Produced by Hallway Entertainment
In the early 70s, a new group fronted by a blonde-bombshell was creating a buzz in New York’s gritty Bowery district. But while the band was standout in the burgeoning punk scene, Blondie had eyes on a bigger prize. One Way Or Another, Blondie was going to make it big.
While Debbie Harry would lead a world-wide revolution in music from the mean streets of New York, her journey would begin in the suburbs. Born in Miami in 1945, Deborah Ann Harry was adopted at three months and raised in Hawthorne, New Jersey. As she entered her teenage years, Debbie had eyes on Manhattan. The city, especially an area known as the Bowery, was teeming with new music energy. Punk, a Do-It-Yourself attitude toward making music, was taking hold and its epicenter was the legendary club CBGBs. After Debbie hooked up with future bandmates, including creative partner Chris Stein and drummer Clem Burke, the band felt they were ready for the big time…but could they break through?
One Way Or Another
One Way Or Another put the creative partnership of Chris Stein and Debbie Harry on display. From the beginning, had a handle on the music and Debbie dealt with the lyrics. The song oozed with the grit and grime of the streets. While Debbie’s overwhelming force was a strength for “One WayOr Another,” there was time when a strong female fronting the band was a liability. As the group scrapped to make a name for themselves here in the States, Blondie’s big breakthrough came overseas. Like many acts before them, including Jimi Hendrix, the international audiences of Australia, New Zealand and especially the UK embraced the band and Debbie’s iconic image
Heart of Glass
After years of toiling in obscurity, Blondie achieved their dreams by going to #1 with “Heart of Glass.” It was the breakthrough moment, but it came with a price. Blondie honed their sound in New York’s Bowery neighborhood, heavily influenced by the Punk scene, the group earned a dedicated following of their music, in part due to the striking image of lead singer, Debbie Harry. As the band developed their early sound, Debbie and creative partner Chris Stein were open to a wide range of styles. Once the group settled in to work with über-producer Mike Chapman, the group found inspiration in hot – and somewhat –controversial new sound: disco.
Unbeknownst to many, Debbie Harry was a huge fan Donna Summer fan and her music played a major influence in the creation of “Heart of Glass.” One of the keys to the record was the unusual rhythm created in a collaboration of man and machine: well-respected drummer Clem Burke in tandem with a state of the art drum machine. The song was an unanticipated radio hit, becoming an international #1 and launching Blondie to a new level of fame…but the reaction was less than ideal closer to home.
After breaking out with the disco inspired “Heart of Glass,” the Bowery’s punk scene turned on the band. For fans that had been with the group since their days on the CBGB stage, Debbie and company were sellouts. There was even dissension in the band as the group’s drummer initially refused to play the song live. But the band embraced the song and the spirit of experimenting with new genres of music would continue throughout their career.
By the late 70s, Blondie was one of the biggest bands in the world, blending a range of styles from hard edge punk roots to the hot disco sound of the day. Hollywood took notice. When the dialed up Blondie for help, Debbie delivered an all-time classic: “Call Me.”
The band Blondie was already expanding into other art forms. Debbie’s unique style, a do-it-yourself born out of necessity in the Bowery, was setting fashion. Debbie and her image became a muse for Andy Warhol. Debbie’s role as the face of the group gave the group a unique identity, but sometime created hard feelings in the band. At the dawn of the 80s, Blondie was eager for another hit. They wouldn’t wait long to find one, and it would come from the unlikeliest of places…
Debbie Harry had been a long time fan of disco’s reigning queen Donna Summers and her work with famed European producer Giorgio Moroder. So when Moroder reached out to Harry with an opportunity to work together, she jumped at the chance. Moroder was working on the soundtrack for a new movie, American Gigolo, starring Lauren Hutton and Richard Gere. He had initially approached Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, but a contract issue nixed the deal. Harry jumped at the chance. Moroder presented Debbie with instrumental track titled “Man Machine” and told her to take a shot at writing lyrics. The lyrics to “Call Me” came to her in just a few hours. The group recorded the song with Moroder producing.
“Call Me” was released as a single on February 1st, 1980, seven days before the debut of American Gigolo. It became the biggest American hit in the group’s career, staying six weeks at #1 on the US charts and earning Billboard’s Magazine’s top song on its year end chart. Although they didn’t know it at the time, “Call Me” would represent a high water mark for the band. While it appeared on the surface Blondie was poised to dominate the 1980s, deep cracks in the foundation would ensure the band would break up just two short years later. But although it was song very of the era, “Call Me” endures today.
Blondie was a band that was always fearless when it came to experimenting with their sound, and with “Rapture” they became unlikely accelerators of a musical revolution. Down in the Bowery, the punk scene was born. But several away in the Bronx, another music scene was just beginning to blossom. Although completely different sounds, both were similar because they were shunned by mainstream music early on. Debbie and Chris Stein were drawn to the scene. In the fall of 1980, Blondie recorded their fifth studio album Autoamerican. The tracks ran a gamut of styles, but the album’s most noteworthy track had the group giving fans their grandest experiment yet.
“Rapture” was actually melting pot of the bands previous work – a brew of new wave, disco, R&B and pop with a rap section finishing up the song. Although rap and hip-hop was an art form by 1980, for millions “Rapture” was the first exposure to the genre. The song was released in January of 1981 and it soon made a two week run at #1. Like their experience with punch and New Wave, Blondie was once again at the forefront of a fundamental shift in music…except this time the group was on the verge of shutting down.
After an intensive three-year run from 1978 thru 1980, Blondie was burned out and desperate for a break. In the fall of ’81 the group gathered the band reassembled to their sixth studio album The Hunter. The album was a critical and commercial disappointment. In some ways, experimentation like “Rapture” had affected the Blondie brand. Then came the breaking point: guitarist Chris Stein was diagnosed with a rare, life threatening genetic illness that caused him to break out with blisters all over his body. Keeping Chris’s illness a secret, Debbie Harry dropped out of the public eye to take care of him. It took two years for Chris to recover from his illness and Debbie was by his side every step. When they tried to make comeback, the group realized their time had passed.
Over 20 years later, Blondie’s the diversity that made the band so difficult to label was rewarded with the ultimate honor: an induction into Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame.