Who didn’t have a crush on Debbie Harry?
I’m going to cheat (hey, it’s my blog) and put Blondie in the 80’s category even though they broke through in the late 1970’s. Formed in the mid-1970’s, it was their third album, Parallel Lines (1978), that reached mainstream success. “Heart of Glass” was their breakthrough hit, powered by a disco beat, a bit of a departure from their earlier sound. “One Way Or Another” was a good follow-up single. Credit producer Mike Chapman for fine-tuning Blondie’s aggressive sound, without removing the passion.
Blondie evolved from the New York punk and new wave conflagration. Whatever the label, they were raw and loud, and their sound was all over the place, but they had something over other bands. Lead singer Debbie Harry had vocal chops and could have been a model. More than that, she had attitude. With her boyfriend, guitarist Chris Stein, they called the shots for the group, and still do.
Next up was Eat to the Beat (1979) and the reaction to this album was a bit of a letdown. It didn’t sell 20 million copies like its predecessor, but sold respectfully. “Dreaming” was a good song but didn’t have the juice like their singles from Parallels Lines.
Their next single, “Call Me,” was not an album track, rather it was from the American Gigolo soundtrack, but it was a number one hit and put Blondie back on track.
Autoamerican (1980) featured the singles “The Tide is High” and “Rapture” and both reached number one.
The album showed a broadening of style with “The Tide is High” a reggae confection, and “Rapture” a rap-tinged vocal with a very hip bass groove. Blondie had the keen musical sense to stretch beyond their hard rock style.
The Hunter (1982) was released to an indifferent public, singles that stalled on the chart and only moderate album sales. A concert tour confirmed that interest in the band had slacked off. The band split.
Leading up to the release of The Hunter, Harry began an acting career and released a solo album while tensions within the band dissolved their chemistry.
In less than two years, Blonde went from the top of the music world to band breakup. Music was changing in the early 80’s and new influences pushed music in other directions. Blondie was left in the dust.
Back in those days, two years without new music was an eternity. Today, that’s no big deal, but then, if you weren’t going forward, you were history.
Then there was a fifteen year period between Blondie albums. Debbie Harry went solo with only moderate success. Stein developed an illness and Harry nursed him back to help. Then they broke up as a couple.
While music had moved on, Blondie still had fans, and as they started playing concerts, they got their mojo back.
No Exit (1999) was the official return of Blondie. Two members of the original lineup were not included in the reunion and by the time No Exit was released, Blondie was a four-piece band supplemented by other musicians. “Maria” was a single released from the album that did well almost everywhere except the U.S. No Exit had some typical Blondie songs and a few songs that had a different vibe.
The Curse of Blondie was released in 2003 but continued the downward sales of their albums. “Shakedown” and “Good Boys” were two very strong songs from the set. Blondie continued touring as they had done since their 1997 reformation.
In 2006, powered by a big push from fans, Blondie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fans weren’t necessarily buying the new music, but they turned out for concerts and they still loved the hits.
Panic of Girls was released in 2011. It failed to chart in the U.S. and was the first album that did not feature original member Jimmy Destri.
Even though Blondie was not charting singles or albums, they were still a steady tour draw.
Ghosts of Download was released in 2014 and Pollinator in 2017. In recent years, Blondie has released several greatest hits collections and celebrated their 40th anniversary. “Sugar on the Side” and “I Want to Drag You Around” prove the band still has bite, these are as tough and fiery as back in the 80’s.
Debbie Harry is now 73 years old but you wouldn’t know it by her performances. Blondie will always represent that edgy, post-punk style that went from t-shirts and leather jackets to stylish album covers and cutting edge fashion. Blondie survived and became successful because they evolved their sound and their image. Did they sell out to disco and mainstream rock, maybe. But maybe they did so with a smirk and kept their attitude for their own time.
Long live Blondie.