it.  


(December 2013)


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Mark Jenkins with the Washington Post has written of this album:  “If some CBGB’s Frankenstein had managed, circa 1977, to transplant Patti Smith’s sensibility into Blondie’s garage-band pop, the result would have sounded something like BoySkout’s School of Etiquette.  Outfitted in such New Wavey accessories as sneakers and skinny ties, this lesbian-rock quartet revives such Smithian motifs as drowning and the erotic appeal of outlaws, but with girl-group bounce.  School of Etiquette may not be genteel, but it is impeccably arranged.” 


(January 2014)


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Of more importance though is the ground-breaking song Rapture by Blondie – with a rap section that was performed by Deborah Harry – that was released in 1980 on their album Autoamerican.  As noted in Wikipedia, this was the first song to top the American charts that featured rap, and also the first rap video to be broadcast on MTV
The rap section of “Rapture is not conventional rapping by a long shot; it has a stream-of-consciousness quality about it and is mostly a strange science-fiction tale about a “man from Mars” who eats cars, bars, and finally guitars.  The first line name-checks a hip hop pioneer – “Fab 5 Freddy told me everybody’s fly” – and this man later became the first host of Yo! MTV Raps, using this line as his musical intro.
Also mentioned in “Rapture is Grandmaster Flash.  I saw an interview with him once where he talked about the effect that Rapture had on his musical vision, which led to the release of The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.  I was amazed when I heard him say that.
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The Blondie frontwoman comes up again in this story of the genesis of Rapper’s Delight that is taken from Wikipedia:  “In late 1978Debbie Harry suggested that Chic’s Nile Rodgers join her and Chris Stein at a hip hop event, which at the time was a communal space taken over by teenagers with boombox stereos playing various pieces of music that performers would break dance to.  Rodgers experienced hip hop event the first time himself at a high school in the Bronx.  On September 20, 1979, and September 21, 1979Blondie and Chic were playing concerts with the Clash in New York at The Palladium.  When Chic started playing ‘Good Timesrapper Fab 5 Freddy and the members of the Sugarhill Gang (‘Big Bank Hank’ JacksonMike Wright, and ‘Master Gee’ O’Brien), jumped up on stage and started freestyling with the band.
“A few weeks later Rodgers was on the dance floor of New York club Leviticus and heard the DJ play a song which opened with Bernard Edwards’s bass line from Chic’s ‘Good Times’.  Rodgers approached the DJ who said he was playing a record he had just bought that day in Harlem.  The song turned out to be an early version of ‘Rapper’s Delight’, which also included a scratched version of the song’s string section.  Rodgers and Edwards immediately threatened legal action over copyright, which resulted in a settlement and their being credited as co-writers.  Rodgers admitted that he was originally upset with the song, but later declared it to be ‘one of his favorite songs of all time’ and his favorite of all the tracks that sampled (or in this instance interpolatedChic.  He also stated:  ‘As innovative and important as “Good Times” was, Rapper’s Delight was just as much, if not more so.’  ‘Rapper’s Delight’ is said to be the song that popularized rap music and put it into the mainstream.’”
(September 2016)
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In seemingly no time, the music scene was crowded with top bands and artists whose work has held up well over the decades since, among them Patti Smith Group (whose debut album, Horses came out before Ramones, in December 1975), Television, Richard Hell, the Heartbreakers (the punk band not Tom Petty’s group, though he was a part of the scene as well), Talking Heads, the Dead Boys, Blondie, the Clashthe Cars, Elvis Costello, Pat Benatar, Joy Division, the Specials, the Go-Go’s, the Policeetc., etc., etc. There were so many that rock critics and others began distinguishing bands in the safety-pin set as “punk” and others that were less confrontational as “new wave”.  
(December 2016)
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Since I am down to a quarterly schedule rather than a monthly schedule, my annual list is a lot shorter, so I will try listing all of the people that I have discussed in some depth rather than just the Under Appreciated Rock Band and the Story of the Month. They are all punk rock bands of one kind or another this year (2015-2016), and the most recent post includes my overview of the early rap/hip hop scene that an old friend, George Konstantinow challenged me to write – probably so long ago that he might have forgotten.
(Year 7 Review)
Last edited: March 22, 2021